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Bugs and hazmat suits






Since my backyard is still covered in treacherous snow, I was meditating on my garden to be and all its future residents. Specifically the uninvited kinds, even if they’re beneficial. More specifically, bugs, spiders and… worms. Confession time, I have a borderline phobia regarding all of the above and have spent quite a bit of time fretting over the balance of my desire for fresh picked vegetables against my deep conviction that things that slither, creep and crawl are all out to get me.


I wasn’t always like this, I distinctly remember fishing with worms as a pre-schooler with my older cousin, and getting a kick out of daddy long-legs ginormous legs when one chanced to come by the playground. I don’t even have a great traumatic story that forever instilled the fear of these creatures, unless they’re SO traumatic that I’ve suppressed them. Hah. I do though have a ton of stories of my unconscious being much quicker than my conscious mind when it comes to reacting to imminent threats to my life. Like the time I discovered that ‘my feet grew into the ground’ is not just an idle expression but an utter truth.  It was after a summer downpour and a friend and I were ready to go out. Upon exiting the house my feet did exactly what I thought was a literary term, and planted so hard into the ground I waved my arms around trying not to face plant into the sidewalk. While I was flailing and pondering if I was struck with some muscle ailment I realized that right in front of me was a big fat wriggling worm desperately trying to crawl across the patio stone.  I had no clue my brain was that quick at assessing the situation, and clearly going ‘aw, hell nah – that’s as close as you get’.  I still have NO idea why worms? What did they ever do to me? At least some people share the spider predilection, although I doubt many would be willing to crash a vehicle to avoid one dangling from their rearview mirror and descending evilly down. If it wasn’t for my hysterically laughing friend who dispatched the small but aggressive invader the accident may not have been preventable. Now I scan the cars thoroughly in case one should lurk in some corner.  You know, just waiting to pounce. And eat me.


Now, thankfully I’m not afraid of some insects, otherwise this garden proposition would remain exactly one big fantasy. I am not afraid of wasps, bees, or anything with wings. I’m not afraid of slugs or caterpillars and I only experience mild disgust at beetles, aphids, crickets, etc.  I actively like lizards, snakes and other scaly things and rodents, bunnies and mammals in general are pretty cute. So in order to make this garden a reality, I’m implementing a variety of measures to protect myself from accidental contact with what I’m sure are nature’s little mistakes.


First there will be minimal skin exposure, we’re talking long pants, socks, shoes, long-sleeved shirts, gloves. It would not be extreme to say that I’ve considered a full on Tyvek haz-mat suit, but rejected it for aesthetic reasons. Secondly there will be the judicious spray of OFF of some bug repellent equivalent, although my experience has been that spiders are too dumb to be repelled by it.  I may not get any sun this summer, but I’ll certainly prevent a spider bite. Shudder. I’m sure there will be an inevitable amount of trowel flinging while involuntary screams scare the neighborhood children at the sight of something slithering, crawling or heck, sleeping, but I am also a big believer in the power of desensitization so hopefully by August either the neighborhood or me will be somewhat desensitized.




Photo source:

Could we rename it recession flu?



If the swine flu hadn’t conveniently popped up on the scene just now, it would be worth releasing  intentionally. We know that it’s an engineered organism that likely escaped from a lab completely accidentally, as these things happen, but the timing could not have been better given the world that is exhausted by the recession talk. Suddenly no one is beating Obama’s administration over the head with new statistics on bailout money, failure of auto giants or new energy measures. We’re all just happy he can go golfing.


Birds and pigs as well as horses, dogs, cats and others have always been repositories for the flu virus.  Out of all the variants of flu strains out there any one of them can mutate and become a highly pathogenic highly infectious strain, but for the most part that does not happen. No matter how the virus mutates from generation to generation every season of every year typically the strains just don’t have the necessary virulence. Even this strain seems to lose steam the further away from Mexico you get, with cases in Canada only reporting mild symptoms.


The stats are not with the flu on this one – imagine over 100 people dead! In less than three weeks no less!  (None in the first world, but hey, it’s only a matter of time right?) Never mind the fact that every year hundreds of thousands of people die of your average, regular, non-swine flu – now that we have a cool new name for it, we can start comparing hypothetical deaths of swine vs. bird strains.


So far the virus is being transmitted the same way regular flu is, so I guess it’s a good of way as any to keeping us all distracted on ‘facing the common enemy’ and forgetting ongoing issues with our countries. Seems to me like common sense measures like hand washing, plenty of rest, and avoiding friends who got back from Mexico recently will do the trick for now. Once it goes airborne and the sky starts to fall then I’ll worry.


On a completely different note, it’s snowing again in Calgary. Again. As in for the second time this week alone. It’s Tuesday. Doesn’t Nature realize I have a garden to plant?




I love my cats.

I came across some old photos today of the three felines that share our home. Like all animals it’s crazy to see how different they are what with all their personality quirks and foibles. They are a source of constant amusement and we laugh at them daily. All three are rescue cats adopted from local shelters. 

This is Tweak:






She’s pretty and dainty. By far the best jumper in the house, she’s the aerialist of the cupboards and high places. When she jumps she lands softly and gracefully. She has two different colored eyes as white cats are wont to do, and it’s a very striking effect.






This is Cheney:







We named him that because he’s deaf (as white cats often are), and because he can’t hear himself the noises that come out of his mouth resemble Jon Stewart’s parody of his namesake. Typically though we call him Douche. He’s a very special cat, like missed the bus special, and his personality quirks are plentiful and wide-ranging. He’s Tweaks’ brother, and it’s a small miracle that they did not lose each other in the inner city streets where they were found. He must have been very good at following his sister around and she must have helped him eat and keep away from dangers he can’t hear.

He eats bananas:







He sleeps face planted into the couch:




Or anywhere for that matter:




His most annoying habit which earned him his new name is his yelling. Every morning around four he gets bored and hungry. To solve this problem he walks into the bedroom and starts braying at the top of his lungs, watching for our reaction the whole time. My significant other is a much heavier sleeper (or pretends to be), so it’s usually up to me to deal with the cat. Over the years we tried a great many things recommended by cat psychologists and our vets.  Squirting water turned into a fun game (he hangs out in the shower sometimes). Locking him out of the bedroom turned into hours of pitiful braying at the door (he doesn’t get bored easily). Ignoring him makes sleeping impossible, plus see above. Feeding him is counterproductive and ineffective. So typically I simply hop out of bed grab the cat, toss him into the office and lock both doors – his and ours. Then if I’m lucky I go back to sleep for the last couple of hours. He never gets tired of this routine, it never varies, and even though he will continue yelling at doors and walls in the office, at least we can’t hear him. I checked the internets, and seems like no one else solved this problem either, but that’s okay because there are many ways to make up for his mental deficiencies by laughing at him. 

No matter how gently you announce your arrival, he will startle if you approach him while he’s sleeping. Usually he gets a very stunned look on his face like ‘where? what the hell is this? I didn’t order any’ before he realizes he’s still on planet earth, on the same couch he sleeps on so much he wrecked the stuffing in the cushion. It’s always comical. His favorite toy is a laser pointer, and every time he sees one he gets so excited that a snarl comes out of his mouth, he crouches wiggling his bum, and his legs start doing this cartoon scramble and he never really goes anywhere ‘cause the hardwood is too slippery. 

 He is regal and dumb.



This is Alfie. We named her after Elphaba in Wicked, as it just suited her. She’s a shy cat, meaning she spent her first three months with us deep in the closet. At some point she bravely ventured out skirting the walls of the house, terrified but curious. She’s come a long long ways in the three years that we’ve had her and is starting to hog the bed in her newfound braveness. Alfie is the hardest to photograph as she’s convinced the camera will eat her. She’s a very muscular cat, with short stocky legs and can’t jump to save her life. I’ll never forget the time she really wanted to explore the kitchen counter. She climbed up onto the dining room table, aimed carefully for about ten minutes, carefully calculating the two foot distance she’d have to be in the air and evaluating the pros and cons of this rash decision. Finally she stepped to the edge, took a big leap… and cased the edge of the counter. I don’t think I’ve laughed so hard for a month.




Luckily all our cats have a very low embarrassment quotient. Some animals do something stupid like walk into a wall, and will immediately look around to see if anyone saw, and as you’re doubled over on the couch, begin to vigorously clean themselves. Not these guys. They will not only give you a weird look as you’re gasping for air, but will often repeat the whatever badly-ended attempt they were doing in the first place.





Life with animals – nothing like it.