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Reading: China Airborne by James Fallows

China Airborne by James Fallows

James Fallows is a writer I pay attention to; often I find his essays in The Atlantic shed light on a subject in a way that helps me to better understand the world I'm immersed in. When he went on sabbatical earlier this year I was a bit saddened as I found it a crucial time when I would've appreciated his knack for making the nearly incomprehensible a little more understandable.

When he announced in January on his author's page that he was going off to write a book, he said, "See you in June." When June rolled around, I began checking his author's page again, and it was then that I was reminded that I still had his book China Airborne in my queue on my tablet. Having recently read that the first Chinese-built passenger jetliner, the Comac C919 just completed its inaugural flight, I figured it was a good time to explore this book.

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Contemplating: The Photo Ark by Joel Sartore

Photograph of San Clemente Island fox (Urocyon littoralis clementae) by Joel Sartore
San Clemente Island fox (Urocyon littoralis clementae) by Joel Sartore

Joel Sartore is a National Geographic photographer and a speaker whose current project is the Photo Ark, a 25-year effort to photograph all of the approximately 12,000 animal species that are in human care.

"My goal is simple: to get the public to care and save species from extinction."

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Living in the Rockies

I really love springtime. Today, we were cheered on our walk by lots of Gaillardia blooming along the way; they are sunshine personified.

Gaillardia in full glorious bloom

And I'll admit it, I take an almost guilty pleasure in blooming thistles. Yes, I know they are an invasive species, and yes, they create some awfully gnarly burrs, but the color and vibrance of their flowers always provoke such a sense of awe in me!

This one is just about to burst into bloom:

A thistle just about to bloom

(And speaking of prickly invasive species … ever look in a mirror?)

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Woodworking: Windtraveler shoji lamp

My current project is in the shape of the Catalan deltoidal hexecontahedron, which is made up of 60 deltoid-shaped faces.

Thinking about my next lamp: a deltoidal hexecontahedron

I really love the deltoid shape. I like the way you can put three of these deltoids together to form a triangle, or five of them together to form a pentagon, or 60 to form a deltoidal hexecontahedron.

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CQ: Diving into D-Star

When I first dove into D-Star, I knew nearly nothing about digital voice and quickly found myself sinking in a big bowl of bewilderingly murky information soup. SOS!

So if it's that bewildering, why even bother? I'll jump a bit ahead here and share one tidbit: at one point early in my exploration of D-STAR, I linked to a reflector and heard a guy in San Diego, California chatting with a chap in Yorkshire, England. That was the moment I became hooked!

Diagram of DV HTs connecting via personal access points to reflectors
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Tool reviews – Cordless ratchet

Milwaukee M12 Cordless 1/4″ Lithium-Ion Ratchet

Recently, I installed a ham radio in my car (even though I'm not a car person). Working on a car is like doing plumbing: there's seldom enough room to maneuver, you often don't have enough hands, half the time you can't see what you're doing, and you have to contort yourself in ways that are just shy of impossible. Ah well, at least there's no water running through the antenna cable, just waiting to leak all over the place the first time you turn the radio on after hooking it up. (Yes, I dislike plumbing!)

One of the more challenging tasks I had to do related to this installation was driving some of the screws that attached parts beneath one of the seats. The challenge was that it was in a tight spot where I couldn't see and had little room to maneuver, and I had only an old, cheap 1/4″ ratchet. I did get it done, but it took me a stupidly long time and a lot of needlessly frustrating effort. It was difficult enough to get the screwdriver bit to fit into the screw head, but then when I started tightening, two things kept happening: either the ratchet would go into reverse because I was exerting upward force on the ratchet head to keep it engaged with the screw head and kept accidentally turning the direction changer, or the screwdriver bit would fall out of the socket. Argh!

Thinking about it afterwards, I realized that my design was flawed (if I ever have to take it apart, I'll put it back together differently), and also I didn't have the right tools for the job. At least there's an upside to that, right? It's a chance to get some new tools! I decided to get two things: a better quality 1/4″ ratchet and an adaptor to hold the screwdriver bit.

As I was searching for a better 1/4″ ratchet, I stumbled across a tool that caught my interest, the Milwaukee M12 Cordless 1/4″ Lithium-Ion Ratchet. I was a bit skeptical, but if it proved to be a good tool, it could be really useful in situations where there's not much room to maneuver, so I decided to give it a try. Turns out it's a really great tool.…

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