Saturday, November 29, 2008

Lucy's Second Birthday

Thanksgiving is Lucy's Birthday. (Remember, Flora's birthday is Halloween. Gosh, Rachael and John always plan the births on a holiday.) We celebrated Lucy's birthday this season with famous vanilla cake from Pepperidge Farm and chocolate ice cream. Looks as if Lucy blew her candles so hard that one hit the icing. Lucy enjoyed the yummy birthday treats.

Flora had to play with her new mini Santa mugs that was given to her by Grandma Great.

It is time for Birthday presents.

A stuffed dog is now a new friend. Lucy also got a great play outfit from Grandma and Grandpa.

Seems that gifts are not only for Lucy. Flora received a puppy purse and some moolah!

Flora and Lucy are best of pals.

The girls are such a joy! Happy second birthday Miss Lucy!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving Dinner
Yesterday was another special time with family and friends. Our friend, Diana, was put to work helping in the production of gourmet food. The master chef, Judy, put most of us to work doing a variety of tasks.
We had a great array of food which included baked ham.
Notice the intensity of concentration on the faces of the ham carvers! It must be very stressful to cut this meat.
In addition to ham, Judy roasted turkey breast.
The menu also included baked stuffing, cooked apples, oriental salad, mashed potatoes, homney casserole, cranberry sauce, green beans, and several yummy desserts.

Oh, yes, we also had turkey gravy. Diana was the senior gravy stirrer!

Judy is so proud of her apron. It was her Dad's apron and he would wear it when he cooked. It brings back wonderful memories.
Sister Judy and Brother-in-law Bill brought Grandma Great Meads from Spencer. Bill and Judy are planning an Alaskan cruise during the summer of 2009. (Boy, that is not far away!)

After supper, Grandma Great Meads played the piano with Lucy.

It was such a nice evening we even relaxed on the back porch and walked with the kids around our vast ranch. (OK- about an acre!)

It was a great day! We hope you folks had an equally wonderful Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 27, 2008


A happy holiday from the Meads! We have so many blessings and hope that you and your family are equally blessed this Thanksgiving.
Tina Turkey celebrates the occasion!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


As I sit here looking out the window, it is snowing and the cardinals at the feeder make a fine contrast to the snowy weather. As you know Sarah, Jeff, and Sammy are in Cancun, Mexico this holiday week. Today they had planned a side trip to Tulum. Since this archeological site is close to their resort and does not involve walking up a gizzilion steps, the folks decided this would be best for navigating with Sammy.

The Maya ruins at Tulum are located on 39-foot (12-m) cliffs, along the east coast of the Yucatán Peninsula on the Caribbean Sea in the state of Quintana Roo, Mexico. This is one of the best-preserved coastal Maya sites. The ruins are certainly picturesque with its view of the Carribean.

This Maya site may have been formerly also known by the name Zama, meaning city of Dawn. Tulúm is also the Yucatec Mayan word for fence or wall (or trench), and the walls surrounding the site allowed the Tulum fort to serve as a defense against invasion. From the numerous depictions in murals and other works around the site, Tulum appears to have been an important site for the worship of the Diving or Descending God.

Hope Sammy brings back a Mayan rock from the temple for grandpa's rock garden. I AM KIDDING!!!!! I did take a small pebble from Mt. St. Helens in Washington State. Look what happened to that mountain. We DO NOT want to rile any Mayan gods at this time in our lives!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Disney's "Suicide" Film

In my early experiences as a summer naturalist at Watoga State Park, I often used nature films for evening programs. These films were shipped from Charleston,WV by the Park Division. I used many Disney films such as Bear Country, Beaver Valley, and White Wilderness. The early Disney documentary film makers would not present scientific truths if falsifying the facts would make a better movie! (I did not realize this back in the 1960's when I was young and naive!) These nature films were sold and made in the 1950's as true life adventures.

Let me tell you all the story behind one film - "White Wilderness". The critter below is a lemming. Lemmings are small rodents, usually found in or near the Arctic, in tundra biomes. The notion that lemmings, overcome by deep-rooted impulses, deliberately run over a cliff in their millions came not from a biologist, but from that other animal behaviourist - Walt Disney.

One myth deeply entrenched in our language is that of the "Lemming Suicide Plunge" - where lemmings in the millions, apparently overcome by deep-rooted impulses, deliberately run over a cliff, to be dashed to their deaths on the rocks below, or to drown in the raging ocean. This was said to be nature's way of population control. Indeed, this myth is now a metaphor for the behaviour of crowds of people who foolishly follow each other, lemming-like, regardless of the consequences.

Lemmings do have their regular wild fluctuations in population - and when the numbers are high, the lemmings do migrate.

The myth of mass lemming suicide began when the Walt Disney movie, White Wilderness was released in 1958. It was filmed in Alberta, Canada, far from the sea and not a native home to lemmings. So the filmmakers imported lemmings, by buying them from Inuit children. The migration sequence was filmed by placing the lemmings on a spinning turntable that was covered with snow, and then shooting it from many different angles. The cliff-death-plunge sequence was done by herding the lemmings over a small cliff into a river. It's easy to understand why the filmmakers did this - wild animals are notoriously uncooperative, and a migration-of-doom followed by a cliff-of-death sequence is far more dramatic to show than the lemmings' self-implemented population-density management plan.
So lemmings do not commit mass suicide. Indeed, animals live to thrive and survive.

Think how strange it is to think that Disney could be so unkind to a rodent, the lemming, when another rodent, namely Mickey Mouse, was Royalty. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and ole Walt should have had a long talk about this one!

Here is the "Suicide" film for your perusal!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

What Is Happening To Our
Rhododendron Leaves?

The photos show the unique behavior of the leaves of rhododendron when it gets cold. These leaves on the North side of our house were reacting to the 16 degree temperature that arrived yesterday morning.

When the temperature drops below 35F, rhododendron leaves begin to cup and curl at the edges. At 25 degrees F, the leaves curl so tight that half the leaf surface disappears and the leaves droop. When temperatures hit the teens, leaves shrivel even tighter, turn brownish-green and dangle like stiff string beans. This response to temperature changes is a rhododendron's method of preventing loss of moisture through the leaves.

The upper side of a rhododendron leaf is leathery. The bottom side is dappled with tiny air valves that control the flow of air in and out of a leaf. Cold air contains less moisture than warm air. So when low temperatures and high winds arrive, the leaf valves close. By looking out a window on a winter day, one can determine roughly how cold it is by the degree the rhododendron leaves have curled and drooped. When temperatures rise, the leaves open again. The rhododendron makes the same response in summer when temperatures become excessive; only the leaves curl upward to prevent undue moisture loss.

I also took a few minutes to photograph ice crystals on our van. As you know, I think these structures are so beautiful and are, indeed, delicate and temporal. Here are a few examples courtesy of the cold surface of our Grand Caravan.

While we are in the midst of a cold snap, Sarah, Jeff, and Sammy are enjoying 80 degree weather! Yes, they are spending Thanksgiving week at the Paradisus Riviera in Cancun, Mexico. Photos below are a few pics of where they will be spending seven days.

Tis so sad that Sammy did not see the curling of the rhododendron leaves or ice crystals on the van. I hope the tropical beach experience can make up for the loss! (chuckle)

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Potty Talk

Well, my friends, this is not your usual blog posting from the Meadster. Judy and I were watching the BBC America show called "How Clean Is Your House?" If you have ever watched the clean team of Kim and Aggie take on discusting, filthy homes, you know that Aggie is the scientific lady of the team who tells the owners of the house such things as the population of deadly bacteria in the sinks and types of insects living in the carpets and furniture. During this episode, Aggie mentioned that one should ALWAYS close the lide of the commode before flushing because fecal material is thrown into the air and floats around and lands feet away from the toilet. Is your toothbrush drying near the potty? I thought she was crazy! WELL!

University of Arizona environmental microbiologist Charles Gerba published a scientific article in 1975 describing bacterial and viral aerosols due to toilet flushing. He conducted tests by placing pieces of gauze in different locations around the bathroom and measuring the bacterial and viral levels on them after a toilet flush, and his results are more than just a little disturbing.

First is the confirmation of the existence of the aerosol effect, even though it is largely unrecognized. "Droplets are going all over the place—it's like the Fourth of July," said Gerba. "One way to see this is to put a dye in the toilet, flush it, and then hold a piece of paper over it". Indeed, Gerba's studies have shown that the water droplets in an invisible cloud travel six to eight feet out and up, so the areas of the bathroom not directly adjacent the toilet are still contaminated.

Walls are obviously affected, and in public or communal bathrooms, the partitions between stalls are definitely coated in the spray mist from the toilet. Also, toilet paper will be cleanest when it is enclosed in a plastic or metal casing; after all, it's subject to the same droplets splattering on it, and its proximity to the toilet bowl makes contamination potential obvious. The ceiling is also still contaminated and is in fact a potential problem site because it is often overlooked in the cleaning process. Bacteria cling to ceilings and thrive in the humid environment there; if the situation is left untreated for months or years (as is often the case), odors remain in restrooms that seem to have been to be otherwise thoroughly cleaned. The bacterial mist has also been shown to stay in the air for at least two hours after each flush, thus maximizing its chance to float around and spread.

Your toothbrush, with its traditional holder in an uncovered spot in the bathroom, it is one of the hotspots for fecal bacteria and germs spewed into the air by the aerosol effect. Understandably, the toothbrush with toilet water droplets on it is one of the most retold horror stories to emerge from Gerba's report.

"The greatest aerosol dispersal occurs not during the initial moments of the flush, but rather once most of the water has already left the bowl," according to Philip Tierno, MD, director of clinical microbiology and diagnostic immunology at New York University Medical Center and Mt. Sinai Medical Center. He therefore advises leaving immediately after flushing to not have the microscopic, airborne mist land on you. Worse still is the possibility of getting these airborne particles in the lungs by inhaling them, from which one could easily contract a cough or cold.

To limit the scope of the aerosol effect, the simplest method is to close the lid on the toilet every time before flushing . This would also provide the peace of mind that while you are washing your hands for 30 seconds, microscopic, bacteria-laden water droplet will not be descending upon your person. Unfortunately, most public toilets don't even have lids for that option. Besides, given the large number of people who have used the toilet before you, it probably wouldn't make much difference. After washing your hands, use a paper towel to turn off the faucet and to open the door to leave, in order to avoid being recontaminated. And today, get a new toothbrush and always, always keep it in the medicine cabinet or some other enclosed place after use.

Enough of this potty talk! Hope you are having a great weekend.

(Thanks to Sarah Tan for the microbiology information that was incorporated in her paper written for her Biology 103 class.)

Friday, November 21, 2008


On Wednesday, the Presbyterian Ladies were busy starting to replace the Chrismons that burned with the church several years ago.

Chrismons are handmade Christmas tree ornaments with various symbols of Christianity. The name Chrismon comes from a combination of CHRISt and MONogram. Some of the traditional symbols of Christianity are monograms composed of various combinations of letters of the name Christ or titles for Jesus. They are sometimes called Christograms.

These monograms and other symbols, such as the sign of the fish, were in use early in the church as secret symbols of Christianity. However, they became popular in the fourth century AD when the Roman emperor Constantine, after his conversion to Christianity, adapted the Chi-Rho monogram as his military ensign.
This day the ladies are making snowflakes.

Chrismons are a recent innovative way to use these ancient symbols at Christmas. They originated from Mrs. Frances Spencer, who began making Christmas decorations from a variety of materials and left-over Christmas paper and decorations in the late 1940s. Since she had become proficient in ornament making, her church, Ascension Lutheran Church in Danville, Virginia, asked her to decorate the church’s Christmas tree. Rather than making the typical secular styles of ornaments, she decided to use the traditional symbols of Christianity in the main liturgical colors of Christmas, white and gold. In 1957 she coined the term Chrismons for her creations and began the Chrismon ministry that is continued today by Ascension Lutheran Church. The practice of using Chrismons has spread and is becoming an increasingly popular way for churches and families to retain a sense of the sacred amid the secularization of this important Christian holiday.

In order to preserve the heritage of Mrs. Spencer’s understanding of the nature of Chrismons they should not be bought or sold, so there will not be a rack of Chrismons in a store (although some companies have begun making and selling them). To preserve the spirit of Chrismons they should only be made by hand and given as gifts. Often, a church will have a Chrismon Tree in which members of the congregation make the ornaments for the tree.
I remember that for several years before their passing that Byron and Elizabeth Turner would deliver to us each Christmas season the Chrismons that they had made. These are cherished items on our Christmas tree.

After a few hard hours of Chrismon construction, do you think the ladies sit down and rest. No. it is in the Presbyterian spirit to partake of snacks!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Funny In Farsi

Sorry that I have not been on the blog in recent days - reason - biowarfare involving my gut! We had chores on Monday and Tuesday. The schedule included the usual haircuts, optometrist and dental appointments, and some shopping. Judy and I were invited by Sarah to go Monday night to hear Firoozeh Dumas speak at a book signing at Fairmont University. Firoozeh is an Iranian-American writer and I was looking forward to meeting and hearing her.

Our friends Kuzem and Sondra were to meet us for supper. Sondra was so excited since she has read all Firoozeh's books and loves this gal's writing skills. Sondra has been to Iran several times with Kuzem and Sondra says that Ms. Dumas captures all the experiences and the humor of her shared cultures. Well, the wicked microbes went to work in my lower abdomen on Monday afternoon and I was unable to attend. Really missed this opportunity of sharing this experience with our friends. I was moaning in bed while Judy, Sarah, Kuzem, Sondra, and Terri (their daughter) enjoyed this literary experience.

Here is some background information on Firoozeh Dumas.

At an early age, she began to write and submit essays to obtain money to go toward college. Funny in Farsi: A Memoir of Growing Up Iranian in America, reflects her witty humor and talent for writing.

At the age of seven, Dumas and her family moved to Whittier, California. She later moved back to Iran and lived in Tehran and Ahvaz. However, she once again immigrated to the United States; first to Whittier, then to Newport Beach, California. Kazem, her father, dominates many of her stories throughout the book. She takes pride in her Iranian heritage, but at the same time, mocks her dad's fascination with "freebies" at Costco and television shows like Bowling for Dollars. Growing up, Dumas struggled to mix with her American classmates, who knew nothing about Iran. She also retells firsthand experiences of prejudice and racism from being Iranian in America during the Iranian Revolution. However, throughout hardships, she emphasizes the significance of family strength and love in her life.

Dumas is a wife and mother. She often visits schools and churches to discuss her book and conduct book talks. As a result of Funny in Farsi's success, Firoozeh Dumas was nominated for the Thurber Prize for American Humor. Not only was she the first Iranian author to be nominated, she was also the first Asian author to hold such an honor.

She is also the author of Laughing Without An Accent, which is a memoir containing a few stories about her childhood, but mostly stories about her adventures as an adult.

Kuzem and Sondra are posing with Terri.

Sondra has always wanted to meet Dumas and was even planning to search for her in California. When Sarah said that she was talking in Fairmont, it was incredible! I am certain Kuzem loved the evening, but equally enjoyed seeing Sondra having the opportunity of meeting and talking with a lady she admires.

Sunday, November 16, 2008


Camel Spiders

Sarah called this Friday evening to say that she and her friend were traveling to Tennessee to visit Miss Melanie. She said that I needed to blog the impresive camel spiders that our troops encounter in Iraq. Sarah said they are horrible. "They can run 30 miles per hour and have a terrible scream!" " "They can jump 4 feet into the air and eat the stomachs out of camels!"
Of couse, these are all myths. Camel spiders do live in Iraq, but it could be any desert area -even in the US Southwest and Mexico! Habitation is a warm and arid environment - which includes virtually all deserts in Eastern and Western Hemispheres excluding Australia

These spiders have NO VENOM, however, if they do bite, infection from bacteria is the problem.

A camel spider, which is also in the class Arachnida with spiders interestingly enough, is not a spider at all. A camel spider is actually a solpugid, and there are about 900 species of them known to date. Around 50 species of camel spiders are found in southwest US and about 240 in southern Africa. The reason behind the name ‘camel spiders’ is simply because they are found in the desert. A Camel spider is also known as wind scorpion, sun spider, and wind spider.

Remember the urban legend and popular myth that camel spiders can run at 30 mph and they have a terrifying scream while they run! Very few animals on earth scream and the camel spider is not one. The truth is that a camel spider can only run about 10 mph. Camel spiders can get up to 6 inches long and are nocturnal creatures (prefer the night). The Camel Spider will dig holes and burrows where they spend time during the day. Because the camel spider possesses no venom and is not poisonous, they must rely on other assets, for example their force and their speed.

If you recall I said camel spiders reaches a length of 6 inches. There are modified photos that make the critters look bigger.

In fact, the picture of the soldier holding the camel spider is really a picture of two camel spiders attached to one another and held out in front of the soldier to make it appear larger than it really is!

The picture of the smaller camel spider below is what you can expect

What spooks so many people is that the camel spider seeks out shadows, so if your walking (and even running), the camel spider will actually follow your shadow! This leads to people imagining that the spider is screaming while chasing them!

Because they run so fast and stay in your shadow, you might think they are chasing you but in fact, they are simply staying out of the light.
You have to love a guy who shows off with a dead camel spider.

If you are hungry, here is a short video of a camel spider munching on a scorpion. Enjoy!