Bareboat Chartering Certification in San Diego 
Saturday, May 28, 2016, 11:02 AM - Trips
Posted by Administrator
After sailing in the BVI and Grenadines, I understand the allure of sailing to remote anchorages around the world. I constantly think about the seas in the Mediterranean, Caribbean, Thailand, Australia, etc. The first step in making that dream true is to get a bareboat certification. In this case, I went with the American Sailing Association (ASA) and signed up for the ASA 103/104 class. To regain my touch on the tiller (or wheel), I went out early and sailed with Jason on Tuesday night, Weds, Thursday, and then took the class Fri-Sunday. 6 straight days on a boat! It was wonderful even with the May gray on the bay during the week.

Tuesday, Jason and I practiced picking up a mooring ball and anchoring by Shelter Island. On Weds, after getting sick Chama comfortable at the house, we biked down to the Marina. We sailed the 24' Newport Neptune to Peohe's Dock on Coronado for a big Greek dinner and then anchored in Glorietta Bay for the night. The following day we practiced man overboard drills and worked on the finer points of sail trim. As we were coming back to Shelter island we saw that the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier was coming into the bay, so we sailed out the channel to greet it. In our little sailboat we waved to the navy crew on the deck. Then we biked back up to Jason's house.

Friday, class was focused on motoring skills: prop walk, prop wash, backing into a slip, docking, spring (lining) off, standing turns, etc. Ironically, I did better backing into the slip than I did on docking maneuvers.

The following day, we practiced anchoring and then sailed up to Mission Bay. It was a fun sail in the ocean with ~5 ft swell. I got good chunk of time on wheel. At the end of the day we were coming into the anchorage at a very low tide, and the instructor, Ed, asked that I swing wide so that I could come up on our anchor spot from the downwind direction. I obliged and ran aground! Luckily we were at idle and I kicked it to neutral and then back into reverse and was able to get us off the muddy dredge bank. There are two types of sailors, those that have run aground and those that lie about it. Now I can choose which I would like to be. We anchored, took the ASA 103 test, and then setup the anchor watch. I ended up with the 3am-5am slot. Ugg. During my shift, I popped out of the v-berth hatch every 20 minutes to check our position and feel the rode. We were fine unless the winds shifted, so I monitored that closely.

In the morning, we took the ASA 104 test, which was far more difficult. I ace'd the 103 test, but I missed 6 out of 100 on the bareboat test, which was somewhat disappointing. We did have an A+ crew of 4 people, however: Ty was a Navy Doctor, Ben was retired coast guard, Jason was chief instructor for the Torrey Pines Sailing Club, and then there was me. Luckily, with a good crew, running drills is a lot easier. We all went through the MOB drills, hove-to, keefed the main, and sailed anywhere Ed told us to go. Overall, I was very pleased with the class because I came away feeling confident in my skills and I felt comfortable chartering a 35-40 ft boat with the right crew. Looks like this will need to happen soon!

To celebrate, Jason and I had a great seafood dinner at the C Level Lounge on Harbor Island. We toasted to our new sailing accreditations, and then I jumped on the last Southwest flight back to the desert.









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Car-camping Tour de Utah 
Saturday, May 28, 2016, 07:57 AM - Trips
Posted by Administrator
My uncle spent some of his 20s and 30s in the West and always wanted to reconnect with this part of the country. After retiring at 64 in St. Louis, he made good on that dream and I decided to help him see some things that he would normally not be able to. He also told nonstop stories of 'how it used to be' without the crowds, endless rustic camping site, and far fewer rules.

I landed from my Atlanta work trip at 4:00. Randy's car was packed up and we were on our way by 5:30. We hightailed it to White House Campground past Page for the night. After a short night's sleep we entered the North Coyote Buttes raffle in Kanab. The 6 mile hike felt too big for Randy, so he was hoping that we wouldn't win the pass, but I really wanted to see the wave, so I had my fingers crossed we'd win. The room was packed with about 80 people looking to get one of the 10 slots. I was shocked that we were drawn midway through the raffle! Randy was bummed. I picked up our permit for the following day.

We then headed into Zion, through the tunnel and landed one of the last campsites at the South campground after sweet-talking the ranger. The weather for the weekend was not expected to be good, but we hopped on the tram and headed up the Virgin River to see the sights. I hadn't been to Zion since I was ~10 years old, so it was great to see the place again. We settled on trying to go up Angel's Landing and I told Randy he could stop up at any point. It was a very slow hike, but my uncle did manage to make it up Walter's Wiggles to the Scout Lookout. I decided to jog to the summit, but it was packed with people and the going was slow. Sidetracking the trail for efficiency, I watched as the dark skies closed in, and by the time the wind and first heavy drops of rain hit, I bailed. Randy didn't have any rain gear, so I knew we needed to head down. Then the rain really came in with a few blasts of lightning, but it cleared out a half hour later as we finished the canyon stretch. It was a good idea to bail.




We grilled up a monster steak and ate beans and rice at camp as the rain came back. It poured all night. In the morning, we took a rainy hike to Emerald Pools. The waterfalls were on high after all the rain. It was nice and without the endless stream of people Randy cheered up a little. He kept talking about the West that he knew where there were only a few people. He also loves embellishment, so there's nearly no way to know if anything he says is accurate. In fact, recounting things that happened as little as 5-10 minutes prior will be twisted in ways to make the experience seem more emotional. Randy will also begin many of his stories by saying, "This is a true story..." which makes you wonder if he doesn't say that, it must be a complete fabrication.




At any rate, we managed to make it back to the 4Runner and out to House Rock Valley Rd as the rain kept coming down. The road can be impassible after rains because it's normally dirt, but quickly turns to mud. Randy said we'd make it, but grew more skeptical as the depth of the mud increased. We had the Toyota sideways on many, many occasions, but forward momentum was retained and we plowed deeper into the Vermilion Cliffs area.

In the end, Randy decided to save his back and not risk another rainy hike, so I headed off to visit The Wave. The whole hike was spectacular and The Wave was gorgeous too. Something about those swooping lines is so peaceful and mathematical. I snapped a bunch of photos and wondered my way out. I took a new way out and ran across a huge heard of long-horned sheep. That was awesome. Randy and I headed south to get out on what was supposed to be an easier road, but took a wrong turn and nearly got stuck again. It was hairy driving and Randy was exhausted by the time we hit pavement.




The next day, we headed up to the north side of Zion to Lava Point Campground, but it was closed because the road was flooded. After hemming and hawing for an hour about crossing the overflowing lake, we made a run at it and got across. There was no one on the other side and we had a quiet lunch at the Lava Point Overlook. My original plan was to camp there and then do Pipe Spring Canyon, but it was a long approach, bad weather, Randy hadn't seriously rappelled, and the campground was closed. So I left that on the to-do list. We did find a nice spot to camp just outside the park on Smith Mesa Rd. And as an added treat there was a little canyon walking distance from our camp site.



The following day we circled around to Bryce Canyon across a snowy Cedar Canyon Rd. We had lunch at Rainbow Point and then worked our way into the Escalante. I suggested checking out Golden Cathedral from Egypt TH. On our way out, we found a neat canyon that was nearly impossible to get into but I could free climb out of, so we decided to give it a look. Randy rappelled using a harness for the first time, but didn't like it much. He rather hand-over-hand the line. Inside the slot canyon, we walked a ways down and then came to a rap ring. Interesting, I thought; so this is a real canyoneering spot. But without knowing the length of the canyon, difficulty, weather, or longest rap, I decided it was time to call it a day. I climbed out on gradual slope on the West wall, tossed the rope down to Randy, and he pulled himself out. We then found a killer campsite overlooking Glen Canyon National Park near our trailhead. I flipped through the canyoneering books around the campfire and found our impromptu adventure: Egypt 1.



The next day, I pushed Randy to his limits and we hiked to Golden Cathedral. It was a ~9 mile round-trip hike down into Glen Canyon, through a number of river crossings, and then up to the cavern. We took it slow, but made steady progress. He later called this the "hardest hike of his life." Excellent. The Neon Canyon portion was the funnest for me because it winds its way through the sandstone and then dumps you out at the cathedral. The climb out was toasty once leaving the Escalante river, so I wouldn't recommend this hike for any time in the summer. We kicked back in our camp chairs on the rim of the canyon, cracked a beer, and watched the sunset across the UT canyon country.







The next morning, we decided to reattempt Egypt 1. On the way, I scoped out Egypt 2, which starts with an 80 m rap from the road. That's cool! But Randy wanted no part in it, so we went back to the far more mellow Egypt 1. The beginning was great with some 10-15 ft rappels and tight crawls through the narrow slot. It gets surprisingly deep quickly. The end had one spot of mud that I stemmed across, but Randy took a swim. Luckily the Escalante warmth was upon us and he started to dry quickly. He later said, "That was the craziest thing he's ever done." Perfect.





The next day, we considered exploring Robber's Roost, but it was too far out of the way. Instead, we made a quick stop at the Dan O'Laurie Museum of Moab to learn about the history of the town. Randy was livid at how Moab had grown since he was there in the 80s. It didn't seem that bad to me. We then shot south toward Canyonlands. Instead of fighting for a place to camp in the park, we took an side road in Indian Creek and had the place to ourselves. Unfortunately, the next front was rolling in and there were 30 mph and intermittent rain storms. But we got lucky the next day and got to see some of Randy's old favorite Needles spots. We hiked the rock behind Squaw Flat Campground and did the Slickrock Hiking loop. He spared no opportunity to talk with the rangers about how it was when he was there decades ago, how he nearly got swept downstream in Salt Creek when you could drive to Angel Arch, and his love of Peekaboo campground.

But our time was up and I needed to get to Cortez to register for the 12 hours of Mesa Verde. We got squared away in town, ate some authentic Mexican food from a hole-in-the-wall joint, and met up with the crew at the race start.

Spencer led off the team, I rode 2nd, and Josiah was our 3rd man. Spencer crushed his first lap in 1:22. I was riding hard, but then the rain/snow/sleet started again (just like last year!!) and soon the trail turned to mud. All the people that had passed me, I was suddenly dropping in the mud pit. Maybe I have more experience in those conditions? I was just happy to make it too the finish line. 1:36 first lap wasn't terrible. Plus, my back had tightened up with my backpack. The trail was dry for my 2nd lap and I improved to a 1:30. Randy watched the excitement from his camp chair and particularly liked the little jump the group built at the start of the racecourse. The big question was whether I would have the "joy" of getting a 3rd lap in. Spencer took the baton with 1:35 before the cut-off time. So I waited, fully kitted up, to see if he would make it in. He did, with 5 minutes to spare. I rode a completely flat, unmotivated 16-mile lap in 1:39 and came into the staging area just as Josiah cracked an Elevated beer for me. Hurray! The the party really kicked into high gear around the bonfire back in camp.






To wrap up the trip, I treated Randy to monstrous breakfast burrito from Dona Maria in Farmington. He said it was "The best burrito he ever had." Great. Then it was south on 550 and back to work reality.

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Taos Scavenger Hunt, Work Travel, and Spring Paragliding 
Sunday, March 20, 2016, 01:41 PM - Work, Trips, Weekend Fun
Posted by Administrator
I talked Jason into letting me borrow his Aliner camper indefinitely but after getting ahold of it, there was so much rat damage it seemed a little overwhelming. I spent 8 hours on Thursday and Friday cleaning out the rat poop and mopping up the rat urine stains. I washed the curtains, oiled the jacks and hitch, bought a new battery and wired it up with a switch on the hydrogen gas capturing box, and then spent 3 trips to autozone to get the proper 7 blade to 4 pin trainer adapter to have brakes and turn signals with the outback. It was a lot of effort, but in the end, the smell was tolerable and I rolled out of the driveway before it was completely dark. Driving that 2000 lb box up the mountains was a stressful experience, but the 2.5 L outback managed well and it held 70 mph up La Bajada hill at 4200 rpm. In TSV, Jason helped me park the Aliner in the middle lot and we turned in after getting the heater working and messing with the battery charger for an hour.




The following morning Jason and I formed "Team Happy Dog Lips" and competed in the New Belgium Scavenger hunt. We spent a couple runs at the beginning trying to find a paddle on a run with mythological connections (Castor, Pollux?) and a German gentle giant who helped the poor (St. B?). Well, it turned out to be on Rubezahl (!), so we wasted a good hour doing some extreme scavenging. Then we took one on Reforma to catch the chicken, and one on Trescow with Victor, before coming to our senses and skiing to the Bav. Luckily everyone was already there! With the help of Briana, Josiah, Spencer, Kat, and others, we didn't found the tutus, Yeti, Park Ranger, and a bunch of other wild things around the mountain. Yay for crowdsourcing! Toward the end of the day, Josiah got a crew together to ski a topless (well, shirtless for the ladies) run down Al's and we got a loads of shout outs from everyone on the lift. Gotta say that was one of the funniest runs of the year ;) Then it was on to the party at the New Belgium tents, RVs, Tim's, St. B, and points in between.





That night, Taos got 3" of snow, but the wind loaded up some places to 6-8". No one else got up early but I nabbed fresh tracks on Al's, Inferno, Walkeries (3 times in a row), and Wild West before anyone joined me. Some spots were nice and fluffy, but others were windswept and crunchy; the variable conditions were actually quite challenging for the skinnier Nordica Top Fuels and I wrecked a couple times. Sadly I didn't have anyone there for make fun of me.

Monday I flew to San Francisco for the SunSpec meeting. It was good to see all my colleagues, and continue the good work that I'm doing with their trade alliance. I met Timothy and his wife for dinner at Mikkeller's and sampled some of the SF beers. IPAs were good, but I'm still struggling to find the appeal of sours. From there, I flew to DC for a microgrid workshop. Abe's trying to create a massive testing lab consortium and I seem to be getting roped in as one of the leaders. Fortunately, I found time to visit Pearl and Paul and their son, Lee, on Thursday night. As some of my favorite people from my NREL/Boulder formative years, it's so good to reconnect and see how life has taken people in different directions. I got to read Lee's bedtime story. It's nice to have friends across the country.






Returning from DC late on Friday night, I picked up some sort of cold-like illness. I was achy, had chills, no appetite, a headache, and generally just wanted to sleep the rest of the weekend. I had hot and cold episodes all night but recovered fairly well on Saturday while I ran errands and worked through my list of household chores. Saturday morning, I still wasn't 100%, but I got out to Rio Puerco to take the first paragliding flight of the day the Chuck, Jim, Rich, Max, Spencer, and 3 tandem fliers. I only got 1500 AGL, but the air was smooth in the early morning, so I didn't complain much.


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Patagonia: Nahuel Huapi, Navimag, and Torres del Paine 
Monday, February 1, 2016, 08:29 PM - Trips
Posted by Administrator
Here's a big one. I did 3 weeks in Patagonia with Jeff and Jack. We trekked the Nahuel Huapi Traverse in Bariloche, Argentina, caught a boat ride from Puerto Montt to Puerto Natales through the Chilean Fjords, and spent 9 days completing the circuito completo in Torres del Paine. The trip took us through incredible country as you can see!

Final itinerary:
Saturday, Jan 16 - Santiago and flight to Puerto Montt
Sunday, Jan 17 - Tour bus from Puerto Montt to Bariloche
Monday, Jan 18 - Nahuel Huapi Traverse. Villa Catedral chair lift and hike to Refugio Jakob
Tues, Jan 19 - Nahuel Huapi Traverse, Trek to Refugio Laguna Negra
Weds, Jan 20 - Nahuel Huapi Traverse, Hike out via Refugio Lopez
Thurs, Jan 21 - Return bus to Puerto Montt, Chile
Friday, Jan 22 - Puerto Montt fish market and tienda exploration
Jan 23-25 - Navimag Cargo Ship Cruise
Tues, Jan 26 - Travel from Puerto Natales to Torres del Paine, camp at El Chileno.
Weds, Jan 27 - Hike up to Las Torres View and trek to Puesto Seron
Thurs, Jan 28 - Hike to Refugio Lago Dickson
Fri, Jan 29 - Hike to Campamento Los Perros
Sat, Jan 30 - Hike past Campamento Paso to Campamento Grey
Sun, Jan 31 - Hike to Refugio Mountain Lodge Paine Grande
Mon, Feb 1 - Rest day. Take Lago Pehoe boat around to Pudeto.
Tues, Feb 2 - Hike to Campamento Italiano. Climb to Britanico.
Weds, Feb 3 - Hike to Cuernos.
Thurs, Feb 4 - Hike to Las Torres. Bus to Puerto Natales.
Fri, Feb 5 - Bus to Punta Arenas, tour Cerveceria Austral.
Sat, Feb 6 - Tour of Isla Magdalena to visit los pinguinos.
Sunday, Feb 7 - Flight home.

Many photos here.


























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Ringing in 2016 in Taos and Silverton 
Sunday, January 3, 2016, 06:40 PM - Trips, Weekend Fun
Posted by Administrator
After Christmas in MO and IL, I headed back to the snow and partied with Jason, Victor, and Jeff by skiing the Taos NYE torchlight. There was a great turnout in the ski valley and the snow was wonderfully soft. Afterward Jason and I hiked up to Goldmine and illegally dropped the Kandahar Chutes. It was fun until the choke with all the small trees. I stayed the night in Ojo Caliente with Spencer, Bonnie, Dave, Sammy, and Laura and jammed in the new year with drums, guitars, and a ukulele. We skied Taos the following day and I got a few ridge hikes in - the snow has been really good this year.






Spencer and I went to drove up to Silverton to use one of our free Sundays and entered the Clauson Classic. There were points awarded for silly things and for serious things (like hauling logs to the billboard. Spencer and I started off strong and topped off at the billboard well in the first 10 people. The skiing was terrible - very chattery and exhausting when we were trying to go fast. We skied the chute under Pope Face and took the road back around. And did it all over again only this time slower. And then we did it again, only this time slower again. And I was really beat up by this point. The hour long hikes from the top of the chair at 12,300’ to the Billboard summit at ~13,200' were killer in ski boots. Spencer and I then did one more hike, this time with a massive log in my backpack (bonus points) up to the ramp entrance. I was dead. Spencer and I took our time skiing the frontside through an avalanche path and stopped off in Concussion Woods for a couple beers in celebration of our feats of strength. Then we went to the after party and tallied our scores. I think it was close to the 50% mark, Spencer hauled a few more logs than I did and weaseled out some bonus gnar points from the judges for wearing pink boots, hand carrying his board (like a fool), telling cancer stories, and carrying extra logs so he might have broken into the top 10 (of about 80). Didn't matter much though as the winner did 7 or 8 billboard hikes (he ran). Actually, the winner is fittingly on the US national skimo team.




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Christmas 2015 
Friday, December 25, 2015, 05:02 PM - Trips
Posted by Administrator
It was nice to be home for the holidays but my grandfather's health has been visibly weighing on the family - especially my grandmother. Alzheimer's, dementia, senility, and weak knees have put him in an old folk's home in a state of perpetual confusion, where nothing that has happened in the last 10 years or so. But he was thrilled to see me and exclaimed "Jaybo!" when he saw me. That said, short term memory has been vaporized by the mysteries of old age. It was particularly hard to hear grandpa talk about how proud he was of my father and everyone in the family. There was an unspoken understanding that I would most likely not see him again - and the same for my brother. We took grandpa back to his Washington home (about 4 blocks away) for Christmas presents and dinner, but the following day he couldn't remember what happened.

In the last 6 months I had read through a book of my grandfather's poetry. I was struck by a number of themes: acceptance (satisfaction?) in his life and his difficulty with growing older and becoming a greater burden and embarrassment for my grandmother. My grandpa commanded language better than I ever will and it was tough to see how his mental capacities had eroded over the years - especially since he was fully aware of the degradation. Yet, at the time I was reading grandpa's poetry, I was struggling with some powerful emotions surrounding my dating struggles, difficulties connecting with people, and the inability to reconcile my life choices. How could I selfishly ski every weekend when I should be doing more for the community? Why fly around the US and world to chase feelings of freedom and adrenaline when I know those flights are destroying the planet? Was my current research path going to result in the global impacts I wanted? And so forth. Those questions remain unresolved and still trouble me today, but I found a lot of comfort in my grandfather's words and I'd like to share some of them for the rest of you. Here are a few verses from the book of poems "When I Be Still" by Rod Johnson.




Sitting By, Frisbee in Hand
Senior citizen stage
confusing
choosing to go along
with family belief:
I'm out of it--
Or for real out of it.
Probably both.
So now what?

Is my life-long way
sitting on the bank
watching life's messiness
pass by
accelerating--
or am I evolving
to take integrity's road
to God energy
LOVE?
"Let go and let God"?

Am I more
coward than spirit?
Hiding out or
being in not of
the world?

I limit
second chakra energy
the "Honor of one another"
the wade into life's stream.
What is life about
if not to live fully?
What would such be like?
A perennial question.

Now this question
has another out: Age
How much do I use it?
How much does it use me?
How much from pre-conscious?
From beliefs? Habits?

Unanswerable.
Come and go of tides.
Yet one
to be pondered
pulled apart
played with
tossed back and forth
like a Frisbee.



Scampering
squirrel scampers high
twig to twig
head first to ground
digs but for a moment
back up
around
over over
ever different
only purpose fun
pleasure in being
so it seems to us porch sitters
we few no longer
desperate for survival

how busy be my fellows
what thrills us?
makes us feel alive?
roller coasters haunted houses
grandkids picking their ways

we use age to lean back
celebrate such energy
relive the show

ah yes other shows
purposeful business
force heaven into being
hold high one-way beliefs
that resent the every which way

that squirrel
smarter than we

Harder
The tide of time
Keeps rising,
The waves lap higher,
The surf pounds harder
Or so with age
It seems
Easy to be knocked
Off balance,
Fearful one will be.

The wise say to
Go with the flow,
Enjoy the ride,
No need to collect
More toys,
No need to sweat
The swells of the sea,
Just be,

One joy
Of aging
Is observing
Such wonders:
The marvel
Of forgetting,
The discovery
Of new creaks,
The surprise
Of needing
To catch breath,
The inclination
To sleep in spurts,
The effort
To bite life off
Given less oomph,

A bit harder,
To adjust,
To find joy that is
In each re-
meaning moment.

Hunger
In this out materialist world
Time is money.
Painting maybe makes 5 cents/hour
Poetry even less
So why do they pay?

When an image grabs one of us
More than for prettiness, pertinence
Painting becomes a joyful emergence
Perhaps like the high of drugs
Without withdrawal symptoms
More like meditation and prayer
Calling us from deep within
Adrenalin jumps, brain gulps, I'm driven,
Drawn to a different colored space.

So too with poetry
Words come when they come
Capriciously
Muse blesses with live phrases, fresh constructs
Drops them in poets' ever salivating mouths
Ambrosia
We love the chewing, swallowing
Digesting, building highs
But often we're stuffed with basic nutrition
Calories to keep the engine chugging, meeting
Commitments in what's called the real world.
Still our mouths stay sagape
Impatient for such elusive necessities
Our jaws triggered to clamp down.

Up-Springing
Long have I scanned,
settled for overviews,
filled with assumption.

But with this April's quickening,
my slowing down, growing old,
less dependent on independence,
my kneeling in loam planting,
the earth has pushed me up
like it sprouts
of which I am a part
subject to the same forces,
invites me to look about,
join pond wee goldfish,
backyard squirrels, rabbits,
its exquisites,
native birds missing winter hand-ons,
they and trees color-tipped for come-ons,
garish to soothing,
red, rust, burgundy, yellow, white,
lavender of rebuds most prefuse,
flower even more wildly experimenting,
the perennials readying to herald the annuals,
all among barely peeping green leaves.

Time to wake up,
Live worlds within worlds.

Gruel
I think of out leader of conviction
Spellbinding us with drowsing takes
Spooning us what slides down.
Gruel.
But, like undernourished kids,
We're beginning to crave solids
Ready to chew on all the squalor
Thanks to New Orleans' scream.

Leave it to us Americans
Who thoughtlessly gulp mush
When what we need
Is our own good heads
Mount our fresh steeds
And gallop into the fray.

Family centered (Excerpts)
….
Family is relationship;
Relationship, energy.
Energy seen blue from space.
In the joy of dancing through our lives
Everything mingles in a splendid
Spindled swirl
All held in the white hand of Love
And Mother Earth.
….
Love possible in family:
Parents crazy about a kid no matter what
Respecting her thinking for herself
Not buying any illusion of separatedness,
Steadfast bonding with penalties.
She pushes away yet ever tethered
Needing interface for self-definition,
Paradox creating lifelong
That kid in each of us.

The void among the sculptured heads
Undifferentiated energy.
Those who resolve the paradox
Awaken to find all is one,
The core meaning of family.

Christmas 2015
The family also shared gifts and ate a lot of good food. We also held the 4th (?) annual photo competition. I spent a few days back in Alto Pass, helped out my dad with some chores around the house, cooked dumplings with Mom, and hiked to the cross.






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Friendsgiving in Wolf Creek 
Monday, November 23, 2015, 07:52 PM - Trips, Weekend Fun
Posted by Administrator
A good group of friends got a cabin in South Fork for Thanksgiving. Bonnie and Dave brought the bird and everyone else filled in the rest of a traditional thanksgiving dinner. Katherine and I brought stuffing and pie. Spencer made a big fire and we danced in the snow until the cold got to us.

This ended up being the greatest opening weekends I've ever had! 8" fresh on Friday, 8" fresh on Saturday, and Sunday I hunted the powder stashes in the backcountry so all told I skied freshies for 3 days straight. Was great to hang with the gang and party the long weekend away - complete with glowing icicles, glitter beards, face shots, hot tubs, and great food. Katherine made a lot of progress with her skiing as well, and I'm sure she'll be shredding in no time. The backcountry day consisted of doing a couple laps with Bill and Andreas in the trees to the east of lobo overlook and then skiing off the peak back to the car.







Sunday in the backcountry.







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Two weeks in Thailand (with a couple hour visit to Burma and Laos) 
Sunday, November 22, 2015, 06:18 PM - Trips
Posted by Administrator
I spent a couple weeks in Thailand with my parents and brother.

Here are some photos and a little slideshow google generated.

We took the 15 Day Kaleidoscope of Thailand with River Kwai with the following stops.











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Austria and Italy 
Tuesday, September 22, 2015, 07:40 PM - Trips
Posted by Administrator
I took a work trip over to Europe to re-energize a collaborative DER interoperability research program. Luckily, I got a little time away from conference rooms and labs to explore, drink a few beers, and get my fill of doner kebaps.

In Vienna, I climbed the St. Stephen's Cathedral on my first day in town, did a few days of work, and then toured the Belvedere and Schloss Schonbrunn - palaces from the Austro-Hungarian Empire era. The palaces were incredible structures and were surrounded by immaculate, immense grounds. Interestingly, the power from the Habsburg House was primarily gained through marriage as opposed to war (e.g., Emperor Francis II of Austria married of his first daughter, Marie Louise, to Napoleon); but I got to hand it to Franz Joseph I, he makes a nice home for himself!


St. Stephen's Cathedral Platz


Belvedere - Side A

Belvedere - Side B

Schloss Schonbrunn maze

One of the highlights of the trip was being hosted by the Governor of Vienna to a stunning dinner at city hall. They led us up 3 flights of stairs with a red carpet stretching up the middle into a large room with 4 massive chandeliers, handed everyone a glass of champagne, and wined and dined us all evening - and then the entertainment showed up: a couple who performed a few ballroom dances for the audience.


Wien City Hall



Researchers celebrating the completion of a good project

---------------

After Vienna I flew to Milan and caught a late train to Lecco. My tight 45 min layover in Munich was shortened to 20 minutes and I had to sprint to make the door. "Mr. Johnson, please come to Gate 27, we are closing the doors." Needless to say, my bad didn't make it, and I didn't have any luggage for the next 48 hours.

Nevertheless, I made do with my free, very rainy Sunday to tour Lake Como by boat. As luck would have it, my Japanese colleagues had the same idea and we shared the day together. The boat hopped from town to town, but we only stopped off at Bellagio and Como. Bellagio was particularly spectacular - perched on the tip of the peninsula on steep cliffs. The rain made all the cobblestone streets glisten and there was something very charming about all the people working together to adjust their umbrella heights to squeeze past one another on the narrow walkways.








After the smart grid communications workshop, I had a free day. Originally I was going to do one or two Via Ferratas (Gamma 1 probably), but it was pouring rain, so I headed down to Milan. At least there, I could play tourist and check out the Duomo and EXPO. The Cathedral was the most impressive I've ever seen in Europe (Take that Paris and Cologne), perhaps because you could walk up onto the roof and see the architectural marvels up close.





The EXPO is a modern day version of the World's Fair and Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life Theme was particularly tasty. I got some Bangladeshi curry and momos for dinner and washed it down with a BeerLao. The exhibits (and queues) ranged wildly for each host country. The US wasn't stunning but the high-ropes course for Brazil was wildly popular. The Middle Eastern countries with money, created elaborate facilities, but the poorer countries in Africa, and South and Central America didn't do much more than put up a few museum exhibits. I did learn a lot about food around the world, but I think the most interesting thing I saw goes to Estonia for their national sport of Kiiking; basically standing on a rigid swing and flipping over the hinged point!



The following day, I visited the RSE lab to discuss the experiments we're running in collaboration with them. Maurizio was kind enough to go out to dinner with me and show me the Navigli District - where the Leonardo da Vinci-designed canals transported stone to the cathedral for centuries.



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4th of July in San Diego 
Tuesday, July 14, 2015, 06:58 PM - Trips, Weekend Fun
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For the 4th of July, I decided to take Jason up on the offer to sail on the bay with the fireworks show. I landed on Friday afternoon, and we went straight to the Torrey Pine Sailing Club on Shelter Island to jump on the 25' Catalina. It was a fairly quick sail, but good got me some more skipper time that I could put toward an ASA certification.




The following day, Jason did a big bike ride while I took Chama on a 6 mile loop in Penasquitos Canyon. I do like the idea of having a dog, but I travel too much to make it practical. Jason and I rode the 20 miles to the marina on Saturday because the holiday crowds were insane. Plus, it's fun in a sadistic way to ride with an ex-pro racer. Jason's so hard to hang with - he's tiny and leaves near-zero draft for me to catch a break. We sailed to Catalina Island on the 24' Newport with a Jason's friend, Justin and his girlfriend, had pizza and beer and then meandered around the bay waiting for dark. At 9pm, the 3 barges in San Diego Bay fired up their shows. We were motor-sailing between all of them. The reflections off the water were spectacular! I did my best to get a few photos, but the movement of the boat made it tough.














Sunday, we did a check-out sail on the 27' Catalina with a couple joining the TPSC. I didn't get any tiller time, but it was still a great sail with 12+ mph winds. We drove straight to the airport from the marina, and fortunately I was delayed 45 minutes, because I was able to watch the US dominate Japan in the 1st half of Women's World Cup final with everyone at Gate 8. I headed to Denver for 3 days of rain and NREL meetings and then finally back to ABQ.
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Dro and Nicole Wedding 
Thursday, June 25, 2015, 06:42 PM - Trips, Weekend Fun
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I flew out to Oakland Friday morning and linked up with Matt in the city. We did a great little tour of the town: we hit up all the Andy Goldsworthy pieces in the Presidio (watch Rivers and Tides), went over to ride the slides in Seward Mini Park, got a burrito in the Castro (in celebration of the Supreme Court ruling...although the Mission District burritos are supposedly better) and then had a beer in Mission Dolores Park. I love that park!









Mid-afternoon I split with Matt and went over to Chris and Anna's to watch the women's world cup game and then drive up to a great AirBnB I reserved north of Bodega Bay. The house was great with a sunroom that looked out onto the rocky coast and Sonoma Coast State Park trails along the cliffside. I spent the morning exploring the beaches while Chris and Anna did a long run. Then Russell met up with us and we all got brunch in Cape Fear Cafe in Dunkin Mills. The drive was spectacular along the Russian River because the sun was finally breaking through the morning marine layer. We headed up to a mountaintop retreat (cult center?) outside of Tyrone, reunited with a great group of friends, and witnessed a charming wedding.




The reception was in Bodega Bay and hosted a number of characters from the SOTD (Stallions of the Dawn crew from NREL '06), sailing trips to BVI and SVG, and others along the way. Sadly, Paul and Pearl didn't make it, but with their newborn, they can certainly be forgiven. It was great to have T$, Russ, Chris, and Dro together again - we're a crazy gang and sooo much fun. Where else can you talk about (and plan) renewable energy startups and nudist communes in the same breath? When all the toasts, dances, and G&Ts had come to an end, we retired to the AirBnB place, assembled a 500 piece puzzle (for some reason?). I couldn't get everyone onboard but I took a midnight walk on the beach with T$ and her fiancé.






Sunday, we had a lovely brunch with the wedding crew, and then retreated to the bay area again. Chris and Anna took me to a great Berkeley Indian place, Vik's Chaat, for dinner and then I was off to the airport. Great weekend with amazing old friends!
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PVSC in New Orleans and Taos Search 
Monday, June 22, 2015, 08:25 PM - Trips, Weekend Fun, AMRC
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I spent the week at IEEE PVSC in New Orleans. Conference was good, but I'm shifting away from PV physics to systems integration so it didn't hold as much interest to me as it normally does. Plus, this was my 5th time at the conference talking about arc-faults so it's getting slightly old.

Got a chance to meet Rachel and Jack for dinner. Not much chance to see that side of my family since they're so far away. I took advantage of the easy French Quarter access to social and have a beignet and hurricane or two.

The highlight as usual was the Sun Run. We managed to get a team together this year and Hot Carrier Injection tied for first place. Thanks Jack and Birk! I ran the 2.81 mile 5K in 18:33 (20:45 pace) and egged Jack on enough to have him out-sprint me at the end :) But either way, I earned my 5th Larry Kazmerski tie.









On Saturday, I grew restless and went up to camp with Kelley and crew for her birthday. I found them at sunset at Lower Hondo CG. Kelley, Francisco, and Amanda had just finished Wheeler and were completely content to relax by the fire. Stephanie and I just showed up to party and eat s'mores. I randomly met my work colleague in the campsite, so I asked Carrie to join us. Matt rolled in about 10:30 and Alyse ended up nearby.

At 0700 the next morning, the AMRC crew (Matt, Alyse, Jeff, and I) met at TSV parking area - turned incident base to search for a missing 61 year old male. Instead of getting a blackhawk ride to the top, we had to hike the 4200 ft up Yerba Trail to Lobo Peak. Justin from Atalaya SAR, jumped on our team and we ran a long, hot mission up to the ridge, down the ridge, into the steep drainage, and eventually back to the trail. After 7 hours we heard the death code come across the radio. We were only 0.1 miles from the find, so we traversed to meet Team 31 and assess the situation. I couldn't call the IC directly (no coverage) so our team headed back to base to sort out the recovery.

I let IC know the situation 2000 ft, 1.7 miles, and 20 stream crossing separated the team from the TH. They needed the body bag, litter, etc. At about 6pm, I made the decision to go home and not help out with the recovery (a combination of fatigue, plenty of help on scene, and busy work day Monday). Alyse and Matt did however bring supplies up to the group - putting their climbing somewhere north of 6000 ft for the day! Bravo! The body was recovered somewhere around midnight, putting the end to a week's worth of searching and providing closure for the family.

This mission was well covered in the national news because the patient was the White House Chef for Clinton and Bush. Some of the reports include: ABC, ABC again, New York Times, CNN, NPR, Taos News, and HuffPo.









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Visiting parents in IL  
Saturday, June 13, 2015, 02:13 PM - Trips
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I headed back to my childhood home in southern Illinois for a week. Aside from writing a conference paper and preparing/defending a DOE proposal via webinar, it was a relaxing visit home. First few days were cold and rainy, but it eventually got into the 90's with the standard 80+% humidity.

I helped my dad set up the first half of his latest sculpture: a jousting knight for the Abbey Ridge Brewery. I also helped with his latest film project by manning the mic boom for a couple scenes while he directed. The film included a climbing segment so I brought a bunch of gear with me from Albuquerque. I was the safety officer and had to set up a few shots of the actors trad climbing. It wasn't easy since they didn't have any climbing experience, but we made it work. The route I liked the best was at Devil's Stand Table in Giant City and completely stunning--so it should look great in the film. We were lucky to have a stunt double to actually lead the route, otherwise I was going to have to lower the actor onto the face. The final shot of the climbing scene was the climber falling, so dad and I set up a green screen behind the trampoline with bamboo. Hopefully it all worked out even with the 13-year cicadas screaming.










For the rest of the week, we took a couple bike rides, delivered art to the Alto Winery, loaded and distributed mulch, setup the pool, listened to the Woodbox Gang in Carbondale, played board games, and hiked the trail.






On Saturday, it was Ed's wedding reception. Ed and I were best friend's in jr. and sr. high school and I went to Peru with him a couple times. The wedding was a small gathering, but it was nice to finally meet Danielle and see friends from years ago. Terry is farming and Ivan is trucking. Ivan also started his family with a couple kids. Steve's mostly the same: still scheming to get back to Peru and probably happy to have his kids out of the nest.



At the end of the trip we swung by Washington to visit my grandparents. They are still living alone in their house despite the growing list and severity of ailments. As an early Father's Day gift, the family gave grandpa shirts to help him get back to his wife. With his alzheimer's he's been known to get lost from time to time.





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AMRC OCC Final Weekend with additional Ski/Climb/Cave/Bike 
Monday, May 4, 2015, 07:30 PM - Trips, Weekend Fun, AMRC
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I've been in a little funk of late, but this last weekend's really jolted me back to life. Friday, Kendrick and I headed to Santa Fe Ski Area to take a few laps on the Nambe Chutes with his dog Sarah. The bottom was melting fast and we ended up walking over a number of mud patches. By the halfway mark, we were in much better shape and we finished the skin just as the sun was hitting a few nice couloir lines. I dropped into an easy chute on Styx below Deception Peak and carved up the spring corn. Kendrick and Sarah were close behind. Luckily another group had put in a bootpack to the top via Rubicon so we didn't suffer too much on the return. Our 2nd line was far more interesting with a 55 degree entrance on Armageddon. A snowshoer was even kind enough to send us a few pictures of us dropping in. After lap two, Jeremiah and his friend showed up, but we decided call it and made our way back to the ski area base.









Kendrick and I grabbed pizzas at Il Vicino in Santa Fe and then worked our way out to Diablo Canyon. He convinced me to climb Post Moderate (though we ended up on Hellboy at the top) to level the score from the skiing. Kendrick made it look easy on lead - I, on the other hand, managed to unconfidently work my way up grunting and cursing. The crux of the 2nd pitch gave Kendrick pause and he had to downclimb and rework the problem a couple times. On top rope it wasn't as daunting and I pulled though. We rapped off the mid-pitch anchors as AMRC members started showing up.







The OCC crew, fresh from their NM SAR Field Certification testing, arrived at Diablo around 8:30. They were given a mock scenario to find a fallen climber, Shaniqua La Fonda, based on a few cell phone GPS coordinates. My team ended up wandering around east of the canyon for a while until the patient was located. We brought up ropes and rigging kits for the low angle rescue and set up 4 sequential anchors down to a trail to IB. I finally got my Baofeng radio programmed and it came with this very nice feature where you can listen to the radio until a communication comes in - we selected the mariachi music on 94.7. After a long, slow lower we made it back to the camp at 1am, debriefed, and then pitched camp.

In the morning, we started with the test-out stations. I manned the rigging station with Hans and Angela. Once everyone was finished, I went to the Styx wall and did a couple 5.7 top-rope climbs (one by belaying myself with a grigri - that was new). After lunch we went down to the Rio and cooled off. Kevin, Sarah, and I piled into Kendrick's Jeep and off-roaded a little on the way back to camp.






A storm was moving in, so we used the afternoon to watch Cliffhanger in Justin's van and go spelunking at Buckman Cave. The OCC crew went up there without a rope - so it was only Kendrick, Gio, and I that got any quality cave time. We covered much of the same areas that Mike and I explored a couple years ago. But this time we went a little deeper to a place labelled "Hell" with an arrow down a ~60 ft pit. It was a dead-end, but that was the farthest I've gotten so far. There is another big rappel from the big room with a triangular hole in the ceiling - guess we'll get to that one next time. I did also manage to avoid ascending the 1st rap with a tight squeeze and 20 ft of aid climbing. The first drop can be avoided in the future to save the rope for the lower sections.







As we got back to camp, the BBQ party was in full swing. The OCCers passed their tests so they officially joined the team. They were given their 8 mm cordelettes and Verena was awarded a grigri for her outstanding work in the class. A fire was built up and then we got the idea to have radium release hitch tying races. A week before, I claimed I could tie one in 30 seconds, but only got it down to 35 seconds before sharing the video with the class. Supra soon after sent me a video on FB that showed a 30 sec radium. So now it seems this has become a thing. I was paired up with Nick, the new guy, and I lost terribly... Supra beat him, and Lance won it all in the end. How funny to be tying knots at midnight. I also partook in some champagne and a couple beers at the fire, breaking my 26-day alcohol-less stretch. I had been trying to get a little more fit for mountain biking racing, but this party seemed worth breaking the drought.







Sunday, I was originally slated to ride the high road to Taos with Briana and company, but she got sick and cancelled. I chose to use my sunday to ride to the Santa Fe Ski Area. It was a tough climb and my knee started bothering me midway up. I dialed back the speed and eventually made it to the top - 30 miles and 4400 ft of climbing.
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Christmas in WashMo, STL, and So IL 
Tuesday, January 6, 2015, 10:09 PM - Trips
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I spent a week in the midwest with the family at Christmas time. I bought dad a road bike in ABQ for xmas, so it was a little bit of a give away when he came to pick me up, but Mom and I jokingly played it off like I had brought a bunch of dirty laundry back home to be washed. The other challenge was getting the bike box in the Prius, which required my mom to cram in the back seat half on top of the bike.

We sent to Washington, MO first and re convened the family for a nice lunch and dinner. The following day we went back to St. Louis for Christmas on my Mom's side. I managed to fix my uncle's beloved bubbles game by replacing some fuses (first time it's worked in 6 years). I think that was the best gift he's ever received for christmas in two decades :) In the morning, we did gifts with Jack, Rachel, and Jeremy Skyping on my iPad from New Orleans. Worked remarkably well.

After that we headed back to Washington to do Christmas on my Dad's side. Party of the festivities were to build Grandma (and Jolie the dog) a fenced in yard. The following day Rebecca drove down from STL to visit with me. WE reminisced about the good old days in Boulder with the NREL crew. After that came the photo day - Anne Elise and I managed to win the scavenger hunt by hitting the local thrift shop. The theme for this year was 'selfie', which I proudly won with the shot of me with ice frozen to my beard and hair. Anne Elise won 'best of year' with a shot of a lake in Guatemala.




For the last couple days of the trip, I went to my childhood home in southern Illinois. The family made the 26th annual hike (bushwhack) to Bald Knob Cross. I've done the hike every winter since I was 5 years old - so it was good to keep the tradition alive. Dad and Mom's HS friend and family from Manhattan stayed the next night and it was fun to see them catching up on the last 25 years. On my way out of town, the Johnsons, Pepples, and other Johnsons gathered in STL for a final brunch. It was nice to see Cara again - she seems to be happy and busy with work in Oakland. I'm sure I'll be out that way to see her again soon.






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A-basin Thanksgiving 
Sunday, November 23, 2014, 09:16 PM - Trips
Posted by Administrator
Briana, Josiah, and Dave drove up to Taos in Briana's new 1996 Aerostar van. We stopped off for a day of skiing in Taos (opening day!), but only the frontside groomers were open *yawn*. We drove to Frisco that Thanksgiving night, and after a slight 1 hour detour finally arrived at Frisco. We had to beg the cook at the only last open restaurant in town to serve us past 9pm. But it worked out and we had a very nice Italian dinner without a single scrap of Turkey to be found.

The next couple days, we skied Arapahoe Basin with Jen, Kirk, Chris and Harmony. (Bonnie did show up for the last day as well.) The steeps and back bowls weren't open, but they allowed a few mid-day hikes to powder stashes. Briana, Josiah, and I were blown away by a nice tree run that hadn't seen anyone else yet. The skiing was good to get the feeling back in my legs for the season and the Frisco food was exquisite: we had wonderful Tibetan and Bavarian dinners the following evenings. Plus the local bar had air hockey and I like air hockey.





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Japan  
Saturday, November 15, 2014, 10:01 PM - Trips
Posted by Administrator
Spent a couple days in Koriyama and a week in Kyoto as part of the IRED conference.

Photos are here.





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Amsterdam 
Wednesday, September 24, 2014, 10:21 PM - Trips
Posted by Administrator
I attended the European Photovoltaic Solar Energy Conference and Exhibition in Amsterdam to present some of my PV research. Overall it was good to meet up with my European counterparts and discuss the latest progress. I had been to Amsterdam back in 2006, but this time I was even more taken by the beauty of the city and all the bike use. The highlight for me was taking a boat ride with Henk, AIT, and Sandia people. We had about 1" clearance under the bridges so we had to walk the boat under many of them. We cruised the canals out past the main train station, and as night descended on the city, we stopped off at a local pub for food and a beer.








I stayed on an extra day to visit the laboratories of DNV GL in Arnhem. On the Saturday, Jack and I headed out to Naarden, an incredible fortified city. We got breakfast at the market where everyone was getting flowers, vegetables, cheese, etc. for the week. The small market was very peaceful and the country was looking spectacular because the rains had finally stopped. Jack and I rode our bikes the ~20 miles back into the city along a well-maintained set of trails. I'd love to go back at some point and explore them more thoroughly.








My research being presented in the Keynote Speech.


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Lake Powell Houseboat 
Saturday, September 6, 2014, 10:00 PM - Trips
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A large crew headed up to Lake Powell for 3 days on a houseboat. I wasn't a big part of the planning, but the trip went off without a hitch (aside from the time that I crashed the 53' boat into the refueling dock...)

On night one we got gear and people organized on the boat at Wahweap Marina. In the morning, we got our chart briefing and then headed for open water. The water level is clearly down about 80' from the high point and we had to use a dredged channel to get past Antelope "Island". We camped that night at a great spot around 37°6'42.11"N 111°12'22.85"W. Kaela, Laurel, and It was Jeff's Bday weekend, so we threw him a party and the ladies smeared him with cake.

On Saturday, we cruised out to Rainbow Bridge National Monument and did the short hike up to the arch. It was monstrous and the crew was in high spirits. That night we headed back toward home and found a great hidden beach at 37°6'29.98"N 111°14'11.71"W, where we built a fire on the hill and threw another party.

The last day we worked our way toward Wahweap, but managed to take a break on Antelope Island to setup a slip-n-slide and hold a flotilla party in the sun - I burned nicely from that.










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Korea - Aug 2014 
Sunday, August 24, 2014, 09:01 PM - Trips
Posted by Administrator
I went back to Changwon to visit KERI as part of our 3 year collaborative research project on advanced inverters for the smart grid. Dr. Ahn was gracious as always to host me, and we continued our discussions about the similarities and differences between the US and Korea, desert and forests, rich and poor, etc.





After the visit, I headed to Seoul for the Energy Tech Insight meeting. The changing of the guard at Gyeongbokgung was great because they would beat this huge drum and it would echo around the entire palace. I could definitely imagine that happening a thousand years ago.







After my talk at COEX in Gangnam, I joined my other colleague for dinner in Myeong-dong and then we took the tram up to the Namsan tower. It was worth the trip since the views of Seoul were so incredible.





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