Searching for contentment

Living in the Rockies

We've had, for here, a good amount of rain this spring, spread out nicely. Consequently, it is a green spring with an abundance of wildflowers. On one hand, it seems a bit silly to have a favorite flower, but there's no doubt that it fills me with joy to see salsify blooms, more so than any other, and this year there is a wealth of them. I'm equally delighted when their gorgeous seed heads emerge later on. And yes, I know that some people consider them invasive weeds, but to me, they are a gift from the universe. (The bees love them, too.)

Sunlit salsify

Higher res version of this photo >
More recent photos >

Reading: The Echo Maker by Richard Powers

The Echo Maker by Richard PowersWonderfully narrated by Bernadette Dunne

At a certain point, my experience of my love affair with books morphed from reading to listening. A good storyteller sharing a beautiful performance of a story, as Dunne does with this one, adds a powerful dimension to my journey through a book. It's a much different experience than reading, equally fulfilling. At times as I'm listening, when I find myself moved into a heightened state of awareness by a particular passage, I'll even pause to listen agin, or even pick up the written version of the book to re-read it and let the image burn even more brightly in my consciousness.

More of this reflection >
More recent reading >

How language shapes the way we think

How language shapes the way we think by Lera Boroditsky, TEDWomen 2017

Lera Boroditsky, Associate professor of cognitive science at University of California San Diego, gave this interesting talk at TEDWomen 2017. I've watched it multiple times and have gotten more out of it each time.

Three ideas stand out for me. First, haw language can shape the way we organize time. English-speaking westerners tend to organize events on a time scale from left to right. But for the Kuuk Thaayorre people in Australia who speak Paman, a language rooted in cardinal directions, time is viewed as moving towards a person who is facing east, and away from a person who is facing west.

The second is how differently we may view events depending on our language, which is really worth keeping in mind as we attempt to communicate across cultures.

People who speak different languages pay attention to different things depending of what their language usually requires them to do. So we show the same accident to English speakers and Spanish speakers, English speakers will remember who did it because English requires you to say, "He did it; he broke the vase." Whereas Spanish speakers might be less likely to remember who did it, if it's an accident, but they're more likely to remember that it was an accident. They're more likely to remember the intention. So, two people watch the same event, witness the same crime, but end up remembering different things about that event. This has implications, of course, for eyewitness testimony. It also has implications for blame and punishment. So if you take English speakers and I just show you someone breaking a vase, and I say, "He broke the vase," as opposed to "The vase broke," even though you can witness it yourself, you can watch the video, you can watch the crime against the vase, you will punish someone more, you will blame someone more if I just said, "He broke it," as opposed to, "It broke." The language guides our reasoning about events.

Finally, there is this glimpse into the incredible gift of cognition.

Now, the beauty of linguistic diversity is that it reveals to us just how ingenious and how flexible the human mind is. Human minds have invented not one cognitive universe, but 7,000—there are 7,000 languages spoken around the world.

How language shapes the way we think, Lera Boroditsky, TEDWomen 2017

More recent contemplations >

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 >

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:⩘ .

Playing with Pi-Star⩘ 
More amateur radio⩘ 


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: