Thursday, November 06, 2008

This, That, and The Other

I hate to do this. I really like to post about one thing at a time, but I can't seem to find the time to post regularly. So here goes.


I feel that having knowledge that a certain vice-presidential candidate didn't know that Africa was a continent, not a country (My children, who aren't old enough to vote, know that Africa is a continent and consists of many countries.), and not telling it until after the election is a mal-practice of journalism. The idea that Fox News would save this morsel until after the election is just plain telling. Yet, I suspect people who wanted to know, could guess the state of preparation from the Katie Couric interviews.

How demeaning to our intelligence and sense of right and wrong it is to try to play off a poser on the American people for the sake of a win. What a scary thing is this lack of knowledge especially if it is indicative of the state of education in America and America's curiosity about the world beyond our doorstep. How did we get to this place? Is she really an everywoman? The world is so global now that I find it difficult to imagine how you could leave school without a clear idea of continents and countries. And if you didn't have this base information, what would make you think it was appropriate to say yes. Was it ignorance or complete lack of respect for America?


Jove, who has never lacked curiosity about anything, wanted more of my opinion about the bee decline. I don't think the decline is caused by one single thing. Insects, as are most animals, able to adapt to many stressers. Noticeable problems arise when there are a combination of stresses.

Jove asked specifically about the over harvest of honey and supplementing with high fructose corn syrup. I do believe, as I preached here, that commercializing bees and feeding substandard supplements is problematic. Dragging bees all over the country in 18-wheelers for commercial pollination just seems stressful, not just because the bees are separated from natural honey and fed cheap supplements, but because with the bees in such close proximity any disease, fungus, or mite can be easily transmitted. Any problems become noticeable quickly.

Add to commercialization of the pollination business, the use of genetically modified seeds, specifically corn that produces an insecticide in the pollen, and you create an additional decline. Yet, there is one other problem. The attempt to rid the nation of mosquitoes and other insects by broadcast spraying is devastating. Even in my rural county, a grant was sought and given for mosquito control. Instead of using the grant for education (emptying standing water, mosquito biting times, and effective larva control) they bought a sprayer and drove through the county roads spraying insecticide into the air. Because of lack of education about mosquito behavior, spraying started too early thereby killing bees that were still working and was rendered ineffective because it is impossible to spray the entire county from the road. Mosquitoes instead became immune to the chemicals and West Nile Virus was not reduced, yet bees were.

The Other.

I promised a book review of David Guterson's The Other back in the summer. Here it is.

When I first began reading this book, I was a bit disappointed. I thought it was nothing more than a thinly masked autobiography. You see I have read everything David Guterson has written including the homeschool book, so I knew he was a teacher (Countryman was a teacher), lived in the Northwest (the novel was set here as his others have been), and had other basic similarities of the character. I wasn't impressed because it seemed like a loosely tied journal purge.

But I kept reading. I kept reading to find that I could have been correct, but that the quality was hypnotic. I kept reading to struggle with questions of when to intervene if friends are damaging themselves. I kept reading to struggle with questions of hypocrisy, idealism, and worth. I kept reading because I was mesmerized. I had to know what happened to the Hermit of the Hoh in his attempt to live his convictions and how Neil mollified his conscience. I kept reading because the language was beautiful.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for satisfying my curiosity. Your argument sounds pretty good to me. And that mosquito issue ... Makes me really angry. West Nile isn't even that serious. Most people just develop immunity and the whole thing was blown out of proportion. And we just have to stop spraying everything that bugs us.

The book sounds interesting. I recall that you recommended his work to me before and I haven't not followed up (though I read other things you recommended) so maybe he needs to go back on my list.

Wisteria said...

You should have seen me chasing the spraying truck with my yellow bug. I just wanted to reason with them.

Susan (Chicken Spaghetti) said...

Wisteria, on Election Night did you see Katie Couric point at Mississippi and call it Missouri? I really like PBS but got kind of tired of David Brooks and Mark Shields, and kept flipping channels.

Jr.'s Webelo group was fascinated by a beekeeping talk at the local nature center recently.

Wisteria said...

I didn't see that. We didn't stay up and watch. I actually can't stand all that spinning, but catching someone who is usually so professional make a mistake would have been interesting. Yet, I suspect Katie Couric knows Mississippi and that it is in the south especially since she was in Oxford earlier this year. Sarah Palin's mis-speaks are a little too consistent to be merely mistakes. Perhaps I'm wrong.

Becky said...

I gather that Fox et al. just found out because disgruntled McCain staffers have started talking only recently as they realized that the election wasn't going to go their way. I'm more upset with the McCain team for a) not vetting her properly in the first place and b) not yanking her when they realized how ill-prepared she would have been to be a heartbeat away.

We don't spray for West Nile virus around here, at least not yet. The problems for bees up here are GM canola and the various insecticides (some from spray planes, others from tractor-pulled sprayers) for the various pests, from wheat midge, flea beetle, Bertha armyworm. "Integrated pest management" has a lot to answer for. It's like the antibiotics we take indiscriminately, killing the good as well as the bad...

Thanks for the book review. It occurs to me that it would be interesting to reread his hs'ing book five years in now :)

zilla said...

Off topic, I wish CNN would use "Transfer of Leadership" as opposed to "Transfer of Power," but, whatever.

Working backward, I'm intrigued by your book review because of the mention of beautiful language. I think back to all those Updike "Rabbit" books I devoured, not for their content, but for their language. Powers's plots and themes are less trashy and more compelling, but without his language, I wouldn't bother with him. I wonder where Guterson falls on spectrums other than language, and since I have a thing for language I will make time to find out this winter.

As for colony collapse, less than judicious application of insecticide to the environment combined with GMO crops containing insecticide seems a much likelier culprit than cell phone towers, or some of the other suggested causes. The simple answer is usually the best answer, even when multiple factors are probably involved. If I didn't have so many allergic family members, I'd be asking advice on responsible small-scale bee-keeping -- it's THAT fascinating, and locally produced honey in-season turns out to be THAT difficult to come by :-)

The hard part (for me, because I pretend to be oh-so smart): if my kids & husband hadn't spent so many weekends playing Risk at the dining room table, I'd've continued to be able to name the continents I was able to name in grade school, but I also would have continued to think of Africa as a country.

People typically say, "China," or "Japan," or "Korea," rather than "Asia."

We typically refer to ourselves as Americans, not as United Statesians.

When people talk about The Congo or Nigeria or Zimbabwe, it seems, they're more likely to say "Africa" than they are to name the specific country -- it's the AIDS problem in Africa, not the AIDS problem in Uganda or Botswana or Ghana. I want to go on an African Safari; I don't think about going on a safari in Kenya or Tanzania or Nairobi.

(We should take our kids on a safari together! You game?)

I'm not saying it's okay for an aspiring national leader not to be able to discern continents from countries, I'm just saying I can empathize with Palin's confusion because there's an issue of colloquial usage involved.

This has been a huge admission for me because while I am not running for national office, I am running for Empress of the [entire] Universe.

Palin's problem isn't her geography, it's her world-view. It's much too narrow, harrowingly exclusive, and dangerously outdated. Someone so close to presidency needs to be able to address contemporary issues, and s/he needs to be able to so ecumenically, and not just in the Christian sense of that word.

(She also needs to be able to do it half drunk and in bare feet, which I can do, so please vote for me to be the next Empress of the Universe.)

Wisteria said...

The way I understand the story is that reporters agreed to not report certain things until after the election. I suppose that part of the agreement of riding in the plane or hanging around with the campaign was to withhold information. The threat stories, the computer hackings, strategy talks, and ignorance are squelch worthy. I understand the reasoning behind some of the secrecy, but withholding important information about a candidate that would be important to the decision making process seems a little stinky.

Z, You are correct. People do seem to discount all the countries in Africa in speech, and honestly I can't name every single country in Africa. But I do know that South Africa is a country and not the southern part of Africa. It matters little until 2012.

Guterson is not a Powers, Richard Ford, or Updike, yet there is an ease and beauty that seems nature-like.

You can't find local honey???? That is truly awful. I would think there would be several apiaries.

Melanie said...

Wisteria - ever since I read The Keeper of the Bees I've had a fascination with the little critters but couldn't do much about it until we moved to the boonies. Colony collapse is a serious issue here in our Ag-centric neck of the woods and I agree, I think a lot of it is the kill-em-with-chemicals approach coupled with genetic engineering and over-medicating our food crops for the sake of yield.

Fortunately not all IPM guys are focused on chemical management. I've had the privilege of working with one of the preeminent integrated pest management guys in the world; his focus is very much on a holistic approach to pest management through the integration of natural pest enemies and balancing crops. Conversely, our next-door neighbor is a "professional pollinator". This guy harvests pollen mechanically and sells it. I don't know much about the business but I know it doesn't involve a single bee!

We're planting as many bee-friendly things as we can around our place and we DON'T spray pesticides. Each year we see more bees and more bees and they seem to stay around longer and longer. I'm hoping to find a bee keeper in the area who will let me apprentice to him/her.

Thanks for your posts about the bees!

Wisteria said...

Melanie, having a hive or two isn't difficult. Of course, once you start it is difficult to adding. They truly are amazing creatures.

zilla said...

Well, I guess it comes down to defining "local."

At my co-op, right now, I can get apparently spring harvested honey from an apiary 30 miles to the south, which is comparatively local when I stop to think about it -- the climate and the flora is fairly similar, anyway.

Maybe I was disappointed that the only fall harvest honey came from a distance of just over a hundred miles away. Northern Michigan, due to the Great Lakes and elevation variations, is a bit quirky in that it has differing ag zones that are proximal to one another, and I was probably over-indulging a tendency to over-analyze and second guess because of that. And because I think too much :-)

Also, I know I could (and I will) try harder than just making a trip to the co-op, which is very close and convenient in terms of errands-combining. I'm still catching up on domestic stuff that I let slide down the priority scale because of the campaign. (Can you hear the guilt?)

Okay, I'm going back to the newer post. I've worn even myself out over here :-S

Angela said...

I'm all for the combo helps keep you in the loop! I have been saying since the get go that I was frightened how the new tactic from the Republicans was to portray intellence as elitist this election... and I am just thrilled that Palin is being outed a bit more now, since she certainly has sights on 2012.
The CCD is something we have been fascinated wtih here. Honey has tried looking into it for her research project this year, but she had little luck with real results.
I do disagree that West Nile is serious enough though...having suffered through it . It was worse than having mono for eight weeks, with frequent blackouts. However, I would rather folks just use natural repellants on their person than spray everywhere.