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 >

Reading

Gwen Strauss, The Nine: The True Story of a Band of Women Who Survived the Worst of Nazi Germany

The Nine by Gwen StraussWell narrated by Juliet Stevenson

An amazing story of nine women freedom fighters—six French, two Dutch, and one Spanish—who escaped the Nazis towards the end of WWII during a brutal death march when the Nazis were moving them away from a horrendous camp to flee the advancing allies.

It is a story of incredible courage, fortitude, intelligence, quick wittedness, compassion, and even, surprisingly, good humor versus inconceivable inhumanity and brutal cruelty. Gwen Strauss, the great niece of one of the women, artfully weaves together each of the stories of the nine, their involvement in the resistance, their captures—often due to betrayal—their nightmarish experience at the camps, their camaraderie during their imprisonment and escape, their fearless trip through Germany and across the frontlines, their joyous liberation, and their difficult journeys re-entering normal life after the war in the aftermath of their life-shattering experiences.

I am in awe of the nine women, and of the author.

Macmillan Audio, 2021, Libro.fm⩘ 

More recent reading >

Living in the Rockies

Datura is a native, though this one is trumpeting in Garima's garden (and yes, we know to be very careful with it!).

Datura

Larger version of this photo >
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Contemplating

Fire season is not fun

View of the fire last fall advancing on our neighborhood

In mid-October last year, during our formerly normal fire season, a fire broke out that quickly threatened our neighborhood. Over the course of the next week, we had to evacuate twice, watching from a distance as the wall of flames advanced towards the place we call home. We got lucky: both times the flames were advancing, things changed and the fire stalled. Others weren't so lucky.

This spring, we had a lot of rain, more than usual. I was relieved thinking that the ground had soaked up a lot of moisture and maybe, just maybe, fire season wouldn't be so bad this year. Then it suddenly turned unseasonably hot, everything quickly became very dry, and the skies filled with a smoky haze from all the fires burning across the West. It's only July, yet I'm already really worried about wildfires and this place we call home.

Today, I came across a piece by The Real Sarah Miller, All The Right Words On Climate Have Already Been Said⩘ , and she pretty much sums up how I'm feeling.

There's only one thing I have to say about climate change … and that's that I want it to rain, a lot, but it's not going to rain a lot, and since that's the only thing I have to say and it's not going to happen, I don't have anything to say.

She actually has a bit more to say, and it's definitely a worthwhile read.

More recent contemplations >

Woodworking

The Windtraveler shoji lamp

Windtraveler 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 >


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.

(See also: The woman who swims with sharks⩘ )

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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. To get a glimpse of an idea of just how far away Saturn is, see If the Moon were only 1 pixel⩘  by Josh Worth.
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 about 27,000 years to travel to the center of our galaxy.
The Milky Way in Yosemite by bgwashburn is licensed under CC BY 2.0 (cropped)
One light year is just short of six trillion miles (5,878,625,000,000). The Milky Way has a diameter of about 100,000 light-years, and contains as many as 400 billion 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 2,300,000 years to travel just to the nearby Andromeda galaxy. Isn't it amazing that by using our inherent art of visualization, we can be there, instantly, in this moment.
Andromeda. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
The observable universe is estimated to contain as many as two trillion galaxies. To get more perspective on this eXtreme Deep Field (XDF) Hubble image, see the short video: Hubble Legacy Field Zoom-Out⩘ . Make sure to read the notes, too.
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
To get a glimpse of an idea of just how big the observable universe is, see Neal Agarwal's fun website, The Size of Space⩘  and CGP Gray's Metric Paper & Everything in the Universe⩘ 

By the way, because of the Earth's spin, if we're standing still at the equator, we're actually moving at about 1,667 km/hour (1,037 miles/hour). The Earth is orbiting our sun at approximately 30 km/sec (67,108 miles/hour). Our sun is orbiting the center of our Milky Way Galaxy at approximately 250 km/sec (560,000 miles/hour). And our galaxy is moving through our universe at approximately 600 km/sec (1,340,000 miles/hour). Hang on!

If you'd like to move through time as quickly as you're moving through our universe, you might enjoy watching this TED talk by David Christian, one of the founders of the Big History Project: The history of our world in 18 minutes⩘ 

All distances and times are approximate.

Image credits:

  1. Hiking trail in Cow Creek valley⩘  by Toshen, CC by NCSA⩘ 
  2. Blue Marble, 2012, Earth image⩘  by NASA/NOAA/GSFC/Suomi NPP/VIIRS/Norman Kuring
  3. Full moon image⩘  by Toshen, CC by NCSA⩘ 
  4. Saturn⩘  by NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute
  5. Sun, from the video Fiery Looping Rain on the Sun⩘  by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/SDO
  6. The Milky Way in Yosemite⩘  by bgwashburn⩘  is licensed under CC BY 2.0⩘  (cropped)
  7. Milky Way in Summer: VL test PSP8 by gjdonatiello⩘  is licensed under CC CC0 1.0⩘  (cropped)
  8. Andromeda⩘  by NASA/JPL-Caltech
  9. Hubble eXtreme Deep Field (XDF)⩘ : NASA, ESA, G. Illingworth, D. Magee, and P. Oesch (University of California, Santa Cruz), R. Bouwens (Leiden University), and the HUDF09 Team