Friday, October 31, 2008

Rainbows and Waterfalls

After seeing the early morning rainbow at home before our failed attempt to vote early, I was thinking about seeing rainbows around waterfalls. I can't think of any other juxtaposition of features that captivates the imagination as well as make your waterfall memories that much more special than the waterfalls and rainbows combination!

We've seen numerous examples of this throughout our travels. So with rainbows accentuating waterfalls like few other natural features, I wondered whether there's a way to time or position yourself for rainbows together with waterfalls. Indeed, it's one of those things you just can't get enough of, right?

Well, after looking through some old photos, I came to the conclusion that if it's early to mid-morning or mid- to late-afternoon and the sun's behind you, you have your best chance at seeing a nice rainbow in the waterfalls' mist or in the plume of the waterfall itself if you're more or less standing at the same level as the waterfalls itself. The lower the sun's angle, the higher the rainbow arcs before you.

When the sun is the most intense during the middle of the day, you get favorable angles when you're above the waterfall looking down. If you're at eye-level with the middle or base of the waterfall, the rainbow would've been behind the falls and that's why we don't have such waterfall/rainbow photos during the height of day. The higher the sun's angle, the lower the rainbow arcs below you.

So now you know. Now, it's your turn to visit a waterfall on a sunny day and chase your own pot of gold by making your own postcard waterfall photo!

Failed Early Voting Attempt

With this being Halloween, we thought we could get a head start on the day by taking a little time off work and going to the Norwalk Civic Center to do some early voting. We learned about this option after hearing on the radio last weekend when Kirsten Dunst and Jacob Scoboroff went there to make people aware of this option.

Julie and I were shocked to see it had rained this morning and we were greeted with a very nice early morning rainbow!

So armed with our intent to make our voices heard (and promote the cause of the preservation of our future and of course our waterfalling obsession), we got to Norwalk at around 8:15am. The polling stations were said to be open at 8am.

But when we got there, the lines were already ridiculously long!

Well, knowing that on election day November 4th, we'd be able to go to our local polling station to vote and that there'd be far more stations available to vote in general, we declared this trip a loss and headed back home.

Seriously, it seemed like the queues on the early voting booths defeated the purpose of early voting in the first place - to save time!

All this got me wondering about our antiquated voting process in general.

I mean, if we can perform online banking and credit card transactions, why isn't there online voting? You could register year after year, all records would be in an electronic database, officials can do quick lookups and quickly verify against fraud, and the vote tally would be both accurate and synchronized with the rest of the nation (so no vote would be swayed by early voting results).

I also thought about the long lines in the swing states like Florida, Georgia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, etc. You get the sense that voting frustration (like in our case) would result in lost votes. And you get the sense that voters hoping to vote for Obama and other Democrats are not getting their voices heard with their votes because of this.

Then, I thought about the 2000 election when Florida discounted many minority votes with their "pregnant chads" fiasco. And we all know what happened thereafter...

All the more reason to go electronic!

In any case, we hope the early voting woes doesn't discourage citizens from letting their voice be heard. The world is anxiously watching... anticipating...

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Prop 7 and 10

A pair of initiatives on the California ballot this year tries to appeal for renewable energy and alternative fuels. They are Proposition 7 and Proposition 10.

According to the ballot, Proposition 7 basically seeks to impose and change some new and existing requirements on renewable energy generation by utilities. There's a bunch of other legal mumbo jumbo that'll probably put you to sleep.

Meanwhile, Proposition 10 seeks to borrow money in the form of bonds to distribute rebates for "clean alternative fuel" vehicles or other related incentives. If you want to read the raw legal mumbo jumbo, click here.

At a glance, these measures look promising and a no-brainer for the future of the state (let alone our environment).

But then, when you look at the fine print and the arguments for and against (and who's making those arguments), that's when the devil's in the details.

Here's some supplemental reading to get the skinny on these measures (I'm sure there's a lot more literature out there though)...

After spending quite a bit of time mulling over all this text, I've decided to vote no to both of these measures (actually, I'm voting No to every proposition except Prop 1A regarding the High Speed Rail, Measure R, and Prop 2).

Why?

For Prop 7, after getting tugged both ways by hearing arguments for and against, one telling indicator is where the Sierra Club stands (among other sustainability advocates). They opposite it! If you can't get one of the greenest organizations to buy into a "renewable energy" measure, then it begs for more scrutiny and skepticism. Another thing that bothered me about this measure is that it's hard to understand with all the stipulations in there (a real indicator that something is being sneaked in there by politicians and special interests). Generally if I don't understand the measure, I vote no anyways.

As for Prop 10, it seems clear that the big winner in the choice for alternative fuel rebates would be natural gas. This is BS because natural gas is a fossil fuel, which is not clean regardless of what anyone says since it needs to be dug up and it emits chemical byproducts. I'm not even sold on biofuels (another "alternative fuel") because of the amount of land clearing (i.e. deforestation), water diversion, and substitution of food for energy. Really, we ought to have solar plug-in hybrid electric cars if we're serious about zero emissions. Keep in mind that GM had the electric vehicle back in the early 90s before conspiring to destroy them (something to think about when the Feds are about to give them some of that $700 Billion corporate welfare bailout money).

As you can see, politics has lots to do with our future let alone waterfalling. I can only hope Californians read the fine print and really think about what they're voting for regarding these measures.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

More Waterfalls Videos

The next batch of waterfalls videos I've put on the World of Waterfalls website consists of the Top 10 Icelandic Waterfalls.

Besides the already uploaded Dettifoss, there are now videos for Skogafoss, Gullfoss, Dynjandi, Haifoss, Godafoss, Seljalandsfoss, Hraunfossar, and Glymur.

Enjoy!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Havasupai Indian Reservation Closed

This might be a bit of old news, but it's worth repeating considering how popular this attraction (especially Havasu Falls) is.

Back in mid-August of this year, the Havasupai Indian Tribe experienced yet another monsoonal flood that did damage to the Supai Village as well as the basic tourist infrastructure to accommodate visitors. That resulted in the closure of the Havasupai Indian Reservation for visitation.

Floods are nothing new to this part of the Grand Canyon as evidenced by the last major one that occurred back in 1997. That one destroyed Supai Falls and turned Havasu Falls from a singular 100ft waterfall into a double-barreled 75ft waterfall.

But if you're anticipating a visit to this magical part of the American Southwest, you have an opportunity to plan ahead and enjoy its wonders in the Spring of next year.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

More Videos on the World of Waterfalls

Since I was in the mood to upload and add videos to the World of Waterfalls website, I continued the momentum by adding videos of Kaieteur Falls, Orinduik Falls, Yosemite Falls, and Dettifoss to the mix.

Enjoy!

Videos on the World of Waterfalls

I know I've been procrastinating about this feature on the World of Waterfalls website, especially since we've received numerous inquiries and requests to have them.

So I finally got around to putting them in, but it's a rather time consuming process.

In any case, videos we've taken of waterfalls are now available for Iguazu Falls, Niagara Falls, Victoria Falls, and Angel Falls.

More videos will be trickling into the website and I'll be posting to this blog as soon as they become available.

Enjoy!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Solar Cells A Greenhouse Gas Emitter?

I recently read an article about a potentially damaging side effect of solar cells.

The problem is that the manufacturing process involved in purifying silicon for the purposes of thin film solar cells (as well as flat-panel LCD monitors and microcircuits) emits a gas known as nitrogen trifluoride. Unfortunately, this gas is orders of magnitude more serious than the greenhouse effect from carbon dioxide and it lingers in the atmosphere at least five times as long.

This can be considered bad news for those hopeful for a solar powered society (which also benefits waterfalling). But sometimes you have to face the truth and deal with it.

Now while I'm a tremendous supporter of solar cell photovoltaic technology, I do believe that processes involved in its creation and utilization must be as clean as possible. I don't think we should abandon the pursuit of solar energy, but we should definitely look for ways to contain nitrogen trifluoride during manufacturing or find other chemical compounds to process silicon for photovoltaic purposes.

In the near term, I think pollutants should be penalized by taxes (and solar cell manufacturing is no exception), but money collected from these penalties should subsidize cleaner methods and reward companies successful in pulling it off. Sure this might result in more expensive solar cells, but a truly responsible economy that factors all the good and bad of a product will provide incentive and rewards for improvement. Therefore, by no means should solar cell technology cease because of this since its successful implementation will be far better than our fossil-fuel-based energy paradigm we're forced to live with now.

To get more details about this story, click here.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Waterfalls FAQ

Over the course of hosting the World of Waterfalls website, we've noticed there were quite a few questions that were commonly asked.

So to address these common inquiries, we've put together a Waterfalls FAQ.

Now, you can see our answers to the most commonly asked questions.

You can also post your own questions or view questions, comments, and answers from other website visitors.

Inquiring minds want to know, so check out the FAQ!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Still A Global Warming Skeptic?

I was at work overhearing a conversation between a pair of gentlemen questioning whether Global Warming is caused by mankind. Since Global Warming and Climate Change are something that alters rainfall distribution (and hence adversely affects waterfalls as well as the long term survival of the human race let alone most complex organisms left on the planet), I couldn't help but stop working and listen intently to what they had to say and how they can justify their skepticism.

Among the arguments made were that the sun itself was warming up, that volcanic eruptions were spewing out more carbon dioxide than mankind can put out, and that the warming is part of some long term cycle among others.

While these arguments sound reasonable at the surface, I knew it wasn't the whole story. So I dug up some hard scientific evidence to lay this issue to rest once and for all (for anyone willing to let real science do the talking). I think the following chart provides the most compelling evidence of Global Warming being made worse by mankind...


The above graph shows the carbon dioxide level and temperature levels over the last 400,000 years. Climatologists were able to extract this information from Antarctic ice core samples (basically drilling into ice and pulling out a long cylinder of the stuff) since the Antarctic ice actually captures the concentrations of gases as the ice melts and re-freezes with the seasons year after year.

As you can see, cyclical variations in both carbon dioxide levels and temperature were confined to a range over the last 400,000 years. Also, note the tight correlation between carbon dioxide levels and air temperature! Keep in mind that this time period spanned ice ages, catastrophic volcanic eruptions (even greater than the recent eruptions of Mt St Helens and Mt Pinatubo), and even mankind's occupation of the planet prior to industrialization.

However, beyond 1800AD (near the onset of the Industrial Revolution), notice how the curves jump off the charts on the far right hand side!

I think pictures are worth a thousand words!

I picked this graph because it debunks all the arguments my coworkers were giving in one fell swoop.

Indeed, the evidence has been piling on as more studies are done on the subject by objective scientists without interest in the oil companies and nothing to gain by telling the truth (you can see additional evidence here).

So enough about trying to deny what the science is saying. Let's just accept the facts and do something about it rather than do nothing and let the problem get worse!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

What Makes A Waterfall A Waterfall?

After the thousands of waterfalls that Julie and I have seen, we realized that no two are the same.

You could have ones like:
  • Victoria Falls, which is trememdously wide and powerful

  • Angel Falls, which is majestically tall with mist swirling about its skyscraping profile
  • Iguazu Falls, which segments its way between rainforest trees resulting in some 275 distinct waterfalls and cascades
  • Pools of 'Ohe'o, which is a bunch of smaller waterfalls and cascades perfect for a swim
  • Waterwheel Falls, which you care more about how high the water is thrown up instead of falling down!
  • ...and countless more...


Indeed, each waterfall has its own personality, if you will, as well as its own shape (appearance).

But given the tremendous diversity of waterfalls that exist in nature, one nagging question that has always been on our minds is: "What makes a waterfall a waterfall?"

So after giving more thought to try to answer this question, I realized that it's really a more complicated issue than you'd think!

Why?

Read more and find out!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

How Are Waterfalls Formed?

Ever wonder how waterfalls are formed?

Why is it that some places get waterfalls while others don't?

This was something I wondered myself so I did some digging and quickly realized that in order to understand waterfall formation, you'll have to learn a little bit about geology and even the water cycle.

After understanding the gist of what it takes to form a waterfall, I decided to write up an article to hopefully help you gain a better understanding of this interesting topic.

Click here to read more.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Devaluing of the Icelandic Kroner

Well the financial mess that is currently going on has definitely gone global and it has essentially bankrupted the country of Iceland.

Back when Julie and I were visiting Iceland in the summer of 2007, it was one of our most expensive trips to date! Indeed, the Icelandic Kroner was valued at nearly 60 kroner to 1 US dollar. That ultimately translated to $25 pizzas, $25 hamburgers, $200/night for a double in three or two-star accommodations (It was over $360/night for what seemed like a dorm room in Reykjavik!), $40-$60 main course dishes (i.e. fish or lamb, respectively), $120 pocket Icelandic-to-English dictionary, etc. etc. We thought the $3 hot dogs were reasonably priced, and in fact, we pretty much dined on a mostly artery-clogging diet of hot dogs, burgers, and pizzas just so we don't go broke during the trip.

We wondered how the locals live under such pricey conditions, and after several inquiries, we learned that most of them worked two or three jobs. Plus, most of the citizens were living on credit. So you can imagine how devastated both the banks and the locals were once the credit bubble burst. I feel real bad for the Icelandic people, but I know they're pretty hardy survivors and they'll get through this.

The last we checked, the Icelandic Kroner is now trading at over 100 Ikr to 1 USD. I guess this will mean pretty affordable prices for travelers to the country these days.

If you're curious to see what visiting Iceland is like... [read more]

Waterfalls in the Movies

Ever since the Lord of the Rings trilogy influenced our decision to honeymoon in New Zealand, I started to think about the other movies that featured waterfalls in them. So which movies featured such waterfalls? Read on to find out! [read more]

Peruvian Nostalgia

Julie and I went to dinner at the El Rocoto Peruvian Restaurant for the first time since two weeks before our Peruvian Trip in late April. Going there brought back memories because it was not only the occasion where Julie got food poisoning from bad ceviche at that restaurant, but during our time spent in Northern Peru going from Tarapoto to Pomacochas, I had to endure food poisoning with similar symptoms of vomiting, nonstop diarrhea, and nausea.

And indeed, as Julie and I chatted over dinner, we were remembering the nicknames our guides gave to each other (e.g. BubĂș for our driver Asho), the mountainous roads with frequent landslides, the long driving, the brutal hiking to Catarata de Yumbilla, Catarata de Chinata, and Catarata Gocta (the whole purpose of the Northern Peru portion of the trip), and the authentic Peruvian food we tried to get while we were in the country.

As we dined over tallarin saltado de mariscos and lomo saltado, we thought about the humble but deliciously good home-cooked meals at Cocachimba, a local joint in Rioja that ended up being the only place we encountered that had the familiar green sauce you get at El Pollo Inka Restaurants with roasted chicken (which I couldn't eat because I had food poisoning), Pez de Rey (kingfish) at Pomacochas (again, which I couldn't eat because of my food poisoning), and even trying some overpriced cuy (guinea pig) in Cusco. I guess you can't get much more authentically Peruvian than cuy, which I'm sure no chain Peruvian Restaurant in Los Angeles would even touch.

Indeed, Julie and I were amused at how such a simple act of eating at a local joint brought back such memories of our time in Peru. Here's hoping we can experience more of that in the near future despite the economic conditions we're all facing (or about to face)... [read more]