Hashima Island

Awhile ago I posted an entry on Swami Atma’s blog about the book “The World Without Us” by Alan Weisman. I really enjoyed the book which described what changes would take place in the world if all the people were suddenly gone.

Now on the History channel there is a show called Life After People. It’s just like the book but they have different topics to keep the show stretching out week by week. Sometimes there is video from places that have been abandoned by people for various reasons and they document the changes that occurred since the people left.

Last night they showed video of Hashima Island. Hashima Island is located off the coast of Japan and was once the most densely populated city on earth. Mitsubishi housed all the people there. They were mining for coal under the ocean floor.  40 years ago the island was abandoned because the use of oil was more prevalent and the island became a ghost town overnight.

The island was also called “Battleship Island” because from afar it looks like a battleship. It was actually mistakenly torpedoed by the Americans during WWII:

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Here’s what Hashima Island looked like when it was most crowded:

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Here’s how it looks now:

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These steps were the only way up and down:

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Somebody’s house:

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City street:

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Anyway, I think it’s interesting how nature takes it all back if not for people’s constant efforts to keep the maya going.

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Für Elise via Guitar

Some time ago I posted an entry about two musicians playing Ronda Alla Turca on one guitar. Here’s another one, this time one musician playing Für Elise by Beethoven on two guitars:

Back in my piano playing days I played Für Elise in a recital. It was the only recital I ever gave and it is still one of my favorite pieces.

Trip to Enchanted Rock

This week was spring break week. We didn’t do anything all week, until yesterday when we decided to go to Enchanted Rock State Park. It’s near Fredericksburg and about a 2 hour drive from our house.

The Rock is a huge, pink granite exfoliation dome, that rises 425 feet above ground, 1825 feet above sea level, and covers 640 acres. It is one of the largest batholiths (underground rock formation uncovered by erosion) in the United States.

Here’s a view from the bottom looking up before we started:

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The hike up is pretty steep although the views are really pretty. Here’s Sandra and her boyfriend Dylan in the middle of the picture:

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View on the way up of another nearby formation showing lots of vegetation in the area:

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According to legend,

Tonkawa Indians believed ghost fires flickered at the top, and they heard weird creaking and groaning, which geologists now say resulted from the rock’s heating by day and contracting in the cool night. A conquistador captured by the Tonkawa described how he escaped by losing himself in the rock area, giving rise to an Indian legend of a “pale man swallowed by a rock and reborn as one of their own.” The Indians believed he wove enchantments on the area, but he explained that the rock wove the spells. “When I was swallowed by the rock, I joined the many spirits who enchant this place.”

Here’s Nicole at the top:

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This picture from the top I really like although it is hard to see in this small size picture – a tree in the middle of a road…

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When we got tired Nicole and I laid down on the rock for a rest:

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And then Dylan, Sandra and Nicole climbed some more rocks:

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We all had a good time.

Space Debris

Recently US and Russian satellites collided in space. Supposedly it made a huge debris field which is now putting other satellites at risk. The US government tracks all space debris larger than a football, but they missed that this would happen.

The European Space Operations Centre has put together some images showing just how much stuff is orbiting around earth. In the picture below all the little whitish blotches and the big smudge circling close to earth all represent objects floating in space:

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Between the launch of Sputnik on 4 October 1957 and 1 January 2008, approximately 4600 launches have placed some 6000 satellites into orbit; about 400 are now traveling beyond Earth on interplanetary trajectories, but of the remaining 5600 only about 800 satellites are operational… Space debris comprise the ever-increasing amount of inactive space hardware in orbit around the Earth as well as fragments of spacecraft that have broken up, exploded or otherwise become abandoned.

A closer picture:

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A view of the polar orbit:

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These are amazing pictures and after seeing these it is surprising there are not more satellite collisions.

You can read a longer article about this here.

Saturn

A couple days ago Nasa released some new pictures of Saturn taken from the side opposite earth by the Cassini spacecraft. Here is what the exaggerated color photo looks like and what they had to say about it:

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The robotic Cassini spacecraft now orbiting Saturn recently drifted in the giant planet’s shadow for about 12 hours and looked back toward the eclipsed Sun. Cassini saw a view unlike any other. First, the night side of Saturn is seen to be partly lit by light reflected from its own majestic ring system. Next, the rings themselves appear dark when silhouetted against Saturn, but quite bright when viewed away from Saturn, slightly scattering sunlight, in this exaggerated color image. Saturn’s rings light up so much that new rings were discovered, although they are hard to see in the image. Seen in spectacular detail, however, is Saturn’s E ring, the ring created by the newly discovered ice-fountains of the moon Enceladus and the outermost ring visible above. Far in the distance, at the left, just above the bright main rings, is the almost ignorable pale blue dot of Earth.

Here is the equally amazing, original photo:

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I kind of like the unaltered version better, but you can’t see the pale blue dot of earth.

Full size photo.

Welcome Back – 2009 news

I’m back after a long delay in posting. Hope you all had a great Holiday season. We did.

In old news, here was our Christmas palm tree and presents before we opened them:

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I also wish you all the best for 2009.

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We’ve been busy here.

Our webdesign business is going great – we have more jobs than anticipated which is always a good thing.

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Over the Christmas break I got to see three excellent movies: Valkyrie, Slumdog Millionaire, and Doubt. All very good and well worth the time and money to go see.

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My kids are back in school and getting ready for finals week.

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A lot is happening in the news.

We were all outrageously shocked to hear the news out of Oakland about the unarmed and handcuffed man who was shot in the back and murdered New Years night by the Oakland police. This was caught on video and witnessed by a number of people. The videos are horrible to watch. You can go check it out on youtube if you want to see them. What’s amazing is that we did not even hear about it until a couple days ago. Even more amazing is the cop was not arrested on the spot by his obviously shocked fellow officers. The family now suing for 25 million in restitution should be asking for more. Here’s a picture of the ensuing riots:

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The weather here is all over the place. 80 degrees F one day and in the forties the next. I don’t remember these kinds of fluctuations before.  Always you wonder whether it is global warming related. Here is my hibiscus blooming in the middle of winter:

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I learned about how some people think jellyfish are the canary in the coalmine as far as global warming. It seems that jellyfish do better in unhealthy water that other things die in. Somebody put together a chronogical listing of some news stories from 2008 that are showing more and more jellyfish swarms (or whatever it’s called when it’s jellyfish) all over the world.  By themselves these kinds of stories seems weird and far-fetched, but there are so many weird and far-fetched environmental problems that altogether it’s a little scary.

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All the presidents still alive met at the White House. The news commentators said they did not know what they talked about except for that Clinton liked the carpet. I read someplace an analysis of the way they all are standing: Bush senior has his hands in his pockets and so has something to hide; Obama has his hands in prayer position; Bush junior is standing with the backs of his hands forward which no one does and no one knows why; Clinton clasps his hands behind his back which shows guilt and hiding; and Carter stands normally in an open and casual manner showing nothing to hide and an easy conscience.

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In other news: Tennessee is drowning in a sea of toxic sludge. Obama continues on his steady march to the White House – only 10 more days – while John Howard, the ex-Australian prime minister that nobody likes gets to stay in Blair House (a house with 110 rooms and 33 bathrooms). Keith Olbermann and the other news guys that thrived during the Bush years are struggling for something to say (that is my opinion, not an offical news story). The price of cruise ship vacations is down exponentially so book your trip now. About 550,000 more people lost their jobs in December.

Meanwhile, I still continue to be inspired by my yoga practice. Currently I am reading a book from Ramana Maharishi. He never wrote anything himself, but he had students who wrote as he spoke and the book is a compilation of some of his teachings.

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The question posed to him is, “Is Mukti the same as realisation?”

He answers:

Mukti or liberation is our nature. It is another name for us. Our wanting mukti is a very funny thing. It is like a man who is in the shade, voluntarily leaving the shade, going into the sun, feeling the severity of the heat there, making great efforts to get back into the shade and then rejoicing, ‘How sweet is the shade! I have reached the shade at last!’ We are all doing exactly the same. We are not different from the reality. We imagine we are different, that is we create the bheda bhava [the feeling of difference] and then undergo great sadhana [spiritual practices] to get rid of the bheda bhava and realize the oneness. Why imagine or create bheda bhava and then destroy it?

Your Body as a Car

Here is an interesting (and short) quiz you can take to find out how efficient your body is. The quiz assumes you consume 1 gallon of liquid food mixed with water and then it tells you approximately how far you could walk before you  run out of gas; or how many miles per gallon your body gets.

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I ended up the equivalent of a hybrid vehicle.