Sad to say, we lost our best Mouse …

It was quick, and very final. Lyme disease played a part, but something else must have been lurking. We had promised ourselves not to drag out another dog’s life, having done too much in the past, but this time there wasn’t even that chance, and Mouse checked out with speed and grace as she lived her life. I know everyone thinks they had the best dog …

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but we did. Thanks Mouse.

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Maybe a flu shot would have been a good idea …

Well then, that was gnarly. Sorry for the hiatus.

However, a break from commentary seems like it was a good idea. Truth really is often stranger than fiction, and I am still reeling from all those pundits who had no idea what was going to happen now happily telling everybody what is going to happen.

But February is upon us, the sun is shining more strongly, the blood is flowing in my veins again, and the birds are chomping away at the suet. And if you are wondering what birds are chomping away at your suet, check out this excellent app from Cornell:

An App to ID Your Bird Photos

That’s right: our Merlin Bird ID app just got an upgrade that analyzes photos on your phone and offers bird ID suggestions. Just snap a photo or choose one from your photo library, answer a couple of questions, and Merlin will offer smart suggestions about what North American species it might be. Read more at eBird or download Merlin free for your iOS or Android device and try it out.

Can’t Get a Photo? Merlin still offers uncannily good ID advice from a simple bird description—now expanded to feature 650 bird species.

When I downloaded said app I accepted emails from them, and received this astonishing video, which I cannot embed, but is absolutely worth the click and  will brighten your winter day. Happy February.

Secret bird of paradise dating dance revealed

 

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Happy Birthday to me …

As my father-in-law once said, I never wanted to be 86 until I was 85. My brother was also succinct one year: think of the alternative …

Feeling it was a good year, as one’s expectations sink with each passing year, but no broken bones or dead parents seems like a rip-roaring success in comparison to much of my 2010’s, and capped by the engagement of our daughter, a classic ending for a comedy, we shall bank this one as comedy not tragedy.

                                 Xty 2015                                                             Xty 2016

          

I’ll take it!

Love and best wishes to all.

Posted in RANDOM | 2 Comments

Progressive? No thanks … or at least only if I’m at the helm …

The other day I had a somewhat depressing run in with our city councillor who mistook his election as a mandate when it was a strong rejection of the development mad woman whom he replaced. We discussed two recent neighbourhood changes: one, the ludicrous changes to the traffic light around the corner to dis-allow right turns on red and demarcate a bicycle waiting zone that never has any bicycles in it, but a long line of idling cars behind the green paint, waiting to turn; and two, the addition of signs reminding folks it is illegal to panhandle on the highway off-ramp nearby.

Now having explained that the no-right turn on red had increased both smog and the danger to the school kids crossing at the light because now cars can only turn when pedestrians can cross and those cars are now full of much more impatient and irritated drivers and those kids are more full of smog, he actually said that they were looking at it and intended to add to the beginning of the pedestrian crossing times a time when cars could not turn right as well. So his proposed solution would actually make both the issues we complained about even worse. Longer idling wait times and more anger from the drivers.  We have lived here for 25 years and the intersection was “improved” over the course of a couple of years and you can tell by the increased squealing tires and honking that the peculiar lane markings and cement island have really made it a pleasure to navigate. And yes, people have hit the added island and so has the snow plow of course.

Already distressed by the lack of logic this response demonstrated as well as a certain inability to actually listen to a constituent and be at least diplomatic, he somehow launched into apologizing for the do not pan-handle signs, which I have been pleased by. It is a really sad business, and I mean business, that runs these “homeless” men. They clearly are pimped out, share a bicycle and a cardboard sign, and have shifts, a sentiment the councillor readily agreed with. Both the Shepherd’s of Good Hope and the Mission here in Ottawa have asked people not to give them money. I have personally been wanting to paint “do not feed the bears” on the overpass. If you pay people to lurk on the off-ramp with a Tim Horton’s cup, you will get people lurking on the off-ramp. It is a pretty lucrative spot too, if you do the math on their hourly take. But there is no dignity or future in this. And these gentlemen have demonstrated an ability to stay on their feet for hours while almost working. Sell me a gall-darned pencil at least you nitwits! But back to the councillor. He apologized for those signs and started saying, “Progressives like us …” but I was retreating in horror.

Now it seems to me that the last thing a progressive would do is hand a beggar a dollar with no strings attached, and it would appear that not only am I right, a progressive would have probably wanted to sterilize them on the spot and have them slowly starve. But don’t take my word for it, as other people have said it much better:

 Thomas Leonard on Race, Eugenics, and Illiberal Reformers

EconTalk Episode with Thomas Leonard

Hosted by Russ Roberts

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Were the first professional economists racists? Thomas Leonard of Princeton University and author of Illiberal Reformers talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about his book–a portrait of the progressive movement and its early advocates at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th. The economists of that time were eager to champion the power of the state and its ability to regulate capitalism successfully. Leonard exposes the racist origins of these ideas and the role eugenics played in the early days of professional economics. Woodrow Wilson takes a beating as well.

You knew it was bad, but maybe not this bad … but when you hear a self-proclaimed progressive wanting to raise the minimum wage, you just might want to think twice about what the initial intent of the policy was, and how it might even lead to beggars on the off-ramp.

So have a nice regressive day.

 

Posted in ECONOMICS, LIFE | 2 Comments

Gobble gobble gluck gluck, munch munch munch, millions of Americans sitting down to lunch [with apologies to Spike Milligan]

Happy Thanksgiving to my American friends …

hard to know where to begin, but easy to know where to stop:

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Best wishes.

Posted in LIFE, RANDOM | 5 Comments

Sailing to Georgian Bay’s North Channel in our 1995 Corsair F-31

To get things started, here’s our route from start to finish, much of the track laid down by the GPS, and some of it added by hand. When you are travelling, places become like characters and so like any good mystery it is good to start with a legend of sorts, to save needless description later.

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We had the luckiest winds, and having now sat in the steamy rain for days back at Penetang, I am more and more delighted with where we were able to go. I will let the map and photos tell the story, mostly. But first it must be said that this boat, as old as our youngest adult child, seen here [the boat not the child] just after raising the mast at the dock as we get ready to set out from the parental-in-laws’ dock, made it possible:

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I don’t know what our average speed was but we went across the bay from Parry Sound to Wingfield Basin on Cabot Head, a distance of 45 nautical miles, in a calm rain and it was no problem and we screamed (well at least I almost did) from Wingfield Basin past Lonely Island and Manitoulin Island to the well named Snug Harbour (not the one of the lovely lighthouse just north of Parry Sound) with speeds upwards of 14 knots … the old Catalina, which happily has indeed found a new owner in Pointe au Baril, could occasionally dream of 6 knots … but they were nightmares.

We took a few extra days getting ready to go, so we weren’t actually sailing on the day of our 30th anniversary, but some of those days were spent by the noble captain ripping out the hideous marine head that is best left undescribed, and which he replaced with a home-built composting toilet using a separator that we purchased online from England. It worked so well that I feel obliged to provide a link. It also involved a bucket, a few large water bottles, some hose and a block of coir, and details can be forthcoming for those scatologically inclined.

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We spent our first night with the magnificent toilet on Gin Island, just west of Beausoleil Island, having left almost at dusk but determined to get under weigh. [At least I assume on a sail boat you are under weigh, not under way, as one must weigh one’s anchor to leave harbour.]

Here I am, sampling the waters, the following morning:

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From there we had a beautiful sail up past Giant’s Tomb Island and all the way to Sandy Island just outside of Parry Sound. I didn’t get a picture this time of the Jones Island lighthouse, but I just happen to have a peach of one from our 25th anniversary trip, five years ago, and it is still being its iconic self:

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When we first became acquainted with this lighthouse we were sailing north up the east coast of the bay and while the traditional route on the chart shows one heading way inland at this point, which we were preparing to do, a rather large fishing boat appeared seemingly out of nowhere, and hearts in hands we followed his wake. And here is the route for the would-be cognoscenti:

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The winds being favourable, if light, we then made our shot across the bay to Wingfield Basin, as you can see from this exciting action shot of the boat speeding along on the very successful OpenCPN software we used:

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only to wake up to a very different day with strong south-west winds. Here is the exit from Wingfield Basin as we made our way out, and unfortunately we never did turn on OpenCPN until out of the howling so we don’t have our track, but the GPS showed 15 knots more than once.

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The foreboding view ahead:

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I have recovered.

We then harboured in the aptly named Snug Harbour on Badgeley Point and made the mandatory tiny hike to Devil’s Bay Lake. I think I was still a little shaken, if not also stirred, and have no pictures, but the harbour is worth mentioning as being astonishingly deep once through the neck, 40 feet almost to the shore.

From there we made our way past the wonderful lighthouse on the northern tip of Strawberry Island

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and then through the swing bridge at Little Current, which does indeed open on the hour, but which does not indeed stay open for the promised 15 minutes if there are no boats clearly waiting.

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It wouldn’t be a blog post without mentioning food. We stopped to re-provision in Little Current, after first having a delicious lunch at the Anchor Inn Hotel, established in 1888

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of whitefish and mashed potatoes and surprisingly al dente veggies, and even a quite delicious Canadian merlot for the crew and a local Swing Bridge draft beer for the captain:

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It must be said, even by me, the galley wench on the trip, that we had been already eating like kings. A selection of pre-marinated frozen proteins, from tuna and halibut to the herb crusted lamb that was left behind and consumed on our return, made the trip both easy and delicious. [I will bore all with links to recipes in the comments.] The boat has a remarkably efficient ice-box/fridge that we never actually turned on but simply cooled with block ice. We set out with three blocks, replaced them at Little Current, and then added two more on our return through Killarney. It was almost too cold for the beer, a few cans of which started to explode, and kept everything crispy with minimal effort.

After purchasing a wonderful souvenir t-shirt of a bass swallowing Manitolin Island as bait on a hook, some fresh potted pea-shoots that we are still eating, and fabulous honey from the island, we motored west and north up yet another Waubuno Channel to anchor on the northern tip of Great La Cloche Island, where we touched our one and only rock. We shouldn’t have and were very lucky as well as well-prepared, as we had loosened everything off. Daggerboard was up and just the very bottom of the rudder gently sanded itself off as it kicked up. Here we are in the canoe, looking for the offending rock, which we found, with a rather visible white stripe:

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It turned out to be quite well described in the Ports book, but somehow we missed the memo. The anchorage was beautiful

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except for a couple who suddenly appeared on a sailboat from nowhere, possibly a boat that had been further in the bay and decided to leave and then failed to do so in the gathering twilight, whose crew had a screaming fit as they re-anchored, featuring intemperate comments about the depth of the harbour. [Note to self: voices carry well over water.]

From there we sailed to Croker Island which is part of the Benjamins and backed ourselves and Bob the BBQ up to the beach:

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And then Captain Dryfoot inched us in closer, because, frankly, the boat is awesome for gunk-holing.

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We then moved the boat to the far side of the little island that is within the curve of Croker Island to snuggle up to the shore and get away from the west wind, that was developing a hint of north.

img_8975From there we paddled over to the far shore to look out over the bay, where we first met the ducks who then adopted us briefly:

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And yes, we did discuss eating them Survivorman style.

Instead on the following day we headed back through the Little Current swing bridge

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on our way to Killarney, where we lucked out and pulled into the empty dock of the Sportsmans Inn, to be greeted by a charming youth who explained they were having a staff party so were technically closed but we could tie up for as long as we wished, and even offered to come back and help us leave if the wind came up. Just knock on the pub door. You just have to love northern folks. But the offer was not necessary as everything was peachy and calm:

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A short walk took us to Herbert Fisheries for fish and chips and smoked trout and ice

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and a sighting of a large black bear cruising the lawns on the far side of the channel, and also to the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (because Canadians, at least those in Ontario, have to buy their booze from the government) for a little more wine and souvenir beers for the boys.

We made it in twilight to Dufois Bay, just outside of Killarney, foregoing the suggested Thomas Bay as the light faded. The next day was quite the sail, and the GPS clocked 16.2 at one point. We had initially thought we might head into Byng Inlet but I felt there was nowhere to get the sails down and so we adjusted our sights and flew down to Pointe au Baril, where the narrow opening served our purposes well

screen-shot-2016-09-09-at-10-34-35-am and we found the needed shelter to make it down to the magnificent Shawanaga Island. A crazy old coot in full rain gear and life jacket appeared in the distance on a little blue sailboat, sails down and motor humming, and in a strange panic beat us to the pretty little beach and old broken dock, which he almost literally slammed into. It was one of those “you had to be there” moments, but was truly hilarious. The harbour is really large, and there is a second beautiful shallow bay behind where it is a little more protected. It is hard to capture the humour of the incident, but as you can see, second best was possibly best:

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There is also a little beach and picnic table just to the right of the camera, a picnic table that is up to its knees in sand.

From Shawanaga it was back to the lovely Sandy Island [technically I believe we were on Joiner Island, but they all appear as one at low water] and I include our track because it saves one from going north and outside the McCoys and the Mink Islands or taking the inside route behind Franklin Island, and because I have come to regard Arthur Orr Rock as a kind of welcoming friend and wanted to mention his name:

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From there it was a gentle wobble back to my ancestral Go Home, following a successful navigation of the inside of the Pine Islands, which was so successful we were almost disappointed at the lack of shoals. We waved good-bye the following morning

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and then met up for a surprise family picnic on the paternal side on the Gin Rocks on our final day, before tying back up at Penetang, making the whole trip complete in a most satisfactory way.

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I also wanted to mention that I had the enormous pleasure of reading, thanks to a kindness by a friend at our sailing club, The Last Strange Voyage of Donald Crowhurst:

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which features an early trimaran and a character straight out of Joseph Conrad. An excellent companion on any voyage, and particularly this one. I highly recommend it. It was like an added layer of flavour on the trip.

And now the boat is at the dock, and we must prepare to fold her up and get her back home. It was a happy anniversary trip, an excellent proof of concept, and I noticed the captain starting to consider how far the Bahamas are from various parts of Florida …

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Posted in LIFE, PHOTOS | 29 Comments

Now that they have knocked down the house right behind us … I really would rather be sailing the F-31

Or should I say Osprey? I still think that is my favourite of all the names we have thought of, and I am beginning to have trouble walking past all the dreadful puns at the sailing club, and cannot in good conscience inflict another one on the unwary. The amount of construction we have witnessed in our twenty odd years on this street is really quite something, it seems to me, compared to the pastoral myth of my childhood. I do remember when renovation season hit Toronto, in the early eighties after a brief flurry in the late sixties, which saw an awesome amount of orange shag carpeting make it into our family home. Peter Sellers would have been proud! In the eighties it was all windows on angles, and then somehow in the nineties everyone wanted their kitchen at the front of the house and the living room at the back. Me, I just like things roughly functional, and mostly quieter than the city is allowing lately. At least it appears a house is going up, not a condo tower, so we will make the best of it. But it is going to mean construction, every day, starting so far at the somewhat civilized hour of 7:30, for months and months. And we already had a house built right next door to the north, literally 18 inches from the lot line. Luckily the infill to the south was built before we moved in, but we are now going to be surrounded.

We are lucky folks though, and throwing caution (and some money we don’t have) to the wind, shall also throw ourselves to the wind, setting out at the beginning of next week for three weeks on Georgian Bay, if the gods are willing, not crazy as would appear to be the case. So it is time to get the old camera dusted off, start the provisioning piles, and try not to worry too much about leaving poor old Mouse behind, but long days on the boat are not good for her and she will be much happier at home. She is showing her age, and it must not be thought about too much. [Aren’t we all, ed.?]

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But long days on the boat might do this old girl a power of good.

Hoping the metaphorical sun is shining for those who deserve it, and the others, well … not so much.

Posted in LIFE | 7 Comments

Happy Dominion, oops, Canada Day!

As we bathe in red and white, and feel supremely lucky to call Canada home, let me just say:

Won’t get fooled again?

Meet the old boss, same as the new boss?

“We will remove marijuana consumption and incidental possession from the Criminal Code….” That is from Justin Trudeau’s election campaign, and the sentence then goes on to hint at the draconian penalties lurking for anyone who sells pot “outside of the new regulatory framework.” So a win/lose proposition in the first place. But possibly a step in the right direction. But what is he saying now? “I intend to cause the next generation to become as cynical and disillusioned as their parents …” Er, sorry, that was meant to read:

“The laws haven’t changed yet,” Justin Trudeau said during an interview with News 1130 [a Vancouver radio station] this morning [March 1]. “Pot is still illegal in this country and will be until we bring in a strong regulatory framework.”

And when challenged about what he would say to a teenager who under the current regime gets a life record and jail time for some minimal amount of weed, this was the mealy-mouthed response:

“I think decriminalization is a bad idea because it doesn’t do anything to make it more difficult for young people to access it and it doesn’t do anything in terms of keeping the black market and the criminal organizations from profiting from it,” Trudeau replied. “That’s why I believe in control and regulation that actually will do the protection of public safety and of minors that we need. And in the meantime, it’s still illegal.”

Ass-hat. So to translate, once the government and their cronies figure out how to profit from this trade that is already controlled by the government and that they know enriches criminals, often criminals they know, they will develop a monopoly trade. Maybe. But right now, Trudeau proudly continues the traditions of our own Stephen Harper, and of course those presidents of whom I am sure he is so proud to be linked through policy, Hoover, Nixon and Reagan, and really every other president except maybe Jimmy Carter, using drug laws to control masses of people and keep the pharmaceutical industry and the arms manufacturers and swat team equipment sales folks happy and rich, not to mention the militarized police we have to live with, like those who just destroyed so much property in Toronto.

I am the face of legal weed. It has allowed me to live without harsh pharmaceuticals that I was prescribed, like Oxycontin and Lyrica, that had tremendously bad side-effects. But the threat I appear to pose, at least as far as I can figure out, is leaving the money economy … a plant that is simple to grow and replaces all sorts of harsh pharmaceuticals just cannot be allowed in this modern industrial complex that needs all its citizens to fill its tax coffers so they can use that money to continue to prosecute an immoral and extremely harmful assault on literally hundreds of millions of gentle souls who find much good in marijuana and little harm.

Study after study finds it much less harmful  than all sorts of currently prescribed drugs but perhaps most frustrating is the difference in the way weed and alcohol are treated. The carnage on the roads, the domestic violence, the corrosion of the liver … families destroyed … you know which of the two I am talking about without me having to say it. It is and has been obvious to the powers that be for over a century that marijuana is relatively harmless and indeed salutary. But the so called War on Drugs has proved too tempting for the powers that be and they will not relinquish their hold on this venerable plant without apparently another century of bizarre disconnect between the laws and the people.

Stop the madness and legalize pot now. And if not, then get onboard with decriminalization and save the next generation from distrusting their leaders with the same well-earned cynicism of their forebears.

Oh, and have a lovely Canada Day.

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Posted in LIFE, RANTS | 46 Comments

La vie de l’eau and c’est la vie, Minnicog Queen …

My in-laws purchased the Catalina 22′, which they named the Minnicog Queen* [because the Queen did come to Minnicog, well Penetanguishene which is close enough, and my pop in-law wrote a book called The Queen Comes to Minnicog, and it all seemed to make sense to them at the time] in 1979, just when hubby and I were reacquainting, having known each other as kids, and reuniting when I was 17 and he 19. We took the Catalina on our honeymoon in 1986 and for a wonderful 25th anniversary trip, and for many trips in-between, sometimes with all three kids and a dog. But sadness at its passing is very muted, as that is just the sadness of time passing, and as we cleaned out the mouse nests and opened the hatches under the seats for the last time, I couldn’t help but wonder at the beauty of our new boat

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and think about where we might take it, and it us, for our 30th anniversary this August, which I promised my daughter we would elope for, avoiding all notions of a party.

But the old Minnicog Queen was the inspiration and proof of concept in many ways and she took us to many a particular harbour.

Thanks.

*I have a problem with boat names, and we always called it the Catalina, just as my parents had the Big Boat, the Whaler, and the Tin Boat. Indeed we have been unable to actually name our new sailboat, because it is just “the boat” and all names seem silly or ludicrous and many boats have terrible puns for names or are named after wives, two things which I have kind of nixed.

Posted in LIFE, PHOTOS | 64 Comments

Tryptophan, serotonin, microbes and mood …

Good Saturday. That was a busy week for a limpet like me, and here is a weird anecdote/book review from said week, but it surely did happen to me.

I have just finished listening to a book called Brain Maker by Dr. David Perlmutter

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in which he makes a lot of claims about the positive effects the bacteria in your belly can have on your brain, almost so many that your “cure all” alarm starts to go off, except that he has pretty good studies and science backing him up, and he is quick to say when he is speculating.

Now many of us grew up believing that the tryptophan in turkey made you sleepy, only to be grossly disillusioned as adults when told that wasn’t true. But here is a replacement fact, better than the one before. While this is somewhat dense reading, these folks from the Department of Anatomy and Neuroscience, University College Cork, in Ireland, actually explain this complex system very succinctly in the abstract for their 2014 article, “Serotonin, tryptophan metabolism and the brain-gut-microbiome axis.”

The brain-gut axis is a bidirectional communication system between the central nervous system and the gastrointestinal tract. Serotonin functions as a key neurotransmitter at both terminals of this network. Accumulating evidence points to a critical role for the gut microbiome in regulating normal functioning of this axis. In particular, it is becoming clear that the microbial influence on tryptophan metabolism and the serotonergic system may be an important node in such regulation. There is also substantial overlap between behaviours influenced by the gut microbiota and those which rely on intact serotonergic neurotransmission. The developing serotonergic system may be vulnerable to differential microbial colonisation patterns prior to the emergence of a stable adult-like gut microbiota. At the other extreme of life, the decreased diversity and stability of the gut microbiota may dictate serotonin-related health problems in the elderly. The mechanisms underpinning this crosstalk require further elaboration but may be related to the ability of the gut microbiota to control host tryptophan metabolism along the kynurenine pathway, thereby simultaneously reducing the fraction available for serotonin synthesis and increasing the production of neuroactive metabolites. The enzymes of this pathway are immune and stress-responsive, both systems which buttress the brain-gut axis. In addition, there are neural processes in the gastrointestinal tract which can be influenced by local alterations in serotonin concentrations with subsequent relay of signals along the scaffolding of the brain-gut axis to influence CNS neurotransmission. Therapeutic targeting of the gut microbiota might be a viable treatment strategy for serotonin-related brain-gut axis disorders.

And now for the exciting anecdote. I had really been feeling like I was swimming in soup the past week or so. Nothing particularly wrong, just dragging my feet and feeling kind of weepy. So while I am listening to Brain Maker, I realise that I have been on antibiotics quite a few times throughout my life, some fairly intense, and just recently again this fall, and have had my thrilling chronic cyclical vomiting episodes for years. So maybe this applies to me. Now after my last trip to the hospital last summer at the cottage my father-in-law gave me some probiotics that his pharmacist recommended to him, which I will happily buzz market, called Florastor. I had taken a couple but not continued for no particular reason, and had the small jar here in Ottawa. So I started taking them, two twice a day. To say that my mood improved would be a ludicrous understatement. Nothing external changed, but I swear within two days I just felt the tears back away and I cannot imagine what else could have been the cause of such a large swing. My leg has been quite sore, my side has been quite sore, we haven’t suddenly won the lottery and it is tax season. But the angst is low and the change was so noticeable. Now I understand (so to speak) the placebo effect and the power of suggestion, and if that is what happened here, then bring it on! But I can only heartily recommend both the (slightly preachy) book and upping the probiotics in your life. Yoghurt was already on the menu, but there seem to be a lot of key bacteria out there and once displaced they have trouble reestablishing themselves.

Apparently we are host to a large array of bacteria, or perhaps they are hosting us, as it turns out even our mitochondria, once proud bacteria themselves, have their own dna. Treating these creatures well, and feeding them what they desire, seems a very good idea. And interestingly, some of the bad bacteria crave sugars so in an astonishingly sci-fi moment, it is quite possible that it isn’t you doing the craving, you are merely the delivery mechanism, feeding the host in your gut.

So science and anecdote met in my belly it would appear, and put a smile on my face. I am a little stunned, but feeling very pro probiotic.

Posted in LIFE | 32 Comments