Friday, June 24, 2016

Point Wilson Light, WA

Postcard US-4002452 to Luxembourg shows the Point Wilson Light, an active aid to navigation overlooking the entrance to Admiralty Inlet, located in Fort Worden State Park near Port Townsend, Jefferson County, Washington. Built in 1914, the lighthouse was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on March 24, 1971.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Tortoise: Guinness Ad Campaign

Postcard US-4015876 to Germany shows "Tortoise" from a vintage Guinness ad campaign poster. The tortoise was an appropriate candidate to promote Guinness beer as a pick me up, circa 1936.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Catalina Mountains, Arizona

Postcard US-4029693 to Belarus shows a storm brewing in the Catalina Mountains at Tucson, Arizona. Snow can be seen on the mountain peaks behind the Saguaro Cactus. Photo by Ray Manley.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Western Horseman: July 1954 Cover

Postcard US-4002384 to Japan shows the July 1954 Western Horseman magazine cover. It captures that tense, explosive split-second after the chute gates open and the cowboy says "Turn 'im out!" This photo was shot by Clarence Coil, a frequent contributor to the magazine during the 1950s.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Tropic of Cancer Monument in Rueisuei, Hualien

Postcard TW-1957358 from Taiwan shows the Tropic of Cancer Monument in Rueisuei (瑞穗) Township, Hualien County (花蓮縣), Taiwan.

The Tropic of Cancer is the most northerly circle of latitude at 23.5ºN on the Earth that may have the Sun directly overhead at the time of the Northern solstice (夏至). In 2016, this "shadowless" effect occurs at noon local time on June 20 at 23.43715°N when the Northern Hemisphere is tilted toward the Sun to its maximum extent.

The.Tropic of Cancer Monument was originally placed to the west of Rueisuei Train Station in 1933. It was relocated to to the Wuhe (舞鶴) Terrace on Provincial Highway No.9 in 1981 due to expansion of the Eastern Line Railway. However, the new location is actually two kilometers south of the Tropic of Cancer.

Two additional Tropic of Cancer monuments can be found in Taiwan at Shuishang (水上) Township, Jiayi County (嘉義縣), and Fengbin (豐濱) Township, Hualien County respectively.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Tel Aviv Pride Parade

The 18th annual Tel Aviv Pride Parade took place on June 3, 2016 with more than 200,000 participants from Israel and oversea. It's the largest event ever in the Middle East. The theme for the 2016 event was “Women for Change,” highlighting the role of women in the LGBT community.

Postcard TW-1958271 from Taiwan shows the Tel Aviv Pride Parade from a previous year. The 2017 Tel Aviv Pride Parade will be held on June 9, 2017.

In the United States, thousands turned out in Columbus, OH, Denver, CO, Olympia, WA, New Orleans, LA, Portland, OR,  Chicago, IL, Albuquerque, NM and Providence, RI. for pride festivals and parades over the weekend. The mood for many people was somber as forty-nine people were killed and more than 50 others were wounded in a mass shooting inside the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, FL last weekend on June 12, 2016. Security were tightened at events over the weekend. Participants declare that they refuse to live in fear, with more people come out to show support.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Disney Adds Signs Warning of Alligators and Snakes

A private swap to Pennsylvania shows a card produced by SFWMD. It reads on the back: "The broad-snouted American alligator navigates freely through rivers and lakes in southern Florida. Remnants of a prehistoric ear, alligators are a protected species that continues to flourish." The number of alligators living in Florida is estimated at 1.3 million. Central to state's identity, it was featured on  a 32-cent commemorative stamp, issued in Tallahassee, Florida on March 3, 1995, to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Florida Statehood.

Although alligator attacks are rare, properties at Walt Disney World are adding signs warning "Alligators and snakes in area" at their beaches after an alligator dragged a 2-year-old boy from Nebraska to his death in a lagoon near the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa on June 14, 2016. At the time of incident, only "No Swimming" signs were posted without any specific reference to alligators.

Friday, June 17, 2016

VA Medical Center, Washington DC

Postcard US-3989690 to Russia was a linen vintage card showing the new VA Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland as of 1948.

In 2011, the Walter Reed Army Medical Center was combined with the National Naval Medical Center to form the tri-service Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, named after yellow fever researcher Walter Reed.Located near the headquarters of the National Institutes of Health  in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, it is one of the most prominent U.S. military medical centers in the United States.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Juneau, Alaska

Postcard US-4015824 to France shows an illustration of steps of all sizes, shapes, and colors weaving between hillside houses in Juneau, the capital of Alaska. Located on the Gastineau Channel in the Alaskan panhandle, it is the second largest city in the United States by area, larger by area than both Rhode Island and Delaware.

There are no roads connecting Juneau to the rest of Alaska or to the rest of North America due to the extremely rugged terrain surrounding the city, although automobiles can reach the city by ferry service. Planes and boats are more important transportation methods than cars.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

The Golden Eagle

Postcard US-2711124 to the Netherlands shows a golden eagle soaring over the Mount  Charleston near Las Vegas in Nevada.

One of the best-known birds of prey in the Northern Hemisphere, the golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) is the most widely distributed species of eagle. Although considered hawk-like, these dark brown birds have a stance and bearing much like that of an eagle, with a soaring wingspan of 76-92", eyes with an "eagle look", and a "golden" nap. They build their nests with a large mass of sticks on a crag, ledge or in a tree, with a pair alternating between several nests in different years.

Photo by Alan & Sandy Carey.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Vista of Engineer Mountain

Postcard US-4005401 to Thailand was a vintage card from the 1960s, with a view of Engineer Mountain Vista in autumn from the Million Dollar Highway, US 550 between Durango and Silverton in the San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Wellington Cable Car at Sunrise, New Zealand

Postcard NZ-146552 from New Zealand shows a stunning sunrise with the Wellington Cable Car in the forefront. Established in 1902, Wellington’s historic Cable Car is the only cable railway currently in operation in New Zealand.

For visitors, no trip to Wellington is complete without a ride on the famous cable car; for locals, it's more than a commute. A good way to spend a morning is to get to the top of the Botanic Gardens early to watch the sunrise and view the cityscape. You will need to check the local sunrise time and the cable car timetable to plan the trip. Stop at the Cable Car Museum that was the original winding house. Then walk down to the city's central business district through the beautiful gardens and old houses.

The Cable Car is currently closed from June 7 to July 31, 2016 for upgrade.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

F Line Streetcar in San Francisco

Postcard US-4010006 to Germany shows the F Market & Wharves line, one of several light rail lines in San Francisco, California, that runs as a heritage streetcar service. Distinctive from most other lines in the San Francisco Municipal Railway (Muni) system, the F line's operation uses exclusively historic equipment both from San Francisco's retired fleet as well as from cities around the world. Market Street Railway, a nonprofit organization of streetcar enthusiasts, provides a support role by raising funds and helps to restore vintage streetcars.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Alcatraz is Spanish for Pelican

Forty five years ago on June 11, 1971, the U.S. Government forcibly removed the last holdouts to the Native American Occupation of Alcatraz that lasted 19 months.

This Alcatraz Island postcard shows the weathered and deteriorating laundry facility used when Alcatraz was a Federal Penitentiary. It was sent in for a pictorial postmark dated on August 8, 2015 at Alcatraz Island Station in San Francisco, CA that commemorated the 81st anniversary of the opening of the infamous penitentiary in August, 1934.

A unique Alcatraz Alumni reunion was held at Alcatraz  between former prison guards and former "residents" on Sunday August 9, 2015.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Algarve, Portugal

Postcard PT-257988 from Portugal shows a beach scene in the Algarve, the southernmost region of continental Portugal. Known for its sunny Mediterranean climate and its beach and golf resorts, it is the most popular tourist destination in Portugal in the summer. It has half a million regular residents, with visitors and seasonal residents adding to another million during the peak holiday season. The Algarve receives near 10 million visitors annually, including 7 millions from overseas.

Today is Portugal Day. To recognize the contributions of Portuguese-American community in California, the State Senate adopted a resolution, declaring June 10th as “Portugal Day” in the state.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Water Lily vs. Lotus

Postcard US-4015954 to Canada shows a maxi card with a Water Lilies first-class forever stamp issued by USPS in Cleveland, OH on March 20, 2015, and a first-day-of-issue postmark.

The card was produced by SFWMD. It reads on the back: "Lovely fragrant white water lilies are abundant throughout much of southern Florida's ecosystem. The floating aquatic plant provides fish habitat and aquatic wildlife food and cover, and stabilizes sediments.

The Water Lilies stamps, priced at 49 cents at the time of issuance and valued at 47 cents now, have four designs based on existing photos taken by Cindy Dyer of Alexandria, VA in midsummer at the Kenil­worth Park and Aquatic Gardens in Washington, DC.

Cindy Dyer is also the photographer of a Sacred Lotus (Nelumbo nucifera) image, taken at the Kenil­worth Park and Aquatic Gardens, that was used to produce the 11th of 16 stamps in the National Park Service’s Centennial stamp series. Sacred Lotus (Nelumbo nucifera), with its blooming period from late June to early September, can grow a bloom in the size of a basketball.
I used to have some confusions between water lily and lotus. The Pond Plant Girl has an excellent article to describe their difference.

Meanwhile, Duanwu Festival 2016 happens today. Eating Zongzi, rice balls wrapped in reed leaves or lotus leaves, is one of the traditions during the festival.

One of the most popular ancient Chinese poems about lotus was Ode to the Lotus Flower (爱莲说) by Dunyi Zhou (周敦頤) (1017-1073). Duanyi wrote: "I just love lotus because she grows in mud, yet never contaminates with it. She floats on waving water, yet never dances with it." (出淤泥而不染 濯清涟而不妖)  In this metaphor, the lotus flower represents someone who remains ethical and noble in spite of general corruptions.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Change to Pay-for-Parking Underway

Visitors to Las Vegas have long been used to and expected free parking at casinos as one of the perks that casino operators offered to attract customers. However, the era of free parking is ending as MGM Resorts International’s properties start to charge for parking this week.

Monte Carlo, New York-New York, Bellagio, Aria and Vdara are the first ones to implement the controversial paid parking program on Monday June 6, 2016, charging customers up to $10 per day. Luxor, Excalibur, and Circus Circus followed on Tuesday June 7; MGM Grand and Mirage are joining in today. Visitors to Mandalay Bay and Delano customers will lose their free parking privileges on June 13, 2016.

Local residents can still park for free until the end of the year. Members of MGM's M Life loyalty program who earned the Gold, Pearl, Platinum and NOIR status will receive free self-parking. Short term parking up to one hour is also complimentary.

While customers can book other properties that do not charge parking for now, the worry is that all other resorts on the Las Vegas Strip may soon follow the trend.

Postcard US-2002271 to Australia shows many MGM properties on the Las Vegas Strip that are affected by the changes, with MGM Grand on the left, and Mandalay Bay, Luxor, Excalibur, New York-New York, and Monte Carlo on the right.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Monte Carlo Out, Park MGM In

Postcard US-1987880 to Brazil shows the Monte Carlo Resort and Casino, a 3,000-room, AAA-Four-Diamond rating megaresort in Las Vegas. Named to invoke the Place du Casino in Monte Carlo, Monaco, it opened to the public on June 21, 1996.

MGM Resorts International has recently announced a plan to renovate the resort and to re-brand it as the Park MGM. A smaller, 292-room spin-off will be created as the NoMad Las Vegas, in partner with the Sydell Group who had built the NoMad in New York City. The NoMad will be independently operated, featuring a dedicated lobby, swimming pool as well as separate gaming and food venues.

Monday, June 6, 2016

San Francisco's Prettiest Ladies

Postcard US-4032025 to Germany shows an aerial view of  "Painted Ladies," a term in American architecture used for Victorian and Edwardian houses and buildings painted in three or more colors that embellish or enhance their architectural details. The card is one of those from Above San Francisco postcard book.

Hilary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are battling in California on final day of campaigning for the Democratic presidential nomination. Sanders is ending the night with a get-out-the-vote concert in San Francisco featuring Dave Matthews, Fantastic Negrito, Fishbone and actor Danny Glover; Clinton stages her own closing musical event with stars Christina Aguilera, Andra Day, John Legend, Ricky Martin, and Stevie Wonder in the Los Angeles area.

Earlier, AP and other news organizations find Hillary Clinton has secured enough delegates needed to clinch the Democratic nomination, breaking a high glass ceiling for women.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Maisaka from "Tokaido Journey"

Postcard US-4002386 to China shows the sun over a torii (鳥居) on a 21.5cm x 32.2cm serigraph painting Maisaka from "Tokaido Journey" by William Zacha in 1982.

An entry from Wikipedia explains that a torii, which literally means bird abode, "is a traditional Japanese gate most commonly found at the entrance of or within a Shinto shrine, where it symbolically marks the transition from the profane to the sacred." They are a common sight at Japanese Buddhist temples as well.

Merged into the city of Hamamatsu in 2005, Maisaka (舞阪町) was a fishing town on the Pacific coast of Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan. According to William Zacha, this torii is at the departure point for ferrying across the narrow stretch of water that connects Lake Hamana (浜名湖) with the ocean. It's a great fishing area, famous for eel.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

In Search of Sunrise


An ancient Chinese legend has a giant tribal chief named Kua Fu (夸父) who believed that he would bring back truth and prosperity if he could catch the Sun. So, one day in the morning he started race to the Sun in full speed as soon as he saw the sunrise. At the end of the day, Kua Fu got too close to the Sun and became dehydrated. He was so thirsty that he drank up all the water from the Yellow River (黃河) and the Wei River (渭河) but it was still not enough. Tried but failed to reach the Big Lake in the north, Kua Fu died from the heat exhaustion before he could get there. Kua Fu dropped his cane as he fell down. And the cane had turned into a grove of peach trees, providing protection from the Sun for those who came through afterwards.

Usually a late night person or a night owl, I did a project In Search of Sunrise, filming the sunrise every day for three months last year. The experience was transforming. The card was made from one of the photos taken during the first day on September 30, 2015. It features an unassuming replica of the Statue of Liberty in a neighborhood shopping mall.

Friday, June 3, 2016

United States Air Force Academy

Postcard US-4036245 from Colorado shows the United States Air Force Academy (USAFA), located in Colorado Springs, Colorado. According to Wikipedia, it is the youngest of the five United States service academies, with its first class graduated in 1959. Graduates of the Academy's four-year program receive a Bachelor of Science degree, and are commissioned as second lieutenants in the United States Air Force. The Academy is also one of the largest tourist attractions in Colorado, receiving close to one million visitors every year.

President Obama attended the Academy's 2016 graduation ceremony yesterday on June 2, 2016 as the keynote speaker. In his final commencement address of his presidency, Obama shared some of the lessons he learned in the White House as president and commander-in-chief, and warned the graduating cadets about isolationism.

The United States Air Force Thunderbirds performed during the graduation ceremony. However, one of its fighter jets crashed on its way back to the Peterson Air Force Base after the fly-over demonstration.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Blue Angels and Thunderbirds Crashed in Separate Accidents

It is rare to see an aircraft crash from military flying demonstration squadrons as they feature the most skillful pilots from their respective services. As a matter of fact, the last accident for the US Navy's Blue Angles happened during an air show at a Marine Corps air station in Beaufort, South Carolina in April 2007, when Lt. Cmdr. Kevin Davis was killed; the US Air Force's Thunderbirds saw its last crash in September 2003 with Capt. Chris Stricklin parachuting to safety. Therefore, it's such a bizarre coincidence as a Blue Angels F-18 and a Thunderbirds F-16 crashed separately in the same day.

One F-16 fighter jet of the Thunderbirds crashed near Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado around 1 p.m. MDT (12 p.m. PDT), following a flyover for the Air Force Academy’s graduation ceremony with President Obama in attendance as the keynote speaker. The pilot of the No. 6 Thunderbirds jet Maj. Alex Turner ejected safely.

A mere hour later at approximately 3 p.m. CDT (1 p.m. PDT), a U.S. Navy Blue Angels  F/A-18 fighter jet crashed while in formation during an air show practice in Smyrna, Tennessee on June 2, 2016. The pilot did not eject and was killed in crash.

Postcard US-3935005 to Germany shows a paratrooper in descent against the Moon during the Aviation Nation on November 13, 2010.
Thunderbird No.6 was seen at the Aviation Nation on Nov. 14, 2010

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

The Milky Way - New Zealand

Postcard NZ-146406 from New Zealand shows a view of the Milky Way from Down Under. According to an article from the Photography Roundtable, for people living in the Southern Hemisphere, the best time period to see and photograph the Milky Way is from February to October, as the galactic center of the Milky Way will not be visible from November to January.

For us in the Northern Hemisphere, the best time to see and photograph the Milky Way is between March and October with the galactic center in full view.

On a separate note, USPS released the Pluto—Explored! and Views of Our Planets Forever stamps during the first-day-of-issue dedication ceremony at World Stamp Show-NY 2016 on May 31, 2016. I was excited to purchase two sheets of the Views of Our Planets Forever stamps yesterday. However, to my disappointment, our local post offices had not ordered the Pluto—Explored! souvenir sheets. I will have to order them on-line.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Orchestra Hall in Chicago

Postcard US-4029700 to Germany was a 15¢ postal card in the Historic Preservation Series saluting Chicago's Orchestra Hall, home to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra since 1904. The indicium shows the interior of the hall where the first-day ceremonies were held at 11:30 a.m. on Friday October 19, 1990. The hall was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on March 21, 1978, and designated as a National Historic Landmark on April 19, 1994.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Clara Harlowe Barton (1821 – 1912)

Clara Harlowe Barton (December 25, 1821 – April 12, 1912), nicknamed "Angel of the Battlefield," was a Union nurse during the American Civil War. Also a teacher and patent clerk, Barton is noteworthy for doing humanitarian work when relatively few women worked outside the home in that era. She nursed the wounded at Antietam and at Virginia battlefields; helped identify and mark graves at Andersonville prison; and later founded the American Red Cross.

The 20¢ stamped card is one of the twenty cards corresponding to the twenty 32¢ American Civil War stamps issued at Gettysburg, PA on June 29, 1995. It was sent to France as US-4015356.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Luxor Las Vegas

Postcard US-3971390 to Finland claims Luxor Las Vegas to be the next wonder of the world. The entrance to Luxor boasts a 10 story replica of the great Sphinx of Giza and an Egyptian obelisk over 190 feet high, and a water screen depicting Egyptian holographs. Named after the city of Luxor where the ancient city Thebes was located in Egypt, the hotel opened on October 15, 1993 with a replica of a pyramid-shaped tower that was the tallest building on the Las Vegas Strip at the time.

After July 2007 innovation, much of the ancient Egyptian themes and artifacts inside the hotel were replaced with modern lounges, restaurants and clubs. The reflection pool seen on the card was removed to make way for a station of the Mandalay Bay Tram that was built between 1998 and 1999.

Most recently, master magician Criss Angel opened "Mindfreak Live!" in Luxor on May 25, 2016, replacing his previous show "Believe" that ended its run on April 17, 2016 after 3,000 performances for more than four million audiences in seven years.

Also, another significant change is that, as part of the MGM Resorts International's plan to charge for parking on their properties, parking will no longer be free after June 6, 2016.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Tearing through ... New York

I bought this card at the Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) on August 29, 2013 during a connection of my return flights from the Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI) to Las Vegas.  I was in Washington D.C. for the 50th Anniversary of March on Washington.

On the back of the card, it reads "the thriving metropolis of New York City is one of the best places in the world to let loose and go wild! With hundreds of shops, restaurants, night-clubs, shows and sights, there is so much to see and do, it is easy to get as excited as King Kong."

As the Memorial Day weekend marks the beginning of all the summer activities, if you are in New York City, you don't want to miss World Stamp Show-NY 2016, an eight-day, once-a-decade international celebration of stamp collecting in the U.S. at the Javits Center from May 28 to June 4, 2016. It coincides the 28th Fleet Week New York in which United States Navy, United States Marine Corps, and United States Coast Guard are honored for their sea services. The stamp show opened with presenting the colors by the U.S. Navy Color Guard and singing the national anthem by MFC Dan Smith of the U.S. Navy. Up to 300,000 visitors are expected to attend the show, which is free and open to the public.

Elsewhere, however, a gorilla related story turned out to be a tragedy: Cincinnati Zoo killed a gorilla to save a boy. It ignited debates on animal welfare, parental responsibility and adequacy of safety measure in the zoo.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Happy New Recipes

Postcard RU-4476824 from Russia shows a chef in Santa suit with a new dish in his hand. It is true that there are always new food offerings in Las Vegas. Eater Las Vegas has recently put out a list of the 21 hottest restaurants in Las Vegas right now in May 2016. Try some of them out if you are in town.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Constitutional Convention in 1787

Today is the 229th anniversary of the opening of the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, PA. Postcard US-4013590 to Germany was a 1987 14¢ postal card, the first of three issues by USPS commemorating the bicentennial of the Constitution.

The card bears a multi-colored 14-cent pre-printed stamp on its upper right corner, depicting Independence Hall as it appeared in 1787. Built in 1753, the building now known as Independence Hall was the colonial legislature and later Pennsylvania State House for the Province of Pennsylvania. It was the principal meeting place where both the United States Declaration of Independence (July 4, 1776) and the United States Constitution (September 17, 1787) were debated and adopted. Recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979, it is now the centerpiece of the Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The multi-color design also shows five convention delegates: George Mason of Virginia, Gouverneur Morris of New York, James Madison of Virginia, Alexander Hamilton of New York and Charles Pinckney of South Carolina, standing to the right of what was then the Pennsylvania State House. All eventually signed the Constitution except Mason, who refused because he believed the Constitution gave too much power to the federal government. Their names are printed on the lower left corner of the card as well..

The first-day-of-issue ceremonies of the card was held in the courtyard of Independence Hall at 10:30 a.m. on May 25, 1987.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Fashion Show Mall

Postcard US-3677822 to Brazil shows the Cloud, a plaza that faces the Las Vegas Boulavard in front of the Fashion Show Mall, an over-250-store shopping mall first opened on Valentine’s Day, February 14, 1981. The main attraction is a 80-foot retractable runway in the central atrium Great Hall that can be used to host fashion shows.

Currently, in celebration of ReCon 2016, the global convention for the shopping center industry, fashion shows featuring 10 of the mall’s retailers are scheduled at 12:00 pm, 1:00 pm, 2:00 pm, 3:00 pm, 4:00 pm, and 5:00 pm through May 30, 2016.

Friday, May 20: Lucky Brand
Saturday, May 21: U.S. Polo Assn.
Sunday, May 22: Vince Camuto
Monday, May 23: Lorna Jane
Tuesday, May 24: Under Armour Brand House
Wednesday, May 25: Robert Graham
Thursday, May 26: Calvin Klein
Friday, May 27: Macy's
Saturday, May 28: Macy's
Sunday, May 29: Beach Bunny
Monday, May 30: Lululemon

Digital dance shows and live performances art by Girl Power Digital Show and Uptown Dance Funk are scheduled at 12:30pm, 1:30 pm, 2:30 pm, 3:30 pm and 4:30 pm on select days through May 30, 2016.

Another copy was sent to Finland as US-3682362.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Beam of Light, Son Doong, Vietnam

Postcard Beam of Light by Romeo Durscher is one of the SkyPixel series that showcase stunning photos from drones. The photo was taken by a camera on  DJI Inspire 1, showing a view beneath the doline or sinkhole that forms the world’s largest cave Son Doong. The Beam of Light came through the opening in the cave's ceiling over 300 meters above.On top of the large stalagmite was Ginger Zee, the weather anchor for Good Morning America and ABC World News Tonight on ABC. Her placement on that rock formation, risen from the cave floor due to the accumulated material from ceiling drippings, gave out a sense of scale and size.

Meanwhile, President Obama is in Vietnam for a three-day visit, his first trip to the country and the 10th to Asia. He arrived in Hanoi, Vietnam on Sunday May 22, 2016.

Previously, President Lyndon B. Johnson visited U.S. military personnel in Cam Ranh Bay, South Vietnam on October 26, 1966 and December 23, 1967. So did Richard Nixon with an unscheduled six-hour stop outside Saigon, South Vietnam on July 30, 1969.

On November 16, 2000, Bill Clinton, who opposed the war in Vietnam, made history as the first U.S. President to visit Hanoi, the headquarters of the North Vietnamese command during the war, now the capital of Vietnam and the country's second largest city. During his three-day visit, Clinton also visited Ho Chi Minh City, which was renamed from Saigon in 1976. George W. Bush was in Vietnam November 17–20, 2006 for the APEC Summit meeting.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Cacti and Desert Flora of the Great Southwest

Again, May 22 is the International Day for Biological Diversity. Postcard US-3971360 to Japan shows various cacti and desert flora of the Great Southwest.

USPS issued the Sonoran Desert sheet in Tucson, Arizona on April 6, 1999 that contained ten 33¢ stamps. It was the first of twelve self-adhesive stamp sheets Nature of America that USPS released annually between 1999 and 2010.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Water Level in Lake Mead Drops to Record Low

Extended droughts has resulted in the lowest water level at Lake Mead since the largest reservoir in the U.S. was filled in the 1930s when Hoover Dam was built. Lake Mead declined to 1,074 feet above sea level on May 19, 2016, below a previous record set on June 25, 2015.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) recorded a high water line of 1,229.0 feet but considers the lake as “operationally full” at 1,219.6 feet elevation. The minimum water level to generate power at Hoover Dam is defined at 1,050 feet, below which the lake becomes an “inactive pool.” When water level goes down below 895 feet, the lowest water outlet at Hoover Dam, the lake is a “dead pool” as nothing would flow downstream from the Hoover Dam.

Lake Mead's water level reached a record high of 1225 feet in the summer of 1983, and has been in steady declines since 2000.

Lake Mead supplies water to 20 million people in California, Nevada, and Arizona. With the prospect of water levels dropping further, water managers in the above three states are under pressure to work out a plan to temporarily cut back water withdrawal from the lake.

Postcard US-3482775 to New Jersey shows Lake Mead with 'bathtub rings' on its shores and islands, which indicate the devastating effects of water level declines.

Lake Mead as seen on July 4, 2015

Friday, May 20, 2016

Taiwan Inaugurates First Female President

Today's featured postcard was a private swap from Taiwan showing the Office of the President, Republic of China in Taipei with a ROCUPEX '13 TAIPEI commemorative postage label from the 2013 National Stamp Exhibition of R.O.C. and International Invitational Stamp Exhibition, and a matching pictorial postmark on August 23, 2013. The Office of the President is the site of the inauguration ceremony this Friday, May 20, 2016 where Tsai Ing-wen took oath of office to become the first female president of Taiwan.

Tsai Ing Wen (R) replaces former President Ma Ying Jeou (L) after a landslide election victory on January 16, 2016. She faces immediate challenges to revitalize the economy, and to balance the demands of the her electorate for greater independence and the pressure of One-Country from China.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

The Fittest City in the U.S.

The American Fitness Index (AFI) recently released the ACSM American Fitness Index Data Report, offering a scientific snapshot of the health and fitness level for the major metropolitan areas in the US. Washington D.C., for the 3rd year in a row, ranks as the fittest city.

The American College of Sports Medicine and the Anthem Foundation have considered such factors as what percentage of the city's population reporting exercising within the past 30 days and accessibility to parks and green spaces, in order to determine how fit a city is. The top 10 cities are:

  1. Washington D.C.
  2. Minneapolis, MN
  3. Denver, CO
  4. Portland, OR
  5. San Francisco, CA
  6. Seattle, WA
  7. Boston, MA
  8. Salt Lake City, UT
  9. Hartford, CT
  10. San Diego, CA

Las Vegas ranks 41st among the bottom 10 cities.

Postcard US-3971221 to Germany shows a black and white map drawing of the D.C. area with a matching diamond shaped 37¢ commemorative stamp issued by USPS on September 23, 2003.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Taste of Sweden

The Swedish retail giant IKEA opens its first store in Nevada today, offering stylish, relatively inexpensive and self-assembly home furniture along those famous Swedish meatballs from its 42nd store in the U.S., located by the 215 Beltway between Sunset and Durango roads in Las Vegas. Deputy Chief of Mission for the Swedish Embassy Göran Lithell joined the company executives and local government representatives in the opening ceremony.

Postcard SE-47353 from Sweden shows steamboats anchored in Stockholm, Sweden during a winter evening.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Prince Eric's Castle

Postcard US-4002447 to the United Kingdom shows Prince Eric's Castle from a 1989 Disney movie the Little Mermaid based on a Danish fairy tale. It tells the story of a beautiful mermaid princess who is dissatisfied with underwater life and dreams of becoming human. The film's success marked the beginning of the era known as the Disney Renaissance.

The card is part of the Art of Disney: the Renaissance and Beyond (1989-2014). The castle may have been inspired by Chillon Castle, a medieval fortress on the shores of Lake Geneva in Switzerland. Attraction Under the Sea: Journey of the Little Mermaid opened on June 3, 2011 at Disney California Adventure Park in Anaheim, California, and on December 6, 2012 in New Fantasyland at Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Snowmobiles at the Columbia Icefield

Outgoing postcard US-4005430 to Italy shows snowmobiles at the Columbia Icefield, Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada.

Snowmobiles are specially equipped vehicles, which enable summer visitors to tour the snow-covered Athabasca Glacier, one of the six tongues of the vast Columbia Icefield. In the background is the spectacular icefall at the head of the glacier.

During my visit to Canada in 1994, I took my first and only snowmobile ride on this very spot.