Saturday, April 24, 2010

Ladder Clean Up

Today was the annual clean out of the fish ladder at Heffler's Mill. I've blogged about this before, but will refresh your memory. The fish ladder was built to aid fish, like salmon and eels, get upstream. The ladder runs next to a falls on the Sackville River and every year at this time, the Sackville Rivers Association cleans out the debris that accumulates over the winter in the rungs of the ladder and in the holding cage at the top. The holding cage is kept open all winter and closed over the summer and fall to allow us to count the number and species of fish traveling through. (We also are able to catch a few female salmon, while they are in the holding cage, that we send to a fish hatchery about an hour away.)

I can help clean out dead leaves, branches, and rocks that get caught in the top and sides of the cage, but I leave the shoveling of the rocks at the bottom of the cage and rungs to younger folks. That's when I usually go on a coffee run for the group of us. So there's not a lot I can do, physically, except sometimes empty buckets of rocks into the main part of the river.

The best part of the exercise, for me, is discovering the creatures that live at the bottom of the cage, normally on the river bottom. First though, pictures of the fish ladder rungs at capacity, and then after we block the water from entering:

I discovered a tangled mass of roots from some long dead plant or shrub that had been washed into the cage. In this mass were the usual suspects, like wormy insect nymphs, rocks, and stones, but also something I was unaware of until today. Pea or fingernail clams!! Tiny little things, freshwater, and food for fish and leeches. Cool.

One of the other volunteers found an insect nymph that would scare the hardiest of Alien hunters, if they were any larger than they are. Take a look at it to see if you can figure out what this nymph will be in another month or two (hint: the eyes and legs are the only thing that remain the same in the adult and the nymph)

If you said "dragonfly" you'd be right. The eyes are really the giveaway.

And while sitting on the edge of the empty holding cage, I spied a worm like creature at the bottom in the muck....a closer look revealed a leech. I took it out for an even closer look and pictures, of course. It stretched out to about the length of my thumb:

Because we had a relatively mild winter, there wasn't as much debris in the holding cage as in previous years. Actually, last year we had to delay the cleaning because the water level was extremely high and the river flow was too fast.

We had several young women join us today, newcomers to the organization, and really hard workers. Hopefully they had as much fun as I did.


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Northern Lights

My property manager, Adena, has a brother living in the northern reaches of Canada. He's a professional photographer and is possibly unaware I have two of his photos hanging on my wall that Adena gave me. I have been keeping track of his and his wife's adventures up north via Adena. The most recent included a picture of the Northern Lights. The reason I really like this one is that it isn't the typical curtain of lights you see in pictures, though those are lovely, too. This one is beautiful, yet haunting. I feel slightly uneasy at the loneliness it portrays.

Rye gave me permission to post his photo of the old gold mine head shaft. It was taken in the early part of April.


Friday, April 16, 2010

Dear Miss Macaulay....

Dec 27/18

Dear Miss Macaulay:
I will thank your nice Xmas stocking I received. I was very pleased to get the present. Everything came in so handy. I had a very happy Xmas time. I hope you had the same. I am in the 1st Southern General Hospital with the misfortune of having one leg off at the knee but expect to be in Canada in about a month or so. Many more thanks for the presents and a Happy New Year to you.
Yours truly.
Private L. J. G--------

So reads a letter from a Canadian soldier from his hospital stay during the first world war. I have a small collection of postcards and other paper ephemera and one of those items was an envelope with a postal stamp on it indicating it was from a wounded soldier (I had never looked inside the envelope before yesterday so just discovered the letter). The other envelope displays a postal mark with a great war slogan on it: Food will win the war. Don't waste it.

And I also have another letter from a soldier during the second world war who indicates that he'd pay 5 bucks for a hamburger.

The first letter from Private L. G. is so ordinary until he states matter-of-factly that he's lost a leg. The letter could have been written last Christmas by a wounded soldier in Afghanistan or Iraq. I imagine there are plenty of those letters that were written and sadly continue to be written.

I don't know the relationship between the private and the Miss Macaulay he wrote to. Was her Christmas stocking a generic gift to be delivered to a wounded soldier by the Red Cross(women knit socks for soldiers as part of the war efforts at home)? Was it a gift from a potential girlfriend or perhaps a family friend? It would take a lot of detective work on my part to figure out both parties involved, especially the private as his handwriting makes it difficult to decipher his last name. But I may take on the project over the summer.

Two pictures of Max and his twin brother. The first taken in 1928 or so. Aren't they the sweetest kids? The second picture is from May or June, 1942, when Max's brother returned home for the first time after having survived the U-boat torpedoing of the ship he was on. Max is the one in uniform.

And the last picture is Max acting as a gunner. We are coming up to the anniversary of the Battle of the Atlantic, May 3rd. I'll head to the Halifax waterfront to attend the ceremonies (actually, I think it's at Point Pleasant Park which is at the mouth of the harbour and where a large monument is installed to remember our war dead). Wherever it may be, I'll be there.


Thursday, April 15, 2010

Barn Door's Open

In the late 50s a Greek doctor began treating patients who had peptic ulcers with antibiotics. But it wasn't until the early 80s that an Australian pair of researchers began their studies of Helicobacter pylori, a bacteria that appeared to cause ulcers. It took 15 years, but by 1997, the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta (and other academic and medical institutions) were spreading the word about the link between the bacteria and ulcers. The use of antibiotics soon became a standard treatment for ulcers.

So, here we have an idea in the 1950s, unproven to work, or, at the very least, do no harm. For a number of reasons, the Greek doctor did not or was unable to conduct accepted scientific studies. So the idea languished for 25 years until the Australians began their research. And without the research that backed up the idea, the medical community would not get on board.

Now, in the 21st century we have a new idea about multiple sclerosis, CCSVI. And the uproar this idea has caused is unnecessary if folks would stop to think about it for a minute. It is an idea, unproven to work, or, at the very least, do no harm. Yes, it's a very interesting idea. It may have merit. It may add to our collective knowledge of multiple sclerosis, but without scientifically based research, it is not a treatment.

One misconception about diagnosing CCSVI is that it's a simple thing to do. It's not. It requires an ultrasound technician trained specifically to detect 5 factors in determining whether or not someone has the condition. The process takes an hour and a half and at least 2 of those 5 factors must be present for diagnosis. It's not like getting an ultrasound of your baby when you're pregnant.

The early numbers from a survey of 500 people in the US, half of whom have MS, half that don't, show that at most, 63% of the MS folks have CCSVI, and 25% of the non-MS folks have it. We cannot say that CCSVI causes MS unless 100% of MS patients have CCSVI, that CCSVI preceded the onset of MS symptoms, and a host of other conditions are met, not to mention, that those without MS who have CCSVI do develop MS.

Some more interesting stuff is coming out of the American Academy of Neurology meetings going on in Toronto this week. Nearly 50% of those treated in Dr. Zamboni's initial group of 65 patients have had to have the "liberation procedure" repeated. Many of those initial patients were on disease modifying drugs prior to the procedure. The initial trial was not blinded, there was no control group, and the sample size was small.

I have objected to people jumping the gun on this possible treatment for all of those reasons (and more, if truth be told). And even Dr. Zamboni is urging caution to MS patients, telling them to wait until the treatment is thoroughly tested. Kinda late now, Doctor, with people spending thousands of dollars traveling to countries where they can be scanned and have the procedure done.


Check out Science Based Medicine. Steve Gorski has an excellent article on the Greek doctor I mention above. And it's a cool site.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Fishing Trip

In the summer of '84, after my 21st birthday, my friend (and sometimes commenter on this blog) Steve, came to visit me for a weekend. Steve's a macho kind of dude, who, in university, could have passed for Father Guido Sarducci from Saturday Night Live.

I put him on my sofa bed which he ended up sharing with my two kittens. He called them Garfield and Nermal, though they resembled neither fictional cat. He told me after the first night, he rolled one way, heard a meow, so rolled the other way, and heard another meow. He didn't move for the rest of the night for fear of squishing one. Macho dude....heh...big ol softie is what he was....and still is.

On the Saturday of the weekend, Steve and I joined my friend Glen for a day of fishing. Glen, the boy scout, had boots and gear for all three of us so we set out for a popular river in the area. It was hot, of course, and fishing in boots is not nearly so dry as fishing in chest waders, so pretty soon, both Steve and I had bootfuls of water, which actually kept us from really noticing the heat. As well, Steve, macho-big-city-guy from Toronto, had never been fishing (or even in rubber boots I think), lost his footing a couple of times and fell up to his waist in the water. So he finally just walked into the deepest part of the river and dunked himself. Fishing hat and all.

I don't know how long we were on the river. We came to a tree with a rope swing and Steve and Glen tried it a few times to throw themselves into the river. By the time we were ready to call it a day, we were exhausted, hungry, and soaked. Glen caught 11 fish (and threw them all back), I caught one, and poor Steve caught none. But we had a blast.

Driving home, I offered to make us some grilled cheese sandwiches for supper and the guys wanted to hit the liquor store for some beer as well. Glen drove us to the store and Steve and I walked in, soaking from head to toe, our feet sloshing water in the rubber boots with every step. Quite the sight. Glen dropped off Steve and I at my place, went home to get changed, then returned for supper. I made a load of sandwiches, we each popped a can of beer, the guys sat on the couch, and I sat on the floor. We ate and had a beer and the next thing I know it was 2 hours later, the guys asleep, each at one end of the couch and I had fallen asleep on the floor, and only 3 or 4 cans of beer actually consumed. My laughter woke the two guys. It was only about 9 o'clock on a Saturday evening and the three of us called it a night.

Fishing is hard work.


Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Joker

Finally...the bugs are out and about, flying around. And two nights ago, I came across a moth I'd never seen before. The picture doesn't quite do it justice, as it was the prettiest green, lichen coloured, that makes the perfect camouflage on lichen covered trees. I believe it is a feralia jocosa - The Joker Sallow - but if it isn't, it is one of Feralias. There are at least 5 or 6 that have very similar colours and patterns.

I let it go today and rescued another brown moth that had become trapped in the lobby. And so my nightly forays around the building have begun!