Sunday, June 21, 2009

More bug Love

Knowledge is one of those untouchable things like love or hate. Yet, it is vital to our growth as individuals. Some of us struggle through school learning only what we need to pass to the next level, learning what we need for a job, learning how to work the remote, learning perhaps the bare essentials to keep us alive. Some of us learn every day and make a point of doing that, looking things up in the dictionary or on the internet, asking questions, taking continuing education courses.

Since I was diagnosed with MS, I have been able to take everything I have learned and continue to learn and apply it to the issues of MS: my knowledge of epidemiology, chemistry, biology, socio-economics, mathematics even, have all been enhanced since my diagnosis. I had always been curious and a life long learner, but for the past 11 years even more so.

As many of you know from reading this blog, or from knowing me personally, I have a fondness for bugs. I love the onset of spring because it means the bugs will come out to do buggy things. The sounds of cicadas on the hottest days of the year are sweeter than the sounds of Mozart, the colours of beetles and butterflies more intense and pleasing than any Van Gogh, and the design and mechanics of how these creatures are and live, more ingenious than anything da Vinci could invent. And I continue to be amazed and amused by what I see and learn.

Some people question why other people study seemingly innocuous subjects. The people who ask those questions haven't learned the basic idea behind science: to learn more about our world and thus, understand it. They also haven't learned how to apply what they have learned to the wider world around us.

About 2 months ago, I attended a lecture about the source of funding for neuro science research. To begin the lecture, the speaker talked of why we do research in the first place. On the most basic level, it's because we want to know things, we are a curious species of animal. But the general public doesn't want to fund research just because one guy or gal is curious about something. The general public wants to fund research for a specific outcome, perhaps to eliminate a disease.

I want that as well. But I really enjoy reading about everything that leads up to that. Like this article I came across yesterday: Insects' Sex Scents Can Save Lives.

Just two days previous I caught two dragonflies in the throes of bug love, in the middle of the biking path I was on. I could have run them over!


Saturday, June 13, 2009

Bug Love

I was out the door at 6:30 this morning for a walk....first stop was the garden where I found two beetles having sex on one of my plants. At 6:30 in the morning. So I took 'em inside and took pictures of them under the microscope.

I returned the lovers to the outdoors and went for my walk. On way home I came across a couple of huge worms and a couple of very small salamanders. We had torrential rains last night and all sorts of these creatures climb out of the earth to avoid drowning. Some were a little late to go back. The smaller of the salamanders I took home with me for pictures under the microscope. This is his tiny foot. you can see the rounded shape of it and it's very similar to tree frogs, with the sticky pads on their tiny toes.

The little guy was only an inch long, just a baby so I released him to the grass outside.

Back in the garden again to find more creepy crawlies. This centipede like creature was under a rhubarb leaf.

And I couldn't resist taking a picture of my neighbour's onion. It looks like it's wearing a turban.

Things are still really busy with work and fund raising for the bike tour. We hardly have time to get out for bike rides and training. Tomorrow...


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The (New) Democratic Process

Yesterday, we had a provincial election. Having had a minority government for almost 10 years, this election being called was no surprise. However, it was the 5th election in 11 years instead of the usual one every 4 years or's all a part of our democracy, but still frustrating when the governing body has so many obstacles it rarely gets anything done. Hopefully, this new government will improve things in this province.

The New Democratic Party (NDP) rather than the Progressive Conservatives or Liberals is now the ruling party. Nova Scotia has always been a PC or Liberal province until now. The NDP is more socialistic than the other parties and now have to prove that they are worthy of running the province. We'll see.

I was at the headquarters for a PC candidate last night as the returns were coming in. It's a very interesting process and to watch from behind the scenes is rather cool. My mom has been a political junkie and activist, behind the scenes, since before I was born, and she was not pleased with the outcome.

I said to the Wookie tonight after hearing the voter stats, that less than 30 % of the voting population voted for the winning party. Turns out it was 26%. Voter turnout was about 58%. I am disgusted with that number. At the political Q and A I moderated last week, I reminded he audience that the disabled community of Nova Scotia comprises 20% of the population. And 20% can make a big difference. I can't believe the number of people NOT voting. I am not the political junkie my mother is, but during almost every break when on air yesterday, I told folks to go vote. And I have always done so. I guess I have to drive them to the polls and check their ballots for them now, too.....sheesh.

Anyway, as I reminded people at the meeting, we have to, as individuals, pick up the phone, write letters, ask questions, demand answers. Politicians are interested in individuals' stories, they want to solve problems, fix things. It makes them look good and feel good. After all, they are working for US, not the other way around. It may take more than one letter or one phone call, but once you explain yourself to an aid, he or she gets the ear of the politician.

I realize that not everyone has as much chutzpah as I. To give you an example, there was an automated message left on my answering machine, but the ex just heard the automated voice and thought Stephen Hawking was calling for me. It didn't surprise him that Stephen Hawking might be calling me as we had just gotten hooked up to the internet and I was telling him about all the contacts I was making with folks around the world. (It was actually the local library calling to tell me a book was in) I will talk to anyone and reach out to anyone as well. Last year, I read a great article about ship salvagers and wrote the author, as I felt the story deserved a wider audience, perhaps as a movie. He wrote back (!) to tell me he had been hired to write a movie treatment of the article. Very cool.

The point is, I will make contact if I want to know something. Why don't other people? I write letters to the editor of our provincial paper to offer praise when due and am lucky I have a microphone and radio show to broadcast my opinions about things ranging from lousy drivers to dog owners who don't pick up after their pets. And every time I offer an opinion, I get e-mails from people agreeing with me.

People have to stop complaining about things and start taking action. Until then, people will have to listen to me and my big mouth.


Monday, June 8, 2009

Here I Am

I've been so busy again this past week I haven't been able to download a week and a half's worth of pictures until tonight.

On the weekend I saw Lefty in the parking lot as I was leaving so snapped a quick shot:

Lady slipper on a hike a week ago:

A rabbit on the multi use trail yesterday:

And a bee fly or wasp in the dandelions:

I facilitated a meeting of three candidates running in the provincial election. Several disabled organizations agreed to 6 questions pertaining disabled issues and the meeting was held in front of an audience to give folks a better idea of the partys' platforms. Aside from one little glitch towards the end I think it went well. I also hosted a gala fundraiser Friday night, even wearing heels and a skirt. Luckily there were no wardrobe malfunctions and things went fairly well there as well.

Our provincial election is tomorrow. I'm hoping to get to a lecture Wednesday night, get some more biking in when the weather clears after the weekend, and continue actively fundraising for the bike tour. Somewhere in there I'm trying to do laundry and other domestic chores. Oh! And spend some quality time with the Wookie. so forgive me if I appear to be MIA over the next couple of weeks. I'm here. Just you know what I mean.


Saturday, June 6, 2009

Charlie the Tuna Won't Be Happy....

From Science Daily:

"For the past century, changes in the Western diet have altered the consumption of omega-6 fatty acids (w6, found in meat and vegetable oils) compared with omega-3 fatty acids (w3, found in flax and fish oil). Many studies seem to indicate this shift has brought about an increased risk of inflammation (associated with autoimmunity and allergy), and now using a controlled diet study with human volunteers, researchers may have teased out a biological basis for these reported changes.

Anthropological evidence suggests that human ancestors maintained a 2:1 w6/w3 ratio for much of history, but in Western countries today the ratio has spiked to as high as 10:1. Since these omega fatty acids can be converted into inflammatory molecules, this dietary change is believed to also disrupt the proper balance of pro- and anti- inflammatory agents, resulting in increased systemic inflammation and a higher incidence of problems including asthma, allergies, diabetes, and arthritis.

Floyd Chilton and colleagues wanted to examine whether theses fatty acids might have other effects, and developed a dietary intervention strategy in which 27 healthy humans were fed a controlled diet mimicking the w6/w3 ratios of early humans over 5 weeks. They then looked at the gene levels of immune signals and cytokines (protein immune messengers), that impact autoimmunity and allergy in blood cells and found that many key signaling genes that promote inflammation were markedly reduced compared to a normal diet, including a signaling gene for a protein called PI3K, a critical early step in autoimmune and allergic inflammation responses.

This study demonstrates, for the first time in humans, that large changes in gene expression are likely an important mechanism by which these omega fatty acids exert their potent clinical effects."

Steroid treatment of MS relapses is common and successful because it reduces the inflammation that occurs during attacks. Perhaps we can assist steroids by reducing our intake of omega 6 fats and upping our intake of omega 3 fats.

Eat more fish. It really is good brain food.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Scat this may be gross to many. I have posted it strictly for Linda at Braincheese and for anyone who has an interest in the diet of predatory mammals. Either a coyote or bobcat/lynx left this bit of poop behind on the trail I was on a couple of weeks ago. It was quite old poop, perhaps even from the winter, but you can make out two long white things in the poop that I tapped with a stick to determine the hardness. I think it's teeth from a shrew or mole type rodent, which is common prey for the above mentioned predators, especially in winter.

I now return you to your regularly scheduled blog...


Seal of Approval

Prevalence of MS among aboriginal populations has been rarely studied. The few studies conducted indicate MS prevalence is low, but not rare. In the Northern part of Norway, Troms and Finnmark, the prevalence of MS is relatively low; in fact, in the Sami population, an indigenous population of Norway, no MS is found among those of pure Sami heritage. I haven’t been able to find any info on MS in the Innuit populations of Northern Canada and Alaska.

You might think that these populations would have a higher incidence of MS because of their geography. That appears not to be the case. These populations have limited access to neurologists, so that may account for some going undiagnosed. But there has been an increase in the incidence of MS over the years, possibly due to the fact that there is greater intermingling of the aboriginal population with those of Northern European descent and improved diagnostic tools. Still, over all, there is a lesser prevalence of MS in these populations.


Because of where they live, these populations have a definite lack of natural sunlight year round, thus less Vitamin D via sunshine. So where do they get Vitamin D (thought to protect people from MS)? It must be in the food. So what do these populations eat?

Seal and whale. They are staples of the Northern Canadian aboriginal diet. And seals and whale eat fish. The northern species of fish are high in omega 3s and vitamin D, passing along those nutrients to the higher organisms when consumed.

Last week, the Governor General of Canada, Michaelle Jean, who is the Queen’s representative in this country, was touring the northern communities of Canada. During one stop, she participated in a ceremony involving cutting open a freshly killed seal, and eating part of its heart. Aside from the queasiness factor, this was a symbolic gesture to show solidarity with the northern communities and their way of life. I thought it was very brave on her part. She's not the first non-native or even the first Governor -General to eat raw seal meat. She's just the first to do so in such a public manner and at a time when the European Union is miffed about the Canadian seal hunt.

But it is more than just a brave gesture. It may be a way of returning to lower incidences of MS in the Canadian population.