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Ukraine

September 9, 2017

Filed under: life,review,travel — Terry Wohlers @ 08:53

I visited Kyiv, Ukraine for the first time in July. It was an eye-opening and intensely interesting experience. The Ukrainians are friendly and Kyiv is safe. Many of the restaurants in Kyiv were full, suggesting that people have discretionary money to spend. The streets and many of the buildings are beautiful, even though much of the city was destroyed in World War II. City planners did a great job with the architecture and feel of the buildings and streets. A recently built area of the city is stunning.

To some, Ukraine is best known for Chernobyl, which is 130 km (80 miles) north of Kyiv. The 1986 Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant accident was the most catastrophic nuclear disaster in history. At the time, Chernobyl was a part of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic of the Soviet Union. The city was evacuated 30 hours after the accident. Chernobyl is almost entirely a ghost town today, although a few people currently live there. Two general stores and a hotel are available for tourists.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Kyiv remained the capital of Ukraine. In November 2013, a wave of demonstrations and peaceful protests began in Independence Square. My hotel was adjacent to the Square, so I walked around the area a few times. Russia’s Vladimir Putin pressured Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych from forming close ties with the European Union, which Putin had long opposed. The protests in Kyiv led to calls for the resignation of Yanukovych and his administration for this, along with corruption, abuses of power, and human rights violations. This led to the 2014 Ukrainian revolution. Special riot police were ordered to take over Kyiv, although the Uranium people dug in their heels. Scores of innocent people were injured and killed.

Hundreds of thousands, including my host and his wife, came to Independence Square, some for weeks or months, to join the protest. Some who did not, or could not, such as my host’s mother, prepared food for those demonstrating. In mid February 2014, the riot police finally gave up due to the extraordinary resilience and determination of the Ukrainian people. Yanukovych and others in his administration fled the country and headed to Russia in late February. The strength and will of the Ukrainians helped to make them stronger and define who they are today. A very good documentary, titled Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom, is available on Netflix. It chronicles the sequence of events with horrifying detail and video footage.

My visit to Kyiv could not have gone much better. The food, people, history, sight-seeing, and hand-crafted products made it a fascinating place to visit. Ukraine is in territorial dispute with Russia over Crimea, which is in the south. In March 2014, after the revolution, Crimea was taken over by pro-Russian separatists and Russian Armed Forces. Eastern Ukraine is facing conflict, violence, and war with Russia. When returning to Ukraine, I will stay away from those parts of the country. In addition to Kyiv, my hosts told me that western Ukraine is beautiful and has a lot to offer.

Traveling the Iron Road

July 28, 2017

Filed under: life,review,travel — Terry Wohlers @ 04:05

Note: The following was authored by Julie Whitney, executive assistant at Wohlers Associates.

What do World War I, the Dolomites in Italy, and Telluride, Colorado have in common? The Iron Road (aka, via ferrata). Previously, I did not know what a “via ferrata” was and had never even heard the term before our German exchange student introduced it to me. According to Wikipedia, a via ferrata is a protected climbing route in the Alps and other areas. A modern version uses a steel cable, iron rungs, pegs, or other climbing aids that run along the route. Our exchange student’s family does a via ferrata trip every summer, and I wanted to try one.

When my Google search found a via ferrata route in Telluride, Colorado, I could not believe it. I anticipated a need to travel much further. Unlike its European brethren, the Telluride route is almost completely horizontal. Traversing 4 km (2.5 miles) and 152 meters (500 feet) above the valley floor, it is one of the most spectacular and breathtaking things I’ve ever experienced.

The route is not all metal rungs. In fact, most is hiked along a trail, albeit a very narrow one with a significant drop off. At certain points, it becomes so narrow that it is necessary to hook in with harness lanyards. At these points, the trail is literally a foot step in width. At one particularly interesting spot, a tree is in the middle of the path with a cable running behind it. It’s necessary to hook in and then hug the tree as you swing around, with your rear suspended in the air.

The actual via ferrata section is called the “main event.” It’s not particularly physical, but it is “off the charts” mentally-challenging, especially to those new to rock climbing. Tyler, our guide, was cheering me on and it felt awesome. As we were eating our lunch after successfully completing one pass, Tyler asked if we would like to return using the same route. He felt confident in our abilities and suggested that we head back while he stayed to take pictures of us. How could we say no to that?

As we eased back onto the rungs, I felt a little differently than before. I was missing Tyler and his encouragement. In the middle of the “main event,” panic was knocking at my door, but I was able to give myself a pep talk and pull myself back from the figurative edge, while standing on the literal one. Nothing worthwhile is easy, and sometimes you need to get out of your own way and go for it. The result is having one of the most memorable times of your life.

Click here to read the full version of this story at Empty Nest Adventures.

Ireland

June 19, 2017

Filed under: life,review,travel — Terry Wohlers @ 00:59

Note: The following was authored by Ian Campbell, associate consultant at Wohlers Associates.

Having been born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, I thought I knew a lot about all things Irish. However, having joined Terry and Diane Wohlers on a trip to the southwest of Ireland this week, I have learned a lot more. Ireland is sometimes called “the Emerald Isle,” and here in County Kerry, the landscape is so incredibly green. There is an Irish song named “Forty Shades of Green” and I am sure we have seen most of them.

There is, of course, good reason for all the beautiful green vegetation. It rains. We met a waiter who told us that from October through March, it rained every day. Every single day! Amazingly, we are enjoying day after day of blues skies, bright sunshine, and near perfect temperatures. Today is our fourth day of it. The locals say we must have the luck of the Irish. The contrast between blue sky and green landscape makes everything even more spectacular.

It is sometimes said that America and Britain are two countries divided by a common language. Here in Kerry, they may write in English but we are not sure if they are speaking it. I can nearly manage to understand the local dialect, but Terry and Diane often look bemused. However, the Irish are so friendly and helpful, and they work hard to make visitors feel welcome. They are also very proud of their country’s history, from medieval walls dating back over 900 years, to a parade of 300 vintage cars and tractors, celebrating the 100-year anniversary of Henry Ford setting up a factory in Cork, Ireland, where we spent the first nearly 24 hours.

Perhaps the most interesting (or frightening) experience we have had was kissing the Blarney Stone at Blarney Castle. It involved climbing more than 100 steps and hanging over backwards from the castle parapet to kiss a stone that supposedly endows the “gift of the gab,” that is, the ability to speak with eloquence. I am not sure Terry really needed to do this as he is already an eloquent speaker. However, we all had a go and survived the experience.

Another Irish song asks “Have you ever been across the sea to Ireland?” We now have, and I would encourage everyone to do likewise. It’s a fascinating country with brilliant green landscape and an intriguing history.

An Itch for Travel

February 26, 2017

Filed under: life,travel — Terry Wohlers @ 07:58

I like to travel and so does my wife and kids. Some of our best memories and times together are from family vacations. For years, we made a habit of spending several days in a tropical area with a nice beach for some serious relaxation and scuba diving. Life does not get much better than spending quality, uninterrupted time with the family.

Many opportunities for travel have developed in recent weeks, but I’ve declined most of them due to work-related projects and commitments that have kept me in the office. After being “chained down” for weeks, I have experienced an urge for travel. Some people don’t like it, especially frequent business travel, but I look forward to the trips. I especially like going to new places, both domestically and internationally. The adventure, coupled with meeting people and creating new friendships and business contacts, makes it interesting and gratifying.

I’m looking forward to another year filled with travel and new experiences. A number of trips have been planned and many others are being scheduled. Planning them gives me another reason to get excited about getting up in the morning.

North Korea

July 2, 2016

Filed under: life,travel — Terry Wohlers @ 16:07

I visited the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) last week. It is a strip of land that was created at the end of the Korean War in 1953 to buffer North Korea from South Korea. The 4 km (2.5 mile) wide area is the most heavily militarized border in the world. Visiting the DMZ is the closest that most people will ever get to North Korea. Scheduling a visit requires a special guide and a minimum of a few days to set up. My passport was checked by DMZ officials a minimum of four times.

As part of the conflict with South Korea, the North Koreans created four deep tunnels in an effort to secretly move its military from the north to the south. We were able to enter and go as far as possible through the third tunnel (pictured below, left), which the South Koreans discovered in 1978. The tunnel is 1.6 km (1 mile) long and 73 meters (240 feet) deep. Its intended purpose was to enable a surprise attack on Seoul. It could handle the transfer of an astonishing 30,000 soldiers per hour. North Korea is not happy with the fact that they built the tunnels and South Korea is cashing in on them from fees that people are paying to enter them.

dmz

As much as I wanted to see some of North Korea, I saw little. The skies were overcast and hazy the day we visited, so we could not see far. Even so, we were able to use stationary binoculars to see a bit of the countryside (pictured above, right) and some buildings. At this special vantage point, we were allowed to take pictures, but only if we stood behind a line that was about 10 m (33 feet) from the wall shown in the above picture.

A fake village, complete with nicely painted houses, a school, and even a hospital, was built by the North Koreans to give visitors of the DMZ the illusion that the country is healthy and thriving—contrary to everything I had heard and read about North Korea. The buildings are nothing but facades with no glass in the windows, lights that operate with timers, and maintenance workers that sweep the streets to show activity, although I did not see any.

I’m currently about two-thirds of the way through Dear Leader: My Escape from North Korea by Jang Jin-sung, a North Korean that fled the country and lived to write about it. Most do not. The book is a fascinating account of what it’s like to live in a country where people are unable to communicate freely and are banned from basic privileges, such as travel, that we enjoy and often take for granted. During this Independence Day weekend, I sincerely thank all of those associated with our U.S. military and defense program for protecting our freedom.

I recently purchased North Korea Undercover: Inside the World’s Most Secret State by John Sweeney. Like Dear Leader, it received good reviews, so I’m sure it will reveal more of the repression, cruelty, and unfortunate state of North Korea.

Frisco, Colorado

August 2, 2015

Filed under: life,review,travel — Terry Wohlers @ 17:16

Frisco is a mountain town of about 2,700 people, located 114 km (71 miles) west of Denver. It is situated at an elevation of 2,766 meters (9,075 feet) and surrounded by mountains. Ten Mile Creek runs through the town and empties into Lake Dillon, which touches the northeast border of Frisco.

Repeatedly, Frisco has been named the top ski destination without a ski resort. Four major ski mountains are within 26 km (16 miles), with Copper Mountain—our favorite—being just 11 km (6.7 miles) away. A fifth is Vail Mountain Resort, which is 42 km (26 miles) away and the largest ski area in the USA.

Frisco is not known to as many as one would expect, especially given its proximity and charm. Many bypass it on their way to somewhere else without knowing much about it. Consequently, it is not as busy and crowded as neighboring Breckenridge—a short 16 km (10 miles) away.

frisco
Frisco’s Main Street

Dentist and friend Ted Mioduski once said, “Summer time in Frisco is a best kept secret.” I could not agree more. Temperatures are in the low 20s C (70s F) during the day and much cooler at night. This makes it perfect for hiking, biking, climbing, fishing, taking a stroll down quaint Main Street, or having a bite or drink at one of the many local restaurants, pubs, or coffee shops.

Frisco and nearby Copper Mountain host many musicians, festivals, and exhibits in the summer. Just last night, we stumbled across an excellent acoustic guitarist and singer while waiting for the Saturday night fireworks at Copper. Returning to Frisco was a quick ride on the complimentary Summit Stage Shuttle.

On Friday, my wife, Diane, and I biked to Vail Pass, located at 3,250 meters (10,662 feet), and then back to Frisco—a 42-km (26-mile) round trip. (Diane turned around a few miles short.) Yesterday, friend Paul Carlton and I climbed Peak One, which is 3,901 meters (12,800 feet) in height. I felt like I might not survive after the seven-hour round trip. Although tired, I’m feeling better today.

peakone
At the top of Peak One, with Copper Mountain in the background

Frisco is small and quiet, yet it offers plenty of activity to keep things interesting. Some joke that the town has more pets, mostly dogs, than people. I doubt it’s true, but it certainly is dog-friendly. The people are open and friendly too. Frisco grows on you the more you spend time there. I can say without reservation it’s one of my favorite places to escape. Just don’t tell anyone.

Wohlers Park

March 14, 2015

Filed under: travel — Terry Wohlers @ 10:34

I had heard about Wohlers Park in Hamburg, Germany many years ago, but did not visit it until last week. Thanks to Prof. Dr.-Ing. Claus Emmelmann of Laser Zentrum Nord GmbH for taking me there. It’s unclear whether our family is connected to the park, but there’s a reasonable chance. My great, great grandparents lived in Northern Germany prior to immigrating to the U.S. The following sign is at the entrances into the park.

w1

The German writing translates to: The former cemetery Norderreihe was renamed to Wohlers Park due to its proximity to Wohlers Ally. The cemetery was opened in 1831 by the protestant-Lutheran parish St. Johannis to Altona/Elbe. The last burial took place on 11 October 1945. The area of the park was subject to conservation green spaces and recreational sites by law and has been open to the public since 1977.

w2

The previous image is at the park’s most active corner. We could not resist a visit to the pub named “Wohlers” for a good German pilsner. That’s me standing near the entrance, and Claus holding the pub menu.

w3

For more on the beautiful city of Hamburg, see this 2.5 minute video. A good friend from Hamburg sent it to me this week. And, if you’re ever in Hamburg, I hope you stumble across Wohlers Park, Wohlers Ally, and Wohlers pub.

3DRV

August 3, 2014

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,CAD/CAM/CAE,manufacturing,travel — Terry Wohlers @ 14:33

Imagine an eight-month RV road trip across the U.S. with more than 100 scheduled stops. The purpose: to collect stories and information from customers of design and manufacturing tools, such as CAD software and 3D printing. Accomplished writer and 3D enthusiast TJ McCue is leading the tour. I’ve gotten to know TJ over the past 2.5 years, and I can say without reservation that Autodesk, the tour’s sponsor, could not have picked a better person to head this effort.

TJ has written extensively for Forbes, Small Business Trends, Yahoo! SMB, and Harvard Business Review. His writing is informative, thought-provoking, and engaging. TJ’s company, Refine Digital, explores design, 3D scanning, and 3D printing, so the tour compliments perfectly with what he’s about. TJ helps companies with go-to-market strategies, content marketing, and business development, so I’m sure he will be in an even stronger position to provide advice after the tour.

tj

TJ wrote, “The 3DRV tour is exploring the cities, towns, and off-the-path byways to uncover a fundamental change in the way things are designed and made, and how this is bringing radical change to business and to society at large.” He continued, “At each waypoint, we are celebrating the creative process, while illuminating the impact of design through firsthand customer stories, consumer creativity, and student innovations.”

rv

The images and descriptions that TJ has assembled are impressive. He has made 38 site visits thus far—all documented at the tour website. He is also shooting video footage, so I’m looking forward to seeing some of it. I’m sure he will have countless stories and examples of design and manufacturing to share with the world. Congrats to TJ for taking on this important activity as an interesting way of promoting and celebrating the world of product development.

Belgium

June 23, 2013

Filed under: review,travel — Terry Wohlers @ 23:07

My wife and I have spent the past several days in Belgium and the trip has been outstanding. After some work in Brussels, we made our way to Brugge by train. We had never been to Brugge before and we’re impressed. The architecture, canals, and overall “feel” of the place is like no other we’ve experienced. It is absolutely charming and picturesque almost everywhere you look.

Waffles: Restaurants in the U.S. often refer to breakfast waffles as “Belgian waffles,” but they’re only vaguely similar. Real Belgian waffles are sold in many areas as snacks and they’re outstanding. They can be loaded with chocolate, fruit, whipped cream, and other toppings, but I like them plain. It’s a good thing they don’t offer these treats in the U.S. because I’d weigh a lot more.

Chocolate: Belgium is also known for its fine chocolate and it does not get much better. We sampled some last night and again today and the stuff is mouth-watering delicious. You can easily get it in the U.S., but it’s at nearly every street corner in Brussels and Brugge where tourists are found. If we stayed much longer, I’d gain even more weight because Belgian chocolate is that good.

Beer: At a tour of a brewery yesterday afternoon, we were told that 2,500 different beers are available in Belgium. That’s a lot of variety for a relatively small country. Wikipedia says the country has about 178 breweries, so maybe our tour guide exaggerated a bit. Regardless, it’s not difficult to find a good Belgian beer here. We found that Belgians have a beer or two at lunch, in the afternoon, and in the evening. Some will even drink beer in the morning—probably because it tastes so good.

If you haven’t spent time in Belgium, you should. We could have easily taken time to visit nearby France, Germany or the Netherlands, but we chose to relax and get to know the lifestyle of our Belgium friends. The waffles, chocolate, and beer made it all the better. Soon, we will be returning home and we’ll miss the many pleasures that this beautiful country and its people have to offer.

Urbanization of China

April 1, 2013

Filed under: future,life,travel — Terry Wohlers @ 15:15

I spent three days in China last week and it was one of the most interesting trips in a long time. It was my fifth visit to the country, and I found that change continues in a big way. I spent time in Hefei, Anqing, and Huaining—all in the Anhui Province, home to 67 million people. The three cities are relatively close to one another and located about 500 km (310 miles) west of Shanghai. Hefei to Shanghai is one hour by jet, three hours by high-speed train, and five hours by car.

Hefei has a population of more than 7.5 million and is the capital of the Anhui Province. About 500 million people live within a 500-km radius of Hefei, and the area represents 48% of China’s gross domestic product, so it is a very important region to the country. Hefei’s 2012 GDP was RMB 416 billion ($67.1 billion), which is a 13.6% increase over 2011. A new international airport, with non-stop service to New York and Frankfurt, will open near Hefei at the end of May.

I was especially impressed by the construction of high rise apartment complexes. Clusters of 20 or more buildings are going up about everywhere you look. I doubt more than five minutes passed between seeing a new group of them when traveling by train from Hefei to Shanghai. The expansion is nothing short of astounding.

Urbanization is occurring at a rapid pace. At the end of last year, 52.6% of China’s people lived in urban areas, up from 26% in 1990, according to Wikipedia. A Chinese government official told me that about 10% of the entire population of China (135 million) would move from rural areas to urban communities over the next several years.

China’s success in manufacturing has created tremendous wealth in the country and this has led to much of the development in real estate. When I visited Beijing in 1998, the streets were filled with bicycles. Now, they are filled with trucks and cars, including many expensive European brands. You will see some bikes and three-wheel vehicles, still without lights or reflectors at night, but they are disappearing. Meanwhile, clusters of high rises are covering the landscape and I’ve not seen development like it anywhere else.

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