Searching for contentment

Contemplating: The man who built utopia

78-year-old Song Peilun left his job teaching sculpture 20 years ago in order to build an amazing rock sculpture "castle" that now spans 50 acres of a secluded valley outside Guiyang, China.

Peilun is concerned about increasing urbanisation in the area, but believes his castle will survive and carry a message to future generations. "Our biggest achievement is not just piling up stones. it is the building of a certain spirit, to not seek quick success and instant benefits."

I love it that life can still surprise and delight me like this!

Video story by Christopher Cherry: "The man who built a Chinese utopia." BBC Travel, Sep 15, 2017.

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Reading: Life 3.0 by Max Tegmark
Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence

Life 3.0 by Max TegmarkWell narrated by Rob Shapiro.

An excellent and accessible book addressing the age of artificial intelligence we are now entering, which has the potential to accelerate greatly in the coming decades. Human-level Artificial General Intelligence—and an explosion beyond human level—is a real possibility this century, and a good outcome for humans isn't guaranteed, so Tegmark is focused on explaining what might be coming, as well as on encouraging all of us to think about the future we want.

The book explores many of the interesting, even thrilling, topics that have been explored in the best science fiction books I've come across, only here they are discussed from a clear scientific perspective and grounding.

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Living in the Rockies

Ah, the beauty of late summer.

Wild White Clematis (Clematis ligusticifolia) seed heads.

Wild White Clematis growing along the roadside

Deliciously brown Cattail (Typha latifolia) seed pods nestled with Curly Dock (Rumex crispus) seed heads.

Cattails in front of an old wooden pole fence

Higher res version of these photos »

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Woodworking: A few rough cedar projects

I was at the lumber yard a few weeks ago when I spotted some beautiful 2″ x 6″ cedar planks … I love cedar!

That led to three projects: refurbishing our deck stairway, then using the cutoffs to replace a little wooden walkway between our house and shed, and finally using the cutoffs from that to build a birdhouse for our local songbirds.

Turns out I actually had just enough wood left over for two bird houses, with about 8 inches of 2″ x 6″ remaining! The leftover piece is so nice that I'll keep it; I'm sure I'll figure out something to do with it someday! By the way, I made the roofs—and the top tread of the stairway, which is even a bit wider than the other threads—from a beautiful cutoff piece of 2″ x 12″ that I squirreled away 16 years ago when the deck originally was built, just waiting for the right project to come along.

Small cedar walkway between our garage and our shed

Note: While the birdhouses are relatively smooth on the exterior from the planing, the interiors retain their original rough-cut faces, which I read makes it easier for the little birds to climb out when they are ready to fly the nest. Also, the fronts swing open (outward and upward) for the annual clean out.

I'll hang the birdhouses this autumn to be ready for tenants next spring.

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CQ: Diving into D-Star

When I first dove into D-Star, I knew nearly nothing about digital voice and quickly found myself sinking in a big bowl of bewilderingly murky information soup. SOS!

So if it's that bewildering, why even bother? I'll jump a bit ahead here and share one tidbit: at one point early in my exploration of D-STAR, I linked to a reflector and heard a guy in San Diego, California chatting with a chap in Yorkshire, England. That was the moment I became hooked!

Diagram of DV HTs connecting via personal access points to reflectors
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Tool reviews – Weeding fork

Each spring, we do battle against invasive plants on our property, many of which (like thistle) are tough plants with even tougher tap roots. Fortunately, I found an equally tough battle axe to wield in this fight: a hand-forged, long-handled weeding fork made by Red Pig Garden Tools in, I kid you not, Boring, Oregon.

Red Pig Gardening Tools weeding fork

This tool makes it much easier to get down at the tap root even in our rocky soil, and it's strong enough to easily pop the gnarliest ones.

We have several of Red Pig's tools, actually, and they're all well-made, tough, quality tools. A couple favorites: the 2-Tine Jekyll Weeder, a weeding fork inspired by Gertrude Jekyll, and ´╗┐the Warren Hoe, which is a mini furrower.

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