Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Really Cool Little Things

Some of the littlest things can demonstrate the biggest ideas.

I really enjoy those little things I find on my hikes and rides. One flower I've been coming across for a few years now, surprised me a couple of weeks ago. It's called jewelweed, monkeyface flower, and snapdragon, depending on who you talk to. I love how they hang around, their lips open like a choir singing:

The plants have seed pods, which when the seeds grow big enough, pop out of the shell and are flung up to 8 feet away. This was pointed out to me just recently, and since then I've been going around popping the little pods at every chance and giggling at every mini-explosion I create. I even took a pod home and popped it under the microscope to watch it up close and controlled. Take a gander at the film at the bottom of the post and ignore the first attempt at popping with a pen (it wouldn't quite fit into the dish).

Next up, a close up of a caterpillar's hair with little specks of dirt. The little hairs would fall out when touched, perhaps acting like splinters, thus encouraging whatever creature was trying to eat it, to spit it out.

Last weekend, the Wookie and I went for a drive to check out a couple of spots and ended up at his dad's place. I will refer to his dad as Mr. Magoo, because that's who he reminds me of. Mr. Magoo and his wife live on the ocean; it's in their backyard, so of course I couldn't resist going to the little patch of beach they have, looking for rocks and interesting things. I laughed as I disturbed a great number of sand fleas, digging into the sand for a stone or pebble. I gathered several pieces of beach glass, a couple of quartz samples, plus one piece of calcium carbonate and several tiny snail shells of varying colours. Once I got the shells under the microscope I was pretty amazed. Snails are a pretty cool example of the Golden Ratio. But I really hooted at the outward appearance of this orange shell. A small piece of dirt (or lint from my pocket) makes it look like a nipple piercing.'s a shell....under a microscope.

Here's the film of the seed popping:

The mechanism of action for the seed popping involves the properties of tensile strength and elasticity.

A bunch of little things. Really cool little things with huge ideas. The laws of physics, art and architecture, self-defense...and you thought this blog was about bugs, bikes, and brains....

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Treatment for PPMS

Our brains continuously repair themselves, no differently than other organ systems. We have a number of defense mechanisms built in to protect those systems. For example, our skin is the first barrier to pathogens. We have an immune system to fight off intruders if they get by the skin. Mucosal layers inside our bodies are also defenders, as are the hair in our noses or our eyelashes. The skin cells, hair, and mucous die off, are shed, and grow back. We have different levels of defense built in to our body; redundant systems, you might say. If one system doesn't work, the next line of defense kicks in, and so on.

Myelin is one of the defense mechanisms built in to protect the central nervous system (and you thought it was just a way to transmit signals more efficiently). When myelin is destroyed, it can and usually does, grow back. The process of demyelination and remyelination is the basis of relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis. But you already knew that. Repeated demyelination leads to fewer successful remyelinations.

The blood brain barrier is another one of the body's defence mechanism. It normally prevents pathogens and T cells(immune cells) from entering the CNS. But an infection or virus can compromise its ability. When the body recovers from the infection, the blood brain barrier can regain its integrity and the pathogens or T cells are trapped on the wrong side where they can wreak their havoc. The T cells detect myelin as foreign matter and set out to destroy it. That triggers the inflammatory process which stimulates other immune cells which causes more inflammation which stimulates other immune cells...and so on.

Demyelination is what causes the signals to be transmitted improperly or not at all. It leaves the neuron exposed to pathogens or danger and leaves it vulnerable to destruction. This is what causes permanent disability. In the relapsing remitting form of MS, demyelination results in an inflammatory reaction. In the primary progressive form of MS there is no remyelination and very little inflammation, so the neurons are left unprotected. The current drugs on the market and those in the pipeline focus on the inflammatory process by attempting to reduce it. And that's the basic reason we have little in the way of a treatment for PPMS.

From the National Multiple Sclerosis Society website:
" * The immune-modulating drugs currently used to treat relapsing forms of MS do not seem to be as effective in PPMS.
* In PPMS, there is a lack of easily-identifiable outcomes to measure in clinical trials. In the trials for the approved disease-modifying therapies (the interferon beta medications, glatiramer acetate, natalizumab, and mitoxantrone) investigators looked at outcomes such as number of relapses and number of new lesions (also called plaques) seen on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to determine if people who received the treatment had lower numbers than those who received a placebo (non-active substance). In other words, the investigators looked at things they could easily count over the course of a two-three year trial. Because people with PPMS don’t experience relapses or the same kind of inflammation in the central nervous system, there are fewer events that can be counted.
* The disease progression that occurs in PPMS can be quite slow — which means that a trial would have to last many years to determine if a treatment slowed or halted that progression."

There are a few drug trials going on for treatment of PPMS, but the main focus surrounds repair and protection. By the time a person is diagnosed with PPMS, the damage has already been done. So how do we stop MS at this stage and how do we repair the damage? The best treatment for PPMS at this point would appear to be autologous stem cell transplant.

I've written about Autologous Stem Cell Transplant before, but here's a recap:
First, bone marrow is removed from the MS patient. The patient then undergoes chemotherapy to completely anhilate their own immune system. Then transplant the bone marrow back into the patient. In essence, the patient's immune system is shut off, then turned back on again, much like rebooting a computer. There is a current study under way in Ottawa, lead by Dr. Mark Freedman. His purpose in beginning that study was to observe the genesis of MS. So far the study is a failure as no one has shown any signs or symptoms of MS since being transplanted. By rebooting the immune system, MS was destroyed. Cool. But this is still a study that is going on and will for some time. And the cost is quite high.

After we've stopped the disease in its track, then repair of the damage has to begin. There are a number of researchers looking at improving the repair process, but these are still in the animal studies stage. Researchers are also investigating methods of repairing the blood brain barrier to promote myelin repair.

What can we do now to promote the repair process? Eat fat. Well, that's a little simplistic, but myelin really is fatty tissue so eat foods with the healthy fats in them. From Wikipedia:
"The Canadian Government has recognized the importance of DHA omega-3 and permits the following biological role claim for DHA: 'DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid, supports the normal development of the brain, eyes and nerves'....As the importance of omega-3 fatty acids to health has received increasing awareness, the number of food products enriched in omega-3 fatty acids has increased. Many companies add fish oil or flax oil into their final product to enrich it in omega-3 fatty acids. Some animal products, such as milk and eggs, can be naturally enriched for omega-3 fatty acids by feeding the animals a diet that is rich in omega-3 fatty acids."

There are few studies of chemotherapy and rituximab on PPMS patients but for the reasons noted above, it will be a while before results, if any, are seen. In the meantime, keep shouting from the rooftops for people to donate money for the MS cause. In my most recent presentations to community groups about why donating to MS is a good idea, I stress the need for support of people with disabling MS. I stress that if I have to, I can take a needle once a week for the rest of my life if necessary, but I don't want to watch my friends and colleagues becoming bedridden.


Sunday, September 27, 2009


Complementary medicines are those supplements or treatments that are used in addition to traditional medicines. Alternative medicines are used in place of traditional medicines.

Vitamin D is one of the few supplements that has some science to back it up. Early studies indicate its benefit, but the main question about it has to do with dosing amounts. There are some studies currently underway checking out the safety of mega doses. Right now, 2000 IUs is the recommended dose.

Special diet is another complementary treatment, but there are few studies and little if no long term follow up to determine their effectiveness. What is currently recommended is the standard low fat, high fibre type diet that also promotes heart health.

Steroid treatment is something most of us are familiar with and many of us continue to undergo with any flare-ups. Current studies are underway to determine differences, if any, between IV and oral steroid treatments. So even a current treatment used for years is still being investigated.

LDN is being touted as a wonder drug for a number of diseases, including MS. It may reduce cell death in oligodendrocytes, which are responsible for maintaining myelin. It appears to reduce spasticity, fatigue and depression. Side effects include liver toxicity, sleep disturbance, and GI problems. I've only come across two specific studies for LDN in relapsing remitting MS with mixed results. They were short term studies and involved only 100 people in total. According to Wikipedia, LDN is prescribed for off label use for MS to about 50,000 people in the US. It's hard to say at this point whether it will be a good drug for MS or not.

Marijuana is a drug that may be eaten, smoked, taken in pill from or a spray form. Putting aside the legality of it for a moment, side effects include decreased cognitive skills, dependency, and psychiatric symptoms. The benefits point to reduction in pain and spasticity. It is also only available legally after much paperwork with doctors and governments. Illegally, the cost may outweigh any benefit.

Before taking anything that is complimentary or alternative, discuss it first with your doctor. Some "natural" supplements can interact with medications. Ask yourself some questions, too: What claims are made by the product? Who recommended it? What are their qualifications? Who's tried it? How does it work? What kind of testing has been done on it? What are the medical risks? Side effects?

Remember, claims that a substance is natural mean nothing. Arsenic is a natural product, too, but we all know what ingestion of it will do. With few exceptions, everything we need nutritionally we can get from our food. The problem is that most of us don't eat what we should and too much of what we shouldn't. For example, you can increase your intake of omega 3s by eating more fish than beef. Choose in-season fruit and vegetables when possible, using canned or frozen when out of season. Increase your fibre intake by adding bran to your cereal or baked goods.

We all have well meaning friends who tell us about the latest health claim of a particular product. I thank them for the information with a promise to research it. Once I have I can go back to them and say "I checked out Product X and I'm afraid that not enough study has been done on it for me to take at this time" and that opens the door for me to tell them why.

I'm not saying that there isn't a place for CAMs in the treatment of MS, there must be a way for these compounds to be tested for safety and usefulness before we take them.

Next up, treatment outlook for PPMS.


Saturday, September 26, 2009

More Drugs

Cladribine is a drug used to treat hairy cell leukemia. For treatment of cancer it is given by IV, but for MS, it is given orally. It is currently awaiting approval for use in MS. It is long lasting, but side effects include a reduction in white blood cells and infections like shingles. There are also some questions about cancer developing as a result of using the drug.

Fingolimod is currently in phase 3 of clinical trials and is also showing promising results. It, too, is an oral medication, but its side effects include risk of infections, heart rate and blood pressure increases, and lung and skin cancers.

Dimethyl fumarate, which I'm sure will get a sexier name at some point, has been used to treat psoriasis. It has also been used as a mold inhibitor in consumer products, though now is being banned for that use. It is showing promise as a treatment for MS because of its neuro-protective properties and its ability to inhibit pro-inflammatory cytokines (cytokines are a type of chemical messenger - reduce the inflammatory cytokines and you potentially have a treatment for MS). This drug is an oral medication currently in Phase 3 trials. Side effects included abdominal pain, flushing. and headache.

Laquinimod is currently in Phase 3 trials and has immunomodulatory effects and may offer some neuroprotection. Like the interferons, liver enzymes must be watched closely, and the drug also shows promise for treating other autoimmune diseases. And it's an oral med.

Daclizumab is a drug commonly used as an anti rejection drug for transplant patients. It increases natural killer cells and is well tolerated. There is the possible increase in infections as a side effect and it is given in injection form once a month. It is currently in Phase 3 trials.

Rituximab has been used for treatment of leukemia as an antibody against B cells. It is given by IV every six months. Side effects include viral infections and reactivation of viral infections (in particular, the JC virus which leads to PML) and cardiac arrest. Needless to say, if you take this stuff, the docs will watch you like a hawk. In Phase 2 studies, completed last year this drug has shown promise.

Alemtuzumab is another cancer therapy with a profound effect on MS. The Phase 2 trials have been completed. Side effects include low platelets and thyroid problems, so again, the docs would keep a close eye on you if you're on this drug.

There are a great many more drugs and treatments in the pipeline, but the ones I've mentioned are the ones closest to consumer use.

All of the above drugs are currently being studied and are 1-5 years away from coming on the market for treatment of relapsing remitting MS. However, these drugs have pretty serious side effects. They all show promise and studies of these drugs and the DMDs all show that earlier treatment of MS is going to lengthen the time to disability. Ideally, someone will come up with a cure. Do it now, would ya'?


PS: Next up, I'll be telling you about some other treatments including the alternative ones.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Drugs in My Pocket

Even though we have a great number of drugs currently in different phases of clinical trials, our best offense against MS is still the 4 current DMDs (disease modifying drugs). Over the past decade, researchers and the drug companies have continued with Phase 4 observational studies and from the information gathered they have made the drugs easier to take.

For many of us on Avonex, the side effects are well tolerated with the addition of acetominaphen or ibuprofen. When 8 hour arthritis Tylenol came on the market, we finally got a full night's sleep on the evening of our shot. Biogen Idec has also come up with pre-filled syringes and smaller needles to make shot taking a little less daunting. There have also been some changes in Rebif to make things easier.

The DMDs are creating a "new" natural history of MS; time to progression to disability is increased by 4 years. For example, someone with MS might take 15 years to progress to disabled without DMDs, but someone with MS taking one of the drugs would take 19 years.

The medical community have recently (in the past 8 years) modified diagnostic criteria for MS so we are now seeing earlier diagnosis of MS. Before these changes, it could take 6-8 years for a positive diagnosis. Now it's 6-8 months. That means that people with MS can be treated earlier with one of the DMDs, as early as the first clinically isolated syndrome (CIS). We now have the ability to modify the course of MS by treatment of CIS.

What we have come to discover is that these DMDs don't work for all MS patients. So now the researchers are focusing on what is different between patients and trying to come up with ways to identify those that will do well on the DMDs and those who won't. I'm one of the patients participating in one of these studies.

For those who don't tolerate the DMDs, there are a great number of drugs in the pipeline. One was mentioned by a commenter on my last post, teriflunomide. This drug is showing promise so far and if added to a regime of an interferon (Avonex, Betaseron, or Rebif), shows even greater results. It should be noted that the drug has been used to treat rheumatoid arthritis since 1998 and does have some serious side effects. There are a number of Phase 3 trials going on right now.

Tysabri is already on the market as a treatment for MS. This, like teriflunomide, is an immunosuppresant. The very feature that makes it good for MS, can also leave you succeptable to PML, an infection caused by the JC virus, a common virus that usually lays dormant in our system. If our immune system becomes compromised or suppressed, the JC virus may become active and can result in death. It's extremely rare and now that it has come to the attention of the medical community, patients are screened even more carefully before being given the drug and must be registered for monitoring.

In my next post, I'll give you some more drugs currently being studied.


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Clinical Trials

I attended an information session last night about new and emerging trends in MS research. Wow. Lots of information and I took two pages of notes. I'll get to the medications being developed in the next couple of days, but I felt a review of the process of drug development is warranted. It's a good reminder of why it takes so long to get drugs into people.

From the time a compound is discovered it takes 10-12 years for that drug to get on the market. After a compound is deemed to be of interest, it is tested on animals. Then it enters the Phase 1 trial. The first stage is to test the drug on 20-80 healthy subjects to determine if it is safe. Once it has been determined that it is safe and the side effects are manageable, then it goes to a Phase 2 trial where it is tested on 100-300 "sick" subjects, those who are affected by the disease the drug is supposed to treat. These studies are often two years duration. It is at this stage where, if a drug fails to work, the trial will be halted. If the drug shows some benefit, then it proceeds to the Phase 3 stage.

The Phase 3 stage involves 500-1000 subjects and it is at this stage that there are randomized multi-centre trials. Again, this stage may take a couple of years, as not all subjects are enrolled at the same time (not all subjects are diagnosed with a specific disease at the same time). In my case, I was enrolled in the CHAMPS Avonex study one year after the enrollment began. The CHAMPS study was supposed to be 3 years duration but was halted after two because of outstanding positive results; subjects were automatically given the drug at that point as it would have been unethical to continue giving some patients the placebo.

During the Phase 3 stage, drug makers will apply to the appropriate health authority (FDA, Health Canada) for approval to market the drug. Data analysis continues through all stages of course and at this point the drug enters Phase 4, post market surveillance or observational study. It involves safety surveillance and ongoing support of the drug. It is at this point that long term adverse effects may be detected or drug interactions reported.

According to Wikipedia, about 1000 drugs are developed before one makes it to the clinical trial stage. And finding people to take part in the trials is equally as daunting. Strict criteria must be met for most trials. Again, in the CHAMPS study I took part in, it was required that subjects have had only one symptomatic demyelinating event and an MRI that showed at least 3 lesions.

So there's your lesson on clinical trials. Next post I'll get into what is actually being developed these days.


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Matters Gray and White

Generally speaking we consider the gray matter of our brain to be the "thinking" part and the white matter the stuff that connects the gray matter. So one would think that since MS is mostly a disease of white matter, our cognitive functioning would remain untouched except for speed of processing information. But it doesn't.

We now know that the white matter of the brain functions more than as a connector. The simple fact that people with MS exhibit cognitive impairment supports this hypothesis. How MS affects our cognition depends on a number of factors; severity of MS, general health (nutrition and physical fitness), and attitude all affect our cognition. Even without MS, general health and attitude will affect our cognition. If we are eating poorly and not exercising, the brain can't operate at its optimal standard. Throw in something like MS and deterioration is bound to occur.

How do we improve our cognitive functioning in light of assured decline because of MS? Interestingly enough, the brain is already trying to compensate for any deficits by making other connections. This is evidenced by studies showing activation of different brain areas in MS patients compared to healthy control subjects when given certain tasks. This shows neuronal plasticity - the ability of the brain to make new connections in order to do previously known tasks. So our brains are already giving us a head start, so to speak, on the road to recovery.

In order to assist that recovery, or at least to help maintain or develop cognitive skills, we have to eat right, exercise, and get a proper amount of sleep. No kidding, right? I've been shouting that from the rooftops for years.

It also means developing a positive attitude despite the crap that is going on around you. I know poop happens. Take the time needed to deal with it, have a meltdown if that helps, but then move on.

In light of all this, I will remind you of a study I participated in a few years ago, the results of which I posted on this blog in late 2007. It showed evidence of brain atrophy and slower response time for MSers versus a control group. I am now going to participate in another study looking at brain connectivity in executive functioning in MS patients. Executive functioning is what is considered to be involved in handling new situations outside the purview of "automatic" responses; planning and decision making are executive functions for example. I'm waiting for more info from the study coordinator about the hypothesis, but next week I'll go in for a round of tests and an MRI, to be repeated every month for 6 months. I'll keep you updated of course. An hopefully gain a little more insight into what MS is doing to us and our gray and white matter.


The title of this post is also the title of a book by a neurologist in the states about different cases he's had. I enjoyed it, even if he spelled gray with an E.


Northern Lights. What more is there to say?
Oh, credits perhaps....Ryerson Clark, brother to Adena, with whom I cleaned out the green bin this summer. Rye and his wife are almost halfway through their posting to the north.

I've only once seen the Northern Lights. About 6 years ago I was driving along the south side mountain ridge of the Annapolis Valley and stopped the car to observe a curtain of green shimmering across the sky. We so rarely get to see them this far south I was speechless.


Thursday, September 10, 2009

H2O H2O, Everywhere

Our bodies are composed of a number of elements and combinations of elements, like water. For some reason, humans are fascinated by water from an early age. Considering that we spend the first nine months of our life floating in water may have something to do with it. We are also born with an instinct to hold our breath if under water. Comes in handy. But as kids, we play in it, on it, and around it with absolute dedication to discovering what it does when we hit it, mix dirt in it, or jump in it. Even as adults, we still love to play in and on water, but as adults, we have a healthy fear of it.

Have you ever dreamed about water? I have recurring dreams where I'm swimming with the ease of a dolphin, surfacing every few minutes, then diving deeper into the ocean. I'm swimming as quickly as a dolphin would and don't seem to be concerned with breathing. These are the most wonderful, satisfying dreams I have. I wake up rested and energized from these dreams, though sadly, I don't have them often enough.

I learned to swim when I was about 5 or 6, taking a Red Cross class at the local pool. I recall the pool's location somewhere on the Vancouver waterfront, or at least on a beach near the waterfront. And I still recall the smell of the air on those chilly mornings before the fog had cleared or the rain had let up. Every once in a while, the air in Halifax has the same smell, bringing me back 40 years.

I'm not a strong swimmer, having not kept up the lessons or the practice. But I can keep myself afloat for a while, treading water or bobbing, sometimes just floating on my back. There's something soothing about quietly paddling in the water or even just being submerged to my neck in the shallow end of the pool.

For the majority of my life I have lived next to an ocean or a large body of water, or a major river system. I have lived on the east and west coasts of this country, in the middle with the Great Lakes, or aside the St. Lawrence Seaway, St. John or Miramichi rivers. Even when I lived in South Korea, I was right next to the Han River, dividing the capital city of Seoul. Both of my parents were born on an island, surrounded by the cold Atlantic ocean, waters warmed only by the month of August by the jet stream.

The year I was 18 we spent 2 weeks in Hawaii on the way back from living in Korea. I was recovering from a bout of mono and was pretty useless during the hot days, only going to the beach after supper to play in the waves for a couple of hours. My dad would come to the beach with me while I swam. One evening, I was rinsing off the salt water at the communal showers with a couple of surfers, discussing the water conditions. They were complaining about how cold the water was! I laughed and said I though it was like taking a bath. They took in the paleness of my skin and asked me where I was from. When I told them Nova Scotia, they said Ahh....the Atlantic Ocean, right?

Like all children, I was interested with water. I've already written about jumping into the deep end of a pool when I was three and my mother's eye was off me for a nanosecond - no mean feat on my part - and what sweet release that was! When I was little, my Dad got me watching the Jacques Cousteau documentaries with him. So many creatures that lived in the seas that we knew (and still know) so little of! In fact, when I began university, it was with the intention of becoming a marine biologist. I still absorb wildlife documentaries at every opportunity, but I especially enjoy marine topics. Who knew there were undersea volcanoes and mountains? Creatures so weird, they could only come from the imagination of Tim Burton?

I can't imagine not living near a major body of water, not smelling the ocean or the stinky seaweed in summer washed ashore after a storm, examining the pebbles worn smooth by millions of years of tumbling in the sisyphean surf, being amused by the sight of gull footprints on the beach and patterns left by raindrops on dry sand.

Two atoms of hydrogen, one of oxygen, and you have water. Pretty simple equation, isn't it? Apply a magnetic field to a human body and the hydrogen protons align with the direction of the field and we can take pictures of the insides of our bodies. And detect abnormalities. Like MS. Cool....


Friday, September 4, 2009

More Odds and Sods

I've been out exploring a little more this week. Sunday found the Wookie and I going to check out the surf again just after Tropical Storm or Depression or whatever it was, Danny. It dumped almost 4 inches of rain on halifax and the winds and rainfall wreaked more havoc than the hurricane the weekend before. The waves were great the day after, and it gave us a chance to see Cow Bay and the giant moose that was made 50 years ago. It is only slightly larger than life size:

The waves at cow Bay last Sunday:

I have noticed a distinct lack of woolly bear caterpillars right now. In years past, I've noticed them in droves by the middle of August, but so far, I've only spotted a few, and they're quite small. Not sure if I'm just in the wrong places looking for them or if they were a little late this year because of all the rainy weather we had this summer.

Last April I posted some pictures of some land clearing that's going on for construction of access to one of the main highways in the area. I hiked up to the area again last weekend to observe the progress. All I can say is wow. I went into the offices of the Department of Transportation yesterday to take a look at the plans for the construction and was absolutely delighted with the reception I received from the chief engineer on the project and someone from the communications department. At first I thought they were there to escort me from the building, but they took me into a little boardroom and showed me the plans. Specifically I was interested in the infilling of the many little ponds and I was given details on which ones will be infilled and which ones will be left alone. And I discovered a new compensation policy put in place to help maintain green spaces and watersheds. Basically, for every acre of land disturbed by construction of roads by the DOT, they have to protect 3 acres. So for this particular project they will be giving assistance to the Sackville Rivers Association in a conservation area deemed by the SRA to be in need of protection or restoration. I paid a call to the SRA to find out what's going to be selected. They've been given up to 50 grand to develop a proposal for a project that may be worth up to 3 quarters of a million dollars. And they've selected a stretch of the Sackville river that runs behind a Department of National Defense rifle range in Bedford. Because it's on DND property it is seldom accessed and is probably in pretty rough shape. We'll be examining the area up close very soon to see what needs to be done.

In the meantime I joined a couple of the guys at the fish ladder where we removed two salmon from the trap and loaded them onto a Department of fisheries truck that was taking them to a hatchery:

I am seldom lucky enough to observe bats as by the time you realize what just went flying by, it's long gone. But the other evening while making my rounds, I came across a moth flitting around the back door of the building. I was waiting for it to land so I could get a closer look when something came from behind me and chased it off. The bat whizzed over me and attempted to catch the moth, but the moth zigged, the bat zagged, and the two of them flew by me a foot away from my head. I ended up standing there like a fool with a big grin on my face. The bat was close enough for me to get a good look and I found that exhilarating (I know, I need a life).

Which reminds me, one of my neighbours, Kathy, told me last night she's really enjoying reading the blog, laughing out loud at work, and living vicariously through me (?!?). Kathy, any time you want, you're welcome to join me on my hunting expeditions; I'll supply the net and the baggies for our specimens, you just have to show up and not go "Ewww".