Thursday, February 19, 2009

Deck and Patio Concept

Here are a few of my designs that I'm incorporating into the house I keep talking about. Here's a wooden deck and patio for the log home I'm putting together. As you can see, the home will be quite large. You can even see the spaces where my fireplaces and outdoor kitchens fit. And yes, that's a person standing off in the distance.

This next one is a bit strange at first, but with the layout of the house it should prove super convenient for an outdoor kitchen. It will also hopefully fit in with the symmetry of the house. We'll see if it works. The back end will sit against a wall. Some of the faces are still white because I haven't chosen a colored texture for it yet. Not sure if I want to go with the same sandstone I have in my fireplaces or something different. But It has a gas grill, an electric burner, a sink, several cabinets, and a BBQ smoker. I designed everything in it except the Kitchenaid Undercounter Fridge, which you can see next to the sink. Everything else is mine! Am I good? I'm good!

Again, you need the program Google Sketchup in order to view them in 3 dimensions. So download it today so you can see this cool stuff I made. Why are you still reading this? The link's right here.

Ron Paul's Speech: What If

What if indeed.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Court Case Threatens Hyperlinks

Dude, I'm kind of bummed that some lawyer dude has gone out of his way to try putting the right of everyone to make Internet hyperlinks in jeopardy. It's a total bummer he's claiming a hyperlink is "trademark infringement" for some unknown reason. What really bothers me is that after reading the case there isn't any kind of apparent reason. It'd like, be totally different, you know, if the real estate news company he sued had poisoned his hamster or put toilet paper in his trees or called his mother a nasty name in middle school, but all they did was announce the sale of his home and refer to him with a hyperlink, which is a matter of public record anyways. Now they're all takin' gas for no reason. And then the case doesn't even seem to do anything more than resolve some semantics issue!! Serious dude! You blow out yer squeaker for this? Dude, What's up with that?

Ironically the law firm's London Branch got named "Dispute Resolution Team of the Year." Perhaps they can send some of those hodads over to their office in Chicago.

You can read the article here from and why bloggers should be more upset about it.
Linked Out: A Case That Threatens the Right of Websites to Link Freely's Online Magazine

Blockshopper's Totally Righteous Website Check it out Dude!

Dude, I'm like, afraid to put this lawyer's name here in case he starts gettin' all legal on me. The lawyer responsible for all this goes by the name of Jacob Tiedt and he like, works for a law firm known as Jones Day. But because of their bummer lawsuit, I can't hyperlink directly to them anymore. Now it's like, all blown' out man! Now, I have to do this: (*

* is a registered trademark of Jones Day. Neither Tyler Beal,, nor is in any way affiliated with Jones Day. Absolutely nobody involved in the making of this blog post is affiliated with Jones Day or any of its associates or affilliates or anything. Dude! I've never met the guy serious!

Everyone's Favorite Daebang Restaurant

As the new guy in town, I sometimes get treated to dinner or lunch by various co-workers and their families. In my little part of Changwon, known as Daebang, people frequently take me to the same restaurant. While I can never recall the name long enough to write it down, I've been there at least 4 times already.

They tell me that its a very special, famous and very traditional restaurant. Then they ask if I've ever been here. "Yes!," I tell them with a short bow and a wry smile. Then they laugh.

The food there is always delicious, so I have no complaints.

Obama's Foreign Policy Conundrum

As Kyrgyzstan closes the American Air Base supplying troops in Afghanistan, should Obama make a deal with another evil dictator? Such is the rock and hard place Obama is now in. Without the Air base in Kyrgystan, he must either curtail and delay plans for expanding the war effort that were part of his campaign promises, possibly making some limited withdrawals. Or he can work to re-open the base in Uzbekistan, paying off the ruthless Islam Karimov.

Personally I hope he doesn't. Despite the short term gains this ethical compromise brings, the long term consequences must weigh more heavily. Obama may no longer be around to deal with those consequences when they come, but somebody will. In almost every instance the United States has worked with people like Islam Karimov, the choice haunted the US with far more unpleasant results. See: Pakistan, Cuba, Indonesia, Iraq, Iran, Israel, Chile, etc.

Moreover, ends cannot justify means in a war of ideology. If the United States wants to promote freedom and democracy in Afghanistan, they would be well advised to avoid hypocrisy.

Barack Obama's Uzbekistan Problem by Christopher Flavelle. In Slate Magazine.

More design Inspiration

Here's a few more examples of the types of houses and log homes I've been looking at. When I first started using Google Sketchup I went off the deep end I was having so much fun with it. I think I've reached a happy compromise however, as lately I haven't been spending more than 45 minutes a day with the program. Anyways, here's some other stuff I like:

Here is a nice fireplace and chimney with a loft area above. This comes from RRichardHobbs' Flickr Account. I'm doing something similar in my design but I'm trying to figure out how to wrap some stairs around the fireplace. I also think the round timbers are a bit overdone. They should be for accents and corners, not siding. My design will also be a couple orders of magnitude larger. Hard to explain, but you'll see it when its done.
I also like this interior from PrecisionCraft. The flat wood panel siding is nicer than rounded timbers as walls in my humble opinion.

More ideas inspiring me to come soon from Korea and Japan.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Obama's State Secrets

Hardly a month into "Change We Can Believe In" and I'm already put off and disillusioned. For anyone wondering what I'm grumbling about this time, I should mention one of my biggest beefs with the Bush Administration was his policy on State Secrets. Barack Obama has evidently decided that instead of Change We Can Believe In, we'll get the same old stuff that Bush threw at us. And it doesn't smell much better.

Read the article here where Obama has upheld and defended the Bush policy on state secrets. To be completely fair things are still very early, and they've hinted that things might change on this. The article cites Obama's pledge of new Freedom of Information Act guidlines soon. It unfortunately also suggests that these may not be retroactive and apply to past FOIA cases. In the article, one Justice Dept. lawyer suggest that, "It is not clear that the new guidelines, once issued, will be retrospective to FOIA requests that the agency already has finished processing." Fair enough, but as this editorial argues, preserving this Bush Administration precedent is unacceptable.

What's really sad about this is most Americans are going to judge and evaluate Obama on whether or not his monster stimulus plan prevents another recession, something he has only limited control over at best. We should instead be judging him and his administration on the things they CAN DO in the interests of democracy and freedom and an open and transparent govt. People should be more concerned about whether Obama governs with wisdom, integrity and honor, not whether he makes or keeps them wealthy.

Despite Obama Pledge, Justice Defends Bush Secrets

Here's a great editorial on the subject too. He does an especially good job of explaining the difference between how past administrations used the state secrets privilege and how Bush changed that. Obama apparently wants to keep this new way of looking at state secrets around.

Perhaps there is some political motive to this or some other thing I'm not aware of. Barack Obama's MO suggests he's very careful and deliberate about any new action. My guess is Obama will phase out its use but slyly try to preserve the precedent. It would certainly be tempting, as the old axiom about power and corruption suggests.

The 180 Degree Reversal of Obama's State Secrets Position by Glenn Greenwald.

Despite Obama Pledge, Justice Defends Bush Secrets

Monday, February 16, 2009

Orson Scott Card on Elections

"If pigs could vote, the man with the slop bucket would be elected every time, no matter how much slaughtering he did on the side." -- Orson Scott Card
From Colorado Highlights

Architectural Inspiration

Recently on Facebook, I got in touch with my distant cousin Allen Dyer. While catching up, I retold him about my newfound interest in architecture and design, and specifically Google Sketchup. Apparently I came across as more enthusiastic than I thought because he asked me if this was something I wanted to pursue professionally.

This of course got me thinking. What if? Artistically, my mediums have always been photography or the written word. Growing up, I do recall endlessly playing with Legos, so I may have a bit of a knack for visual/spatial thinking. Architecture though blends art, function, and engineering. The building has to be not only visually appealing, but functional, practical, and of course buildable. Architects have to go to grad school and do lengthy internships. They have to take math classes.

For the moment, this is only a hobby. Perhaps someday when I have some designs worth looking at I'll get some qualified people to look at them and tell me if I have any potential. For awhile I was designing a medieval castle, but it didn't turn out so attractive, so I'm beginning a new project, a large log home mansion. And its going to be quite large. I'll be including elements of the house soon enough, and eventually (if I ever finish it) I'll post the link to the house itself on this blog.

Anyways, here are some things that I'm looking at and being inspired by:
A large window and deck on a home built by Tectonics Builders. Not bad. I'm definitely building a big epic window that looks in on a great room. I've already designed a set of stairs for a deck.

This one, from Mountain Dream Log Mansions is also something I like. I DEFINITELY like the big wooden deck with the ceiling hanging over it. I like this log home as well from Precision Craft Log and Timber Homes, esp. The outdoor fireplace is nice as well, but I've got a better idea I think on making something like that more convenient and functional. I really like how the roof drapes over the large window. Another nice one from Precision Craft. I like how the deck wraps around the large window. Nice. You can tell I'm all about the wrap-around porches and decks. Anyways, enjoy. Feel free to leave links in the comments section to anything you think might be of interest to me.

Korean Commencement Ceremony

Had I forgotten why I donned my suit this morning during the two minutes it takes to walk to my school, the long row of flower vendors camped outside school gates reminded me again about the big event teachers had been mentioning for over a week.

In Korea, students graduate from Middle School and High School in early to middle February, instead of May like their American counterparts, or March, like their peers in Japan.

I was asked to attend the commencement ceremony for graduating students. I naturally expected a few differences. Like Japan, Korean students wear their school uniforms, instead of the robe and funny hat that American graduates don for the occasion. The ceremony was also refreshingly brief, with none of the long winded obligatory speeches they so love in Japan or the endless 'pomp' and ceremony of a Western School. The school prinicpal made some brief remarks in Korean, a couple of top students spoke briefly, and they handed out the diplomas. Just as it should be.

While it was nice to be allowed to watch, I felt a bit awkward with my presence. Having not worked with the third graders during my brief time here, I did not know these kids. I didn't know their names. I'd never chatted with them, taught them, answered their questions, helped them with some problem, scolded them for misbehavior or even said hello.

Some of the teachers were kind enough to treat me to a delicious lunch following the ceremony and everyone took the rest of the day off early.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Dinner with the Park Family

I just returned from a delicious meal at the home of a colleague and her husband. An otherwise normal Korean family, Kabnam Ahn and her husband just returned to Korea after spending two years in Ohio while 'Tony' Park finished his MBA program at Ohio State University. During these two years they traveled all over the United States, seeing New York City, Boston, Chicago, Washington DC, Las Vegas and Miami.

You can read all about his adventures and see all his pictures at his blog here.

He had many nice things to say about Ohio, and their whole family seemed to have genuinely enjoyed their time there, a refreshing change from the comments I usually hear about the place!

During the evening we discussed many things from schools, politics, to culture and linguistics. I had a great time with and his family, all of whom were eager to share their stories about living and traveling in America. 당신을 감사하십시오!

Under the Baobab: Tony Park & Kabnam Ahn

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Why Wall Street Always Blows It

An article on market cycles and the conflicts of interest that exist in Wall Street.

No really, this one's good, everyone should read it.

Why Wall Street Always Blows It by Henry Blodget

Foreign Policy Editorial

Reading up on the election in Iran, I found this interesting editorial. With Ahmadinejad up for re-election and a real possibility of Mohammad Khatami's return, many are saying this is a great time for Obama to make diplomatic headway.

However, Hillary Mann Leverett makes a compelling case that things are much as they are whoever is elected and that despite the personality of Iran's leader, the fundamentals haven't changed. She makes a particularly good case for engaging Iran diplomatically on all levels, not just a few limited arenas where "interests overlap."

Leverett offers a compelling explanation for Iran's actions that the US considers particularly outrageous: they are trying to create "strategic depth." That is: a barrier of friendly countries surrounding them, making attack by their enemies more difficult. Just as the USSR created satellite nations in Eastern Europe in the 1940's and 50's, Iran's actions of influence in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan can be understood in the same context. It then follows that enticing Iran to stop some of these more egregious actions requires us to address Iran's underlying security concerns.

Doing this, she claims, requires more than just limited diplomatic engagement on easy subjects we can agree on, it would require, in her words, a "comprehensive strategic framework" for dealing with the country before real talks can be held. As a former diplomat who worked with Iran in Afghanistan, she claims this is one of the biggest stumbling blocks of the US.

She does a good job debunking a lot of ideas about dealing with Iran, particularly those held by the previous administration.

Think Again: Talking With Iran

Learning Korean

I've been procrastinating a little bit on learning Korean. The main reason for this is that when I learned Japanese, I developed a number of bad habits that became difficult to break the longer I stayed there. I was still making a lot of these same mistakes up to the day I left.

I'm hoping to avoid some of this so I've been procrastinating on properly starting, just picking up a little of the language here and there by osmosis. I already remembered a lot of the "walking around" words from the Lonely Planet phrasebook on my first trip here, but now all the teachers are eager to talk to me and I don't know how to respond. Time to start hitting the books!

Word From Pagosa

I recieved an E-mail from an old friend of mine and my family, Jerry Driesens. He wrote to tell me about reading through my Colorado Trail adventures and to make a minor correction on a discrepancy of mine. Evidently he's been fighting cancer on and off for only six years, not his adult life as I had previously mentioned. But it hasn't slowed him down. He, my father, and some other friends just finished a 20 day rafting trip through the Grand Canyon.

Jerry said he enjoyed reading about my time on the Colorado Trail. He agreed with my assessment that better strength training and conditioning for my ankle would be prudent before making another attempt. He also seemed shocked I was going so light. On some backcountry excursions, He said he's carried as much as 9 pounds of fishing gear alone! On my second attempt that'll be half the weight of my pack!

He did recommend I get a full weather tent instead of skimping on shelter to save weight. I have to concede this wouldn't be a bad idea. There were times on the Colorado Trail when I wished the Megamid had a floor on it. I'm looking at a couple of different shelters I saw people with on the trail, so we'll see. I'm not sure what I'll put together for round two, as I'm finding all sorts of really cool lightweight gear here in Korea, esp some good clothes.

He also told me about his own challenges on his latest raft trip through the Grand Canyon. He unfortunately missed out on a hike he aspired to due to a case of pneumonia on the trip. He was fine as he had brought antibiotics, but missed out. It was nice to have the encouragement after my own disappointments on the trail. His letter is helping keep it all in perspective.

Cheers again to Jerry Driesens. I would ask all my readers to keep him in your thoughts and prayers.

Slate's Well Traveled

I read a lot of the editorials and articles in the online magazine Sometimes they have some fascinating reads.

In this piece, a man interviews an old Japanese man renowned for making calligraphy brushes. He sells some of the higher end brushes for over 20 thousand USD. I would've liked to meet and talk with him as well. His description reminds me of several middle aged and older men I knew during my time there. He's the last of an endangered group of craftsmen who are slowly disappearing.

Men At Work: Artisans of Old Japan

Monday, February 09, 2009

Big Bags of Chocolate Protein Powder

If I ever hope to stay healthy, meet a girlfriend, or attempt to hike the Colorado Trail again, then I'll definitely have to work out and exersize. I was here for about two weeks before a co-teacher of mine showed me a health club I could join.

So, almost every day after school, I make my way to the sixth floor of a building in a commercial development nearby to work on the treadmill, lift weights, pump iron. You know how it goes. Health clubs in each country tell you different things about that country. Peare, my old gym in Japan for example, was disproportionately filled with older people, reflecting Japan's demographic makeup. Both healthclubs I joined in Kuwait were men only, reflecting the modest character and sensibilities of the predominately Arab culture. The YMCA in Denver was as informal and American as apple pie with random guys picking up games of basketball.

This particular gym has its own uniform anyone can wear! When I enter the gym I can borrow a pair of shorts and t-shirt to work out in. When I'm finished, I simply put it in a big bin and the gym washes them so they'll be ready for the next customer! It's great because I now have a little less laundry to worry about. I know many of my American readers might be scratching their heads over this, but I think the uniform is a great way to foster comraderie and group spirit.

The gym itself is a bit of a dive compared to the facilities I was at in Kuwait, but the people there are very active. There's a really big bodybuilding scene at the gym and some of the trainers are obviously VERY competitive. Despite being cramped at times, the atmosphere is kind of intense. There's always a suddle kind of peer pressure to stay a little longer, lift a litte more, do one more set, etc. I think it'll be a great place to work out and I'll hopefully make a ton of progress there.

Unfortunately, protein powder is a little hard to come by in Changon, so I have to buy it in bulk from the trainers. I'm now sitting on 4 kilograms of chocolate protein powder, which should last 6-9 months! Seriously this thing is bigger than my bag of rice! I'll use it though. Now I just need to find a source for my OTHER supplements.

Hiking Trailheads in Changwon

I went hiking on Sunday with the librarian at my new school and her husband. Yang Suk Soon and her husband picked me up and drove me to the trailhead in the morning and we hiked well into the afternoon.

We climbed along a trail that runs up a mountain and then along the length of a ridge to the Northeast of Changwon. The trailhead is nearly within walking distance. East of town on the other side of the mountain one could see a small air strip that looked to be abandoned.

Several times since, I've explored the hills surrounding Changwon that are within walking distance from my home. The towering apartment complexes quickly give way to rows of houses, then small farms and orchards that bump up against the ramparts of steep, rugged hills.

The trails are wide and well used. Tons of people were out for the day, dressed in the latest fabrics from Northface, Scholler and their local Korean made counterparts. Almost everyone was overdressed for the occasion.

At the trailhead end, the city built a small array of air compressor guns people use to clean the dust off their shoes and pants. Very interesting! Also along the trail are several areas with outdoor exersize equipment. You can do bench presses, incline crunches, and chin-ups. They even have a couple of big hula hoops for exersizing. Unfortunately the hula hoops weigh about 5-7 kilograms.
They took me out to eat afterwards. Galbi! Delicious. Unfortunately I was careless enough to forget my camera. These come from an album linked to Google Earth.

Eden Valley Skiing

To paraphrase Jerry Seifeld: "Skiing is a lot like pizza. Even when its bad, its still pretty good." Well I couldn't agree more and certainly can't remember ever having a bad day on the slopes.

A new friend of mine, Soon Jeong invited me to join her and her family on a skiing vacation. Her family and their in laws had evidently rented a condo at a resort North of Busan called Eden Valley (although they don't pronounce it quite the same).

The only problem was this region of Korea gets little to no actual snow. so all the snow in the area is artificial. So after driving a couple of hours up a steep rugged mountain, we illicitly snuck their little dog into the resort and waited for her in laws to arrive. The only problem was, none of them knew how to ski nor had they ever skied before.

I had mixed levels of success teaching her family. Her two children and husband took to it right away and had no trouble on any of the slopes. Soon Jeong herself though, despite a valiant effort on her part, wasn't as successful. I tried several things throughout the day, but she ultimately relented, vowing to try again another time.

Nevertheless, she was glad she had tried it and no longer feared it as the dangerous sport she'd always thought it was.

The artificial snow conditions were... interesting. Certainly a far cry from the crisp frozen powder that whips off of Rocky Mountain peaks in Colorado. I hope Coloradoans never take their state for granted. But like I said, you can always have a good time on the slopes.
Here's Soon Jeong's daughter and neice.

Google Sketch-Up

A couple months ago on a complete whim I googled different architectural software. There was a free version of a 3-D design software called Google Sketchup. I downloaded it on a whim and I've really enjoyed playing with it since and I've created a whole host of different things.

The only problem: my designs and skill with the software improve at a geometric rate, so I'd be downright ashamed to show you things I'd made even two weeks ago. However, I'm ultimately putting together a couple of big projects and I need some input from qualified people, so I'm asking any of you readers for your thoughts.

Here are some designs I'm incorporating into a contemporary log cabin home. As you can see, it's quite large and should be quite extravagant when finished. It will definitely need to be located at a well to do location like Aspen, Breckenridge, or the Swiss Alps. Fortunately the software is from Google, and allows me to load models directly into Google Earth.

I figured I'd better tone it down a bit after I installed the third outdoor fireplace. But I still think I'm going to add the crystal bathtub in the master bath and the 2 floor circular stair wine cellar with access to both the basement wet bar and the upstairs kitchen. And the "Moon Viewing Room," inspired by Matsumoto Castle in Japan will probably also make it into the final design.

I'm kinda stuck at the moment though and I'm not sure where I should take the rest of the design. Any thoughts on where I should take this? Below is the link to the house along with a model of some log home/timber stairs that I'm also proud of. I think you will however need to download the software to see the models in full 3D.