Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Asia Trip: Final Thoughts

Well I think I've covered most of the major parts of my trip but to wrap things up I'll give a short list of random things I haven't shared yet.

1) The Conference
Yeah I didn't go to Asia for 10 days just to go but to attend the 27th Symposium on Naval Hydrodynamics. I gave my 30 minute talk on the second to last day of the conference and was a little surprised how nervous I was. I think it was mainly because I hadn't actually practiced my talk out loud once before I gave it and by my estimate I had too many slides for the 30 minute time slot. So I got up there and started talking way too fast and actually finished early. Fortunately I was the only person giving a talk on drag-reducing polymers so no one in the audience really cared...perhaps that should be unfortunately since I really like the Q&A part when people are interested.

2) Friendly People
I was told to not worry about feeling welcomed over there and I see why now. In both Japan and Korea everyone was so friendly and helpful. Once at a Starbucks I was trying to get internet and could so one of the guys working there noticed and insisted on helping me. After working on it for nearly an hour with two Starbuck workers and some random guy that joined in we(they) finally got me internet access by purchasing it through the other guys computer and one of the workers phones and then having me pay the guy in cash...try having that happen in USA.

3) Beware of 2 Barber Poles
I was told (never went to any barber) that in Seoul if you go to a barber that has one barber pole in front it is a normal barber. However, if there are two poles on the front then it means that you get a haircut and a "happy ending". Specifics of what that entails I didn't ask but was amazed at how common knowledge this was...however I never saw one in Seoul, though there is a chance that there was one in the basement of the last hotel I stayed was open at like 10pm, was in the back corner, and had frosted windows so no one can see in.

4) Korean Folk Music
We had a show of several styles of Korean Folk music, which I absolutely loved and kind of totally forgot about until I started writing this entry. Below are some samples of very similar music to what I heard...sadly I couldn't find anything that was like my favorite performance but this is a good sample of the rest.






Friday, October 24, 2008

Asia Trip: Visiting the DMZ

Sorry for the very slow recap of my trip, but trying to get caught up and hopefully graduate in the very near future severely limits the amount of time for blogging. I think that I will write this post and one more on the trip and that will be all.

Visiting the demilitarized zone (DMZ) between North and South Korea was the highlight of the trip for me. I was asked on the first day in Seoul if I wanted to visit it and at first I was indifferent, but the more I thought about it the more I wanted to go. Choi (one of my adviser's former students that lives in S. Korea) arranged for the trip and got us tickets to enter the DMZ. Unfortunately S. Koreans aren't allowed to go to Panmunjom because they claim that S. Koreans may try to defect to N. Korea if they get that this Choi just laughed at the thought of a S. Korean wanting to do that. Also a problem with recapping this visit is that we were only allowed to take pictures in very specific spots. However, thankfully people that have broken the rules and took video have posted many on YouTube...including the video below from the border through Panmunjom with N. Korean soldiers marching quickly to the border.

The first place we went was on the south border of the DMZ where there is a bridge that connects North and South Korea and was built to exchange prisoners after the Korean War...well actually the war is still going on. There is no formal peace deal between the two sides and there has just been an informal truce for the past 50 years. It is called Freedom Bridge because S. Korean prisoners screamed freedom when they crossed it. However, interestingly Choi told us that they refer to it as the Bridge of No Return because which ever way you were heading on it you weren't coming back (click here for video I took of area).

Me on the observation deck to view Freedom Bridge.

We then drove into the DMZ and visited the third infiltration tunnel that was dug from the N. Korean side to the South to try and attack them. This tunnel was dug 70 meters (230 ft) below ground and dug through granite! There was a fourth tunnel dug that was 140 meters deep, but you can't visit it because its very difficult to get breathable air down there. The tunnel we visited was painted black by the N. Koreans because after they were caught they claimed it was just a coal mine. It was in this tunnel that I got the closest to N. Korea (about 50 yards from their border). The tunnel is barred off with three separate barriers as can be seen in the video I found on YouTube by someone who took the same tour (click here to view...embedding is disabled on this video). At the end of that video is the observation point over Panmunjom where I took the pictures below.

Me at the observation point over Panmunjom.

It is super difficult to get any decent pictures (or video) of the area because you are only allowed to take pictures from behind this yellow line that is back away from the edge. Luckily I'm tall and they don't care if you stand on your tiptoes, hold the camera over your head, and snap pictures...nothing too great turned out from it but I got a good view of the landscape along the border.

The best picture I got from the DMZ.

There are a ton of stories about this place that makes it such a weird place to be. Bill Clinton once described it as the "scariest place on earth" and after hearing some of the stories you quickly realize why. It is the most heavily fortified border in the world with watchtowers, razor wire, landmines (lots of these), tank-traps, and heavy weaponry everywhere...ironic for a "demilitarized zone". Earlier this year on a tour that allowed S. Koreans on the N. Korean side a 53 year old woman was shot and killed because she was in a restricted zone. They claim that she was running away but they shot her first in the leg and then shot her in the chest.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Asia Trip: Touring Seoul

I saw a lot of cool things driving around Seoul, but unfortunately I was unable to find an English map while I was there and that significantly hindered my ability to have any idea what I was looking at. Because of that I really don't have all that much to share though I took a bunch of pictures from our car...but they don't look good and I don't know what they are of. The one exception is the picture below of Seoul Station.

Seoul Station

The one spot where we visited in Seoul that I actually have a decent idea of what I was looking at got some good pictures is Gyeongbokgung Palace. Basically it was the King and Queen's palace during the Joseon Dynasty, and on the back side of it is the current Presidential House, "The Blue House".

Me touring Gyeongbokgung Palace...we got headphones and a map that you just touch the spot on the map and it would tell us what we were looking at.

Video of the changing of the guard cermony at Gyeongbokgung Palace.

One of the buildings that is part of Gyeongbokgung Palace...shown is a reenactment of people taking the cival service exam for Korea in the 1400s.

A pond in Gyeongbokgung Palace with the "Blue House" located just beyond it.

I went running a few times through Seoul and for the most part saw nothing to interesting with the exception of a tomb of some 1400 king and queen. It was located about a mile or so from our hotel and I could see the big opening of trees from our hotel room (see picture below). So not having a map I just ran there (it actually took two attempts because I got turned around the first time I tried) and hoped to actually have a woods to run in. Sadly you have to pay to get in and I didn't bring any money with me on my I was left to just run around the outer parameter of the tomb, which was still pretty nice.

Tomb area of some king and queen from the 1400s as viewed from our hotel room.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Asia Trip: Touring Tokyo

I was able to do a little bit of touring around Tokyo during my short stay there. Ryo (Japanese student of Steve's) took us out to eat near the Tokyo equivalent of Times Square, Sheboya square (shown below), the second night that I was in Tokyo. This wasn't too bad, but it was one of those times during my trip where I was reminded that I really like non-crowded places. The dinner was pretty good...I had some kind of Duck/Noodle/Soup thing in the cheater sitting on the floor restaurant for Westerners (below the table was a whole which allows us to sight normally at the short table)

Sheboya Square in Tokyo.

The following morning I got up early (like I always did in Asia...I think 5am was the latest I ever slept in there) and went running. I wasn't sure where to go since I didn't have a map of the area and needed to be able to find my hotel without being able to talk to anyone. Fortunately there was a river that ran along the back side of our hotel (see picture below). So I just ran along the river mostly. Once I broke away from the river path and circled a block. When I did I saw a guy laying on his horn driving behind a truck. When he finally passed the truck he got in front, slammed on the brakes, stopped, and got out of his car to yell at the truck driver...that is a good way to get shot in the US.

River (blue arch is a bridge over the river) that ran behind our hotel in Tokyo.

After some breakfast and getting ready Ryo arrived and took Steve and I touring around Tokyo. We saw several locations with the main sights being a famous Buddhist temple, the Tokyo Tower (as seen in Godzilla), and the Emperor's Palace.

Steve and I in front of the Buddhist temple.

Tokyo Tower...location for numerous famous battles with Godzilla, King Kong, etc.

Emperor's Palace

One great story from our touring around involved Ryo running to get something. Basically since we were touring around Tokyo right before leaving for Seoul we stored our luggage in a locker in one of the many, many subway stations. We were at a different station after making a number of subway changes and Ryo took off to get something leaving Steve and I in the middle of this very busy station. It's at this point I noted that if Ryo has any hidden animosity for us this would be the perfect moment to exact his revenge...we didn't know where our stuff was (even if we found it Ryo had locked it himself and we didn't have access to it), had no idea where we were or how to get to the airport from it, and neither of us know Japanese. The only insurance we had in that moment was that Ryo doesn't have his degree yet.

Championship #3

I have to give a short interruption to the Asia trip recap because last night I won my third intramural basketball championship (first 3-on-3). This one was the most surprising since of the 6 games before the semi-final game that I played in we had a grand total of zero wins. It was without a doubt the worst season I've had. In spite the poor performances before hand we played quite well in the final two games doubling our opponents scores and bringing home the shirt!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Asia Trip: Japanese Navy

Since I'm trying to get caught up on work I figured I would make a bunch of short entries about my trip. Todays entry is focused on my visit to the Japanese Naval Systems Research Center, which is located in Tokyo, Japan. I visited this place on my first full day in Japan. We arrived the evening before and since the 14 hour flight had nothing to interesting to share I'll just jump to this visit. It was neat seeing their research facility since I am quite familar with the US Naval research facilities, which look pretty much the same. Below is a picture of the area and the main things I saw there: their headquarters, their towing tank, and the "junior" LCC. I'm dubbed it the "Junior" LCC because its smaller then the LCC (not by much), and we already have the mini-LCC here at Michigan. The towing tank was cool and there are two interesting stories about it; (1) this is the towing tank where the Japanese secretly designed Yamato before WWII, the largest and most heavily-armed battleship in history. (2) It was taken over by Australia and they drained it and used it for tennis courts, so to this day there are lines below the water for tennis courts. Then the headquarters is a very historical building. I've had a hard time finding out exactly what happened in there, but it was formerly the Imperial Japanese Navy Institute of Technology. I heard that this was the building where a lot of the Japanese planning for WWII was done. It was very weird to be having meetings in that building, but everyone we met were super friendly and welcoming.

Japanese Naval Systems Research Center - Tokyo, Japan

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Back from Asia

First off I have to give a special thanks to Dem for writing a couple great blogs for me while I was gone...well done!

This past Friday I made it back to Michigan from my trip to Tokyo and Seoul. There are a ton of pictures, videos, and stories to share, but with how busy I am right now I will just give a small taste of what I will write about later plus a few pictures. Highlights from the trip include visiting the DMZ (border between North and South Korea), visiting Gyeongbokgung Palace, visiting the Emperor's Palace in Tokyo, having some meetings at Japan's Naval Research facility in Tokyo (very historical location), attending and giving a talk at the Naval Conference in Seoul, and other miscellaneous stories are coming soon.

Picture taken from the center of Tokyo...near the Emperor's Palace.

View from one of the hotel rooms I stayed in of Seoul.

Me at Dorsan Station.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

An excercise in (im)perfection

I just realized I only have 2 days(!!) until Brian takes back the reigns of his blog, so I really need to get moving on posting more.

I thought I'd take a moment to show what i did this past weekend while I was at my parents house in Lake Ann.

I made an apron!

This was pretty much all. I slept(morning naps!) and watched a little football(...) and sewed.

I enjoy sewing, but i am a beginner. I can count the number of times I've sewed on one hand. I cannot sew straight. I run into the kitchen every five minutes to ask my mom questions. But, I finished the project with almost no help from my mom (she didn't ever do anything for me, she just talked me through stuff- what a GREAT teacher). When I finished the sewing, though, I realized that I was really happy with what I had made, proud of it, and it wasn't perfect. It is an APRON, crying out loud, it is meant to get dirty, the topstitch doesn't need to be perfect.

It's good for me to look at this and other things I've attempted lately and realize how far I've come. I don't like trying new things that I don't know the outcome - especially if it doesn't look promising or I have doubts about it. in fact, this causes me a lot of anxiety; but I guess I just have to trust that it doesn't have to be perfect.

Cue sappy music.

Roll credits.


Friday, October 03, 2008

Female Influence.

Since Brian was unsure about how often he could access the internet in Asia, I asked him if I could "guest blog" while he was gone.

Me, being a blogger.

So, to start off, I'm going to post a few pictures of some of Brian's preparation for the trip that I helped with: beefing up his wardrobe to look like a cool professor-to-be.

Most people assume that because I am a graphic designer that by default i can both dress myself well, and dress other people. You would be sorely mistaken. I need my what not to wear-loving roommates with me whenever I go shopping, otherwise I end up with jeans and either grey, white or black shirts.

So, when Brian asked me to help him figure out what to wear, I was a little nervous because my guy clothing shopping resume is pretty short: my little brother(courderoy pants and t-shirts), my dad (sweatpants with pockets and Michigan gear), and Brian (shorts & t shirts). We're just a laid back bunch; I wear dresses only to weddings, and I'm pretty sure I've never seen brother wear a tie.

I don't know what professional guys wear, not to mention that menswear sizes are a foriegn language. 17 1/2 35-36? Brian's jacket size? umm.. 30? 55? No idea. How are guys clothes supposed to fit. Also no idea what constitutes as pricey, good quality, or cool? What if brian looks like a dork because i dressed him that way! I'm surprised I didn't have a panic attack right in the store.

Thankfully, Brian had an idea of what he wanted and after visiting Macy's unsuccessfully (80.00 for a shirt that feels weird? no, thanks), we went to JC Penny's, which surprisingly has a nice selection of menswear at decent prices.

This was the outcome:
Brian bought a new jacket, shirt, tie and shoes. He looks nice, no?

I suggested that he wear his new shoes around the apartment to break them in.

Brian practicing for his talk.

Gob Bluth said something really funny just as we took this photo.