Saturday, August 29, 2009

Bugs and Burgers

The Wookie and I were on vacation this past week and went for a couple of minor hikes/walks with Dad. Dad normally skates during the week for exercise and does some walking but the "little darlings" as he likes to call them, had hockey camps all week making the ice unavailable. Since I had taken Dad on two hikes the previous Saturdays, he wanted to continue during the week.

My two favourite men:

I also spent a little time this week checking out bugs under the microscope including the unnoticed emergence of Bea Ware, my Warehouse Beetle larva, as an adult. It took 19 months for something to transform from the larval stage, which is not typical, but not unusual. It had shed it's outer skin several times (like 9 or 10) before finally growing up and into a mature beetle.

I took a closer look at moth and butterfly wings and was quite surprised at the amount of "hair" on these things. I was able to see some of the scales as well. The scales are powdery colours that easily come off on your fingers if you touch the wings of butterflies.

I've had this tiny moth-like creature for several weeks now, not sure exactly what it is. It's antenna was more like a butterfly, but I've been unable to corretly identify it so far. I'll have to send off a picture to the curator of zoology at the Museum of Natural History in Halifax and he might be able to help me.

On our hike Thursday I took home a thistle to take a closer look. They have the same "hook" structure as burrs which allows them to stick to everything they come into contact with. It is this hook structure that inspired NASA scientists to come up with Velcro.

Earlier this week, A and W had a Cruise In for a Cause fundraiser for the MS Society of Canada. Locally, we had a number of volunteers at different locations and I put in an appearance at one of their stores. As well, Mom and I were interviewed by one of the TV stations for a story about MS and family support. That story ran the night before the fundraiser and was tied in to the A and W, as they are branded as a "family" restaurant.

I've been trying to catch up on blogs this week and get some sorely needed organizing done (closets, cupboards). With time available to me now and the heatwave finally broken (as of last Tuesday), I have started to get into it. But first, I'm off to inspect a construction site to make sure they're not disturbing a pond I discovered last April. They've covered over a bit of the outflow area and I'm not impressed. I need to see if they're diverted the outflow from that pond. And if I find a few creatures of the six legged variety, that'll be a bonus.


Monday, August 24, 2009

Hurricane Bill

So hurricane Bill was pretty much a bust. There was some damage, but luckily not nearly as much as was feared; Bill kind of stayed offshore for the most part and so we got a ton of rain yesterday and a lot of high wind for a few hours. As I am one of those folks who pays attention to weather warnings, I didn't venture anywhere near the coast line until this morning. The Wookie and I went to Lawrencetown beach to check out the waves, though I prefer beachcombing. The tide was coming in again and the waves pretty spectacular still, so we didn't get too close to anything.

If you look carefully you can see the birds (sand pipers of some sort) at the edge of the water. Lawrencetown beach is usually quite sandy but the wave action threw a lot of stones up on the beach or dragged them from higher up.

There was also a lot of fog. This is one of the most popular beaches in the area, but the water is always cold. It is one of the more popular destinations for surfers on the East Coast as well. The wookie and I were in summer attire and should have had long pants on:

We continued in the car along the Eastern Shore to Lower East Chezzetcook or some such named area (I can't keep 'em straight) and discovered a few surfers in the waves:

There were a few mishaps at Peggy's cove yesterday. There are always people who under estimate the power of Mother Nature and over estimate their ability to deal with it and so get pulled into the water, usually by what they call a "rogue" wave, one that snuck up on them. At the beaches, several people over the years have been pulled out by strong undertows when they were swimming. Some folks don't make it. Luckily, no fatalities from Bill, at least in Canadian waters. Sadly, some people in Acadia Park in Maine weren't so lucky.

The power of Mother Nature is incredible and deadly.


Friday, August 21, 2009


We've had a heatwave for the past 9 days. It has been unbearably warm and humid and I have done very little in the way of physical activity because of the monumental effort required. This is the worst I've felt from the heat since diagnosis, spending a lot of time flaked out on the bed with the fan on me. Most evenings find me outside enjoying the relatively cool evenings. My neighbour, Kim, and I do a little tour around the outside of the building before calling it a night, looking for bugs. Well, I look, Kim accompanies me and calls me crazy.

Last night I found a big beetle like bug on the wall behind the building:

I ran inside to get a container to put it in and then took it inside for closer examination. It offered no resistance and very little movement. I also noticed it didn't appear to have wings.

Under the microscope, this creature took on a terrifying appearance. The claws on its front legs were enough to make me jump back. And then it moved. Or something on its back moved and I realized it was molting and shedding its outer covering.

Was this animal simply shedding a layer or was it actually in the process of becoming an adult? It took about half an hour for this little thing to come out:

While it was pulling and squirming out of its shell I was googling like mad to find out what it was. The little bit of green that emerged clinched it for me. Wings! It's a cicada!

What a transformation I was privy to. I let it go outside once its wings were pumped up, leaving it on a bush in the back. It was there this morning when I checked, but gone by this afternoon. The ferocious looking claws are for digging its way through the dirt where it spends the majority of its life. As adults, they are the noisy insects you hear on the hottest summer days, sounding like buzzing overhead power lines.

I had never seen a cicada youngster before so it was all very exciting. I felt like handing out cigars last night...


Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Wildlife of Nova Scotia....Well, a Few Bugs

I have been scouting the garden and flowers around the building for all manner of 6 and 8 legged creatures the past several days. I have uncovered a number of these animals, two of which I feature tonight. The first is a crab spider. The first evening I spotted him on one of my echinacea flowers and accidentally knocked him off, 4 feet to the ground where he disappeared. I'm happy to say it climbed back up by the next night where I was able to get some good shots of it:

One day last week, this fella spent the entire day in front of the building. I suspect it was on its last legs as these long horn beetles are more frequently spotted at night, their flying silhouettes a gothic image of legs, wings and long long long antennae:

The past few days have been exceedingly warm. The dog days of August are upon us and it's slowing me down somewhat, as is the norm when I heat up. I had talked to my dad a few months ago about my hikes to Jack's Lake and while he expressed interest in joining me sometime he wanted to do it when it was dry. I called home Friday night and left him a message to say I'd pick him up Saturday morning at 9. My preference for physical activity is very early, like 7 AM, but I knew he wouldn't go for that.

I picked him up at 9 and we set out for the trail. It was already a scorching day by the time we started the walk so I knew the two of us would be zonked when it was done. We made it all the way to Jack's Lake, coming across a number of creatures. Dad admitted he wasn't as keen on the hike Friday night but was glad we had gone. We spotted frogs and toads, a snake, and several leeches in Jack's Lake, by the water's edge. First, one of the littler leeches, and luckily one that wasn't hungry:

A gorgeous garder snake about 14-16 inches long:

Today, with temps expected to be warmer than even yesterday, the Wookie and I drove to Peggy's Cove. It was slightly cooler than in town, but not by much. The lighthouse looks great after its recent paint job and if you ever come to Nova Scotia as a tourist, it is an obligatory spot. Only a few miles off shore is where Swiss Air Flight 111 crashed into the ocean on a cross Atlantic flight. Actually, the 11th anniversary of the crash is only a couple of weeks away.

The heatwave will continue for most of the week. If anyone is looking for me I'll be in the freezer at the local supermarket.


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Take Two Proteins and Call Me in the Morning

People who know me, or those of you who have followed this blog long enough (and I thank you), know that I am easily amused and excited. I have maintained for almost 30 years that it is the little things in life that mean the most and that is why I can't recall the last time I was bored. I find something amazing every day in the world around me.

That being said, I am hard to impress when it comes to MS. I rarely get excited about news releases from drug companies or vitamin manufacturers about their latest "possible" treatments for MS. I don't write a lot about the stuff I read daily about "new" advances in treatments or cures. If I had a dollar for every time someone said to me, "I thought there was a cure for that" or "I thought that the drugs you take keep it at bay", I'd be a very rich woman. I call myself a skeptical optimist.

We are inundated with news releases or hyperbolic headlines screaming that we're "this close" to a cure for MS...or cancer...or social anxiety for that matter. I have a tendency to ignore most of what comes at me and do my own research about what is currently being studied, preferring to check out the websites of the researchers and/or their academic institutions.

I like to describe MS as a simple disease masquerading as a complex one. On the larger scale, MS appears to involve the central nervous and immune systems; it appears to involve the endocrine system (as evidenced by hormonal and metabolic fluctuations affecting MS symptoms); it appears to be affected by genes and environment. All these systems interact with and are affected by each other. So at first glance, MS appears to be rather complex.

But break it down and you get the simple explanation. Myelin gets destroyed and the body reacts to that. Simple. I like simple.

I have said before that I believe the answer to MS will be a simple one. Some silly dime store vitamin supplement. Or hookworms (read previous posts about parasites for more info on that). Or a food additive that creates protection for myelin without destroying other parts of our bodies.

So when I read about a study with a relatively "simple" hypothesis and results with a relatively "simple" solution, I get excited. Here's the story.

Take two normal run of the mill proteins, stick em together, sprinkle them on the immune cells, then give those cells to sick animals, and they get better. Kind of like, take two aspirin and call me in the morning.

OK, so I realize that things aren't as simple as I like to make them out to be. It can't be a simple process to fuse the two proteins together. But I think you know what I mean when I say "simple".

The point of all this rambling? This study is one I can get excited about.


Friday, August 7, 2009

Little Bit of Everything

I've kind of taken it easy the past several days, now that the initial shock has worn off about the lay off. So it's time to get back into a routine of some sort, including the blog.

Someone wanted to know the final outcome with the Battle of the Maggots. Basically, we won. A few days after the initial attempts on their lives, Adena and her son in law, Ray, cleaned out the green bin in its entirety, disinfecting it. In the process of rinsing the pavement around the garbage bins, Ray noticed maggots coming out of a crack in the ground. They were rising with the water....Aha!! Darn things were leaving the green bin, crawling to the ground and hiding in cracks, only to come out at night looking for food. Lots of bleach and water later, they were pretty much gone. So far we've only seen a couple and that's normal. People are now wrapping their "flesh" type garbage in newspaper to cut down on the maggots, too.

In the months of June and July we had a grand total of about 20 days without rain. So it rained two thirds of the past two months. To say Nova Scotians are a grumpy lot is an understatement. So last Friday, the sunshine and humidity began in earnest. The Wookie says he won't complain because at least it's not raining.

From Adena:

A curious fellow died one day and found himself waiting in the long line of judgment.
As he stood there he noticed that some souls were allowed to march right through the pearly gates into Heaven.

Others though, were led over to Satan who threw them into the burning pit.

But every so often, instead of hurling a poor soul into the fire, Satan would toss a soul off to one side into a small pile.

Watching Satan do this several times, the fellow's curiosity got the best of him.

So he strolled over and asked Satan what he was doing.

"Excuse me, Mr. Prince of Darkness," he said. "I'm waiting in line for judgment, but I couldn't help wondering, why are you tossing those
people aside instead of flinging them into the Fires of Hell with the others?"

"Ah, those," Satan said with a groan. "They're all from Nova Scotia - they're still too wet to burn."

Last weekend the Wookie and I house sat and cat sat for some friends just outside of the city. We stayed at their house, BBQed, swam in the ppol, enjoyed the local wildlife in the pond behind the house, and had a few friends over Sunday afternoon. I also got too much Vitamin D and as a result am now the incredible peeling woman. We also played with the cats and were very amused by them, too, as they're still kittens. We spoted a bat on the front step Sunday morning, a little brown bat, half the size of my fist. It was trembling, possibly after having fallen from the eave of the house. After a few minutes he took wing. Of course I didn't have my camera.

The "Career Path" adventure continues. I have begun the process as outlined by the HR company I was hooked up with to help with the "transition" period. I'm not quite excited about the whole thing, but I am starting to feel better about it. When I was first diagnosed, I looked at it as a new adventure in my life. I'm hoping I will soon feel the same way about job hunting.

So far, I haven't noticed any difference in my fatigue level or MS symptoms as a result of the stress of the past two weeks. I'm trying to keep a level head, so to speak, which is difficult when you're a little lop-sided to begin with.

And to reward those of you who have stuck it out this far a few photos from the past month:

A moth disguised as a dead, rolled up leaf, stuck to the back door about a month ago. Probably a more effective defense in the fall or on the forest floor.

A muskrat in the pond behind our friends' house. The Wookie insists it's a beaver. I say muskrat.

An unidentified bug I found next to Sandy Lake on a hike a month ago. It's very similar to the antlion family.

Driving home after a hike one evening I came across this bunny sitting quietly in a front yard, totally unconcerned about the dog that lives there.