Searching for contentment

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My heart is with the people of Ukraine

 

Contemplating

Actually Good News About Voting for a Change

Colorado's simple plan to increase voter registration is already working.

Colorado flag

With all the distressing news coming out about our deteriorating democracy over the past few years and almost every day now, it's heartening to read—and experience—something good for a change!

I deeply appreciate how well elections are run here in Colorado. Mail-in ballots are sent to me for each election along with a booklet that clearly explains every ballot initiative and presents pros and cons. Drop boxes are easily accessible. Or, if I prefer, I can vote in the traditional way in person. If I do use the mail-in ballot, it's easy for me to track the ballot's progress, so I know that it has been received, then verified and accepted. My vote counts, and I can verify that it has been counted. At the same time, I know that I can trust that careful steps are being taken to ensure a fair election and to prevent any vote fraud. Great system all around!

It also has been easy to register, and recently became even easier [my emphasis]:

   In 2020, with the coronavirus pandemic ravaging the country, many states altered their election systems to try to ease voting. Since then, some of those states, especially Republican-led ones, have aggressively reversed course, taking steps to make voting harder.
   This sort of bad news has overshadowed one of the more interesting and encouraging changes in the country. Starting in May 2020, Colorado modified its registration system so that anyone who gets a new driver's license and provides proof of citizenship is now automatically registered to vote. The state then sends people a postcard informing them of their registration and offering them a chance to opt out. That's a small tweak from the prior system, in which anyone who came to the DMV would be offered the option to register, but a study produced earlier this year by two Stanford University political scientists shows that the new approach has made a significant difference: more than 200,000 new registered voters in the 16 months through September 2021, in a state where about 3.3 million votes were cast in the 2020 presidential election.…

   "We're very proud of the results," Jena Griswold, Colorado's secretary of state, told me. "Registering to vote and voting itself should not be a burden. These are our constitutional rights. State governments should be seamlessly offering potential voters the option to register."

This is how voting should work in our country. Bravo to Colorado and to Jena Griswold, our excellent secretary of state. I hope more states follow suit.

Actually Good News About Voting for a Change⩘  by David A. Graham, The Atlantic, July 4, 2022.

See also: Experts Say Colorado Mail in Voting 'Platinum Standard'⩘ , CBS Colorado, Jul 2, 2020.

More recent contemplations >

Reading

Joachim Schmidt, Kalmann

Kalmann by Joachim SchmidtTranslated by Jamie Lee Searle

What an amazing book!

Set in the village of Raufarhöfn, the northern most village in Iceland, and narrated by Kalmann, a neurodivergent fellow in his mid-30s. Kalmann struggles with certain aspects of life, like traditional education and stressful social situations, to the degree that some mock him and call him the village idiot, but he totally excels in other aspects, like hunting Artic foxes when they disrupt life in the village, fishing for the Greenland Shark found in the deep waters off Raufarhöfn, and creating a local delicacy called hákarl (fermented shark).

Doesn't really sound like much of a setup for a novel, but the story is a gripping, emotional, surprising, and fascinating murder mystery.

Then it really did become dark, a black, starless night, and that's how I know that dying isn't anywhere near as painful as living.

The setting is as much a character in the book as the many colorful villagers who populate it. So far north that the Arctic Circle lies off its coast, Raufarhöfn⩘  was a thriving fishing community until overfishing decimated the fish populations and the village began dying, which provides an underlying current in the book.

Map showing Kalmann on the far northwestern tip of Iceland

I actually prefer the image on the cover of non-English editions of the book better as it gives a better hint of the rugged and remote character of the locale.

Cover image from the non-English editions of the book showing a house on a bluff overlooking the sea

One of the settings in the story is the Arctic Henge⩘ , an actual place of towering obelisks under construction on a hillside just outside Raufarhöfn: "Similar to its ancient predecessor, Stonehenge, the Arctic Henge is like a huge sundial, aiming to capture the sunrays, cast shadows in precise locations and capture the light between aligned gateways."

View of the Arctic Henge with the village of Raufarhöfn and the sea lying beyond it

Another interesting aspect of the story is the previously mentioned hákarl, a local delicacy in Iceland, but an acquired taste, for sure. Here's a short video that provides humorous insight: Andreas & Sam try Hákarl, Icelandic rotten shark⩘ , Disgusting Food Museum, Apr 2018.

I was thoroughly entertained by this strange, offbeat, wondrous story. It did something only the best stories do, taking me places I'd never been before.

Bitter Lemon Press⩘ , 2022; IndieBound⩘ 

More recent reading >

Living in the Rockies

Another hot day, following a string of previous hot days. Everything is baking dry, so it's such a delight to see this delicate yellow blossom on one of the Prickly Pears, with a tiny bee enjoying it just as much as me.

Prickly Pear flowering

Larger version of these photos >
More recent photos >

Woodworking

The Windtraveler shoji lamp

Windtraveler lamp

A shoji lamp in the shape of a deltoidal hexecontahedron.

More about this project >
More woodworking >


Perspective

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.
The Milky Way: VL test PSP8 by gjdonatiello is licensed under CC CC0 1.0 (cropped) The Milky Way, as vast as it is, creates just a smidgen of light in our local group of galaxies. Its light takes about 2,300,000 years to travel just to the Andromeda galaxy, the nearest large spiral 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, a tiny fraction of which are visible in this eXtreme Deep Field Hubble image.
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
The light from the furthest reaches of the observable universe, near the dawn of our universe, takes 13,400,000,000 years to reach us. We are part of something that is near infinitely vast and incredibly beautiful. Such a gift.

To get more perspective on the eXtreme Deep Field (XDF) Hubble image, see the short video: Hubble Legacy Field Zoom-Out⩘ . Make sure to read the notes, too. See also The Hubble Ultra Deep Field in Light and Sound⩘  at Astronomy Picture of the Day, which adds a pointer you can use to see just how far away a galaxy or star is, as well as hear a note play that corresponds to its redshift.

To get a glimpse of an idea of just how big our observable universe is, see Neal Agarwal's fun website, The Size of Space⩘ ; the BBC video by Professor Brian Cox, How big is our Universe?⩘ ; and CGP Gray's Metric Paper & Everything in the Universe⩘ . Here's another glimpse: What does two trillion galaxies mean?⩘ 

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 NC-SA 4.0⩘ 
  2. Blue Marble, 2012, Earth image⩘  by NASA/NOAA/GSFC/Suomi NPP/VIIRS/Norman Kuring
  3. Full moon image⩘  by Toshen, CC by NC-SA 4.0⩘ 
  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