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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.

Portugal

November 13, 2011

Filed under: review,travel — Terry Wohlers @ 10:27

My wife, Diane, and I visited this beautiful country in late September and early October. I had visited four times before, but had seen little of the country until this trip. We spent four nights in Leiria, a historic city located about 150 km (93 miles) north of Lisbon. Leiria is home to Polytechnic Institute of Leiria, the organizer of the very successful VRAP 2011 conference on additive manufacturing that I attended. Leiria features the well-preserved Leiria Castle at the highest point of the city and welcoming pedestrian areas near the city center. Fátima, an important religious site, is a short distance away. Leiria is near the heart of Portugal’s vibrant mold-making industry.

Upon our departure from Leiria, we picked up a rental car and headed to Obidos, a small medieval town surrounded by an impressive fortified wall. I had ridden past Obidos several times when going from Lisbon to Leiria. Locals and others said that we should definitely visit and I’m glad we did. We pulled into Obidos at around dinner time and walked the cobblestone streets and walkways through this intriguing place. The following day’s blue skies made it perfect for walking the wall and seeing the buildings, many of which were constructed in the 12th century. The small streets were lined with shops and small restaurants, but the merchants have done well to keep the feel of commercialism to a minimum. With more cork harvested in Portugal than anywhere else, many products made from cork were available for sale. Obidos was a wonderful place to visit and we now know why people have raved about it. We wish we could have stayed longer.

Our next stop was Nazaré, a coastal town of 15,000 people north of Obidos. The main attraction for us was the cliff overlooking the town, beach, and sea. The sights from Sitio, which means an old town on top of a cliff, were spectacular. All of the white buildings with orange tiles roofs were something special to see. Sitio had many shops with hand-crafted products, such as wood boats and automobiles. I purchased two skillfully-made cars and one truck, each about 28 cm (11 inches) in length, for about 12 euros each, as gifts to bring home. We were in Nazaré for only a few hours, barely enough time to see and do what we wanted.

The next and final destination was Porto, also known as Oporto, which is known for its port wine. Porto is one of Europe’s oldest cities, dating back to the 4th century, and for Diane and me, one of the most interesting. The large Douro River runs through the city center, with beautiful architecture and buildings lining the banks and hillsides. We found that views from the Luís I Iron Bridge, located near the city center, were exceptional. One of the highlights was a boat trip down the Douro River. We took a train upstream into the wine region where we boarded a boat that offered fine dining and excellent views of the vineyards. We experienced two major river locks, one said to the tallest in Europe at 35 m (114 ft), at the Carrapatelo dam. The all-day trip was relaxing and definitely worthwhile.

The trip to Portugal could not have gone much better. Our Portuguese friends are wonderful people and gave us good advice on interesting sites to visit. The history, architecture, landscape, wine country (and wine), beaches, and the people make Portugal a great place to visit. We recommend it highly. Click here to see 11 images from the trip.

Melbourne, Australia

June 13, 2011

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,event,review,travel — Terry Wohlers @ 04:23

The purpose of my recent six-day visit to Melbourne was business, but I had some free time to explore the city. I was there a year ago, but the stay was too short, making it impossible to see as much as I had hoped. Sydney has long ranked as my favorite Australian city, but Melbourne is now a strong contender for the top spot. The place offers a wide spectrum of restaurants, shops, night life, entertainment, history, and architecture that had me wanting more.

What struck me the most about the city was its energy and vibrance. By mid afternoon on most days, the city would come alive with people of all ages. Street entertainers, some that are very good, made my walks from place to place amusing. Last Saturday, for example, I watched a young guy (maybe 12) and his little sister draw a crowd of hundreds. He played a keyboard and sang impressively with the support of a sound system not typical of entertainers in pedestrian areas.

I found Asian and Greek restaurants to be plentiful and some superb. My favorite was Stalactites (the souvlaki is excellent) where a queue outside developed early. I also visited the Victorian Market more than once. I found it to be excellent for buying gifts to bring home to family and friends. The weak US$ makes prices in Australia very high for Americans, but the Victorian Market offered some good bargains.

I also visited RMIT University, which is spread across parts of the city. The university launched its impressive Advanced Manufacturing Precinct (AMP) last Tuesday, which I had the privilege of attending. This $15 million facility is equipped with some of the finest CAD/CAE, additive manufacturing, and CNC equipment that money can buy. More than 3,000 square meters (32,292 square feet) of space is spread across four floors in this beautifully renovated building.

During my stay, I had the privilege of participating in the first Pacific Additive Manufacturing Forum (PAMF) in Melbourne, which coincided with the opening of AMP. PAMF was organized by Dr. Milan Brandt of RMIT University with support from many organizations including CSIRO, the Defense Materials Technology Centre (DMTC), Enterprise Connect, and Formero. PAMF events were also organized for Adelaide, Sydney, and Brisbane.

If you visit this fine country, Melbourne should be on your list. There’s so much to see and do and the place becomes electric as the day progresses. If design and manufacturing technology is your thing, a stop to RMIT’s new AMP building is a must. You will not be disappointed.

Japan

April 15, 2011

Filed under: life,travel — Terry Wohlers @ 11:42

I’ve never had a bad experience in Japan. I credit the people and Japanese “system” for this. The people there are very friendly and helpful. Relatively few Japanese speak English well, but they will do all they can to provide assistance. With a very low rate of crime, I always feel safe when visiting the country.

Almost everything in Japan works exceedingly well, from the train system to the doors and faucets in the hotel rooms. My experience has been that Japan has taken perfection to another level. You can precisely set your watch based on the arrival and departure of trains—a major mode of transportation in Tokyo and other part of the country.

I recall a visit to Japan when our group of four forgot to bring some papers to an important meeting. We discovered this on our way there, so we phoned the office from which we departed. A person put the papers in the overhead storage on a particular train. As the train stopped at the station closest to us, one of us jumped onto the train, grabbed the envelope, and jumped off before the train departed. The train system served as a courier service that bailed us out. A paid courier could not have done as well, under the circumstances.

Twenty years ago, many in the West feared Japan as a superpower, especially in manufacturing. Indeed, Canon, Nikon, Panasonic, Mitsubishi, Honda, Subaru, and others are some of the most respected brands. It turns out, however, that Japan was not the country to fear.

My heart goes out to the people of Japan. The country is encountering a very difficult time, especially the region north of Tokyo that was overwhelmed by the recent earthquake and tsunami. Please do what you can to help because they really are among the best people in the world. They are our friends and allies.

Heimlich Maneuver in Sydney

March 20, 2011

Filed under: life,travel — Terry Wohlers @ 10:56

The wide body aircraft that I boarded an hour earlier at Sydney Airport returned to the gate after the captain reported a mechanical problem. He had not canceled the flight, but based on his comments and past experience, I was expecting him to make the announcement any minute.

Suddenly, I heard some yelling and commotion directly behind me. It was so abrupt and loud that I immediately jumped out of my isle seat. A rather small woman was trying to do the Heimlich maneuver on a large man. I later found out that it was her husband. She was frantically pleading for help. I had only seen the Heimlich maneuver on television, but I immediately took over. After a half dozen or so lunges, she shouted, “Stop, he’s okay!” Maybe she thought I was doing more harm than good.

While I was doing what I thought resembled the procedure, I was thinking, “What if the guy doesn’t make it? Will they come after me for performing a procedure for which I’m not qualified?” My instincts told me to act and act quickly and not consider such ramifications, although it definitely came to mind. Fortunately, he recovered and sat back down in his seat directly behind mine.

Flight attendants and medical staff rushed to our area of the plane, but it was all over by then. Minutes later, the captain canceled the flight and everyone exited the aircraft. The choking guy, nor his wife, said a single word to me.

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