Obsidian – My Second Brain

Twenty-plus years ago, I read an article detailing one professor’s experiment on creating a database system that cataloged his life. He had a team of assistants digitizing his calendar, photos, receipts, and journal entries. From this he could review a day a year from now and know there was a sale on Twinkies at the local gas station.

It was an interesting idea, and I had time on my hands, so I started trying to build a similar system. I fired up a database and a web server and started creating my version of this Second Brain. I quickly discovered that it wasn’t ready for hobbyist at least not for this hobbyist, digital cameras were priced for professionals, and scanners were just as expensive, the workflow just wasn’t there yet, we didn’t have decent cameras in our phones, no apps that tie everything we do together, no it was difficult since it relied on me scanning, cataloging, and linking the data. It just became too much. Although the idea stuck with me – still does.

Then there was Evernote – this application had everything, multiple platform support, offline folders, syncing between devices no matter what the underlying OS was. Evernote became my second brain. It had web page snippets of technology reviews, how-to on everything from drywall repair to how to build a water sprinkler for your kids out of PVC pipe. It was how I tracked and reported on project and tasks for work. I enjoyed this application so much that its yearly cost was paid for without review or thought.

Time rolled on and the platforms age began to show. Offline folders went away and became more of a web application. This next point isn’t the application’s fault, but my 9 to 5 blocked communication at the firewall, so it wasn’t as useful for work anymore. The web snippet may work, it may not depend on factors I couldn’t determine. It was aging – reviewing past notes was difficult, the search functionality was limited. Which means it is living on life support – and it was time to look for something different.

Obsidian to the rescue. This software is a powerful knowledge base application that uses a local folder of plain text Markdown files. The benefit of this is the markdown language is simple to use. I’ve just started working with it and in the past month I’ve incorporated it into my daily routine. It is literally the first thing I open to plan my day. With a growing number of community plug-ins, I’m able to quickly get my day planned using templates and mermaid charts. I’ve used dataview and the tagging system to create custom datasets for my daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly tracking. With its built in PDF export function, I can quickly generate a weekly report for my boss, or an agenda for the regularly scheduled One on One review. So far, I’ve been able to keep track of meetings, and project status and daily re-occurring tasks with ease just by using the tags and dataview plugins.

I just finished creating a vault for my achieved data (2010 thru 2017) and I look forward to importing in the rest of my Evernote data, so I can see the links and patterns that emerge from years of data collection. Obsidian is a tool that allows me to see the connections between my interest, hobbies, work and family in a way that Evernote just couldn’t do. If you are looking for a way to manage everything that life throws at you, I recommend looking at Obsidian. After a small learning curve, you could create your own personal second brain.

The image below is a graph of the data so far – looks very PlanetTash to me.

Retro Review – Alpha Flight

It was the 70’s, I lived in the smallest of small towns back then. Even at the young age of 5 and 6 I rode my big wheel up and down our street like I owned it. I had a best friend named Shawn. Like most young kids, it didn’t take much for us to become that way. It was Kindergarten, the first time I was able to join my older brother on the bus. I was excited, Tom not so much, while I don’t remember what Tom had said but it was probably him telling me where to sit or some such older brother power play , but I do remember Shawn telling this older kid – “YOU can’t talk to him like that.” I knew I liked him right away, and sat next to him. It turned out we were in the same class. Not surprising since there was probably only one or two kindergarten classes – so the odds were in my favor. I did say this was the smallest of small towns didn’t I.

For the next four years we were pretty much inseparable, I can remember him pulling his red wagon behind him on a Saturday morning when we would watch cartoons, old Godzilla movies, and our favorite old kung-fu movies which invariably got us kicked outside as we jumped off the back of the couch attempting to perform the perfect flying kick. It was with this friendship that i got my first taste of comic books, you see that was what was in the wagon. We would thumb through the latest comic books he had gotten and talk about what we liked about each character. Those Saturday’s were good times.

So I’ve liked comics from an early age, from the time I learned to read, comics were the thing for me. I tell you this, because when I pick up a comic there is a part of me that remembers those Saturday mornings, and how the art and colors use to draw me in. We are all still kids on the insides when it comes to certain things. For me comic books is one of those things that for a moment can take me back to simpler times a more innocent time.

Over the years, I have gathered a small collection and recently I felt the urge to re-read some of my favorite’s and share what memories I have of them, and how I feel about them today.

So we are going to start with Alpha Flight vol 1. Issue 1. Aug 1983.

Creative Team

Created by John Bryne

Lettered by Joe Rosen

Colored by Andy Yamchus

The first issue of Alpha flight was double sized, and even that isn’t big enough for the story that is contained inside these pages. Even after all these years I’m still drawn into the story.

The first page introduces us to James Hudson, Code Named Vindicator, standing in a dismantled room, with these powerful words – “you are witnessing the death of a dream.”

We are quickly given the run down on the situation, the Government funded Department H is shutting down, and without funding Canada’s hero’s are left out in the cold. As Vindicator flies off from the now defunct Department H contemplating how he is unemployed, and only has his wife’s salary to live off.

We are taken to to a isolated area some 2000 miles from Parliament Hill where a lonely tent and small fire is burning with a thin man muttering about how he will show them they were wrong. He gets up and begins walking dragging one foot, slowly making a shape in the melting snow as he goes.

Now with the threat hinted at, we switch back to introducing the team members, first up is Dr. Michael TwoYoungmen, who is a member of Alpha Flight as Shaman.

4 pages are dedicated to introducing us to the next members of Alpha Flight, Aurua who suffers from multiple personality disorder. Her super hero persona is flirty and carefree, and her Jeannie-Marie is much more restrained, libriain / school teacher look. Her brother NorthStar is a famous and it is made plain that he has used his powers to get him there. These two are the speedsters of the group and most likely the most complicated characters of the book.

We move on to Mariane, Puck, Snowbird and Sasquatch. With the introductions complete we move into the action, as we meet Tundra, a massive mountain size evil brought to life and composed of the very earth he walks on.

Each of the team members attempts to use their skills to attach the problem, Sasquatch uses his incredible strength to rip large chunks out of the creature, Vindicator’s uses his suit to electro magnetic pulse but as Tundra screams out in pain, the ground begins to split and crack open for miles around him.

The twins begin to literally fly circles around tundra and doing so the erode Tundra’s mass, which gives Shaman an idea and he calls forth a deluge of rain. this weakens their foe, but it wasn’t enough, just then they see a water spout in the distance, it is Marina as she attempts to reach her team mates. she is controlling the spout and using it as transportation.

Vindicator flies off to retrieve her, and allowing shaman to pull the water down around tundra, eroding him with a deluge of Salt water and creating a new salt water lake in the process.

The Team is hanging out at Hudson’s house, and there is debate on what to call themselves and after some discussion it was decided that they will stick with Alpha Flight.


This first issue flows like a movie, building tension as it goes. while the threat was easily defeated, the story served it’s purpose and quickly introduced the team members and gave a good hint at the powers each of them had.

When I was younger this was a chance to get in on the ground floor, John Bryne was known to me from his other work in Marvel. After this book he quickly became one of my Top 5 favorites working at Marvel at the time. This was a brand new team, and it was exciting to hold the first issue in my hands. While the art style wasn’t attempting to break any new ground, it was good ole fashioned story telling that drew you in month after month.

This wasn’t known to me at the time, but now makes it even more remarkable. This team of super-hero’s was created as a one off. They were just a group for the X-men to fight to move the wolverine story along. John Bryne only reluctantly took the book on for reasons only those at marvel at the time may know. While he has said in interviews that working on the book was hell. It proves that he is a professional, and you couldn’t tell by his work that he hated it that much. Probably all the more maddening for him was that the fans loved his work on this book, myself included.

StarLink is King

Part 2 – The King is dead.

In my previous post I discussed how we found ourselves on the wrong side of the digital divide during a pandemic, and all the unique solutions we used to survive. Now with the trees in full bloom, Amazon and eBay deliveries complete, and one last trip to the hardware store to get a few hundred feet of wire I was ready to set-up my 30 foot tower, and let the sweet sweet internet flood the house.

I picked a spot that should have been clear to the north. Only one small gotcha on my plan. The Saturday that I had planned on raising this monument to the internet gods–my helping hands had other plans, one boy was working, one boy was getting ready for prom, and my girl had a birthday party to attend. So it was a busy weekend, but that is normal around these parts. With 2hrs on my hands, what better time to start the project. I headed down to the end of the driveway and began setting up the tower. 

I happily started putting all the pieces together like a kid on Christmas morning. One leg, two legs, three legs–we have a tripod I’m off to a good start. The first two 4ft sections all set with the StarLink securely sitting on top of it. All I need now is a little muscle and I should be able to get the Dish up in the air. As I pushed the center pole up, I heard a clinking sound. As I turned to look to my right, I saw one leg had lifted and separated. My tripod was quickly becoming a 12 foot blunt object. I was stuck. If I let go, the tower will fall. I can’t stand there all day because no help was coming. I rolled the dislodge leg over to me and I reached down to pick it up. It was at this moment when I realized mistakes had been made, as the tower started to tip over.

My mind flashed the label on the military bag which said two man carry, which implied it takes two to set the tower up. Now before my sarcastic side could tell me where else I zagged when I should’ve zigged, the tower was bouncing off my head on its way to slamming into my shoulder. The force of the tower plowed me to the ground in a twisted knee position.

OK, time to call the wife, I thought as my head was ringing and my eyesight was blurry.

I growled at Alexa to call the wife. Alexa politely informed me that new permissions were required to make a call. You have to be kidding me! Not to be daunted, I make an announcement which would play at the house, but everyone was getting ready for their individual events and my request was only half heard, and it lost the urgency in translation.

I got myself into this mess. I’ll have to be the one to get myself out. Seems only fair. One option I thought of was I could just drop it to the ground, but I was too stubborn. I came down here to set this up, and I’m not done until that dish is in the air. At this point, I will be happy with it being 4 feet off the ground.

I reached out and grabbed the leg that started it all. That was the simple part, since I was kneeling right next to it. I was blinking a little too rapidly for my liking but having had multiple concussions in my lifetime I knew what they felt like, and this was minor compared to those in the past. So I twisted slowly to get under the tower and started to lift.

My old back wasn’t happy with the exertion. It complied, but it complained all the way up. Standing up, I angrily slapped the leg into place. Not nearly the victory that I hoped it would be, but I’ll take it. There it stood at roughly 8 feet, a good start. I packed up and headed back to the house where I had 30 mins to get ready for the afternoon events.

The next day it was all hands on deck. We had shovels to level the ground, we had stakes, hammers and guy wires to secure the tower we were set. My loving and understanding wife Leslea wore two hats that day, as supervisor supreme. She provided engineering advice, as well as being the safety coordinator for the duration of the work. We quickly hosted the tower up to 24ft and secured it. I was proud of the teamwork and we were able to accomplish what we set out to do that day.

Tower standing tall.

I got back to the house, fired up the connection and after about 20 minutes the dish started to report that obstructions were everywhere.

I felt defeated, as I was already frustrated and bored with my unintentional new hobby of calling tree removal companies, only to have them shake their head and run away screaming. These trees might be less of a challenge since they are further away from the house. That was my irrational thought as I dug up a couple of new tree services to come out and give me a quote. That was 3 weeks ago, and I’ve still not heard from any of them.

So with a heavy heart I canceled the service this past weekend, sold the tower, and boxed it all up.

The service has so much potential and for those who can get above their obstructions, or cut them down this will be a game changer. I knew our trees would be a deal breaker, what I didn’t know was the heavy investment I would have to make to remove those obstructions around our house. The cost of tree removal was just too high to make it feasible. Unfortunately, our adventure with Elon has come to an end, but perhaps yours are just beginning and if that is the case here are some simple install considerations when dealing with StarLink that I have figured out so you don’t have to.

Obstructions are a common issue so make good use of the “check for obstruction” tool in the phone application and see if there is anything blocking the sky. Even power lines will have an impact. The dish will need 100 degrees of clear sky to track the satellites. This may shrink as they bring more satellites online but I wouldn’t expect it to shrink by much.

With that in mind here are some guidelines for distance from obstructions when placing your Dish.

Obstructions to the North need to be at least 2.5x further away than they are taller than the dish. So, if a tree to the North of your install location extends 20ft above your dish, then it needs to be at least 50ft away from your dish.

Obstructions to the East and West need to be at least 1.5x further away than they are taller than the dish. So, if a tree to the East or West of your install location extends 20ft above your dish, then it needs to be at least 30ft away from your dish.

Obstructions to the South need to be at least 0.5x further away than they are taller than the dish. So, if a tree to the South of your install location extends 20ft above your dish, then it needs to be at least 10ft away from your dish.

Once you have the dish set up for 12 hours or more, you can go to the phone application : Support : Advanced : Debug

From there you can select the Copy the data option.

Switch over to a browser and go to: http://starlink.dsmfaq.com/tools/obstructions.html

Paste the data, and it will graph out your obstructions to help you find where the obstructions are coming from as far as direction. Priority should be to the north, then east / west, and finally south.

This is BAD – you want 0%

So now can visually see where your obstructions are.

Armed with that knowledge, you have a couple of options.

1)Move Dish.

2)Raise the Dish Higher.

If you want to go higher, several people have had success with something like this tower found on eBay

3) Cut Trees down that are causing the Obstruction.

4) Deal with it, and hope that it gets better over time as they bring more Satellites into service, reducing the obstruction window.

IKEA – the death of custom desks.

Our old desks have served us well, they server as a cat lounge, they are a gallery of kid art, and mine has coffee cup stains that have become like an old reliable friend during the past covid year. I won’t lie though, I have looked at IKEA desks online and seeing all the good ideas for desks. I found myself pining away for a new desk.

Lagkapten / Alex desk – from IKEA – Unavailable.

After a couple of weeks of that, I decided we were going to make a trip of it and travel 5 hrs round trip to the closest IKEA store and by hook or crook we were going to have new desks. I informed the wife well in advance, so we can place the trip on the family calendar. I felt good; we had a plan; we had a date. Kids asked to go shopping, sure no problem, everybody gets something.

The day before the trip, we change the oil in the mini-van, have the tires checked, that kind of stuff. It has been over a year since the mini-van has made a trip this distance and we wanted to be safe. Get home I unload the good will items that we forgot to drop off, stowed the back seats and measured to make sure there was room for the desks tops I wanted. We are ready, all set. What could go wrong, I’ll have new desks before the weekend is over. I was feeling good. I was ready. I wasn’t even worried about the assembly that was how much I wanted these new desks.

Over dinner my loving wife asks “Have you made sure the desks you wanted are in stock ?”

I scoff and smirk while saying, “It’s IKEA they have it, surely.” A raised eyebrow followed by the unconvinced “ok” – filled me with doubt, and it would be a wasted trip if they didn’t have what we needed.

Taking her advice, I casually hope on the internet and begin looking for items we would need to build us one of those IKEA desks you see on Pinterest and everywhere else on the internet. I started this thinking it would only take a 30 minutes at the most to verify everything was in stock.

Let me tell you I was wrong, it took hours. Why, you ask? Simple the IKEA’s supply chain is in complete shambles right now. Tumbleweeds are blowing through those enormous warehouses across the country. When everything I wanted wasn’t in stock at my closest IKEA, I looked at another one that would add a couple of hours to the drive but reasoned it would be worth it if they had what we needed.

Nope, they were out of stock as well. So was every other IKEA I looked at across the nation. I sat stunned. This was unexpected. After I numbness wore off, my curiosity got the best of me and I had to find out when it started ? A quick search on google and BAM! There it was. For the past year there are posts on reddit, forums, Facebook with people mentioning how items just weren’t there. Nightmare scenarios of resorting to third-party applications and ready to drop everything once it dinged that stock had been replenished, not unlike trying to get dinner reservations at Disney. There it was, the apocalypse laid out before me to read.

I am surprised that IKEA is struggling to keep its stores stocked; it has been a year and they should have had time to adjust to the new reality that our Global pandemic world has dropped on us. It looks like they haven’t, and who knows when they will. I’m sure manufacturing the items is difficult, if not impossible until the workers get vaccinated. I understand that there was most likely an increased demand over the past year as everyone shifted to a Work From Home model if they could. Kids needed desks for school, but that surge shouldn’t be affecting us today.

I canceled our trip to IKEA, alternate plans were made so the kids could still have their shopping day. We hit three malls, and walked away with Heely’s, shirts, sweaters, pants, Japanese soft drinks and manga.

I also discovered another causality of COVID – Starbucks is no longer in any malls. When the F did that happen? A latte, or London Fog is the fuel I use to get me through these mall trips and here it was gone. With to little caffeine I soldiered through it, caffeine deprived. It was a trip for the two youngest, after all, and they were happy with their new stuff. I look forward to swinging through a local coffee shop to get the good stuff on the way home, which is what we did.

As far as desks go I’m not sure what we are going to do, these old desks will have to keep soldiering on until we find something to replace them, which is alright they have memories etched into their wood so they will do just fine for now.

Rural Internet – StarLink is king.

The digital divide is real, and the past year with the pandemic has really brought this to the forefront.

So our situation is this, we live in a rural area of Indiana, but around here that is just 15 to 30 minutes to “The City” we have 2 working adults, 4 kids, 4 dogs, 4 cats and 5 chickens. The animals require little internet time, except for Lord Grantham the white Pomeranian who enjoys watching tv, but the kids all have varying internet requirements ranging from light use to mega video game archiver which pushes our DSL to the limit every day and this was before the pandemic hit. Now add school video conferences and increase usage of video chat among the kids to stay in touch with their friends / classmate and our DSL just couldn’t keep up. It was so bad the Alexa robots we have in every room even complained just as loudly as the children about internet bandwidth.

Easy solution order a second line, have one for work and one for everything else. If it were just so easy, but alas it was not to be. DSL is a aging technology, it barely meets the FCC’s definition of high speed. (Yes, 3MBS is considered high speed by the Federal Government.) Because of its age and slowness companies are not spending anything on the infrastructure – so as equipment dies, it isn’t replaced and capacity is decreased. Which meant for us we couldn’t get a second line. The annoying part is we didn’t find this out until after the scheduled appointment. When I called to see why the company was a no show and the Customer service person read me the technician’s note on the ticket. Ah, nothing like keeping your paying customers happy is there.

This is where I started my quest to find better internet – little did I know this would be like looking for the holy grail.
Big name cable providers list my town as 100% covered, great call make an appointment and on the day of the appointment cable company is a no show. Which leads to a call to find out that we are over a mile away from the closest hookup, which is too far away, but they said thanks for calling.

Fiber is all around my location, just not down my street, but a survey went out requesting help with letters to justify our county’s Federal Grant application. After months we get word that we have received the grant, but the money is being used for the other side of the county. So that isn’t an option.

Next stop is looking for Wireless Internet Service Providers (WISP) that are in my area. Got lucky found one, and it has a transmitter on a water tower close to my house,but after several phone calls found out that with all my old-growth trees I can’t get a signal, although I could bounce the signal off a neighbors house if they gave permission. What is that warm feeling – is it optimism, dare I hope that this could be the solution to our increased internet needs.

I mean it is a pandemic we are all locked inside of our houses how difficult would it be to drop off the new power brick and swap them out right – no contact should be needed one would think. Weeks go by, and I get that sinking feeling, so I call the WISP people again and find out that the neighbor hasn’t responded to emails. Well, that isn’t going to work, pulled out a nice looking thank you note from our stationary, and my wife pens a nice note asking how they were, and did they need anything since we haven’t seen any cars come and go lately with a gentle request to call us concerning their internet access, and stuck it on their door. We risked our health for a chance at better internet.

Another couple of weeks go by, hope is fading when i get a phone call from the neighbor. We talked about how things were going, i found out he and his wife left town to weather out the pandemic storm at their lake cabin, but sure the WISP people can have access to the house to do what they need. A year has passed and I’m still no closer to getting the power brick switched out than i was when we first spoke.

Now after months of my wife and I using our cell phones for internet access to do work, we were feeling the pinch – as the cellular network was getting crushed and priority traffic appeared to be a thing of the past. I found a third party cellular provider and signed up – add in a couple of yagi antennas and trip to Home-Depot and my wife and I can not get online without using our phones data plans, downside we can not stream. So strictly for mom and dad to do work stuff with.

Somewhere in this journey Elon Musk announced StarLink better than nothing beta program and I signed up as soon as I found out about it and then I promptly forgot about it for almost a year, until I received an email 2 months ago letting me know I had a limited amount of time to secure my Dish if I wanted to take part in the program, don’t have to ask me twice I slapped down the credit card and started to anxiously wait on the delivery. Excitement builds over the next two weeks as I begin reading the reddit r/Starlink posts filled with speed test screenshots ranging from 50 to 200mb down. Oh, I can almost taste that sweet sweet internet speed.

Fed-ex arrived on a cold rainy Friday evening. Oh, it was like Christmas morning, unbox the dish, open a window to run the cord and fire the thing up. Then wait 30 to 45 mins for it find satellites and perform updates then we were off to the races … sort of. Our first location was ok, we got decent speeds but obstructions were causing the dish to lose the link to the satellite every couple of minutes. I spent the next couple of weeks trying to find a spot that would work. Ended up placing it on the Chimney – with a plan. Remember those old-growth trees that mentioned earlier well they have gone nowhere, so I decided to have 12 of them cut down.

Starlink mounted and hopeful.

My wife reaches out to her local network and finds several recommendations, and I begin calling them to come out and give me a quote on the work.
The first guy to show up was rough, single man operation who was not bonded or insured, thanked him for his time, but since all the trees were close to the house, I needed someone that was insured in case something goes wrong.

Just some of our trees

The next guy showed up and after looking at my trees for 5 mins decided he needed his boss to come out and give the quote. Ok, odd but not totally unexpected. His boss shows up later in the evening. We walk around; me pointing to the trees that were targeted for removal. The first thing he does is tell me that is a lot of trees, followed by unsolicited advice “You should just get cable internet instead of going thru all this hassle.” his tone and smug expression of witty satisfaction as he half smiled at me just set my teeth on edge, as he tells me in rough figures that what I wanted done was too risky and too expensive. I smiled as I asked him, “Are you interested in the job?” To which repeated himself about the risk, I started walking to the house thanking him for his time over my shoulder.

Tree guy number three, confident, knowledgeable, bonded, and a price way cheaper than I was expecting. I signed him up on the spot. 4 weeks go by and the trees are still standing, phone calls aren’t returned and suddenly I know what it feels like to be ghosted.

No big deal call a couple more tree guys from the list and basically to sum up the quotes we got, it’ll be $3,000 a day and 15 to 20 days to complete the job so a ballpark figure of $60,000 to get the trees down and they don’t offer a veterans discount – yes I asked. I came in from those conversations feeling defeated. There is no way I was going to pay that much to get better internet.

Now the situation is getting dire. Trees are blooming Star-Link obstruction time is climbing higher and higher each day.
I’m dreaming about cutting down trees, I’m obsessed with finding a solution, but I’m feeling stuck.

Enter Leslea my wife, who has been patient, understanding all the good things you want your spouse to be as you go around crazy wide eyed about a project – suggesting that we use our little clearing at the bottom of our driveway as a last ditch effort to get Starlink working.

Location 2

Of course, this presents its own challenges. Our driveway is nearly 500 ft long, 400 ft to the location we plan on using for our testing.
This is where we dive into the weeds a little, the StarLink dish has a fixed length ethernet cable attached to it. The dish uses Power over ethernet. (POE), which limits its length to 100 meters or 328 feet from the power brick. Which is 100ft outside my house.

So to achieve this I needed two cat7 outdoor rated cables, and a conduit to protect the cable from little woodland creatures, a coupler and several waterproof boxes – Amazon order placed for everything but the conduit which i hope to pick up from Home depot. Now I just have to wait patiently once again as i wait for the deliveries to roll in over the next week.