Break in the Honeybee Murder Mystery


Originally uploaded by Ashley Richards

Looks like they might have found what’s killing off the bees. I blogged about this before

It’s a virus that’s never been seen in the U.S., but has been seen in Israel. So I guess it’s another thing to blame on global warming and our appetite for foods that aren’t in season. Ship in foods that have the virus and with make the environment nice an cosy for them to multiply…and you’ve got yourself dead bees…well that’s if the theory holds true. They still have to do more testing…

I hope they cure it. I’ll miss my honey and 1/3 of my food that depends on them.


Proof men are shallow and women are destined to be poor?

I’m not quite sure what to make of this new book: Why Beautiful People Have More Daughters: From Dating, Shopping, and Praying to Going to War and Becoming a Billionaire– Two Evolutionary Psychologists Explain Why We Do What We Do.

From the review in the New York Post I read it seems that the book Essentially says that men are shallow and pervy up until they have kids and then they’re lazy bastards. And women on the other hand are wired not to be as ambitious as men because they’ve evolved to care about other things, according to the book. It seems western-centric and gender-biased – like the guy never left the 1950s. There are soooo many holes – I can’t decide to laugh or yell at him.


Germ-a-phobe doctor

So I went to the optometrist today and made the mistake of trying to be chatty with him. After shaking my hand, he asked how I was doing. I took that as a conversation opener (silly me), and I said I had a bit of a cold. He looked at me as if I said I had the plague. He then went on to say he wouldn’t treat me. (I told his assistant I had a cold too, and she said nothing.) So, I asked why. And he said he didn’t want to have to get close to me. Hmm… a doctor who doesn’t want to get close to anyone that might have germs – that’s everyone. I then asked him if he had a mask I could wear and his answer surprised me. He doesn’t wear masks because he has allergies and wouldn’t be able to breathe. How the hell do you go through school and treat the public without ever wearing a mask or getting close to people that have germs. Then he threw in that colds could change your vision. But sadly, that wasn’t his first concern.

Honestly, the last time I was sick, worse than this little cold mind you, the doctor had to look into my mouth and there was no need to wear a mask. So he doesn’t carry masks in his office – what if someone came in with something oozing from their eye and he had to cut something – wouldn’t wear one then I suppose? Real sanitary.
Since I just sat there out of stubborness, he caved and gave me a shortened eye exam so that I could get glasses and contacts. He made an effort not to touch me. I could have gone to any chain glasses store and gotten the same exam for less. So I licked his pen when he was out of the office.

No, I didn’t. But I should have.  I’m sure the poor assistant had to go through and disinfect everything for him after I left.

He also couldn’t believe that I wouldn’t get disposable lenses out of environmental concerns. He claimed they’re healthier, but there’s no conclusive evidence of that out there. There is proof of higher profit margin though.


Happy May Day!

Summer’s finally here. Yes Summer, not Spring. May in the old Celtic tradition marks the beginning of summer and summer solstice is midsummer. You can get the whole explanation here. Remember the maypole with the dancing and ribbons – comes from this day. In Scotland, they still hold bonfires to celebrate. It’s when faeries come out to play, everything turns green, flowers come back and generally everyone gets happy again. I think we should bring back celebrating that. Holidays with fire, costumes and fun are more enduring.
Instead, the Bush government had to try to ruin yet another perfectly good day. May 1’s become International Worker’s Day for “pinkos” and “commies,” so Bushy signed some bill making it  “Loyalty Day”.  They couldn’t let it go. I seriously don’t see it becoming anything special. Flag Day has become a non-day. Next year maybe they’ll have mass pledge of allegance rallies leading up to the election. But it’ll get smaller and smaller each time and then our children will ask, what the big was all about.



It’s Alfred Hitchcock’s birthday today. So I’ve been watching the Hitchcock marathon all weekend. Ironically it’s very fitting that they’re playing Vertigo, because I have vertigo. I wish it’s like in the movie where it’s brought on by a fear of heights. No, it just hits me whenever it damn well pleases while causing my hearing to get all muffled. Luckily a constant stream of Sudafed and Claritin is keeping it at bay and helping me hear.

Of course, at the rate I’m going I may surpass the anti-meth law’s monthly limit, but I can’t seem to find a firm answer as to what that is. And what happens when I do surpass it? Do I get arrested or is it just that they won’t let me buy any more? I can’t find any answer to my questions.

It was a bit strange having to swipe my driver’s license to purchase the medicine and being told by the pharmacist that I might not be able to buy two boxes at a time (enough to get me through one week). I guess I could always go to the doctor to get a perscription for an over-the-counter medicine if it comes to that, because the non-psuedophedrine versions aren’t working for me. I’ve lived in Europe where it’s common to have medicines behind the counter, but I was never asked to present ID. The U.S. has created a very strange third class of drugs, and the bad guys will always get their hands on them if they want anyway.

So if you see me wobbling around looking like I’m drunk, it’s the vertigo.


Teach a Person to Fish

This past week I got my first email letting me know that Milly, the woman whose business I invested in over in Uganda, started paying back her loan I helped finance. She’s expanded her 1-room home so that her family of 6 children has more space – most women make their crafts at home. No, I’m not a heartless Scrooge. I’m a big-hearted microlender with Kiva. And you should be too!

BusinessWeek calls Kiva a MySpace of microfinance, but that’s probably not exactly correct. It’s quite a bit more organized and the people whose businesses that need loans have been vetted before being posted on there. Kiva works with established organizations in the country who determine which businesses are most likely to be able to pay back their loans. So there’s less risk for the lender (me). I’m not making any money on this loan – just earning Karma points.

What you might not know is that the majority of the people recieving these loans cannot speak or write English. They may not be able to write in even their own language. I had lucky enough to work with Premal Shah, president of Kiva. I ran into him on the street in Palo Alto one evening – the passion and excitement that he has for Kiva cannot be contained with you talk to him about it. (He likes the recite the proverb below when explaining what Kiva does.) So he was saying that since the lendees can’t read English, the majority of the time they just look for their picture on the Kiva site and get excited about it. And yes, they have access to the internet – each village tends to have one reasonably priced internet cafe. (Unlike here where you get charge an arm and a leg for a minute of internet access.) Or there’s one not too far away.

You have money just sitting in your bank account that’s earning very little interest. Why not take your spare $25, $50, or $100 and put it into Kiva. Once Milly’s loan is paid-up, I’m going to keep my money in there and re-invest in someone else.

“Give a man a fish, and he will eat for a day.
Teach a man to fish and he will eat for the rest of his life.”
~Chinese Proverb


Do We See the World Through Silicon Valley Glasses?

No this isn’t a lament on technology being the focus of our lives here. It’s about photography.

I don’t know if it’s Bay Area folklore or truth, but according to my photography teacher, the Kodak film color palette is based on the colors that appear in nature here in Palo Alto. So for Kodak film, the default green should be the same color green you see on the hills here in Silicon Valley. I would think that would be the winter green color and not the dead summer green. Anyway, according to this story the reason why they chose Palo Alto was because the Kodak Color Lab was based here. It makes sense, because what will you test the colors of your prints against? Well the colors that appear in nature of course.

As Kodak based their colors on what was around them, so did Fuji. Fuji’s palette is based on the colors of Kyoto. This would explain why when I first tried their film I finally was able to capture the green of Vancouver properly. From the photos that I’ve seen, the colors of Kyoto and Vancouver seem fairly similar.

But one thing that my teacher said gave me pause, and that was that all the film in the US is now all based on the same color palette – Kodak’s. All the film producers have gone towards that palette because that is what consumers want or expect. So all you’re left with is basically one choice of film that has super saturated reds. But I guess your average person with a point and shoot isn’t all too concerned about that. I haven’t tested the Fuji film here yet, so I don’t know if the greens will be less vibrant than the greens of the film that I bought in Vancouver. Also one thing I noticed when we moved down here is how much brown and tan is in nature around here. Maybe that’s why some people think Kodak film producers better colors for skin tones.

Who knows if this is just another Silicon Valley myth or truth. I have no reason to doubt it. I just couldn’t find any proof of it on the internet. And you know if it’s not on there, then it can’t be true!

If anyone can point me to a webpage or proof that verifies these statements, please drop me a line. I searched for it, but couldn’t find any proof.


Why I’m NOT Going to be a Bush-dodger

I keep hearing in the news that people are planning on moving to Canada because Bush won the election. If you think about it for more than the split-second you see it in your newsreader or on the evening news, it doesn’t make much sense.

I lived in Canada since the last election up until January of this year. Let me tell you that being an American in Canadaisn’t an easy way out of Bush country. Don’t get me wrong. I love Canada. One day I hope to move back. But right now, my country needs me – a failry liberal Democrat.

One thing that people don’t seem to consider is that you cannot effect change in the US if you’re living in Canada or any other country. You see, while living abroad you basically have no say in your home country’s goverment AND you have no say in the what your resident country’s government. So basically you’re choosing a life where both the US and Canadian governments (if living in Canada) can make laws that affect your everyday life without there being anyway for you to get your voice heard. Yes, US laws affected my life in BC. For example:

  • Softwood lumber tariffs
  • Patriot Act
  • Tax laws – you still have to file a US tax return
  • Iraq war – from gas prices to everyday comments asking you, the closest representative of the States, why you invaded Iraq. Saying sorry you didn’t vote for the guy can get very tiring.

Those are just a few off the top of my head. Of course some will say that as it stands now a Democrat has no say in the Bush government. That’s not true. If you live in the US, your state has at least 1 Representative and 2 Senators. So, if you feel strongly about a subject you can get out the ol’ pen and paper to write them about the issue that is concerning you. You’re more likely to get your letters read if delivered by snail mail. Plus there’s always the phone. And you can vote them out every two years.

Now let me ask you, who do you write to when you live outside the country? Americans Abroad do not have representation in the US government. Although Democrats Abroad at least have a lobby and vote in the convention. Do you write to your old state’s congressmen? Well, depending on the state you lived in, you may no longer have a right to vote for the person to fill that office and they don’t have to listen to what you say. And I believe that it’s illegal to pretend that you are a resident of a state.

So what do you do? Vote only in the Presidential elections, and you just sit up there in Canada hoping for the best. And we all know how well that goes.

Also I have to question people who instead of getting involved in trying to fix what they see as wrong, they just up and run. They’re not in danger of getting killed, tortured or jailed for their beliefs (at this point), but they’re not going to stay and try to reinstate the United States as the country everyone looks to as the premier example of democracy. instead, the Bush-dodgers are going to flee the country for another country that has a different set of issues/problems, some similar, where they won’t be able to vote and will be seen as an Outlander. If there are enough Bush-dodgers, they’ll leave this country in the hands of the Republicans and the neo-conservatives who have hijacked that gallant ol’ party.

I ask all those Bush-dodgers to stay and get involved. And why not engage Republicans that voted for Bush in conversations where you’re actually listening to why they voted for him. You might find that you have more in common than you think.