Sunday, 24 November 2013

Why I'm now obsessed with Beethoven

So Beethoven was a pretty brilliant composer. He was also a man of deep Christian faith. His music was always pretty good, until something huge happened. He started going deaf. Then his music got really, really good.

Many of his works were written whilst going deaf, or after he had completely lost his hearing. As a musician, this was incredibly hard for him, however with the help of the amazing community that surrounded him, he transformed his suffering into works of incredible depth and joy.

I love the way his music has this sombre feel and speaks to the dark parts of life, and yet always has hidden in it the seeds of joy, which burst out into incredibly uplifting passages.

So, not only is it amazing that Beethoven could write at all while deaf, let alone the complex works that he did compose, but I love the way he held on to joy. His faith was so deep that he had a source of joy that was totally independent on the events of his life, and he desired above all to bring that joy to others. Pretty inspiring.

Here is a symphony (number 9) he wrote near the end of his life. I think it shows how he put the honesty of his struggles and the fulness of his joy into his music (it includes the famous "ode to joy").

Monday, 18 November 2013

Lady bugs versus aphids

Every year I get the privilege of witnessing an exciting bug showdown right in my front yard. First the aphids come to suck all the juices out of our lovely rose bushes. But I know it will be OK, because shortly after that, the lady bugs arrive. The lady bugs themselves will eat up to 60 aphids in a day. They also lay eggs, which hatch out into weird looking, fast growing, ravenously hungry larvae. The larvae can eat their weight in aphids each day.

Pretty soon, my rose bushes are absolutely crawling with lady bugs and their babies. (The photo above is from the start of the season - I found no larvae that day, and only about 20 adult bugs). It's fantastic to watch it all happening each year, and it's satisfying to know I don't have to worry about getting rid of the aphids myself.

The only spanner in the works is the ants. I didn't get a good photo of the ants this time, but they do seem to try to protect the aphids. They aren't really a match for the overwhelming numbers of lady bugs though, and it's kinda cool to have this extra bit of complexity in the ecosystem. If the ants are invested in the aphids, it's most likely because they harvest and eat the aphids poo! I haven't caught my ants doing this yet, but I found this great video on youtube showing it happening.

Time to go out to my garden and try to get my own video of it!