Lifestyle: plant identification from field guide: chicory

Local plant identification leads to constant self-tutoring. The tutor reveals a great find from Nanaimo.

I was down in Nanaimo for a few weeks this summer. (BTW, I’ve loved Nanaimo since ’08, when we started traveling there.)

Notable in Nanaimo is the variety of trees and plants that aren’t apparent here, in Campbell River. This summer, down there, I noticed a rather untidy-looking plant with pretty blue flowers, growing to perhaps two feet in height. The plant is abundant in Nanaimo, growing next to the sidewalk and in untended lots. Like dandelions, it fades and then reflowers within short duration.

I never saw one of those plants close up, but its blue flowers are arresting. I decided to attempt identification, and think I have: chicory.


Pojar, Jim and Andy MacKinnon. Plants of Coastal British Columbia. Vancouver: Lone Pine Publishing and B.C. Ministry of Forests, 1994.

Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.

Lifestyle: rats, raccoons, and mint

More lifestyle tutoring: the tutor shares the discovery that rats and raccoons are repelled by mint.

About 10½ years ago I came across a rat I had to get rid of. The business wasn’t pleasant; thankfully, it’s not happened since. At that time I read that rats hate mint, so you can use it to repel them.

Over the years I’ve thought about mint repelling rats: it sounds like such an easy way to prevent them. Is the solution just so simple?

Recently my wife brought home some new garbage bags. I opened the package to be greeted by a strong mint aroma, which surprised me. It was dark: I didn’t read the package, so didn’t know they were treated with mint. The idea returned to me about rat repulsion using mint: Was the company that made these trash bags on-board with that idea?

In the daylight I read the package. Yes, indeed: the bags are purposely treated with mint to repel not only rats, but also raccoons. The bags are by Frank, for anyone curious.

I’ve checked two sources that confirm the repulsion of rats and/or raccoons by the smell of mint.


Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.

Field crickets: spring and fall

Tutoring math, the tutor has stumbled into the world of crickets.

I’ve lived on the Atlantic and the Pacific coasts of Canada. Everywhere I’ve lived, I recall that crickets start chirping sometime in July.

Why not until then? I’ve reasoned that chirping takes a fair amount of strength, so the cricket can’t do it when first hatched. Sometime in July’s later half, the cricket graduates to chirping. Such has always been my suspicion.

In last night’s post, my attention was captured by crickets. Research led me to field crickets, and the unexpected discovery of spring and fall varieties.

Spring field crickets start chirping in late spring. However, looking at the range map, they don’t live anywhere I’ve. In contrast, fall field crickets – who begin chirping exactly when I’ve mentioned – live on Canada’s Atlantic and Pacific coasts.

Field crickets, we love you.


Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.

Biology: How life on Earth may have started (and perhaps why it could): part 0

Tutoring biology, how life originated is an inevitable question. The tutor offers a point about it.

By the cell theory, which I discussed in yesterday’s post, new life can only result from an organism already alive.

Scientists believe life started on Earth about 3.8 billion years ago. Yet, Earth is believed to be 4.5 billion years old. The implication is that 4 billion years ago there wasn’t life on Earth, but at 3.5 billion years ago there was. Life started – where there was none – at some point.

Increasingly I hear a theory that life arrived here on a meteorite. Some bacteria are incredibly resistant to extreme conditions, and may have survived such a voyage to populate Earth. It’s a plausible idea.

Assuming life did not arrive here, but rather began here spontaneously, the event would have been different from what we expect today. However, the context would have been very different as well, and perhaps that’s the important point.

Scientists seem to agree that, around when life became present on Earth, there was a soup of biological molecules. It may have been shocked by lightning, eventually causing a sustained life reaction.

In such a setting, resources were abundant and there was no competition for them. The proto-entity, no matter how unlikely to survive, would have had time and “food” to sustain itself until it improved.

On Earth today, where life is abundant, so is competition. A weak life form can’t compete with strong ones already established, that have had millions of years to adapt to the conditions here.

Therefore, although life can only come from other life in today’s context, perhaps before there was any life at all, its spontaneous development was much more likely.


Mader, Sylvia S. Inquiry into Life, 11th ed. New York: McGraw Hill, 2006.

Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.

Biology: cell theory

Tutoring biology, or any subject, essential concepts can continue to deliver surprises. The tutor looks at cell theory.

Cell theory is perhaps the first brick in the structure of modern biological understanding. It states the following:

  1. Every living organism is made of cells.
  2. There is no smaller unit of life than the cell.
  3. Cells can only arise from other living cells.

A modern inclusion to the cell theory is the following:

  • In the context of a living organism, its energy consumption happens within cells.

The last idea is perhaps a little more surprising than the others. For instance, it suggests that the heat constantly radiating from a large mammal like a human being is evolved from the individual metabolic activities within its cells. No energy is consumed in the fluid of the blood or the tissue fluid, but only by the surrounding cells.

Ultimately, of course, the energy consumed by a cell is transformed to ATP in its mitochondria. Since mitochondria only exist within cells (as far as I’m aware, anyhow), the idea makes perfect sense.


Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.

Lifestyle, biology: A twin-spotted sphinx moth?

I find that being outside in the summertime leads to constant self-tutoring. The tutor shares a find from the siding this morning: a twin-spotted sphinx moth (Smerinthus jamaicensis)

I don’t remember seeing one of these. A quick internet search yielded what I believe is a match. Indeed, Smerinthus jamaicensis is meant to live in southern BC: I think that’s what this handsome moth is. (I didn’t disturb it; it seems to be fine with the paparazzi:)


Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.

Biology, Lifestyle: food preservation by irradiation

Tutoring biology, you might be asked about food irradiation. The tutor briefly talks about it.

Food irradiation is a preservation method that exposes food to radiation to kill organisms that might cause spoilage.

A question I had was, “Why doesn’t irradiation damage the nutrients in food?” From reading, I’ve surmised that the radiation separates the organisms’ DNA into building blocks, rendering it useless (so that they mostly die or just can’t reproduce). However, those building blocks are still useful as raw materials to whoever consumes the food – that’s as I understand, anyway.

Food irradiation has been an accepted technique for decades; the US space program has used irradiated food since the 1970s.


Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.

Biology: cells that don’t require insulin to import glucose

Tutoring biology, insulin is bound to come up. The tutor shares a discovery he made today.

Apparently, not all body cells require insulin to import glucose from the blood. I first read that brain and liver cells don’t. Next, I discovered a resource on facebook that suggests not only those, but also red blood cells, skeletal muscles engaged in exercise, and kidney cells can use glucose from the blood without insulin.

Interesting, eh?


Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.

Lifestyle: carbohydrates, part 2: simple, complex, and the glycemic index

More nutritional self-tutoring: the tutor continues about comparisons between carbohydrates.

In my last two articles, here and here, I discuss simple vs complex carbohydrates, then the glycemic index, respectively.

The original talking-point of this series of articles is that we typically seem to hear that complex carbohydrates should be chosen over simple ones. The obvious question:

  • Are complex carbohydrates always more beneficial than simple ones, and why?

The simple answer is no, not necessarily.

First, recall from my article here that simple carbohydrates can be thought of as sugars, whereas complex carbohydrates can be thought of as starch.

From a dietary point of view, the general rule about carbohydrates is that the lower the glycemic index (GI) (see yesterday’s article), the better. Some starches have a high glycemic index – white bread can have GI very close to that of glucose itself. Yet, since white bread is mainly starch, rather than sugar, it’s still complex carbohydrate.

Vegetables with high soluble fibre content tend to have a low GI (kidney beans, for instance).

Fructose, a sugar, has a surprisingly low GI of 19.

Therefore, a complex carbohydrate can have a high GI, while a simple one can have a low GI. From a dietary point of view, the general rule for carbohydrates seems to be that low GI is better than high, rather than that complex is better than simple.

Which foods are low vs high can be confusing at first, but there are a couple of sources below that have very useful tables to help.


Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.

Lifestyle: carbohydrates, part 1: what is the glycemic index?

Tutoring school subjects, the glycemic index might rarely be mentioned. In other contexts it’s important. The tutor briefly explains the glycemic index.

In yesterday’s post I began about carbohydrates from a dietary point of view, discussing the difference between simple and complex ones.

To go further with the discussion, a definition is needed: the glycemic index.

When carbohydrates are digested, they are separated into individual molecules called simple sugars. Glucose is a simple sugar, for example. The simple sugars are then absorbed into the blood, which elevates blood sugar.

A food’s glycemic index measures the rise in blood sugar caused by eating that food, relative to eating glucose itself. On the scale, glucose is given a glycemic index (GI) of 100.

≤55 low
56 to 69 medium
≥70 high

Next post I’ll discuss the connection between carbohydrates and the glycemic index.