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Monday December 20th 2010
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I looked out this morning and saw four deer, including a fawn, settled down on the far side of the pond.  Ellen does not like them around since they destroy our young trees and eat her flowers, but this is quite a sight just the same.

Microsoft Security Essentials has a new version out, but is not pushing it through to existing version 1 users yet and the upgrade link under the programs "Help" menu does not bring the upgrade yet.  To get the latest version (2), go here.  The download link does not say it is a new version, but after installing, and rebooting you'll see that the "about" menu shows the upgraded version.

After midnight tonight, a full eclipse of the moon is expected.

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Tuesday December 21st 2010
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    Winter begins    
at 4:38 PM today

The eclipse went off as expected.  The sky was clear and Ellen reported that there was no unusual colour, although a red colour had been predicted by some of the 'experts'.   I did not bother to get up to see it.

The winter solstice has now passed as of 4:38 PM and from here on, the days get longer, but, counter-intuitively, the temperatures get cooler for a few months.

We did some cleaning and vacuuming today and I did some web work for customers.  Tomorrow, I go skiing with Chris and Mckenzie, so I checked my skis.  They look sharp, but could use some wax.

I left my forklift down by the basement door the other day since the temperatures were above freezing and slope was slippery. I figured it would be easier to climb the slope on a cooler day, and besides I needed ashes if that did not work and I had just taken all the ashes away.  I had forgotten that the shifter is run by a cable and that water gets into it and sometimes freezes it solid so that I can't shift gears. 

The forklift has been sitting frozen in "Park" down by the door, waiting for a thaw.  Today, I realized that when I need to, I will not be able to get the snow blower out with the driveway blocked, so I crawled under the machine, dropped the cable off the shifter and pulled the machine up the slope with the 4X4.  Now I just have to figure out how to defrost the cable -- and keep it from freezing again so we can use the loader.  At least I can get the blower out now.

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Wednesday December 22nd 2010
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My neck, which has quite a painful crick in it for a few days now, is finally almost normal, but I went to bed last night with a bit of a sore lower back.

Here is an interesting picture.  I received it from a friend and here is what he says about it:

He says: Woodpeckers, after I neglected a wax moth infestation. You may use the photo. In fairness to Betterbee, I should point out that most of my BeeMax hive bodies have given many years of  service, probably competitive with painted wood hive bodies. However, since I boil all my wood equipment in paraffin, and therefore the wood tends to last 'forever', I have been looking into adding insulation to wood instead of buying replacement EPS.

Hoping to head off the spasm which can result from a mild back condition and really cripple me for a few days, I took Ibuprofen, the one easy-to-get and relatively benign medicine which has worked for me in the past.  The intervention seems to have worked, since the condition has not progressed at this point.

Ibuprofen has one side effect that I have observed.  Initially, Ibuprofen results in better sleep, but after a day or two of use, it can cause weird dreams.  The dreams are not nightmares, but tend to be somewhat annoying or even unpleasant at times.  Since I use Ibuprofen so seldom and for short periods, I had not noticed that until someone mentioned it, so I avoid it unless absolutely necessary. 

I prefer Aspirin and try to remember to take one before heavy exertion, like skiing, since it prevents sore joints, but there is apparently an interaction where one reduces the effect of the other.  I don't find, though, that Aspirin works as well for back pain.

In consideration of my back, and the fact that Mckenzie has a sore throat and won't be going skiing today, convinced me to cancel the skiing today.  I may clear off the pond , though.  My back should be able to stand that.  We are planning an afternoon Games Day for New Years and will invite 50 or so people over to play broomball, hockey or whatever if the weather is OK, and crokinole, checkers, cards and other games, and do puzzles indoors as well.  We'll finish off with a smorgasbord of pot luck and left-overs and call it quits around seven.  Sunset is at about 4:30 and as people get older, many are not willing to drive after dark, so I'm expecting that many will probably be gone by five.

I am back to using the Opera browser again. Version 11 is out and I like it. I went over to Maxthon as my main browser fro years due to its many features, , but since Maxthon is in a new development cycle, and the new version, Maxthon 3 is still a bit lacking in features (They are adding them back over time) I am looking around again. 

The features I rely on are in Opera, just not where I expect to find them.  With Opera 11, right clicking brings up mouse gesture prompts.  At first that was disconcerting, but I am finding it very good now, since the prompt shows the next gesture to refine the initial drag.  To me mouse gestures are an essential feature in a browser.  I don't want to have to reach for the keyboard when kicking back and reading.  They are not much use on a touchpad, though. (I take that back.  They work fine -- now that I tried it).

I went out and cleared the pond and the walks this afternoon.  It turns out that the ice on the pond is a bit lumpy under the snow.  When it froze, the weather was changeable and the ice melted and froze several times.  My back held up just fine.

I brought in the syrup pump and hoses, since I'm thinking I'll flood the rink.  I drained 2-1/2 gallons of syrup from the hose.  That is about $8 worth, I'm guessing, at the $3/gallon number I heard a while back.

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Thursday December 23rd 2010
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I was up until almost midnight last night, cleaning up the shop.  I haven't been very interested in that area lately, but suddenly found some enthusiasm for fixing it up and organizing the space.

I find it takes me about seven years after finishing a phase of my life before I throw out all the things associated with it.  I've been retired now for seven years, and I guess it is about time to get rid of the redundant trappings of commercial beekeeping.  I had about 10 of everything -- one for every truck.  What use do I have for ten logging chains -- for example?

At EAS in 2009, Tom Seeley did a demo of bees finding nesting sites, voting, then swarming out.  Science Friday has a really good video of Tom illustrating and explaining the whole process.  Click the image at right.

Listening to the news tonight, I'm hearing of flooding in downtown Laguna beach.  It is odd to hear that name on the news.  I was there a few weeks ago and wonder how Jon and family are doing.  He's on the ground floor near the runoff ditch.  I called him and he hasn't even been home.  He was away for two days.

This afternoon, I punched a hole in the ice and flooded the rink.  I made a bit of a mess of it, with "death cookies" here and there, but figure I'll flood it again before it is put to use.

I looked at the bee yard and see that the animals are busy.  I really, really need to do something about the skunks.  I guess I still have some live hives.

There is an interesting new post at the  Honey Bee World Forum about disinfection comb with ozone.

I find that I have changed interests a bit lately and that things that used to keep me engaged are less interesting, so I have more time for the tube.  I've even been thinking of upgrading to a large flat screen  Judging by the flyers coming in the mail, that is the Big Thing these days, along with smartphones.  Buying one is not an easy decision, though.  What with all the various inputs one might want and the availability of Internet-ready and 3D TVs and the question of power consumption and picture quality, making a good choice is not simple, if I don't want to be buying again in a year or two.

I have been watching "30 Rock" the past few nights.  I really don't know what to think of the show.  I find it bizarre and cynical, but looking at these TV series is part of my effort to maintain contact with the culture. 

Back when I was a kid, "Leave it to Beaver", Our Miss Brooks" and "Father Knows Best" were the morality plays of the day, so what, exactly are we learning from this one?  I'm almost through the first season, and still don't know, except that people seem to enjoy abuse and futility. 

Come to think of it, things haven't changed much except the situations and the language.  Watching the episodes on DVD or or Internet makes them bearable and mostly enjoyable.  I simply cannot stomach commercials anymore.  I enjoy seeing some of these clever manipulations once, but on repetition, they become insulting and demeaning -- sort of like the stuff in between.  I have to say, though that these shows do give me some, laughs and some of them, like "Lie to Me", provide food for thought.

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Friday December 24th 2010
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     Christmas Eve      

It's Christmas Eve, and family time.  I awoke at 4:30 this morning and found Ellen was already up, reading, so I got up and made my customary three-egg omelet and a pot of coffee.

Jean and family will be here mid-day and I have things to do.  First, it is time to shovel the ashes, a weekly chore with a coal stoker, then I am thinking I'll flood the rink again, hoping it will freeze in time for some skating this afternoon.

Amos jumped onto the bed last night and we heard Phantom, our 'wild' and elusive second cat playing with Amos' toys, so I guess Amos has had to stand down as Alpha cat.  I don't allow animals on my bed, and Amos knows it, so I figured he was feeling in need of some reassurance.  I still don't allow cats on the bed, but I told him that nicely.

I flooded the rink again this afternoon and cleaned up a bit more.  Jean, Chris and Mckenzie showed for supper and we had ham.  (Tomorrow it will be turkey).  After supper, we opened presents by the tree in the hall, European-style and chatted.

We decided that we are not going skiing tomorrow.  I know, it is a family tradition to ski Christmas Day, but we break it from time to time.  Breaking tradition is also a family tradition.  Mckenzie has a cold and I still have a bit of a bad back, so we'll play around here, ski-joring, snowboarding and tubing behind the 4X4, and maybe skating.

I say 'maybe' because, after I flooded the rink, a Chinook (a warm "Snow Eater" wind) blew in and, from minus 12°C, the temperature rose to plus 3°C (Celsius) in a matter of minutes.  The event was heralded by a gust, and our door blowing open, just as we sat down to supper.  (Is that an omen of some sort?)

So, it seems, I'll be lucky if the ice is cold enough to freeze the water I added on top.  Maybe a thaw will be a good thing for the rink in the long run if the surface ice melts a bit.  The surface is still a bit rough in spots and the ice will need another flooding to be as smooth as I would like to see.  A bit of surface melting would save me the trouble.

Things have been jumping all day on BEE-L and also in the forum.  Topics include a neonicotinoid experiment Randy is planning and comb sterilization using ozone and phosgene and other gasses.

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Saturday December 25th 2010
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      Christmas day   

We had a relaxed day.  Mckenzie and I did some skating and the rest walked over to the neighbours' with the dog we are caring for while they are away.   We played on the pond a bit with sticks and a puck.  We had a good dinner and that was about it.  We never did go ski-joring.

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Sunday December 26th 2010
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Jean and family left for Calgary around noon.  Ellen & I had a relaxed day.

We've been waiting about a year now to have some tests done to determine if common anti-fungals have any effect on nosema.  First, though, we have to calibrate the effect, if any on bees. Finally, we have word that the researcher is ready to start, but we seem to have communication problems.  What with the long lapses in communication between us, and the fact that our discussions are scattered through many emails over the year, It seems that I have to design and write up the procedure.  Below is my first effort.  Comments?

A Preliminary Test to Examine Relative Toxicity and Palatability of Common GRAS Anti-fungal Food Additives to Caged Honey Bees When Fed in Sucrose Syrup
Background: Honey bees are subject to infection by Nosema apis, and nosema ceranae, closely related spore-forming microsporidia.   Currently available and proven treatments for nosema are expensive and of such a nature that they could contaminate honey produced for human food.  Since microsporidia have recently been reclassified as fungi or fungi-related and several common and cheap food ingredients are available to inhibit moulds and fungi in bread and other foods, it has been suggested that these ingredients be tested for any potential ability to inhibit nosema.
Purpose: Literature provides suggested "safe" levels of a number of antimicrobial compounds for insects in general, but we have found nothing specific to honey bees or information as to palatability in increasing levels or the nature of the toxicity and whether the toxic effects are lethal or transient. 
This test is intended to examine whether these compounds affect syrup consumption by caged honey bees and the effect of bee behaviour and longevity for various doses from zero to the levels indicated as toxic in the literature.  From these initial indications, we shall determine a.) whether feeding these compounds in syrup is feasible, and b.) what concentrations, if any, seem to be promising for further testing against nosema.
Method: 18 cages containing counted young bees (insert more detail) are each fed (insert percent) syrup containing one of three different GRAS anti-fungals as indicated in the table below.  The cages are placed and kept in a dark incubator at degrees C and % humidity for the duration of the experiment and removed briefly only for daily examination.  Each day, the amount of syrup consumed is estimated using a ruler and the number of dead bees in each cage are counted.  Any obvious qualitative observations such as comb building, torpor or unusual bee appearance or activity are recorded as well.  Positions of the cages in the incubator are rotated progressively to null out any possible position effects.  Cages with 100% mortality are emptied of dead bees and left in the incubator until the conclusion of the trial.
Potassium Sorbate Zero 2000


8,000 11,500 15,000
Sodium Benzoate Zero 1000 2,000 4,000 7,500 10,000
Sodium Propionate Zero 4000 7,000 10,000 12,500 15,000

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Monday December 27th 2010
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This was another quiet day.  I spent time on BEE-L and the basement.

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Tuesday December 28th 2010
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The morning was very busy on BEE-L with many incoming messages and I wrote a few in return.   After lunch, I flooded the rink again and then went to town to get some odds and ends.  I got some bolts for the large basement doors to help keep them tight and some drywall screws.  The local store turned out o have a selection for 1-1/4" to 3" and I bought a pound of each.  I find them very useful and cheaper than deck screws.

Fen phoned this morning to see what happened to us on Sunday.  We had promised to go to their family Christmas party and we totally forgot -- until she mentioned it today.

>I would like to understand a little more of what people wear for bee keeping.

>What do people wear normally in the apiary and what is the core practical reason why? ...... is it keeping warm or minimizing the number of stings or what ....

Here a few shots of guys in my outfit. The fellow in the sandals (not shown), and tee-shirt is me.

Link one, Link two, Link Three, Link four

As you can see, they did not like to get stung and did not mind wearing several layers of clothes. FWIW, we washed and bleached our bee suits every day, and at one time sent them out to a linen service.

As for keeping warm, my daughter and I went to pick up some mating nucs from a beekeeper one time in July and his Mexican crew came into the yard. They were wearing woollen stocking caps (toques) that went down over their ears with veils over them. It was a hot day, I thought. We were dressed in short sleeves.

Personally, these days, I wear an oversize, very lightweight bee suit, mostly to keep the sun off my skin, and sandals. I like it very loose and wear very little under it unless the day is cool. On warm days, I usually just wear briefs under it.

I wear thin gloves now, just to protect my skin from wax and propolis, but prefer not to wear them for simple inspections.

Years ago, I pulled honey dressed only in sandals and a pair of shorts, but I find that these days the sun stings more than the bees. I don't know if it is increased UV or my ageing skin.

When I go out on bee calls I carry everything including boots and gloves... >just in case. I have not met the AHB swarm here in northern Illinois yet, >but it may happen. Generally I don't wear most of what I take.

There is the important point. Even if some of us wear next to nothing, we always have -- or should have -- an escape plan and/or full body armour nearby, and a smoker that can be in action in a minute or two.

It is also a good idea if any problems are anticipated, to light a smoker and have it idling nearby even if it is never used. Smoke at the right time can be a lifesaver for both beekeeper and bees. What do you do if you get a hive apart and cannot get close enough to reassemble and close it?

Showboating to bystanders is always fun, but if there are old folks and babies in prams ,and no line of retreat, not warning them or sending them away is irresponsible to the point of being negligent. I always tell people that things usually go well, but if they don't, everyone within a hundred yards may get stung and not just once. Just because I'm half-naked and nonchalant does not mean they should be. watch at your own risk. Winnie the Pooh was right; about bees at least.

AHB or EHB, the eventual diagnosis does not matter. If you hit a Really Mean Hive, the experience can be highly unsettling, or even lethal, to you, or even more likely, any living, breathing thing within the hives' territory. I've encountered pure EHB hives that drove me and my fully clad -- and experienced -- inspection crew right out of the yard, and that was despite our lit and functioning smokers.

A hive that is docile one day can be brutal the next, and without warning. This phenomenon is rare enough that even a well experienced beekeeper can be taken by surprise, so it is always a good idea to lift each lid carefully and observe before exposing the colony completely.

The same advice applies when moving bees. I may drive in a Tee and shorts, but I have the full kit at hand.

> I will sometimes open full hives and nucs dressed in a t-shirt, shorts, and flip flops.

It is a little-known fact that bees ignore bare feet, even if quite provoked and generally sting the upper regions.

The only way I get stung on my fully exposed feet is if I am careless and drrop bees on the ground, then walk on them or place my feet immediately in front of the entrance. Even in that latter case, I can't recall a problem.

> For those who don't wear a veil how often have you gotten stung in or near the eyes?

There are other solutions, like safety glasses, including the type that fully enclose the eye region.

I find that carefully looking at brood through a veil can be difficult, and now wear reading glasses for inspections on dull days. Any type of glasses will prevent a direct hit from a bee flying up, but not a sting from bees getting in behind them.

We had a worker stung in the eyeball, dead centre. The doctor in emergency removed the sting and the guy is just fine.

Now that I don't have the high immunity I had when working with bees all season, I find stings near the eye uncomfortable, even if the swelling is minimal, so avoid them, but even then find wearing a veil a bigger discomfort most of the time., so I do get stung there sometimes

I find that usually the bees warn me long before they start stinging and when I get stung around the eyes, it is because i overstayed my welcome by a few minutes, trying to finish something, rather than listening to my hosts.

>"It is a little-known fact that bees ignore bare feet, even if quite provoked and generally sting the upper regions" > >oh, I dispute that fact, at least with bees that speak "ya'll" down here in FLA!

OK. I stand corrected. Let me re-sate. Even in Fla or SoCal, bees ignore *MY* feet (could that be why that fact is little-known).

I guess I cannot speak for the feet of others, but should note that I seldom wear shoes. My feet are always exposed to the air and My Feet and Berks have no detectible (to me) odour. (Independent verification is welcomed).

>It is often assumed among laypersons that inbreeding of organisms is inevitably negative and hybridization always produces increased vigor. Not the case. In fact, our understanding of the genetic underpinnings of fitness is not particularly strong, especially in honey bees. It is currently thought that "diversity" is beneficial, but obviously there is more to it than that.

Thanks for that Peter. That is something we should all put up on our wall.

The implications are very important to anyone who raises bees and expects that what is observed in one generation will be expressed in the next.

It applies any time we bring in breeding stock and expect predicable results. I recall Dean was implying that bringing in a VSH queen or two might not be the answer it might seem to be on the surface. That discussion was somewhat truncated, so maybe it will revive now. We have talked about "mongrels", and also how observers have been surprised in how distantly related strains in adjoining yards do or do not mix...

Obviously there is far more to this than I am qualified to relate and to do so would take more time than I have at hand.

At any rate, thanks again, and if anyone feels qualified to comment further or can add more references, I will be most interested.

> The other would stand a good distance away with a telephoto lens, and take a picture of each frame. After the hive was reassembled, they would go inside and "inspect the comb" on the computer.

That is a very good point. When inspecting bees, taking pictures of any unusual frame is a very good idea because later, when asked questions, one can look at the photo and see things that were not apparent on a casual glance under time pressure.

Taking pictures is a problem, though, since beekeepers have wax, honey and propolis on fingers and most cameras will not stand up long in that environment. I have found the Fuju FinePix XP-10 or XP-15 to be good for the job, since it is dust and waterproof -- and washable. It has 5x optical telephoto, but no external moving parts to get gummed up. These cameras do not take the very best photos from a pure photography point of view, but they are tiny and tough and I always have mine with me -- everywhere -- whereas a better camera would be too bulky. It is good enough for my purposes and cheap at $170. I have taken pictures 6 feet under the ocean surface and in swimming pools.

I need to work more on taking pictures, rather than snapping randomly, holding frames every which way. A jig of some sort that would hold a frame in a constant position, and with reference to the sun so that the light is perfect in the cells is a project I keep thinking about. It would have to be lightweight and easy to carry. Combining it with a frame hanger of the sort that holds frames in normal position on the side of the hive could be ideal. A trigger-pressing lever would help reduce gum on the camera and make finding the shutter release easier than groping around on the tiny camera each time.

For comparing hives, such a jig would be just the thing, since, instead of estimating brood in the yard, the frames need only be quickly photographed and replaced in the hive. Later, any anomalies can be revisited. A way of labeling each shot would be important, so maybe wheels with numbers and/or letters in the corners of photos or some other sort of incrementing and meaningful visual marker could be devised. Combined with a sound recorder, the camera frame numbering could suffice. If you have ever shot a series of photos from a number of hives and tried to make sense of them late, you know how important some simple and idiot-proof identification system is.

(I often complain about the quality of data in studies that I look at and I really, really wonder how often the field people screw things up by losing track or confusing hives, and then try to repair the data later to save their study or their job. I only know how often I get confused, and even if we assume that I get confused more often than the typical hung-over hormone-crazed grad student, if they are even nearly as fallible as me, then look out!)

>Our bee counters indicate that strong colonies gain bees from their >neighbors - but don't necessarily follow traditional notions of drift... >Strong colonies may well run to ~100-105% return rates day >after day...The weaker ones often drop to 92%, even down to high 80% returns. >So, the strong colonies routinely gain bees, the weak ones lose bees. The >obvious conclusion, the weak colonies lose bees to the strong colonies.

I repeat all this in entirety because it is so very insightful and not widely appreciated. It bears repeating.

For one thing, it makes a joke of the way many of us select hives for breeding.

For another, it brings up questions of hive design.

>(Note, the return rates are usually higher during prime foraging season when >floral resources are abundant, may fall off in early spring and fall, >possibly due to the aging of the forager force. Old bees dying).

I have long contended that drilling a 1" auger hole in each brood box reduces this drift, some of which occurs for the simple reason that returning bees are attracted to entrances with bee activity and stronger hives maintain more entrance activity, especially in cool weather or non-flow conditions.

Auger holes IMO are an equalizer, since even smaller clusters can be present at the entrance when the entrance is small and near the cluster.

Bees also just seem to naturally like round holes (and cracks) and prefer them well above ground level.

I don't care for entrances above the brood boxes, though, for many reasons already discussed: loss of heat, problems pulling honey, etc.

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Wednesday December 29th 2010
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I have five more full days to get things done before I fly to Houston on the 3rd for the North American Beekeeping Conference.  I think I'm mostly ready.

I see the weather forecast has changed from the previous expectation of zero degrees in sun for Saturday and that Saturday is now predicted to be cooler than I had hoped.

Saturday is our Games day with board and card games inside and skating, sliding, etc. outdoors.   Unless the forecast changes further, it should still be OK for outdoor activity, though.

Today, I drive Ellen to Calgary for another eye examination at 1 PM.  We may do some shopping, but she will not be able to see much after having her eyes dilated.

We were pointed to a very significant (IMO) piece today on BEE-L. Here is a tiny excerpt:

"Jennions, similarly, argues that the decline effect is largely a product of publication bias, or the tendency of scientists and scientific journals to prefer positive data over null results, which is what happens when no effect is found. The bias was first identified by the statistician Theodore Sterling, in 1959, after he noticed that ninety-seven per cent of all published psychological studies with statistically significant data found the effect they were looking for. A “significant” result is defined as any data point that would be produced by chance less than five per cent of the time. This ubiquitous test was invented in 1922 by the English mathematician Ronald Fisher, who picked five per cent as the boundary line, somewhat arbitrarily, because it made pencil and slide-rule calculations easier. Sterling saw that if ninety-seven per cent of psychology studies were proving their hypotheses, either psychologists were extraordinarily lucky or they published only the outcomes of successful experiments. In recent years, publication bias has mostly been seen as a problem for clinical trials, since pharmaceutical companies are less interested in publishing results that aren’t favorable. But it’s becoming increasingly clear that publication bias also produces... Read on...

We drove to Calgary and Ellen had her appointment, and then we drove home, seeing as the weather was closing in and she could not see much due to the eye drops they used. 

I stopped at Home Depot on the way in and checked into a concrete grinder.  Our basement floor is sloped away from the drains a bit in spots and I figure grinding off a 1/4 or 1/2 inch here and there would make a world of difference.  New technology has made concrete grinding practical and new surfaces can make concrete compete with hardwood for beauty.  I just want the water to go to the drains when I wash the floor, but I also want a smooth finish when I am done.

BEE-L is really hopping lately and the quality of discussion is pretty good.  We have some researchers and senior beekeepers discussing some weighty topics.  There is a little pushing and shoving occasionally, but one thing I can say definitely about BEE-L is that there are no posers hanging there, unlike some forums I don't need to name.

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Thursday December 30th 2010
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It is cold out today.  I have several things that must be done and many that are optional.   Should  procrastinate or get down to it?

I've been playing with the idea of getting an iPad or equivalent and spent some time looking at them on line and in the Apple Store yesterday.  I am impressed by how Apple has progressed since the late seventies when we had an Apple dealership. The iPad looks ideal for me as a portable since I can do email, browse and watch movies or TV anywhere and cheap pay as you go data plans are available both in Canada and the US.  Apparently Skype works over 3G now as well. 

I ran up to Red Deer in late afternoon and bought both an iPad and a Galaxy Tab.  The idea is to work with both and return either or both if they are not what I want. There is the odd chance I may keep both if Ellen likes one of them.  She ordered and eReader online today, too.  I'm not known for doing anything in halves.

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Friday December 31st 2010
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