Searching for contentment

In the fragrance of freshly worked wood

The soft glow cast by shoji lamps

The inspiration of good reads

The wonder of daily living

My heart is with
the people of Ukraine

The flag of Ukraine (top half blue, bottom half yellow-gold): click to read more

Global temperature change (1850-2022)

Vertical colored stripes showing the progressive rise in global temperatures each year. Starting in 1850 on the left, the stripes are dark ice blue, indicating cooler years. By the time they reach 2022 on the right, they are deep fire red, indicating the rapid heating of our planet.
See your own area: Show Your Stripes⩘ 
See also: The Climate Book by Greta Thunberg⩘ 


Daniel Vitale, Orphans of Canland

The cover of Orphans of Canland by Daniel Vitale: a painting shows two people riding a bike—one seated, one pedaling—across a primarily dark and orange-hued landscape. In the background are a couple people working in a field, and someone on a horse-drawn wagon passing in front of an adobe house. Mountains rise behind beneath a sky with orange-hued clouds.

An exceptional and compelling story about a boy with analgesia, Tristan, growing up in a community trying to restore a desert wasteland in what used to be California. Set more than sixty years in the future after there has been an environmental collapse and an internal war, the focus is on how Tristan strives to decipher and understand his world from his point of view that is, because of his condition, rooted in logic, devoid of most emotions, and permeated with the constant danger of grievous harm from unnoticed physical injuries from ordinary boyhood activities.

   The only people who've seen all my scars are the people who've taken care of them.… I'd like to show them to someone who likes them and doesn't see them only as threats to my health, but also as marks of strength, not weakness. The good thing about scars is that they don't require my memory of them—I've never willed scar tissue into form. They tell their own story.

I actually was surprised by how urgently the story swept me along, and by the strength of the emotions I was feeling as I viewed this strange future through Tristan's experiences and his amazing descriptions of his life. For example, here he is playing the piano during a particularly difficult and challenging evening:

   I set my fingers on the keys again. I close my eyes and picture myself falling, plunging into the darkest depths of the ocean, where for a moment, I lie still. But the Earth is alive. A rumble, so deep it's almost silent, as if from inside me, shakes me awake. Louder and louder, the quaking grows, as if trying to swallow me into a new trench. But a high note lifts me up, then another, higher and brighter, rising like bubbles, lifting me nearer to the surface until I'm bursting through the water, and though I expect to see lightness, all I can see is storm—harsh cadences crashing like waves, the panicked and shipwrecked gasping for breath. But like all storms, it rages to exhaustion. The steady rotation of the Earth takes over, and we drift along the surface with our eyes on the parting clouds, the loyal sun laying a gleaming runway on the water. In one heavy instant, we remember everything we were taught and told, everything we thought up on our own, all of our friends and all of our days, spinning together toward the shore, a pearly white beach where we can rest, and nothing bad can get us, and we can all be safe because, there, we all have the power to play whatever we want.

Vitale's first book is a vivid look at a future that very well may be ours, a time of punishing heat waves, a totalitarian regime focused on environmental restoration with a heavy cost to individual freedoms, massive numbers of internally displaced wanderers, and ultimately, glimpses of possibilities of better ways of living.

Strij Publishing, 2022;⩘ 

More of this reflection >
More recent reading >

Interesting perspective on electric vehicles

Illustration of electric vehicles driving up and over a rainbow in the sky and then plunging down into a mountain of discarded vehicles.

Interesting opinion piece by Rowan Atkinson with an illustration by R Fresson that very well matches the main thrust of the article.

When you start to drill into the facts, electric motoring doesn’t seem to be quite the environmental panacea it is claimed to be.

The issue is that manufacturing electric vehicles creates large environmental costs, with the main component, the batteries, having a limited lifecycle.

The problem lies with the lithium-ion batteries fitted currently to nearly all electric vehicles: they’re absurdly heavy, many rare earth metals and huge amounts of energy are required to make them, and they only last about 10 years.

This is currently a no-brainer for me: I'm retired and drive relatively little anymore, so I'm keeping my old car in mechanically good condition to stretch its usable lifetime rather than incurring the financial and environmental costs of buying a newly manufactured car.

As an environmentalist once said to me, if you really need a car, buy an old one and use it as little as possible.

I love electric vehicles – and was an early adopter. But increasingly I feel duped⩘  by Rowan Atkinson, The Guardian, Jun 3, 2023.

More recent contemplations >

Living in the Rockies

The wild things are blooming! After more than a week of cool, cloudy, misty, rainy weather, the full sun came out today shining a bright light on the glorious dance of springtime: fields of robustly growing deep green wild grass interspersed with yellow wild mustard flowers and framed by newly leafed deciduous trees, mostly cottonwoods and willows.

A field of deep green wildgrass interspersed with thousands of yellow wild mustard flowers. At the edge of the field are bunches of cottonwood and willow trees with fresh green leaves, and beyond them (on the other side of the South St. Vrain Creek, which can't be seen, but is roaring from the spring snow melt coming down from the mountains) rise redstone cliffs topped by dark green Ponderosa pine trees.

And in front of the field are many blooming wild cherry bushes.

A seven-foot tall tangle of wild cherry bushes with scores of elongated clusters of tiny white flowers with dark golden centers.

The Boxelder Maple seeds are forming.

A branch of fresh Boxelder maple leaves, some so new they are still a beautiful light yellow-orange color while others have turned a fresh green hue. Hanging below them are young, pale red colored, winged Boxelder seeds.

Wild grape flower buds promise that the air soon will be filled with divine fragrance.

A wild grape vine in a tangle of bushes, its fresh green sawtooth-edged leaves basking in the sunlight. Clusters of tiny green flower buds with rose-colored highlights hang amongst the leaves.

My eyes are rejoicing at the nourishing deep green of the fresh wild grass.

A field filled with fresh green wild grass. Beyond the field are a mix of deciduous and pine trees, as well as a rusty steel arch bridge crossing South St. Vrain Creek. In the distance are the pine covered foothills of the Rocky Mountains beneath a blue sky with just a few puffy white clouds.

A branch of a cottonwood tree with its clusters of fresh fruit.

A cottonwood branch with rich green heart-shaped leaves and hanging clusters of its small, round, green fruits.

Larger version of these photos >
More recent photos >


A note about the image at the top of this page

Outline image of the Windtraveler lamp

The Windtraveler—a shoji lamp I created in the shape of a deltoidal hexecontahedron—is made of 60 deltoid-shaped faces (like kites) framed in maple. Each five deltoids meeting at the more pointed bottom tips form a pentagon, creating a total of 12 pentagons, which is a dodecahedron. Each three deltoids meeting at the broader top tips form a triangle, creating a total of 20 triangles, which is an icosahedron. Within each deltoid frame are thinner 1/4 inch inner frames made of mahogany, with additional strips that run from the top tip to the bottom tip of each deltoid forming 120 right angle triangles, which reveal a hexakis icosahedron. The inner mahogany frames are backed by washi, a traditional Japanese paper, which creates a gentle shade for the light cast by the light bulbs within to pass through.

More about this project >
More woodworking >

My journey

Trail winding up Cow Creek valley across a meadow and through pine trees towards the hills beyond; photo by Toshen

Love nature. As a kid, I just wanted to be out playing in the woods that surrounded our small town home. When younger, I lived a few places around the world and visited several others … then found a place in the foothills of the Rockies and my heart was home. When I'm out walking, I snap photos and post the better ones on this site to preserve the opportunity to revisit some of these exquisite experiences. Photos >

Love reading. As a kid, I carried armloads of books home each week from the library. Now tend to carry around a virtual stack of audiobooks. I deeply appreciate authors, narrators, and translators. Since 1999, I've been posting reviews on this site, in the more recent years focused on just those books I appreciate the most. I listen to or read a lot of genres, fiction and nonfiction, and particularly appreciate well done speculative fiction. Reading >

Love woodworking. A passionate amateur, I revere wood. My main focus has been shoji lamps in the shape of polyhedra. I love the light that glows through washi and deeply appreciate the folks who make these papers. I'm entranced by the dance of polyhedra patterns, and keep notes on my website about the experience of making some of the lamps. I've also made a fair bit of our furniture, and have even done some woodworking to fix up our old home. Woodworking >

Love our beautiful, fragile planet. I'm deeply concerned about climate and all the life we are carelessly and rapidly destroying.

Blue Marble, 2012: a photo of Earth showing continents and ocean, lightly covered by some clouds, floating in the infinite blackness of space
Photo credit: NASA/NOAA/GSFC/Suomi NPP/VIIRS/Norman Kuring

Awed by space and astronomy. Photos of a spiral galaxies melt my heart and also inspire me to wonder whether I'm originally from another planet in another galaxy. See also: Our home in this wondrous universe⩘ 

The large, gracious, spiral Andromeda galaxy floating in the depths of the universe
Photo credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

EFF membership badge with EFF Member surrounded by rings of multiple colorsValue privacy. I think online privacy should be the default state. Because it's not, I try to protect at least some of my privacy online, especially against greedy corporations. I deeply appreciate the work that folks like Cory Doctorow and organizations like the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)⩘  are doing on our behalf.

Tech companies that have earned my contempt because of their data practices: Amazon⩘ , Facebook⩘ , Google⩘ , Twitter⩘ .

See also: Privacy Is Power: Why and How You Should Take Back Control of Your Data by Carissa Véliz⩘ , Melville House, 2021; audiobook: Tantor Audio, 2021.

Some helpful online privacy tools:
Firefox Browser logo, an illustration of a dark orange fox wrapped around a blue Earth globe; click to learn more.   DuckDuckGo Search logo, an illustration of a duck's head wearing a green bowtie against a circular orange background; click to learn more.   Proton Mail symbol for mail, a stylistic purple P surrounded by a square of white emerging from an open purple envelope.   Mullvad VPN logo, an illustration of the head of a mole (a tunneling animal) wearing a yellow hardhat against a circular black background; click to learn more.   Electronic Frontier Foundation Privacy Badger logo, an illustration of the white furred head of a badger with black fur running from the nose, around the eye, to the ear; click to learn more.
Also: DuckDuckGo App Tracking Protection⩘ 

Keystones: Respect, compassion, empathy, acceptance. We're all in this together.

Double rainbow at sunset; photo by Toshen. The rainbows rise above a hill that is sunlit at the rocky top catching the last rays of the seeting sun, but falls into shadow below. There are dark outlines of the tops of a few pine trees in the foreground.