Searching for contentment

"This is what fascinates me most in existence:
the peculiar necessity of imagining what is, in fact, real."
– Philip Gourevitch
epigraph to Blindsight by Peter Watts

Woodworking: Windtraveler lamp

The Windtraveler shoji lamp

Dedicated to my good friend Thomas Hey'l
who has inspired me to look at design more deeply
and to take even more care about precision.

More about this project >
More woodworking >

Living in the Rockies

When I reach the halfway point of my daily walk and turn around, this is the view that greets me. A bit different every day, it almost always invites me to pause for a few moments.

View across South St. Vrain Creek

If I don't get too lost in my thoughts and stay aware of my surroundings, I also see this beautiful moss covered boulder nestled in the wild grasses along the way.

Moss covered boulder nestled in wild grasses

Higher res version of this photo >
More recent photos >

Reading: Ursula K. Le Guin, The Left Hand of Darkness

The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le GuinNarrated by George Guidall

I first read Ursula K. Le Guin as a teenager, when it was dawning on me that I live on the xenophile side of the xenophilia – xenophobia spectrum and naturally found myself attracted to science fiction's stories of wondrous peoples and places … the more different from my own experiences, the better! It has been many years since I've revisited any of her books, so long that I have only the faintest memory of her stories. I ran across a reference to her the other day and realized that it is time to visit her universe again.

As I listened to the very first paragraph of this first book of hers that I decided to revisit, I found myself once again swept away.

I'll make my report as if I told a story, for I was taught as a child on my homeworld that Truth is a matter of the imagination. The soundest fact may fail or prevail in the style of its telling: like that singular organic jewel of our seas, which grows brighter as one woman wears it and, worn by another, dulls and goes to dust. Facts are no more solid, coherent, round, and real than pearls are. But both are sensitive.

This is a story of a fascinating journey, through time, through space, through emotions, through dangers, towards understanding and even love.

"I am glad I have lived to see this," he said. I felt as he did. It is good to have an end to journey towards, but it is the journey that matters in the end.

Recorded Books, 2018 (1969)

More recent reading >

Contemplating:
Tokyo subway’s humble duct-tape typographer

Duct tape sign by Shuetsu Sato
An example of a duct-tape sign at Nippori Station by Shuetsu Sato (image: Wikimedia / Mayuno)

I love this story! Chris Gaul shares this wonderful story on Medium about a Tokyo subway security guard, Shuetsu Sato, who creates beautiful signage out of duct tape in order to help the people he takes care of find their way more easily.

Sixty-five year old Sato san wears a crisp canary yellow uniform, reflective vest and polished white helmet. His job is to guide rush hour commuters through confusing and hazardous construction areas. When Sato san realised he needed more than his megaphone to perform this duty, he took it upon himself to make some temporary signage. With a few rolls of of duct tape and a craft knife, he has elevated the humble worksite sign to an art form.

"Shinjuku Station was my first post, and it was under construction at the time, so I had to guide passengers using a megaphone. But there were so many people. Guiding them all with just my voice was impossible. Most of the people couldn’t even hear me. So I decided to make some signs to guide people that would really stand out."

Although he had no formal design training, he created an aesthetic grid system for his stylized lettering, which has become highly regarded by other designers, who have given it the name "Shuetsu Sans."

Chris Gaul, "Tokyo subway’s humble duct-tape typographer." Medium, Jul 24, 2019.

More recent contemplations >

Tool reviews: Window tools

For someone like me, owning a home for twenty years means I've done just about every kind of handyperson remodeling and repair job imaginable, from plumbing to electrical, painting to insulation, and on and on. But one thing I had never needed to do, thank goodness, was to replace a large double-pane piece of glass. We did replace all of the windows in the house when we first moved here, but never the glass in an installed window.

Then one day I was out doing something I've done for many years, using a grass trimmer to cut down the tall grasses growing where we hang our clothes, and suddenly I heard a crack followed by a very strange sound. I took off my ear protectors and discovered that the sound I was hearing was of a large sheet of tempered glass forming thousands of cracked pieces spidering outward from where a stone my trimmer had kicked up had struck it. See the large vinyl windows in the background of the following photo? It was one of them. Oh shit!

New clothesline in our backyard

More of this tool review >
More tool reviews >

Ham radio: Reflections of an amateur⩘ 

My HT: Kenwood TH-D74A

Although I'm still relatively new to the universe of amateur radio, where there are active hams who have been playing around with it since the 1950s, I've already enjoyed enough interesting learning experiences as well as stubbed my toes enough times to have gained a few insights. I'm a non-technical user figuring things out as I go along, and I'm writing these articles as my way to keep track of what I'm learning (and also just for fun, as I love writing as much as learning). Basically, this is info I wish I had found online when I was browsing for insights: AmateurRadioNotes.com⩘ .

Playing with Pi-Star⩘ 
More amateur radio⩘ 

Perspective

Sharks kill an average of 10 people per year. People kill around 100,000,000 sharks per year 1. People also kill approximately 425,000 people per year, topped only by mosquitoes, which kill about 725,000 people per year 2.

And we worry about sharks?

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

People walk at an average pace of about 2.5 miles per hour.
Trail winding up Cow Creek valley by Toshen
Meanwhile, light travels about 186,000 miles per second, or about 11,160,000 miles per hour. It would take light about 0.13 seconds to travel around the Earth,
Blue Marble, 2012. Credit: NASA/NOAA/GSFC/Suomi NPP/VIIRS/Norman Kuring
1.3 seconds to travel the 238,900 miles from the moon to the Earth,
Big end-of-year moon by Toshen
8.3 minutes to travel the 93,000,000 miles from the sun to Earth, and 1.3 hours to travel the 890,000,000 miles from the sun to Saturn.
Saturn. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute
At the scale of the solar system, the Earth is a spec of dust (1,300,000 Earths could fit within our sun).
Sun, from the video Fiery Looping Rain on the Sun. Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/SDO
Our sun, as big as it is, is just a tiny twinkle of light in a suburb of the Milky Way galaxy. Its light takes 28,000 years to travel to the center of the Milky Way.
The Milky Way in Yosemite by bgwashburn is licensed under CC BY 2.0 (cropped)
One light year is just short of 6,000,000,000,000 miles. The Milky Way has a diameter between 150,000 and 200,000 light-years, and contains between 100,000,000,000 - 400,000,000,000 stars, which together create a smidgen of light in our local group of galaxies.
The Milky Way: VL test PSP8 by gjdonatiello is licensed under CC CC0 1.0 (cropped) The light of the Milky Way takes about 2,500,000 years to travel just to the nearby Andromeda galaxy.
Andromeda. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
The observable universe is estimated to contain somewhere between 200,000,000,000 - 2,000,000,000,000 galaxies.
Hubble eXtreme Deep Field (XDF). Credit: NASA, ESA, G. Illingworth, D. Magee, and P. Oesch (University of California, Santa Cruz), R. Bouwens (Leiden University), and the HUDF09 Team

And we worry about anything?

All distances and times are approximate.
Inspiration: "New 3D map of the Milky Way shows we live in a warped galaxy," NBC News, Feb 5, 2019.
A related video: Hubble Legacy Field Zoom-Out.
Another related video: The Exhilarating Peace of Freediving by Guillaume Néry (really, it's related).
Related project: A team of five French amateur astrophotographers has assembled an amazing gallery of deep space images from their observatory in Chile: Ciel Austral, which means Southern Sky.

Image credits: