Category Archives: Photography

Guard Tower

I was traveling this week on Monday, so I will do the Mundane Monday Challenge on Friday this week. A theme that interests me for this challenge is to photograph man-made objects in the middle of nature. The natural frame gives them a beauty that they do not otherwise possess.

From Seoul yesterday we toured the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). This is a stretch of land 2 km on either side of the border between North and South Korea that is devoid of buildings and military equipment (but there are land mines and tunnels buried beneath).

DMZ

First we toured one of these tunnels, known as the third tunnel, unearthed in 1978. It was built by North Korea as a way to invade the South and discovered by chance by the South Korean military. No pictures were allowed in the tunnel.

Panoramic view from South to North
Panoramic view from South to North
A later part of the tour took us to an overlook, where we could see into North Korean territory. Propaganda music played on a loudspeaker as we tourists put coins into pay binoculars and took panorama shots on iphones and androids. This guard tower looks north, as the ivy encroaches.PanoramawithTower

My teenage kids were there; this tour reminded me a bit of a tour I took of East Berlin and Checkpoint Charlie when I was close to their age, a city divided, before the Berlin Wall fell. Uniformed guards, barbed wire, stories of harrowing escapes and families torn apart.

The last stop on the tour was the Dorasan train station, built to connect the north and south by rail. On February 20, 2002, US President George W Bush visited the station together with South Korean President Kim Dae-jung and gave a speech in support of Korean unification.

Railroad tie at Dorasan Train Station
“I see a Peninsula that is one day united in commerce and cooperation, instead of divided by barbed wire and fear. Korean grandparents should be free to spend their final years with those they love. Korean children should never starve while a massive army is fed. No nation should be a prison for its own people. No Korean should be treated as a cog in the machinery of the state.”  –President George W Bush, February 20, 2002
But the shiny new-looking station still sits largely idle, waiting for trains and passengers that never come. The tragedy is that while Germany has reunited and inched onward, in fits and starts, into the 21st century, Korea remains mired in the cold-war past. The guard towers, barbed wire, and bunker jokes told by the tour guides have become mundane. Meanwhile grandparents grow old and pass on, never knowing their grandchildren.

The Hope
The Hope

Thursday Doors: Seoul Walk

I am a few days into a trip to Asia. We started out in Seoul, Korea and will be traveling on to Beijing, Xian, Shanghai, X’ian, and Tokyo. I have wifi in at least some of the hotels, but my posting frequency will be spotty for the next 3 weeks.

I have found that focusing on doors, for Thursday Doors, gives me a different perspective on picture taking. Left to my own devices, I tend to like to photograph trees and other natural phenomena, but focusing on doors makes me think more about people, civilizations, and how societies are structured.

The first installment comes from our first morning in Seoul, walking through streets and alleyways to a small local park called Tapgol Park. The park has some traditional architecture, with walls and gates, separating it from the noise and bustle of the neighborhood:

There was also a thoroughly modern electrical box:

TapgolPark4

It looks like there might be a geocache under that box (red lid on the right), but we haven’t had great luck with geocaches so far in Seoul. We’ve found one a day to keep the streak alive, but DNF more than we find.

Later, on our way to Changdeokgung Palace, we walked down some small alleyways that were lined with what looked like the back doors to restaurants, a hostel, and some other mysterious wooden doors, with writing.

Back on the main road, we saw a more modern rendering of script on a door:

MainStreet

Let me know if you read Korean! Duolingo Korean isn’t out yet. I love the Korean word for milk, uyu, which looks like two little people holding hands. 우유

Thursday Doors: Self-Driving Car

More geeky doors for Thursday Doors!

The Computer History Museum near the Googleplex is a good place to take guests who are visiting for graduation (or anything else). I’m not a computer scientist myself, but I’m the wife of one and my dad, a chemist, has always been an early adopter of computer technology. I think we had one of the earliest IBM PC’s in our home back in 1981.

The museum is comprehensive, from Ada Lovelace to Steve Jobs. And I just felt like including this picture of one of the first computer video games, Spacewar,  because it’s cool. Spacewar was developed in 1962 and runs on a machine called a PDP-1.

Spacewar being played on a restored PDP-1 at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View
Spacewar being played on a restored PDP-1 at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View

But, let’s leave the desktop computers for a minute, and move on to computers that move! When we moved to Mountain View, it didn’t take long for us to see self-driving cars motoring around the neighborhood. They always have someone in them, though, who kind of looks like he or she is driving, so it’s not as odd of a sight as it might be.

The museum has one of these cars for visitors to sit in, both doors permanently wide open.

Side Door to Waymo Car

In my in-progress SF novel, set in the year 2074, I write about a patchwork self-driving car usage. Some cities and regions have only self-driving cars. Some are reliant on public transit like subways and trams, and have walkable and bikeable downtown areas. And in that world, for cultures who do use cars, I envision an autopilot option that comes with every vehicle, but that its use is voluntary. Some characters in particular don’t like to use that option, and their attitudes towards transportation serve to reveal more about their character.

Myself, I’m a fan of self-driving cars, at least as long as they’re electric and can be built to run on sustainable technologies. I believe they have the potential to increase safety and decrease traffic congestion. And I’ve never been so enamored of driving that not being at the wheel myself seems disappointing. Actually I quite like the idea of still being able to get around independently when I’m, say, 95, and my vision and reflexes aren’t what they used to be.

The author in the back seat of a Waymo car
Take me home, Jeeves!

Mundane Monday: Platform

This week was the start of a busy end-of-school-year time. From my son’s birthday in late May onward, it usually doesn’t let up until we go on vacation. My son turned 14 this year, and I took him and some friends to see Guardians of the Galaxy II. I’d already seen it, so I went to find a geocache nearby behind the Googleplex.  Continue reading Mundane Monday: Platform

Mundane Monday: Broken Path

Driving around the North Bay near Suisun City, we came upon a geocache called (ironically, as it turned out) “Beautiful Downtown Denverton.” According to the geocache page description, “in 1878 the town [of Denverton] had a store and a blacksmith shop, a wheelwright, a meat market, a hotel, a school-house, and a Good Templars Hall.”  Continue reading Mundane Monday: Broken Path

Mundane Monday: CITO Events

This past weekend was Earth Day in the United States. There were marches in support of science in San Francisco and Silicon Valley, which I agreed with and supported, but didn’t end up going to. I am an introvert and don’t like crowds. Continue reading Mundane Monday: CITO Events