Thursday, February 4, 2010

Our World Wrought With Disaster

WARNING! This blog entry contains strong graphic descritptions that may be disturbing to some readers. If you are easily upset by hypothetical and actual factual world events which lead to mass devestation and destruction I encourage you to stop reading now. I wrote this entry on a whim. I didn't provide references to prove any of the items below, but trust me they all exist and nothing contained within the post of fictional in any way. We live on a volatile planet in a volatile solar system wrought with danger at every turn.

Our world is always so complex and dynamic. We build dense populations all over the world in regions that will one day experience devastating disasters. For example just in the United States alone:

New York City, New York: Built on the delta of the Hudson River bordering the states of New York and New Jersey, New York City is built in one of the most vulnerable places in the world to wayward traveling hurricanes. It is very likely that a category 2 or stronger hurricane will strike this delta within the foreseeable future. The shape of the coast combined with the low land level of the city will allow a strong storm surge to easily overwhelm large areas of populated regions flooding causing flooding that few who live there are aware is even possible.

Miami, Florida: Build open the Eastern coast of a large ancient bed of coral, Miami stands directly in the path of angry hurricanes, but also has an unseen and seldom mentioned problem. The fresh water aquifers beneath the ground in the region are limited and take a lot of time to replenish as rain water seeps slowly through the corals. There have been two documented results of evacuating fresh water too quickly from these large underground caverns. The first is large sinkholes. The water is removed from the cavern so quickly that it can not refill fast enough naturally. With the support of the uncompressible water gone, the ground above succumbs to its own weight and collapses into the cavern creating a large hole. The other is that fresh water from rain is not abundant enough to refill the aquifer, but it is close enough to the ocean that seepage of salt water moves in to replace the missing fresh water. The result is that the drinking water supply now becomes laden with salty minerals and becomes unfit to drink.

New Orleans, Louisiana: The Big Easy is a sinking city. Built on the soft silt of the great Mississippi River delta, it continuously sinks day and night. To battle this people build extensive dike and levy systems to keep the waters of the river and the sea out of the city. This can not go on forever. As has already been proven by one devastating lady named Katrina, these man made water barriers are prone to over-topping and failure. With the fail-safe gone the large basin in which the city resides can quickly fill with water many meters in depth.

Mississippi River Valley: This area is one of the most agriculturally productive regions in the world. It is also one of the largest drainage basins in the world. When rain cell after rain cell passes over the United States, large volumes of the rain waters run into the Mississippi River basin. As it quickly fills tributaries and even the river itself it begins to flow over the banks. Because the land in the region is so flat it quickly begins to spread outwards in all directions, flooding everything for miles and miles.

Las Angeles, California: Built in one of the most clement areas in the world weather-wise, The City of Angels enjoys hundreds upon hundreds of sunny days every year along with warm temperate weather with low humidity. Unfortunately so do the extensive brush lands and forests in the nearby mountains which every year during and towards the end of the dry season generate raging wildfires which consume thousands of acres of land. These fires don't seem to have a problem devouring land with houses and buildings as they relentlessly march on looking for any and all fuel sources in their wake. Of course LA is also built on the San Andreas fault, one of the most volatile and active shear faults in the world. Recent construction codes and regulations have helped reduce the damage and death caused by even strong earth quakes, but nothing can prepare people for a mega quake in the magnitude of 8.5 or higher in the heart of a populated region. Damage and loss of life would be significant in a localized area and perhaps beyond. Then there are those rainy winter days when deluges of rain fall over the city and surrounding mountains, mountains recently stripped of ground covering vegetation by fires and people alike. The rain runs off this barren land creating flash floods of epic proportions. Crafty engineers have devised ways of handling these sudden torrents and they cause little damage. However, unseen but well known, the rain also seeps into these barren areas, many of which are located on steep hillsides or mountains. Suddenly and without warning the earth begins to flow downhill, taking everything on top with it and destroying everything in its wake. These mudslides cause massive property damage every year and often claim many lives as well.

And that is just a few places in the United States. Then there is the rest of the world. Imagine a mega tsunami caused by the sudden collapse of the Canary Islands into the Atlantic Ocean racing at 600 miles per hour towards the East coast of North America. The tsunami would strike the coast and surge inland many miles, perhaps even one hundred miles or more in flat areas. Imagine a sudden violent eruption of a super hot spot such as the enormous magma field hidden just below the surface of Yellowstone Park sending sun blocking dust and choking gases into the atmosphere around the entire globe.

Leaving our planet behind, we can look into the cosmos for even more bad news. Our own Sun, the life giver, is also a ticking time bomb. In 1989 strong solar storms nearly took the entire power grid of the Eastern United States and Canada offline. Such storms occur on an 11 year cycle, and just like hurricanes, there is no predicting when exactly they will occur or how powerful they may become. Asteroids and commets meander through the solar system like cars without drivers. There is a lot of space out there, but every now and then they bump into something with awe inspiring and devestating results.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

My Hike at Glen Onoko Falls

On Sunday October 25th, 2009 I set out on one of the most adventurous and ambitious hikes I've taken in well over 2 decades now. My destination was Glen Onoko Falls in Carbon County, Pennsylvania. I had read a lot about the falls and the hike involved to view them. The journey started at parking lot near the falls at the surface of the Lehigh River. Let us begin this hike together through some of the many photographs I took during my climb up the Glen Onoko canyon. Click on any picture during the trip to see in enlarged in greater detail.

The first thing many see even before they hit the trail is this old abandoned railroad tunnel and the concrete tresses that once held the bridge which crossed the Lehigh River at this point. Although I didn't venture into the tunnel on this trip it is possible to enter it from the other end and step up to the railing overlooking the river.

The next item people notice, or at least should notice, is this large wooden sign posted by the park. It reads, "Warning, Glen Onoko Falls Trails, Hike at your own risk. Sections of the trail ahead are steep and treacherous. Hikers have been seriously injured and killed as a result of accidental falls from the trail and gorge overlooks. You are responsible for your safety. Wear proper hiking shoes. Use extreme caution while hiking in the gorge.". After researching the hiking trail and area before visiting this was not a surprise to me. The trail is steep with many loose rocks and tree roots. Hikers should be prepared, be smart, and be cautious. These precautions will make the hike an enjoyable and rewarding experience with memories that will last a lifetime.

After a scramble up a hillside of large loose rocks this is the inviting hiking trail that greeted me. It is roughly level and a very deceptive introduction to the hard hike soon to follow. Enjoy the stroll along this few hundred feet of well defined level trail, because once it ends there will be very few other places like it during the climb up the gorge.

Thankfully even for those who don't want to or can't physically tackle the harsh terrain ahead, the first moving water is visible almost immediately at the end of the previously mentioned section of level trail. As the trail advances the left side suddenly drops off abruptly into the gorge and the rush of the Glen Onoko creek can be seen below. A little farther along the first small falls pictured here can be found before the trail takes a sudden upwards path strewn with rocks and tree roots.

After climbing over several larger easy to navigate boulders this next section of small waterfalls was an inviting site. Of course the whole way up the trail the rushing water can always be heard, a steady soothing sound that helped to keep the hike interesting and fun.

I looked up the stream and noticed this beautiful section of falls rushing beneath a large rhododendron bush. I stepped up to the very edge of the rushing stream to capture this fantastic scene.

The steep canyon walls on the opposite side of the creek were strewn with rocks of all sizes and lush with many ferns.

This is where the hike began to get difficult. Looking up the near side of the canyon I realized it too was strewn with all sizes of rocks and exposed tree roots. It was time for this hike to go from leisurely to a cardio workout. I'm not in the greatest shape by any stretch of the imagination, but I was determined to complete this hike and so I pressed forward.

I made yet another of many stops on the ascent up the trail to capture to natural beauty of the cascading water.

I stopped yet again to take more pictures. I took dozens like this, but it would have been impractical to post every one, so I selected some of the best to share.

The large flat rocks on this part of the trail form an awesome an inviting natural stairway continuing up the canyon. While the climb was still steep and exhausting, these steps were a very welcome change from the randomly strewn rocks below.

At some point in the past people arranged this wonderful stair of natural stones continuing to help make the strenuous hike up the canyon gorge a little less painful.

As I continued up the now wet, somewhat muddy, and slippery trail I paused yet again to capture the flowing water. Both the moving stream and the hiking trail are visible in this photograph.

This fantastic cascade of water rushes down after the stream flows over the Chameleon Falls which are barely visible in this picture near the upper right corner through the trees.

After a grueling hike the first of the two big waterfalls was finally before me. This is the lower falls, called Chameleon Falls. It was amazing to stand before this majestic waterfall. It isn't the highest in the canyon, Onoko Falls takes that title, but it is the most impressive in my eyes. The higher Onoko Falls can be seen just to the right of center at the top of this photograph.

As I pressed on, pushing myself to keep moving, I traversed some very steep terrain to finally arrive at the base of this high wispy waterfall. Oh what an amazing place to be. This is Onoko Falls. I stepped down next to the stream where a fine cool mist continuously blew through the air cooling me as it touched my skin. The mist assaulted my camera lens as well, making this photograph a little hazy compared to all of my others. It was well worth it though, this is definitely one of my favorite shots from the hike.

As I pushed to climb the last remaining 75 to 100 feet I paused once more to take another shot of Onoko Falls, this time through some trees.

Finally! After an exhausting yet satisfying climb nearly 800 feet above where I started I reached the top of Onoko Falls. I took a long deserved break up here to just sit, relax, and take in one of the most amazing views I have seen in a long time. This is a view of the Lehigh Gorge from on top of Onoko Falls. The borough of Jim Thorpe is visible as a thin line of light colored buildings above the evergreen tree just to the left of the picture's center.

A perfect autumn sky above the brilliant and beautiful autumn forests in the Lehigh Gorge and Jim Thorpe.

As I continued to take in the pure beauty of the lands below from this majestic vista I decided to try something interesting. I laid down on the flat rock slab right next to the streams and took this stunning shot of the water seeming to flow over the edge of the world into a sea of stunning autumn trees.

And to finish up I'll post a few panoramic photographs I took during this hike.

Chameleon Falls Vertical Panorama

Chameleon Falls Horizontal Panorama

Lehigh Gorge Panorama from Top of Onoko Falls

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Hiking Bergeys Mill Park

Bergeys Mill Park is a small township park located in Lower Salford Township in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. The park has two access points, one near the top of Bergeys Mill Road and the other just before crossing the Bergeys Mill Road bridge coming from the east down the hill. The upper entrance provides beautiful vistas of Lower Salford, Lower Frederick, and beyond including the back side of Spring Mountain just outside of Schwenksville. There was once a steep trail that descended the grassy hillside meadow from the parking area down the nearly 150 foot hill around the reservoir to the Perkiomen Creek, However recently the township has begun a construction project and that trail is currently closed.

View of Spring Mountain from the upper parking area at Bergey's Mill Park

View of the hiking trail from near the reservoir (No longer exists)

The lower entrance is a gravel road that after about 300 yards leads to a parking area near the edge of the Perkiomen Creek east branch. There are foot worn trails along the edge of the Perkiomen heading north out of the parking area. These trails provide a beautiful level 4/10ths of a mile hike along the eastern edge of the creek allowing wonderful views of the 50+ foot rock cliffs on the opposite side of the creek. Of course these trails are prone to flooding and care should be taken to avoid the area if the water level in the creek is above normal. The 4/10ths of a mile of trails ends when the creek reaches a small divide. Beyond this point is no longer a part of the park. Of course then there is the additional 4/10ths of a mile back to the parking area. It's a beautiful 30 minute hike, a little longer if some stopping for photography is involved. Here are several shots I took along that trail.

Bergeys Mill in the Perkiomen Valley (East Branch)

Bold Autumn Colors in Bergeys Mill Park

Looking North up the Perkiomen Creek East Branch

A small flock of Mallard Ducks

Interesting Red Fungi amidst green moss

The Rock Wall on the Western Side of the Perkiomen

A Beautiful Small Waterfall

Some Neat White Fungi

I hope you enjoyed this brief tour of Bergeys Mill Park. It is amazing how many beautiful places like this we have so close to home.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

About My Musical History

I am an independent musician with a deep found affinity and love for new age music and all forms that it is varied from or that vary from it including melodic trance, Celtic, light jazz, dance, good techno, and so much more.

It all started in 1986 when I was visiting my father. We were driving up the rough and rugged logging roads of the British Columbia coastal mountains in his old beat up Isuzu. He pulled an audio cassette out of the console and popped it into the tape deck. The music that started to play was some of the most beautiful music I had ever heard in my life. I was enthralled. There I was, in the mountains surrounded by some of the most majestic scenery in the world with this fantastic music washing over me. This was it, this was the moment dreams were made of. As it turns out the music I was listening to was my first introduction to Ray Lynch.

I was spellbound by that album. I couldn't get it out of my mind. As a kid it was so far fetch from what all my peers listened to. My father sent me a duplicate of the tape and I played it until my cassette player got sick of it and ate it. I was sad. Soon after I got a CD player and picked up that album, Deep Breakfast, and all the rest of his CDs. That summer I took the little money I had earned working at a summer camp and bought my first synthesizers. A Roland D-20 and a Roland Sound Canvas 55. I managed to pick up an institutional copy of Cakewalk 3 from my high school and an internal MIDI card from a downtown music store.

My sequencing days had begun. I started by recording music I was listening to by ear, but soon enough I was off on my own composing rifts, chord sequences, and eventually melodies. My high school music teacher and department heads were so impressed with my progress they requested that I submit a piece of music to be judged as my grade 12 music exam rather than taking the written theory exam other students had to take. They listened to it over the winter break and when school resumed in January they passed me with flying colors. The piece I submitted was called "High Albedo" and was my first independent musical piece.

Since those days I have spent time on and off playing with my music. I've never really considered it as a source of income. I have the marketing skills of an orangutan. But that doesn't discourage me. People tell me they enjoy my music and that alone is enough to keep me motivated to keep composing and recording. With each new piece I learn more and expand on my style, if even ever so slightly.

So here I am today, 3 albums out, another 20 or so songs I haven't released, and I'm still going strong. I write what I like to hear. My wife asked me once, "Don't you feel strange listening to your own music?" to which I replied, "No, if I didn't like to listen to it I wouldn't write it."

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Accessing youTube HQ and HD modes

I'm just writing this entry as a little reminder for myself, but if you find it useful too then that's superb!

By default YouTube plays their low quality version of all videos and external applications also fetch this low quality version by default.

I'll actually use a real video from my music video collection for this.

To view "Esprit Sur Un Voyage" in any web browser, embedded player, or fetch application the URL is as follows:

To view a higher quality version of this same video, &fmt=18 has to be appended to the end of the video URL. I've noticed that while the video image quality still suffers notably at this setting the audio goes from low quality mono to good quality stereo. sample as follows:

And finally to view to video in 720p HD, the original quality of the video, &fmt=22 has to be appended to the end of the URL as follows:

If there is only a High Quality version of a video but no HD version fmt=18 will work but fmt=22 will do nothing and the video will run at low quality. Likewise if there is no high quality version of a video at all the fmt= setting does nothing at all.

There! Now it's in a nice easy to access place so I won't forget about it!

These tag additions don't appear to work in embeds, but they do work for fetch applications.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Ward-Studios presents the 2008 Sampler.

Ward-Studios presents the 2008 Sampler.

Below are embeded YouTube links to all 6 videos on the DVD

Scene 1: Tiny Bouncing Objects

Scene 2: Space Station #9 Club Remix

Scene 3: The Calm After the Storm

Scene 4: Glide

Scene 5: Space Station #9

Scene 6: Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring

I hope that you will enjoy each video. Please note that the videos on my YouTube site are actually done in high quality. If you visit my channel there you can view these and more music videos featuring my music and photography as well as watch many of them in high quality 720p HD with CD quality sound. Here is the direct link to my channel:

Please go, enjoy, rate high, and comment on as many videos as you would like!

So This is My Birthday

I've been up to so much lately. Work has still been as slow as molasses. Since I've dramatically cut back on the amount of time I play World of Warcraft I've been finding myself with lots of time to do other things.

Since I don't have a huge amount of money to spend buying people extravagant gifts this year I decided instead to spend some time and create a gift for them which will hopefully be something they will enjoy and cherish for years and years to come.

The gift is called "Ward-Studios 2008 Sampler" and contains a DVD, personalized CD, and Christmas card all contained inside of a standard DVD case. Here are some pictures of the final product. This one was personalized for my Aunt Marge.

Here is the Front Cover:

The Back of the Cover:

The Face of the DVD:

The DVD and Card Inside the Case:

The Inside of the Card, Personalized with CD:

The DVD contains 6 videos which I will post in a new blog entry after I have finished this one. The CD contains 6 Christmas time pieces. All the songs on the CD were arranged and produced by myself at my music studio, Ward-Studios. The last of the 6 songs was also composed by myself for the joy of the season.