Saturday, January 31, 2009

Last of January!

Tomorrow is the first of February. Hurray, it means that the spring flowers and the voices of the spring peepers can not be too far away!

This past Tuesday was the five inch snow storm and then the ice came in on Wednesday. I thought I would post a few of ice photos for thy persual.

The birds have really been appreciating the sunflower seeds and suet. The feeder has been a busy station these days.

I came out to fill the feeder and there under the forsythia bush were the birds waiting to attend the feast that I had prepared.

Hopefully, I will be posting the views of spring soon!

Friday, January 30, 2009

Call 911 - Fugu Sashimi ( testes a la carte)

What you are seeing above is Fugu sashimi - thin, raw slices of blowfish on a plate. If you recall we have discussed in previous blogs the dangers of preparing the poisonous blowfish (pufferfish) for consumption by humans. This is a Japanese delicacy and must be prepared by expert chefs with many months of training. All fugi chefs must also go through a detailed licensing procedure. This AP article arrived Tuesday and illustrates the dangers of preparing fugu. I know you all know the gourmet "treat" mountain oysters. This article brings the similar idea to a dangerous height.

updated 11:36 a.m. ET, Tues., Jan. 27, 2009

TOKYO - Blowfish testicles prepared by an unauthorized chef sickened seven diners in northern Japan and three remained hospitalized Tuesday after eating the poisonous delicacy.

The owner of the restaurant in Tsuruoka city, who is also the chef, had no license to serve blowfish and was being questioned on suspicion of professional negligence, police official Yoshihito Iwase said.

Blowfish, while extremely poisonous if not prepared properly, is considered a delicacy in Japan and is consumed by thrill-seeking gourmets.

Iwase said the seven men ordered sashimi and grilled blowfish testicles at the restaurant Monday night.

Shortly after, they developed limb paralysis and breathing trouble and started to lose consciousness — typical signs of blowfish poisoning — and were rushed to a hospital for treatment, Iwase said.

A 68-year-old diner remained hospitalized in critical condition with respiratory failure and two others, aged 55 and 69, were in serious condition, he said.

"It's scary. If you go to a decent-looking restaurant that serves fugu, you would assume a cook has a proper fugu license," Iwase said, using the Japanese term for blowfish.

Blowfish poison, called tetrodotoxin, is nearly 100 times more poisonous than potassium cyanide, according to the Ishikawa Health Service Association. It can cause death within an hour and a half after consumption.

Three people died and 44 others were sickened by blowfish poisoning in 2007 — most of them after catching the fish and cooking it at home — according to the Health Ministry.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Lenticular Clouds
My aunt and uncle in the Pacific Northwest reminded me that I have seen lenticular clouds. These clouds are often formed atop Mt. Rainer in Washington State.
Lenticular clouds are stationary lens-shaped clouds that form at high altitudes, normally aligned at right-angles to the wind direction.

Where stable moist air flows over a mountain or a range of mountains, a series of large-scale standing waves may form on the downwind side. Lenticular clouds sometimes form at the crests of these waves. Under certain conditions, long strings of lenticular clouds can form, creating a formation known as a wave cloud.

Power pilots tend to avoid flying near lenticular clouds because of the turbulence of the rotor systems that accompany them, but sailplane pilots actively seek them out. This is because the systems of atmospheric standing waves that cause "lennies" also involve large vertical air movements, and the precise location of the rising air mass is fairly easy to predict from the orientation of the clouds.

"Wave lift" of this kind is often very smooth and strong, and enables gliders to soar to remarkable altitudes and great distances. The current gliding world records for both distance (over 3,000km) and altitude (14,938m) were set using such lift.

Lenticular clouds have been mistaken for UFOs (or "visual cover" for UFOs) because these clouds have a characteristic lens appearance and smooth saucer-like shape.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

What a Winter Week!

We have been busy with doctors and doing a variety of chores - so I apologize for not updating the blog for you all. I did not make this snow angel shown above. If I had to make this creation, it would take an industrial crane to get me up and vertical! (The angel would look nothing like it should- it would probably be called Chaos!) This biology guy is really ready for SPRING!

A quality snow storm moved in on Tuesday. We had five inches of that white powder. I took the ole leaf blower and removed the major snowfall from the driveway and then followed up finishing with the broom. Today the ice moved into Gilmer County. No school in Gilmer yesterday or today. Believe that yesterday 54 of the 55 counties in West Virginia closed because of the storm.

Our Charleston friends were out of electricity today. Will call and see if they have warmth yet. I understand that a large portion of Kanawha and surrounding counties have no electricity. The ice storm has taken its toll.

Update on grandson, Sam. Sam's parents are trying to get him potty trained before the new son arrives. Sam has a series of books on this topic such as the book below.

This week Sam called and said, "Grandpa, I poop in potty!" He was so proud. Think he has finally started to get onto the fine art of defication.

Monday, January 19, 2009


We awoke this morning to a 4 inch snowfall. It is a beautiful snow. There is no school since this is Martin Luther King's birthday. Our Harry Laurer's walking stick (below) is always neat during a snowfall. The curled stems are wonderful in the winter.
The good wife is helping clean the cars while I sweep the driveway. Notice the skill Judy is demonstrating while snow still is falling!

Neighbor Don is always first to start the snow removal process on Van Horn Drive.

Don and Marilyn had their driveway and walks cleared in record time.

I am now going to check on the birds. Fresh sunflower seeds and suet will be a treat for the critters this day.

Saturday, January 17, 2009


Yes, the arctic cold front arrived yesterday. It is much colder in West Virginia than in Anchorage, Alaska. With temperatures in the single digits, the opening on our pond is quickly closing in. Thanks to the aerator for keeping the hole open and the fish happy!

The pond opening is so important for our birds. We feed oil sunflower seeds and this water source is very important to our feathered friends at these temperatures.

The wrens live in our moss bird house when temperatures are this low.

It is forecast to be a heat wave tomorrow. The high is predicted to be in the 20s!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Thunderbox Road Exhibit

My grandmother, Lucy Meads, always used a chamberpot at night. We Appalachians often refer to them as thunder jugs. Grandma still had an outhouse on her property even though she had an inside toilet installed for many years. My Uncle John, who lived with Grandma, would always use the outhouse throughout his life. As a kid (and even now!), I could not understand the attraction of that outdoor privy.

Now to take the outhouse and transform it into a wok of art is equally odd to me. Here be the story.

SAN ANTONIO -- Chances are you've never used one but all this month some of the prettiest outhouses in Texas are on display in Downtown. The "Thunderbox Road" art exhibit is going on at the Menger Hotel. There are 12 full-sized "Thunderboxes" or outhouses painted and decorated in true Texas style. Sonja Howle with the Thunderbox Road exhibit says it “was created to pay tribute, showcase the talent we have in the Hill Country artists. In February, the exhibit will be at the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo. After their tour, the outhouses will be auctioned off to benefit medical research and the Western Art Museum in Kerrville.
Well, guess the exhibit is for a good cause. I am wondering if the ones who are successful in acquiring these art pieces actually exhibit these outhouses in their houses?

Thanks to Cousin Sherel for pointing out this important cultural event!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

How Is This For A Job?

Well, if it were not that we require periodic medications and not to mention how much our doctors would miss us, this is something that we would have definitely pursued. Think about the material that we would have for our family blog!

SYDNEY, Australia

Position: Island caretaker. Duties: Lazing around Australia's Great Barrier Reef for six months. Salary: 150,000 Australian dollars ($100,000).

It sounds too good to be true, but it’s for real. Billing it the “Best Job in the World,” Australian tourism officials say they are seeking one lucky person to spend six months relaxing on Hamilton Island, part of the country's Whitsunday Islands, while promoting the destination on a blog.

Within 24 hours, more than 200,000 prospective applicants had clicked onto the Web site advertising the sweet gig.

The eager reaction — and worldwide media attention — delighted tourism officials, who listed the job as part of a AU$1.7 million ($1.1 million) campaign to publicize the charms of northeastern Queensland state.

“The global response in the first 24 hours has outstripped even our expectations,” Australia’s Tourism Minister Desley Boyle said.

Boyle said the campaign had already reached some 29 million people through television and print media coverage — the equivalent of nearly $10 million in publicity.
While the advertisement is a stunt, the job is still genuine. Applicants must submit a 60-second video application, and 11 finalists will be flown from their home countries to Hamilton Island in May for the final selection process.

In exchange for the plush salary, free accommodation in an oceanfront villa and airfare from the winner's home country, the employee will be required to stroll the island's white sand beaches, snorkel, maybe take a dip in the pool — and post photos and videos of his or her experiences on a weekly blog.

As of late Tuesday, at least 200,000 people logged onto the Web site to check out the listing, Boyle said. Only about 200 video applications had been submitted, but officials said they expect thousands more.

Applications are open until Feb. 22. The job begins on July 1.

If you are interested in applying, go to

Here are the specific job responsibilities.

Explore and report back
There’s so much to see and do, so you’ll have plenty to write about in your weekly blog. And with so much life above and below the water, you’re sure to capture some entertaining moments for your video diary and photo gallery. To keep you busy, Tourism Queensland will organise a schedule of travel and events on the Islands of the Great Barrier Reef. Your schedule could include sampling a new luxury spa treatment at qualia on Hamilton Island, trying out new snorkelling gear on Heron Island, or bushwalking on Hinchinbrook Island.

Feed the fish
There are over 1,500 species of fish living in the Great Barrier Reef. Don’t worry – you won’t need to feed them all.

Clean the pool
The pool has an automatic filter, but if you happen to see a stray leaf floating on the surface it’s a great excuse to dive in and enjoy a few laps.

Collect the mail
You’ll have some time on your hands, so why not join the aerial postal service for a day? It’s a great opportunity to get a bird’s eye view of the reef and islands.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

"Ya Gotta" Love a Pigmy Tarsier

Tarsiers are weird-looking primates found in Southeast Asia, and the weirdest species in the bunch is the pygmy tarsier. These critters are native to the highlands of an Indonesian island, but were thought to be extinct for decades. In 2008, researchers finally tracked live specimens of the pygmy tarsier, which looks like a living version of the Furby electronic toy.

The Pygmy Tarsier (Tarsius pumilus), also known as the Mountain Tarsier or the Lesser Spectral Tarsier, is a nocturnal primate found on central Sulawesi, Indonesia, in an area with lower vegetative species diversity than the lowland tropical forests. The Pygmy Tarsier was believed to have become extinct in the early 20th century. Then, in 2000, Indonesian scientists accidentally killed one while trapping rats. The first Pygmy Tarsiers seen alive since the 1920s were found by a research team from Texas A&M University on Mount Rore Katimbo in Lore Lindu National Park in August 2008.

The two males and single female (a fourth escaped) were captured using nets, and were radio collared to track their movements. As the first live Pygmy Tarsiers seen in 80-plus years, these captures dispelled the belief among some primatologists that the species is extinct.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Saturday Night Special

If skies are clear Saturday, go out at sunset and look for the giant moon rising in the east. It will be the biggest and brightest one of 2009, sure to wow even seasoned observers. The moon will appear about 14 percent bigger in our sky and 30 percent brighter than some other full moons during 2009, according to NASA. (A similar setup occurred in December, making that month's full moon the largest of 2008.)

This month's full moon is known as the Wolf Moon from Native American folklore. The full moon's of each month are named. January's is also known as the Old Moon and the Snow Moon.

If you have other plans for Saturday night, take heart. You can see all this on each night surrounding the full moon, too, because the moon will be nearly full, rising earlier Friday night and later Sunday night.

We are so accustomed to seeing the moon that we often do not take the time to appreciate its uniqueness and beauty. Here in Glenville the forecast calls for partly cloudy so we may be able to see the full moon in its glory. The temperatures will be in the 20's so the wife and I will probably forego the blanket on the ground with a bottle of wine and gourmet cheese!

The photo below shows a jet takes off from Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport as the enlarged full moon rises in the background on December 12, 2008.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Oh Come On - 140 Years Old!

Sarah and Jeff said that I have been too hung up in the last few blogs with mutations. OK - I shall cool the chromosomal aberrations for now!

News from MSNBC I believe is sooooo suspect. Here is the scoop.

NEW YORK - A 140-year-old lobster once destined for a dinner plate received the gift of life Friday from a New York City seafood restaurant.

George, the 20-pound supercentenarian crustacean, was freed by City Crab and Seafood.
"We applaud the folks at City Crab and Seafood for their compassionate decision to allow this noble old-timer to live out his days in freedom and peace," said Ingrid E. Newkirk, president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

PETA spokesman Michael McGraw said the group asked the Park Avenue restaurant to return George to the Atlantic Ocean after a diner saw him at the restaurant, where steamed Maine lobster sells for $27 per pound. George had been caught off Newfoundland, Canada and lived in the tank for about 10 days before his release.

Some scientists estimate lobsters can live to be more than 100 years old. PETA and the restaurant guessed George's age at about 140, using a rule of thumb based on the creature's weight.

He was to be released Saturday near Kennebunkport, Maine, in an area where lobster trapping is forbidden.

My biologist training always takes with a grain of salt determining the ages of cold blooded critters such as the American lobster. Let me quote a few sources.

American lobster - Lifespan
Because lobsters molt, it is extremely difficult to determine a lobster's age. However, many lobsters live up to 50 years.

Life span: Lobsters are long-lived, but exact ages cannot be determined because lobster shed all hard parts when they molt, leaving no evidence of age. Scientists have estimated that the American lobster may live more likely to a maximum age of 50 years.

Lifespan 60 years or more; though it is difficult for scientists to know.

The uncertainly of lobster aging continues throughout the internet - I figure that 140 years is certainly an exaggerated and unscientific estimate.

I am wondering if PETA comes to the rescue of other aging beasts such as eels, sea urchins, squid, octopus, fish and other critters that are sold as food sources in the New York fish markets? I shall hopefully be able to test this question in the future. If I live to a ripe old age and the folks come to take me to the nursing home, I shall hit them with my walker and press PETA's number on my cell phone's speed dial directory! We will then know if they will protect the quality of life for geratic humans.

Sunday, January 11, 2009


Cy, short for Cyclops, a kitten born with only one eye and no nose, is shown in this photo provided by its owner in Redmond, Ore., on Dec. 28, 2005. The kitten, a ragdoll breed, which died after living for one day, was one of two in the litter. Its sibling was born normal and healthy.

The kitten suffered from a rare disorder called holoprosencephaly.

Holoprosencephaly is a disorder characterized by the failure of the forebrain of the embryo to develop. During normal development the forebrain is formed and the face begins to develop in the fifth and sixth weeks of human pregnancy. (The condition also occurs in other species, as with Cy, the Cyclops kitten.) Holoprosencephaly is caused by a failure of the embryo's forebrain to divide to form bilateral cerebral hemispheres (the left and right halves of the brain), causing defects in the development of the face and in brain structure and function.

This one-eyed kitten is to be centerpiece of his Creationism Museum (Go figure this out!) John Adolfi plans to feature Cy's remains at The Lost World Museum. The Phoenix, N.Y., museum will feature such oddities as giant plants and eggs, deformed animal remains and unique archaeological finds.

Adolfi believes in creationism — a literal reading of the Bible's story of creation.
He wrote on the museum's Web site that the theory of evolution states that "environmental pressures can lift species from the ape-like creature ... to us today. My question is this. Are there really positive mutations?

Adolfi plans to display Cy's body as an example of negative mutation that, in his eyes, proves that mutation could never have fueled a positive concept like evolution of the species. Sadly, those of you who eagerly anticipate going to visit the one-eyed creature will have to wait: the museum will not open until 2009.

Owner Traci Allen, of Redmond, Ore., said she sold Cy's remains to Adolfi because she believes "creationism should be an option for people to consider." She said she turned down other offers, including from Ripley's Believe It or Not!.

Here is an interesting excerpt from The Lost World Museum website.

Update on Cy:Well Cy is about to be placed in her permanent home. She has been resting comfortably in a vat of formalin these last two weeks waiting for the person in charge of her preservation to come back from vacation. Cy will under go several additional baths of alcohol mixtures before she is ready. We are working on something that will allow us to display Cy in the late summer of this year. We will announce where and when Cy will go on display for the first time publicly here on this site before it goes to the media. You may want to sign up to receive via e-mail an alert when a new blog is published. This way you won’t miss a thing including the forthcoming announcement of Cy’s premier.

It is good to know that ole Cy is not being exploited as noted by this statement on the website.

Earlier this month the Associated Press created a media frenzy over a one-eyed cat named Cy. Due to the limited information being rehashed over thousands of newspapers and web sites around the world, it left people wanting to know more about Cy’s story. Some have written us and asked, “What did the original owner Traci Allen think when she first discovered Cy? Why did the Lost World Museum want Cy? What is Cy’s significance? How did she end up with one eye? Can I visit her?”

These questions along with her “new roll” as the museum’s spokes animal necessitated the production of the new informational Cy cards. The story is in three parts. Each of the three cards has a different photo of Cy when she was alive. These are the only three photos ever taken during Cy’s short life. The original photos were extracted from the former cat owner’s camera memory stick. This allowed the images used to be the absolute highest quality reproductions of Cy available. These cards are a full 6″x9″ and you can have all 3 in a set for $5. Due to the limited numbers we print you may want to pre-order yours before the lines form. To purchase your very own legendary Cy Kitten cards Click Here. Cy Kitten cards ship late May 2006.

Saturday, January 10, 2009


I remember when I was growing up in Spencer, there was a farmer who had a two-headed cow born one spring. The calf was given the name "Jewel" and was exhibited at the Black Walnut Festival in the fall. It died shortly after.

When I taught genetics, we always described the cases of identical twins that did not quite make the "split". These conjoined twins are often the source of much interest. In the human realm, Chang and Eng Bunker were the original "Siamese" twins discovered by P.T. Barnum. This couple was hired by Barnum and became wealthy landowners of that era. Sadly, Chang and Eng were joined only by a chest ligament and could have easily been separated if the medical advances were what they are today.

We hear of conjoined twins that are joined at the head and surgery may be a possibilty in trying to separate the two individuals. This is not possible if there is a sharing of systems or incomplete incomplete development of essential body structures.

Such is the case Abby and Britty Hensel. These two gals are truly amazing!

Abigail "Abby" Loraine Hensel and Brittany "Britty" Lee Hensel (born March 7, 1990, Carver County, Minnesota, United States), are highly symmetric dicephalic parapagus conjoined twins, and further, tribrachius, bipedus. (How is that for specifics?) They have two spines and separate half-sacrums, which converge distally within a slightly broad pelvis. They each control and sense their corresponding arm and leg; a third, rudimentary central arm was amputated in infancy.

Each of the twins manages one side of their conjoined body and they are quite ambidextrous and coordinated in both their arms and legs when both hands or both legs are required. By coordinating their efforts, they are able to walk, run and ride a bicycle normally — all tasks that they learned at a normal speed. They each write with their corresponding hand. Together, they can type on a computer keyboard at a normal speed. Their sense of touch is partitioned to their own body half, which shades off at the midsagittal plane such that there is a small amount of overlap at their midline. They enjoy hobbies and sports including volleyball, kickball, swimming, basketball, and cycling. They also play the piano and are avid computer users. They enjoy softball, digital photography, the internet, social networking, and talking on the telephone. When they go to the cinema, they pay for two tickets.

They both successfully passed their driver's license exam, both the written and driving tests. They had to take the tests twice, once for each twin. Abby controls the pedals, radio, heat, defogger etc., Brittany controls the turn signal and lights and together they control the steering wheel. They also want to visit the UK, so they can both have a chance to use their opposite controls.

They both graduated from high school in 2008. They began college at Bethel University in St. Paul, Minnesota, USA.

In conversation, they are clearly distinct persons, with distinct likes and dislikes. Despite sharing a body, the twins' preferences in food, clothing color, etc. differ. Some of their clothes are altered by their seamstress so that they have two separate necklines in order to emphasize their individuality. They will usually have separate meals, but sometimes will share a single meal for the sake of convenience (e.g., each takes a bite of the same hamburger). Abigail is better at mathematics and Brittany is better at writing. For tasks such as responding to e-mail, they type and respond as one, anticipating each other’s feelings with little verbal communication between them. In such cases as the latter, their choice of grammatical person is to use the first person singular (I) out of habit when they agree, but when their responses do differ, they use their names in the third person singular (you).

There is some concern about their ability to have continued good health because only four known sets of conjoined twins who share an undivided torso and two legs have ever survived into adulthood, and most have congenital heart defects or other organ anomalies. None have shown up in the Hensels' case. They have so far had no desire to make themselves available for any medical studies. They intend to make a rather limited number of media appearances in the future, primarily just to appease the world's curiosity and to reduce the number of people who might otherwise be taken aback by their unusual body configuration. They dislike intensely being stared at or photographed by strangers while going about their private lives. They expect to date, get married, and have children. They hope that by providing some information about themselves they will be able to lead otherwise fairly typical social lives as together they continue to make new friends.

Here is The Learning Channel clip produced when the girls turned 16. What great inspirations for us all!

Friday, January 09, 2009

Double Ear Mite Problem?

A cat named Yoda made a big splash during the summer of 2008, thanks to his crazy kitty ears. He was born with an extra set of outer ear flaps, or pinnae, and once the photo was posted on the Internet, this kitten became a celebrity.

This genetic condition is not really rare. This condition is common enough to have been a subject of research for more than a half-century. You'll find everything you wanted to know about feline four-earedness (and even no-earedness) at the "Feline Medical Curiosities" Web site.

The four-ear trait affects only the outer ear flaps, or pinnae, and not the inner-ear mechanism. It's thought to be a recessive trait, manifesting itself only when the kitten inherits a rare genetic mutation from both sides of the family.

Having extra flaps wouldn't enhance hearing - in fact, it could be a handicap, which might explain why cats with the trait have generally lost out in the survival-of-the-fittest race. Some of the genes that lead to four-earedness may also play a role in other, more serious deformities that would kill the curious-looking cats before they were born. (That was the thrust of the 1957 research paper in the Journal of Heredity.)

Cats aren't the only critters that can go four-eared: Here's a video of a four-eared rabbit that was spotted last year in Bakersfield, Calif.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Party Animal

This is one party animal that can really hold its liquor: Researchers have found that the Malaysian pen-tailed tree shrew subsists on a diet roughly equivalent to 100 percent beer, drinking up the fermented nectar of the flower buds of the bertam palm plant. The nectar's alcohol content can go as high as 3.8 percent, but the animals never show signs of getting drunk.

The pen-tailed tree shrew, Ptilocercus lowii, a Malaysian critter that weighs only 47g but can drink the pound-for-pound equivalent of nine glasses of wine without any ill-effect when it sups on the alcoholic nectar of the bertam palm.

Pentailed tree shrews were described by scientists studying them as chronic drinkers with such a high alcoholic consumption that their habit would be likely to kill other mammals, including humans.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009


This is a sport in which this arthritic has no interest. Think of the expense and preparation it takes to arrive at a destination where one slaps on planks to your feet and travel down a mountain. If you ever have been in a ski shop, you know the expense of skiing "costumes", skiing equipment - not to mention the lift tickets and travel expenses. Well if this were not enough to discourage me then the latest news out of Vail surely made me even wonder why I have ventured onto a scenic (slow) skilift during the summer months. I am certain this fellow below had no dignity left after his ordeal. (Guess I should say he was stripped of his dignity!)

A skier at Colorado's Vail resort was left dangling upside down and pantsless from a chairlift last Thursday morning. The January 1 mishap apparently occurred after the male skier, 48, and a child boarded a high-speed lift in Vail's Blue Sky Basin. It appears that the chairlift's fold-down seat was somehow not in the lowered position, which caused the man to partially fall through the resulting gap. His right ski got jammed in the ascending chairlift, and that kept him upended since his boot never dislodged from its binding.

The Skyline Express lift was stopped shortly after the pair's botched boarding resulted in the man dangling from the lift. The exposed skier was stuck for about 15 minutes before Vail personnel backed the lift up and successfully dislodged the unidentified man from the four-seat chair.

What a way to bring in the New Year! I am certain this skiier will not forget where he was on January 1, 2009.