Hexbyte  Hacker News  Computers South Koreans lock themselves up to escape prison of daily life

Hexbyte Hacker News Computers South Koreans lock themselves up to escape prison of daily life

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HONGCHEON, South Korea (Reuters) – For most people, prison is a place to escape from. For South Koreans in need of a break from the demands of everyday life, a day in a faux jail is the escape.

“This prison gives me a sense of freedom,” said Park Hye-ri, a 28-year-old office worker who paid $90 to spend 24 hours locked up in a mock prison.

Since 2013, the “Prison Inside Me” facility in northeast Hongcheon has hosted more than 2,000 inmates, many of them stressed office workers and students seeking relief from South Korea’s demanding work and academic culture.

“I was too busy,” said Park as she sat in a 5-sq-m (54-sq-foot) cell. “I shouldn’t be here right now, given the work I need to do. But I decided to pause and look back at myself for a better life.”

(To see accompanying package, click on reut.rs/2qZ4D1a)

Prison rules are strict. No talking with other inmates. No mobile phones or clocks.

Clients get a blue prison uniform, a yoga mat, tea set, a pen and notebook. They sleep on the floor. There is a small toilet inside the room, but no mirror.

The menu includes steamed sweet potato and a banana shake for dinner, and rice porridge for breakfast.

Co-founder Noh Ji-Hyang said the mock prison was inspired by her husband, a prosecutor who often put in 100-hour work weeks.

“He said he would rather go into solitary confinement for a week to take a rest and feel better,” she said. “That was the beginning.”

A downturn in South Korea’s high-tech, export-driven economy has intensified a hyper-competitive school and work environment that experts say adds to a high incidence of stress and suicide.

South Koreans worked 2,024 hours on average in 2017, the third longest after Mexico and Costa Rica, in a survey of 36 member countries in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

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Slideshow (27 Images)

To help people work less and earn more, the government has raised the minimum wage and cut the legal cap on working hours to 52 per week from 68. But the policies could backfire and put at risk more jobs than they create, economists say.

Noh said some customers are wary of spending 24 or 48 hours in a prison cell, until they try it.

“After a stay in the prison, people say, ‘This is not a prison, the real prison is where we return to,’” she said.

Reporting by Minwoo Park and Yijin Kim; Editing by Josh Smith and Darren Schuettler

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Hexbyte  Hacker News  Computers Get Lost in Mega-Tunnels Dug by South American Megafauna – The Crux

Hexbyte Hacker News Computers Get Lost in Mega-Tunnels Dug by South American Megafauna – The Crux

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Looking into a large paleoburrow in Brazil. (Courtesy: Heinrich Frank)

It was in 2010 that Amilcar Adamy first investigated rumors of an impressive cave in southern Brazil.

A geologist with the Brazilian Geological Survey (known by its Portuguese acronym, CPRM) Adamy was at the time working on a general survey of the Amazonian state of Rondonia. After asking around, he eventually found his way to a gaping hole on a wooded slope a few miles north of the Bolivian border.

Unable to contact the landowner, Adamy couldn’t study the cave in detail during that first encounter. But a preliminary inspection revealed it wasn’t the work of any natural geological process. He’d been in other caves nearby, formed by water within the same geology underlying this particular hillside. Those caves looked nothing like this large, round passage with a smooth floor.

“I’d never seen anything like it before,” said Adamy, who resolved to return for a closer look some day. “It really grabbed my attention. It didn’t look natural.”

Hexbyte  Hacker News  Computers Galerias-paleotoca

Inside the first paleoburrow discovered in the Amazon. It’s nearly twice as large as the second-largest known burrow, located elsewhere in Brazil. (Credit: Amilcar Adamy/CPRM)

A few years earlier, and about 1,700 miles to the southeast, another Brazilian geologist happened upon a different, equally peculiar cave. Heinrich Frank, a professor at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, was zipping down the highway on a Friday afternoon when he passed a construction site in the town of Novo Hamburgo. There, in a bank where excavators had eaten away half of a hill, he saw a peculiar hole.

Local geology doesn’t yield such a sight, so Frank went back a few weeks later and crawled inside. It was a single shaft, about 15 feet long; at its end, while on his back, he found what looked like claw marks all over the ceiling. Unable to identify any natural geological explanation for the cave’s existence, he eventually concluded that it was a “paleoburrow,” dug, he believes, by an extinct species of giant ground sloth.

“I didn’t know there was such a thing as paleoburrows,” says Frank. “I’m a geologist, a professor, and I’d never even heard of them.”

Rise of the Burrow

Until the early 2000s, in fact, hardly any burrows attributed to extinct megafauna had been described in the scientific literature. That’s especially curious because, after his chance discovery in Novo Hamburgo, Frank caught the burrow bug and began finding them in droves.

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Claw marks are clear signs from the engineers who dug the tunnel. (Courtesy: Heinrich Frank)

Surveying a 45-mile stretch of highway construction near the city of Porto Alegre, for example, Frank and his students identified paleoburrows in more than 70 percent of road cuts. Although many are completely filled with sediment, they remain readily apparent, standing out like dark, round knots in a dirt bank. Others are still open, like the one that first attracted Frank’s attention.

When Frank found a suitable passage, he squeezed through an elliptical shaft roughly four-feet wide, 65-feet long and lined with claw marks. Extrapolating from the original size of the hill sliced away for the highway, he calculated that the original burrow was about 250 feet long, not counting for twists and turns that it surely once included.

“There’s no geological process in the world that produces long tunnels with a circular or elliptical cross-section, which branch and rise and fall, with claw marks on the walls,” says Frank. “I’ve [also] seen dozens of caves that have inorganic origins, and in these cases, it’s very clear that digging animals had no role in their creation.”

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Outside the entrance to a paleoburrow. (Courtesy: Heinrich Frank)

In his home state of Rio Grande do Sul, in the far south of Brazil, Frank has documented at least 1,500 paleoburrows so far. In Santa Catarina, just to the north, he’s found hundreds more and counting.

“In these burrows, sometimes you get the feeling that there’s some creature waiting around the next curve – that’s how much it feels like a prehistoric animal den,” he says.

The First in the Amazon

It wasn’t until 2015 that Amilcar Adamy of the CPRM had an opportunity to return to that strange cave in Rondonia. It turned out to be the first paleoburrow discovered in the Amazon, which is notable, but not the coolest part. It also turned out to be one of the largest ever measured, with branching tunnels altogether tallying about 2,000 feet in length. The main shafts – since enlarged by erosion – were originally more than six feet tall and three to five feet wide; an estimated 4,000 metric tons of dirt and rock were dug out of the hillside to create the burrow.

“This wasn’t made by one or two individuals,” says Adamy. “It was made by many, over generations.” Frank describes it as an exciting, though not particularly surprising, discovery.

“We knew that there could be burrows this big,” he says. “This huge one in Rondonia simply confirms that they do exist.”

In Rio Grande do Sul, Frank has found burrows that were originally several hundred feet long. More than 1,000 total feet of tunnel have been measured in another burrow in the Gandarela Mountains, far to the north in the state of Minas Gerais. Though he has yet to investigate, Frank’s received reports of one burrow more than 3,000 feet long in Santa Catarina.

Prehistoric Engineers

Frank believes the biggest burrows – measuring up to five feet in diameter – were dug by ground sloths. He and his colleagues consider as possibilities several genera that once lived in South America and whose fossil remains suggest adaptation for serious digging: Catonyx, Glossotherium and the massive, several-ton Lestodon. Others believe that extinct armadillos such as Pampatherium, Holmesina or Propraopus, though smaller than the sloths, were responsible for even the largest burrows.

Hexbyte  Hacker News  Computers paleoburrow-digging

Regardless, the sheer size of the burrows is something that Frank and his colleagues are still trying to explain. Whether prehistoric sloths or armadillos were responsible, the burrows are far larger than would be necessary to shelter the animals that dug them from predators or the elements.

The giant armadillo, the largest living member of the family, weighs between 65 and 90 pounds and is found throughout much of South America. Its burrows are only about 16 inches in diameter and up to about 20 feet long.

“So if a 90-pound animal living today digs a 16-inch by 20-foot borrow, what would dig one five feet wide and 250 feet long?” asks Frank. “There’s no explanation – not predators, not climate, not humidity. I really don’t know.”

Dating the burrows also remains guesswork at best—animals don’t dig holes after they go extinct. However, they had to have been dug at least 8,000 to 10,000 years ago, when South America’s giant ground sloths and armadillos vanished. Dating organic material found in burrow sediments – which has yet to be done – would reveal when sediments washed in, but not necessarily when the burrow was dug. Frank says that speleothems, or mineral deposits, growing on burrow walls could be used to calculate an age, although that hasn’t been tried yet either.

Another head-scratcher is the strange geographic distribution of paleoburrows. While common in the southern Brazilian states of Rio Grande do Sul and Santa Catarina, they are, so far, almost unknown just to the south in Uruguay (though some of the first ever described were found even further south in Argentina). Likewise, very few have been found farther north in Brazil, and Frank is aware of just a tiny handful of possible burrows in other South American countries.

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A closer look at those claw marks. (Courtesy: Heinrich Frank)

He doesn’t think he’s biased because he happens to live and work in the heart of burrow country. Frank has colleagues who have searched extensively elsewhere in Brazil and come up mostly empty. He’s also done sleuthing using Google, searching for images of caves posted by others. In the south of Brazil, he frequently identifies paleoburrows by details unwittingly captured in photos, like one of a smiling troop of Brazilian boy scouts posing in front of a cave wall covered with claw marks. In other parts of the country and continent, people post pictures of caves that they visit, but practically none of them look like they were originally dug by animals.

A South American Thing

Though North America was also once home to giant ground sloths and giant armadillos, you won’t find paleoburrows here.

“The fact that we don’t have them here could simply be that we’ve overlooked them,” says Greg McDonald, a Bureau of Land Management paleontologist who studies extinct South American sloths. “[Or] it may be that we had them up here but didn’t have the right types of soils that allowed them to survive for a long time.”

Here, too, unanswered questions are raised by absence of paleoburrows. The beautiful armadillo, Dasypus bellus, an extinct creature about twice the size of today’s nine-banded armadillo, was widespread in Pleistocene North America and had forelimb morphology very similar to that of modern armadillos, which are enthusiastic burrowers. Beautiful amardillo remains are frequently found in caves, but not ones scientists have ever thought were actually dug by the animal.

Hexbyte  Hacker News  Computers Megatherium_americanum

In South America, giant sloths—some the size of elephants—roamed the surface, and were, perhaps, expert tunnel diggers. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Another possibility, McDonald allows, is that paleoburrows are found in North America, but no one has paid them any attention, as was the case in South America until quite recently.

“Something can be out there and they’re so common and people just take them for granted,” he says. “And [no one knows] till somebody with a little bit of curiosity takes a closer look and says, ‘What’s forming these?’”

For the handful of scientists in South America studying paleoburrows, there’s a long list of research projects to design, all revolving around the same basic questions: who, why, what, where and when?

At the top of Frank’s list is to better describe patterns emerging from observations he’s collected studying paleoburrows for the past decade. Some are simple shafts; others are complicated works of underground engineering, with branching tunnels that twist and turn and rise and fall to form a network with more than one entrance. Some occasionally open up into much larger chambers. There are relatively small ones. Then there are the enormous ones.

“We need to figure out the patterns. We’re starting to understand this better,” Frank says. “And from there, we’ll be better able to infer what kinds of different animals were digging them.”

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Hexbyte  Hacker News  Computers A South Vietnamese Air Force Officer Was Responsible for One of the Craziest Carrier Landings of All Time

Hexbyte Hacker News Computers A South Vietnamese Air Force Officer Was Responsible for One of the Craziest Carrier Landings of All Time

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Major Buang Lee comes to a halt aboard the USS Midway in a Cessna O-1 Bird Dog. (US Navy/released)

The early weeks of April, 1975 found the USS Midway steaming towards the coast of South Vietnam to link up with a number of other warships including the USS Coral Sea and the USS Enterprise of Task Force 76, standing by to support Operation Frequent Wind, a mass evacuation of all American nationals and as many South Vietnamese military personnel (and their families) as possible during the North Vietnamese Army’s final push into the South. Reaching its station on the 19th, the Midway had previously offloaded half of its air wing at Subic Bay on its way to Vietnam and her sailors were prepping to receive thousands of evacuees in the coming days. To assist with the evacuation, ten massive US Air Force Sikorsky HH-53C Super Jolly Green Giants were loaded onto the Midway while at Subic. On the 29th, orders were handed down from higher- Operation Frequent Wind was a go. It was on that very day that Major Buang Lee (also spelled as Buang-Ly in a number of other accounts) of the South Vietnamese Air Force unintentionally had his name etched into the record books by attempting and completing one of the weirdest carrier landings in history aboard Chambers’ ship.

Hexbyte  Hacker News  Computers U.S. Air Force Sikorsky HH-53C Super Jolly Green Giant helicopters on the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Midway (CV-41) during en:Operation Frequent Wind, April 1975. (U.S. Navy/released)

U.S. Air Force Sikorsky HH-53C Super Jolly Green Giant helicopters on the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Midway (CV-41) during en:Operation Frequent Wind, April 1975. (U.S. Navy/released)

By the end of the war in Vietnam, a fairly sizable number of Republic of Vietnam Military Forces (the South) officers and senior enlisted soldiers/airmen, as well as their families, were marked for death. Their civilian peers in the South were especially fearful of reprisal from the invading North Vietnamese Army for supporting and harboring ranking RVNMF personnel, who were often unceremoniously dragged out from their houses and shot in the streets, their bodies left to rot as both a warning to anyone who wouldn’t give up RVNMF troops and to the soldiers themselves that their demise was imminent. Anyone who was seen or thought to have aided the United States in any way, shape or form, was hunted down and mercilessly slaughtered. The US military offered a way, during Frequent Wind, for these men and their families to flee to safety. Their places of refuge were the decks of US Navy vessels floating off the coast of Vietnam.

Major Buang Lee, a young officer with the Vietnam Air Force, was extremely worried for the safety of his wife and five children. If Northern soldiers came across them, or their neighbors gave them up, torture and execution was the brutal fate that awaited them. Unwilling to let this happen, he crammed all of them into a small Cessna O-1 Bird Dog parked on an airfield ramp on Con Son Island and took off. The Bird Dog was the military version of the Cessna 170 and it generally flew with two crew- a pilot and an observer; Lee’s Bird Dog was packed with seven people, including the pilot. After lifting off from Con Son, the Bird Dog took fire but was miraculously left unscathed. The plan was to fly out and hopefully find an American warship, ditch the aircraft and swim to safety. If they couldn’t find a ship, they wouldn’t have any other option than to ditch anyways. Luckily, the Lee family spotted a cluster of vessels in the distance, and twisted the aircraft in that direction.

Aboard the Midway, Frequent Wind was winding down. South Vietnamese and American UH-1 Hueys, previously hauling over evacuees, were chained to the flight deck while crew moved to-and-fro in the light rain soaking the carrier. The bridge of the Midway received reports of an approaching small aircraft, though they were unable to determine its origin and intentions. Observers with powerful binoculars spotted the Bird Dog from a distance, which proceeded towards the large flattop, slowly but surely. Lee flipped on the O-1’s landing lights, and banked into a small pattern above the ship, circling overhead. Chambers, up on the bridge of the Midway in the captain’s chair, was understandably extremely confused but also on the edge of his seat, trying to figure out if the small aircraft meant the Midway and her crew harm, or otherwise. He ordered the communications center to hail the Bird Dog on all frequencies and channels, but their attempts were met with static and a lack of response. The confusion quickly lifted when Chambers and the other officers on the bridge realized that that the Cessna contained more than just the pilot; there were children and a woman aboard as well.

Unable to establish radio contact with the ship below him, Lee decided on a more rudimentary approach. Scribbling a note describing his situation on a piece of paper taken from the Bird Dog’s cockpit, he swooped in low over the flight deck and tossed it out of the window, hoping that someone would be able to catch it. This attempt, along with a second try failed as both notes blew over the side of the ship before the flight deck crew could get them. Now with less than an hour’s worth of fuel remaining in his tanks, Lee decided to add some weight to the third note, penned onto a map from the cockpit. Attaching it to his service pistol, he once again made a low pass over the carrier and dropped it out before climbing away. This time, the deck crew got a hold of it and immediately brought it to the carrier’s island, and then up to the bridge to Chambers.

Hexbyte  Hacker News  Computers Major Lee's note. (US Navy/archives)

Major Lee’s note. (US Navy/archives)

“Can you move the Helicopter to the other side, I can land on your runway, I can fly 1 hour more, we have enough to mouve. Please rescue me.

-Major Buang, wife and 5 child.”

Chambers called an impromptu meeting with the Midway’s Air Boss and the commanding officer of the Midway Carrier Task Force, Admiral William L. Harris. Outlining the situation that was unfolding right in front of their eyes, they quickly determined that the passengers of the Bird Dog had a very slim chance of survival if they ditched in the South China Sea, next to the carrier. Air Boss Vern Jumper and Harris concurred with Chambers that giving the Bird Dog a green light to land directly aboard the vessel would be the better alternative. Chambers did so and immediately put the ship’s crew into high gear. They had their work cut out for them.

During Frequent Wind and the gradual cessation of evacuation operations, the Midway had barely been making steerageway- just enough forward movement to helm the ship effectively. There was no real need for the ship to be moving any faster, as it was only supposed to be operating helicopters for the duration of Frequent Wind. Normally, it would have had to generate winds over the flight deck, so as to launch fixed-wing aircraft from its catapults, but helos didn’t need such a provision. Chambers had therefore allowed the ship’s engineering crew to partially shut down the powerplant for maintenance, upon their request. Now in need of speed to assist with Lee’s landing, Chambers got the Midway’s chief engineer on the line and asked that he be given enough steam to increase the ship’s speed to 25 knots. Due to the partial shutdown, this wouldn’t be possible right away, so Chambers had the engineering crew shift the hotel load (electricity used for every other purpose aboard the ship than propulsion) to the emergency diesel engines while cranking up the main powerplant. With that issue solved, another problem was manifesting itself outside on the deck.

Though Frequent Wind was coming to a close, helos were still flying to the ship. Chambers ordered all available hands to the flight deck, regardless of rank, to assist in moving any aircraft parked on the deck to a different spot, clearing a long strip for Lee to land on. Any helo that couldn’t be moved in a safe and timely manner was to be pushed over the side of the deck after a quick gear strip. An estimated $10 million worth of South Vietnamese UH-1Hs were thus stripped and jettisoned from the flight deck. When five more South Vietnamese Hueys landed on the deck during the mad dash to clear the deck, their occupants were hustled into the ship and their helos met the same fate as the others. Meanwhile, the arresting gear, strung across the angled deck of the Midway were also removed, lest Lee’slanding gear get fouled in the cables during his landing.

Hexbyte  Hacker News  Computers South Vietnamese UH-1H being pushed overboard to make room for a Cessna O-1 landing. Operation Frequent Wind, the final operation in Saigon, began April 29, 1975. During a nearly constant barrage of explosions, the Marines loaded American and Vietnamese civilians, who feared for their lives, onto helicopters that brought them to waiting aircraft carriers. The Navy vessels brought them to the Philippines and eventually to Camp Pendleton, Calif. (U.S. Navy/released)

A South Vietnamese UH-1H being pushed overboard to make room for a Cessna O-1 landing. (U.S. Navy/released)

Keeping a keen eye on the deck, Lee brought his Bird Dog around and lined up with the ship, approaching just above stall speed. Chambers later recalled that Buang’s relative speed wasn’t more than 20 to 25 knots. As if he had practiced it a dozen times, Lee set the aircraft down on the flight deck and rapidly came to a halt amid the shouts and yells of the crew assembled on the deck to help facilitate the Bird Dog’s recovery. Many of the crew agreed- if Buang had a tailhook on his aircraft, he would have undoubtedly bagged the third wire (the the ideal wire for a textbook carrier landing). Shaking, but thoroughly relieved, Lee and his family emerged from the Bird Dog and were taken inside the ship’s island right away, where they met an equally-relieved Captain Chambers.

In the face of frightening odds, Lee’s story ended spectacularly well. The crew of the Midway unanimously donated money towards a fund that would help the Lee family settle in the United States after claiming refugee status, which they were able to, upon reaching the US. Captain Chambers’ actions could have very well had him court-martialled and killed off his career in the Navy, and he was well aware of that. Even still, he put his livelihood on the line and took the necessary actions to save the Lee family. Thankfully, Chambers was able to retire from the Navy later on after achieving flag rank and becoming a Rear Admiral. Years later, he would reunite with the Lee family, still ever grateful for Chambers and the Midway’s crew, and just what they did to save their lives on that overcast April day in 1975.

Hexbyte  Hacker News  Computers Lee lands aboard the Midway. (US Navy/released)

Lee lands aboard the Midway. (US Navy/released)