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11 July 2011
MANAGEMENT (4 comments. Click the title to review or add one.)
Keywords: travel , Cambodia

Does management technique advance? What's so great about the Great Pyramid of Giza? Or Angkor Wat? Some might say that it's incredible that such constructions were made without the use of modern technology. While that certainly interests me, it's not wholly surprising. We've been finding technological solutions to problems ever since chimps started using sticks to fish ants out of an anthill. I know it sounds odd to hear this from an engineer, but what baffles me more is the management side of these big projects. Angkor Wat is often billed as the largest religious site in the world. It truly is immense... it covers one square km inside the moat! Angkor is said to have had a population of 1 million people at that time, so it had the manpower, but how did they structure the management of the undertaking? Who were the architects? Who decided where the masons would work and gave them deadlines to make sure that a pedestal was finished before the face was hoisted on top of it? Were the face-carvers given more artistic freedom than the asmara (female dancers, usually smaller) carvers? Were positive or negative incentives used more? What's the equivalent of profit sharing for the construction of a religious monument? We may be able to figure out the technological solutions that they used, but management techniques would be just as interesting.


On to the photos!


THE TEMPLES OF ANGKOR

I took a weekend and went to see Cambodia's biggest tourist attraction with another MIT grad student. Angkor Wat is by far the most famous of the temples of Angkor (an ancient Cambodian kingdom), but we found some gems among the other sites as well.


Bayon

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Beng Mealea

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Angkor Wat

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Parting shot...

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For more updates go here.
 

 
10 July 2011
TRAVEL AND TRUST (3 comments. Click the title to review or add one.)
Keywords: Cambodia , travel , Singapore

Does traveling make one more or less trustful of others? More or less aware of his/her situation? Standing in a post office in Phnom Penh, Cambodia (more on that later) to buy stamps for and send a small stack of postcards, I found myself insisting on applying the stamps myself. Not that I've seen this happen, but I've read that it's best to not only see the stamps applied to your letter or postcard, but to actually see the postal worker cancel the stamps in front of you. If this doesn't happen, as the story goes, then one of the postal workers might take the stamps off and sell them to someone else for a bit of cash, and then your postcards don't get sent.


That was the image going through my head when, after I paid for the stamps, the kind-looking woman behind the counter said "okay, no problem," indicating that I could leave and she'd take care of applying the stamps. But I didn't trust her, despite her kind demeanor, the fact that there were other women behind the counter ("they could be in on the scam!") and the slightly disheveled but generally un-threatening environment of a quiet Khmer post office on a late Wednesday morning. The lady shrugged and pushed the postcards and stamps back across the counter to me. I affixed the postage, took a picture of all of the cards together (in part for a photo for my blog, in part because I was embarrassed to have not trusted the woman behind the counter and wanted to show another reason for having insisted on placing the stamps myself), and handed them back. I thanked her, picked up my bag and left, stopping short of waiting to see her cancel all of the stamps.


Was I being irrational? Did my actions leave a bad impression of foreigners in general? Was I being prudent considering my lack of familiarity with Cambodia and Cambodians? On another level, what does this distrust mean for my openness to the experiences of travel? There is a fine line between caution and missed opportunities for amazing interactions with locals. I could give any number of reasons for my extra caution (in particular my interactions with the Ethiopian postal service), but I'm more interested in how to gain some of that trust back. Perhaps I'll feel a bit better once the postcards arrive. If you have thoughts, feel free to leave a comment.


Speaking of postcards, my offer still stands: if you send me an e-mail with an update on your life and your snail-mail address, I'll send a postcard from somewhere along my travels.



ON THE ROAM AGAIN

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I'm traveling in South and Southeast Asia for the summer in order to find a thesis topic on engineering for the developing world. I'm based in Singapore (obviously not the developing world), already spent two and a half weeks in Cambodia and leave on Thursday to go to Indonesia. I'll also spend the first three weeks of August in India. I've really enjoyed being back in the developing world, though the challenge that I face of finding a project which is both good to do (i.e., makes sense and has potential for real impact on peoples' lives here) and satisfies the requirements of a graduate thesis in mechanical engineering is not an easy one. I'm working on it though, and there's certainly potential for a project in Cambodia.


I'm splitting this post up a bit... pictures from my visit to the temples of Angkor will go up in the next couple of days. Until then, on to (the rest of) the photos!


SINGAPORE - just a few shots from the four days I spent in Singapore before heading off to Cambodia.

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CAMBODIA - Things you can do with a scooter (or 'moto').

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CAMBODIA - other photos

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CAMBODIA - Work stuff

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CAMBODIA - FOOD

I know there are a couple of foodies who watch this blog, so this is for you. I can't give a whole lot of details about the contents or recipes of these dishes, but I'll try to at least give the basics.

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Parting shot...

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For more updates go here.
 

 
19 June 2011
THE OTHER SIDE OF THE ISLE (2 comments. Click the title to review or add one.)
Keywords: eSuperbike , Isle of Man

With my "official" role as blogger for the MIT Electric Vehicle Team's trip to the Isle of Man TT races finished, I thought I'd share a few more photos, videos and thoughts here. For the official story, see THE TEAM BLOG (start at the linked post and move forward from there). On to (the rest of) the photos...


PRE RACE

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THE RACE

There was one photo that Radu absolutely wanted to get from our race. On the course, there are a couple of spots where bikes routinely 'catch some air.' The most common of these is at Ballaugh Bridge. The morning of the race, Radu started scheming about how to get a photo of our bike in the air. In practice, Allan had eased off at that point to make sure that the bike didn't leave the ground because of some concerns the team had about our chain's behavior when the bike landed again. Regardless, Radu was going to do everything he could to get that photo. Even Liz and her dad were game to go drive around to Ballaugh (at least a 1.5 hour trip with the course closed to public traffic) and try to get the shot. Instead, Radu talked to every professional photographer he could find, the race office, the publicity office, anyone. We were all torn between being out on the course somewhere to watch and staying at the start/finish to be able to celebrate when Allan finished. In the end, everyone stayed at the grandstands and just hoped the photography would take care of itself.


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FOURTH PLACE! (movie file - 1.2MB)


and two days later Allan (our rider) received this:

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POST RACE

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Probably the most amazing single moment for me on this entire trip came in the early morning after our race. 'The Mountain' is the name for one part of the TT course that follows a road from Ramsey, up past Snaefell Peak (2036 ft), and then back down into Douglas to the finish line. 50 weeks of the year it is a two-way road, and is the fastest way to get between Douglas and Ramsey (there are no settlements on it, and no official speed limit).

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Parting shot...

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For more updates go here.
 

 
1 June 2011
NEW ADVENTURES (1 comment. Click the title to review or to add one.)
Keywords: Singapore , eSuperbike , Isle of Man , MIT

Here's the really quick rundown since Jason and I finished our MABBAC trip:


- I hope to write more about these later, but I'm not making any promises. My first semester back in school was both difficult and good at the same time.


- Living in the US again is a bit weird, but somehow Cambridge, MA feels right. I passed on living in the dorms when a cheaper off-campus opportunity came along, and it's worked out really well.


- I've re-connected with a number of friends in the area, and I think I have a good combination of on- and off-campus friends there. It's a nice selection of swing dancers, motorcyclists, engineers, designers, cyclists and developing-world enthusiasts.


- My advisor suggested I take only one class last term in order to give myself time to ease back into the whole student thing. It's given me time to attend seminars and work on one particular side project (see below).


- As far as my thesis goes, I'm still amazed at the situation that I'm in. Unlike most engineering graduate students, I have tons of freedom in the definition of my own thesis topic. Typically, a student who is hired by a professor as a research assistant either receives or chooses a project from among the research already being worked on in that professor's laboratory. I was hired by a professor to work on a project, funded out of Singapore, on "Engineering in the Developing World". The difference, however, is that there aren't any projects already underway in my professor's lab on that topic from which I could define a thesis topic. So I've been given the freedom and funding to go to South/Southeast Asia this summer to find a project. Some might call it "enough rope to hang myself," but I hope to make the best of it. More details soon (I'm leaving from Europe to fly straight to Singapore), but that's the quick version.


- Jason, my partner in crime for massive motorcycle trips, got married in February, and there's no way I could have missed it. Despite waiting until the last minute to buy tickets, I still managed to get to Udaipur, India to celebrate with him, catch up with Addis friends and take the train down to Indore to meet up with another friend (and MIT postdoc) to talk with him about a project he's running to build a wheelchair specifically for the developing world. It was a crazy trip even for me, but absolutely worth it.


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For a quick explanation of how I managed to swing a trip to India in the middle of the term...

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- Remember that side project I mentioned? Well, it's turned into a pretty big project. I joined the MIT Electric Vehicle Team in January to help out on an electric motorcycle project. The team had received a motorcycle frame from BMW and a battery back from A123 Systems, and they were constructing a bike to compete in the Isle of Man TT Zero race. Well, you can imagine how much that appealed to me, and now I find myself on the Isle of Man one week before our race! I've been keeping a team blog, so won't write much about it here. Feel free to hop over to this website to follow our progress:


MIT Electric Vehicle Team Blog


Parting shot...

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For more updates go here.
 

 
29 May 2011
BACKLOG (No comments yet. Click the title to add one.)
Keywords: Ethiopia , Simiens , Danakil

I took a couple of trips in Ethiopia before Jason and I left for South Africa on our MABBAC trip. I have a ton of photos from them, but figure it'd be faster to just link to my friend Dawn's site instead. The Simien Mountains include the highest peaks in Ethiopia, and the Danakil Depression is the lowest point in Africa. Hence the title of Dawn's photo stream...


HIGH AND LOW


Parting shot...

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For more updates go here.
 

Other Entries:
May 2011
   26 May 2011:   CAPE TOWN AND THE END OF MABBAC
December 2010
   7 December 2010:   THE FATE OF THE HORSE
   6 December 2010:   BREAKDOWN
November 2010
   30 November 2010:   FLYING
   28 November 2010:   PERSPECTIVE
   27 November 2010:   CHIMPS
   25 November 2010:   PLAYING CATCHUP
   23 November 2010:   CHANGE OF PLANS
   16 November 2010:   RWANDA != GENOCIDE
   13 November 2010:   SPEED BUMPS
   11 November 2010:   WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?
   8 November 2010:   MABBAC
July 2010
   26 July 2010:   COMPOUND CULTURE
May 2010
   23 May 2010:   ELECTIONS
April 2010
   5 April 2010:   TRANSITIONS
February 2010
   23 February 2010:   THE HARD SELL
   3 February 2010:   CONSOLIDATION VS. COMPETITION
November 2009
   29 November 2009:   HOW DID I GET HERE?
   14 November 2009:   CARBON BUDGET
   8 November 2009:   SCHOOLING
October 2009
   21 October 2009:   BENZINE YELEM
   14 October 2009:   COMPARISONS
September 2009
   8 September 2009:   WHAT DO YOU _DO_?
August 2009
   21 August 2009:   PHOTOS, BUT WHY?
July 2009
   22 July 2009:   THE FINAL STRETCH
   13 July 2009:   ARRIVED
   10 July 2009:   SHORT
   7 July 2009:   WHAT'S IN A NAME?
   5 July 2009:   HIGHS AND LOWS
   2 July 2009:   ON THE ROAD AGAIN
June 2009
   30 June 2009:   DIVING
   25 June 2009:   MAKING LEMONADE
   23 June 2009:   HOW ONE TRAVELS
   20 June 2009:   BREATHE
   19 June 2009:   ANOTHER WAY
   18 June 2009:   DEPARTURE
   6 June 2009:   TRIP PLANNING
May 2009
   28 May 2009:   MOTORCYCLE TRIP
   20 May 2009:   INDIA - part 2
   19 May 2009:   NEPAL
   18 May 2009:   INDIA - part 1
   6 May 2009:   WORKWORKWORK
April 2009
   24 April 2009:   BEGGING
   12 April 2009:   CATCHUP
   10 April 2009:   BANGLADESH AND BEYOND
February 2009
   28 February 2009:   FIRENGE PRICE
   1 February 2009:   NEW FEATURES
January 2009
   8 January 2009:   MERRY ETHIOPIAN CHRISTMAS!
December 2008
   18 December 2008:   Flying Home
   14 December 2008:   LANGUAGE OR CULTURE?
November 2008
   24 November 2008:   GREAT ETHIOPIAN RUN
   12 November 2008:   AFRICA IS BIG!

 

My name is Mark. I was born near Chicago and have lived in the US, Germany, Nepal and Ethiopia. I started this blog before going to live in Nepal, and still find time to update it occasionally. It's a way for me to keep friends and family updated on my travels, share some pictures, and perhaps offer a bit of reflection along the way. Please look around, and enjoy the ride!

Herumwandernder Cavetroll... heisse Mark, und ich habe in den USA, Deutschland, Nepal und Äthiopien gewohnt. Mit diesem Website halte ich meine Familien- und Freundeskreise informiert über wie es mir in meinen Abenteuern geht. Schau mal 'rum, und viel Spass dabei!


-Mark, June 2011



Sites I'm reading:

- my flickr site
- My del.ico.us page
- Blog of a talk by Saul Griffith on his personal power footprint
- Does Energy Efficiency Save Energy?
- Old but hilarious Nike Ad... "borrowed" from the Ministry of Manipulation blog
- Jennifer's blog... about her adventure in Nepal
- Ministry of Manipulation... a site that my friend Drew is involved in - buy the book!
- The Designers Accord... designers going green and social
- The Copenhagen Consensus... a group of economists' take on what world problems should be tackled first
- New York Times Op-Ed piece... what's your Consumption Factor?
- Adele's blog
- Very cool ad
- Acumen Fellows blog
- Human Development Report... from the United Nations Development Programme

Keywords:
"All who wander are not lost." - J.R.R. Tolkien
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Mark Jeunnette