Succumbing to org-roam

Well, it took less than 12 hours to go from “I’m not going to even touch that” to “huh, I wonder if it’s cool?”

Yes, org-roam is cool. It’s a Zettelkasten implementation built atop org-mode. To make it work in Doom Emacs you just add it to the org-mode line in Doom’s init.el:

(org +roam2) 

… and then run doom sync.

You should add a roam subdir to your standard org files location or it will complain when you try to use it.

You can instantiate a new node with spc n r i (’n’otes, ‘r’oam, ‘i’nsert)

That gets you a roam buffer and you can start typing. As with most transient Emacs buffers, C-c will save and exit.

If you want to link to a separate note, you can start typing its name in the body of the current note and get an autocomplete list.

If you link to a note from another note, Roam takes care of adding a backlink at the bottom of the target note.

As with all things Emacs, there are org-roam configs you can go find on the street and stick in your mouth. As with all things Emacs, I didn’t describe it that way because I thought that would make such an approach attractive to you. I want you to be repulsed by that approach because it is unclean. One of the advantages of Doom Emacs (or Spacemacs, or Prelude) is that if they include a package, they probably include some basic configuration, so you can kick the tires then start layering on capabilities.

Anyhow, in its basic Doom Emacs config, org-roam is unremarkable. If you want a zettel and don’t want Emacs, go get Obsidian or one of its competitors. I’m going to stick with it for a while. As I mentioned yesterday, I like org-mode’s intertwingling of tasks/actions/todos and prose, so it suits me.

The pleasures of a straight razor competently wielded

A brief history of me and professional grooming:

  • My grandmother paid for my first stylist haircut when I was in 7th grade. I had no idea how to maintain it.
  • I spent a few years just telling barbers to take it all off.
  • The army taught me the pleasures of walking in, paying your $5, and getting a high-and-tight. Once I’d been in a few years, I’d modify the request to say “leave a little up top.”
  • Over the past 20 years I developed an appreciation for Great Clips because they store your preferences and last cut in the computer under your phone number.

Then last year I walked into a barber shop near the office because things were dire and I had a few minutes. The barber handled the basic cut, then offered to do some detail work with a straight razor since he had time. That part was amazing, and it made my day.

I started going back, partially because it was a great first experience and partly because the barber was utterly disinterested in small talk. Just enough to establish we spoke a common tongue, then nothing except the occasional request for a decision. We did enter into an extended dialog about my beard made up of very sharp exchanges in the ensuing months. He was in favor of taking more of it off, and I would say “no, I’m not there yet, please just do what you can with it.” He’d mutter and then cluck when he got to the part where it began to curl at the bottom. “I can’t do anything with this … you’re sure you’re okay?”

Then last week I had a video conference and was wearing a shirt with a collar and a jacket and I realized I couldn’t see my collar under my beard. I couldn’t really see my mouth, either.

I recently read about a study that suggested people with beards will ultimately be perceived as more trustworthy and accessible once they are given an opportunity to smile. Until that point, the unbearded have all the social advantages. So I decided it might be best to make my mouth observable. COVID and masking did reveal me to be a proficient eyebrow flasher, but I don’t think you can completely rely on that.

So I booked time with my barber and left out the haircut (I’m good for a few more weeks) but did add the razor true-up.

When I sat down he resignedly asked “the usual, just fix the scruff?” and I said “no, I’d like to get some of that length and volume out of there.” He started to nod vigorously, and we entered into an extended negotiation measured in finger widths (“okay, but top of finger or bottom?”) and ultimately settled on something that would both reveal my mouth and also let you see my neck and/or collar.

Then it was just closing my eyes and enjoying the hot towel, thick lather, and precision work of a sharp straight razor, including temples and neck.


I go all the way across town – the barber moved from near the office to even further west – but it’s worth the train ride once a month to have a good barber.

Movie: Decline of Western Civilization

I rewatched Penelope Spheeris’ Decline of Western Civilization for the umpteenth time. X is one of my top 5 favorite bands of all time, so I love everything with them in it, even if John Doe’s trolling over “Johnny Hit and Run Pauline” makes me cringer harde with every viewing. The people around the periphery are great, too, including Club 88’s owner, who is determined to greet the whole freak show playing out in his venue with a certain patient equanimity I hope I can equal as the world moves on around me. And I’m grimly fascinated with Fear, and Lee Ving in particular, and his theatrical hate.

Punk was the first real subgenre I embraced. I was up at 2 in the morning in 10th grade, working on a paper for my journalism class, when the college radio station I’d been listening to jazz on hours earlier suddenly crackled back to life from its post-midnight-signoff hiss because someone had snuck into the studio and announced the first (and possibly last) installment of “Goshen College’s Guts Radio.”

Then they peeled my skull back with Fear, Black Flag, Dead Kennedys, and stuff I never heard again.

I mentioned it to the stoner who sat in front of me in American History and he came back the next day with the Dead Boys’ Young, Loud and Snotty on one side of a cassette tape, and a hastily assembled tour of more vintage punk on the other.

Anyhow, Decline: X are the odd ones out there. A punk act, yes, but with the seeds of their eventual trajectory present if you look for them. The case has been made that they were a case of tragic mistiming and I think it might be true: There they were at the height of their energy in 1980, but the sensibility they anticipated was years away from the eventual saturation it achieved with vintage scavengers and billy boys. My affection for X is undying: They were my bridge from a sullen, resentful anger toward all the normal people to a belief that maybe I was one of the decent people, too.