Saturday, February 28, 2009

Once again before I report on spring in Gilmer County, may I present a website that summarizes sites for gaming, movies, searches, and much more. Click the URL below.
Yesterday was a spring-like day and I it was time that I check out the flowers. Yes, the snowdrops are blooming. I do not know what the weekend will bring. There is a possibility of snow! These critters are named appropriately.
In our shade garden, the Hellebores are getting ready to bloom. As you know the Hellebores are know as Linten Roses.

This is a sure sign that spring is near. Daffodils are busy pushing their way through the compost.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Water Damage

Before checking out this morning's blog, try visiting a great Glenville site for local updates. Click on and save it to your favorites.

The water damage is, thankfully, not in Glenville, but at an aquarium in California.

Staff at the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium in Califormia say the trickster who flooded their offices with sea water was armed. Eight-armed, to be exact.

They blame the soaking they discovered Tuesday morning on the aquarium's resident two-spotted octopus, a tiny female known for being curious and gregarious with visitors. The octopus apparently tugged on a valve and that allowed hundreds of gallons of water to overflow its tank.

Aquarium spokeswoman Randi Parent says no sea life was harmed by the flood, but the brand new, ecologically designed floors might be damaged by the water.

A two-spotted octopus spends most of the time hiding or searching for food on the seafloor. Using its arms and suckers it can slowly creep or quickly crawl. But if it's in danger, the octopus may jet away into open water. Two blue, eyelike spots on the web just below the eyes give this octopus its name.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

A good Thursday to you. I am always amazed with discoveries in science. When you think new discoveries maybe slowing down, new data continues to emerge. Take the case of two deep sea fish that have been known for years. These fish live in the dark ocean depths and, as you see from the photos below, have strange eyes. The eyes have been a mystery as to their operation. We now know how these creature's eyes function.

The four-eyed spookfish above may have seemed strange enough. Now researchers say it doesn't really have four eyes. Instead, it is the first known vertebrate to use mirrors, rather than lenses, to focus light in its eyes.

“In nearly 500 million years of vertebrate evolution, and many thousands of vertebrate species living and dead, this is the only one known to have solved the fundamental optical problem faced by all eyes — how to make an image — using a mirror," said Julian Partridge from the University of Bristol.

While the spookfish looks like it has four eyes, in fact it has only two, each of which is split into two connected parts. One half points upwards, giving the spookfish a view of the ocean — and potential food — above. The other half, which looks like a bump on the side of the fish's head, points down. These diverticular eyes, as they are called, are unique among all vertebrates in that they use mirrors to make the image, Partridge and colleagues found.

Very little light penetrates the ocean's waters below a depth of about a half-mile (1 kilometer). Like many other deep-sea fish, the spookfish is adapted to make the most of what little light there is. The spookfish largely looks for flashes of bioluminescent light from other animals. The diverticular eyes image these flashes, warning the spookfish of other animals that are active, and otherwise unseen, below its vulnerable belly.

Although the spookfish was discovered 120 years ago, no one had discovered its reflective eyes until now because a live animal had never been caught.

A computer simulation showed that the precise orientation of the plates within the mirror's curved surface is perfect for focusing reflected light onto the fish's retina. The use of a single mirror has a distinct advantage over a lens in its potential to produce bright, high-contrast images. That must give the fish a great advantage in the deep sea, where the ability to spot even the dimmest and briefest of lights can mean the difference between eating and being eaten.

Above is a bizarre deep-water fish called the barreleye. It has a transparent head and tubular eyes. Since the fish's discovery in 1939, biologists have known the eyes were very good at collecting light. But their shape seemed to leave the fish with tunnel vision.

Now scientists say the eyes rotate, allowing the barreleye to see directly forward or look upward through its transparent head. Most existing descriptions and illustrations of this fish do not show its fluid-filled shield, probably because this fragile structure was destroyed when the fish were brought up from the deep in nets.

Recently researchers were fortunate to bring a net-caught barreleye to the surface alive. Over several hours in an aquarium on the ship, they were able to confirm that the fish rotated its tubular eyes as it turned its body from a horizontal to a vertical position.

The barreleye (Macropinna microstoma) use their ultra-sensitive tubular eyes to search for the faint silhouettes of prey overhead.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


Worlds Smallest Man in 2009

He Ping Ping took Tokyo by storm while visiting the city to launch the 2009 edition of the Guinness Book of World Records. Mr Ping Ping, who was born with a form of dwarfism and is 29 inches tall and 15 lbs in weight, easily slipped into the shoe of the worlds tallest man. He has been officially named by the book as the worlds shortest man.

The 20-year-old measures 73 cm (2 ft 5 in) tall, and is the third child of a family in Huade county, in the city of Wulanchabu in northern China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. He has two sisters, both of whom developed at normal rates and are now married. According to his father, He Yun, at birth he was as small as a palm. When it became apparent the child was growing very slowly, doctors diagnosed the cause as the bone deformity Osteogenesis imperfecta, which hinders normal bone growth and bodily height.

World's Tallest Man in 2009

The world's tallest man, Bao Xishun today shook hands with He Ping Ping who claims to be Earth's shortest. These two men actually hail from the same region of Inner Mongolia.

Bao Xishun world's tallest man again. Guinness World Records has returned the title of world's tallest man to China's Bao Xishun, 2.36 metres (7 feet 9 inches) after Ukrainian Leonid Stadnyk, 2.57 metres (8 feet 5 inches) who "doesn't want to be bothered" refused to be measured under new guidelines.

Bao’s official re-coronation as the world’s tallest man will be confirmed in the Guinness World Records 2009 edition which will be released on September 17.

Standing at 7 foot 9 inches and towering over his new wife the world's tallest man married a woman two-thirds his size and almost half his age in a traditional Mongolian ceremony sponsored by at least 15 companies hoping to cash in on his fame.

Hundreds of people, some travelling for hours, turned up to see Bao, 59, wed saleswoman Xia Shujuan, a mere 5 foot 6 inches tall and just 29 years old.

Draped in a shimmering blue silk coat, Bao waved to the crowd before going into an enormous yurt where guests ate lamb and cheese and watched Mongolian song and dance shows.

Monday, February 23, 2009

James Kuhn

A man of many faces, artist James Kuhn creates some of the most incredible and bizarre masks ever seen. The eccentric face painter calls his creations self-portraits because he uses his own face as the canvas for his artwork.
We have face painters during the WV Folk Festival, but I am wondring how this lad makes an income off his art. You really can not sell your face. Guess I am wrong. I see now that he has art books for sale that illustrates his face art.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Polar Bear Plunge at Maple Lake

February 21, 2009

Good morning! We have a beautiful snowfall this day. How lucky we are to enjoy the beauty of snow hugging the tree limbs.

We begin with the video above showing a clip from the exciting icy plunge into Maple Lake, Bridgeport, WV. Video was taken by Sarah, whose TriBeta team from Fairmont State University partcipated in this neat event.

Thank you, Sarah. for covering this year's Polar Bear Plunge for your DAD. The Polar Bear Plunge is a project of Dr. Chris Kennedy and Dr. Teddy Brennan to raise money for the Clarksburg Mission. Air temperature was around 40 degrees F. and the water temp was COLD! The Lake was frozen!

Water rescuers from the fire department were on hand to help...and to BREAK THE ICE (literally) so people could jump in the lake!

Getting interviewed by the TV news are Chris Kennedy and Teddy Brennan. Anderson Cooper (CNN'c AC 360) is most likely doing the interview, but is out of camera range.

The lucky Irish jumpers are here to spread around good cheers.

Mr. Penguin should worry! Yep, he is straddling a killer whale. This guy does not know his zoology.

Tinkerbell, Cupid, Snow White, UHC Patient, and Skeleton are ready for this fairy tale adventure.

Chris demonstrating his "flipping into the water" technique.

Cupid Chris...spreading the love.

President Obama even made a showing. I think he actually enjoyed the swim.

FSU TriBeta Members BEFORE (dry). TriBeta is the Fairmont State University Biology Honors Society.

Team TRIBETA!!!! They are making the plunge!

TriBeta gang AFTER the plunge. They are a tad bit chilly here!

West Virginian's may be crazy and participate in the icy water experience, but it is for a good cause. We even have the local Fire Department arrive to assure safety and even break the ice.

I leave you with a short video that Kris Synder shipped to me. It shows a Polar Bear Plunger in Russia who believed that the water was NOT frozen. Yep, it was not a pleasant jump! They should have called the Fire Department much earlier! (This guy should also reassess his friends. Friends who laugh so much when one is hurting are to be watched!)

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Eagle Cam Update

Our Shepherdstown, WV, bald eagle nest is once again active. You will remember that this breeding pair has often laid three eggs in the past. Last year all three eaglets were fledged. Well, my friends there are most likely three eggs this spring. (We know of two for certain.) The Eagle Cam is up and running. Please keep watching the hatching, feeding, and fledging throughout the next few months.

Click on the link to go to the live cam site.

Here is an early update from the National Conservation Training Center on Shepherd Grade in Shepherdstown.

Winter Update #1 - February 5, 2009

There's been a lot of action at the NCTC nest this week. The first egg of the season was laid on Saturday, January 31, and the second egg was laid Monday, February 2. We are hoping for a third egg in the next 12-18 hours or so. Only time will tell, but this pair has a good track record for three eggs.

Here's Bent's description of the eagle eggs:

" Eggs.--Two eggs almost invariably make up a full set for the bald eagle, sometimes only one, and rarely three; in two or three cases four eggs have been found in a nest, but these may have been the product of two females. The eggs vary in shape from rounded-ovate to ovate, the former predominating. The shell is rough or coarsely granulated. The color is dull white or pale bluish white and unmarked, though often nest stained. Very rarely an egg shows a few slight traces of pale brown or buff markings.

The measurements of 50 eggs from Florida average 70.5 by 54.2 millimeters; the eggs showing the four extremes measure 78.8 by 56.2, 71.1 by 57.6, and 58.1 by 47 millimeters. The eggs are ridiculously small for large a bird. (Compare the relative sizes of the eggs of the ruddy duck, the sandpipers, or the hummingbirds.) Consequently the little eaglet requires a long time to develop."--[Published in 1937: Smithsonian Institution United States National Museum Bulletin 167 (Part 1): 321-333]

Incubation is about 34-35 days, where both eagles will take turns keeping the eggs warm. The nest and the parents will protect the eggs from the dangers of cold and dampness, but we are always wary of bad weather, as it can have a devastating effect on the eggs, as happened in 2007.

The eagle cam has had approximately 32,000 hits since we cranked it back up 22 days ago.

Friday, February 20, 2009




We have to remind the adventurous that tomorrow is the annual Fasnacht celebration in Helvetia. If you can not make it to the mountains, then you may wish to plunge into the icy waters of Maple Lake in Bridgeport.

Fasnacht, held this Saturday, is a way to welcome spring. It traces back to the time of the Druids and when settlers first arrived in Helvetia in 1869. Saturday's festivities begin at 4 p.m. with live music and an open jam session. There's also the Lampion Parade and an evening of square dancing.The highlight, though, is the midnight burning in effigy of Old Man Winter.And the Helvetia folks say "Don't worry if you don't have a room: Bring a sleeping bag and bunk in the Star Band Hall for just $5." Yes, my days of sleeping bag slumbering are over unless they provide a padded sleeping shelf that is positioned at least three feet from the floor!

We go now from fire to ice. Do I know how to make a transition?

There are some of my students that I consider "very special". Dr. Chris Kennedy, above, is certainly one of these. One may think that an individual has to be secure in his manhood to wear pink scrubs. (OK- pink is an excellent color for anyone these days!) This Saturday Chris will remove his pink medical attire and don the dressings of cupid. Yep, complete with cupid swaddlings and bow and arrow, Chris will dive into the frigid waters of Maple Lake in Bridgeport, WV. I wish I could be there to see this amazing event!

This will be the second annual Polar Bear Plunge into Maple Lake to raise money for the Clarksburg Mission. The brainchild of Dr. Chris Kennedy and Dr. Teddy Brennan, the Plungers consist of local medical community members, Mission staff, and others. The number of ice loving critters will hopefully increase this year. You may make a donation by sending a check to The Clarksburg Mission, 312 N 4th St., Clarksburg, WV 26301

The photo below was not taken from last year's Maple Lake plunge, but it will give you an idea of how wonderful a person feels when all bodily systems shut down (chuckle). Notice the joy and happiness on this polar plunger's face. I really hate to pass up this experience. Another hospital visit would be in my future if I plunged this arthritic body into ice water at this time.

The following picture is from last years Maple Lake Polar Plunge. Chris is the lad who is doing the olympic flip from the diving board! BURR!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

It Is Migration Time!

Cousin Sherel reminded me of the migration of critters that we in the hills often forget. I love oceanography, but it was difficult to pursue that particular field of study in college when one lives in the heart of the Appalachian mountains.

Taken off the coast of Mexico's Holbox Island by amateur photographer Sandra Critelli, this breathtaking picture captures the migration of thousands of rays as they follow the clockwise current from Mexico's Yucatan peninsula to western Florida.

Measuring up to 7ft (2.1 meters) from wing-tip to wing-tip, Golden rays are also more prosaically known as cow nose rays. They have long, pointed pectoral fins that separate into two lobes in front of their high-domed heads and give them a cow-like appearance. Despite having poisonous stingers, they are known to be shy and non-threatening when in large schools.

The population in the Gulf of Mexico migrates, in schools of as many as 10,000.

They migrate twice yearly: north in late spring (as pictured here) and south in late autumn.