Broom Forkmoss, Dicranum scoparium with a little cedar berry appearance.
Thuidium delicatulum, delicate fern moss or common fern moss.
ID uncertain, possibly Entondon cladorrhizans flattened entondon moss
I almost missed this fallen branch covered in Luminescent Panelus, Panellus stipticus. Such a fascinating world if we take the time to see it.
Me: Slowly putting keyboard in place on lap desk. Cat: I see you. Me: Moves keyboard into position. Cat: Very slowly, as if hunting, climbs into a position between me and keyboard. Lays down. Purrs.
I loose at least two hours a day to this little purring furball.
With last night’s rain and the soft light this morning the fungi, lichen and moss really popped out at me during my morning trail walk.
Luminescent Panellus, Panellus stipticus and Eastern speckled shield lichen, Punctelia bolliana
Sternum ostrea, false turkey-tail
Tremella mesentercia, witch’s butter
Geneva/Dubai (WMO) - 2023 has shattered climate records, accompanied by extreme weather which has left a trail of devastation and despair, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).
- 2023 set to be warmest year on record
- Greenhouse gas levels continue to increase
- Record sea surface temperatures and sea level rise
- Record low Antarctic sea ice
- Extreme weather causes death and devastation
My ongoing experimentation with iPad set-ups continues. A couple of months ago while browsing the web I happened upon a new-to-me concept, the cyberdeck. The idea is to build modular, hacked-together computers that are semi portable. I spent a few hours obsessing over images that presented something very close to what I've been wanting for my iPad set-up for quite awhile.
At its core a set-up that raises the iPad/screen to eye level, semi-portable, stable, and a place to store/use a swap-able keyboard.
I've been using this stand for a couple of months now. It's the second stand of this style that I've bought. The other one purchased a couple years ago is now being used to hold a portable 15" screen. This current stand is a bit heavier, especially the base, and even more stable. A couple of notes about the stand and then I'll get into the purpose for adding the cardboard base.
- The main point in using a stand like this is to raise the iPad fairly high, getting it much closer to eye level.
- With two hinges it is adjustable to any angle, far better than the limited angles available with iPad Magic Keyboard or other folio style keyboards.
- This stand is the older style of stand with a non-magnetic back and two support brackets on the bottom to hold the iPad. The newest magnetic stands look very clean and hold the iPad in place but only work with one size iPad based on the current model designs. They're also more expensive. These older style stands are sturdy and the cost is usually less than $25 compared to the magnetic stands that usually come in above $70.
- I like being able to place my current keyboard of choice on the base while typing.
Editing to note that since original post the hacky cardboard component has been replaced with plywood. Still a bit rough but okay for a prototype. 🤓 Images below depict the original cardboard version.
Now, why clutter it up with the addition of the ugly, hacky cardboard? In short, the cardboard is a cheap, easy way to experiment and improve the function of the stand. I often work from my futon with a pillow or two in my lap. I'm more likely to be working this way than I am to be at a desk. While this stand is very stable when sitting on a desk, the metal base is too small to be stable on a pillow which means using some sort of lap desk. In the past I've always used a plank of wood as my improvised lap desk and it works very well. I'll still do that when I need access to my trackpad or mouse. But most lap desks, be they the purchased variety with cushion attached to a thin board or my improvised wood planks are quite a bit heavier and more unwieldy to move. And though the stand is stable on the lap desk sitting in my lap, when I need to get-up I do have to be careful that the stand with the 13" iPad Pro doesn't tip over as I sit on the shelf next to my futon.
Thanks to the weight of the inserted metal base and the larger surface area of the cardboard, I now have something that is stable on cushy, soft surfaces like pillows. It won't ever tip over unless I intentionally flip it. I've got two pieces of heavy-duty cardboard taped together for a very rigid, sturdy base. I cut a slot in the top piece of cardboard to insert the metal base up to the hinge and between the two layers of cardboard. In addition to the stability it provides its larger size also means a better placement for the keyboard. The stand base is very snug in between the layers of cardboard. When I need to get up or move I can easily move the stand, iPad and keyboard by grabbing the cardboard or the metal arms of the stand. Unlike the stand sitting on a lap desk, this feels like I'm moving one, integrated piece similar to a laptop or the iPad attached to the Magic Keyboard.
The last bit that makes this work well is having a way to attach the iPad to the stand rather than just having it resting on the brackets. The stand is metal and when I'm using the iPad mini I just use Apple's folio cover folded behind the iPad. The magnets of the folio stick firmly to the stand so the iPad isn't going anywhere. With the larger iPad Pro I have the Moft float stand. It's attached magnetically to the Moft case and I just fold it down over the back of the metal stand. It's not going anywhere.
So, it's all a bit hacky but some free cardboard and duct tape make for a big improvement. I may well try a larger version next to accommodate use of a mouse or trackpad. For the moment it's easy enough to just use my wood plank lap desk when I need the extra pointer device.
It’s only been a couple weeks since I decided to give Obsidian yet another try and yes, this is going to work out. I’m so glad I decided to give it a try again. A few brief thoughts too about interstitial journaling.
First, my primary use of any markdown/text app is for writing blog posts. In this regard Obsidian is generally on par with any other markdown editor and so it’s easy to just copy my archive over. That’s the beauty of working from folders of files. I duplicated and tweaked my previous Shortcuts for quickly creating new posts from the Home Screen or for link blogging from a web page that now save to my Obsidian folders.
As for journaling, I’ve only ever been irregular at that effort. Obsidian has the daily note feature to help the process along so I took a look at various templates in the hopes that perhaps I’d find one that might help in the process. After a few days I found it wasn’t quite what I wanted. As I browsed around I hit upon “interstitial journaling”. My first thought was, no, not for me.
If you’re not familiar, the basic concept is to just record a timestamped entry when you’re between tasks. Note what you’ve finished, what you might work on next or if you’re taking a break. A sort of running commentary on the day but geared towards productivity. But I wasn’t looking for a productivity hack or anything focused on that. I tend to do fine getting work tasks done without any additional tools or apps. I’d rather my journaling be a bit more open. But something about frequent, time-stamped writing appealed to me. The structure isn’t topical, it’s not definite or set. I’m viewing it as a tool for simple self awareness and as an opportunity to note thoughts and activities as they seem worth noting.
A week in and I have to say that I’m really digging it. I set aside any desire to focus on some sort of constant productivity/task journal and have simply used it to check in. The time stamping pulls me in, I honestly don’t know why. But I do know that I’m writing more as a result. Also worth mentioning, there’s a behavioral phenomena called the Hawthorne effect that several folks have mentioned. The idea being that people “modify an aspect of their behavior in response to their awareness of being observed.” The idea in relation to interstitial journaling is that as one starts paying attention to the moments of a day with the added intent of recording those moments, a kind of self awareness sets in.
I suppose in a round-about way I am, in fact, being more “productive” but frankly, I’m just not fond of all of the nerd focus on productivity. I’d much rather think of it in terms of cultivating self awareness. Regardless of the framing, I’m finding it enjoyable and useful. And, unexpectedly, I feel like my days are longer and almost more meaningful as a result of the increased focus on my daily activity.
It’s worth noting, that most of what I’m doing with Obsidian I could have accomplished with iA Writer or other markdown editor. It’s a strange thing really but it’s a fairly small design detail that partly served to prompt my look back to Obsidian. I wanted to be able to more easily navigate and see all my files in folders at the same time. Most markdown editors have a sidebar file browser that functions as a singular column list of files. It makes for a lot of clicking or tapping to navigate. Obsidian offers disclosure triangles and it just feels easier and faster to view the contents of multiple folders at once.
That said, Obsidian is extendable via plugins so it does actually do quite a lot beyond a standard text editor. But out of the box it can be used in a more standard way. As I poke and prod I expect I’ll share a bit about some of the more advanced features.
While out on a trail walk yesterday, I saw something small and white moving around in the leaves and met this cute, furry moth, Artace cribrarius, the dot-lined white.
I’ve written two posts recently that I thought I’d tie together. The first was a post about the occasional resurfacing of the “minimalism” or “simple living” trend or meme especially as it exists as phenomenon in the US. The second was a response to a recent article in the Guardian about Trump’s authoritarianism.
The common thread between the two is fairly obvious but still worth calling out in its own post and it is this: in 2023 America finds itself in a deepening crisis of identity as a failed democracy. It’s not new but it is only growing worse because it’s not being addressed. And really, it’s not one crisis but rather several interdependent crises that have been decades in the making. Which is to say, these are crises deeply rooted in multiple generations of Americans, deeply rooted in our culture.
A failed democracy? Really? Has it fallen that far? We’re still having elections after all and though there were efforts to overturn the 2020 election by Trump and many of his supporters and in his party the results were upheld in the face of those efforts. Is that not evidence that democracy in the US continues to exist?
I would argue that democracy in the US, if it can be said to still exist, is weakened by decades corruption. It has been eroded to a thin veneer with little substance because the substance of democracy is the people. And the majority of people of the US stopped caring decades ago. Any sense of civic responsibility, of active citizenship has been eroded by decades of apathy. The truth is, America traded that responsibility for something shiny, something convenient: The American Dream.
Consider that phrase for a moment. What do you picture in your mind?
I was surprised (though perhaps should not have been) that Wikipedia even has a specific page for the American Dream. These two paragraphs are significant to our problem:
The American Dream is the national ethos of the United States, a set of ideals including representative democracy, rights, liberty, and equality, in which freedom is interpreted as the opportunity for individual prosperity and success, as well as upward social mobility for oneself and their children, achieved through hard work in a capitalist society with few barriers.
The term “American Dream” was popularized by James Truslow Adams in 1931, saying that “life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement” regardless of social class or circumstances of birth.
I’d urge you now to re-read that slowly and carefully. Then, again from that page:
Throughout American history, there have been critics of its national ethos. Some critics point out that American focus on individualism and capital results in materialism, consumerism, and a lack of worker solidarity. In 2015, only 10.5 percent of American workers were members of a labor union. The American Dream has also been criticized as a product of American exceptionalism, as it does not acknowledge the hardships many Americans face, namely in regards to the legacies of American slavery and Native American genocide, as well as other examples of discriminatory violence.
Those paragraphs sum up the problem very well. Any honest look at the America of 2023 would indicate that Americans simply gave up the collective effort to manage their country in favor of the pursuit of prosperity. Though it’s a poor indicator of democracy, participation in the electoral process is one common indicator used and in the US participation has fairly low for decades. Sure, there are years when participation in elections bumps up. For example, in the 2020 presidential elections 66% voted. That’s up from around 56% turnout in 2016. Midterm participation is lower. For example, in 2018, it was 47%. So, not great. Let’s compare to a few others' recent national electoral participation:
- Sweden, 2018: 82.1%
- Belgium, 2019: 77.9%
- Germany, 2017: 69.1%
- South Korea, 2020: 66.5%
- Canada, 2019: 65.1%
- Spain, 2019: 65.1%
- UK, 2019: 62%
- US, 2016: 55.7%
So, in general, voter turnout in the US is low. But that’s far from the whole story because democracy is not just about voting for a president, a house or state representative or a senator or even voting locally.
I would argue that a more important measure of democracy is what we do on the hundreds of days a year between elections. Consider a decade. 10 years is 3,650 days (ignoring leap years). Setting aside 10 days of voting that leaves 3,640 days. What’s our job as citizens for those remaining days? Is it nothing? Are we meant to be on vacation on those days? Because that’s certainly the way we seem to be treating the job. Maybe we vote maybe we don’t. And then the remaining days we’re on vacation.
This is why America is a failed or failing democracy. Because its people have allowed capitalism to step in and act in their stead. We stepped out and they stepped in. It’s that simple. When we get all hand wavy, finger pointy and angry about school shootings, climate emergency, outrageously expensive health care, well, my fellow citizens, we should go have a long look at the mirror so that we might face up to the problem.
We need to have that conversation with ourselves and each other. What are we doing about our democracy? If we’re truly going to quit then let’s FUCKING OWN THAT CHOICE. If we don’t want to be bothered with democracy then let’s admit it. We should loudly proclaim it rather than this bullshit moaning and pretending we go on with. It’s a farce we’re all playing along with. Truly, it’s embarrassing.
But I hear you asking. Well, but, but what are we to do? I’m just one person, what do you expect me to do? I can’t change anything. That’s the reasoning we all use. I can’t fix it. We convince ourselves that this is a valid response and then we continue pretending it’ll all be okay.
Stop pretending and start building. As the Wobblies used to say: Don’t mourn, organize! Let me give you a list to help you get started. We all love lists. This is far, far from a complete list. But it’s something to get you started. It’s also not in any kind of order. Some of these are things you can do as an individual, some are better with a group. Some are both. Many are more about building local community culture and capacity. Building democracy is not just about politics - remember that.
- Read Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States and more history of people’s movements in the United States.
- Corresponding with the above, make it a specific point to read more about the labor movement, it’s tactics and the general strike
- If you have a blog or use social media begin using it differently. Think about how a citizen concerned with their country’s future might use social media. Shift the conversation.
- Take an interest in the goings on in your neighborhood. Get to know neighbors if you don’t know them already. These are your neighbors and some of the most important citizens you can know. Care about them.
- Identify problems in your neighborhood and consider how they need to be addressed. Talk to neighbors about those problems. Figure out a way to deal with it directly or talk to others who can help.
- Grow the capacity of your neighborhood to take care of itself. This fits with the above two and is just a continuation of a process of taking more responsibility for ourselves in a space that we can have an immediate, tangible results.
- Consider creating community and neighborhood institutions like co-ops that can help fill real needs. I’ll list some of these further on in this list.
- Create study groups! I call them study groups, you could also call the working groups or reading groups or whatever else fits. These might function in a neighborhood context or not. Interested in gardening or community gardening? Form a group to explore it. Interested in fixing up a vacant lot? Form a group. Some groups might be temporary, project specific. Or might start with a task or project but then carry on to something else. The main thing is to get with others to learn as a group and even better, act as a group.
- Start a community newsletter. It might seem old-fashioned in the internet age. But just consider how your neighborhood communicates with itself. How do neighbors keep up-to-date with the community news?
- Create a lending library. Some public libraries already loan out more than just books. If yours doesn’t then start your own. The point is to share resources amongst neighbors. Tools, books, bikes, cars, etc. These already exist.
- Create a community workshop or maker space. This might go well with the above. It’s a space for people to fix things, learn to fix or teach others to fix. It might become a space that specializes like a bike repair/recycling shop or it might be more general.
- Cultivate a community of mutual aid. It goes with the above suggestions. Look for ways to help one another, to learn from one another. If a community is building ways to help itself it becomes more self reliant, more likely to re-use resources and goods that are not always getting used.
- As the climate emergency grows, emphasize cycling in your community. Consider group rides for fun. If you’re new to cycling a group ride can help you gain confidence. Experienced cyclists can volunteer to do safety clinics to teach others. Learn and teach one another how to do basic bike repairs. Help refresh old bikes and get them on the road again. If there’s enough interest, start a larger cycling advocacy group to work with local town/city government to improve or add to existing cycling infrastructure.
- If your community has a library consider how your activities might fit in there. Is there a meeting room available for public events were study groups, workshops, classes could be held? Consider taking on more difficult topics, create longer term study groups that explore more complicated problems. Find speakers to bring in that might help people better understand local, regional issues and problems.
- Volunteer at your local library.
- Get in touch with already existing community orgs. Find out who’s nearby or in your city. Consider helping those already doing work.
- Many cities have groups already functioning that need volunteers in a broad range of mutual aid activities like teaching adults to read, aid to the houseless. Find an organization you can help and volunteer your skills whatever they may be.
- If you’re an artist or musician you might be a part of a larger local community of creators. Consider working together either for your own community via co-op activities and also for the benefit of others by doing fundraisers.
- Potlucks! Potlucks! Potlucks! Make these a regular happening in your community. Neighborhood potlucks are essential. Move the location from house to house or consider hosting in other spaces if available. Make the weekly, monthly, or as often as possible.
- In many of the above projects consider partnering with the small, locally owned businesses around you.
- Make it a habit to always be on the lookout for new sharing opportunities. Often times personal interests and hobbies can be branched out into valuable community enrichment activities. Have a telescope and knowledge of the night sky? Work with your local library to do a monthly star party. Alone or with other local star gazers, get out and help others see Saturn, Jupiter or the Andromeda Galaxy for the first time. You’re an avid photographer and naturalist? Work with the library to organize a photo walk in the local park or public forest.
Much of the focus with the list above is our shifting our priorities from our individual selves or even from our core family to include the larger community. It’s not politics so much as it is direct participation in the life of our communities. Democracy is not laws, rules, regulations. In its fullest, most meaningful expression democracy is the self management of our lives in community. It’s when we understand that our well being extends outward and includes the well being of those we share the planet with.
This is not to suggest that we should not also be working on and in the larger political processes going on around us We should. Those processes are broke and are in need of our attention. But to do that affectively we also need to remember the strength that comes with shared civic life. That shared civic life can be thought of as an expression of democracy as well as solidarity, a phrase that was in common use in the labor movement of 100 years ago.
In a future post I’m planning to share more about how we might create and build democracy politically. Plenty of people have already written about this. For now I’ll simply say that we have to turn our attention the fact that our political processes currently seem to be in a state of corruption and disfunction. We see it on on all levels and it’s well past the time that America get beyond the notion of cleaning the house. We have to reconsider the foundation. There’s nothing about it that will be easy.
From my morning trail walk.