Friday, April 17, 2009

Book Review: A World Without Bees

Alison Benjamin and Brian McCallum shed light on a fascinating (and previously unknown to me) topic: the unexplained, and so far unstoppable, deaths of honeybees around the world in recent years. Some blame viruses, or parasites, or pesticides... other options explored by the authors include the overworking of honeybees and climate change. They don't seem to come down on the side of any particular theory, which is refreshingly objective and allows the reader to draw their own conclusions from the information presented. However, whatever theory readers prefer, in the end we're as much in the dark as the authors, beekeepers, and bee researchers are on this issue.

As much as I enjoyed learning about a new and interesting thing, I was disappointed by the way the book was written. The structuring of the material was incoherent, and was presented so repetitively that the book was very annoying to read in some ways. There was no logical progression from one theory to another, and no helpful collation of information about each theory in one place. Instead it jumped back and forth from one to another, over and over again. It felt like the authors were writing the book in a hurry and hadn't bothered to organise it better, and that they had tried to make it longer than it needed to be by repeating themselves constantly.

So, I would recommend that people read the book because the issue is such a fascinating and important one, but that if anything else on the subject comes out which is clearer and better written, go for that instead. I'll definitely be looking for some more books about bees in general - for example, I want to know more about the 'waggle dance' the bees do to communicate information back to the hive, very cool!

For all its faults, at least this book got my attention - I now know something about the issue of honeybee deaths, and how the world would fare without these important insects. I'm definitely interested in knowing more about what is causing this terrible phenomenon. Hopefully some governments somewhere will realise how serious the problem may get, and throw some money at solving it, because by the sounds of it, it's a bit low on the priority list right now...

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Thankyou Sara for being such an inspirational amputee and blogger

I mentioned earlier tonight that I'd reread a post on tricycling by Sara from Moving Right Along. Just now I decided to see if there were any new posts on her blog, and discovered to my shock and sadness that Sara passed away.

I had only just started reading Sara's blog a few weeks ago, but in her posts she came across as funny, intelligent and inspiring. Her posts about her trike helped me so much with getting the confidence to cycle with one leg. It was also her Jan 09 post about the different colour of her new leg that inspired me to ask my prosthetist to laminate some brightly coloured cloth to the socket of my new leg. Thankyou Sara.

May you rest in peace.

an awesomely active amputee...

Just found a blog called, brilliant stuff! The guy writing it, Michael, has had his leg amputated recently and yet manages to rock climb, bushwalk, swim, mountain climb - you name it. For a lazy sod of an amputee who's exercised little in fourteen years, this is a very inspiring, motivating blog to read!

A spot of bother!

After cycling to and from TAFE in morning and afternoon peak hour traffic yesterday, I wanted to know if I was alone in feeling like amputee trike riding might turn into a high contact sport if I'm not careful. I may need to adjust a few spots on the route... Anyway, I was rereading Sara from Moving Right Along's account of riding her tricycle, and something she said really jumped out at me, as it's exactly what I've been experiencing as I ride on the road.

Says Sara, 'I have a couple of minor complaints/adjustments to make. First of all, it is really a freakin' pain in the backside to get my left foot into the toe clip and also have that pedal properly positioned, near the top of the rotation but just slightly forward, to start off from a stopped position while facing uphill at a stoplight or stop sign. This is especially frustrating when people in cars are waiting for me, with both politeness and fear evident on their puzzled faces. It would help if the weight of the toe clip did not force the pedal to hang vertically forward by default, meaning I have to get very tricky with my toes to slip them into the basket and not flip the pedal over at the same time.'

This very thing has been driving me nuts, especially because motorists and other cyclists don't know what the hell I'm up to as I sit there for ages trying to get my foot into the pedal or get the bike started while on a slope. Aagh!

I'm seriously considering getting a little disabled sign made for my trike's basket so that those behind me can see that I have a good reason for having a wee bit of trouble occasionally. Or something like 'Amputee on board' or 'Three wheels, one leg'...

Saturday, April 4, 2009

I'm a big kid now...

Today I rode my bicycle out of the apartment block, for the first time. No more circles around the apartment block carparks - I rode on the footpath till I got to a nearby park, then rode around and around that damn park until I felt safe and comfortable on the trike, and finally I rode home using the road.

Best. Feeling. Ever.

Penders Park, where I first rode my shiny new trike!

Later in the day, Mum came over and we rode the route that I'll be taking to TAFE each weekday from now on. I was having trouble with getting the bike started using the prosthesis when my feet were in a particular position and I was on a slope facing upward - it may just be that the muscles in the stump are not up to the challenge yet - but Mum pointed out that I could move the pedals backward without moving the bike (can't do the same thing forward), so if I rotated my feet backward to the position I could start the bike from, it'd work. It's still slow, and sometimes I had to move the pedals back two or three times to get the amount of push I needed to get the trike moving, but it's surely better than being completely stuck, in traffic, unable to get moving on the trike at all.

All in all I did about three hours of riding today. I'm sore and exhausted but I feel so happy that I now have a way of independently travelling around that is faster than walking but more environmentally and financially friendly than driving.

I'll let you know how the first week of cycling to TAFE goes... I wonder if I'll be riding every day or if that'll be too much!

look out for landmines... careful of clusterbombs...

Today is International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action. This is an issue that encompasses war and violence against civilians, disability and the loss of limbs, and internation co-operation and action (or lack of) and it's something I feel very strongly about.

It's bad enough that people lose legs in car accidents and to cancer, but for innocent civilians to be losing limbs for no reason except that other countries have used disgusting weapons in their area that last long after wars finish, and because the international community lacks the willpower to a) ban the further use of these weapons and b) clear those that are still in the ground. The UN is trying to achieve these things, but in terms of the rest of the international political world *insert sarcasm here* it's not like people being blown up or limbs being blown off is on a par with important issues like the global economy and the G20 conference...

Anyway, the UN have a site called, but if you don't have time to go there, here's a snippet of what they're saying there: "With high level interest in the new Convention on Cluster Munitions, the innovative Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and an upcoming review conference on the groundbreaking Anti-Personnel Landmine Convention in Colombia later this year, worldwide efforts to remove landmines and explosive remnants of war are at the top of the United Nations agenda... The joint effort by mine-affected countries, the United Nations and mine action partner organizations to clear mines, provide mine risk education services and destroy stockpiles has contributed to a reduction in the annual number of new casualties from landmines and explosive remnants of war to about 5,500—down nearly 75 percent from a high of 26,000 in 1997."

For more info on cluster bombs, see the wikipedia article - according to, the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) "prohibits all use, stockpiling, production and transfer of Cluster Munitions". Cluster munitions are banned for any nations that ratify this Convention, which was adopted in Ireland in May last year, and was signed by 94 nations in December last year in Oslo, Norway. There have been recent controversial cases (or allegations) of clusterbombs being used by the Russians in Georgia, Israelis in Lebanon, Hezbollah in Israel, and Sri Lanka against the Tamils. For more info about the anti-clusterbomb campaign, see - according to this website, between 5 and 30% (sometimes up to 40%) of the bomblets used in cluster bombs do not explode on impact, causing future harm to those who happen to come into contact with them in the days, weeks, months or years after the bombs are dropped. According to, "children represent 27% of the victims of non-exploded submunition bombs. Attracted by their bright colors, children sometimes mistake them for food rations or toys."

Evil stuff.

Space versus location...

I always wanted to own a home... at fifteen I drove by a big property in Apollo Bay - a rambling old house on a large piece of land in a place called Wild Dog Rd. I still remember the road, the land, the house on it, and all I did was see it from a car nearly ten years ago as my parents drove by it. Later, when we got back to Melbourne, I remember that I rang the real estate agent pretending to be an adult interested in buying the house, and got them to send information about the property to me. I remember thinking at the time: I have fallen in love with this place. When I'm older I have to come back here and buy something like this, somewhere like this. I cried because I wasn't a grown up with enough money to but it then. It seems incredibly overdramatic now, but that was genuinely how I felt at the time. I wonder if part of its appeal was that it was a ten minute drive from the beaches, the cafes, the people in the town part of Apollo Bay, but once you drove into Wild Dog Rd you immediately felt as though you were in rugged country. I wonder whether it's still the same.

Anyway, that longwinded and sentimental bit of my childhood crept back into my memory today when I was pondering the country-vs-regional-vs-suburban-vs-inner city property question - Bertie and I are cautiously looking at places to buy at the moment. We love being close to the city, but we also want space (especially a decent sized backyard). I'd like to grow most of our fruit and vegetables, and for our future children to have space to run around and play and grow in... but it's all about space vs location. We can't really have it both ways, unless we compromise on one in some way. I'm worried that whatever side we err on, I'll find a way to regret not erring to the other.

I think I have this paradisical vision of a garden full of luscious healthy food, waiting to be picked and eaten, but I wonder if I will actually find - no, make - the time in my life for something like full-on-food-production-gardening. Am I being too idealistic? Romantic? I wonder about the other plans I'd like to implement too, plans revolving around ideas of self sufficiency and sustainability. How does being in an apartment, or unit, or house affect my plans for these things? How likely am I to follow through and stick to these plans?

Anyway, a bit of a boring post but it needed to be gotten off of my chest. We'll see what happens.