Monday, June 29, 2009

More Monday Morning Thunderstorms

It was a dark and stormy... morning? An ominous forboding of things to come this week? Perhaps, but either way, the ferocity of the rain this morning woke me early.

It's nice to see the rain. Even a newcomer to Changwon like myself can tell there is a bit of a dryspell in what is supposed to be the region's "rainy season." It will keep things cool for most of the day as well, so I won't have to worry about sweating too much at work.

Unfortunately, I can also say that this level of rain isn't sustainable and not the best type. At this level of intensity, the rain will wash right off the mountains, contribute to erosion, and generally not be absorbed into the local aquifer. This rain will run off into the sea, testing the capacity of Changwon's storm systems more than recharging trees and plants with life.

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

I've wound up seeing a lot more movies here in Korea than I ever really thought I would. Two reasons for this: the group of friends I've fallen in with really enjoy films, and going to the movies is a very cheap activity here (around 5 USD to see new releases in the evening and even cheaper in the mornings and afternoons).

So, with Roger, Carlos, and Lily's family and new friend 'Claire Erica' Lee, we saw the new Transformers movie. I wasn't expecting much, but I actually really liked it. I was disappointed that during the final sequence though, action took place at several different locations across Egypt and Jordan. One moment they're on the pyramids, then next minute they're 3 countries away in Jordan, wandering through the Lost City of Petra. Then they're running through Karnak Temple in Luxor (hundreds of kilometers South of both locales)! But the Egyptians and the Jordanians must be laughing their heads off at the nonsense in this one!

Despite the best efforts of geography teachers like myself, I'd almost be willing to forgive this due to the rabble's completely hopeless lack of understanding about geography (almost), but it gets much worse. Anther scene has the characters walking through the front door of the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC. Then they walk out the back door of the museum... into an Air Force bone yard obviously in Tuscon Arizona! Come on!

These are just a few of the eye-roll inducing plot discrepancies in the movie. It might actually be fun to see it again and see how many more ridiculous things I didn't notice.

Seriously, how stupid do they think movie audiences are? Then again, for folks willing to shell out money to watch a sequel to a movie based on a TV series produced to sell a line of plastic toys in the 1980's, I don't imagine the producers had high minded viewers in mind. This movie is a great ride, but be sure to leave your brain at home, lest critical thinking ruin it for you.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Flakiness & Lethargy

I'm so often busy during the week that during my downtime, I often don't have the capacity or the will to get anything productive done. Whether this is due to exhaustion or lethargy I can't be certain, but it's affecting me.

Just this last weekend, my friend Krista invited me to join her on a weekend whitewater rafting excursion. I was excited and pumped to go, but when it came time to book the trip, I couldn't find the time, or I often "spaced" it out. Now she's undoubtedly having the time of her life, while I'm having a lazy weekend again in Changwon.

What's wrong with me? I'm not sure. There are tons of things I'd like to get done, from the important (sending home a package of goodies for my parents, wiring money home to invest, booking a vacation, etc.) to the mundane (arranging furniture for more room, spending my REI dividend check, studying Korean).

Now that the consequences of my inaction have hit (I'm not rafting or bungee jumping this weekend). I'm reviewing once again the principles behind simplifying your life:

1. Identify what's important to you. 2. Eliminate everything else.

What might I be able to eliminate from my life, and make it more manageable? Will this help me become the weekend warrior? Or the Saturday sloth?

Simple Living Manifesto: 72 Ideas to Simplify Your Life

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Another Politician's Infidelity

Of all the things going on in the world today, what with genocide in Darfur the Iranian crackdown on vote protesters, and Kim Jong Il's wild threats, you would wonder why I'd choose to talk about Mark Sanford's sleazy infidelity.

Why? Because like this article says, his confession is so fundamentally different from those politicians before him that it is unexpected and unique. An aberration. Unlike the genocide in Darfur or the Iranian voting scandal (whose outcomes are tragic and unfortunate, yet sadly predictable), Mark Sanford is perhaps showing genuine remorse for his actions and laying out everything. His confession amounts to political suicide and perhaps marital suicide.

As the editorials below mention, most politicians caught in an infidelity engage in a typical pattern of minimizing it as a short lived lapse or personal failure, showing remorse, and then trying to convince people you still love your dear wife and God has forgiven you. You avoid accountability until it becomes politically imperative to do otherwise, explain it away as a short mistake, and then go on the offensive when your adversaries or the press exploit it. I won't rehash how Clinton and Edwards tried to pull off this script. (To say nothing of GOP Senator Larry Craig's laughable "wide stance" whopper when the vice squad got him in the bathroom).

While his political opponents are right to point out his hypocrisy (he voted to impeach Clinton on what he described as moral grounds and moralizes about the sanctity of marriage in his position on same-sex marriage), I also kind of think many have been too quick to judge and condemn. Perhaps there is a time and place to consider his behavior and the discrepancy between what he says and does.

But based on his confession, here's a guy who is obviously broken and torn up about the whole thing. He obviously senses the ramifications of his actions not only to South Carolina and his family, but to his colleagues and even his mistress. Unlike Craig or Clinton, who immediately launchrd into a cynical, calculated damage control to salvage their careers, could Sanford actually be taking it all in and figuring out how to do the right thing?

Heartless: The Disturbing Glee at Mark Sanford's Downfall, by John Dickerson

Something Real: Did Mark Sanford Admit to a Sin Worse than Sex? by William Saletan

Andrew Sullivan at the Atlantic on Mark Sanford

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Another Thought For Tuesday

"There is no passion to be found in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living." ~ Nelson Mandela
From Colorado Trail

Kodak Kodachrome Film Retired at 74

It wasn't so long ago that people waited two days to a week before they saw their vacation photographs. If you wanted to take more than 30 shots, you carried extra rolls of film. If you wanted to send them to friends, you kept the negatives and ordered copies (or made them yourself if you had access to a darkroom). My toddler nephew will no doubt be flabbergasted to learn people actually went to the supermarket to develop pictures into prints or that we even bothered doing so.

Before the days of digital photography, when people still stored their photographs in big heavy albums on bookshelves instead of servers and hard drives, Eastman-Kodak was an enormous company, even considered a 'tech' company at one time. The relentless onslaught of digital photography technologies have slowy pecked away at the company, which is now a hollow shell of its former self after a reorganization, and struggles to survive in the digital age.

First, companies stopped developing new 35mm cameras around the turn of the century. Now they hardly manufacture them anymore, as most everyone buys a digital camera. With the exception of a few 35 mm SLR and medium format size cameras that still have tiny niche markets, one might be hard pressed to find a simple point and shoot.

Now, Kodak has retired what was once their flagship product responsible for building their brand name. Kodachrome film, once the bread and butter of Eastman-Kodak, has slowly declined over time, and as of this year, the company will no longer manufacture the product.

I took a black and white photography class in university, and learned to develop black and white film in the dark-room. Although I only shot on black and white film, and usually used Ilford B&W film instead of Kodak (I found it often easier to work with and more forgiving of my beginner mistakes), I know many professional and amateur photographers will sorely miss using Kodachrome, as they've no doubt grown accustomed to using it over time.

Many famous images from around the world were shot on Kodachrome film, including photographer Steve McCurry's haunting 1985 National Geographic cover of an Afghani refugee girl. So for the sake of sentimentality and nostalgia, I'm linking up this slideshow of famous Kodachrome images. How many of them can you recognize? How many of the locations can you identify? How many have you visited?

KodaChrome Slideshow

Tribute to Kodachrome: A Photography Icon

National Geographic

Ilford Photo

Image © Steve McCurry

Monday, June 22, 2009

Mafia Wars on Facebook

I've spent the evening skipping the gym and I'm doing something I'm not particularly proud of: playing Mafia Wars on Facebook. A new friend of mine, Jean Bradberry suggested it.

I haven't been playing long, but I'm already noticing some things about it: It uses simple psychology to reinforce your behaviors. It does this primarily by using game-play to improve your game character and earning money. The catch though, is you have to keep returning to the game for more later on. Your character can also acquire different items to assist in you (which in turn require more money and more gameplay).

The whole premise reminds me very much of Blizzard software games, primarily Diablo 2, and World of Warcraft, where developing your characters becomes an obsession over time. Needless to say, one can easily purchase items in gameplay with your credit card (which I assume is how Facebook and/or the Mafia Wars Game developers make money).

Anyways, I've bought a bunch of abandoned lots for income, and I expect to be selling them soon enough for some commercial lots where I'll build some apartment complexes. My character is still a low level "street thug" where I'm busy mastering the "mugger" skill and the "corner store hold-up" skill (I've already mastered "collect on a loan"). If I build 34 apartments I can earn the "slumlord" title. But I'm still only level 6 (I can expand to Cuba at level 35).

My friend Jean claims its an interesting and intelligent game worth giving a try at. He says it teaches you a lot about psychology and interpersonal relationships. So I'll see where it goes.

Monday Morning Quote

Back at work today, grinding away for the pay. Big thunderstorms woke me up at 5 AM, followed by pounding rain that's no doubt testing the limits of Changwon City's storm sewers and drainage systems.

Even as early as my student teaching experience, I could recall the weather's slight, yet noticeable effect on student temperament, behavior and performance. I suspect a thunderstorm of this magnitude is unsustainable though, and that by the time I'm in class it'll be difficult to notice, as rain will slow to a trickle. And besides, the kids in Changwon are fairly docile anyways. So I'll leave you all with the obligatory bit of wisdom below, (this time from Albert Einstein) and a sunset over Colorado's Tenmile Range.
From Colorado Trail

"Teaching should be such that what is offered is perceived as a valuable gift, and not as a hard duty." ~ Albert Einstein.

Friday, June 19, 2009


I went to dinner tonight and visited the home of Park Jeong Heon and her husband, Cho Jae-Hoon . I previously met them about 6 months ago, on my first arrival in Changwon. Park Jeong and her husband both work as English teachers in Changwon, in local Middle and High Schools respectively. I met Mrs. Park when she used to work at Annam MS, but after she transferred away, I hadn't seen either of them for nearly six months, although I gratefully remembered their help with a broken boiler at my apartment some time ago.

Despite having not seen them for some time, they live in one of the tall apartment buildings towering over the Daebangdong neighborhood and have two small children. Not more than 5 minutes walk away.

We had some great conversation and shared a lot of laughs that night, as we exchanged stories about our jobs and they shared some Korean language with me (not to mention delicious food), Both were eager to see me learn their mother tongue. They also have two energetic little kids running around their flat, who undoubtedly make them smile most of the night.

I also promised I'd return the favor soon, and cook peach cobbler for them. They have an oven, so all I need to locate in this town is white cake mix (not always easy in East Asia). But when I do, I'll be sure to share it with them.

New Friends in the Park

So my new friend Vicky Erasmus loves playing her guitar. And she seems bent on getting all her friends to gather in Yeongji Park park late every Friday night for drinks so she can serenade us with guitar music and a bongo drum.

I wandered down there after my dinner party, as the night was still young (sort of) and I'm glad I went there this week as well. I wound up meeting an interesting guy who has lived here for nearly 11 years and teaches English literature at a University in Masan. Jean Bradberry works at Kyungnam University, and teaches literature classes, ESL, and film appreciation.

He'd also lived in Saudi Arabia for a year as an ESL teacher. Needless to say, we had some fun exchanging stories for awhile about our time in the Arab world.

He's also got a background in psychology, and had a lot of interesting insights into some personalities we've observed here in Korea.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Erich Fromm on the History of Man

From Thailand & Cambodia
"The history of man is a graveyard of great cultures that came to catastrophic ends because of their incapacity for planned, rational, voluntary reaction to change." - Erich Fromm
From Thailand & Cambodia

New CS Friends Both Near & Far

One thing I really like about is the open and refreshingly uninhibited drive to meet random people. I've made several friends through the site already (although sadly, they never seem to show up ON THE couchsurfing website).

How this relates to today: I ate dinner tonight with some new friends I met through Jiaqi and Candice, a couple from Singapore, sent me a message asking if they could surf my couch as they would be in Busan for the weekend. They didn't realize that I also lived in Changwon, where they are staying till the end of July for a study program.

Nevertheless, they wanted me to show them where they could find a Boshintang restaurant, and I happened to know where one was. So I took them there! I also brought along a new Kiwi friend, Julia Davies, who I met at the Korean class, and they dragged along a French colleague of theirs doing their same program.

I also got a message via CS from a young woman studying English in the Philippines from Changwon. Kim Na Rae just dropped me a note out of the blue, wanting to get to know me. So I told her my story, teaching kids at Daebang MS, and my time in her hometown. She says she wants to study English when she returns. Perhaps I'll meet her in November then.

Jiaqi & Candice's Wordpress

김나래 (Kim Na Rae's Website)

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

창원 한글학당

Back at class again, the Changwon Hangeul Hakdang (Hakdang is small school?) for those of you who can't read the title. Learning Korean is proceeding much slower than I would like for a variety of reasons. Mainly because I have no time. I'm finding it difficult to find the time to both practice, study, and speak. I'm just not finding the hours in the day to study as much as I would or should, consequently, the learning is going more slowly.

But I am pleased to announce a giant leap forward: I can now read and write pretty well (not that I can understand much of what I'm reading or writing, but hey give me a break). So I thought I'd make a few observations:

1. Korean is proving more challenging to hear and speak than I originally anticipated. There are several vowels, consonants, and these unusual double consonants that are indistinguishable in my ears. I simply cannot hear the difference between them and its proving quite frustrating.

2. The Korean script is every bit as functional and elegant as they say it is. My Korean friends and colleagues insist that it is a "scientific" script, but I think they mean in the sense that it was a language designed and constructed by academic scholars, as opposed to a writing system haphazardly cobbled together and improvised by anyone and everyone over thousands of years (as my own heaping mess of a mother tongue happens to be).

And while I'm not sure I'd apply the term "scientific" to describe the writing system, it is remarkably simple and straightforward to learn (as it was designed to be), and arguably Korea's greatest cultural achievement. You have consonants and vowels. Each character can have 1-2 consonants and 1 vowel (roughly). Anyone familiar with writing Chinese characters or Japanese will readily take to writing out Hangul with little trouble.

4. This isn't to say though, that it isn't without its pitfalls and traps for the uninitiated, as one can definitely find odd idiosyncrasies, as one could in any written language, I imagine.

3. Korean seems to place even more emphasis on polite forms and tenses than Japanese does. I'm still too early into things to know for sure, but this appears to be the case.

4. After learning the language a little better, Korean presents more problems for Romanization than I anticipated as well. This would definitely make the language more of a hurdle for Korean learners from Western speaking languages.

As for the class itself, I'm making a lot of new friends, and I'm enjoying every one's company quite a bit (and I'm hoping they feel the same way about me).

창원 한글학당 Changwon Hangeul Hakdang Korean Class

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Khalil Gibran on Volcanos

From Thailand & Cambodia

"If your heart is like a volcano, how shall you expect flowers to bloom?" - Khalil Gibran

Upheaval in Iran

A small body of determined spirits fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission can alter the course of history. ~ Mohandas Gandhi

The big event now: Iranian supporters of Mousavi claiming election fraud take to the streets by the hundreds of thousands in cities across Iran. News reports say information in Iran is difficult to come by, as the Iranian government blocks key websites used by protesters, restricts journalists, and cuts off cell phone and satellite TV usage.

As reliable news slows to a trickle, journalists and others are turning to Twitter, of all sites, as a means of gauging events inside Iran. Protesters are working hard to get information out. The protests themselves have taken most by surprise. All the analysts and pundits seem to have a grasp on the political situation there, but are wondering if the protests are unsustainable and will slow down in the days and weeks ahead. Or will a violent crackdown on protests end the upheaval more abruptly? Would it backfire and further destabilize the government in the short term or the long term?

All valid questions for sure. But Iran, being so enigmatic and difficult to grasp by Americans, through a complex bitter history between Iran and the US (and perhaps much of the West), cultural barriers, and ideologies, few people have any good answers. Nobody's quite sure what will happen, and nobody is quite sure about the correct response the rest of the world should take. So, I shot off a Facebook message to the one aquaintaince I knew in Iran, and am currently awaiting her take on events.

I'm not expecting much from this person, as Facebook and Twitter are reportedly blocked inside the country and the government and its dissenters are engaged in an electronic duel of sorts. Email and internet speed in general are reportedly greatly slowed, as protesters scramble to send news and camera phone images out on hastily assembled proxy servers and the government scrambles to shut them down. If I do hear or learn anything about events, I'll put it here, in solidarity with those brave souls willing to stand up for freedom, justice, and democracy.

But while there are many caveats and pitfalls in writing about Iran (my last attempt to write on the subject was met with some very angry replies), I feel safe saying this much:

1. The election itself looks very, very suspect to me. While I have no proof, the accounts I've read (including Iranian law ignored requiring a waiting period before announcing results) have me pretty well convinced the election itself was fraudulent, rigged, or whatever. Given the huge new turnout reported, accounts of demographics and the electorate in Iran, and the enthusiasm people had in opposing Achmadinejad, I find it difficult to believe Achmadinejad won by nearly 2/3 majority. Then again, I'm not surprised that it was rigged to begin with.

2. While many in the US might disagree with me, I feel it was prudent, in the least, for Obama not to respond immediately. He showed a good deal of foresight in understanding that many would try to make this "about the US." He knows a heavy handed involvement would only make things more difficult for those trying to dissent and that blaming the US is a common tactic the regime uses in dealing with its own failings.

3. I would hope those engaged in protests don't lose courage or become disillusioned with a lack of immediate progress. I would hope they would ultimately embrace a long, drawn out nonviolent dissent modeled after Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr. or Nelson Mandela.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Extreme Sheep Herding

Seeing as my day was a complete fail, I shamelessly used my facebook status to get my friends to cheer me up. I don't advise doing this too often, as people will begin to see you as a bit of a downer, but sometimes desperate times call for desperate measures.
Anyways, Dan Simmons, an all around cool dude, proved thoughtful enough to provide this link. So these guys use LED light fixtures on sheep and have very well trained dogs and use the sheep to create large formations visible on the opposite hillside. Extreme sheep herding folks. That's right you heard me. The fireworks at the end were priceless.

Reminds me of my days playing saxophone in High School for the Mustang Marching Band. Although I was usually marching, so I don't recall seeing much besides the other marchers in front of me. I'll bet people in the stands had quite a show though. Fortunately we didn't need dogs barking orders at us (although our band director, Mr. Smith, could get pretty loud with the megaphone sometimes).

Recession Wrecking Friendships

I had a bad day today. For a variety of reasons I'm not going to recap all the sad events. So instead, I thought I'd offer this piece about the economic recession ending friendships and dividing people into rich and poor, or employed and unemployed. Like the author suggests, I also feel this is a trend that started long before last year's market crashes.

To be completely fair, people naturally gravitate to others who are like themselves. This is a natural occurrence and there isn't anything wrong with it in and of itself (caveats). People naturally relate to others who have more in common (I don't exactly hang out with NASCAR fanatics because I just can't relate, just as those folks probably wouldn't want to relate to someone who spends his time rambling pseudo-intellectual drivel on his stupid blog) But I think everyone should find it sad and wrong that socio-economic lines increasingly define those divisions.

My own countries' shrinking middle class and its division into the very rich and increasingly poor over the last 30 to 40 years is visible in a numerous of ways. Suburban and Ex-urban communities price people (and diversity) out of neighborhoods by only building houses for certain "market segments," making communities less diverse and increasingly dividing communities and cities into areas with wealth and forcing those without it into communities with none. The problem compounds itself, as people in poorer communities lack examples of successful, hardworking people (who've long ago left for gated communities on some highway exit).

Even the fall of GM symbolizes the trend. Their business model in the 70's had 5 brands, with Chevy at the bottom, followed by Pontiac, Buick, Oldsmobile, and Cadillac at the top. Now Buick only survives because the Chinese like them, while Pontiac and Oldsmobile are gone, as their markets disappeared. Now that Hummer is gone, GM's only viable products anymore come from Chevy's affordable transportation (from Chevy), or a luxury brand for the well to do (Cadillac). This means that Americans are increasingly struggling to make it at all (and buying the cheapest car or truck they can). Or oppositely, they're living on top of the heap (and keeping up with the Joneses by getting that new Caddy).

I remember a friend telling me once how she was at times uncomfortable with the wealth in her suburban church, as she felt socializing with them was often too expensive, or feared the conspicuous consumption would price other folks out of socializing there, ultimately hurting the church's mission. A valid concern and one I suspect many churches I've attended struggle with at times.

So I just asked myself: How many friends do I have that are significantly different from myself economically? academically? politically? As I expected, not very many. Is this wrong? I don't know. But I would hope that new realities brought on in the recession between friends whose status used to match up don't end friendships and relationships, which acts as a cohesive that society needs, especially in times like these.

Friends without Money: How the Recession is Wrecking Friendships Across the Land by Emily Bazelon


Saturday, June 13, 2009

Music in the Park: Twitter Style

Seriously, I just don't get Twitter. I know its the new thing and all, but the whole premise doesn't make any sense to me. What's the point in limiting yourself to 140 characters or less? Anyways, since I'm not on it:

My new friends gather in Changwon's Yeongji Park. On Friday Nights. For music and drinks. We all had fun. I met new friends.
From South Korea Highlights 2009 ~
From South Korea Highlights 2009 ~

Paris' Birthday Party

Asian cultures often place emphasis on a child's first birthday, as most infant mortality historically (and still) passes by a child before that age. Once a child reaches 1, its a safe bet they'll make it to adulthood. Consequently, the first birthday party is often a big event and a major life milestone, like a bar mitzvah, graduation, or wedding.

So what does any of that have to do with me? Well, I had the opportunity to attend the epic birthday party extravaganza of Paris, the daughter of Lily Toh, a new mother in our Korean class. Lily was kind enough to invite(and quite enthusiastic about) people from the Changwon The party is more for the adults, as I'd never seen a kid's birthday party with beer and soju, but it was quite an occasion and evidently a big deal for Koreans and Lily (who comes from Taiwan). They had a DJ, an MC, and a dancing woman who put on a show, had raffle prizes, and rivaled a wedding reception.

Here's Lily and her husband. The birthday girl is staring at me while I balance a spoon on my nose.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Busy Busy Busy

Lately I've been finding my hectic lifestyle and schedule far too unsustainable. This last week particularly, I had a difficult time keeping up with anything. What do you do when there just aren't enough hours in the day to get it all done?

For a number of reasons, things become breathtakingly stressful and busy for me on Tuesday and Wednesday, when I have to meet all my deadlines for the week and still make my Tuesday evening Korean language class (something I don't want to sacrifice). If I can get my last lessons prepped in time for early Wednesday, then I know I've done it, and feel tremendously successful. I can relax a little after I make it through Wednesday, but by then I have nothing left in me to get ahead for the following week.

Please advise.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Dear Irritating Vegetable Truck Guy,

Dear Irritating Vegetable Truck Guy,

I've got a bit of an issue that I'm hoping we can come to an agreement about. I know you've gotta make a living just like everyone else and I know that you do this by selling vegetables and fruit in my neighborhood from your truck.

That's totally cool and I've got no problem with that. I think once or twice I even bought some tangerines from you (and they were pretty good too). I don't even mind you blaring your recorded sales pitch on your loudspeaker. For half an hour at a time. Hey, I worked in sales once (telemarketing and door to door commercial carpet cleaning), so I know exactly how tough it can be sometimes. I can respect that too. I mean, everyone's gotta make a living, right? So live and let live I say.

The problem I have is the hour of day that you blare your recorded sales pitch. I think we can both safely say that nobody wants to roll out of bed and shop for vegetables at 7:30 AM on Saturday or Sunday morning. This is the second time this weekend alone you woke me trying to tempt me with your heaps of persimmons, radishes, cabbage or lettuce or baby tomatoes or whatever.

You've been blaring your loudspeaker at the whole neighborhood and I've watched you, nobody's buying your stuff that early (perhaps this is why you drive off at 8:15, after the whole neighborhood is awake). You see, the only thing a loudspeaker sells at an hour like this is resentment and hatred. Perhaps this is why most people in this town prefer to live on the 15th floor of an apartment building, where they can't hear people like you?

Hey, its OK, I understand you're a farmer. You get up early when your rooster crows and get hard to work on the farm before the sun rises. That's cool man. I respect that. But you've gotta respect us too. On weekends, us city slickers. don't want to get out of bed and shop for groceries until at least 9:30 or 10:00. If you show up at 9:30, I might even start buying stuff from you again, instead of getting angry about being woken up by your megahorn and boycotting you (as apparently the rest of the neighborhood has as well)

Saturday, June 06, 2009

A Man Who Made My Dream His Reality

My friend Krista Lee connected me with her cousin's website, a man who has been traveling, trekking, and photographing Southern and Central Asia for over two years. He's making this fantastic website with wonderful images of his formidable and ever growing mass of epic travels, journeys, and adventures.

I've spent the better part of a Saturday afternoon now reading about his varied adventures from China to India to Vietnam and Laos, and I'm more and more excited about making such a journey myself. I'm already including some of the places he visited into my itinerary already.

While I wonder about my ability to plan a journey as fantastic as his, and desperately hope my own stories are half as exciting and interesting as Micah Hanson's, I somehow have a faith and confidence they will be.

People like Micah prove the axiom that 'Fortune favors the bold.' Those who step out beyond the point of no return are the ones who reach the destinations no one else can manage. The ones who swim beyond the shore, saving nothing for the swim back witness new horizons and discover new lands. I must remember this principle, and never fear to hold back out of trepidation or cowardice.

Micah Images: Across Asia

Monument Valley Album

Here's my full album from my trip to Monument Valley. A pristinely beautiful canyon area in the heart of the Navajo Nation, this Tribal Park and fantastic landscape has become synonymous and representative of the Navajo Nation, the landscape and its culture.

Longtime friends Jonathan Dunn, Will Turnage, and 'Kaise' (last name forgotten) drove up to the park from Prescott, Arizona during the Winter of 2000. I've long since forgotten the name of Kaise's friend who is also pictured. Regardless, we all had a good time, despite mother nature snowing on us overnight. After some time getting our cars unstuck, we had a blast driving down wide dirt roads covered in snow before entering the Tribal Park.

I've often wondered what happened to Jonathan Dunn & Will Turnage since, as I lost touch after moving to Flagstaff to attend NAU. I know Will Turnage moved to Alaska to become a bush pilot and Jonathan was on a track to head into the Air Force. I've searched for them on Facebook and other places with no luck. Perhaps someday they'll Google themselves and find this blog entry.

Navajo Parks & Recreation

Friday, June 05, 2009

Dinner with Yoon-Ji

After work, I took the bus to Jinhae to have dinner with my new friend Yoon-Ji, who recently finished her student teaching internship/practicum gig at Annam JHS.

She's having a great time relaxing again, and soon expects to be finding work as a teacher. Yoon-Ji speaks with fantastic English, and talking to her was very interesting, as I got a lot of perspectives and thoughts about Annam JHS and teaching in Korea from a perspective that I wouldn't otherwise here about.

Yoon-Ji also had a lot of interesting things to say on a whole range of other topics as well. She also shares with me a real desire to travel and see the world, something she feels she hasn't had a chance for.

From Dr. Seuss

"Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind." -- Dr. Seuss
From Climbing with Melissa McCann and Paul B, Paradise Forks, March 2002

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Thoughts on the Auto Bailout

Here's an interesting idea about how the arranged auto bailout might long term save GM and the UAW from both themselves and each other. It was an idea that sort of crossed my mind when they announced that the UAW would be taking quite a bit of GM and a majority of Chrysler stock. By giving the union and therefore the workers, an ownership stake in the company, they'll have a more vested interest in the long term competitiveness and viability of the company.

Now welded to the companies they are dependent upon for survival, they'll be forced to make decisions as owners and executives now if they want to protect their workers and even the Union itself. I think it might actually hold some promise in helping the company become more competitive long term.

Whether any meaningful and effective change comes from this new arrangement remains to be be seen. Nevertheless, as the author notes, the irony in the workers owning production would definitely have Marx rolling in his grave. I'm not sure this is quite what he had in mind.

Which Side Are You On?: How the UAW's New Ownership Stake Will Defang The Union, by Daniel Gross

Anyways, I thought it was interesting reading.

And now, for a rambling rant:

I'm growing increasingly concerned about all the taxpayer money being poured into GM and Chrysler. While I think that this may be necessary, given current economic conditions, I'm concerned this may never end. The Obama administration hasn't firmly stated that these are the last bailout dollars he's willing to give to the companies, just that they don't anticipate doling out any more cash to Detroit.

The other thing that concerns me is all the cash being doled out to companies that aren't viable and haven't shown any sort of plan to change their ways to become viable. Despite collapsing, I don't see Chrysler or GM doing anything radically different to change things around.

If the federal government is going to be the new financier, they need to start thinking like an investor, which means putting capital and money where it could be most useful. If we want to save the auto industry in America shouldn't we be using this money more wisely? Ford, which completed its restructuring and has turned itself around quality wise and sales wise is the only company in Detroit that's worthy of taxpayer dollars (and is probably the only car I'd consider buying if I was in the states right now).

I find it despicable in some ways that GM may ultimately benefit from the epic cluster they created, whereas a better company like Ford may get put at a competitive disadvantage by not having access to all the cheap government capital.

And why keep pumping money into dull, old companies at all when there are new startups begging for capital to get off the ground? If the government is the new investor, shouldn't the government also consider sexy new startups like Bright Automotive and Tesla Motors just as much as dinosaurs like GM and Chrysler? After watching the slow motion train wrecks of GM and Chrysler over the last 15 years, would Tesla really be all that much riskier an investment?

Then again, Tesla doesn't have a huge lobbying arm in Washington, or hundreds of thousands of workers and suppliers in dozens of congressional districts (to say nothing of the UAW's political clout). Its kind of unfortunate how many of these political decisions pretty much get made before they're even presented.

And for folks interested in the future of the American Auto Industry:

Tesla Motors

Bright Automotive