The Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST) has shown up in a recent New York Times article, and I’m mentioned at the end.
A couple notes on the article:
While the school may have 250 acres if the affiliated cooperative farms are included, the actual campus is much smaller, with ~10 buildings built around two sports fields.
The supposition of leverage is, I feel, more nuanced than expressed in the article. Detentions of Americans have and continue to occur across the different engagements. While PUST got unlucky this time, it provides no more benefit to the regime in that regard than the tourism or other ongoing aid projects, which have also experienced similar actions in the past.
PUST is not even close to the largest foreign community in the country, as stated, that honor goes to the Chinese
Projects like PUST are an opportunity to put a human face on Americans in the minds of the next generation of educators and empowered thinkers in Pyongyang. It’s hard to overstate the value of that engagement.
I’m getting back this week after spending most of the last month Bicycling from Pakistan to China on the Karakoram highway. It was a great trip, full of friendly people, breathtaking mountains, and delicious food.
I was fortunate enough to graduate from the University of Washington’s Computer Science and Engineering PhD program this spring. It has been an amazing five years, due in large part to an amazing group of colleagues.
I returned to PUST this fall just in time for ICOPUST3, a bi-annual conference hosted by the university and one of the few instances of international academic engagement performed by the university.
A bit of background: I spoke on my research at ICOPUST2, the previous instance of this conference held two years ago, and my first time visiting the university. The conference by design is a multi-track affair covering the full breadth of academics (from computer science to agriculture) taught at the university.
This year, I acted as the session chair for the computer science track of the conference, which proved to be quite rewarding. I’m encouraged by the continued academic engagement present at the conference and occurring at the university as a whole.
Having spent the last few days at CCCamp, I am incredibly jealous of the community that exists in Germany. cbase, the physical center of the community, has existed for 20 years, and has created a really powerful movement. One of the aspects of the berlin free software community is the tight connection between technologists and artists that exists there. From this event my take away is that tech can and does create culture, and that one of the most important things we can do is foster that community and make it ours.
I spent the last couple weeks bicycling through northern India. It was a great trip with spectacular scenery, good food, and a fascinating culture.
With Ravi, a friend from the networks lab at UW, I arrived in Leh, a city at 11,500 feet in the far north of India. We chose the Himalayas to avoid the stifling heat that otherwise covers the region in the summer. After altitude adjustment, we took a 4 day bike ride over the 240km road to Kargil. The area was really cool – new, very ragged mountains and high plains. The shift in culture that we experienced on the ride, from a Buddhist dominant culture in Leh to a more Islamic influenced Kashmir / Central Asian culture in Kargil.