Friday, March 30, 2012

Grandsons and Harlem Globetrotters

This week Sarah and Jeff took Sam and Nate to the WV Coliseum to see the Harlem Globetrotters perform. These photos were taken by Sarah. Always so impressed with her new camera.

The Harlem Globetrotters are the exhibition basketball team that combines athleticism, theater, and comedy.

Over the years they have played more than 20,000 exhibition games in 118 countries. Brother Bones's whistled version of "Sweet Georgia Brown" is the team's signature song.

Enjoy Sarah's photography.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

And I Thought My Reticulated Python Was Huge!

A strange sight is accosting visitors at Grand Central Station here this week: a gigantic snake. A life-size model of the 60-million-year-old Titanoboa has taken stage at the train terminal, an advertisement for a new documentary on the Smithsonian Channel.

"That thing would swallow me whole," Grand Central visitor Sarah Bouroque said when she saw the giant snake. "I'd have to run and hide if I saw that thing in real life."

Remains of the ancient Titanoboa snake, which weighed in at a whopping 2,500 pounds (more than 1,100 kilograms) and a length of 48 feet (almost 15 meters), were first found near fossilized plants, giant turtles and crocodiles dating back to the Paleocene Epoch (about 60 million years ago). This was when the world’s first known rain forest emerged, and dinosaurs no longer ruled the Earth.

"It was an actual animal? A real animal? It's huge, that's impressive," visitor Chris Wood said, eyeballing the giant reptile. "It's pretty impressive — I don’t know what to make of it, really."

Visiting kids are mesmerized by the enormous snake.

The snake is situated on an elevated platform, stuck eternally ingesting an ancient crocodile. It is on display in Grand Central's Vanderbilt Hall, just off the main concourse.

The startling discovery of Titanoboa was made by a team of scientists working in one of the world’s largest open-pit coal mines at Cerrejon in La Guajira, Colombia.

Another visitor, Jason Panaro, said of the giant snake: "It really puts things in perspective to see things like that."

The life-size replica of Titanoboa is going on display at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History on March 30, but before it gets settled in at its new home in Washington, D.C., the monster snake took a side trip to New York City for a two-day "layover."

On April 1, Smithsonian Channel premieres a new documentary, "Titanoboa: Monster Snake," which takes an in-depth look at the process of discovery and reconstruction of this prehistoric giant snake.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

I Am 1 in 10 Million

I have enjoyed the whole series of Angry Bird apps that I have installed on the iPad and iPhone. I have Angry Birds (original), Angry Birds Rio, Angry Birds Seasons, and now, as of yesterday, the newest and best, Angry Birds Space.

Rovio's much-anticipated "Angry Birds Space," has been downloaded 10 million times in less than three days.

"Space" is the first full-fledged sequel to what is considered, by many, to be one of the most popular games on the entire planet at the moment.

The first game, and all its assorted variants, has managed to accumulate half a billion downloads, so it would appear that sequel is doing its job of being as successful as the original has been.

It's not easy guessing how much revenue has been produced from sales of "Angry Birds Space" at the moment. The iOS version costs $1, like all the previous editions, but the Android version is ad-supported and free, while the PC version costs $6.

But given the immense success the game has enjoyed so far, Rovio will more than likely release sales figures as soon as they’re available.

In addition to strong consumer demand, the game's release was marked by critical praise across the board, mostly due to its brand new gameplay mechanics.

My good wife will have to endure another onslaught of more angry bird sounds. This is definitely a super game.

Sunday, March 25, 2012


By John Roach is a contributing writer for

A robot built to look and swim like an inconspicuous jellyfish may keep going and going and going thanks to an infinite source of fuel -- its surroundings.

The power comes from heat-producing chemical reactions between oxygen and hydrogen with platinum coated on the surface of the bio-inspired robot, known as RoboJelly.

The heat is transferred to the artificial muscles in the robot, causing them to contract just as real muscle does in a jellyfish, the Virginia Tech team behind RoboJelly explains in a paper published Wednesday in the journal Smart Materials.

The muscles are little wires called shape memory alloy composites that are built on the inside of the jellyfish-like robot frame.

n the robot, as in real jellyfish, the contraction of the muscles cause the bell-shape disc to close in on itself, generating thrust. After contracting, the bell relaxes and regains its original shape.

Last November, we reported the team improved RoboJelly's propulsion by adding a flap at the lower, bottom section of the bell to better mimic the real jellyfish.

In earlier versions of the robot, batteries or an external source of electricity powered the muscles. But the artificial muscles are energy hogs, which sent the researchers looking for an alternative. Hydrogen, noted Alex Villanueya, a team member, is a more energy dense fuel than a battery, meaning you can store more energy in your robot.

With the new system, "you don't need any electricity, you just need to have hydrogen and oxygen flow over your actuators," Villanueva told me on Tuesday.

"The other cool thing about it is we're going to be swimming in water. What's water? It's hydrogen and oxygen. So you've got an infinite source of fuel," he added.

The caveat is that the water needs to be converted into hydrogen and oxygen, "and that requires power," Villanueva noted, "So there are definitely things we still need to look into."

One possibility is a solar-powered fueling station resting on top of the water, which uses electrolysis to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. Whenever the RoboJelly gets low on fuel, it could swim to station for a refill.

With such a system in place everyone -- from military personnel interested in deploying RoboJelly to spy on enemy submarines to environmentalists checking water quality along the coast -- can send their robot to work and know it will keep working and working and working until the job is done.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

New found bat has a nose only an echo locating mother could love

A brand-new species of leaf-nosed bat has been identified in Vietnam, on the basis of its genetic differences as well as its sonar frequency. The findings, reported in the Journal of Mammalogy, suggest that different bat species living in the same habitat keep to their own in part due to the echolocating sounds they emit.

The new species — Griffin's leaf-nosed bat, also known by the scientific name Hipposideros griffini — is slightly smaller than its close cousin, Hipposideros armiger, the great leaf-nosed bat. During a three-year bat survey, researchers found 11 specimens of the new species on Cat Ba Island in Ha Long Bay in northern Vietnam, and in Chu Mom Ray National Park on the mainland, more than 600 miles (1,000 kilometers) to the south.

Like its bigger cousin, Griffin's leaf-nosed bat a bizarre-looking array of leaflike facial protuberances that are thought to enhance the echolocation signals it sends out to avoid obstacles and scan for potential prey. But a computerized analysis of bat calls determined that the smaller bat emits its signals in a slightly higher frequency: 76.6 to 79.2 kHz, as opposed to the range of 64.7 to 71.4 kHz for several subspecies of the great leaf-nosed bat. The researchers said H. griffini's call is distinguishable from all other known leaf-nosed species in its habitat, which means the frequency could be used to identify the bat in future field studies.

While captured, some similar body-sized bats, i.e. great leaf-nosed bat, reacts very angrily, but Griffin's leaf-nosed bat seems quite gentle."

The research team confirmed their suspicions that the gentler, smaller, higher-pitched bat represented a different species by analyzing the bats' mitochondrial DNA. The species was named after the late Rockefeller University researcher Donald Redfield Griffin, who played a leading role in the echolocation research that helped in the identification.

Friday, March 23, 2012

We Are Back!

We know you missed us the last two weeks. Here is the story.

On Thursday, March 8, I did a little stumbling
on the path of life. This has been an outstanding month for sun, great temperatures, and flowering plants. On that day I worked three hours in the morning transplanting irises by the rock garden on the side of the house.
I was very tired and sat in the rocker on the back porch to rest. While relaxing, I looked up to see a place where just one more iris needed to be planted. I am more like my Mom ever day. When I am doing a project, sometimes I do not know when to stop. That was exactly the case two weeks ago.

I arose from the rocker and was off to plant the last iris. Lo and behold, I stumbled on the large rock seen below.

Down I went and landed on my right shoulder.

I screamed (in a most manly way). Judy immediately ran from the basement to see what tragedy had befallen her love. Lying with the stone at my feet. Thankfully, I did not fall turned 180 degrees with the rock as my headstone. Miss Judy arrived with pillows and blankets in hand so I might roll, get on my knees, and extract myself from the flower garden.

Within a few seconds, it was obvious that I had damaged myself and that I could not arise from the vegetation.

The old geriatric commercial, "Help, I've fallen and can't get up! " came to mind immediately. The good wife assessed the situation and ran into the house and called the Senior Citizens Center. Within minutes two fellows showed up and helped me to become vertical once again. OUCH!

Judy and I discussed our plan of action. We decided that we would go to the Emergency Room at United Hospital Center in Bridgeport. We had to be in Bridgeport on Friday to take care of our grandsons, so the choice seemed the logical one.

The accident happened around 11:30, but we did not head up the road until mid-afternoon. Had to pack and shower (certainly can not go to the ER all muddy!). Then up the interstate we traveled.

It started to rain around Roanoke. Bang! The windshield wipers malfunctioned and locked together like dragonflies mating. We called our friends at H and M motors in Weston and said we were on the way in for help. As they fixed the wipers, my H and M friends had to come out and see what a one-armed gardener looked like. They fixed the widow wipers in a most timely manner and we were back on the interstate.

Arriving around 3:30 P.M. at UHC, we found the facility's personnel to be very efficient. I was taken into the ER and within a few minutes and had an X-ray of the shoulder. The doc was very professional. He proudly proclaimed (well, maybe confidently instead of proudly) that indeed the right humerus was shattered. I had managed to break the head of the humerus in several places, including both the greater and lesser tuberosities. The doc said that there was nothing to do except let it heal. I received a sexy blue sling. Off to the Dodson household to show the grandsons my boo boo! I was able to see Dr. Dukas, the orthopedic doctor the next day. We found him to be a very caring and professional lad. The granddaughters arrived on Saturday to be equally impressed with Grandpa's wounded wing.

That is my story. Should be back on line more regularly now. Thank you all for your patience. It has been two weeks and arm is mending. I will see Doctor Dukas in April. I am certain that at that time he will declare me healed.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Sorry. Blog down for a week or so until my broken humerus heals. I shall report the whole adventure as soon as I can manipulate the mouse!

Monday, March 05, 2012

Polar Plunge

Thanks to Billie Jo Zorko for these fine photos.

Last Saturday Maple Lake was the site of the annual Polar Plunge. The plunge is held to raise monies for the Clarksburg Mission . Chris Kennedy is shown above at the Maple Lake Club House registering the folks who are going to dip their bodies into the icy waters.

Chris could not participate this year, but he is still active in this event and gives the participants instructions. The TriBeta team is ready!

Wait! It is Nate! I think he is enjoying watching. That smile would immediately change if he had to experience the waters of Maple Lake. (SO WOULD GRANDPA!)

And they are off!

The Polar Plunge was most successful with over $5500.00 raised to support programs at the Clarksburg Mission.

Sunday, March 04, 2012

They Are Blooming!

As promised, I am posting a few of the many daffodils starting to bloom in our gardens. It is a glorious time in the hills.

We had terrific storms in the South on Friday with deaths and destruction caused by huge tornadoes . Our prayers are with the folks that have been effected.

Saturday, March 03, 2012


Yes, March came in like a lamb. Flowers are really getting into their growth cycle. Our Lenten Rose is in full bloom.

The aconites are now on the downhill slide....

... as are the snowdrops.

Tomorrow I shall post the true signs of spring. The flowering daffodils!