What Chance Will America’s Youth Have In A Changing Global Economy?

 

 The first STEM EXPO Fair held at Edmonds School District's new STEM Magnet School at MountLake Terrace HS in Washington State. The student is caring a rocket, which was used in a group presentation at the fair.
The first STEM EXPO Fair held at Edmonds School District’s new STEM Magnet School at MountLake Terrace HS in Washington State. A rocket club student holds a rocket, which was used earlier in a group presentation at the fair.
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Multimedia eLearning program by: David Anthony Johanson © All Rights

The author is a multimedia specialist, CTE instructor and a former Boeing scientific photographer. For an alternative graphic view of this program, please visit: https://sciencetechtablet.wordpress.com/tag/e-learning/

A big question asked by concerned people and industry leaders across the Nation is waiting for an answer… How will current and future generations stay competitive in an increasingly, complex, global economy? A high-performance education program involving a blend of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) — is promising solutions as its building momentum within post-secondary and kindergarten-through-grade 12 (K-12) education

STEM Robotics team project is demonstrated for an enthusiastic audience of all ages.
The STEM Robotics team project is demonstrated to an enthusiastic audience of all ages.

The dynamic learning created from STEM’s project based curriculum is contagious for a growing number of students. And the program’s appeal is spreading to parents, public schools and corporate sponsors who are looking for ways to get involved in supporting technology learning through secondary education. Even the U.S. Congress solidly supports the critical initiatives driving STEM Education, which is primarily funded through the National Science Foundation (NSF.)

STEM Robotics team in action with their project
Enthusiasm and excitement were experienced by those viewing students’ technology project presentations.

A Basic Overview Of A STEM Magnet Program

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By the 21st century, digital technology had transformed global manufacturing and commerce by accelerating STEM related industries. The skill-sets, training and knowledge of entry-level applicants was noticeably falling behind. Standards for learning, used in our public educational system, were now becoming outdated. Nationally, educators needed a new, comprehensive learning approach to inspire, explore and motivate students’ achievement in the global dynamics of STEM.

Today, the Nation’s public schools place greater emphasis on introducing STEM related content to both teachers and students, starting as early as grade school. This program strategy allows all students of varied backgrounds, ethnicities and socioeconomic levels, gain access to learning projects associated with science and technology. By presenting young students with thoughtful STEM lesson plans, they are more likely to engage in the discovery process of even the most technical subject matters. Entering middle school, students are learning accelerated levels of science and technology content, which helps them decide if they wish to enroll in a high school, offering a focused curriculum. The STEM Magnet Program pulls in a diversified population of students, engaged and motivated by their earliest learning experiences.STEM_Fair_ESD_BPP_aq_68

 Evolution And Development Of STEM Education

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Richard Blais, Chairman of the technology department for the Shenendehowa Central School District in Upstate New York, developed a curriculum in 1986, to support students’ interest in studying engineering. To enable enthusiasm and confidence in students, core courses included; pre-engineering and digital electronics, infused with energetic and interactive learning environments. The curriculum’s proven a success, attracted philanthropist, Richard Liebich, who partnered with Blais to set up, Project Lead the Way (PLTW.) 

Greg Schwab - Principal, Mountlake Terrace High School, greets students at the STEM EXPO Fair
Greg Schwab – Principal, Mountlake Terrace High School, greets students at the STEM EXPO Fair
Dr. Nick Brossoit Superintendent, Edmonds School District
Dr. Nick Brossoit Superintendent, Edmonds School District

Within 10 years of PLTW’s founding, a dozen high schools in New York State adopted the program. Within the next few years high schools in 30 states were using PLTW’s “Pathway to Engineering Program.” Soon after, PLTW was a major national program, which used innovative activities of project and problem-based assignments. Further adding to PLTW’s momentum and success was the enthusiastic support corporations showed by endorsing and contributing financial resources towards the program.  

Mark Madison  Director, Career & Technical Education
Mark Madison
Director, Career & Technical Education for Edmonds SD

STEM Education incorporated many successful PLTW learning strategies and programs. PLTW is still active in high schools today and plays an active role in STEM Education.

STEM EXPO Keynote Speaker - Dr. Elaine Scott Director of Science & Technology Program UW Bothell
STEM EXPO Keynote Speaker – Dr. Elaine Scott, Director of Science & Technology Program, UW Bothell 

Mark Sanders’, 2009 STEMmania article in The Technology Teacher, cites the STEM acronym first being used in the 1990’s. The National Science Foundation (NSF) started using “SMET” as a reference for “science, mathematics, engineering and technology.” A department, program officer complained “SMET” sounded similar to “smut,” so “STEM” became the suitable replacement. It would take more than a decade for the public to recognize STEM’s referenced meaning.

The support  and enthusiasm for STEM Education is displayed by an impressive turnout for the District's first STEM EXPO Fair.
The support and enthusiasm for STEM Education is displayed by an impressive turnout for the District’s first STEM EXPO Fair.

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The Challenge Of Integrative Education: Transcending Barriers And Perceived Domains Found Within Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematic Education

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Perhaps the greatest test for a STEM Magnet Program will involve achieving the goal, of course/subject integration. As a career, technical and education (CTE) instructor, I’ve heard this complaint more than any other from students — “why do I have to learn this subject, it doesn’t relate to other things I’m learning or anything I’ll ever need to know!?” In truth, all subjects and courses taught in school share dynamic connections, we as educators need to do more in helping students see their associations.    STEM_Fair_ESD_BPP_ae_24Core sciences and engineering education programs have traditionally maintained strict disciplinary lines, known as silos. This shortsighted disconnect is generally not found in highly competitive industries, where the imperative is to find solutions which will “payoff” in the shortest amount of time. Industry’s necessity to cut through the process, for realizing greater profits is an important lesson plan for all STEM Programs. The realized profit for a student is — being taught how to quickly adapt new, comprehensive and sometimes-unconventional learning strategies to gain a competitive advantage.  STEM_Fair_ESD_BPP_ae_18

STEM Expo Robotics team takes a break from their demonstration for a group photo. Teamwork builds confidence and trust in the students themselves as well as other team members.
The STEM Expo Robotics team takes a break from their demonstration for a group photo. Teamwork builds confidence and trust in the students themselves, as well as other team members.

Benefits/Advantages For Both Students And The Schools They Attend

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Developing a STEM magnet program helps a school district align its resources towards assisting students preparing for college and universities, which specialize in related technical studies. An additional advantage the program offers a student pursuing a post secondary education is — an institution will most likely accept the applicant’s enrollment request based on the knowledge and technical skills achieved through a STEM Magnet Program.

STEM_Fair_ESD_BPP_87   STEM_Fair_ESD_BPP_ac_23  U.S. industries have increasingly cited the lack of qualified technical applicants they need as a reason not to hire more employees. The shortage of people with necessary STEM skills has motivated corporations to contribute their resources of funding, mentoring and sponsorship towards public education’s technology learning programs.

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Community exhibitors at the STEM EXPO Fair include corporate sponsors of STEM education.
Community exhibitors at the STEM EXPO Fair include corporate sponsors of STEM education.

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Aerospace giant Boeing is a big sponsor of the STEM Magnet Program.
Aerospace giant Boeing is a big sponsor of the STEM Magnet Program.

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Parents and community groups have eagerly supported STEM programs. Student’s parents are critical stakeholders who quickly realized the impact the program was having  — seeing impressive scholastic and attitude improvements with their children.

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STEM Education Uses Progressive Learning Strategies To Develop Critical Learning And Self-Discipline Within a Student 

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As STEM Education attempts to accelerate student development by modifying the standard teacher-centered classroom with more independent learning. The curriculum encourages project-based learning, problem solving and discovery, which empower the students to engage their cognitive skills to find solutions. This form of learning develops greater self-confidence in students and it opens channels among the students themselves to interact thru peer-to-peer learning. These spontaneous collaborative activities are self-organized learning events and they naturally promote leadership within the group. It has been well documented, knowledge transferred from experience in peer-to-peer activities are highly successful forms of learning.

Students enrolled in STEM Programs are encouraged to engage and connect with others by refining their presentation skills.
Students enrolled in STEM Programs are encouraged to engage and connect with others by refining their presentation skills.
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Tangible Returns In Personal Development Through Teamwork And Leadership

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Over the past five years I’ve had the opportunity to teach in a variety of classroom environments using a CTE curriculum. It’s remarkable seeing how engaged students are with learning their STEM subject matter. These same students are much more likely to openly contribute and share their ideas in a classroom discussion using the critical thinking skills they’ve learned to develop.

Most often, the STEM classes are more like being in a college environment, requiring a minimum amount of classroom management, as the students are self-motivated to complete their assignments and move on to the next project. Generally, the level of leadership development and volunteerism is noticeably higher in STEM classes due to the program’s emphasis on teamwork, self-confidence and academic achievement. These personal development qualities are valuable assets for students when applying for college admission and later — when entering the career of their choice.

Craig DeVine - pre-engineering instructor, talks with his students near a 3-D printer
Craig DeVine – pre-engineering instructor, talks with his students near a 3-D printer

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Improving Forecast For Employment Opportunities Using STEM Education

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As STEM Magnet Schools continue to place their graduates into secondary education, followed by the students’ successful careers in STEM related industries — STEM Education will help transform the American education landscape. If STEM Education can sustain its momentum, the future horizon looks bright for our youth to achieve economic opportunities on a global leveled playing field.

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Entrance to Mountlake Terrace High School -Edmonds School District's first STEM Magnet School
Entrance to Mountlake Terrace High School -Edmonds School District’s first STEM Magnet School

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STEM Education Terms & Definitions

CTE = Career Technical Education NSF = National Science Foundation PD&I = pedagogy referring to – purposeful design and inquiry PLTW = Project Lead The Way STEM = Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics  STEM Magnet School = A school with a concentration of STEM classes, which attracts students throughout a school district interested in enrolling in a STEM Program

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STEM Education Links

http://www.stemedcoalition.org/ Home The Future of Education / The history of STEM education in America. Handy infographic! What is STEM Education? PLTW | OUR HISTORY PLTW | STEM Education Curriculum for Middle and High Schools http://esdstem.pbworks.com/f/TTT%2BSTEM%2BArticle_1.pdf Home PBS Teachers | STEM Education Resource Center nsf.gov – National Science Foundation – US National Science Foundation (NSF) Siemens STEM Academy – STEM Education Has Arrived… Start Small, But Dream Big http://www.stemeducation.com/ STEM Resources | Early STEM Program Still Going Strong – STEM Education (usnews.com) What STEM Is–and Why We Care – STEM Education (usnews.com) 

https://education.uky.edu/STEM/sites/education.uky.edu.STEM/files/SEM%20604_syllabus_%20History%20of%20STEM%20Ed.pdf Historical Perspectives on STEM Education in Arkansas | Arkansas STEM Coalition http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R42642.pdf STEM ES Home – STEM ES FAQs NSTA :: News Story 

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A Glimpse Into Havana’s Legendary Watering Hole

EPSON scanner image

Photo essay by: David Johanson Vasquez © All Rights

This intriguing photograph was taken in September, 1941 with only a few short months before North America entered World War II. The people gathered within this photo are at a bar named Sloppy Joe’s, in the old section of Havana, Cuba. Jose Garcia owned the bar, a popular sandwich on the menu called, ropa veija,” is what inspired the bar’s name.

Havana The First Port Of Call

The woman sitting in the first row, situated between the two gentlemen, is my grandmother, Alicia Klukas Vasquez.  My mother, uncle and grandmother were all traveling together on a large ocean liner from Brooklyn, New York to the country of Panama. The first port of call was Havana, Cuba, a sitter on board the ship watched over my mom and uncle, while many passengers, including my grandmother’s group explored Old Havana.  Sloppy Joe’s featured a massive, 60 foot long bar and was the center of attraction.

Crossroad Of The World

I vaguely remember seeing this photo at a young age, so it didn’t have a lot of significance for me back then. After being asked to scan the photo to provide copies for the family, I closely examined the image. What I now saw was an intriguing group of people who could have been actors out of 1940s Central Casting. The dynamic scene charged with atmosphere appeared as a production-style photograph, from a Golden Age of Hollywood movie. In doing research I learned Hollywood celebrities and world artist of the 1930s through the 50s would hang out at Sloppy Joe’s when in Cuba.

The bar was also known as the Crossroad of The World. Writer Ernest Hemingway lived in Havana when this photo was taken, and was a good friend as well as a loyal patron of the bar’s owner. Sloppy Joe’s attracted iconic actors; John Wayne, Clark Gable, and Spencer Tracey when they arrived in Havana. Learning of the watering hole’s patronage, I enlarged and examined the background in detail, to see if a famous face was peering from the shadows. The bar remained popular and active until the early 1960s when Fidel Castro’s communist revolution closed the doors.        

                                                   A Short Lived Reunion

The forward magazine of USS Airzona exploded after being hit by a Japanese bomb , December 7, 1941. Frame clipped from a color motion picture frame taken from on board USS Solace.Official U.S. Navy Photograph, National Archives Collection

The forward magazine of USS Arizona exploded after being hit by a Japanese bomb on December 7, 1941.                                                        Frame clipped from a color motion picture frame taken from on board USS Solace.
— Official U.S. Navy Photograph, National Archives Collection

After the ship departed Cuba my grandmother and her children arrived in Panama, where my grandfather was stationed in the Navy. Now united, the family was together for less than three months before the attack on Pearl Harbor. Link to my essay on photographing the New Pearl Harbor Visitor Center in Hawaii. )  → photos of Pearl Harbor Visitor Center | bigpictureone Fear of the Panama Canal being invaded by the Japanese army, required all American citizens to be evacuated.    

 Mercy On The Sea

On an ocean liner once again, my mother and her family were halfway to New Orleans when a German U-boat submarine began stalking their ship in the Gulf of Mexico. The captain of the ocean liner, desperately, but wisely had all families bring their children above deck to line the railings for the U-boat’s German crew to see it was a civilian passenger ship they were about to attack. Fortunately, the wolf-pack sub slip quietly under the sea and was not seen for the rest of the voyage.

USS Missouri

USS Missouri “Mighty Mo” Iowa Class Battleship – The last battleship built by the U.S. and was the historic site on which the Japanese Emperor signed the surrender agreement to end World War II. Photo: David Johanson Vasquez © All Rights

Restoring The Great Watering Hole

Here’s a happy update on Sloppy Joe’s in Havana! In 2013, this famous watering hole has been restored precisely as before with the massive 60 foot bar that my grandmother was photographed sitting at. Hopefully the opportunity for me to travel to Cuba with my camera comes soon. I would love to visit Sloppy Joe’s and take a photograph —using the same camera angle used to capture that moment-in-time when my grandmother was there with her party celebrating a port of call in Old Havana. ~

Cinema note: If you’d like to see what Sloppy Joe’s looked like back in the day, check out the 1959 film “Our Man in Havana“, starring Alec Guiness.

Please see my photo essay: A Pearl Harbor Photo Pilgrimage: A Pearl Harbor Photo Pilgrimage. | bigpictureone

Links related to the this story:

sloppy joes .org – The history of the legendary bar in Old Havana

Legendary Sloppy Joe’s and a Video featuring Old Havana, Cuba – during the 1930s. |

Stock Footage – Men serving drinks at Sloppy Joe’s Bar and a man sells dolls to people sitting in a car out side the bar in Havana, Cuba   

Sloppy Joes Recipe :Ellie Krieger : Recipes : Food Network

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A Pearl Harbor Photo Pilgrimage.

A low-light sensitive imaging sensor and a perspective control lens were used for capturing this dramatic predawn view of the Pearl Harbor National Monument's new visitor center for - Seattle Architect The Portico Group. Photo by: David Johanson Vasquez © All Rights

A low-light sensitive imaging sensor and a perspective control lens were used for capturing this dramatic predawn view of the Pearl Harbor National Monument’s new visitor center for – Seattle Architect The Portico Group. Photo by: David Johanson Vasquez © All Rights

Multimedia essay by: David Johanson Vasquez © All Rights

Whether you’re a filmmaker, fine-artist or commercial photographer, you need to be resourceful in a full-spectrum of talents to have viewers take a serious interest in your work.

For the past 12 years I’ve made traveling to the Hawaiian Islands a priority.  In this tropic paradise, my experience is one of creative renewal, brought on by inspiration from the Island’s “Aloha spirit” and dramatic volcanic landscapes.

Iconic view of Diamond Head, from Waikiki. Photo: David Johanson Vasquez © All Rights

Iconic view of Diamond Head, from Waikiki. Photo: David Johanson Vasquez © All Rights

On the Island of Oahu, Pearl Harbor, has been a great interest for me. Some years back, The Portico Group — a Seattle architectural firm began exploratory work for designing a component of World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument. Pearl_Harb_VC_BPP_e76

In 2008, I contacted a principal architect, Mike Ham at Portico with news of my planned travel to Oahu.  At that time, preliminary stages of design were just taking place and there wasn’t much opportunity in photographing the site. Undeterred, I made arrangements for a window seat on a Hawaiian Airlines, Boeing 767, which would allowed access for aerial photographs of the Pearl Harbor site. Fortunately, clear weather did allow me to photograph the Monument on approach to Honolulu Airport.

There are beautiful architectural design elements within the visitor center. This one captures a Zen like composition. Photo: David Johanson Vasquez

There are beautiful architectural design elements within the visitor center. This one captures a Zen like composition. Photo: David Johanson Vasquez

Upon returning from the trip to Oahu, my aerial photos were emailed to the architect.  I followed up with a phone call … although the feedback was polite it was revealed the timing was still too early in the project for the firm to consider using photography.

If you’re a dedicated photographer, you realize the value of patience and learning from both success and failure while reaching for your objective. This applies to resourceful technical and creative approaches, which are used to achieve your vision and the equally challenging strategic applications used for marketing that unique vision.

Looking back from the Arizona Memorial  towards the new World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument Visitor Center.  Photo: David Johanson Vasquez © All Rights

Looking back from the Arizona Memorial towards the new World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument Visitor Center. Photo: David Johanson Vasquez © All Rights

By emailing new photographic work over several months, I kept in contact with Portico and learned in 2010 that the project was nearing completion.  Unfortunately for me, I would not be able to attend the December 7th dedication and would be arriving in Hawaii two months later. It was decided by the architectural firm, that a local architectural photographer would be hired to shoot the new center.

The new World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument's Visitor Center is a popular destination for national & international visitors.

The new World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument’s Visitor Center is a popular destination for national & international visitors.

Undaunted, I asked for the opportunity to photograph the visitor center in February, with no financial obligation to the firm.  The architect agreed to this offer by providing me with a National Park Service administration contact in Honolulu.

Youth and elders view a globe showing where the conflict in the Pacific  was fought during World War II. Photo: David Johanson Vaquez ©

Youth and elders view a globe showing where the conflict in the Pacific was fought during World War II. Photo: David Johanson Vaquez ©

A couple of weeks before flying to Hawaii, my contact allowed me to view images the Honolulu photographer took back in December. The photo coverage was good, with many angles of the new center shot, using various times of day for best light.  This review confirmed my approach would have to be a new approach from what was previously used. With the help of some intense research methods using Internet images and information gathered, I became familiar with the site’s geographical attributes before arriving.

At 30-thousand feet in a Hawaiin Airliner Boeing 767, we begin our decent as we approach the Island of Oahu. Photo: David Johanson Vasquez ©

At 30-thousand feet in a Hawaiin Airliner Boeing 767, we begin our decent as we approach the Island of Oahu. Photo: David Johanson Vasquez ©

The February, 2011 flight to Hawaii was pleasant and as the plane was approaching Oahu I could clearly see Honolulu. However, after de-boarding the plane, blue sky had given way to a partial mixture of dark clouds.  Phoning the national park services, contacts, the staff informed me the forecast was not promising for my intended early morning photo shoot. So I decided to be flexible for the next week, while watching local weather forecasts for an early morning photo opportunity. After a few relaxing days under a blend of tropical sun mixed with passing clouds, a favorable forecast came in for the assignment.

Entrance to the Pearl Harbor National Monument's Visitor Center. The Battleship Missouri & USS Arizona Memorial are in the background.

Entrance to the Pearl Harbor National Monument’s Visitor Center. The Battleship Missouri & USS Arizona Memorial are in the background.

Traveling in darkness I arrived at the site, prepared to use the predawn light.  Scouting the visitor center a few days before, revealed a hill, which would be ideal as a shooting platform. Using some available artificial low light, I took a series of carefully composed photographs. Soon twilight gave way to sunrise, revealing a vibrant panorama backdrop of multicolored clouds in my viewfinder.  As morning light lit the visitor center, I joined the legions of visitors descending upon open gates.

The forward magazine of USS Airzona exploded after being hit by a Japanese bomb , December 7, 1941. Frame clipped from a color motion picture frame taken from on board USS Solace.Official U.S. Navy Photograph, National Archives Collection

The forward magazine of USS Airzona exploded after being hit by a Japanese bomb, December 7, 1941. Frame clipped from a color motion picture taken from on board USS Solace.
Official U.S. Navy Photograph, National Archives Collection

The "Tree of Life" sculpture,  is used as a universal symbol for renewal and rebirth of life.

The “Tree of Life” sculpture, is used as a universal symbol for renewal and rebirth of life.

The shores of Pearl Harbor, and the Arizona Memorial, have persistently drawn me to this honored site. Several members of my family have served in the military, and I have gratitude for the dedication and sacrifices during their time of service.  What began at this historic site, as a surprise Japanese attack, on an early December 7, 1941 morning, brought our country into WWII.  The individuals, who were under fire here, exemplify the strongest dedication to preserving and defending our nation, particularly those who gave the ultimate sacrifice. An unseen force pulls me to this place, and I offer homage to what happened at his historic site.

This photo which was taken September 1941, is part of another essay on Cuba and Panama, which was impacted by the Pearl Harbor attack.

This photo taken in September 1941, is part of another essay on Cuba and Panama, which was impacted by the Pearl Harbor attack.

The first photo essay I posted using WordPress was about my mother as a young girl traveling to Cuba and then Panama by a steam-liner in September of 1941. My grandmother was taking my mom and her baby brother to the Canal Zone to meet with my grandfather who was stationed there with the Navy. They had only been united for a couple of months before Pearl Harbor was attacked. My mom along with all Americans were forced to evacuate, for fear of a Japanese invasion. A German U-boat shadowed the ship my family was evacuated on in the Gulf of Mexico and I’ve included a link at the end of this essay for a related story on the Pearl Harbor attack.

USS Missouri "Mighty Mo" Iowa Class Battleship - The last battleship built by the U.S. and was the historic site on which the Japanese Emperor  signed the surrender agreement to end World War II.

USS Missouri “Mighty Mo” Iowa Class Battleship – The last battleship built by the U.S. and was the historic site on which the Japanese Emperor signed the surrender agreement to end World War II. Photo: David Johanson Vasquez © All Rights

My appreciation for 20th century history is another reason for my interest in this National Monument. Historically the Pearl Harbor attack represents a great milestone, a solid beginning as Pax Americana —[the U.S. ascending position as undisputed world leader for the second half of the 20th Century.]

Once inside the Monument’s entrance, helpful park service staff greeted me, as they were expecting my visit. The beautiful tropical morning light illuminated the site ideally as I photographed the visitor’s center from all the best angles.  Pearl_Harb_VC_BPP_e815

Leaving Pearl Harbor after a successful shoot, I felt fortunate the weather had been so cooperative, as it produced a combination of soft, diffused light with interesting clouds to ad sky texture.

Photo: David Johanson Vasquez © All Rights

Photo: David Johanson Vasquez © All Rights

For my remaining visit on Oahu, was an enjoyable and relaxing time with family and friends.

At Jackie & Mark's home we're etertaine with some live Hawaiian Music.

At Jackie & Mark’s home we’re etertained with some live Hawaiian Music.

We all came together for couple of nights to celebrate my dad’s 80th birthday in Hawaiian style with great food, live music and Hula dancing.

Our Hawaiian host coach the Johanson father & sons act to do "The 3-Step Male Hula Method"

Our Hawaiian host coach the Johanson father & sons act to do “The 3-Step Male Hula Method”

Celebrating the former Marine, Dave Johanson's 80th-birthday near Honolulu, Hawaii.

Celebrating the former Marine, Dave Johanson’s 80th-birthday near Honolulu, Hawaii.

Waikiki umbrella 2011

Of course I found some time for my personal photography work. Hawaii has some remarkable subject matter, which is always worth discovering. Pearl Harb essay 2011

Beside the gorgeous tropical landscapes there is a diversity of Ocean Culture to experience.

On the Island of Oahu there are urban scenes with blends of South Pacific, Asian and North American cultures creating a unique, Pan-Pacific experience.

One of my creative specialities is night or low-light photography. The moon over head gave a halo rim-light on the palm trees.

One of my creative specialities is night or low-light photography. The moon over head gave a halo rim-light on the palm trees.

Honolulu has some high-density urban environments with high-rise hotels and condominiums.

Honolulu has some high-density urban environments with high-rise hotels and condominiums.

Perhaps the sense of renewal I experience while working and playing in Hawaii is due to this unique fusion of culture created on the Islands.

A night view overlooking Waikiki Beach and the volcano crater Diamond Head. David Johanson Vasquez — ©

A night view overlooking Waikiki Beach and the volcano crater Diamond Head. David Johanson Vasquez — ©

Photo: David Johanson Vasquez ©

Photo: David Johanson Vasquez ©

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A skyline view of Honolulu's Waikiki area. —David Johanson Vasquez ©

A skyline view of Honolulu’s Waikiki area. —David Johanson Vasquez ©

Another influence I draw from this land is the constant vibrant growth of plant life — along with continuous volcanic activity, which never slows down as it furiously creates new land on a daily bases.

Upon returning to a cold winter in Seattle, several days went by before a meeting could be scheduled with the Portico Group.  Once the meeting did take place, a couple of lead architects, along with marketing manager, Leigh Tucker, reviewed the photographs I brought in.  The response was enthusiastic and appreciative for the photographs presented, along with compliments for my approach of using subtle light to help illuminate compositions. Two dramatic photographs were purchased at the presentation in order to meet a deadline for an architectural awards competition-taking place that week. These initial purchases covered all my expense of travel and lodging  while on Oahu. Within days, more images were acquired from me, which featured views not included in the earlier photography completed at the December dedication event.

This rewarding photographic experience was a classic lesson in fortitude, patience passion and not giving up, no matter how challenging the odds are.

Nighttime on Waikiki Beach.— David Johanson Vasquez

Nighttime on Waikiki Beach.
— David Johanson Vasquez ©

Mahalo nui loa! ~

Resource Links for more information and learning:

World War II Valor in the Pacific – World War II Valor in the Pacific National

Monument

World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument – Arizona Memorial

World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument | National Park Foundation

The Portico Group | Architects | Landscape Architects | Interpretive Planners | Exhibit Designers

Flights to Hawaii, Hawaii Vacations & Travel – Hawaiian Airlines

Male hula dance: Learn the movements…

Pearl Harbor Images

A Glimpse Into Havana’s Legendary Watering Hole | bigpictureone

Blinded By Light, In The Middle Of Night

 
Multimedia eLearning program by: David A. Johanson © All Rights  — Second Edition

The author is a multimedia specialist, CTE instructor and a former Boeing scientific photographer. For an alternative formatted view of this program, please visit — www.ScienceTechTablet.wordpress.com

 

My photo wingman, Rick Wong and I headed into the heart of darkness in a quest for the Perseid meteor showers. Mount Rainier National Park, was our destination to use its iconic landmark for framing an infinite field of stars—far from the glare of city lights. Traveling at night in Rick’s new hybrid Ford Fusion, equipped with “information technology”—voice navigation, made it easy finding the park without using a map.

Arriving at our location, luminous stars lit up the night as expected, but we were surprised by some uninvited competition, which nearly stole the show.

A stunning view of Mount Rainier reflected in Reflection Lake, with the summer stars overhead. The pink and orange glow on the left side of the mountain is light pollution emitted from the City of Tacoma, approximately 65 miles northwest.

We found an ideal location above Reflection Lake to begin our photo shoot, with one of the Cascade Mountain’s most famous stratovolcano in the background. An unexpected warm light was glowing behind Mount Rainier, which I reasoned, was a faint remnant from the earlier sunset. However, the sun had set at least four hours earlier, so it couldn’t be the source of the illumination. Rick suggested “its light coming from the City of Tacoma,” located about 65 miles away. During a 20-second long exposures used to take an image of the snow-capped mountain, I began thinking about the effects caused by light pollution.
With a bright moon rising, we worked fast to keep up with the changing light, until its intensity eventually overpowered the stars.

Just now, the moon was rising higher into the night sky, it too was causing us to shift focus on what to photograph. Like a giant diffuse reflector, the moon reflected soft, filtered light onto a previously dark, formless landscape. Moonlight was beginning to compete with the canopy of stars’ brilliance, partially masking crystal clear views of the Milky Way, along with some meteor sightings. So being photo opportunist, we used the moonlight to illuminate shadow-detail on Rainier’s south face.

Like some sorcerer conjuring an intense cauldron of red light, the photographer adjusts his digital settings before Mount Rainier and her crown of stars above.

A Peaceful Paradise Lost                                                                                             There’s a tranquil feeling while in the process of taking long exposures at night; it’s normally quiet and not many visual distractions overwhelm the senses or interrupt your focus. I personally enjoy these rare opportunities of solitude, to visualize an image, using a minimal, Zen like perspective.

 

When a distraction, like a car suddenly rounding a corner occurs, it’s often an annoyance, which takes you out of the moment. My moment was taken by clusters of cars, with glaring lights as they came around a turn… just as the moon illuminated the mountain, as it was reflected onto a perfectly still lake.. Their headlights flooded the calm mirror-like water and stands of old growth trees beyond with glaring intensity— as I used my hands in an attempt to shield the lens from light flare. Finally, the cars diapered into the darkness with no more approaching vehicles until dawn.

Photo-illustration of micro light sources, which can cause light pollution by unintended spill-light.

Moving above the lake to find new angles for interesting compositions, I took notice of something not seen before. Lights of various colors were coming from photographers bellow me, created by their digital camera’s preview monitors and infrared sensors for auto focusing. With the low light-sensitive Nikon cameras I was using, these multicolored monitor lights, appeared like a bright flare on the long exposure images. Now, I had one more unwelcome light source to avoid, which required strategic timing in the photo’s exposures to minimize glare.

Again, my thoughts returned to the issues of light pollution. Recalling the time back home, when I attempted to photograph some constellations at night, only to have a neighbor’s motion sensor flood light, overwhelmed the backyard with brightness. The piercing light  forced me to find the last remaining, isolated shadowed corner of the yard.

My reminiscing was cut short by a distant, but bright, pinpoint of light from bellow Mount Rainier’s summit. Flashlights from mountain climbers near Camp Muir shined bright—like lighthouse beacons from the semi darkened rocks and glacier fields on the mountain. Even the faintest light can shine bright at night as was noted during World War II, when warships were forbidden from having any exterior lights on at night — including a lit cigarette, which posed a risk of being spotted from great distances by enemy submarines.

Lights from mountain climbers on the approach to the summit of Mount Ranier.

Encountering the Universe’s Brilliance                                                                       The improper, overuse of outdoor lighting has erased one of our basic and most powerful human experiences—encountering the universe’s brilliance with its galaxies and billions of stars shining in the night sky! Making visual contact with our own galaxy, the Milky Way, is one of the greatest shows seen from Earth.

 

In less than a century of civilization’s reliance on electric technology: two-thirds of the U.S., half of Europe and a fifth of people in the world—now live where they cannot see the Milky Way with the unaided eye. You can appreciate how we lost our stellar view by seeing aerial photos taken from orbiting spacecraft and the International Space Station. These startling images taken of the Earth at night, reveal a man-made galaxy of artificial light, which cancels out much of the real one in the sky above.

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Some years back, I was a part-owner in a small recreational ranch, in Eastern Washington’s, Okanogan County. Brining friends over from Seattle, it was often nighttime when we arrived. The instant of exiting the cars, was a startling event as the Milky Way’s intensity of light overwhelmed your senses. The “ranch” was remotely located, at about 5,000 feet in the mountains, near the Canadian border and 30-miles from the closest town. Days would go by where we didn’t see a car or even hear a small airplane go overhead… it was one of the most refreshing experiences of my life, to perceive nothing except wind going through trees and seeing only starlight at night for hours at a time.

Image courtesy of NASA

A television interview with the director of a major observatory in Southern California recounted when Los Angeles had its last electrical blackout —people were calling 911 and his observatory, with reports of strange, bright objects in the night sky. Actually, what the callers were seeing for the first time, was the Milky Way’s canopy of shining stars.

   

Image courtesy of NASA.

Besides forfeiting a life inspiring, wondrous view of the cosmos, there’s tangible losses associated with light pollution. Conservative estimates are—30 % of U.S. outdoor lighting is pointed skyward in the wrong direction, which wastes billions of dollars of electricity. The unnecessary practice of lighting clouds, burns more than 6 million tons of coal, which adds: harmful greenhouse gas emissions, along with toxic chemicals into our atmosphere and water.

Further scientific studies indicate wildlife is suffering the ill effects of excessive urban lighting. The City of Chicago has taken measures to turn off or dim its high-rise lighting to enable migrating birds to continue normal migration patterns. An increase in species of insects attracted to light along with rodents, which are drawn towards bright city lighting, is a growing concern to many scientists.

Heavy equipment product shots never look quite this good. Scheduled improvements to the viewing area above Reflection Lake, had some equipment, taking a nap, before going to work when the sun came up.

Education Is the Solution to Light Pollution                                                                    The reason light pollution continues to expand is, we have grown accustomed to its seemingly benign presence. After all, probably no one can point to a single case of a person killed from overexposure to light pollution. However, there is a growing correlation of health risks associated with overexposure from artificial light. Some of the main symptoms include, physical fatigue and damage to eyesight. This lighting health risk was recognized in 2009, when the American Medical Association officially established a policy, which supports the control of light pollution.

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Municipal lighting codes are beginning to help define and eliminate unnecessary light pollution. Lighting enforcement can create a more pleasing environment, by reducing excessive urban lighting, which causes fatigue from glare and cuts down on unnecessary electric utility cost. Redirecting outdoor lighting away from the sky where it is needlessly wasted is a simple and easy solution.

Installing motion detector security lights are another efficient and productive mitigation strategy. For security purpose, a light, which is triggered by motion is much more effective for crime prevention than a continuous floodlight. Motion detector lights have a clear advantage of focussing our attention onto an area, which is triggered by a sudden change from darkness to bright-light.

The light intensity of the Milky Way is a breathtaking wonder to witness at night —` unrestricted light-pollution has faded this wonder from what was once a valued human experience. You can see the Andromeda Galaxy in the right 1/3 of the frame. Nikon D700 – Nikkor 28mm lens @ F3.5 @ 20 seconds August 11 11:48 p.m.

 

The encouraging news is… the key to reducing light pollution is a simple matter of basic education and action. Public awareness of over-lighting requires a minimal expenditure, which will quickly pay for itself in energy savings and perhaps return the opportunity to experience one of the greatest shows seen from earth. ~

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Light pollution glossary:

Urban Sky glow: the brightening of the night skies over municipalities and communities, caused primarily from high-volumes  of collective, reflected light and poorly directed light, which is pointed upward or not shielded properly.

Light trespass: light falling or spilling into areas where it is not intended. Also know as “spill light” – as in municipal streetlights, which go beyond the intended illumination of street signs and sidewalks, causing an unwanted exterior lighting of residential homes.

Glare: A direct, bright or harsh light, which causes discomfort or pain. The effects of glare can be reduced or eliminated with the use of a shield or filter.

Uplight: Light angled inappropriately upward towards the sky and serving no purpose. Uplight washes out the night sky and reduces opportunities for astronomers and star-gazer to enjoy the beauty of the planets, moon and stars.

Light Clutter: Poorly planned, confusing and unpleasant use of grouped lights usually associated with urban or retail lighting. Retail business often trying to outdo the competition by using overly bright, multicolored or pulsating lights.

Links to articles & information on light pollution:

http://news.discovery.com/animals/light-pollution-a-growing-problem-for-wildlife.html

www.darksky.org/assets/documents/is001.pdf

www.njaa.org/light.html

www.skymaps.com/articles/n0109.html

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Light_pollution

ngm.nationalgeographic.com/geopedia/Light_Pollution      

There’s Nothing New Under the Sun, or is There?

 Photos & multimedia e-Learning essay by: David Johanson Vasquez © All Rights — Second Edition
   

Please note: This essay is a follow-up from my chronicle on solar storm effects of the 1859 Carrington Event on an industrial era society— forward to the postmodern, microelectronic world of today. To better understand the context of this article, it’s suggested you view my introduction solar storm essay found  by selecting the March 2012 archives found on the left side of this page.  The National Academy of  Sciences (NAS) (funded by the U.S. Congress) produced a landmark report in 2008 entitled “Severe Space Weather Events— Societal Impacts.” It reported how people of the 21st-century depend on advance-technology systems for daily living, The National Academy of Science stated— Electric power grids, GPS navigation, air travel, financial services and emergency radio communications can all be knocked out by intense solar activity.  A century-class solar storm, the Academy warned, could cause twenty times more economic damage than Hurricane Katrina. [1] Some leading solar researchers believe we are now due to a century-class storm.

Photo courtesy of NASA

July 15, 2012 Aurora Borealis sighting near Everett, WA. This event was caused from an X-class solar storm, which occurred within a week of another X-class storm (X-class being the most severe classification). The 11-year solar cycle is approaching a solar maximum around 2013, this will most likely bring more intense solar storm activity.

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Depending on your interpretation of the essay’s title, there is nothing new under the Sun when it comes to our neighboring star’s behavior. Since our Sun left its infancy as a protostar over 4 billion years ago, by triggering a nuclear fusion reaction and entering a main-sequence stage, its solar mechanics have maintained relatively consistent patterns. What has not remained the same is the evolution of life on Earth, in particular, our species’ development of a civilization which now is dependent on a form of energy called electricity.

The name “Aurora Borealis” was given by Galileo Galilei, in 1619 A.D., inspired from the Roman goddess of dawn, Aurora, and Boreas from the Greek name for north wind. First record siting was in 2600 B.C. in China. Collision between oxygen particles in Earth’s atmosphere with charged (ionized) particles released from the sun creates green and yellow luminous colors beginning at altitudes of 50 miles (80 kilometers). Blue or purplish-red is produced from nitrogen particles. The solar particles are attracted by the Earth’s northern and southern magnetic poles with curtains of light stretching east to west.

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Reaching back only a few generations into the 20th Century, electricity was considered a luxury—today ordinary life would be impossible without it! And that’s where our beloved Sun comes into the picture, to potentially cast a shadow on our dependency of electricity. Solar storms have been a reoccurring event before time began, but they didn’t affect people outside of providing a fantastic, special effects light-show                                       until a critical event happened in 1859.

In the mid 19th century, while the industrial revolution was near full development, the resource of electric power was first harnessed. Shortly after the electricity was put into use for    communication using  telegraph technology (a 19th century equivalent of the Internet), is when the Sun revealed                                                                                                  a  shocking surprise in the most powerful solar storm ever recorded, which was known as the Carrington Event.

The year 1859 was near a peak in the Sun’s 11-year solar cycle, when the Sun’s polarity readies for reversal. Approaching  the end  sequence of this magnetic shift, brings a solar maximum , which produces violent solar flares and ejects plasma clouds outwards into space. If the flare occurs in a region opposite of Earth, a Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) may send a billion-ton radiation storm towards our planet. Fortunately, the Earth is protected by a robust atmosphere and a magnetic field surrounding the globe, which protects us from most  solar winds. However, an intense solar storm with its charged plasma cloud  can overwhelm our planet’s protective shields. When an extreme solar storm’s magnetic energy contracts with our planet’s protective magnetic field, it creates geomagnetic induced currents (GICs). GICs are massive amounts of electromagnetic energy which travel through the ground and ocean water, seeking the path of  least resistance in power lines, pipelines and rail tracks.

In the extreme solar storm of 1859, the Aurora Borealis was seen near the equator and it was reported  people were able to read newspapers outdoors at midnight. Navigational compasses (19th century version of GPS)  throughout the world spun-out-of-control due to the flux of electromagnetic energy.

                                                 

A more recent, dramatic example of a solar storm’s impact is the 1989, Quebec-Power blackout. The geomagnetic storm created was much milder than the solar maxim of the 1859, Carrington Event. However, it’s a chilling preview of what a complex, unprotected  electrical grid faces when up against the forces of the super solar storm. Quebec-Power’s large transformers were fried by the GICs overloading its grid network. Electrical grids and power-lines  act like a giant antenna in pulling in the  massive flow of geomagnetic energy. In the 1989 solar storm incident, over 6 million people lost power in Eastern Canada and the U.S., with additional connecting power grids on the verge of collapsing.  Again, the powerful 1989 solar disturbance was not the 100 year super storm, but a small preview of what can if  preparations are made to protect the power grid.
Solar scientist are finally able to put together how extreme storms follow an 11 year solar maxim cycle, like the one we’re now entering, and should peak sometime in 2013. Already this year, six major X-class solar storms, the most intense type, have occurred since January. Within one week of July, we had two of the X-class storms, with the last one pointing directly at Earth.  On July 13, 2012, the Washington Post’s Jason Sometime, wrote an article with his concerns on  how NASA and NOAA were sending out inconsistent warnings about the solar storm from July 12.
The federal agency FEMA, appears to have learned its’ lesson from Hurricane Katrina and being proactive with a series of super solar storm scenarios. These scenarios  illustrate the many challenges towards maintaining communication and electric power, based on the strength of the solar event. Without reliable power, food distribution will be problematic. Today we have less reliance on large warehouse  inventories and more dependency on — “just in time” food delivery. According to Willis Risk Solutions (industrial underwriter insurer for electric utilities) and Lloyds World Specialist Insurer (formerly LLoyds of London), there’s a global shortage of industrial large electric transformer, which now are only made in a few countries. It would take years to replace the majority of the World’s electric transformers and technically require massive amounts of electric power, which ironically, would not be available in an event of an extreme geomagnetic storm.
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Select companies and  the federal agencies mentioned in this essay, are overall, considered highly respected and cautious in forecasting major threats to societies and national economies. All of the mentioned government entities and scientific organizations realize it’s not a matter  if, but when will the next super solar storm be aimed and sent to Earth.
The good news is we can still take the necessary precautions to protect our society and the economic future from this clear and present threat. Here’s a link to the 2008 National Academy of Science (funded by congress) report:  Severe Weather—Understanding Societal and Economic Impact: A Workshop Report (2008). This group meets every year to work on preventative strategies. The report contains cost-effective protection plans for electric power grids, please see the link provided.
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Chronicles of the largest solar and geomagnetic storms in the last 500 years.

1847  — First geomagnetic storm caused by a solar flare, which inadvertently was documented using emerging telegraph technology.  Reports were the telegraph system was sending clearer signals by disconnecting its batteries and using the geomagnetic energy from the storm.  First published effects caused from geomagnetic storm.

1859  — Becomes known as the Carrington Event; telegraph system becomes inoperable worldwide as some offices are set on fire from supercharge telegraph wire. This is the largest geomagnetic storm in 500 years. Scientists begin documenting future solar storm activity.

1921 — Know as the “Great Storm” worldwide telegraphs and radio signals become inoperable and cables are burned out. This geomagnetic storm is likely to occur approximately 100 years.

1989 —  Major solar flare erupts on the surface of the Sun opposite of Earth; a resulting solar storm triggers a massive geomagnetic storm, which overwhelms Quebec’s power grid. As a result of the storm, six million people instantly lose power as a U.S. Northeast and Midwest connecting grids come within seconds of the collapse. As a result, the Canadian government becomes proactive and develops strategies to  protect its power grid from future solar storms.

2003 — Know as the “Halloween Storms” this series of geomagnetic storms disrupted GPS, blocked High Frequency (HF) radio and triggered emergency procedures at various nuclear power plants. In Scandinavia and South Africa, section of  power grids were hit hard, as many large power transformers were destroyed by the powerful geomagnetic induced currents (GICs).

Chronological  Reports and News Accounts of Solar Storms From 1859 to 2003

This is one of the most comprehensive list of solar storm accounts on the web. The site chronicles strange solar storm happenings; such as reports in the early 1960s  with TV programs suddenly disappearing and reappearing in other regions. Other unsettling reports include the U.S. being cut off from radio communication from the rest of the world during a geomagnetic storm. Please see link below:  http://www.solarstorms.org/SRefStorms.html 

 

Solar Storm Acronyms and Terms

ACE — Advance Compositional Explore = NASA satellite used in detecting and monitoring potential damaging solar flares and CMEs.

AC — alternating current

BPS — bulk power system 

CME — coronal mass ejection = caused from a solar flare near the surface of the sun, which sends  a billion-ton radiation storm out into space.

EHV — extra high voltage

FERC — United States Federal Energy Regulatory Commission

GIC — geo-magnetic induced current = an extreme solar storm’s magnetic energy contracts with our planet’s protective magnetic field, creating electric current which conducts or travels through the ground or ocean water.

GMD — geo-magnetic disturbance

GAO — Government Accounting Office

GPS — global positioning system = A series of satellites positioned in an Earth, geostationary orbit for use in military and civilian navigation

NERC — North American Electric Reliability Corporation

NASA — National Aeronautics and Space Administration

NOAA — National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

POES — Polar Operational Environmental Satellite

SEP — solar energetic particle

SOHO — Solar and Heliosphere Observatory (satellite)

STDC — Solar Terrestrial Dispatch Center (Canada)

STEREO — Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory (Satellite)

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Please view this most beautiful video time-lapse of the Aurora Borealis http://vimeo.com/11407018
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Sources and Links

NASA Resources

Illustration courtesy of NASA

A useful illustration for understanding NASA’s efforts with Heliophysics System Observatory
Detail explanation of space weather and NASA monitoring can be found at the following link:   http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/sunearth/spaceweather/index.html
NOAA Solar storm monitors sites:
NOAA is the nation’s official source of space weather alerts, monitoring and alerts. The following NOAA site provides real time monitoring and forecasting of solar and geophysical events.  http://www.swpc.noaa.gov/

NASA and NOAA sites (post warning of impending dangers to the electrical grid from solar storms producing extreme geomagnetic induce currents (GICs) on Earth). http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2009/21jan_severespaceweather/ http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2010/26oct_solarshield/ http://www.noaawatch.gov/themes/space.php

http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2012/mar/18/solar-storm-flare-disruption-technology

http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2012/07/solar-flare-cme-aurora/

http://www.usfa.fema.gov/fireservice/subjects/emr-isac/infograms/ig2012/4-12.shtm#3

My solar storm articles from February www.bigpictureone.wordpress.com  and in the March edition of  www.ScienceTechTablet.wordpress.com  present a comprehensive picture of how solar flares and solar storms originate, with the potential of producing geomagnetic storms on Earth.  If these geomagnetic storms are severe enough, they can threaten our way of life. Some strategies and common sense precautions are offered  for civic preparedness in the case of an extreme solar event.

Exploring Etruscan ruins beneath the cliffs of medieval Orvieto, Italy.

 

     

Etruscan ruins under cliffs of the citadel of Orvieto

                                               

                       

Etruscan art presented in Orvieto museum.

Woman holding an umbrella during a rainy day in Orvieto, within Umbria region of Italy.

Photos and text by: David Johanson Vasquez © All Rights

Please note this story is designed to be a work in progress. New text and photos may be added at anytime. You’re invited to view the photos and read the essay as is. Thank you for your interest —to enrich the interactive nature of this story you’re encouraged to contribute with suggestions, questions or comments.

 —We boarded a train in Venice with just a few days remaining of a three-week adventure in Italy.  Our coach moved steadily from its station, with the island city quickly vanishing from view.  Soon my wife and I were transported into the countryside, which gave us fleeting panoramic views of charming Italian landscapes.  My mind wandered, trying to imagine what intriguing encounters we would find waiting for us at our next destination.

While the train traveled deeper into the center of the countryside, gray sky’s hung low overhead as morning turned into afternoon.  Undecided of our next destination, we took a chance to stay in a mysterious fortress city, perched on cliffs, within the region of Umbria.

We had engaging conversations with an Italian couple, who were traveling to Naples with their young children.  The youthful husband was born in Naples; his profession was a train engineer for the Italian rail network. His charming wife was blond, with blue eyes, and Norwegian born. Both husband and wife spoke fluent English.  We exchanged information and ideas about many subjects on world culture, technology and comparing educational systems.  Time went quickly as we used most of it in dialogue with our newfound friends, but soon we had to prepare to deboard at our intended destination.  As the train slowed down to stop I caught a glimpse through the clouds, of a mysterious town perched on cliffs,  appearing as if it were floating in clouds. We had arrived below the ancient town of Orvieto, and instantly became intrigued of its mysterious  atmosphere.   

This was a location we had penciled in as possible place to spend our 5th wedding anniversary.  Before flying to Europe, we visited the office of Rick Steves, an America’s authority of European travel.  His business is in a nearby town of Edmonds, located next to the Puget Sound.  We bought one of his books and attended a seminar on Italian travel in which the medieval town of Orvieto came up.  Steves mentioned this place was a refreshing one to visit, as tourist travel had not yet overrun it.  The tip was spot-on and there were few tourist in town compared to busy Venice where we just came from.  Rick Steves is an iconic figure in the travel industry and it’s remarkable how well he’s revered throughout Italy.  Whenever I mentioned his name to hotel workers, they smiled and had positive words to say about him and his organization.

Poster promoting a performing arts event in Orvieto, Italy.

Because we were traveling off-season, we found without reservations, a wonderful hotel just outside of the medieval township of Orvieto.  The hotel had a shuttle to take us up the steep road leading to the town, which resembled a fortress citadel on top of a volcanic butte.

In ancient times this bastion had been the capital city of the Etruscan Civilization, predating the Roman Empire by centuries.  On my agenda was to explore the remaining Etruscan ruins, located at the base of the massive cliff stronghold.  To better understand the past, our plan was to do a walking tour of Orvieto, to see if there were any impressions still remaining from its ancient ancestors.

Arriving on top of a dramatic plateau, we were greeted by vast panoramas stretching in all directions. There are no shortages of striking views, which any past tribal or clan leaders would have recognized as strategic in value.  Bellow is rich fertile green valleys stretching outwards to distant foothills.  Nature would have a challenge constructing any better fortification than this volcanic butte, with its solid ring of 100′ foot sheer cliffs. From this vantage point it was clear why this site was chosen… location, location, location!

Returning to the interior of Orvieto we found a small neighborhood with an interesting subterranean museum.  Once inside, the steps descends rapidly in a winding cavern naturally formed into the porous tuff volcanic stone.  Dim light with damp smells created an environment  which hasn’t changed in thousands of years. This was ground zero of where this settlement’s roots developed. In prehistoric times this cave provided protection from the elements, attacks from aggressors–both man or beats and it provided a continuous fresh water supply.  Latter the Etruscan used the grotto for religious ceremonies and eventually carved out passages for escape routes leading outside of the walled city.

I’ve always liked the experience of exploring caves.  As a young teenager, I lived in California’s Mojave Desert, not far from Joshua Tree National Monument.  My brother Jim and I would explore natural caves and man-made gold mines; while enjoying the cool, moist air which was a relief from the scorching desert air outside.

My wife and I found this fascinating setting for our fifth wedding anniversary dinner, named Le Grotte del Funaro.  Enclosed in a natural grotto the restaurant featured windows cut through stone walls to view the valley bellow.  This place was like out of a location scout’s, central-casting dream, except it was authentically medieval.  The meals served were exceptionally fine—Italian seafood cuisine—paired with fantastic regional wines.  Any-one traveling to Italy knows how remarkably delicious and distinctive the food from each region is.  Realizing it was a special occasion for us, the restaurant staff gave us a wonderful dinning experience we will always cherish.

Italian hospitality is some of the best in the world. The people of this country are so gracious and accommodating, its no wonder celebrities such as George Clooney have chosen to live in Italy.

A large stone manor sat on a hill next to our hotel. It looked centuries old and I couldn’t tell from where we were, if it was still occupied.  Employees working at the hotel shrugged their shoulders when asked if they knew anything about the place.  It seemed as if the estate had been there so long, it just blended into the background and was ignored.

While traveling by rail or car, throughout Italy you see a landscape dotted by buildings centuries old, some are abandoned in various states of disrepair.  These orphaned stone structures intrigued me because they stood the test of time and all had stories to tell.  Finally an opportunity presented itself, to quench my curiosity of exploring one of these ancient sites.

Lounging farm animals near Orvieto, Italy.

I walked over a mile on a winding road, through rustic farm country. Following a dirt path uphill, past plowed fields, I came face to face with what was once a grand estate with a marvelous view.

The building was clearly abandoned, in disrepair with sections of walls missing, allowing for flocks of pigeons to fly out of its exposed interiors.  Cautiously walking into an entry; I considered each step taken between mounds of debris, to ascend a crumbling stairway.  At the top of the

flight of stairs a series of makeshift catwalks followed second story walls.

Carefully balancing myself with one hand holding my camera and the other holding parts of the building, I took a series of photos throughout the building.

                                                                         

Once back on terra-firma, I found a basement wall with iron bars on it.  The room appeared designed to either keep people out or possibly in.  Whether it could have been a storehouse for valuables or a jail for criminals, its dark entrance into the basement looked to foreboding for me to consider exploring  without a flashlight.  On the other side of the estate was a large kitchen with a wood oven and portions of a table still holding utensils. After taking several more photographs from various angles, I retreated back to the road and leisurely walked to the hotel for a rest from my solo adventure.

  Orvieto has an intriguing urban context with the way stone streets, buildings and neighborhoods are laid-out.  In some places the town resembles a maze, so we took advantage of this and turned it into a fun game—to just walk and explore new places in hopes of getting a little lost, then looking for visual clues to point the way back to a familiar landmark.

                                                        

Etruscan warfare depicted on ancient pottery.

Looking at preserved Etruscan artifacts, it’s apparent they adopted the Greek alphabet and most of this art appears borrowed from classic Hellenic culture.  No major surprise of a dominant cultural influence here, as Greek tribes heavily colonized the Italian peninsula, primarily with the Achaeans beginning in 800 BC.

With the recent popularity of Roman culture being portrayed in Hollywood movies such as: Ridley Scott’s Gladiator and STARZ cable series Spartacus: a misunderstanding has developed of where mortal combat began as a “spectator sport.” This brutal form of entertainment certainly didn’t begin in Rome, as many would be led to believe.  The Roman historian Lily, stated it was imported from the Achaeans who colonized the Campania region of southern Italy.  However, the majority ancient historians chronicle its beginnings  as a uniquely Etruscans enterprise from northwestern Italy.

Most ancient historians credit the Etruscan with inventing the blood lust sport of gladiatorial combat.

A series of Etruscan tombs located at the base of Orvieto, Italy

Etruscan tomb used as final resting place for individuals and family members.

A view from guarding walls, which perhaps have not changed in centuries.

What I find  intriguing and especially more so, for my better-half; is the power which Etruscan women held in their culture.  Unlike their Roman and Greek sisters, who were not allowed to freely mingle with the opposite sex or to own property, these women had much more control over their destiny.  It’s surprising the Roman’s question the morality of Etruscan customs, labeling it as scandalous and more promiscuous than their own. This was primarily due to Etruscan women empowerment, who could freely chose their mate, own property and have a say in politics. This concept  equality and of liberation had to wait until the 20th century for many women in the western world.

The beautiful Gothic Duomo of Orvieto, it’s architecture dominating the background.

One of my favorite Duomos (cathedral) of Italy is the stunning Gothic one found in Orvieto.  Construction of this impressive house of worship began in 1290 and it took over three centuries to complete.  Intricate, textured forms of the facade are partly accented with brilliant gold leaf, which projects illuminated light onto viewers even during an overcast day.  A multitude of Biblical scenes are marvelously painted in relief and beautifully incorporated into the dazzling front entrance.

It’s interesting to note the sites of churches and cathedrals in Italy, were once the very same sites used for earlier pagan temples and places of worship.  This practice of building over existing sacred sites has been done since prehistoric times and was continued by the conquering Spanish in the New World — as seen in places where Central and South American indigenous people had previously settled and worshiped.

Duomo di Orvieto – Orvieto, in Umbria region of Italy

For me, Orvieto was the most intriguing of the places we visited in the charming country of Italy. This ancient citadel’s isolated location allowed it to preserve and retain much of its architectural essence and unique character. Orvieto has a sense of mystery that I’ve never experienced in any other place and because of this, I hope to return their soon to explore more of its hidden wonders.

Explosive Video Captures Seattle Kingdome’s Collapse Into Oblivion

Video and multimedia essay by: David Johanson Vasquez © All Rights

Preparing to record the mother of all collapses of a Seattle icon — we stood tightly packed, as a captive audience of thousands, ready for a chain-reaction roar from tons of ignited explosives. 

It was a sunny morning in Seattle on March 26, 2000, as my future wife and I set up video cameras to capture the Kingdome sports stadium’s last moments. Anticipating an enormous opportunity for dramatic video content, we arrived early, to set up tripods on a grassy knoll with an ideal stadium viewpoint. Our efforts were more than rewarded, with the structures stunning collapse; however the ensuing surprise aftereffects, were much more than planned for.

With only moments remaining for a syncopated, chain-reaction of explosions to pulverize its concrete victim —an anxious assembly of people, boats and helicopters settled in place. The percussive pops from helicopters perched overhead, drowned out voices from the crowd, whose attention focused ever sharper on the doomed stadium.  All in attendance knew not much time remained before one of the world’s largest buildings would only be a memory.Kingdome Demo_BPP_ 2

In these preceding moments my memories returned to the early mid 1970s when the dome was first built.  It proved a successful means to bring professional sports back to Seattle, with the Mariners and the Seahawks.  I recall the agony and ecstasy of seeing Seahawk football, played inside the dome: of how loud fan cheering was and standing up to do the “Wave” which had recently been invented and imported from UW, Husky Stadium.  The stadium’s greatest sports glory was: 1978-79 season of the SuperSonics, when the team won game 3 & 4 of the series at the dome; then winning the NBA Championship in-game 5, at a Washington DC against the Bullets.

Other events I attended at the dome were mega size rock concerts; although going to a concert at the dome was more about seeing the band, as the sound acoustics were horrible. One remarkable aspect forgotten about the dome was how cost-effective it was at a stadium facility; Nationally rated as a top civic venue for revenue generation, while producing real income for Seattle and King County.  After nearly three decades of use, the domes mushroom like esthetics lost its luster and would have a hard time winning in any beauty contest.  So, with maintenance and obsolescence catching up, its days became numbered and a decision had made on how to best remove it from the map. Imploding the Kingdome with explosives was selected the most efficient and quickest way to end its days.

Seattle Kingdome demolition March 26, 2000: view looking south moments before the explosion. Video by: David Johanson Vasquez /Bigpicturephoto.us  ©

Anxiously some groups near us began to chant out countdowns for the detonation to begin: their efforts produced nothing but collective groans when reaching zero.  On the third and final countdown a steady chorus chimed in, as we sensed this was going to be it.  In between one and zero, hundreds of pigeons near the stadium instantly took flight; suddenly, startling flashes of bright light burst from the structure’s seems, followed by plumes of smoke from shooting towards the sky.  At this instant, time seemed suspended; as if everything else in the world froze for a split second, to grant this colossus structure dignity of enjoying one last moment in the sun before falling from grace and collapsing into oblivion.  For a moment, it was like watching a surreal, silent movie, due to absent sounds of shock waves, which travel much slower than the light created by flashes of explosions.  A precise alignment of explosives, evenly spaced from the dome’s top to the ground, sliced through layers of concrete and steel, like a knife cutting wedges of a cake.  Finally, a ground-shaking roar of sound reached us and was now in synch with the dome as it collapsed in a slow-motion pantomime.  Astonishingly, the entire structure of 100 thousand tons of concrete and steel, which could have held several city blocks within its walls, appeared completely collapsed behind a dense shroud of dust and ash.

Watching in complete amazement and believing nothing could outdo what we had just witnessed, the crowds wild cheering was soon eclipsed by the sight of a rapidly advancing — ominous plume of swirling dust.  The ash cloud accelerated unexpectedly from the blast site as it expanded evermore rapidly by hundreds of feet within seconds. This monstrous cloud of caustic dust and debris ironically appeared to come to life, for avenging the destroyed stadium.

You could see large groups of pedestrians who were closer to the demolition site, scrambling into the streets to find cover from the unstoppable storm of dust. Within seconds, visibility of south Seattle was gone; the menacing shroud turned the sunny day into night as it rapidly descended north into the heart of the Emerald City.  Trying to keep my camera trained on the rogue cloud as it swallowed entire buildings and city blocks within its path, we notice it climbing to engulf our hill position. Grabbing the camera we scrambled for an exit, which would take us to safety in our vehicle.  Reaching the park car in record time, the dust storm’s leading edge was now depositing a layer of particles on the hood, with gray quarter-inch sized chunks floating down like snow.  Now safely inside, with relief we removed the sleeves from our faces, allowing for us to excitedly recount the dramatic events.

A few years later the EPA produced a report, which found comparable similarities in the debris particles from the Kingdome demolition; with what was found in the falling particles caused by World Trade Center attacks of 911.  The ejected powdered concrete caused an airborne mixture of caustic particulates, with high traces of pH levels.  The plan (or hope) for a debris cloud from the Kingdome demolition, was for a path heading south towards the industrial part of the city.  Normally, wind patterns in the area predominantly flow northwards, so the ill-conceived plan allowed for the dome to seek revenge and spread it remains throughout most of Seattle’s downtown area.

Up until now I’ve used this video for educational purposes in video production classes.  In the last segment of the video, are dramatic slow-motion and high-speed-motion of the Kingdome demolition. These techniques have a variety of applications for industry including: manufacturing, engineering, public services and creative entertainment.