Part-Time Passions: March 2009

From beekeeping to cartooning, IEEE members have fascinating hobbies

6 March 2009

Alan Eynon
Buzz Patrol

IEEE Member Alan Eynon is a mild-mannered signal-processing engineer. But his hobby keeps people abuzz at how daring he is.

“When I tell people that I keep bees, they give me incredulous looks—as if  I’d told them I tamed lions for a hobby,” he says.

Since 2000, Eynon (pronounced EYE-nun), who works for Innovative Signal Analysis in Richardson, Texas, has amassed six beehives. He now serves as president of his local beekeeping club. He keeps the hives outside his Dallas home and with neighbors who are learning how to keep bees.

part01 Profession:

Beekeepers help their bees strengthen colonies to make honey by assuring they have enough food for the winter, checking for and treating diseases and parasites, and repairing any damage to the hive. The beekeepers also collect and sell honey and beeswax, and pollen as a food supplement. Modest start-up costs can run upward of US $1000 for two hives, the bees, and supplies such as a protective suit and a honey extractor.

Eynon, who had a childhood fascination with ants’ organizational skills, became interested in bees in 1998, when he saw them buzzing around his Houston townhouse. After boning up on beekeeping by reading and taking a class, he bought two starter hives. Each 1.4-kilo package contained about 10 000 worker bees and one queen. “The bees are sent through the mail,” he says. “But be prepared for the post office to call at 6 a.m. and tell you to come get your bees. Now!” Worker bees spend their days making honey, gathering nectar, and protecting and maintaining the hive, while the queen lays eggs.

The yearly beekeeping cycle varies by location. Eynon’s honey crop comes in at the end of June, dries up during the hot Texas summer, and then resumes after the September rains produce another nectar flow. He lets his bees keep the fall honey for food, supplementing them with sugar water to keep them alive through the winter. He’s been stung hundreds of times—mostly deliberately, to build up a tolerance to the venom.

Each hive—square wooden boxes with removable honeycomb frames—annually produces 35 kilograms of honey, which he gives away to friends and sells through local shops. His wife makes soaps, candles, and bars of lotion from the honeycomb wax. It takes about five years for a hive to pay for itself. But Eynon’s not in it for the money. Perhaps he sees a little of himself in his constantly working bees.

“There’s always something going on in a beehive,” he says. “Bees are natural engineers, building light, strong honeycombs that maximize storage space for a given amount of wax. I think I’ve learned all there is to know about bees, but every year they teach me something new.”


Christophe Granet
Drawing for Laughs

part02 Profession:

As soon as Christophe Granet got his weekly allowance as a child growing up in Châteauroux, France, he’d run to the store to pick up the latest bandes dessinées (comic books). Over the years his collection grew to more than 600 titles.

“My teenage years were full of half-baked projects to start my own bande dessinée, but of course it was way too hard, and I was busy with school,” says Granet, an IEEE senior member.

But he liked to doodle, and he drew comic strips while pursuing his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in physics at the University of  Limoges and his doctorate in electrical engineering at the University of Orléans, both in France. Once he earned his Ph.D. in 1995, he moved to Australia to work as a research scientist for the Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Research Organization in Marsfield, near Sydney.

After years of keeping his hobby to himself, in 1999 Granet took a night-school cartooning course and drew a series of single-panel cartoons for his final assignment. Each cartoon in the It’s a Jungle Out There! series depicted family-friendly gags using animals in quirky situations, like a lawn-mowing service using sheep or a female dog yelling at her overweight, lazy husband, “I find it hard to believe you were a dog-show winner when we met!” Granet kept at it and joined the Australian Cartoonists’ Association to network with other artists. In 2004 he sent samples to Auspac Media, a cartoon syndicate in Bundall, which put the cartoons on its roster of those available for syndication.

Now Jungle, produced under the pen name Hagen, a childhood nickname, is syndicated in five newspapers in Australia, the United States, and Papua New Guinea. Granet also sells books, postcards, prints, T-shirts, and mugs emblazoned with his cartoons on his Web site and on other cartoon sites. To date, he has drawn more than 1200 Jungle cartoons.

Granet, who now works for BAE Systems in North Ryde, says his engineering training actually helps in cartooning. “I programmed a Fortran ‘gag generator’ that randomly gives me lists of a subject, place, action, and prop,” he says. “The list usually ends up prompting ideas.”

But Granet acknowledges, “Drawing cartoons is definitely different from my day job as a scientist, where making the client laugh is not a way to get a promotion.”

If you have an interesting hobby you’d like to share, e-mail the editors:

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