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 >

Living in the Rockies

Looking across the valley

Freshly fallen snow
Morning after sun's first glow
Oh beautiful world

Higher res version of this photo >
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Reading: Kent Nerburn, Neither Wolf Nor Dog
On Forgotten Roads with an Indian Elder

Neither Wolf Nor Dog by Kent NerburnExquisitely narrated by Tim Connor

This book sat on one of my bookshelves for many years, so long that I don't even remember the circumstances under which I first acquired it. The other day I was looking through the books on that shelf, came across and pulled it out, and read the foreword.

I have never met an Indian person who didn't somewhere deep inside struggle with anger and sadness at what has happened to their people, and I have never met an honest and aware non-Indian person in American who didn't somewhere deep inside struggle with guilt about what we as a culture have done to the people who inhabited this continent before us. We can like each other, hate each other, feel pity for each other, love each other. But always, somewhere beneath the surface of our personal encounters, this cultural memory is rumbling. A tragedy has taken place on our land, and even though it did not take place on our watch, we are its inheritors, and the earth remembers.

It was time to experience this story. Since I primarily enjoy listening to books these days, I checked to see whether there was an audiobook available and was happy to see one had been released just last year. I downloaded it and entered the story.

It is an intriguing journey, an unflinching retelling of an elder's reflections—sometimes poetically beautiful, other times brutally harsh and not at all easy to face—all while traveling through lands steeped in the story that is being told. It is, above all, an opportunity to look at another way of understanding the history of our peoples, how we first came together and tragically clashed, and perhaps even how we might walk together in a better way toward the future.

Author's Republic, 2018, Downpour⩘ 

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Contemplating: Until the End of the World

Cover of the new Criterion Collection release of Until the End of the World by Wim Wenders

This is fun!

Until the End of the World, the 1991 film by Wim Wenders, is my all-time favorite. Beautiful cinematography and an incredible soundtrack (U2, Talking Heads, Elvis Presley, Lou Reed, Peter Gabriel, Elvis Costello, Patti Smith, Jane Siberry with k.d. lang, and on and on) frame an awesome story starring an amazing cast including the enthralling Solveig Dommartin (who also co-authored the story with Wenders) as Claire Tourneur, William Hurt, Jeanne Moreau, Sam Neill, Max von Sydow, Ernie Dingo, Rüdiger Volgler, and many others.

Taking place in the near future (now the past!) in exotic locations across the world, the film opens in the French countryside, travels to Paris, Berlin, Moscow, then along the Trans-Siberian Railway through China, followed by visits to Japan and San Francisco, before landing in the Central Australian Outback, and even finally launching to the International Space Station. Even as its depiction of cutting edge sci-fi tech has aged, I've still been enthralled every time I have watched it.

Years ago, I heard a rumor that a Criterion Collection release was in the works. Ever since then, I've been checking their website periodically to see if there was any update, and was at last rewarded to find information about the upcoming release of the restored 4K, 287-minute director's cut (by comparison, the U.S. version currently available on iTunes is 157 minutes). I can't wait to experience what the additional two hours will reveal. Pre-order placed!

Until the End of the World⩘ , a Wim Wenders Film, 1991, The Criterion Collection, December 10, 2019 release.

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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.

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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 before I was born, I've already enjoyed enough interesting learning experiences as well as stubbed my toes enough times to have gained a few insights that I think are worth sharing.

I'm a non-technical user figuring things out as I go along. I'm writing these notes 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 a collection of 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?

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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.
Saturn. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute
(To get a glimpse of an idea of just how far away Saturn is, see Josh Worth's website, If the Moon were only 1 pixel⩘ .)
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?

(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⩘ .)

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: