January 14, 2014
by Suzanne Langlois
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H0ney R1der

Honey Rider is a shell diver in the James Bond movie, Dr. No.To see a photo of her, played by Ursula Andress, click here:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Ursula_Andress_in_Dr._No.jpg

Honey Rider is a shell diver in the James Bond movie Dr. No.

I decided after reading Julia Angwin’s fascinating tales of the elusiveness of online privacy that I should make some attempts to shroud my online identity. So I decided to create a fake identity for online purchases. Random-word apps were too complicated for me and didn’t seem nearly as fun as inventing my own doppelganger. I wanted to sound exotic and powerful, like a superhero. I envisioned pop-up ads for black leather accessories instead of belly fat melters. I went for exocit names beginning with S. I had no idea so many people were named Serena and Solange, plus I started to worry about forgetting my own name and blowing my cover and getting doubly exposed. So I switched to the more mundane, and called myself Bea Keeper. Which some grandma in North Dakota of course has already stolen from me. I realized Ke$ha has no patent on symbols and renamed myself BeK**per which just looked dumb and not at all glamorous. Then Honey Rider, the James Bond girl from Dr. No, popped into my head – specifically the scene where she emerges from the ocean with a knife in her bikini bottom. Taken, of course. But H0onei Ryedeer3 was available. No way…doesn’t evoke killer sex on the beach at all. Hunnney Re1der? I’ll never remember that. Why not distill her down to her essence SweetSpyBait. Aggg! Already taken! Ok get creative here, Suzanne. Think hard. Try Sw**t&StickyGoldenSpyBaitWithKnife$honeySerena1. YES! I am totally set. I beat everyone to this name. I can’t believe it. So awesome.

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December 18, 2013
by Suzanne Langlois
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Poetry Slam

I don't know when to stop digging my own pit of shame.

I don’t know when to stop digging my own pit of shame.

To celebrate the holidays, my book club decided on a poetry slam this month instead of our usual book discussion. The original plan was to take over a room in a nearby cozy bar. I planned on reading the three line poem, “Isn’t it funny how a bear likes honey? Buzz! Buzz! Buzz! I wonder why he does?” not only because it’s the only poem I’ve ever been able to commit to memory, but also because I hoped to engage people in answering a question for me: Who’s the author? Winnie the Pooh or A.A. Milne? One of my friends would know the answer and I could finally stop wondering.

Plans changed. The date, the place, everyone’s availability, and we wound up just having a small gathering in a member’s home with a subset of the club. When I realized I’d be one of two Americans there, I figured I’d switch to an American poet to better represent my people. (The foreign-born women in my club are intimidatingly smart and beautiful. I knew I’d just bury my face in a cheese puff if one of them asked me what the subtext of Pooh indicates about the British psyche between the wars.) So I chose Jack Handey. The only current American poet I nearly always understand. Especially whilst drinking.

We’d already heard a beautiful reading of Rumi from my friend Parisa, who read first in Persian then in translation. We’d listened to a poem by Kahlil Gibran about life. Maya read a love poem written by her co-worker, a former nun, and a response from her lover, a former priest. I was pouring sweat by the time it was my turn to read. True, I was wearing long underwear and sitting by the fireplace gulping my shiraz. But also I was about to read a Jack Handey poem about a rat named Squeaky, for christsake!

Lacking the brainwaves for a re-think, I decided to stick up for the Americans. I prefaced my poem by encouraging everyone to appreciate Handey’s simple language, his comedic timing, his accessibility. I read the rat poem, trying to suppress my giggles. Nobody laughed. I looked around the room at the perplexed exotic faces and stammered, “See, Jack Handey uses all the conventions of poetry to set us up. You think it’s going to be profound, right? Then he screws around with us and states the absurd instead.”

Utter bewilderment.

“It’s funny!” I insisted. “Ok well, let me try another.” Because clearly I don’t know when to stop digging my own pit of shame.

I read: “Whenever I see an old lady slip and fall on a sidewalk, I laugh, but then I think, what if I were an ant and she fell on me? Then it wouldn’t be so funny.” I’m shaking with laughter, but nobody else makes a sound. I scan the floor around my feet for my wine glass and keep my eyes low.

Finally, Laurie, our hostess, says diplomatically, “Thanks Suzanne. I think that’s enough for one night.”

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December 3, 2013
by Suzanne Langlois
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Why must I lick the spoon?

I ate my dogs heartworm pill.

Neither he nor I will suffer from intestinal parasites this month.

This morning I ate my dog’s heartworm pill. Ever since they started skimping on the beef flavoring at the Trifexis plant, I’ve had to crush his monthly tablet with peanut butter and honey. So there I was this morning, making up peanut butter sandwiches, remembering I forgot to dose Seamus on the first of the month. I packed the lunch boxes, crushed the pill with blobs of peanut butter and honey, slid the medicated treat into his bowl, cleared away the breakfast dishes, licked the honey spoon clean before sliding it into the dishwasher. Then did the same with the peanut butter spoon. You can see how easily these things happen. Yuck! Tongue snapping bitterness. I looked at the blister pack to see what exactly will be protecting my gut from nematodes. Spinosad and milbemcin oxmide. Hmmm. Given my weight, I suppose I’d be classified as a large dog. Looks like I ate enough to ward off hookworms, whipworms and roundworms, but not enough to induce adverse side effects like itching and “pinnal reddening,” which would certainly put a damper on things in the bedroom. Decided I had too much to do today to read all the fine print surrounding the words “Not for human use,” but read just enough to worry what exactly “concomitant extra label use” actually means. Will google it later. Vowed to put the dog’s pill henceforth in a blob of raw bacon fat, a medium I’m less likely to lick afterward.

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November 16, 2013
by Suzanne Langlois
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Sugar in The Blood

Andrea Stuart's amazing book, Sugar in the Blood, tells the story of sugar and slavery.

Andrea Stuart’s amazing book, Sugar in the Blood, tells the fascinating and emotional story of sugar and slavery.

If only I had read Andrea Stuart’s engrossing book, Sugar in the Blood, before encountering my new friend last week, I could have told him how sugar has exploited generations of slaves. I could have at least pushed back more intelligently at his assertion that beekeepers exploit bees by describing real exploitation in pursuit of something sweet and valuable. I couldn’t have done it as eloquently as Stuart does in her non-fiction page turner, based on her own lineage. This book has heightened my understanding of Britain, the Caribbean, business and human nature, not to mention sweet stuff.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13642504-sugar-in-the-blood

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November 3, 2013
by Suzanne Langlois
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Does beekeeping exploit bees?

Is beekeeping like watching SpongeBob?

Does laughing at SpongeBob exploit sea sponges?

Last night I got into a conversation with a vegan who doesn’t eat honey. After he accused me of exploiting and enslaving bees, I realized I wouldn’t have to muster the energy to make polite conversation with anyone else at this boring cocktail party because the fun I’d have with this guy was sure to keep me occupied for at least a half hour. Then I could go home.

“Why is eating honey worse than eating kale?” I asked him. Before he could answer I offered him a bite of my pork skewer. I let him bla bla on about how beekeepers buy, sell and confine bees for their own use. Then I reached for a meatball, and savoring it slowly, told him, “Well, I’m not as presumptuous as you are. I’ve seen kale wilt. Have you ever considered that kale might have emotional needs? Kale is supposed to live free in a field, not in your Whole Foods shopping cart.” He raised his left eyebrow at me, or at the meatball, I couldn’t tell.

I continued, “If beekeepers harmed the bees, we wouldn’t have any honey to “steal,” right? We protect and nurture bees. That’s what beekeepers do.” He wagged his celery stick at me and said that it matters to him that bees have a central nervous system and kale doesn’t. “Sea sponges don’t have nervous systems, but I’m sure you’ve laughed at SpongeBob before.” I told him.“Talk about exploitation!”

He looked confused, as well as hungry. “That makes no sense.” he said.

“Maybe not to you, but it matters to me because I like sea sponges.” I said, and walked away.

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October 27, 2013
by Suzanne Langlois
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How to read a butt

The back end of a creature reveals a lot about what's going on. When bees die with their heads inside a honeycomb cell, derriere sticking out, that means they starved.

The back end of a creature reveals a lot about what’s going on. When bees die with their heads inside a honeycomb cell, derriere sticking out, that means they starved.

I was buying a Diet Coke in the laundry room of my sister’s college dormitory building when my change slipped out of my hand and rolled under the soda machine. Cheapness trumping dignity, I slid under the machine to hunt for the two coins I’d dropped. This is how the freshman boy found me, belly to the ground, feet, legs and butt sticking out from under the soda machine. He perhaps thought I’d been shot and left for dead. “Are you ok?” he asked, bending down to pull me out. Embarrassed, I quickly grabbed my runaway coins that had come to rest on a spent fabric-softener sheet, stood up and faced him. He backed up. Actually, he recoiled. “Oh, you’re not a student!” he said, shocked. The thought that my denim-clad butt could be mistaken for a co-ed’s was entirely eclipsed by the reality that my face betrayed my middle age. My butt lied to him, but my wrinkles did not. I remain unconsoled, even after reading that elephant butts reveal much about a pachyderm that isn’t flattering. Specifically, the size of an elephant’s butt indicates how fat it is, and it turns out a lot of elephants in zoos are fat. Duh, right? This was front page news this morning! I read it in the newspaper. (That’s right, the print version, through my Walgreens magnifiers.) News was newsworthy when I was a youngster. Honey bee butts are another story altogether. Very newsworthy in the man-bites-dog unexpected way. When a bee dies with its butt sticking out of a honeycomb cell, that means it has starved to death. Unlike elephants and middle aged women, bees butts are neither skinny nor fat. They just are alive and wriggling – indicating a bee is working a honeycomb cell –  or they are motionless, indicating the bee is dead. Lots of protruding dead bee tails at the end of winter means the bees didn’t have enough honey to sustain them, or that the honey was too far away from their warm cluster for them to breakaway and eat it. Prolonged cold spells mean that even bees with plenty of honey can starve. It’s a sad sight for a beekeeper. But maybe not as sad as a 40 something woman scrounging on the floor.

 

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October 18, 2013
by Suzanne Langlois
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Holes promote procreation

Missouri Botanical Garden botanists cut a hole in the Corpse Flower to let in pollinators.

The Corpse Flower has a door for pollinators. Think crotchless panties.

The world’s largest flower bloomed today at the Missouri Botanical Gardens. The Corpse Flower is rumored to smell like rotting flesh and stands taller than your average middle schooler, so of course I had to take the 5 teenagers residing in my house this weekend to see it. The entire greenhouse smelled like a boy’s wet gym socks, which made the line of gawkers move through rather briskly. The botanists in charge of the Corpse Flower cut a charming little door in the side of the flower to let in pollinators.

“Hey, look guys, that’s where the bees and flies go in and out,” I told the kids, as I pointed to the dollhouse-like portal.

“What, I don’t get why they need that door,” Isabelle, my 16 year old friend, asked. It being too malodorous inside the greenhouse for a proper high school biology lesson, I blurted out, “Crotchless panties, Isabelle. That little door works like crotchless panties.”

A garden volunteer with a tidy updo asked me to please keep my comments to myself. Between the stink-eye she was giving me and the fetid perfume of the flower getting to me, I figured it was time to head out the door.

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October 7, 2013
by Suzanne Langlois
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“What’d you say them bees make in there?”

 

I never know how the guy will react when I tell him my backflow regulator is behind two beehives. But this was a first.

I never know how the guy will react when I tell him my back flow regulator is behind two beehives. But this was a first.

Today the irrigation company sent a man to my house to shut off my sprinklers for the winter. They do this every fall. I never quite know how the contractor will react when I tell him my back flow regulator is behind two beehives, but rather than take any chances that the dude or the bees get too curious about each other, I always hover. Until today, the worst thing that ever happened was that a contractor once casually put his 40 pound tool bucket down on top of a hive so roughly that the hive teetered, and I wound up balancing his bucket on my chest as I righted the hive. A crescent wrench caught my v-neck t-shirt, exposing my Wonderbra. But I figured I’d see a butt-crack, so we were even. Today’s man, Wade, seemed oblivious to the hives as he worked. As he finished, he asked me, “Now, what’d you say them bees make in there? Jelly?” Well, no, I explained. Honey bees make honey. “Honey? What kinda honey? Strawberry?” I knew he was still thinking “jelly,” but I didn’t want to sound insulting, so I said, “mostly clover.” I thought we were finished but he didn’t. “Clover? Never had that kind. Mostly I like grape. They make other flavors too? Anything but apricot I like. Them bees probably don’t eat much apricots around here. What do they eat, berries? We have mulberries near me. They’re an awful mess when the birds get ‘em in June. My truck’s worse off ‘n my ass after paintball.” Much as I loved our conversation, I had to get to work, so I asked if he had any paperwork for me to sign. “Nope. You plug these things in at night, I guess?” This was a first. My hives have been mistaken for pet tombs and chicken coops before, but never electric jelly making appliances. I had the guilty realization that because Wade is neither my child nor my sister, I was under no obligation to set him straight on the facts. On the contrary, I was free to plumb the depths of his confusion for my own pleasure. What harm? He has a job and a truck. “Wade,” I said, “Here’s what I do. Every night, before I go to bed, I leave a big bowl of Cap’n Cruch’s Crunch Berries cereal out for the bees to eat for breakfast. Just the Crunch Berries. I give my dog the rest. Then I plug the hives into the socket in my kitchen with a very long extension cord. Then, what do you think happens inside there? Tell me…”

 

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September 23, 2013
by Suzanne Langlois
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It’s alive and buzzing

I wrapped this frame, partially full of honey and pollen, in a plastic bag, intending to slide it into my freezer for winter storage when I got home from work. I thought I blew all the bees off first, but I trapped one inside the bag.

I wrapped this frame, partially full of honey and pollen, in a plastic bag, intending to slide it into my freezer for winter storage when I got home from work. I thought I blew all the bees off first, but I trapped one inside.

I have a “no-personal-electronics” policy in my classroom because I cannot compete with Instagram and SnapChat. My students don’t seem to miss their gadgets, since I keep them amused by my neverending failures at mastering the room controls in Siegle Hall.  Today I found myself lecturing over the din of a wind gust that started when I mistook a fan dial for a light switch. Curse you Johnson Controls! Anyway, today my policy bit me. I forgot to turn off my own phone and Fiona was desperate to get ahold of me after school. To keep the students from hearing my phone vibrating in my back pocket, I slowly walked backward, facing them as I talked about W. Edwards Deming.  But the buzzing was amplified when I pressed up against the wall, thinking my crushing butt would muffle it. It only made it sound worse, like I’d swallowed a case of Pop Rocks. I finally excused myself to get a drink of water, faking a little cough so they didn’t think something was erupting from my other end. Fiona had called me three times, left a voicemail and a text, which was staring at me from my screen: “this POOR thing is DYING!” My mind raced to the worst scenario: an image of Myles’ bloody head resting in her arms. Dashing out of the hall, hands trembling, I dialed her number. She picked up on the first ring and yelled, “Mom there’s a bee trapped inside this trash bag you put in the middle of the kitchen table and I’ve ripped open the bag and it won’t come out because you’ve totally terrorized it so it keeps trying to hide inside the honeycomb you put in here what kind of torture are you trying to pull off here I mean what the hell Mom why trap a honey bee inside a trashbag? You are so mean.” Oh thank God, I thought, and hung up on her. I listened to her voicemail, just in case she left anything out of her live rant, but it was the same theme about me being a bee torturer. I was satisfied Myles was safe and sound. I flattened down my hair, took a deep breath, and went back to class.

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September 16, 2013
by Suzanne Langlois
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Bees, bullets, bows & arrows

I never worry too much about restrictions on beekeeping. Here in Missouri, the government encourages dangerous backyard pursuits.

I never worry too much about restrictions on beekeeping. Here in Missouri, the government encourages dangerous backyard pursuits.

One afternoon, just for fun, I practiced target shooting with my friend off my back deck. While I was focused on trying to line up the target in the sight glass, a police car drove by and my friend yelled, “Hit the deck.” My reaction time is slower than his, especially while committing a crime, so I stood there stupidly looking around, waving my gun in the air, as he lay on the porch, gun locked by his side. Lucky for me, the cop never circled back. We kept practicing. The police who patrol my neighborhood are busy guys. They have a lot of car and house break-ins to worry about. Why bother stopping for a couple of sporting residents? Actually, I’d be surprised if I had been breaking a local gun ordinance. This is Missouri, after all. Our governments tend toward the libertarian end of the spectrum. For this reason, I never worry too much about my local politicians restricting beekeeping. So far, legislators have left beekeepers alone in most municipalities in and around St. Louis. How could they argue that backyard beekeeping poses a threat to the safety of residents when they pass laws encouraging backyard hunting? In my brother’s community of Sunset Hills, a few miles south of me, the Board of Aldermen just passed an ordinance allowing folks to shoot deer with bows and arrows. Sunset Hills, mind you, is not in any way rural. It’s squarely suburban. We’re talking hunting on people’s lawns, around the swingsets and rose bushes. I’ll have to text my sister-in-law to remind her to keep the kids inside.

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