I saw an article about Michelle Kwan recently on the Web and thought it was kind of cute. Here are some excerpts from it:
Michelle Kwan is a lot of things: skater, diplomat, commencement speaker, grad student. But get a load of this--now she's a budding entomologist as well? Whoa.
"Not quite," Kwan says, laughing. "It's just that I've learned a lot about something over the past year that I can't help but sharing with others."
Are you ready?
"Yes, it's true," she states, with a bit of a humorous gleam in her eye. "I've taken a liking to centipedes. But wait a minute--don't freak out just yet, at least not until I explain how it all happened!"
"If you're like most people," she begins, "you see these furry little creatures scurrying across the floor in your house, and you're like, 'Get this icky thing out of here!' I didn't even know what they were called, and didn't really care. Most of the time, I would either vacuum them up or sweep them into a dustpan and then flush them down the toilet."
So what changed?
"Well," she muses, "I saw this fascinating program on the Discovery channel about centipedes. As I was watching, I thought, 'So that's what those little things are called that I see on the floor, and that gross me out so much!' I kept on watching, and learned that centipedes are actually very beneficial. Most bugs, like ants, you want to quickly get rid of. But not centipedes."
And just why not?
"Well, I'll tell you why," she says. "Centipedes aren't coming into your house to eat the crumbs on the floor from your doughnuts or anything like that. They're actually predators. They'll eat the other little pesky insects that you just can't stand. And although they're a bit spooky-looking, there's really no need to be afraid of centipedes either. They're shy, and more afraid of you than you are of them. At the very worst, a centipede's bite would feel like a bee sting, and if you just leave them alone, that would never happen anyway."
So what effect have centipedes had on Kwan's life?
"I try to educate everyone I see now about centipedes," she reveals. "This may sound kind of silly, but there are so many homeless centipedes out there! What I mean by that is that nobody even wants them around. I'm not saying that you have to provide a warm, fuzzy environment for them or anything, but just let them stay in your house. Give them a home, and don't ever toss them out or kill them. If you leave them alone, they'll leave you alone."
"I call it my 'adopt a centipede' program," she laughs. "I'm getting with this visual artist, and we're in the process of designing some T-shirts with messages like, 'Adopt a centipede today!' His name is Rick, and he's drawn some cartoon-like pictures of centipedes that are just adorable. Your average centipede is not very pretty, I'll admit, but if you see his drawings, you'll fall in love with them quickly. He even puts 'happy faces' on them. I think that will help convey the fact that, despite their rough exteriors, centipedes are actually very likable creatures, if you just know and understand enough about them."
When will these T-shirts be available?
"I'm not sure," she replies. "I've got a ton of stuff on my plate already, but hopefully by mid-summer. If the idea catches on, we're also thinking about putting similar designs on coffee mugs, caps, things like that. I think it's something that kids could really get into. Kids are fascinated by insects anyway, so I'd say they'd find things like that really cool. At least I hope so."
Will Kwan be bringing any specimens to her graduate classes for "show and tell"?
She does a double take. "No, I don't think I'll be bringing any centipedes or centipede memorabilia to my classes any time soon! I do kind of want to graduate!!" she jokes. "But maybe if I become a full-time diplomat or something, I could help educate other countries about the importance of centipedes." She then pauses for a moment. "I bet you think I'm totally nuts right about now, huh?" she asks with a wry grin.
Not at all.
So will Michelle Kwan be extolling the virtues of millipedes in the not-too-distant future as well?
"You know what?" she answers, scratching her forehead. "I'm kind of embarrassed to say this, but I really don't even know what millipedes do. And I'm not even sure I could recognize one if I saw one. Maybe they do a lot of good stuff too."
Then she sighs good-naturedly. "You know, now that I think of it, I'm probably busy enough already. I'm not sure I have the time to tackle any more projects at the moment. I do kind of like to get at least 2 1/2 hours of sleep a night," she winks.
"Tell you what," she suggests. "If you want to know more about millipedes, maybe that's a project we can get Tara to work on. I think I'll text her tonight and tell her to get on it right away," she chortles.