Saturday, March 31, 2012

Day #536 Magic and Mathematics

Magic and Mathematics were stunningly combined this weekend at the Gathering for Gardner in Atlanta. I was fortunate enough to have been invited to attend the Friday evening dinner and magic show.
Martin Gardner was a man fascinated by mathematics. Although he was never trained professionally as a mathematician, he popularized math, puzzles, and sleight of hand, bringing--as Richard  K. Guy has said--”more mathematics, to more millions, than anyone else.”
This logo for the Gathering for Gardner was designed by Scott Kim. Notice how the letters are made up exclusively of the numbers one through ten. Just seeing the logo was worth the journey into Atlanta on a rainy night.
And the show after dinner? Fantastic! Every single act was wonderfully entertaining. People telling jokes, doing magic tricks with cards, miming the meeting between a young woman and a “worm” made of squashy aluminum air conditioning duct stuff, and a twelve-year-old (Ethan Brown) who could do square roots and cube roots in his head. The link shows him at age ten wowing a science conference.
The final act was of a strong man in the tradition of the old strong men of the vaudeville circuit. Dennis Rogers bent nails, tore phone books apart, bent a socket wrench, wrenched apart a horseshoe, and deflected a bowling ball dropped onto his stomach from a the top of an 8’ ladder. If you click on his name, you can watch a YouTube video of him bending a horseshoe.
Was I astonished? Yes. Was I delighted? Absolutely. But even more than that, it was great fun being in a ballroom full of people for whom math is fun.
Next year, I’d like to attend the whole conference. 
BEEattitude for Day #536:
       Blessed are those who can be surprised, for they shall find endless entertainment around them.
The teeny details:
my books: Please buy them from an independent bookstore or directly from my website.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Day #535 Citizen Fire Academy Class #3 - the 911 Center

Thursday evening we were at the Gwinnett County 911 Center for the third class in the Gwinnett Citizens Fire Academy.
The first half of the class we learned a great deal about the operations of the 911 center, how the 911 operators are trained, what the backup systems are in case of a power failure, and how the center responds to heavy emergencies, such as the floods that hit Gwinnett County in September of 2009 or the day Brian Nichols escaped from the courthouse, killing people in the process.
We heard about the high turnover rate. Many people simply can’t remember the codes, or they’ll freeze up when there’s a real emergency. Many others simply don’t like the pressure.
We saw the plaques on the wall citing the 911 operators who had either saved a life or delivered a baby. Yes, that’s what I said -- delivered a baby -- i.e. talked a person through the process when they called 911 in a panic.
For the second half of the class, we had a chance to wander around and speak with the various operators. I ended up listening to Melissa as she fielded calls. When she wasn’t answering a call, she took time to explain to me the 4-computer-monitor system she has to keep track of.

Seconds after I took this photo, she was answering, “911. Where is the location of your emergency?” 911 operators have to memorize hundreds of codes so they can key in the calls quickly and efficiently.

During another of her brief respites, I asked if she’d ever delivered a baby. Her face lit up. “Sometimes,” she said, “people can work here for ten years and never get a childbirth call, but I’ve only been here a year, and I’ve already delivered a baby!”
I asked how she did it, and she showed me the card file (written by a medical doctor) that walks the operators through the exact questions to ask.
Here’s the first section of the Childbirth Card: 

"Did you use this card?" I asked her.

"I SURE DID!" was her answer.

And now her name with be on the 2012 plaque! Makes me proud that I talked with her.

I also asked Melissa if she saw this job as a long-term career, or would she go on to something else in a year or two. “Oh, no! I wouldn’t leave. This is the most wonderful job in the world. Where else could I be so challenged to do my best? I never know who’s going to be on the other end of a call.”
My best advice to you after having seen the 911 center: 
Learn the non-emergency phone number of your local 911 center. 
In Gwinnett County GA, it's 770-513-5700
Program it into your speed-dial
  • If you see someone driving erratically, but there’s no accident, get the license plate and call the non-emergency number.
  • If you hear a gunshot in your neighborhood, but have no idea where it came from, call the non-emergency number.
  • If you’ve lost your wallet (or you find a wallet), call the non-emergency number.
  • If your neighbor’s barking dog is driving you nuts, call the non-emergency number.
Those are all important calls, but they are NOT emergencies, and will be answered as soon as an operator is available (one who is not handling an emergency).
  • If that driver causes an accident, call 911
  • If the gunshot comes from your neighbor’s house and you hear someone scream, call 911.
  • If the lost wallet is attached to a dead body, call 911.
  • If that dog attacks someone and you see it, call 911.
And if you’re driving down the road and your baby starts to make its way into the world, pull off to a safe place and call 911. They’ll dispatch an ambulance; but, if necessary, they can talk you through the delivery.
That’s nice to know, isn’t it?
BEEattitude for Day #535:
       Blessed are those who welcome a job that involves challenge, for they shall glow with a feeling of accomplishment when their workday is ended. We bees end every day like that.
The teeny details:
my books: Please buy them from an independent bookstore or directly from my website.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Day #534 Blue Bell Ice Cream

Picture from Blue Bell's Website

In a comment on yesterday’s blog post, Petie Ogg mentioned that not only will she be 18 years free of cancer this coming Sunday, but her family will be celebrating with Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream. Good for you, Petie!
Her comment brought back an elusive memory--elusive in that I hadn’t thought about it in maybe 20 years. I do wonder if my kids remember it -- I'll have to ask them.
You may recall that I used to live in Vermont. And I used to be active in volunteering for the Vermont Public Television Auction. One year one of the local businesses donated two five-gallon tubs of Blue Bell Ice Cream. One of Vanilla and one of Chocolate.
We bid on both of them, hoping to win one or the other.

We WON both of them.
Now, the only way to eat a 5-gallon tub of Blue Bell Ice Cream is to sit it on the floor, get a long-handled spoon for everyone in the family, and dig in.
We even got to where we’d let guests in on the game. The ones who took us up on it were the true friends indeed.

BEEattitude for Day #534:
       Blessed are those who celebrate with joy, for their hearts shall be light.
The teeny details:
my books: Please buy them from an independent bookstore or directly from my website.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Day #533 How Many?

I used to try to count the number of bees in a square inch, or the number on top of the hive at any given time of day, or the number of bees along the top of a frame when I opened a hive.
Yesterday I had the same sort of problem trying to count the number of children at my granddaughter’s birthday party. They kept wiggling. Shifting. Giggling and disappearing around the corner as they ran, laughed, played.
It was great fun. But I still have NO idea what the count was.
Then again, does the number really matter? Wasn’t the laughter the important factor, not how many were laughing?
Gotta get my priorities straight.
BEEattitude for Day #533:
       Blessed are those who let us laugh in our own way, for they shall be more settled in their souls.
The teeny details:
my books: Please buy them from an independent bookstore or directly from my website.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Day #532 Class Photos

I belong to Sisters in Crime. It’s a nationwide organization for people who like mysteries. We all read them, some of us write them, and some sell them. There are a large number of librarians in the group, too.
We have a members-only online discussion forum, and a while back someone asked how do established authors choose names for their characters.
Good question.
Lots of people joined the discussion, and some of the talk centered around our own names--how often or how seldom we come across people with our own names.
The best post, though, came from Hank Phillipi Ryan, a well-established writer who mentioned a cartoon she’d seen in the New Yorker several years ago. It was drawn like a typical first grade class photo, with three rows of kids and a frumpy teacher. 
The caption read:

        Mrs. Prohaska’s First Grade Class:
  • First row: Jennifer, Jennifer, David, Jennifer, David, David, Jennifer, Jennifer, David
  • Second row: Jennifer David, David, Mrs. Prohaska, Jennifer, David, David, Jennifer, Jennifer
  • Third row: Jennifer, David, David, Jennifer, Jennifer, Jennifer

Were you ever in a class like that?
Just think of it. In a bee colony the class photo would read:
  • First row: worker, worker, worker, queen, worker, worker, worker
  • Second Row: worker, worker, worker, worker, drone, worker, worker
  • Third Row: worker, drone, worker, worker, worker, worker, worker

BEEattitude for Day #532:
       Blessed are those who continue to plant flowers, for they shall hear us humming all summer long.
The teeny details:
my books: Please buy them from an independent bookstore or directly from my website.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Day #531 Where'd the Time Go?

Where'd the time go?

When I started this blog, it seemed like 600 days would be so far in the future, I wouldn't have to worry about it. I thought those 600 days would take me through my first honey-harvest.

Well, if I still had the bees, I'm sure it would have.

I'm looking forward to the honey that will come from me bees, though, even if I'm not the one tending the hives. With the rate the weather's going around here, that should be fairly soon.

Speaking of weather, I found out why all this warm, unseasonable weather. Good old Science at Nasa came up with this explanation about the solar eruptions that lit the thermosphere up "like a Christmas tree."

I thought you might be interested. I wonder if the bees are enjoying the results, or if they're getting too hot too soon.

BEEattitude for Day #531:
       Blessed are those who explain esoteric ideas, for they shall have the benfit of knowing they’ve enlightened others.
The teeny details:
my books: Please buy them from an independent bookstore or directly from my website.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Day #530 Run for the Dogs

Yesterday I left my house at 5:45 a.m. to drive to my friend Karen Krotz’s house. She and her husband and I piled into their fully-loaded car and went to the Suwanee Town Park to set up Karen’s booth for the Run for the Dogs event.
Karen also happens to be my massage therapist. She’d brought along a folding tent-top to cover her booth area, a folding massage chair and all the necessary supplies to go along with that (like disposable face-cradle covers), a "sign-up-for-my-newsletter" list, clipboards, a donations bucket, a candy dish, folding table, tablecloth, business cards, pens, and most likely a dozen other things I’ve forgotten to list. Thank goodness they had a big trunk on their car.
I had agreed to help her by talking to people, showing them the sign-up sheet [“and you could win a free one-hour massage”], handing out her business cards, letting people know where her office was located [less than a mile from here], and asking if people wanted a 5-minute chair massage. 

In return for amy help, she’d told me to bring a sample set of my books and bookmarks to hand out to folks.
We were all set up and ready to go in record time.

The event was designed to raise money for dog rescue groups, and featured a 5K run. Before that was a two-times-around-the-park Fun Run, which Karen and I (and her wonderful dog Lady) translated into a Fun Walk. Practically every person there had a dog. I was delighted at how well-behaved they all were (people and dogs alike <<<>>>). At the beginning Karen and I got green t-shirts, and Lady got a red bandanna. At the end of the walk, we all got medals to hang around our necks.

The cherry trees are in beautiful bloom, so we took a moment off to admire them.

An hour of so before it was time to pack everything up, stuff it in the car, take it home, and unload it all, something happened that I wanted to share with you. A man I’d never seen before stopped by our booth. He glanced at Karen’s sign, and then his eyes strayed to the pile of books on the end of the table. “Have you read all those books?” he asked me.
“I wrote all these books,” I said.
“Really? My wife loves your books. She has every one of them.”

I suggested he sign his wife up for Karen’s newsletter. I hope she wins the free massage!
The next time you attend an outdoor charity event like this, as you’re walking around admiring all the booths, chatting with the folks attending them, and signing up for (or possibly buying) something, remember my second paragraph up there, and understand how much work is involved. It was fun, but we all get home pooped.
BEEattitude for Day #530:
       Blessed are those who plan parks and who plant flowers in them for us to enjoy, for they shall see their work bloom.
The teeny details:
my books: Please buy them from an independent bookstore or directly from my website.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Day #529 Laugh Hard Every Day

One of my intentions this year is to Laugh Hard Every Day
Last night I watched a compilation of Carol Burnett Show sketches and laughed till I thought I was going to fall off my chair.
What was it about the curtain rod through the Scarlett costume that is so timelessly funny? Or the horse doing number 1 AND number 2 on the set as Carol tried to sing?
I wonder if bees have any sense of humor in their lives? Do they chuckle over a particularly strange arrangement of asters, for instance? Do they get a kick out of a more than usually enthusiastic waggle dance? Do they actively look for laughing brooks or twinkling reflections?
No. I guess not. 
That’s too bad. We could all gain a lot from laughing hard every single day.
BEEattitude for Day #529:
       Blessed are those who laugh at themselves, for they shall never grow bored.
The teeny details:
my books: Please buy them from an independent bookstore or directly from my website.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Day #528 Citizen Fire Academy - Class #2

Thursday evening I attended an incredibly exciting Citizen Fire Academy Class. The dozen class members sat through the classroom portion of the session, learning first about medical operations/EMT training from Lt. Michael Thomas (how the ambulances crews work). In the Gwinnett County Fire Department, all firefighters receive extensive EMT training, far more than what is required by the federal and state governments.
Then we were taught “Incident Command” (who’s in charge at a fire and why). Any one supervisor is in charge of no more than 5 to 7 people. That supervisor reports to the next one in the chain of command, who is responsible for no more than 5 to 7 supervisors. And so on up the line to the Fire Chief, to whom four departments report.
We learned how jobs are assigned at a fire. Divisions indicate a geographical area
  • Numbered Divisions are assigned vertically inside a building. For example, in an apartment fire, if your crew is assigned to Division 1, then your job would be to go into the first floor and do whatever needed to be done there, while Division 6 would take the 6th floor, and so on.  On the outside of the building, 
  • Lettered Divisions are on the outside and they progress clockwise around the house. If you get to a fire and you’re assigned to Division A you know you’ll be responsible for the front of the house, while Division B will move to your left and cover that (left) side; C covers the back, and Division D is the right-hand side.

Groups, on the other hand, are assigned functions. If you’re assigned to the Ventilation Group, for instance, then your job is set the fans to blow the smoke out of the whole building (after the fire is out, of course). Likewise, a commander could assign you to Ventilation Group, Division 2, and you’ll know precisely what you’re supposed to do (ventilate) and where you’re supposed to do it (second floor).
After the classroom portion of the class, District Commander Chief Wayne Mooney led us all out into the station bay, where his vehicle sat. He opened the back and slid out an enormous tray that held more equipment than my kitchen contains. He walked us through the process he uses  at a major fire of pulling magnets from the lid of one of the handy little boxes on the back of the tray and placing them in the appropriate rectangles marked on the sturdy built-in white-board chart, so he can see at a glance who is where at any given time.

He has a different magnet for every unit (truck, ladder, car, ambulance…) that might be there, and every situation that might be going on (triage, helicopter, investigation...).

White magnets indicate cars (CAR 1, CAR 2, CAR 3 and so on), Red ones were for the fire trucks (ENGINE 1, ENGINE 23, LADDER 5 . . .)

Other colors showed other types of situations, items, functions. And he even had a marker in case he ran out of magnets

The white board was divided into blocks where he could put magnets to show 
1. where it was
2. who was there
3. what they were doing

As he explained all this, the ambulance and ladder truck, which had both been out on a call, returned. We all had to step aside so they could pull in through the doors at the back of the station and past us up to the front so they’d be ready to take off at a moment’s notice.

Lt. Thomas then jumped into the back of the ambulance and began to show us the equipment. 

I was perched on the step at the back of the vehicle when an alarm sounded. We were shooed out of the way, firefighters jumped into the ladder truck and ambulance, and they were gone. Just like that.

There couldn't have been more than twenty seconds between the sounding of the alarm and this picture of the ambulance lights on and the truck beginning to move.

You may notice in the second picture that the ambulance driver brakes and waits for the fire truck to pull out in front. At a fire, the truck is more immediately necessary (usually) than the ambulance. The medic part of it comes later.

We class members were all shooting pictures like crazy through the whole process. I wish I could share them all with you, but I don’t want to jam your computer. I would like to leave you with the photo below, though. After the ladder truck was out of sight, I noticed four pairs of shoes on the floor of the bay, where the four men assigned to the ladder truck had jumped out of them and into their gear.

Let’s hear it for the firefighters. 
BEEattitude for Day #528:
       Blessed are those who put out clean water for the birds and who float a stick in there so we bees can climb out.
The teeny details:
my books: Please buy them from an independent bookstore or directly from my website.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Day #527 The Declaration of Arbroath

I’m constantly surprised by what I dig up when I’m researching my books. The other day, I discovered the Declaration of Arbroath, which was written (in Latin) and signed on April 6, 1320. It was drawn up at the Abbey of Arbroath, which is where it gets its name.
The declaration itself is very long, and rather wordy, but here’s a small portion that struck me as admirably pertinent:
It is, in truth, not for glory, nor riches, nor honors that we are fighting, but for freedom -- for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself.
The Scots were asking the Pope to support their bid for political independence. We’re talking almost 700 years ago, yet the words sound eerily modern, don’t they?
It really doesn’t matter what you’re interested in, you can always find something more to learn about it. All you have to do is look.
What will you investigate today?
BEEattitude for Day #527:
       Blessed are those who like to explore--lands, bee-yards, ideas--for they shall find delightful surprises.
The teeny details:
my books: Please buy them from an independent bookstore or directly from my website.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Day #526 Did It Again

Well, I did it again. Got my facts wrong.
Yesterday I wrote about my friend Kathi who volunteers at Hope Reins. “She freshens the stalls,” I told you. Nope. I was wrong. After Kathi read the blogpost yesterday, she gently corrected me.
At Hope Reins, the horses are loose in the fields. They don’t live in stalls. They have shelters they can run into or out of as they wish.  They’re free to run around, free to play, free to enjoy their life. And, at the same time, they delight in being able to help the children who come there for the kind of love a horse can give. They are trained to help those children, and through the training process they frequently “train” their trainers. Train them to understand why some horses, and some people, respond with anger when they are simply hurting.
The woman who trained Speckles, a very special horse, wrote about him in remembrance of him and in appreciation for all he taught her.

And I have to take a moment to praise my friend for telling me about Hope Reins in the first place. Kathi Moon is an interfaith minister who performs the loveliest weddings you can imagine. Her website,, will tell you more.
BEEattitude for Day #526:
       Blessed are those who are open to insights about bees and horses and people, for they shall be richer than they can imagine.
The teeny details:
my books: Please buy them from an independent bookstore or directly from my website.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Day #525 Hope Reins

I have a dear friend who volunteers at an amazing equine therapy place in the Raleigh NC area called Hope Reins.
She feeds and cleans the horses, freshens their stalls, and does all sorts of very necessary work, simply because her heart goes out to these gentle horses, all of whom have been rescued from ghastly conditions, brought back to health, and given a chance to interact with children who need the kind of love and intuitive care that a horse can give.
I’d just like to acknowledge the folks at Hope Reins, and all the fine organizations that find a need and do their best to meet it.
BEEattitude for Day #525:
       Blessed are those who reach out to help, for they shall walk taller, stand prouder, breathe deeper.
The teeny details:
my books: Please buy them from an independent bookstore or directly from my website.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Day #524 Am I Way Too Busy?

I would have liked to go to Eagle Eye Books in Decatur Saturday to see Cathy Kaemmerlen, who spoke about her book The Buzz on Honeybees. One of the regular readers of this blog emailed me about Cathy's presentation.  Thank you, Mary G. I appreciated the heads-up, and was sorry to have to miss it. I hope you enjoyed it twice -- once for you and once for me. 
Kaemmerlen is an author, actor, and storyteller whose latest book is about -- what else? -- honey bees. I love the idea that someone is speaking at schools, teaching young people to respect the pollinators, sending a message with a great deal of humor and animation, so they’ll remember the lesson (hopefully) all their lives.
Instead, I was singing in a Mozart concert for the Gwinnett Choral Guild. Why are there so many worthwhile things that I want to do? Why do they all seem to happen at once? 
BEEattitude for Day #524:
       Blessed are those who do what they love, and love what they do, for they shall feel fulfilled.
The teeny details:
my books: Please buy them from an independent bookstore or directly from my website.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Day #523 Buttonbush

So, I went looking for the Buttonbush I mentioned yesterday  and found lots of internet info sources about Cephalanthus occidentalis. All of them said that the buttonbush is highly beneficial to honey bees and bumble bees.
The University of Texas native Plant Databaset Society website has plenty of colorful pictures of buttonbush. Here are a few - and all of them, by the way, list “unrestricted usage,” so I’m not infringing on any copyrights:
Green one and white one - both by Andy and Sally Wasowski of Burnet TX, who call themselves the Botanical Missionaries:

This photo that shows the red fruit form is by Joseph A. Marcus of Canyon Lake TX:

And finally, Sandy Smith of Sunset TX shows us this clump of fruit. Note the little critter (only the legs are showing) on the leftmost fruit.  Is it a spider? If you can't see it well enough, click on the "clump of fruit" link.

The buttonbush can grow to 10 feet tall, and it likes all kinds of soil, but particularly wet ones. And it likes shade.
I’m going to think about planting one down by the creek.

BEEattitude for Day #523:
       Blessed are those who are curious about how life works, for they shall be endlessly entertained.
The teeny details:
my books: Please buy them from an independent bookstore or directly from my website.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Day #522 How I Surprised the Fire Chief

Gwinnett County Fire Chief Bill Myers greeted our Citizen Fire Academy class Thursday evening with a little talk about the Values that are important to the Fire Department.
“Our Mission,” he said (and there was a handout, too), “is to Save Lives and Protect Property. Our Vision is to Deliver the Highest Quality of Service to all Customers, and the Values we hold as vital to our department are Truth, Trust, Respect, and Unity.” He pointed overhead, where four flags hung from the classroom ceiling.
A blue one to our left said TRUTH, a green one said TRUST, an orange flag said RESPECT, and  a red one carried the word UNITY. He gave a little speech about how those particular colors were chosen. I don’t recall why blue was chosen for Truth, but Trust was on a green flag because in the deepest, coldest part of winter, we trust that spring (green) will come. Orange represented the school colors of the number 1 school in Gwinnett County, which has an excellent school system, and Unity was on a red flag, because fire trucks (the symbol that unifies the whole department) are red.
I raised my hand and said, “Did you know that you inadvertently chose chakra colors that were appropriate?”
He didn’t have a clue what I was talking about.
I explained that the ancient system of explaining the energy of the body assigns red as the color of the first chakra, which represents community, foundation, unity. The second chakra (orange) is where creativity is centered in our bodies (and certainly where we must have respect for ourselves). The green chakra is number four, the heart chakra--and it is in our hearts that we must feel trust; when we’re open-hearted, trust flows out. Finally, the fifth chakra, represented by the color blue, is the throat chakra, the place in the body from which we speak our truth.
Isn’t it amazing that a department with a budget of $76 million a year, which employs 845 men and women, and serves a county of over 800,000 people, from 30 strategically placed fire stations, subconsciously built its value statement on an ancient tradition for health and healing?
I think it’s wonderful indeed.

BEEattitude for Day #522:
       Blessed are those who tap into ancient wisdom, for they shall be whole.
The teeny details:
my books: Please buy them from an independent bookstore or directly from my website.