Hi all:
As you know I’ve been away and I promised I’d share a bit of my experience whilst in Galicia. As you were kind enough to show a lot of interest in my first post… well, you’ve asked for it.
If you remember, I included a picture of my uncle Eloy extracting honey from the panels of the beehive.
My mother and I spent an afternoon helping him with the task and he was kind enough to talk about the process, reflect on the changes it had seen (he still uses a manual contraption to spin the panels and get the honey removed, but people with more beehives and a more professional organisation use electric ones and the process is more automated). He explained that compared to the time of his parents (my grandparents) the level of production had increased dramatically. Not all are positives, though, and he noted that some people, to increase the production, fed the bees rather than rely solely on them to go searching for flowers and pollen and the quality was not as good.

He also explained that keeping bees is not a huge time investment (you have to look after the beehives and extract the honey towards the end of the summer and provide them with medication due to pests afterwards, but not much to do in the winter). He also observed that some people can make a fair living out of it, but of course they have to keep many bees. In his case, he only does it for friends and family and if he has some spare might sell it, but has not considered a big increase in production (as he manages single-handedly).

As there weren’t several suits we couldn’t help him with the actual extraction of the panels, but once those were transported home, we were there. The panels come sealed by the wax of the bees and that top layer must be cut off before the honey can be extracted. The honey keeps dripping from those cuttings. And the panels are placed in a centrifuge. And we make them spin!

Here is a video I created with some of the pictures I took (some are a bit abstract but I think they create an interesting effect. And there is a small video included too).

Here I leave you a few links to articles on bees I found interesting:

Wikipedia:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bee

British Beekeepers Association

http://www.bbka.org.uk/

BBC Nature videos collection on bees

http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/collections/p007rdq3

What is the value of bees? Discussion in The Guardian about the vote on banning certain pesticides (noenicotinoids) in 2013.

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/blog/2013/mar/15/bees-value-pollination-farming-neonicotinoids

Campaign, Save the Bee:

http://www.planetbee.org/?gclid=Cj0KEQjwm4mwBRCni-ivmePYivkBEiQAdGkkluahxyhSYUQ5qbHNYMzbRil_giRlCios0CWmS4rDONUaAhv_8P8HAQ#education-awareness-stewardship

The above article and the campaign put me in mind of a book I’ve just finished reading, and I thought I’d share the review. The book hasn’t been published yet (it’s due early in October) and I’ve read is undergoing some changes, so you might want to investigate further before deciding, but I could not resist… (I’ve been recently contacted by somebody from the publishing house who confirmed they were making some changes to the book and offered to send me a copy of the finished book, so I might come back with a reply in a while…)

Nirvana by JR Stewart

Nirvana by JR Stewart

Nirvana by J.R. Stewart. Virtual reality, bees, grief and politics

Thanks to the publishers (Blue Moon Publishers) and to Net Galley for the gift of an advance copy of this book. I have read that it is undergoing major revisions, so it might be that some of the issues mentioned are no longer there if you get the final edition.

Nirvana, despite the name, is a dystopian Young Adult novel. It is set in a future where bees have disappeared and nature as we know it has gone; there are a few places left where people live (the novel takes place in Canada, around Toronto, although there are hints throughout the book that the situation might be slightly different in other places), and the Hexagon (yes, I know) controls “security” (read intrudes in everybody’s privacy, destroys all books and keeps a tight hold on everybody’s activities, words and imagination). Larissa, a young woman whose husband (a very talented scientist) disappeared during a mysterious mission six months ago is not ready to accept his death and refuses to let go.

The novel mostly focuses on Larissa, although the third person point of view sometimes shares the thoughts of other characters, like the Corporal, Serge (a childhood friend of Larissa’s), the psychologist…but not consistently and sometimes it seems to hide things, and we also get letters, documents, etc. The time-line can be somewhat challenging at times as Larissa can flicker between memories (how she met Andrew, her husband, their time at university, some of her musical gigs, her childhood memories including some very dark ones) and things that are happening at the time of the action of the novel, when she is being pressurised by the authorities to sign a document acknowledging that Andrew is dead. Although this is how our mind works, sometimes it’s not easy to tell the difference until you reach the next change in perspective. Perhaps a different type of letter or a break would make it easier. I also found the fact that many characters have similar names (all beginning with K, I’m not sure why) made me go back and forth to make sure.

The description of Larissa’s psychological state and emotions is accurate for somebody suffering from a grief reaction (even if in her case she has no real proof that her husband is dead). She feels guilty, angry, sad, confused and doubts constantly about what to do. Her family circumstances were already complicated and she does not know if her sister is alive or not and it’s not difficult to understand that she’d be reluctant to let go of the one bit of family she had left. We might lack outside perspective on her and know little about her previous personality so it’s difficult to get a full picture of the character but this will probably build over time.

I am not an expert in science-fiction but I know world-building can be one of the main strengths of these novels. After reading the author’s biography I understand why the parts that deal with virtual reality (the Bubble, that is where the crème of society live, in a fake world of their choosing, and Nirvana, that is the low-key version that workers might access, but in small doses) are very strong and mind-boggling, even scarily so. By contrast, the descriptions of the rest of the world are very succinct and only much later, when the point of view returns to the characters in positions of authority, we get to know a bit more about the world order, but this is more tell than show (although that is one of the difficulties with the genre, maintaining the balance between trying to make the story come alive whilst at the same time leaving something to the readers’ imagination).

The idea behind the politics of that world reminded me of 1984 (the level of intrusion into people’s lives is greater than even insiders realise), and the conspiracy theorists will “enjoy” the implications of some of the things uncovered and suggested towards the end of the novel. They throw an even darker light on the authorities and put into question loyalties and certainties. The comments about the interests behind big funding for scientific research and how those dictate the direction human progress takes made me pause and gave me cause for concern. (Having studied Medicine this is a thing we’re always aware of).

I found the brief discussions on physics and even music theory fascinating, but might not be to everybody’s taste, especially younger readers interested mainly in the characters.

I found the overall story engaging, although the surprise at the end was hinted at and most readers are likely to have guessed it by then, but it is a good twist and it leaves room for much more to come.

This is perhaps a novel that does not fit in comfortably within the YA category, but I think it’s a series worth keeping an eye on, as there are interesting plot lines, characters with plenty of hidden agendas and room for development, and a whole world (or worlds) that we’ve only glimpsed. And virtual reality as you haven’t seen it yet. Ah, and don’t forget to read the writer’s biography. It will make you very uneasy…

http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B014LLM1XW/

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B014LLM1XW/

And before I leave, another picture of the millennial chestnut tree:

A fascinating tree

A fascinating tree

Thanks to my uncle Eloy for the explanations, thanks to you all for reading and viewing and if you’ve enjoyed, like, comment, share, and if you want to CLICK, go ahead!