Searching for contentment

Living in the Rockies

We continue to enjoy exceptional August weather … milder than usual and even some rain. Woo-hoo! So we headed back up to take another walk around Lumpy Ridge. The chance that we might (and did) find still more glorious ripe Rocky Mountain Wild Wax Currants to feast on as we walked along helped us decide where to walk.

This is the wonderful view towards the Continental Divide from Lumpy Ridge, which is a part of Rocky Mountain National Park just north of Estes Park.

There has been even more rain up there than we have received, so a wide variety of incredible wildflowers are in bloom all along the trails. Wow!

Looking across towards the Continental Divide from Lumpy Ridge

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Reading: Void Star by Zachary Mason

Void Star by Zachary MasonSkillfully performed by Cassandra Campbell, Tristan Morris, Sean Pratt, and Michael Braun

As I was listening to chapter 11 of this book, Theater, a couple hours into the story, I was struck by the lyrical beauty of the description of the interaction between Irina, a woman with an exceptional and risky augmented memory, and an AI.¹ I started the chapter over in order to listen more carefully, and was then struck by what an extraordinary story I was listening to.

I listen to and read a lot of books. Some are okay, others bore me, a few I don't finish, and once in awhile I come across one like this, delightfully imaginative and intelligent. Wanting to ensure that I was tuned into all of the important plot lines, I started the book over again, listening more carefully to the unfolding story. At the same time, I purchased the ebook so I could read some of the passages that particularly captivated me.

I found this a challenging book, something I appreciate. I had to work to keep up, sometimes not quite sure what was happening until it would click into place a bit further along. As I finished the book, I realized I will set it aside for a bit and then listen to it again so that I can more fully appreciate the nuances of the story having the perspective of a better understanding of the general outline of the story's journey.

This is, for me, an example of peak science fiction.² Mason is a computer scientist who works in the field of Artificial Intelligence, as well as a wonderful storyteller.³ Here, he has created the most perceptive story about AI and our near future that I've come across so far, wrapped in a riveting adventure.

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Contemplating: wine-barrel-aged coffee!

I've been enjoying coffee since I was 17 when I first tried and fell in love with it while I was an exchange student in the birthplace of coffee, Ethiopia.

Solar Roast Wine Barrel Aged Coffee packaging
Solar Roast Coffee's Wine Barrel Aged Coffee

Discovering my favorite coffee

At a later point in my life, I spent a year trying coffees from all over the world. Every week, I'd buy a couple different 1/4 pound bags of freshly roasted coffee from different countries and farms. It was an amazing experience, one that left me able to say without hesitation that my favorite coffee is Sidamo from the Oromia region of Ethiopia, roasted in the light-to-medium range. Perhaps this is a reflection of my earliest coffee experience, but there's no question that the first sip of a fresh cup of Sidamo gives me an "Ahhh!" moment.

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Woodworking: A few rough cedar projects

I was at the lumber yard a few weeks ago when I spotted some beautiful 2″ x 6″ cedar planks … I love cedar!

That led to three projects: refurbishing our deck stairway, then using the cutoffs to replace a little wooden walkway between our house and shed, and finally using the cutoffs from that to build a birdhouse for our local songbirds.

Turns out I actually had just enough wood left over for two bird houses, with about 8 inches of 2″ x 6″ remaining! The leftover piece is so nice that I'll keep it; I'm sure I'll figure out something to do with it someday! By the way, I made the roofs—and the top tread of the stairway, which is even a bit wider than the other threads—from a beautiful cutoff piece of 2″ x 12″ that I squirreled away 16 years ago when the deck originally was built, just waiting for the right project to come along.

Small cedar walkway between our garage and our shed

Note: While the birdhouses are relatively smooth on the exterior from the planing, the interiors retain their original rough-cut faces, which I read makes it easier for the little birds to climb out when they are ready to fly the nest. Also, the fronts swing open (outward and upward) for the annual clean out.

I'll hang the birdhouses this autumn to be ready for tenants next spring.

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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
More about my dive into D-Star »

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Tool reviews – Weeding fork

Each spring, we do battle against invasive plants on our property, many of which (like thistle) are tough plants with even tougher tap roots. Fortunately, I found an equally tough battle axe to wield in this fight: a hand-forged, long-handled weeding fork made by Red Pig Garden Tools in, I kid you not, Boring, Oregon.

Red Pig Gardening Tools weeding fork

This tool makes it much easier to get down at the tap root even in our rocky soil, and it's strong enough to easily pop the gnarliest ones.

We have several of Red Pig's tools, actually, and they're all well-made, tough, quality tools. A couple favorites: the 2-Tine Jekyll Weeder, a weeding fork inspired by Gertrude Jekyll, and ´╗┐the Warren Hoe, which is a mini furrower.

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