I sat in on the fourth and final Tinderbox meet-up about using Tinderbox for blogging. You'll find the recording here.
I've enjoyed all the meet-ups I've attended, and learned something from each of them. Originally conceived as a kind of use-case introduction to Tinderbox, I think this series developed a case of mission-creep, and perhaps tried to do too much and in the process, ended up doing too little.
I read something recently, like in the last few days, about how sometimes it's better to have a novice, or someone who has just mastered a tiny bit of a domain of knowledge, teach someone who's also a newcomer who's struggling with a problem in that particular domain. The context was math. The teacher is at something of a disadvantage because they're so far removed from where the struggling student is; while the slightly more advanced student totally gets where the struggling student is coming from, and recalls how he managed to overcome the hurdle. I'd link to it, but while the internet never forgets anything, I didn't have the foresight to see how it would come in handy as a useful analogy today. A quick scan through my likes in Twitter was unforthcoming. May have been something I read in a blog.
Anyway, I think that's where the series got off track.
Michael Becker, who is kind of the host, has mastered Tinderbox over the last couple of years. Although he'd probably demur that he's "mastered" it, he's far more advanced than all but perhaps three or four of the people who usually attend these events. And he's full of enthusiasm and eager to share what he's learned and show off the incredible versatility of Tinderbox; but in doing so, I think he leaves a lot of people behind. He'll show export templates in his TBX files that are densely worded lines of conditional export code; and it's truly impressive, more than a little intimidating, and utterly unnecessary for something as "simple" as blogging.
Which is perhaps the second misstep in the effort, in that we failed to establish what the end state was intended to be. Michael's view of what a blog is, is not, perhaps, what a blog might have originally been conceived to be. At one point in the video, Michael was demonstrating how to construct elaborate, lengthy, multimedia pieces to be published (or posted, I suppose) in LinkedIn. I kind of objected to that. Michael and I did made a YouTube video together about the Marmot, and he made some remarks that offended me, though I'm certain no offense was intended.
The discussion got a little sidetracked on the matter of audience, and posting your content where your audience is, which, in his case, is LinkedIn. And he made a comment about me having my own URL as an effort to "build my brand," which is what I found offensive.
The initial rise and, at the time, explosive growth of blogging in the early 2000s predated social media websites like MySpace. Blogging, not to be confused with personal web sites, was, at least in my mind, the original form of "social media." But, being a human activity, it was accompanied by the best and worst of human nature, not the least of which was the fascination with rank.
I recall that it wasn't long after Dave Winer established editthispage.com, that he offered a page that posted which of his hosted blogs had garnered the most page views. And, it's like anything else, there's an upside and a downside. The upside is, perhaps you get to find some good work that's getting noticed that has escaped your notice. The downside is, now there are people who are focused on improving their rank. Back then, Dave Weinberger was one of the internet triumphalists who insisted that networks subvert hierarchy. Not as long as they're networks of human beings, Dr. Weinberger.
In the immortal words of Buckaroo Banzai, "No matter where you go, there you are."
Not long after that, Technorati appeared. I have no idea what happened to that site or its founder, and I'm not interested in revisiting it, or re-litigating it. It was around that time the war-bloggers appeared, careers were being made by blogging, people were monetizing their blogs, and blogging was no longer strictly a social medium. It had been run over by the Cluetrain™, and there were no survivors.
There's something unpleasant about people selling themselves, or pursuing profit, in what had been just kind of a fun way to share opinions, insights, products and ideas. All manner of attention-seeking behavior became the norm. The red couch and "naked conversations," comes to mind. (Google it. Rather, don't. It's a waste of time.) It was nuts.
So, no, the Marmot isn't my "brand." I don't have a "brand," I'm not a product, goddammit. I'm just a guy with thoughts and opinions and my own little URL and some server space where I can rant into the void to no discernible effect.
I don't do this for an audience. I do it for myself. I have no idea how many people visit here. I looked at the logs once, can't make head or tail of them. Can't deny that it's a pleasure whenever I learn that someone reads what I post here, but I don't chase it.
This just scratches my particular itch, and it is what it is, another public service announcement from the Tautology Department.
Books and Text in the 21st Century
For years, I've been kind of ambivalent about e-books. I believed the dead-tree versions were a better experience. "It was good enough for Grandpaw."
I've come around to a different view now. Partly out of necessity, I'm out of space to store new books where I can find them when I want them; and partly because the influence of others has caused me to take another look at them.
The Hannah Arendt quotation in the previous post is from my paperback Harcourt edition of The Origins of Totalitarianism, which thankfully appears to be made from acid-free paper, the pages haven't turned brown in the decade or more since I bought it.
To put that somewhat lengthy quotation into a post, I didn't have to place the book in a stand with the pages held open with metal arms, squint and laboriously read a few words, then type them into a note, lather-rinse-repeat, which I have done in the past.
I pointed my iPhone camera at the text, tapped the little box for Live Text, swiped the portion I wanted and shared it to a new note in the iPhone's Notes app. The folder I selected is watched in "the cloud" by this Tinderbox file; and when the note appeared, it automatically created a note in Tinderbox. It's read-only as it comes into Tinderbox, so I moved it into my Drafts container and edited the text, correcting two typos and removing line-breaks.
That might sound like a lot of work, but it was a matter of a minute at the most. Far less time than it would have taken me to type it into the Marmot.
With an ebook, it's even easier.
I've been reading books in both the Kindle app and Apple's Books app. Right now, the best Kindle experience is on the iPad mini, or my 10.5” iPad Pro. The Mac version of Kindle seems to be dumbed down for some reason. You can't just highlight a selection and then use a share extension to send it somewhere. I also bought an Amazon Page White Kindle (2018 model). I'm not impressed. The size is just big enough to be uncomfortable to hold in one hand, it's slippery even with the rubber texture, I'm not thrilled with the display, and it's very slow and clumsy to interact with, usually turning a page when I want to do something else. The iPad is the best Kindle reader.
Apple's Books, on the other hand, seems equal on the iPad and superior to Kindle on the Mac. So I'm going to be doing most of my e-book purchasing through Apple's bookstore from now on. I've got dozens of books on both platforms, but I'll be spending a lot more time and money on them in the future, so it's probably smart to settle on one platform.
I don't know if ebook formats will become the equivalent of the browning, brittle pages in many of my inexpensive paperback books. Or if the apocalypse will render them ultimately useless when our machines stop. But, for the moment anyway, text seems more accessible, usable and useful than at any time in history.
Just in time, perhaps.
Arendt on Loneliness
Hannah Arendt, believed that the rise of Nazism was due, in part, to people's loneliness.
Loneliness, the common ground for terror, the essence of totalitarian government, and for ideology or logicality, the preparation of its executioners and victims, is closely connected with uprootedness and superfluousness which have been the curse of modern masses since the beginning of the industrial revolution and have become acute with the rise of imperialism at the end of the last century and the break-down of political institutions and social traditions in our own time. To be uprooted means to have no place in the world, recognized and guaranteed by others; to be superfluous means not to belong to the world at all.
The Origins of Totalitarianism
You Are Who You Choose to Be
I watched this commencement speech by Hannah Gadsby yesterday. Picked it up in the RSS feed from kottke.org, which is why you should use an rss feed aggregator and curate your own internet media timeline. I digress.
Commencement speeches often make the rounds on social media. They're almost a genre unto their own in public speaking. There've been memorable ones by Steve Jobs, Jim Carrey, ADM William McRaven ("Always make your bed.") and others.
For me, the best one has been David Foster Wallace's Kenyon College address, which, if you haven't read it, I urge you to read, download, save and periodically re-read. It's that good, and valuable.
Hannah Gadsby's is in that category as well. And she's funnier.
I write about narrative a fair amount here. For much of my life, I was inhabiting someone else's narrative. Most of us do. Our culture, our families, have built these narrative structures around us, specifically for us to inhabit. Sometimes they work. If you're the kind of person they're written for, (white, male, educated) they can work pretty well, barring any stumbles.
They're the water we swim in. The Matrix.
Much of Time's Shadow, and later Groundhog Day, was devoted to my own effort to understand my life and how it came to be the catastrophe I felt it was. Therapy saved my life. In Gadsby's speech, she mentions the value of questions. Nearly all of therapy is just responding to questions.
What I discovered then, was that the only power anyone has, anyone, is the power to choose. It's a very weak power. We lack the cognitive resources to make conscious choices every moment of every day. About the best we can hope to do is shape good habits, because nearly all of our behavior is habituated. But if you pay attention to what you're paying attention to (mindfulness), you'll recognize the opportunities to choose.
Gadsby talks about her partner helping her, by asking her the question, "Who do you choose to be?" This resonated strongly with me, because an epiphany I experienced in the midst of my trauma was in a theater, with my kids, watching a children's animated movie by Brad Bird called, The Iron Giant. Hogarth, a young boy, himself a person who experienced trauma, tells the giant during a crisis, who's in the midst of trauma of his own, "You are who you choose to be."
And all I knew in that moment was that I didn't want to be who I was anymore.
The power to choose is a very weak power.
Gravity is the weakest of the four fundamental forces of the universe.
It holds the entire world together.
"Who do you choose to be?"
Twelve O'Clock High
I've been thinking a great deal lately about leadership. Partly because it is so lacking in our divided country, and partly because we sorely need leadership in order to meet the challenges confronting us.
I believe that one of the most important roles of leadership is to "make meaning." For people to embrace change, to make sacrifices, to endure hardship and suffering, they must believe it means something. Narrative, storytelling, is how we make meaning. We find it in the stories of our lives and those of the people who came before us. To be a good leader, one must be a good storyteller.
I believe that to be a good storyteller, you must first be a good listener, you must know your audience; and I believe that requires empathy.
What we see in the Republican Party today isn't leadership, it's demagoguery. And nowhere is empathy in evidence. Nowhere.
In one of those odd circumstances, where perhaps my subconscious is working on a problem while I'm otherwise going about my business, the movie Twelve O'Clock High came into my mind the other day. It was a film shown to students in the Navy's leadership course for E-6's, mid-career petty officers reaching higher levels of responsibility and leadership.
It's been some years since I'd last seen it, and I didn't watch it last time looking for lessons in leadership. So the question came to mind whether Gregory Peck as Brigadier General Savage (interesting choice in names), made meaning for his pilots and whether he had empathy for them. I made a mental note to watch it again one of these days. I have it on DVD, buried somewhere in the entertainment center.
Well, I was browsing Apple's movie offerings last night, in the Action and Adventure genre (I wanted something mindless), when up popped Twelve O'Clock High. I felt a nudge by the universe, so I picked it.
The whole movie is about the tension between the demands of leadership in a time of war, and empathy; the strain it places on leaders, and the toll it eventually takes. Yes, BGEN Savage made meaning for his pilots. Most visibly in a scene with LT Bishop, Medal of Honor winning pilot who wants out of the Air Corps, who doesn't believe in the mission of daylight precision bombing, doesn't think they're making any difference. Savage isn't a sympathetic figure as the movie opens, and there's a lot I'd like to deconstruct one day. But not this morning.
If you haven't seen the movie, I commend it to your attention. The opening scene in the flashback the movie is told from, is the story of Bishop's chilling flight that earned him the MOH. It's not a glorified look at war.
Leadership of a military unit is vastly different than that of a civilian society, but the basic requirements remain the same.
Bishop kept using the word confidence in his confession to Savage. He might have used faith.
I listened to this last night, yesterday's broadcast of Terry Gross's Fresh Air, where she spoke with Robert Costa about his book with Robert Bernstein, Peril. It is difficult to believe that we are not in the midst of an ongoing effort to subvert democracy in order to install a right-wing Republican authoritarian regime.
Four Hours at the Capitol
Mitzi and I watched the HBO documentary, Four Hours at the Capitol, last night. I found it profoundly troubling.
It wasn't just the images of the assault on the Capitol, or the interviews of the cops and the lawmakers and their staff. What felt deeply disturbing to me were the statements of the "protestors." Although, of necessity, they represent only a tiny fraction of the total number of terrorists involved that day, not one appeared to exhibit any regret or remorse. I came away with the impression that they would happily do it all over again, one even said as much.
One of them, the guy who smoked weed in the Capitol, seemed like he was putting on an act, a performance piece, during the interview. He recited the QAnon conspiracy theory about 800K children kidnapped and sexually tortured each year. He seemed a little too self-possessed in his delivery. It was no less distressful in any case.
If Trump, or whichever Trump 2.0 candidate wins the nomination, is defeated in 2024, I think we can count on a repeat of the assault on the Capitol in 2025. Security will be better, so a breach of the Capitol itself is probably unlikely. But I expect there will be bloodshed.
If the Republican nominee wins, I'd expect an enormous peaceful protest from "the left." But it will be meaningless. We will have ushered in authoritarian rule, ended the American experiment in democracy, and hastened the collapse of civilization.
Something is deeply broken in America. I don't know if it can be repaired.
Back on the iMac running Monterey. So far, so good. Now to explore Instant Note, Live Text and see how I can fit them into whatever it is I seem to be doing here. I believe the term of art is my "workflow."
Sharpening the Saw
"Playing with computers," used to be kind of a hobby. I enjoyed keeping up with the latest developments in the industry, tried out a lot of apps I had little real use for, bought "gadgets and gizmos galore." Then photography came along, and that kind of supplanted my interest in computing. As a result, I haven't been really keeping up with the latest developments and each new OS revision would bring interface changes that were often more frustrating than useful.
Photography remains an abiding interest, perhaps even "a passion," but it's cooled a bit in recent months. I guess I feel like I know just enough now that I feel less compelled to explore. I still want to "take pictures," but I feel the need to return to computing and get back up to speed so I can take best advantage of all the computing capability that surrounds me.
Although there's probably little evidence of it here, I also want to work on my writing, perhaps as a way to help order and direct my thoughts. Give something for that unreliable narrator that inhabits the space in my head something to do other than trouble me.
So that's what's going on around here for the time being. I'm sitting in the recliner right now, typing on the 13” MacBook Pro M1, waiting for Monterey to install on the iMac. Looks like it might be about finished, so I'll wrap up here.
I removed the gifs from yesterday's post. They felt incongruous here, more appropriate in Twitter, but too garish for the Marmot.
You Talk Too Much
Interesting piece in The Atlantic about social media in general and Facebook in particular. Zuckerberg is taking a well-deserved beating in the press. In my opinion, Facebook is toxic at any level of exposure. People claim they just use it to keep up with family or close friends, but it doesn't matter. It feeds the beast, and anyone participating in that enterprise is diminished in some way in the process.
In many ways, it's the Cluetrain Manifesto™ taken to its logical conclusion. The energizing premise of this "declaration of dependence" written by ex-marketers was the supposed insight that "Markets are conversations." When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. When you spend a career selling shit, everything looks like a market.
Markets are commercial. Conversations are social. They intersect, but they are orthogonal to one another. The intersection should be a point, not a plane of existence. Not a social media web site. They are not congruent. When you try to make them so, Facebook is what you get. Our social interactions expanded in space, compressed in time and manipulated by "the algorithm" to drive the interactions. We're not independent actors with agency over our lives, we're the products of an ad agency monetizing our lives.
Ian Bogost, author of the Atlantic piece, suggests the worst aspects of Facebook could be remedied by making it more like Google. That should send a chill down your spine. Believe me, Google wishes it could be Facebook. Bogost's idea is that Facebook limit the number of "friends" or "followers" a single user could have. He seems to believe it would reduce the propensity for things to "go viral." People would have smaller audiences, less incentive to be provocative to attract attention and followers. I don't think Bogost understands networks, or I don't. Could be both. But unless you limit individual clusters of people to 150 people in their cluster, such that they never see posts from anyone outside their cluster (in which case, you have a dial-up BBS), it doesn't matter that all anyone can have is 150 "friends." Provocative crap is still going to propagate across the network, although possibly with less velocity.
What we have to do is eliminate social media platforms. All of them. Goodbye Facebook. So long Twitter. Adios Insta. Outa here, LinkedIn.
No tech company should be allowed to aggregate online social interactions, extract data from the graph and feed that into an algorithm to present media to participants.
People and companies can have web sites where they can exercise their free speech rights. They can host public forums for discussion, they can moderate those forums, but they can't create a product called a "timeline" or a "feed" and offer it to users for the purposes of observing interactions, extracting data and selling that data to advertisers. No "likes." No "upvoting." If you see something and want to express some reaction to it, you'll have to write a comment. Users can't have "followers," or "friends" or "subscribers" on the platform.
If you want subscribers, start an email newsletter. Or an RSS feed from a web site.
We have to find a way to draw a bold line between what is social, which is likely limited to some Dunbar figure, and what is commercial, where commercial interests are commanded to treat users with respect.
Yeah, I know. In my dreams.
(I'm sure the code I'm pasting below is riddled with trackers and such. I need to learn how to make my own GIFs. Irony is the fifth fundamental force of the universe.)
The new hotness among notetakers is "zettelkasten." I've been seeing a lot about it in the Tinderbox forum and in some of the tools for thought blogs and twitter topics I follow. I'm pretty intrigued because a lot of what I'm reading seems to make sense. I've read a lot of books, and I used to be able to recall a lot of what I read. Not so much these days. I don't know if it's another aspect of aging, or if my brain is just full. In either event, I'd like to try to improve that situation.
Does it really matter? Meh. I don't know. Probably not. But it feels like something I should do, so why not give it a shot? I'd like to think I could be like that character Anthony Hopkins played in the movie The Edge. Old guy who "knows shit." (I used to link to IMDB for movies. Not anymore. That place has turned into a dump. The only thing it's good for anymore is quotes. Thanks, Amazon.)
I'm reading a number of books on note-taking and the like. In my "things to do" topic of this file is create a "book" note prototype. Similarly, one for movies. Since those are things people like to talk about, they're likely all blogworthy, so they're appropriate for the Marmot. Creating a prototype for each may help standardize the "meta-data," which is helpful in identifying links.
I'm not convinced yet that all your notes should be linked. The folks who rely on the text file as the atomic unit of the note seem to think all notes should, to whatever degree they're related to one another; and that from the graph will emerge some deeper insight.
I can see some merit in the idea, but I think at least my thoughts run in different spheres. I'm not sure what insight may be divined by examining the links between the practical wisdom of home improvement methods and the everyday experience of existential dread. For now, I'm content to have a number of different Tinderbox files as I think all of our thoughts or experiences are, to one degree or another, compartmentalized. That may change as I get more acquainted with it.
Anyway, just trying to keep up with the cool kids. Plus, it gave me an excuse to create a new TypeIt4Me text expansion! "/ztk"=>zettelkasten!
Other Tinderbox Mysteries
I had a few notes in this Tinderbox file that exported with all the paragraph text as H3 (Heading 3)-styled HTML, and I couldn't figure out why and it was one of those things that just makes you crazy.
Among the wonderful experiences of getting old, for some anyway, is diminished visual acuity. I generally seem to prefer a larger font size when I'm writing, so I can see what I'm doing.
So this morning, because my eyes are particularly bad right after I wake up, I bumped up the font size on the Stumble note. You can preview your export in Tinderbox, which helps you detect any errors before you export the file, saving some time. When I did, everything was in H3! Gah! Why?!
I ended up arrowing up and down between Stumble and Titles, the preceding note, looking at the Export Inspector to see what was different. Nothing was different in the Inspector. But I did notice the text size was markedly different, with Stumble being really large.
Select all, Format-Font-Smaller x 2, Preview, all is well.
Now to go fix some other pages.
Apparently there's a whole history as to why text is rich text rather than plain text in the editor. Tinderbox now supports Markdown, but I haven't tried using it. I can barely walk and chew gum with this thing. It seems the rendering engine takes into account the size of the text at a certain threshold. Makes sense, now that I think of it.
Really Stupid MacOS Keyboard Shortcut Tricks
Trying to work on two machines poses a bit of a challenge. Ideally, each should be configured identically, and one might hope that iCloud would facilitate that, but no.
I was working on the 13” MacBook Pro M1 yesterday and went to use my fancy new CMD-Option-X keyboard shortcut to export from Tinderbox, and it opened a note in its own window! Now, I'd seen that happen before in a video, but never knew how to do it. Well, now I knew.
Here's a list of all the keyboard shortcuts built into Tinderbox, but it's not very helpful in terms of finding out which keys are available for a custom shortcut. I have a utility I installed on the MBP that reveals all the keyboard shortcuts if you hold down the Command key. And, being the clever fellow that I like to flatter myself I am, I used that little utility to see what keys might be available to create a keyboard shortcut for "Export as HTML." I didn't see that particular combination.
Since I didn't want to deprive Text Window of its own keyboard combination, especially now that I know what it is, I deleted the custom one from Settings and created a new one, CTRL-X! Hah! Victory is mine!
Can't sleep? Get up and write something.
Had a minor setback yesterday.
I had been posting pics in the Marmot for some time. There's a facility for doing this built into Tinderbox, but if you include large images, the file size tends to get unwieldy. So I was keeping the images separately in a folder on the server, and just linking to them from the Tinderbox file.
Previously, all the archives existed as just a series of named html files at the top level of the file system. When I copied updated files to the server, I was looking at seven "October" files, each differing by just the year. Same with most months. Let's just say it did not "spark joy."
So I wanted to clean everything up, put each year's posts in a folder for that year. Which meant I had to go through and update all the URLs for the images, and split the Images folder into a version for each year.
I did one year just to make sure I understood what I had to do. It seemed clear enough, so I went and split up all the images into their respective years, 2013/Images, 2014/Images and so on. Then I proceeded to edit all the revised URLs in the archived months. When I finished that, I exported the revised files to my local disk.
So, on the server, I had a folder for each year with its respective archived months and an Images folder for that year, all contained in a folder called Archives. On my local disk, I had a folder called Archives that contained a series of folders for each year, with their respective updated archives, but no Images folders, because they only existed on the server.
When I went to copy the new Archives with the edited URLs onto the server, I figured I'd make things "easy" and just delete the old Archives folder on the server, forgetting that it had separate Images folders for each year, which didn't exist in the new one. Select Archives, hit CMD-Delete, Forklift asks if I'm sure, because you know, this is irreversible? I think I know what I'm doing, so I hit OK without thinking.
I start browsing the archives in Safari and none of the images are loading, after editing all those URLs? Then the little 💡goes on, and depression sets in.
Those files weren't backed up anywhere. Derp. Somehow, 2013 and part of 2014 still existed in a Time Machine backup, I don't know why. I may have been doing this all on the local disk back then. I went through a bunch of old hard drives I keep on hand and nothing.
I might be able to figure out what the images were from the date/time and descriptions, and locate them in my Photos library, so that's a project for another day.
As these things go, there are worse ones. Still, disappointing.
We'll press on. The transient nature of all phenomena, and all that.
Dr. James Vornov mentions he hasn't seen Dune yet, deciding whether to see it in the theater or at home. I'd be more comfortable seeing it in the theater if I'd read about all the ventilation upgrades employing HEPA filters local theaters have made, but I haven't read anything like that.
About anyplace, for that matter.
Since I have a 60" OLED LG, and two old HomePods for a sound system, I've been quite content to remain home watching new-release films.
James also mentions a piece in Scientific American about the movie's eugenics themes, which is interesting. What troubles me about the movie, and a lot of popular movies and tv series is the political setting of empire and feudalism. From Downton Abbey to Game of Thrones, to The Crown, to Star Wars, Americans have an enormous appetite for royalty, at least in their popular culture. Even in shows like Succession, where corporations are treated like empires. Only The Expanse seems to think there's any place for democracy in the future.
To the extent that our stories promote and transmit our values, I'd say democracy is in decline.
Found an old compact camera case that has a belt loop. I'm going to try putting that on my belt, rather than use the shoulder strap, and bring an Olympus PEN, likely the E-PL8 with the 12mm/f2.0 prime mounted, along with me on the morning walk. I've been using the phone occasionally, and it does better than I'd expect, but the results are often quite painterly. Maybe I can do this instead.
I'm restructuring the Marmot to clean up the file system on the server, links to posts will be broken. I'll figure out how to post a 404 page with directions to find the relevant post, if anyone is inclined to do so. It's getting a bit cluttered and I'd like to straighten the place up.
Stupid MacOS Keyboard Shortcut Tricks
Let's see if this works, I just set up a keyboard shortcut for Tinderbox in the Keyboard Shortcuts system preference.
Update: Yep, it worked.
Now, rather than mousing up to the File menu, down to Export and over to as HTML, I just type Option-CMD-x. Less mousing, more exporting.
Meaning in the Machine
Back before the internet "flattened" everything, authority was determined by "gatekeepers." For our purposes this morning, we'll consider "authority" as having to do with "information," specifically "narrative." "The authoritative source."
Conservatives damned "the liberal media." Politicians tried to "control the narrative." Each shaped the narrative, the story we told ourselves about what was going on. And that story was constrained. Constrained by the resources of "the media," by whatever regard for "the truth" each participant held, to some extent by the time and resources of the customer.
For decades, people determined the hierarchy of authority, whatever the consensus view of "the truth" was; and I'm using scare quotes here to acknowledge that the truth is something that is likely never completely known. But we had a working knowledge of it, some basis of shared reality, however flawed or incomplete it might have been.
Then along comes the internet. Suddenly, information is ubiquitous. You can't escape it, it's in your face every day; and if it had its way, it'd be in your face every minute of every day. Reaching a wide audience becomes trivially easy. Everyone's an author, everyone's a journalist. There are no constraints, not for the truth, not for what stories get told.
There are no gatekeepers!
"Networks subvert hierarchy."
That was the claim by the triumphalists. But do they? Or do they just alter them?
Today, "news and information" are presented to us by machines. Algorithms determine what will be presented before us in our "social media" timeline. Algorithms that are tuned to serve the needs of the platform, not necessarily the person.
The only constraints facing the entities presenting "the news" are the time and attention of the consumer. And the algorithms are tuned to command that attention, regardless of the content of the information. And with an unconstrained source of "information," (Which deserves scare quotes.) the algorithm tells the story of our time. Establishes a tailored version of "reality" for each consumer, designed to keep them aroused and engaged.
And here we are. We want to know what is true. The machine asks, "What do you want to be true?"
Walked solo this morning, fastest pace I've recorded 16'55", fastest avg bike speed too, 13.8mph, avg HR 151bpm, max 169. Felt it too. Not bad for an old fat man, sitting bolt upright on a 3-speed.
Watched Dune last night and thought it was very good. It's hewing pretty close to the book, I think; though there were a couple of significant departures that I noticed. Probably many I didn't. It's been decades since I read the book. Kind of surprised nobody took it up as a series drama on one of the streaming services. It's every bit as strong as Game of Thrones.
We were supposed to be taking a cruise on the Ocklawaha River this morning, but the captain notified us that she'd had an engine failure and she had to cancel. Would have been a perfect day. But I did get a great walk in; and I wouldn't have been able to ride the bike at all, we'd have been on the road to the boat ramp, a couple of hours from here. And I'll be able to sit in on the Tinderbox meetup, so that's cool.
Music of the Spheres
The song of ourselves.
I've been sitting in on a number of Tinderbox meet-ups over the past several Saturdays. I'm learning more about the app, and it's an interesting and eclectic group of people. I'm going to miss this Saturday's because I plan to be floating down the Ocklawaha River about that time.
This Saturday's topic is Tinderbox and Narrative. I love narrative. I learned many years ago that we each inhabit a narrative in our minds; and we are to a greater or lesser extent the authors of those narratives. The degree to which it may be the former or the latter determines the nature of our experience.
In the early, triumphalist days of the blogosphere, a popular internet thinker named Dave Weinberger made the claim that we were "writing ourselves into existence," as he spoke about weblogs. I can't find the original construction, but Euan Semple from 10 years ago will back me up. I never welcomed the claim, having just gone through a transformational experience through divorce, therapy and a career change. What I learned in that process was that existence precedes narrative. We don't need to "write ourselves into existence," we already exist. Existence has a priority claim, indeed existence is the priority claim.
If you do a search on the phrase "writing ourselves into existence," you'll find that it's a popular notion.
What we're doing with our narratives is locating meaning, the meaning of our existence. And that is a perilous act, especially if you forget the priority claim of existence.
This could be a much longer post, but nobody reads long posts anymore. So I'll try to wrap this up.
All narrative is artifice, essentially a "work of fiction"; perhaps, "based on a true story." But it's how we explain ourselves to ourselves, "That's my story and I'm sticking to it!" Ask yourself if you need to explain yourself to yourself or anyone? Does a rabbit? An eagle? A whale? SARS-COVID-19?
Existence precedes narrative. If you want to experience existence, do what my therapist always implored me, "David, just be still." That's where meditation takes you, if you practice, if you let it. Stories lose some of their grip then. You don't have to inhabit a tragedy, or a comedy, or a horror story.
But narrative is where we locate (make) meaning. It is how we know the meaning of our lives. And this is contingent, that is, it depends on many things, most of which are not under our control. But some are, and how we interact with those things, the choices we make, that shapes the meaning of our lives. One of those things are "values." I've recently thought that I need to read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance again.
Okay, this is venturing into the tl;dr zone, so I'll leave you here. As always, "there's more to the story."
Apologies for the abuse of scare quotes and commas.
Spent much of the day yesterday playing around with Photos and CSS. Still not satisfied I've got the best way to incorporate image posting in a Tinderbox blog. I see opportunities for machine assistance, but they're beyond my ability at the moment. I've been spending time working on that as well.
For better or worse, I'm biased toward appearance. Sight, poor though it may be, commands my attention. Probably why I enjoy photography so much.
I'll digress a moment here and comment that getting old sucks. I used to carry an Oly E-30 with a 50-200mm lens around while walking Bodhi and hardly noticed it, except for the lens creep of the 50-200. When the E-M5 came along with the 14-150, it was like I was carrying nothing at all. Of course, those walks were at Bodhi's pace, which involved a lot of stopping and chewing sticks, and were seldom more than three quarters of a mile. Nowadays, I pay a price for carrying a camera, either hanging from my wrist or on a sling. Walking without a camera takes me about 45 minutes to go the 2.5 mile route. Not a blistering pace by any means. But if I carry a camera it naturally slows because I'll stop to shoot something. But by the end of the walk, I've got a knot between my shoulder blades that is pretty uncomfortable.
I'm hoping that as my fitness improves, that may diminish. On the other hand, I could just be getting old.
The point is that I do seem to care about how something looks. It was the screenshots of Obsidian and Roam that got my attention. I'm not much for the clean, "flat" appearance of something like Craft. Tinderbox is downright funky, though you can play with its chrome endlessly, and it feels like I do. For now, I'm using Frenchi with Trebuchet, which feels welcoming if not super-futuristic. You can see a screen shot here.
Likewise with the Marmot. It's better now. I'm considering some other changes, particularly with the content presentation. I may look at something more granular than a single monthly file of posts, perhaps a calendar interface. And something completely different from the Underground.
Houses reflected in a lake during the blue hour
Don't mind me. Trying to figure something out.
Slightly Different Test
We looked after our neighbor's dog weekend before last. iPhone 11 Portrait Mode shot, light was good.
Okay, that's going to require a little work. Smaller export size, more compression to start. Tomorrow.
Let's see if this works.
Fresh Coat of Paint
I'm not like Spiderman, I'm not a web-slinger. But I have made some progress.
I've discovered how BBEdit can edit my CSS stylesheet right on the server, so I can make changes, CMD-S, CMD-Tab (switch to Safari), Option-CMD-E (clear cache), CMD-R (reload the page), and voila!
So I spent some time this afternoon redecorating. I think I like this better.
More to do. Photos coming next. Need to make that fast and simple to do, and hopefully attractive.
Time to go for a walk...
James and I are having a conversation about biking and blogging. I enjoyed my last two rides, temps down in the high 50s, low 60s, humidity reasonable. Average speed is higher, good workouts.
He mentions Dave Winer's comment on biking, and I agree. People are great. Drivers are often assholes. The same was the case when I was a runner. Especially drivers approaching intersections, intent on turning right. All their attention is focused to their left and they seldom notice a runner or cyclist to their right. "Why would a cyclist be to their right?" you ask. Because we have multi-purpose paths!
I guess the confusion lies in the conception of the multi-purpose paths. They're painted with "Golf cart only" signs, but nobody heeds those. Pedestrians use them, people walking dogs, people on tricycles, bicycles, those stand-up elliptical things that are like cross-country skiing. There are bike lanes in the road, but two things keep me out of those. One is drivers, because a moment's inattention will get you killed and I've seen far too many drivers drifting into bike lanes. Fortunately, no cyclists were present. And two, because the cyclists who do use the bike lanes are moving fast. I don't wish to be an obstruction that forces them into the traffic lane.
I think they should lower the speed limit from 45mph to 35mph on the main thoroughfare through here, Crosswater Parkway. Few people observe it, so lowering it 10mph might get traffic closer to 45mph. And they should simply ban right turn on red because of the multi-purpose paths. Probably will never happen, unless or until someone is killed. And then they'll probably just try to kick cyclists and pedestrians off the multi-purpose paths. The car is king! Long live the king!
James goes on to give some guidelines for casual blogging. He calls them "rules" in the post, but I'd soften that a bit.
"Rule 1: Streamline your workflow. Then refine it some more. Repeat until there is no friction and a thought is a post"
Agree. If you're creating your own workflow, as I am, that should be the goal. And I'm working toward that, though progress isn't visible yet. Part of the effort in streamlining and refining is bound up in mastering Tinderbox, and leveraging the other resources of the OS, various utilities and the experience of others. For brief posts, there really isn't much friction, but it can be improved.
If you don't want to "roll your own," you might look into something like Drummer or Micro.blog, and here's a post with a video that ties the two together.
Twitter is an example of a "low friction" work flow, especially with sharing extensions in so many apps. But then your content is in their container. Long term, not good.
Rule 2: Capture that thought like you’re bullet journaling. Don’t wait until you’ve written the well researched, fully argued discussion. This is a blog not an Atlantic article or your Bloomberg column. Those are written, edited and re-edited to drive clicks and ad revenue
Yes and no. Yes to capturing thoughts. This is something I've grown to appreciate more now than perhaps at any time in my life. Sure, note-taking is important as a memory aid; and we should all do that and get good at doing it. I've never been good at it. I've gone back to my notes of meetings weeks or months later and can't figure out what I was writing about.
But capturing thoughts is important. Most of what goes on in our heads isn't "thought." Thoughts are exceptional, and many of them deserve to be captured, written down, examined. We have perhaps the best opportunity to do that today with our ubiquitous phones. Even if you just use paper and pencil or pen, you can now use your phone to capture an image of that paper note, and your phone will convert it to text you can edit, search, link, whatever.
So yes, I agree and I'm casting about now, trying to figure out the best way to do that. Many of my thoughts occur in the wee hours of the morning, as I lie in bed unable to sleep. I'm trying to figure out the best way to capture those without disturbing my wife and perhaps preserving some chance of going back to sleep.
But not every thought needs to be shared. And some thoughts you want to share need context, a framework, an argument. Those take time to construct.
And writing is an aid to thought. The process of building that framework tests those thoughts or ideas. Exposes aspects of them you hadn't thought of before; inspires new thoughts, if you're lucky, insights. And those should be shared. Not because they're necessarily "right." Chances are they're incomplete, or even wrong, and by sharing them others might help you discover those defects. Or your thoughts might inspire new thoughts and insights by others that build on yours. That's pretty much the history of civilization, no?
So, yes, blogs aren't academic journals, they aren't columns intended to entertain or inform readers for the purposes of attracting attention and ad revenue. They are, in that sense, "casual."
And certainly not every thought needs to be "deep." Sometimes they're not really thoughts at all, they're experiences. The classic, "I ate a cheese sandwich today." There's nothing wrong with sharing experiences, and certainly they don't require a great deal of textual scaffolding, and can be easily written and shared for whatever purpose they serve. And they do serve a purpose, because our experience is shared; and the more we celebrate that, elevate it in story or anecdote, perhaps the more common ground we can discover, reduce the distance between self and other.
So, that was a lot of stuff about one rule. And yes, I violate Rule 2 if I have a thought that is exciting me, but it deserves to be presented in its best light. Enthusiasm, energy, motivation waxes and wanes, which calls for discipline or habit. I'm not there yet, but I've been close and I'm working my way toward achieving that again.
Rule 3: Write for yourself. The audience may or may not show up. It’s for you, not for them. Forget search engines and SEO. There’s no magic algorithm that’s going to gain you readers. Only community and participation in the conversation.
Yes. I agree with all of this. Ultimately, if nothing else, the effort is its own reward. Hopefully it helps me refine my own thinking, illuminates my own experience of myself. And it has done that, many times. And that effort has been aided by participation in a larger community of people sharing their thoughts and insights, experiences and feelings in blogs. Far more so, I think, than I ever experienced in Facebook, where everything seems distorted, as people seek "friends" and "followers" and seek to become "influencers" all the while serving the corporate aims of Facebook and its advertisers.
So, here we are. Could I have done this in "bullet-journal" form? Perhaps. Not my idiom though. Not for stuff like this, which seems to call for more. Not to be verbose for verbosity's sake. I'm not so good a writer that I entertain with my word choice and sentence construction. But a sentence is a complete thought, right?
And a bullet can end thinking.
Moving Write Along
See what I did there? I crack myself up.
So, a couple of ideas for long-ish posts. Probably going to take a few days to pull together. The risk is that they ultimately never come together. Distractions. Loss of enthusiasm. A lot of writing is motivated by feeling and the wonderful thing about feelings is that they pass.
But sometimes they come back. Which is why it's important to keep a drafts folder where you hold unpublished stuff.
I wanted to put something up today, but I knew I couldn't write the post that's whirling around in my brain in the time I have between now and the morning walk/bike ride, and when I get back I have some other writing I need to do to, hopefully, finish another project. So, we'll see. Hate to be a tease, but here we are.
You may notice, if you're not reading this in an RSS reader (and, why aren't you?), I made a few changes here. Don't know if they're all "better," but as Phil Connors once observed, "Anything different is good."
I wanted to screw around with CSS and some HTML, partly to get ready to get Notes From the Underground built, partly to freshen the place up a bit. I got rid of the weather widget. I liked that it reported my "hyper-local" weather conditions, but the data isn't ideal because I still haven't got the sensor away from the house. I may look into some kind of macro that just captures temperature/pressure/humidity at the time of a post, and automatically include it somehow. Should be doable. It's 57°F right now, which is pretty cool.
I crack myself up.
Anyway, the widget still exists on previously published pages. May or may not go through and re-publish them. It's not a huge effort, I'd just have to update those notes with the new export template (I worked on a copy, because things break when I work on an original, and then it's hard to get everything working again.), and that's pretty easy using what's called a "stamp" in Tinderbox. At least, I think it's pretty easy. I've never actually done it, so this will be another opportunity to master Tinderbox.
One key tip to doing anything like this is attention to detail. Computers remain pretty damn literal, "natural language" and "machine learning" aside. One thing that kept frustrating me yesterday was the new CSS file wasn't being recognized by the page. Took me quite some time to realize I'd capitalized "Style2.css," when I created the new file, while merely inserting a "2" in the "style.css" in the page sources. Page couldn't find "style2.css" because, well, there wasn't one.
I suppose with practice and experience I'll make fewer of those kinds of errors and become better at spotting them. It's frustrating to spend twenty to thirty minutes trying to figure out why something isn't working, only to discover it's something as seemingly trivial as a difference in case.
There will likely be some additional changes to the appearance around here, as I figure out if I like this color scheme. The background is supposed to be some shade of gray, but it looks green to me. I kind of like the way it looks, but I'm not certain. And the mustard color is really "gold," I think they go together, but what do I know? They could be making some designers' eyes bleed. As if designers ever read the Marmot. But, you never know.
I'll let you know if I get fan mail.
All righty then, that'll do it for this morning's missive. Time to put on my shoes and go for a walk. I weigh myself once a week, on Sunday, and I'm down another 1.5 lbs, and it's that kind of feedback that keeps me motivated.
Maybe I should tie my page colors to the seasons? (That just popped into my head.) Okay, outa here. Thanks for dropping by!
One of the "nice" features about blogging is that it's less immediate than something like Twitter or even Facebook. You're seeing posts at your own pace, and unless the blog you're visiting offers a comments feature, the best way to respond to the post is with a post of your own at your blog.
That doesn't guarantee civility, or preclude the bad hot take. If it's a post that arouses particular umbrage, I suppose you could post a link on Facebook or Twitter and hope to receive instant validation and gratification. But, in the main, the additional "friction" of switching platforms, promotes greater reflection or deliberation.
Fortunately, that's not the reason for this post. I've got a few minutes before I go out for my morning walk, and I checked my RSS feeds and saw a post I missed the other day at On Deciding... Better 3.0.
James read my reaction to his mention of Apple Fitness, and that I ride my bike 6 miles every day, which prompted him to mention a product that might be useful to me, and commented on the importance of exercise as a means of managing the effects of aging.
There are several things going on for me as I read his post. The first is, of course, the pleasure (or dopamine response) of being noticed. This is perhaps the biggest "feature" of social media, and it's no less present in blogs. It's usually nice to be read, heard, seen. The second is an additional reward for experiencing some validation of one's views. The third reward is a new piece of information about a product that might be helpful.
It was a brief post, but I enjoyed it a great deal, because it did all those things I just mentioned, and it also recalled for me the very pleasant memories of the early days of blogging, before the Iraq War came along and divided many of us.
All of which is just a meta-take, a post that sometimes occurs, but declines as habit sets in, and novelty recedes. Dear Reader's relief is noted.
As for bike riding, it's been a blessing and something of a challenge. The morning ride is good because it gets my heart rate up much more than walking. The experience of movement or speed is more exciting than walking. In 30 minutes, I expend almost the same amount of calories as a 45 minute walk (biking is very efficient). I could probably expend more if I rode faster, but I'm sitting bolt upright on a 3-speed with old-style, swept handlebars. But the point is, I enjoy it as exercise.
The challenge is, as with many things, "other people." I used to ride on the "multi-purpose" path inside our gated community. I figured it was safer than being on the street. There are a lot of pedestrians, dog-walkers, other bicyclists, the occasional golf cart; but if you're not going hell bent for leather, it's not usually a problem.
But on one morning, I had a gent take exception to my overtaking him, complaining that I should have rang a bell or something. I did ring a bell. This was on my old bike, and I had a small bell with a little clapper that gave a single, discreet ding when you used it. I bought it specifically because I felt the larger, ring-ring! bell was startling and annoying. Well, we had a vigorous exchange of opposing points of view and I went on my way, my view of humanity diminished slightly yet again.
When I got my new bike, I bought a big obnoxious bell that goes RING-RING! and figured that would be that.
Until one morning a couple weeks later when an elderly woman chastised me that a single activation would have been sufficient. I was overtaking her and rang the bell and didn't receive any sort of acknowledgment. I didn't know if she had ear buds in or not. I slowed, moved way over and rang it again, still far behind her. This time she raised both her arms. As a I passed her, she complained that one ring was all that was necessary. I said I couldn't tell if she'd heard me. She said she had a heart condition, though it wasn't clear to me what that had to do with her hearing. She also said she was 93 years old.
Well, that put me on the street. I never ride on the multi-purpose path, except to get out the back gate, and to get onto the property at the front gate. I thought that would mean I would only have to deal with cars overtaking me, but no. Despite the fact that this property is generously equipped with a conventional sidewalk, and a multi-purpose path (much wider sidewalk) on the other side of the road, I still encounter people running and walking in the street as I'm riding my bike. I ring the bell mercilessly at them.
Outside the property, there's a multi-purpose path and the main road also has a bike lane. As a cyclist, you can take your chances with a relative speed differential of 30 mph, or often more, in the bike lane; or 10 mph (and it shouldn't be that much) on the multi-purpose path. Golf carts on the MPP are supposed to observe a 15mph speed limit. Most have been modified to do almost 20, maybe more and none has a speedometer. I bike at an average speed of about 12.5mph and golf carts blow by me as if i was standing still. I've learned to hug the right side of the path. Sometimes I can hear them coming if there isn't too much wind in my ears. When I use our golf cart, I slow down and move over when I pass a cyclist. Not these young people with their kids in their carts, sometimes allowing their kids to drive their carts. There's seldom more than inches between us as they pass. I can feel the hot breath of their dogs as they hang their heads over the side.
I've learned to live with it.
One day, I was riding outside the property and saw a woman walking with two large poodles ahead of me. I rang the bell far in advance because I specifically didn't want to startle her and risk the dogs bolting or getting tangled in the leads. Imagine my horror as I watched her slowly kind of turn back to see where I was, become tangled in the dogs' leads and then fall down. When I came up on her, she was still on the ground. I was apologizing profusely but she was very kind and said I'd done everything right, she'd just gotten fouled up in the leads. Both her knees were badly skinned and bleeding and I felt awful.
So, yeah, biking has its challenges. But I still like to do it, so I do. I occasionally ride to the local grocery store to pick up the odd item. The multi-purpose path in the older part of the larger neighborhood, Nocatee, is made from concrete and all the segments are buckling, so it's a very slow, bumpy ride. The multi-purpose path was built as more of a sales feature than a true transportation element. It's a second class citizen in that regard, which is never more plain than at an intersection when several golf carts are trying to cross the road and navigate the narrow curb cuts for the path. And it's not particularly friendly for bicycles either. The car is king in Nocatee.
But I'll still ride. And I'm going to check out the device James mentioned.
Closing Session COJ Resiliency
Last session of the day, a panel discussion about resiliency in Jacksonville.
Peril of Flood legislation in 2015. In 2017 City Council made changes to the comprehensive plan in response. Created the Adaptation Action Area, and the AAA Working Group. Based on 2' SLR by 2060.
Matthew and Irma took place between the creation of the AAA and the creation of the Working Group. Experience of Irma and Matthew expanded the boundaries and the threats the group looked at beyond those originally envisioned in the legislation.
Council Member Randy DeFoor describing the experience of people clearing out their homes from flood damage as she was beginning her campaign for City Council. She says sea level rise is no longer a partisan issue. (Okay. But apparently the "cause" still is. Rep Rutherford recently told a Sierra Club member that SLR is happening, but "we don't know why.")
Anne Coglianese, Jacksonville Chief Resiliency Officer discussing how Katrina influenced New Orleans. Natural and manmade disaster. Safeguards had to be established. Community pushed back on the term "resilience" because they felt it placed the emphasis on individual "resilience," when government is what failed.
John Pappas speaking about flood maps and the experience of seeing the flooding from Irma making it all very real. Talking about the city's resiliency committee. I went to a few of those meetings. Saw Sam Mousa get all exercised when retired Marine Col Jim Seaton challenged Jacksonville to do more, do better. Made some changes to building codes, development plans, to account for increased stormwater intensity and risk of flood. Runoff needs be analyzed 100' beyond the site boundaries to get a more comprehensive look at the impacts of fill on local stormwater drainage.
Adaptation Action Area boundary identifies areas most vulnerable to flooding/sea level rise in order to focus resources.
DeFoor speaking about the special committee on resiliency, 14 month effort by City Council. Says it was one of the greatest experiences she's ever had, "literally changed the way I looked at the world." Presentations by subject matter experts before the committee created a roadmap. Codified Chief Resiliency Officer in legislation. Prioritized natural shorelines over hardened shorelines. Emphasis on tree planting as a heat mitigation effort. National experts were brought in from all over the country to discuss how other regions were dealing with similar issues.
Coglianese is speaking about the work done by the three committee efforts giving her a head start on integrating it into a comprehensive holistic framework to guide the next 15-20 years of development in Jacksonville. Urban heat and flooding initially, every project in the capital improvement plan must consider resiliency in conception and planning. Ensure any new development coming online is resilient from the start. Community input, community outreach and conversations.
Pappas talking about the capital improvement plan, $469M infrastructure funding. One of the first things they have to do is make sure their designs and calculations are made on the most appropriate information, (predictions). Not just to address the issue for today, but for the future. Praising Coglianese, happy to have her onboard, brings expertise they don't have. (She's buried in the org chart. Nobody's rice bowl is threatened.) Utilizing new design standards, implementing them.
Coglianese talking about new funding opportunities from the state making a partnership between the city and the state, and federal government. Apply for funds for a vulnerability assessment. Applied for "shovel ready" federal money the state controls. A lot of competition across the state. Emphasizes they will go after federal dollars.
DeFoor talking about the role of the Northeast Florida Regional Council in shaping the work of the resiliency committee, bringing the experts to the committee, helping to draft the report of the committee. (Regional councils are a great idea from before Republicans took control of state government and began systematically removing their responsibilities and funding. They remain a great resource, albeit diminished.) DeFoor says we've got to do a better job of getting federal funding, and leveraging the fact that the Army Corps of Engineers Florida headquarters is right here in Florida. DeFoor talking about Pappas' many responsibilities and the assistance Coglianese brings.
Last question about what objectives about resilience Jacksonville needs to embrace immediately, DeFoor mentions changing the view of resiliency, it's not just about flooding or climate (True). Missed Pappas' response. Planning department rep (I didn't get her name, it's probably on the program which is not in front of me.) talked about zoning codes and regulations being revised to meet the future environment. Coglianese similar comments, but adding emphasizing equity and justice.
Okay, opening up to the audience. May not have done strict journalistic justice to each of those speakers. Generally, they said the right things. We're way behind the eight-ball, but there wasn't any hemming and hawing and deflection.
Couldn't understand the question. Apparently deals with transportation. Coglianese says she's in favor of active transportation (walking/biking), praises the Emerald Trail, making public transportation a viable option, paying attention to the equity component. Speaks favorably about biking, says entire Jacksonville can't be Amsterdam (it's the largest city by area in the country). DeFoor talking about walkability. Pappas talking about making it safer. "Jacksonville has challenges," is an understatement.
Question to DeFoor about Coglianese and her staffing and funding. DeFoor is making favorable comments. Pappas mentions $10M/yr for 5 years resiliency commitment. (Future dollars, I guess.) Coglianese is downplaying staff, using the funding for projects, matching funds. Dismisses the necessity of a separate department. (But who gets all those key players in the same room and on the same page? Not someone buried four levels down in the org chart.) Basically good answers for a new hire, not stepping on toes, getting cross-threaded with council or staff.
Question about whether the committee's plans will wind up on a shelf somewhere, as Jacksonville so often does. Coglianese is saying the report has been very helpful to her, putting us in a good place to move forward with a comprehensive resilience strategy. Talks about engaging with community on developing the strategy and then implementing it.
Question about promoting composting. A loong question about composting. A question about composting that is still going on. And on. And on. And on. And on...
Pappas fields composting, supports it 100% because he's in charge of solid waste disposal, but has nothing on reaching out and how that can occur. Coglianese says it's not something she's that up on, she'd like to learn more.
Okay, another Q in the queue, but my ride is coming. Action Dave signing off...
What is Jacksonville's Climate Future?
This sounds like it'll be more interesting. It's supposed to be about farming. Being presented by Adam Rosenblatt of UNF. He's also president of the local Citizens' Climate Lobby, advocating for a price on carbon.
Just waiting for time to start.
Updates from Adam:
CO2 concentrations continue to increase.
7 hottest years on record have been the last 7.
Showing a graphic representation of the sophistication of climate modeling.
5 carbon emission scenarios.
Improvements in regional predictions, down to county scale.
Sea Level Rise Duval County, anticipate 15" of rise by 2050. Army Corps of Engineers. Intracoastal waterway areas expected to flood an average of once per year.
Duval County $870M threatened by flooding by 2045, $7.2B by 2100.
Sea walls to protect the city $3.5B
120 days/yr temps above 95°F 46 days/yr 105°F heat index mid-century, historically 3days/yr
2 days/yr temps above 127°F ("off the charts") mid-century
Strength and rainfall amounts of hurricanes will increase.
Just one possible future, depending on the choices we make...
Johnny Appleseed Organic president presenting now...
Climate farming... blended centropic (stratified plantings multiple species)/regenerative agriculture (minimize soil disturbance - "no-till" farming)/permaculture (ethical management of water, and many other things). Integration of animals into the operation. Pigs/chickens for light soil disturbance. Chickens help improve soil fertility.
Continuous soil improvement, composting, no-till, grow species exclusively to improve the quality of the soil. There is a worldwide soil fertilty crisis.
What's the impact of climate farming? We don't know. We're a Jacksonville startup that's just a year old.
The only soil amendment company that wants you to use less of our product.
Basics of Impaired Water Bodies
Lunch was nice. Impossible to really live-blog. This is the first of two sessions this afternoon. There are other sessions in the symposium, but I picked this one.
There are a lot of impaired water bodies in Florida.
Discussion of the data collection and public process. TMDL stands for "total maximum daily loads," which attempts to quantify how much of a particular nutrient can make its way into a waterway each day without "impairing" it. Began in 2000. Back when, you know, Republicans didn't control every aspect of government. A BMAP is a "basin management action plan," which is intended to bring the basin into compliance with the TMDL. Made a change to a biennial review of every basin.
A WBID is a number associated with a GIS polygon - waterbody identification number. Not every waterbody has a WBID. Not every waterbody is monitored. Different waterbodies have different standards. WBIDs can change as conditions on the ground change.
Okay, this is rather esoteric and in the weeds. Hard to make it interesting unless you're really into surface water quality. If something sounds interesting I'll try and record it.
Lots of bugs means a waterbody is healthy.
Designated uses (standards stricter/higher descending):
Primary Contact and Recreation
Fish and Shellfish Consumption
Okay, this was a mistake. I'll sign off and work on keeping my eyes ope zzzzzzzzzz
Breakout session - Managing Our Marshes
Looks like I'll be able to cover this one, if my typing isn't too distracting. There are several breakout sessions I'd like to sit in on, but since I live next to a swamp, this one seems to have the greatest personal appeal.
Nobody seemed to want to sit up front, lots of folks along the wall in the back. Maybe they hope to slip in and out. But the front two rows have tables, so I'm in the front row.
Wow, room filled up! Cool. Important topic.
Kaitlyn Dietz is the speaker. Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve (GTNMERR)
Dr. Jeremy Stalker on sea level rise. Historically 3mm/yr. Now 10-20mm/yr. Accelerating. Not one smooth, continuous movement. Episodic sea level rise. Dune deposits, large movements. Barrier islands move as sea levels rise. Depend on sea level and sediment inputs. As we build dams, we withhold nutrients/material to maintain coasts. As sea level rises, these features move inland. We have to help them survive, or we'll lose them.
Wetlands systems are amazingly resilient. They can respond on a geologic timescale. SLR accelerating. Changes every year. Punctuated episodes. Wetlands can respond if we properly feed and nurture them.
Dr. Courtney Hackney - marshes can't keep up with SLR without receiving the proper organic and inorganic material/sediment. .5 ppt salinity increase starts the process degrading the organic material in the marsh soils. Tidal swamp ==> tidal marsh as saltwater degrades the soil. 1ppt increase will do it. Organics disappear below.
Dr. Nikki Dix GTMNERR, only three sites out of 29(?) are gaining elevation faster than sea level is rising. Mangroves replacing salt marsh vegetation. Edge plots lost to erosion. Looking at a number of interventions. There's a lot going on and at a fairly rapid rate.
Mangroves marching up the coast with increasing temperature/decrease in freeze days. Occasional lethal freeze will kill the mangroves that have taken over a marsh. What then happens to the marsh? Up to 17KM/yr migration north.
Dr. Tricia Kyzar, Spatial Analyst/Project Manager Wood Consulting... Changes from 1996-2016 3,000 KM^2 loss of wetland due to development. Population in coastal zone increased at a greater rate than inland. St Johns, Flagler contest greatest growth.
There's a lot of info coming at us pretty fast, and then this transitions to a forum with questions from the audience.
Threats SLR, development and changes to freshwater flow. If they can't migrate inland, they flood and die.
Q: Do mangroves provide the same services as marshes?
A: No. Tend to shade the surface more. But don't seem to degrade the soils as fast. There's a difference in the constituents of mangrove peat.
Q: Mangroves coming into the area with storms, what role do hurricanes play with mangrove introduction?
A: Mangroves don't produce seeds, they produce plants, crypt-viviferous(?) float along until they find a happy spot. Propagules. Storms will bring propagules from Mexico all the way to the barrier islands in Louisiana.
Q: Why are coastal wetlands important? How would we look if we didn't have them?
A: They provide a storm interruption system. Absorb wind and wave energy. Both mangroves and marshes. Increased damage from storms without them. Fish, shrimp, oysters all rely on marshes. Filtration from land into the estuary.
Conversion from marsh to mangrove - conclusion is they're "about the same." We're not seeing sea grass moving into mangrove areas.
Q: Top threats? Who's responsible for protecting them?
A: Sea level rise is the major threat. Boat wakes. We're all responsible for protecting them. WE are the greatest threat to wetlands. We're driving the climate change, and development.
Jax Environmental Symposium
This is kind of a test of "live-blogging" an event. Not certain it's going to be a success, but we'll see. Parenthetical comments are my own thoughts or opinions.)
Setup is the 13" M1 MBP connected to my iPhone hotspot.
Attendance is pretty good, event is sold out. Tables arranged for decent social distancing. Perhaps 50% masked.
Stopped by a Coca Cola bottler booth and picked up a reusable metal straw. Had an interesting conversation about their efforts in recycling PET plastic. They've undertaken a couple of pilot projects, and it looks fairly promising in terms of recycling PET in bottles.
A lot of references to the pandemic and the fact that this event was cancelled last year.
State of the river report coming up, from Dr. Gerald Pinto of Jacksonville University.
14th annual state of the river report. Independent assessment funded by City of Jacksonville. Purpose to inform the public.
Don't know if these slides will be available after the event.
New section about an emerging contaminant. Sjrreport.com going live this morning after the talk.
Salinity unsatisfactory and impacts increasing, trend worsening.
Fecal bacteria a problem in tributaries. Main stem is uncertain.
Mixed report. "We don't have a full picture on what's going on with algae."
River and many tributaries have freshwater and saltwater/estuarine components.
New assessment periodicity. All water bodies every two years. Replaces 20% of waterbodies in 5 year cycles. (100% every 5 years?)
Many responsible parties, coordinated by Tributaries Assessment Team.
Bacteria - human? Animal? Raw? Treated? Many dimensions. Humans, pets, livestock. Septic tanks.
Sanitary sewer overflows - increasing. 2020 2M gal, 1M gal year before. Avg spill was 10,000 gal, last year 17,000 gal.
Water quality criteria measured in kg loads, not water column concentrations. Report is using water column concentrations.
Total phosphorous is increasing.
Algae quite variable on an annual basis. Sampling doesn't capture all bloom events, every location. Different readings depending on where you sample in the water column. Need new sampling criteria. Pretty bad right now in the river, whole stem all the way to Mayport.
Salinity increasing long term. Can vary depending on rainfall. Many impacts, basically moving habitat south.
Blue crabs rely on submerged aquatic vegetation. Status of SAV is unsatisfactory and trend is uncertain.
Manatees, Wood Storks and Bald Eagles generally doing okay in the basin.
SAV sensitive to water clarity, shoreline, salinity, epiphytes. Increased water levels change light levels in the water column.
SAV still recovering from Irma.
(Text on slides (black on dark green) low contrast and unreadable from my seat.)
Caught this from a legible slide with my iPhone - copied and pasted to a note in Apple Notes, in a folder monitored by this file:
"algal blooms are on the rise, likely due to
anthropogenic influence (e.g., increased nutrient
levels, climate change [especially elevated
temperatures], alterations to physical environments,
etc.), and without ameliorative strategies will likely
continue to become more problematic as time
progresses" Dr. Dale Casamatta (UNF).
Wetlands - we're destroying wetlands in small, small pieces but we're doing so much of it we're really destroying our wetlands. Mitigation banks don't solve the problem. The lost wetlands mean their function is lost at that location, and is not ameliorated by a "banked" wetland in some other location.
Most wetlands are being destroyed by development pressure and changing the function. Losing their flood control and ecosystem functions.
Non-native species increase every year. 92 mostly freshwater, Climate change and increased shipping ballast water, most from Med/Suez passage. Aquarium trade, escaped/released pets. 1500-2000 vessel passages a year in Jax.
Manatee deaths ~960 this year, starvation Indian River Lagoon, algae super-blooms shading grasses and killing them. As the grasses die, other algae/plants fill the niche and Manatees have been eating that. It's non-nutritive and often toxic. They're starving with plant matter in their stomachs.
Updated toxic release inventory. 54 groups that make releases to the environment. Since 2010 releases have declined, as reported.
Mercury has trended downward in the sediments, but remain excessive. (Move away from coal-burning?)
PFAs are uncertain, lack data. Not monitored in Florida right now.
Q: Freshwater grasses, would removing the Rodman Dam help that situation?
A: Yes, anything that increases the freshwater flow into the river. He would support removing the dam. Free the Ocklawaha. Growing public interest in restoring the natural flow, help mitigate the effects of dredging the river to increase the depth for shipping.
Tom Frick, Director of Strategic Planning and Initiatives, St Johns River Water Management District.
"Think differently" about resilience. "Resilient thought" into what you're doing every day.
Local level focused on coastal areas.
In 2019, it was a word. People talked about it. But where does it fit in with our mission?
Core Missions: Water supply, flood protection, water quality, natural systems.
Trying to put resilience efforts into each of those core missions.
Resilient Florida (SB 1954) "good start" "flood hub" most important thing was the grant program. $500M went to resilience programs. (I'd like to see that data. How much of that is "other needs" packaged as "resilience." I'm cynical that way.)
Trying to put freshwater water back where it's supposed to be.
Land acquisition. >775,000 total acres under management. Controlled burns to reduce fire risk. ("Urban interface" fire term was coined in the wildfires in Florida in the 90s.) Have natural flood capacity along the river to safely increase the flow in the river without increasing flood risk.
(I'm stepping away from the machine for a couple minutes.)
A lot of updates on projects, stormwater management, etc. (SJRWMD does good and important work.)
Developing a regional high-resolution climate model.
Saltwater intrusion in the aquifer. Sea level rise pushes freshwater inland. (Fresh water "floats" on the top of the seawater.)
Good presentation. And we're taking a break before starting the breakout sessions. Those will be in a smaller room, I may not be able to set up and discreetly opine into the ether.
As a kind of "proof of concept" I think this worked. I think I'll learn the keyboard command for inserting a timestamp as I go along. But I don't know how often I'm going to be doing this sort of thing.
If You Can't Sleep... Blog
The wee hours of the morning are the most productive for me in terms of writing. There are no distractions. Often I wake up at 0300, can't fall back to sleep, give up and get up. Sometimes I'll read, and that will usually allow me to go back to bed and fall asleep; other times I come in here and write things that I often never post. Probably doing you a favor.
James at ODB speaks favorably of Apple Fitness. I've got the all-in-one subscription package from Apple, so I've got Fitness too. I've never used it, but his mention prompts me to take a look at it. In the decade since I stopped running, I've gained back all the weight I'd lost when I was training for marathons and half-marathons. In the past couple of months I've been committed to a routine of walking 2.5 miles in the morning, riding my bike for 6 miles, and then walking 2.5 miles in the afternoon or early evening. According to the movement tracker of my Apple Watch, this usually expends roughly 1,000 calories, and I'm down almost ten pounds. Don't need new pants yet, but it's visible on the horizon. But I do need to add some strength training/core work. I'm reluctant to use the extensive fitness facilities here because of COVID, so Apple Fitness may be something that'll motivate me.
I use a 2019 27" iMac, which usually has plenty of screen real estate, but I'm often shuffling windows around when I'm using a reference on the web and trying to get something done in another app. I've got one of the original 12.9" iPad Pros, so I tried using it as a second monitor in Side Car, and it works pretty well. The biggest issue is placement, I want to elevate it a bit. There are a number of stands available, but in a cursory search, nothing leapt out at me. I'll take another look eventually, it's more a nice-to-have at the moment.
In my effort to improve my Tinderbox proficiency, I created a TBX file to store notes about Tinderbox, things I've clipped from the web usually. I'll find a post at the Tinderbox Forum that speaks to an issue I have or am interested in, and I'll copy the relevant parts and paste them into a note. This often brings along some rtf or html cruft, chiefly in the form of some kind of background color behind the text. I was looking for a way to keep that from happening with as little effort as possible. Even "paste and match style" in Tinderbox allows that background color to come through.
One solution was to highlight the part I wanted, and use the Share extension for Notes. This places the text in Notes without the cruft. I could just set up a Watch container in Tinderbox and have it then import the Note into a Tinderbox note, but that's read-only so more manual intervention is necessary to do any further editing. I've found a pretty quick way using Text Soap. Since I'm using three apps, Safari, Text Soap and Tinderbox, it's not as convenient as just CMD-Tab back and forth, but it's not too onerous.
Well, it's almost 0600 so it'll be time to put my shoes on soon. I'm walking with my wife now, and she's all business. I used to carry a camera, and I'd stop and shoot anything that caught my eye. Consequently, my pace was never very fast. (It's walking! Who cares?) But when I walk with her, if I stop to take a shot, she's gone! That's the difference between having a job and being retired. I still have the phone, and I've been getting grab shots quickly. I suppose I could do the same with a camera, just configure it in auto, fire and hope to fix anything in post. But my Fitness app has all positive "trends" because my pace has increased so much over last year!
Blogging as a "tool for thought"
Creating a weblog probably isn't something everyone ought to do, but we're reaching the point where it's possible that nearly anyone can.
Facebook, Twitter, etc. have shown that there's definitely a willingness or desire to participate in online social interaction (or anti-social interaction). I think Facebook has also proven yet again that if you're not the customer, you're the product; and that's a toxic relationship. (You're not the "consumer," you're the "consumed" - as in all your time and attention.)
I think many people who enjoy posting and sharing on Facebook, would be better served by creating and maintaining a blog. You can achieve nearly the same level of ease of discovery through RSS and readers/aggregators, that you curate. What appears in your timeline is under your control. And there's just enough friction there, in terms of reacting or responding, to serve as kind of a dampening force. Responses can be more thoughtful, the "hot take" can take a moment to cool.
That's not to say that everything is all civility and genteel manners in "inter-blog" conversations; but you're less likely to say something "in the heat of the moment," which you may regret later. Maybe.
I think there's another feature of maintaining a blog, as a long-term project or practice, and that is as a "tool for thought." Perhaps more specifically in this case, a "tool for introspection." While a blog can be about anything, many are kind of online journals, where writers share their thoughts about their lives and experiences. Mothers, care-givers, people with chronic illness, abuse survivors, veterans, many people find a productive outlet in sharing their experience through a weblog.
You don't have to have something that is a special challenge to serve as the focal point. All of life is a challenge! Sharing your thoughts about your own journey can make them visible to you, and may be helpful or useful to others. That was my experience more than a decade ago. My life is different now, my challenges are different, but they're still the things I must think about in my life; and it's often useful to write them out, to "think out loud." I think a lot of what's good about "social media," is that sort of thing. But it gets ground up by "the algorithm" and made into "the sausage" that is your timeline that Facebook or Twitter force you to consume. (Thinking about "Metaphors mixed fresh daily," as the new tag-line.)
I read this post this morning from Dave Rupert, about using Notion as a kanban for his blogging efforts. I found it very interesting and resonant with my efforts here with the Marmot. And also with the recent Tinderbox tutorials for setting up Tinderbox as an application for blogging. I'm in the process of refactoring the Tinderbox file I use to write and publish the Marmot. (That process is called "incremental formalization" and in my case, the increment has been over years! On this file anyway. I go back 18 years on Tinderbox with Groundhog Day.)
I like Dave's thoughts about outlines, because I like outlines too. In Michael Becker's tutorials, he likes to construct his posts from separate notes in an outline. I'm doing that in the handbook I'm putting together. But for my usual blog posts, I just enter my "stream of consciousness" in the text field of a Tinderbox note, and revise and edit as I go along.
But I am seeing the value of a bit more complicated construction. I have some ideas I'm working on about bringing other content into a post from other notes, and rather than just copy and past the text, perhaps include the whole note as an element, which gives me some flexibility in terms of its html template and css. But I'm not there yet. I've forgotten most of everything I knew about html and css when I set this thing up, so I've got to figure that out first. Anyway, I digress...
Serendipity is a delightful element of blogging, something that I think is missing on a social media platform with "an algorithm." My rekindled enthusiasm stems from this renaissance in "tools for thought," my disgust with Facebook, Brent Simmons' appeal to support NetNewsWire, and, more broadly, blogging in general. Those, in turn, inspired me to dust off my RSS feeds, visit some old blogging friends, and start cranking away on content here in the Marmot.
And in the course of doing that, I happened upon this post from Dr. James Vornov, with whom I had a very long and productive cross-blog interaction over a number of years. If you care about online discourse, if you care about inventing a future we can all inhabit, I encourage you to read the post. Here's a taste:
Now I’ll admit my own guilt here. I lost the drive to create useful content here when that early blogging community dissipated. I do learn things I ought to be sharing. There’s a steady stream of traffic here, so I could contribute more. I read, take notes, come to conclusions. My notebooks are full, my blog is empty.
I think we're about due for a renaissance in blogging too. I feel much better, emotionally, writing a post like this than I do dragging the motley assembly of faithless actors that make up the "leadership" of northeast Florida on Twitter. Though I intend to do more of that in long form in Notes From the Underground, once I get that up and running. Once I figure out how all this html/css stuff works again.
But this is fun. And I'm looking forward to putting the band back together, and hopefully making it bigger and better than it was in the first "golden age of blogging." We've learned a lot since then, and we've got better tools today.
It's a rare feeling these days. Something to look forward to.
On Another Note
With a great deal of patient handholding by Mark Anderson, author of A Tinderbox Reference File, the permalinks should be behaving appropriately.
I need to go back and edit September, but that'll be easy. This is just a test post to make sure the export is working as intended now.
I got the quotation I included in Hopeless by using the Live Text feature of iOS 15. I pointed my iPhone at the page, tapped on the little Live Text icon in the righthand corner of the screen, used my finger to highlight the text I wanted and copied it to the clipboard. I then pasted it into a note in Apple Notes (because I was on my phone). I had to do that twice, because the remainder of the paragraph was on the second page.
It made two errors, mistaking a comma for a period and omitting an "s" from one word. Pretty damn cool.
I also use TextSniper on my iMac to grab text from screenshots of videos, or to OCR text in pdfs that don't have a text layer, they're all just images. There are other solutions for the pdf issue, but for a quick copy, TextSniper is great.
We live in an age of wonders.
What is hope? A dictionary definition says it is, "To desire with expectation or with belief in the possibility or prospect of obtaining; to look forward to as a thing desirable, with the expectation of obtaining it; to cherish hopes of." That pretty much sounds like what I thought hope was.
Here's a slightly different question: What is hope for?
The dictionary doesn't offer much help on that question.
I think a conventional understanding might be that hope is a means of keeping one's spirits up in a period of trial or difficulty. Suffering is the difference between the way things are and the way we'd like them to be. One answer to suffering seems to be hope. It's considered a virtue by no less an authority than the Apostle Paul, “Now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.”
So what is the relationship between faith and hope; and, a little later, charity? Faith is a bit more burdened as a word than hope, because I think most people think "faith" means "faith in God" or "in" something else. In this sense it is mostly synonymous with "belief;" but that's not the same sense that I understand the word "faith." To me, what faith means is more closely associated with "acceptance." Faith admits the present without imposing our desires on it, while hope seems to reject the present, projecting an expectation of a different future onto our awareness, our consciousness of the present.
Some kinds of hope are merely trivial expressions of desire, as in "I hope I win the Lotto this weekend." Or, "I hope it doesn't rain tomorrow." Other kinds of hope are more serious, as may be expressed when one confronts a life-threatening illness or other dangerous situations; or when someone is lost, and we hope that they may be found and returned to those who love them. Those who are lost may hope for rescue or to find their own way out of their circumstances.
Where is our attention when we hope? Is it in the present, or is it in the future? Where do we have the power to act? Only in the present. Does that mean we should never place our attention on the future and consider possible outcomes? Of course not, but hope is not the act of considering outcomes or potential courses of action. Hope is merely attending to a desire, a wish. It's intrinsically powerless. Whatever virtue or utility it may have, may lie in its utility as an enabling behavior; that is, it forestalls a surrender to despair, which is powerlessness in the present. In this sense, hope is like a crutch.
Faith, as I understand it, informs us that while we are powerless over the specific events of the future, we are part of those events. We have some power, from moment to moment, in the choices we make when confronting events, but it's not the kind of power that can wish the future into being.
What happens when hope is for nought? We have to confront the situation as it is, most often we have to accept it and act accordingly. Sometimes we engage in a little trick we play on ourselves that we call "denial."
But what seems interesting to me is that hope is actually a denial of faith. What need is there of hope, if one has faith? Now, there probably aren't many among us with that kind of faith, least of all me; but in the ideal sense, hope is the denial of faith. It is saying, in effect, that the outcome I am hoping for is the one that is the best for me, even though we're profoundly ignorant. The nature of ignorance is such that one cannot know what one doesn't know. That's not to say we can know nothing, but it seems to me that we can never know enough to be certain that what we hope for is what is best. In the face of that kind of ignorance, the only appropriate, maybe even rational, responses are faith and fear. Sometimes hope has its origin purely in desire, as in, "I hope I win the Lotto next week." Or, "I hope Santa brings me that 15" Powerbook." Other times, and perhaps most often and most appropriately in this context, hope has its origin in fear, as in, "I hope that lump on my testicle goes away." Or, "I hope those tests don't show my daughter has leukemia." (Neither of those examples are from my personal experience, so don't be concerned.)
Hope doesn't make lumps go away, nor does it make tests turn out the way we want them to. If it is fear that is making us hope, then perhaps we need to consider a different course of action. In the case of the lump, go to a doctor and find out if it's something that might go away by itself, or something more serious. Hoping can make things worse if one delays taking action in the present on the basis of an expected desired outcome. In the case of the daughter and the tests, it is the fear of suffering and loss that causes us to hope. Yet the test results are not in the present, but our daughter is. Do we place our attention, in this moment, in our hope, or on our daughter? What's the best use of our time right now?
At best, hope is a momentary distraction from fear. I think it's probably best to confront one's fear in the moment and see what's really there. The fear itself may be the misapplication of attention into a future that is unknown and largely unknowable. In the present, there is a daughter to love and the notion of faith that says we are a match for the universe. All of us have known, and all of will know suffering, but for many of those before us, it's been a way of discovering something greater about ourselves and what many would call God's grace.
I haven't known that kind of suffering, and I'm not writing this to tell people that they're wrong to hope. I'm just suggesting that there may be some value in understanding something about the nature of what hope is. I'm suggesting that while we may hope, we may also wish to work on cultivating our faith and facing our fears.
(Editor's note: Originally written, Oct 12, 2003 at 21:09.)
I subscribe to a newsletter/web site called Aeon. Once a week, I get an email with some of their stories from the previous week.
Yesterday I received one that included this story, When hope is a hindrance. It's about Hannah Arendt's views on hope.
If you're unfamiliar with Arendt, it's worth the time to become familiar with her life and her thought. If you've heard the expression, "the banality of evil," she's the one who wrote it.
Arendt's often a difficult author to read, she makes you think. Here's an example from a book in my library that I haven't read yet (though now I feel that I urgently need to) selected at random, and opened to a random page:
Values, in other words, in distinction from things or deeds or ideas, are never the products of a specific human activity, but come into being whenever any such products are drawn into the ever-changing relativity of exchange between the members of society. Nobody, as Marx rightly insisted, seen "in his isolation produces values" and nobody, he could have added, in his isolation cares about them; things or ideas or moral ideals "become values only in their social relationship."
(The Human Condition, Hannah Arendt, 1958 University of Chicago Press, pp 164-165. And yeah, I'm probably citing this wrong. Sue me.)
I was immediately drawn to the piece, as the subject line of the email read: Hannah Arendt against hope; how to stop yelling at your kids; and Giacometti’s fragile figures.
It resonated with me, because I have much the same regard for "hope." In fact, on October 12, 2003, I wrote a blog post in the old Groundhog Day, though I never posted it. It stayed in The Cooler, a container for intemperate posts, or incomplete ones. When I finally get the archives posted here, you'll be able to see it in the context of other ideas I was thinking about back then. But this was still early in the GHD blog, not long after it began, replacing Time's Shadow where I used to think out loud fairly regularly.
But for now, I'm going to copy the note, paste it after this one so it'll appear as its own blog entry. I'm going to resist the idea of editing it, though I really want to. As it is, it's a snapshot of my mind from 18 years ago. Which I think is pretty cool.
The "harmony of binding opposites" is found between faith and fear, and hope seeks to evade the issue.
I like to write. Can't say why. Perhaps because I like to read. In any event, I've been thinking about writing a lot lately. I'm going to be "thinking out loud" right now, because I'm not really sure what it is I want to say, or where this post is going. But what seems clear is that by "writing it out," it forces me to think more clearly about it. I don't have to publish it. We'll see what happens.
I have a project I'm working on. It's a handbook for an organization. It's intended to help members do something that can seem very daunting at first, has a lot of moving parts, and there's very little in the way of hand-holding, Step A, Step B and so on, guidance. When I went through the process, someone gave me a spreadsheet(!), with the steps laid out in rows. Talk about your "minimum viable product!"
If the process is daunting, writing a handbook is equally as challenging. At least it was when I was staring at a blank page in the word processor.
Since I'm trying to finally master Tinderbox, I figured I'd try and write it there. A "note" isn't as intimidating as a "handbook," and a major element of Tinderbox is its capability as an outliner. So I wrote a series of notes, just the titles, of what should be in the handbook, and put them in an outline of how I thought they should appear. That spreadsheet was the starting point, with each row as a note. (In fact, I could have imported it into Tinderbox, and had Tinderbox do all the work of creating a new note from each row. Didn't think of that until just now.)
It's a project that has kind of a deadline (soon), and that always makes me uncomfortable. I typically procrastinate until the deadline is looming then try and just grind everything out all at once. Seldom a fun experience, and always reminds me why I should never volunteer for anything. But this is a little different in the sense that the project is an exercise in using Tinderbox, which is interesting to me and causes me to return to it often. I've found that the writing isn't as intimidating, because I'm just tackling a single "note," a few paragraphs, at a time.
In the course of writing some of the text of these notes, I realized that the structure needed to be revised. So I just moved a few notes around, added a couple of sub-topics, just the titles of the notes, and carried on. The process feels less onerous, I'm just moving notes around, I'm not carving stone tablets, or even clay ones.
As an aside, I just wrote a few paragraphs, an anecdote about how I got started using outliners. I decided it didn't really fit in this piece, so I was going to just delete it. Then I had a different thought. Instead of deleting it, I cut it from this post, and pasted it into a new note in the Drafts section of this document. May never use it, but if I do, it's already written.
Which, I suppose, kind of gets me to where I wanted this piece to go. I like Twitter, because "tweets" are just snacks. They're not necessarily "junk food," but they're very low-friction, unintimidating. If you want to write something, string some words together in a way that you hope is entertaining or provocative in some fashion, it's readily to hand; and there's a built-in audience! What's not to like?
But tweets, at least as I've been doing them, are kind of ephemeral too. I suppose they all still exist there in my timeline. But that's not conveniently accessible in a format that you can actually use to any purpose. In some ways, I suppose one's twitter timeline is like the stream of consciousness during meditation, as one just observes thoughts arising, doesn't engage with them, and observes their passing away.
Unless you're threading, or in a "tweet-storm."
"Notes" are like tweets in that they're also low-friction, relatively easy to write. The "note" is perhaps the most consistent design element I read about in this current renaissance in "tools for thought." The number of notes apps on the Apple iOS and MacOS platforms is amazing. Apparently, writing a notes app is less intimidating than writing a word processor?
I just finished reading Mark Bernstein's The Tinderbox Way (3rd edition). Mark is the mind behind Tinderbox, aka "the developer." He writes at some length about the utility and value of "the note." (He doesn't use scare-quotes. I am, because I'm trying to elevate the concept from its more conventional and probably more mundane connotation.)
A note is a thought, and thoughts are fleeting. But notes don't have to be. We have so many tools to capture notes with relative ease. Writing a note is writing. But it's not writing "an essay," a "piece" or "a novel." Notes are simple, with a certain conceptual humility to their existence. "It's just a note."
Writing helps us think. It makes our thoughts concrete, reifies them, to use a fancy word that probably doesn't belong in a humble note. We can capture our thoughts in notes, see them, examine them, think about them. We can refine our thoughts.
Thinking is hard. Most of what goes on in our heads is just habituated "consciousness." I've written this so many times, it's probably habituated as well. Speaking can require thought, but most of the time, it's just habituated thought. The brain uses the most energy in the body, it has to be efficient. If there's some social lubricant exchange that has to take place as you're out walking your dog, it doesn't take any time, it just runs a macro.
But with notes, we can think deliberately, capture those thoughts in the moment and return to them sometime when it's convenient, or appropriate, or necessary. I use notes to capture a lot of other people's thoughts. Usually ideas about how to do something, or use something. I have whole folders in Apple's Notes app of camera tips and photography techniques. I haven't really used Notes to capture my own thoughts.
But I did do a lot of "thinking out loud" in Time's Shadow and Groundhog Day. A lot of it was just casual observations about popular culture, or venting my spleen about current events, and today they're almost non sequiturs absent the context. But there were a few genuine efforts to share something of my efforts to "figure shit out." I'm going to dig through there and try and collect those, see what I've forgotten, or if the answers are different somehow today.
Anyway, I guess I'm where i wanted to go. At least the itch seems to be scratched for now. I seem to have some new appreciation for the value and utility of the humble, unassuming, "note."
Some other time I'll think about the debate how to organize notes.
It's time to take a walk. Thanks for dropping by.
I mentioned I'd assembled all of my old Groundhog Day blog posts into a single Tinderbox document. Looking at the Document Inspector, it reports 2,822 Notes; 974,484 words; 2,803 links.
I'm guessing I'm not going to be fixing all those links. Some of them should be okay, if the web sites the URLs point to are still online. But the internal ones, that pointed to the hard-coded URL at Apple's Homepage service, those will all be dead.
Some of the self-referential links I may fix, depending on the nature of the post. A lot of what I wrote was much like a tweet, a link to something I found interesting with a brief comment. The things I wrote of greater length, that included topics I returned to often, I'll probably dive into those and fix any links to other posts in GHD.
Should all that stuff go on the web? Who knows? Hasn't been there for over a decade, but it might be interesting for my kids or something. I know I'm interested in seeing if and how my thinking has evolved.
And, oh yeah, that doesn't include another Tinderbox file I have of Time's Shadow on the old editthispage platform. That's a project for a little later.
Yeesh, I'm a chatterbox.
Still doing infrastructure work around here. Part of which includes studying Tinderbox.
I was switching back and forth between my iMac and my M1 MBP, relying on iCloud to keep everything up to date. Discovered that it probably was unwise to leave the Marmot file open on the iMac while simultaneously working on it on the MBP. Crashes ensue.
So I'd quit Tinderbox before switching machines, and then I'd have to wait until iCloud did whatever it does to keep everything up to date, and that didn't seem very fast. So I figured I'd switch to DropBox. I've had a DropBox account since forever, even got some extra storage for doing something as an incentive, can't recall what. Well, when you volunteer for stuff, people want to collaborate, so they create DropBox accounts for the organization and add users. I don't know, somehow it ended up that this org DropBox got mixed up with my login for my personal DropBox and everything was a mess. Ended up just nuking DropBox, reinstalling and signing up for a new free account. I don't need much space.
Well, that didn't work very well either, and just added more confusion in switching between machines. It would complain about different versions or something, and I don't have time to investigate all that bullshit. So I said screw it, I'm going back to sneaker-net.
I got a small USB-C SanDisk thumb drive. I think it's 16GB which is probably 15GB more than I need, but it was about $10.00. Took forever to reformat as MacOS Extended, but should work fine. Haven't used it on the MBP yet, so I may be surprised. We'll see.
There are example files people post at the Tinderbox Forum. I have a habit of downloading stuff and then forgetting about it, so my Downloads folder just grows and grows. I'm trying to be smarter about this stuff, so I've got Hazel running, watching the Downloads folder. Whenever I download a PDF, it moves it to the PDF Intake folder (whereupon I promptly forget about it again). I added a rule to move .tbx files to my thumb drive, so at least when I use the File menu in Tinderbox, I may get a look at some of these examples I've downloaded. Hopefully I will open one or two.
I'm going to make Hazel watch the Tinderbox folder on the thumb drive; and as I make changes to that folder, have it copy them over to another folder in iCloud so I have a backup in case the thumb drive walks away. I can add it to Backblaze too, but that service complains about not being able to find drives that are still connected all the time too. This whole network thing is just a house of cards.
Yesterday I consolidated a lot of old Groundhog Day Tinderbox files into one large file. I think I have most of my stuff. I'll go through and link all the notes to the current templates and perhaps make some other format updates, and eventually upload them to an archive at the Marmot. The links I made that were to old posts in Groundhog Day won't work, but I'll take a look at that and see if I can't fix it. If it's too much work, forget it.
There's a lot of stuff there, so I'm going to play around with some of Tinderbox's tools for grouping notes together. I may make separate pages for topics I wrote about repeatedly over time. We'll see. Might be interesting, might not.
Back before edithispage went offline, we must have had the opportunity to download our blogs in a CSV file, because I had an excel spreadsheet that said Time's Shadow, and back in 2014 I'd "exploded" it into a Tinderbox file, were every post was a note. Played around with it a bit last night. There's a lot of cruft that related to how we linked to posts in the blog back then that I need to clean up, but that stuff may also get uploaded, and I may add it to the Groundhog Day file and do further "analysis."
I meant to talk to my hosting provider to setup the DNS record for Notes From the Underground. Registered a couple of URLs. The .com URL doesn't look like it's anything that'll cause trouble, I've got .org and .blog.
Anyway, work continues. If I stay off of Twitter, that is.
Today was somewhat productive.
I wanted to make some modifications regarding how the date and time of the posts appear here, so I spent some time browsing this page. (Don't be frightened, it looks more complicated than it is.)
Of course, whenever I change something, something breaks. My usual recourse is to simply revert to whatever worked before and give up. But that's no way to develop proficiency! I plugged away at it this morning until it was almost time for the Tinderbox Zoom Meet-Up. (When you get frustrated, it's best to step away for a few minutes and do the dishes or something.) I was looking forward to the meet-up, and I had a couple minutes with Mark Anderson and Mark Bernstein before it kicked off, and they each gave me the things to look for to solve my problem.
In one case, I was changing the time attribute ($PublicationDate) of a note (a blog post) from a number into a string by formatting it, thinking that would change its appearance on export. Well, the agent that assembles the main page from the monthly posts looks at $PublicationDate and expects to see a number, and it does, since at some level all data is just ones and zeros. The trouble is, as a string, that number has no resemblance to the number that represents today's date, so it didn't think there were any posts to assemble! Mark Anderson gave me that tip.
When I fixed that, the main page was assembled, but only the titles of the posts were exported, not the text. Zeus's beard! What's going on? When I mentioned that, Mark Bernstein said it sounded like mismatched parentheses, and the export parser kind of throws up its hands and gives up. After the meeting, (well after the meeting, just a little while ago actually), I looked at the export code and sure enough, that was the problem. Added the missing paren and, voila! Nicely formatted times and dates.
Did some other cleanup on the Archive page, adding some missing entries, deleting some meaningless ones.
As a result of mucking about with $PublicationDate, yesterday's posts now have today's date and so they'll be republished. The permalinks shouldn't change, because they rely on the note id number. I still haven't sorted out why the #-thing doesn't seem to work. But I'll figure it out. Or ask for help.
So work continues. Keeps me off the twitters. Better for my mental health.
Back at it tomorrow. Thanks for dropping by!
Wanted to do a post that included a link today, to see if I've figured out how to do this right again.
One of the very first people I met while blogging is Dr. James Vornov, and he's been posting to On Deciding... Better for the better part of twenty years. He hasn't been active lately, but that's not unusual for him or me, or many of us who've been doing this for a long time and haven't just quit.
I enjoyed this post, and it encourages me in my efforts here. Perhaps it will for you as well.
Today's missive is an update about what may or may not appear to be happening around here, some thoughts on chasing tech instead of proficiency, and maybe a link or two.
There are, for most people I think, two kinds of tools. Ones that you use to do something that needs to be done, but you don't particularly care about how it gets done, just something that does the job; and ones that you use to do something a lot, and you're very interested in how it gets done, and how "done" turns out.
Because our tools are so sophisticated today, in almost any endeavor the capabilities are rapidly expanding, we grow more interested in the capability of the tool than the job we intend to do with it. I see that a lot with cameras and photography.
There are people who are supposedly photographers, but they're more fascinated by cameras than photographs. They obsess over specs like sensor dynamic range, stops of image stabilization, lens measurements and the like. I've encountered people in photography forums who've switched from Olympus or Panasonic M43, to Fuji to Sony and back. They buy and sell gear with regularity. They acknowledge this as the aspect of the hobby that gives them the most satisfaction.
I don't have that particular issue. I buy a lot of cameras, but they're almost all from Olympus. (I have a couple of Panasonic and a couple of Fuji cameras, which I seldom use because I'm unfamiliar with the interface, so using them is always less about getting the shot and more about figuring out how to get the shot. Which means I usually don't get the shot.)
I am guilty of chasing capability with my Olympus bodies, at the expense of becoming truly proficient with any of the bodies I already have. I think that's going to be less of an issue going forward, as OM Digital Solutions is unlikely to maintain the pace of new camera models corporate Olympus maintained. That may bode ill for their long-term survival, but I'm over that now too. I have cameras that can keep me learning and improving as a photographer, likely until the end of my life. Hopefully that's not anytime soon.
Which brings me to today's post, and what's going on around here at Nice Marmot's underground headquarters. I've noted before the present renaissance in the category of software many call "tools for thought," or "personal knowledge management." The new "hot" apps are Roam and Obsidian and Craft. Because this is an area of computing I've long been interested in, I've been chasing capability for many years. I can't tell you how many outliners I've bought in the App Store, or from developers. Do I do anything with them? No. Mostly I just try them out and then kind of forget about them.
Last year I bought DevonThink 3, because I intended to do something with it for my campaign for state representative, but then I didn't. Because, much like using an unfamiliar camera, the cognitive workload of figuring out the tool left nothing to accomplish the task! I only mention this because I'd actually forgotten I'd bought DevonThink until I stumbled on the receipt looking for something else. I think I'd only installed it on my 13" MBP, which I ended up giving to my wife when I bought the M1 MBP, and I set this machine up from scratch, not just importing everything from the other one.
It was when I started looking at Obsidian, and after I'd installed Craft, that I finally said enough! This is the camera thing all over again. I'm going to focus on a limited set of tools, try to master them, and then, ideally, get something done.
"Limited" is perhaps relative. There are a lot of tools I'm hoping to master here. I already have some proficiency with many of them; and I think they all work together, and compliment their respective capabilities.
I've recently bought EagleFiler, installed it and have been using it, before I discovered I'd already bought DevonThink! Right now I'm undecided about which one I'll settle on, or if I'll use both but in separate contexts. I'll be posting about that struggle in the weeks to come.
Right now I'm trying to focus on Tinderbox, which was where I spent a good deal of time yesterday. There are aspects about Marmot that don't work they way they used to, and I had to figure out why. Part of that is due to some changes in Tinderbox that I hadn't noticed before. It used to be that when I entered a web link in a post, there was a field I filled in that provided the little block of text that appeared when you hovered over a link, giving some description of what the link was about. (There are probably html terms of art that I'm not using that describe this.) The window for entering that information changed, and I was putting that text into some other field. I have that mostly figured out now.
What I intend to do for the foreseeable future is just live in Tinderbox. So writing here in the Marmot helps that, and I'll try to document some of what I've learned here as well. I've got a Tinderbox file I've opened for the express purpose of documenting the program to myself. I also have a couple of other projects I'm working on that I'm using Tinderbox to manage, and help improve my proficiency with the tool.
One of the things I'm struggling with a bit right now is just mastering the chrome. The Tinderbox interface is visually familiar to me, having worked with it and watching it evolve over two decades (albeit letting a few things slip by me). One of the appealing things about the new apps is their appearance. That's a very superficial attraction, but it exists. So I want to kind of fashion an environment here where I feel as though it's equally as appealing.
The challenge is that there are a lot of ways to control a file's appearance, a lot of settings that have to be configured. You can programmatically alter the appearance of a note as well, and appearance settings can vary by view.
So right now I'm just trying to clean up the burrow, get a consistent appearance, color scheme, etc that I like. In the process, I hope to master that, and be able to configure any new Tinderbox file with a look that feels appropriate to its purpose, and use those features to support whatever the task is I'm trying to accomplish.