Pacific banana slug: secret origin of the slime-fountain of youth. Photo © Jitze Couperus,

Could the Pacific banana slug be the secret behind the slime-fountain of youth?

Years ago, when commiserating about my squeamishness for slugs, Nature Boy speculated that these terrestrial molluscs might yet surprise us.

“Perhaps scientists will discover remarkable youth-preserving compounds in the slime, and we’ll start eagerly smearing slugs on our faces.”

You have no idea how sorry I am to report it has come to pass. Spas in Japan and the U.K. recently started offering snail facials. Clients pay handsomely for the privilege of having snails slither youth-enhancing slime all over their faces.

Its coiled shell distinguishes the snail from its naked cousin, the slug. Both slime-meisters belong to the mollusc group known as gastropods—so called because they appear to use their stomachs (gastro) as feet (pod).

Their slime apparently contains natural antibiotics, elastin, collagen, glycolic acid, hyaluronic acid and many compounds known to heal cuts, soften scar tissue, fight infections, repair sun damage, regenerate skin cells, and make skin look younger, tighter and brighter.

And younger.

Did I mention younger? ….

Read the rest of this editorial in the Victoria Times Colonist….

Bacillus subtillus, normal soil and human gut bacteria. Photo by Felix Tsao,

Bacillus subtillus, normal soil and human gut bacteria. Photo by Felix Tsao,

­I had always thought my family was small, but it turns out a great deal more of us exist than I had been aware of. Thanks to recent advances in DNA sequencing, all kinds of family secrets have been coming to light lately.

Mom, you can relax. I’m not going to talk about the surprise siblings, misplaced offspring, wayward uncles, long-lost cousins or mystery parents.

No, the revelations are even more intimate.

Take Nature Boy, for instance. (Please.) Every time he walks through the door, our household occupancy jumps by hundreds of trillions.

Read the rest of this post in the Victoria Times Colon-ist...


And if you’re really interested, browse through the following:

Bald eagle. Photo by Brendan Lally,

Bald eagle. Photo by Brendan Lally,

Bald eagles could be the bird world’s version of heavyweight-boxer Mike Tyson. The eagle is a big bruiser of a bird. It bullies other birds, steals meals, and scavenges whenever it can. Yet, during mating season, incongruously thin, soprano sweet nuthin’s emerge from predator’s curving yellow beak.

In addition to eagles’ springtime singing along the Gorge waterway, I’ve noticed local ravens pairing up and chortling amongst themselves. Robins now out-chirp each other thoughout the day, varied thrushes rend dawn with their off-key whistles, and towhees mimic hinges in need of oil. The chestnut-backed chickadee has changed its tune from “chickadee-dee” to “Hey, baby!” And the winter wren’s love-lorn performances make me wonder how these tiny avian opera singers can sustain so many trills and arpeggios with just one breath.

White-throated sparrow. Photo by leppyone

White-throated sparrow

It’s easy enough to guess what they’re singing about right now. Something along the lines of “Let’s make beautiful music together” to the ladies, and “Get off my beat or I’ll beat you up” to other guys. These themes play out in human songs as well, as Pacific Opera’s performance of Tosca demonstrates this month. They also cause many of the same emotional responses in both animals.

Apparently, breeding female white-throated sparrows—a songbird of Canadian forests—respond to the songs of male sparrows in the same way that humans respond to pleasant music. The reward centres in the sparrow brains light up just like ours do, say the researchers who scanned the birdbrains.

Read the rest of this editorial in the Victoria Times Colonist

Sources include:

How human language could have evolved from birdsong

Birdsong syntax

Some birds seem to have grammatical rules in their songs

Birds teach secret passwords to unhatched chicks

Birdsong: music to their ears (and hearts)

Thwarted child abduction, Toronto, March 2013

Retirement home for those on the Freedom 95 Plan

Retirement home for those on the Freedom 95 Plan

Living in Victoria, it’s hard to not know somebody living the life of retirement Reilly. Despite more and more younger people coming to the region, the local population remains, on average, older than that of most Canadian cities.

When I moved here, back in the flush of youth, I suddenly found myself with a circle of friends who were, on average, much older than any such circle I’d had before.

They’re all great people.

But I’m going to point out a downside to the difference in our life stages. When you work and many of your friends are retired and retired well, you get to hear them plan their getaways to ski condos, island cottages, on their boats, or somewhere exotic—not for a weekend as you are limited to, but for one, two, three months—oh, heck—maybe a year, while they rent out their mortgage-free homes in Victoria.

But that’s fine. As a gainfully employed individual, you regretfully turn down invitations to join these friends on their adventures because, well, you have to work on Monday. You tuck away the regret, and focus on the hope that, in 10, 20, 30 years —surely no more than that—you will be making those plans and inviting friends along.

Read the rest of this editorial in the Victoria Times Colonist….



Further reading and sources:

Statistics Canada’s How many years to retirement?

Jonathan Chevreau, Work longer, save more money, Financial Post

CD Howe Institute’s Later retirement: the win–win solution

Where Freedom 55 was conceived

Spotted Owl, photo by USFWS Pacific


We’ve known for years that British Columbia’s Northern Spotted Owl, known to the pointy-headed science crowd as Strix occidentalis, is in trouble. Provincial wildlife officials estimate that as few as 10 of the birds remain in B.C.’s forestlands, down from about 500 individuals a century ago. The owl’s dire plight led the province to establish a captive-breeding program in Langley in 2007. The program has seen limited success to date.

The biggest threat to the owl’s existence is habitat loss. A century of logging has decimated the old-growth forests the owls depend on.

However, beginning a few decades ago, another threat to the reclusive, dark-eyed owl appeared.

Barred Owls, also known as Eight Hooters, Rain Owls, and Strix varia, arrived west of the Rockies in the 1940s. Aggressive and adaptable, the newcomers compete with Spotted Owls for food and territory. They also hunt and eat Spotted Owls. Occasionally, the two species mate, producing hybrid young called Sparred Owls.

In 2008, wildlife officials quietly began controlling Barred Owl populations near confirmed Spotted Owl sightings. Seventy-three Barred Owls have since been captured and relocated. The province also authorized the shooting of 39 owls that refused to stay relocated.

While this war in B.C.’s woods unfolded, we humans watched as new technologies transformed our own species’ struggles for social change and self-determination. While wildlife officers relocated Barred Owls, Facebook and Twitter enabled popular revolutions in Libya, Egypt and elsewhere.

Now, if owls could use Twitter, what might they be posting during this crisis in B.C.’s Birdland? Perhaps their tweets would read something like the following:


@Svaria What moral right, the featherless 2-legs? We only follow their example, colonizing and squashing indigenous populations, just as they did

@Soccidentalis Appreciate the efforts @Featherless2legs, but where are we to live? Suitable forests are disappearing, and caged enclosures lack appeal

@EightHooter Young couple looking to colonise forest near cutblock. Must have rodents and songbirds. Spotted Owl O.K., too #newintown

@Spotty Spotted Owl Hootenany tonight. Flying squirrel on menu. In the old forest by Chilliwack Lake. See U there #donttellthebarreds

@TrixieStrixoccidentalis @Featherless2legs Bigotted specists. My mate=Barred Owl: our chicks stronger, bolder and handsomer for it. Genetic variation=future survival

@Spotty Young couple looking for nest cavity or platform. Family-friendly + 200-year-old forest with flying squirrels only. NO Barred Owls!

@EyeSpyAtNight Pleased to announce continued survival of our first chick in a large forested cage at Mountain View breeding facility #talonscrossed 

@WhoCooks4U Barred Owl Hootenany tonight. Fresh Spotted Owl on menu. Next to the cutblock by Chilliwack Lake. Listen for the Spotties #canteatjustone

@Spotty Spotted Owl Hootenany tonight cancelled. Regrets #billybobgoteaten

@Spotty Missing: my one true and only love. He has dark eyes, a spotted breast, and appears bigger than he really is. If info, please reply

@WhoCooks4U @Spotty Have seen missing mate. Come to the cutblock by Chilliwack Lake tonight 11 p.m. for information. Bring friends.

@WhoCooks4U Barred Owl Hootenany tonight. Extra helpings extra-fresh Spotted Owl. No pellets this time, I promise


Owls and humans figure prominently in this affair, but other, overlooked creatures are also affected in the struggle to save Spotted Owls.

Imagine the following note, paw-delivered by air late at night:

Dear Furless Two-Leg Mammal-Comrades:

We applaud your decision to finally intervene in the senseless massacre of flying squirrels, deer mice, hares and other small mammals by the invasive Barred Owl, Strix varia.

While we celebrate your decision, we respectfully request that you broaden your intervention to include all owls in the area. These are the Great Horned, Northern Spotted, Northern Saw-whet, Western Screech, Short-eared, and Northern Pygmy owls.

Thousands of our children die daily at the talons of these killers. None of us are safe. We live in terror. What unknown potential among these countless lost generations disappears every year down the murderers’ gullets, with only regurgitated fur and bones providing clues to victims’ identities?

It is time for all mammals to unite in the furred cause: Freedom from fear of predation from above.

Respectfully Yours, in hope that you will hear our pleas and pity our plight,

Rocky G. sabrinus (Northern flying squirrel)

SEWP (Society for the Elimination of Winged Predators)



Thank you, Don Enright, for checking the Twitter syntax and providing hashtags.


School kids in the 21st century, by Maryland GovPics


Those of us who grew up in the last century heard all about how easy we had it.

The tirade usually began, “When I was your age …” and continued with the Facts of Life.

These included:

“I had to be up at 3 a.m. to get to school on time. And that was after staying up until 4 a.m. to finish my after-school chores and homework.”

“I had to walk 12 miles to school everyday … through blizzards … uphill. Both ways!”

“We had only one pair of shoes for all of us kids. Every day, two of us got to wear one shoe.”

Continue reading…. 


Sources for this post include:

CBC’s report on students failing simple geography quizzes

Vancouver Sun: Issues with BC-certified international school in China

Vancouver Sun: New rules for BC-certified international schools

 No cellphones, by Oscar Anton,

According to the most recent survey of cellphone use, these devices have now invaded every aspect of our lives.

Seventy-five per cent of the survey’s respondents admitted to using handheld devices to text, talk, surf, purchase items and conduct business while attending to other business with another handheld device in the washroom.

I suppose announcing this information is in the public interest. We really don’t want to know, but now that we do, we can act to limit how these behaviours affect and infect us.

Say no to norovirus. Say no to phones in the WC.

 Continue reading….



Sources include:

11mark’s survey of phone use in toilets

Accidents and close call situations connected to use of mobile phones, by Leena Korpinen and Rauno Pååkkåonen

2012 Ipsos Reid survey for ICBC on distracted driving

Study on cell-phone use by perfusionists at SUNY Upstate Medical University


 William Kurtz Still life of fruit, from

’Tis the season. Those who are dear to us gather near to us to feast, share and converse. We assemble around the groaning board, and retire from it, groaning, “I couldn’t eat another thing.”

But when they pass around the coffee and the pumpkin pie, we gather our resources, loosen our belts one more notch and manage one more bite.

The sharing of food and drink, and the celebration of plenty, are integral to our social and cultural life. At this time of the year, in this part of the world, turkey and some mistletoe truly bind us together.

Read more….


Sources include:

American Journal of Clinical Nutrition article 1article 2; article 3