The Small Web

Kagi, the paid search engine that has been getting a lot of attention lately, has a really cool tribute to the Small Web.

I’ve already added several new personal blogs to my feed reader. Really loving how many people are blogging and the diversity of interesting posts in my reader every day!

Test Driving Beluga

Just read about the Beluga app from another blogger and I immediately went to download it.

It’s a micro-blogging app that you host yourself. You set up an S3 bucket with static hosting and everything runs off your phone.

It even has a built in feed reader for a social element for other Beluga users. It’s basically a static site generator that runs on your phone with a built in simple social element.

I immediately installed it and was very excited as this mirrors an idea I had long ago to do something very similar. I love WordPress and all, but I really just want an Instagram replacement that makes it simple to have a very simple photo blog. So far I like the app. I only wish it had a setting for adjusting photo quality — I do appreciate it down samples by default but the lower quality is too low in my opinion.

In any event, I’ll be test driving it over the next little bit. Give me a follow!

How I Journal

I got Day One 11 years ago. My first entries were random, with pictures. I was just trying the app out shortly after my birthday. Within a day or two of getting Day One, Sandy Hook happened and I journaled a very short piece about how horrific it was to hear on the news of an elementary school shooting. Because of that, every time December rolls around, Day One reminds me of “11 years ago today” and I read that entry about Sandy Hook and I’m instantly transported to my desk at an office in downtown Denver when I read on the news about this horrific shooting.

Not all of my entries are sad or horrible, but that to me is a reminder of the value of journaling. To remember where I was, and what I was feeling, and how life has progressed in the years since. This became especially important after I became a parent in 2019.

Daily Journals
I started my habit of journaling every single day after being introduced to Austin Kleon’s logbooks by way of my friend Cary. This was probably sometime around early 2015/late 2014. Both my friend Cary and Austin Kleon used physical notebooks, but I had already been using Day One very intermittently so I decided to just use Day One.

I was pretty good at times for using it daily, probably logging every other or third day on average for years. A lot of my initial logs are not very interesting, just saying I “chatted with Will for a bit” and that I “went to work. Looked at bikes.”

By mid-2015 I realized that these kinds of entries weren’t that interesting to me, and asking a bunch of questions only kept me from meaningful captures, so I simplified quite a bit. Having a more free-form entry asking “What happened today?” really opened up my journaling a lot more than most other changes.

This is about the time my consistency really started to pick up:

In January of 2019 we began our fostering journey and opened our home to a 14-year old boy named Noah. (spoiler alert, we adopted him in October of 2020 🎉) This is when I really endeavored to journal more, especially when we had some really intense and deep family therapy in the summer of 2019. I now have an unbroken streak since July 22, 2019, over 1,600 days ago.

Some of the tips for keeping a streak:

  1. Have a routine. I use an Apple shortcut I created and run it before I go to bed. This shortcut captures things like my calendar entries, and creates a minimal template with the date, calendar entries and a simple “What happened?” type prompt. I don’t edit this, and save the entry and go to sleep. The next morning on my computer, I’ll fill in the “what happened?” prompt. I’m usually a bit more verbose when I have a full keyboard in front of me, and 10 minutes to journal.
  2. Keep it simple. Most of my entries are just simple recaps of what happened for the day. I rarely explore my emotions or go deep into what happened. A quick and simple description is all that is there.
  3. Add a photo. I did this very intermittently in the past, and I’m trying to do better going forward. But it’s so fun to see photos from 10 years ago in my journal, and it adds so much extra context.
  4. Don’t go backfill. This was a tip from Desiring God that I read about journaling years and years ago — if you miss a day or a week or even a month — don’t backfill. Just start from where you are. When you feel like you need to fill in previous days, you create a backlog that grows and grows and feels hard to get over with. Just start with today and don’t worry about the past.
  5. Don’t really worry about the streak. Focus on the things that are valuable for you. For a long time I just journaled on the days I had something to say and if I got busy — I didn’t really worry about missing that day.

Longer form journaling
So that all covers the daily journals, but I really find value in long form journaling. I find that by keeping a daily journal, I’m really able when I need to focus on deeper emotions and deeper issues going on when I sit down to journal.

Before I kept a daily journal, I felt like I had to explain what was going on or the context of life when I wrote a journal. Now because I have the context already logged each and every day, I focus on how I’m feeling or the deeper patterns I’m noticing. Here’s a peak at my different journals.

My main journals are the Daily Logs entries, which I keep every day. And the Journal category which are when I sit down and write when I feel like I need to write. Many times I’ll write these longer entries when I feel like I need to process something. I often find that the process of writing things out helps clarify my thinking. Sometimes I just want to capture a moment. Here’s one of the shorter examples I don’t mind sharing:

I have 17 entries in this journal for 2023. None so far in December. They range from entries like the above, to an entry sharing my thoughts as we were about to meet our 14-yo foster son after a week in a behavioral treatment center for suicidal ideation and all my fears, hopes and — honestly — mostly just fears. Many of the entries are just random, or thoughts I have in my head that I need to get down on “paper”. When my nearly 20-yo cat died in 2022 I wrote down some of my favorite memories and photos in the middle of my grief.

Some additional structure
Probably in 2020 when everyone felt hopeless due to Covid, I created an entry I dated to Dec 31 with 50 memories I loved from the year. And another post on the same day with the books I read, and some of the movies and tv shows and other media I enjoyed. I have done that every year since — most years I just create an entry early on and date it to Dec 31 and keep it up to date throughout the year, but this year I have been slacking so this looks like something I need to take care of this week!

More Light

One of our recent house projects was to replace both the front and back doors with a full lite door. These are the doors that are almost entirely window, except for the white frame border that holds the structure and door knob.

We are fortunate to have a lot of natural light in our house, but the front door faces south and it is incredible how much more light we get inside thanks to this door. We really love all the extra natural light, especially in these dark and dreary winter months. We’ll take all the extra light we can get!

Giving Tuesday

I wanted to share some organizations that we have supported throughout the years and have done a really good job making the world just a little bit better.

Musana Community Development Organization. Schools, hospitals, women empowerment projects, and more. A model where your gifts are actually investments creating a snowball that will continue to impact more and more people, lifting many people out of poverty. 4 campuses in Uganda with more to come. (disclaimer: I serve on the board of directors and have been involved for over ten years. Would love to chat more if anyone is interested.)

Court Appointed Special Advocates. (National Office, Boulder CASA, 17th Judicial District CASA) CASA provides a trained volunteer for kids in foster care to hang out with and advocate for the best interests of kids. We’re fortunate that the kids we have fostered have had CASAs and they have been really awesome. My wife also served as a CASA for a kid before we became foster parents.

Local foodbanks. (here in Colorado we have supported Sister Carmen in Lafayette, FISH in Broomfield, and the OUR Center in Longmont) These provide important resources in the community in the form of food, transportation and other ways to stand in the gap for people facing hard times in our communities.

Youth For Christ Juvenile Justice Ministry. Have you ever visited a kid locked up in juvenile justice programs? I have and it is a bleak and dark place. All kids—even and maybe especially kids who have offended—need hope and someone to believe in them. YFC JJM takes great care of kids who most of the rest of the world so easily overlooks.

Local Humane Societies. (for us, Longmont Humane Society is a favorite) Humane societies provide important help to pets and helping them find great homes. We have adopted several dogs, cats and guinea pigs specifically from LHS and love the work they do.

I’ll save the lecture for some other time. A value that I have tried to live out is that we give up things we love for things we love even more. What you give up is the true testimony for what you do and do not love. We love to try to make the world a slightly better place, one person, one hour, one dollar at a time.

More “Subscriptions”

I got to thinking of a few of the other subscription type services we have had over the years.

America the Beautiful. National Park Service pass. $80/yr.
We live near an incredible national park, Rocky Mountain, and try to get up there every month or two. The America the Beautiful pass gives you access to all National Parks. James Bryce said that the National Parks are the best idea America ever had and I have to agree. $6.67/mo to have access to all of them is an incredible deal.

Boulder Openspace and Mountain Parks (OSMP) parking permit. $25/yr.
We live close enough to several City of Boulder OSMP spaces that I take really good advantage of this permit. I just went hiking twice in the past week at two different OSMP spots: Mt. Sanitas and Shadow Canyon. As I was coming down from Mt. Sanitas I saw two separate Golden Eagles flying overhead. Several times I thought to myself how Boulder hiking doesn’t deserve to be SO GOOD. Making a list of additional hiking spots to check out in the next year.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife Pass. Was $80/yr, now $29/yr.
The CPW pass is now included as an optional but default fee on all Colorado vehicle registrations, which resulted in a massive price cut. There are several wonderful state parks within 45 minutes of my house, and many more within just a few hours. A couple years ago I took the rooftop tent to Steamboat Lake State Park and it was magical. Looking forward to getting out and enjoying more state parks.

Are you noticing a theme with these? Haha.

Denver Botanic Gardens. $70/yr.
This is something my wife got several years in a row and would bring me along for free as her plus one. 🙂 The gardens are a lovely place to visit in the middle of the week, get a book or take your laptop and get some work done. Especially wonderful in the spring!

Altogether, these “subscriptions” would cost us $233/yr or $19.42/month. We rarely always have each subscription “active” — we may sometimes let one or another lapse as we find ourselves in a season where we can’t do all of the things all at once. This just goes to show how much value these relatively low cost “subscriptions” provide. I can pay Boulder $25/yr and get several dozen hours of enjoyment exploring and hiking and mountain biking all the trails.

While I like Netflix, and Apple TV+, and all the other digital subscriptions I’ve tried — $20/mo doesn’t prove anywhere near as much value in TV as it does in all the outdoor activities afforded above.

That said, it is snowing out as I write this, and as soon as I hit publish, I’ll probably go watch some TV instead of going hiking. So it’s not valueless, I just think these outdoor experiences are way more fulfilling.

Home Screen Defaults & Subscriptions — 2023

I’ve been enjoying all the posts about people’s default apps, and other posts about subscriptions. I’ve found many new awesome people to follow through my feed reader. So here’s my contribution.

I’m pretty boring, for personal use I generally use all the default apps (Calendar, Mail, Notes, Safari, Contacts, etc) because I find them sufficient for my needs, and I have history in all of these apps going back to 2004 or 2005. Seriously, I can look at my calendar from 2005 to see what I was doing back in college because that was the first year I got a Mac.

For work, I use whatever they give me, usually Gmail & Slack.

Outside the Apple apps, here’s what I’ve settled on for other uses:

  • Tasks: Things. (I am VERY bad at keeping this up to date)
  • Journaling: DayOne. (1,500+ streak strong! :D)
  • Feed reader: Reeder
  • Bible: NeuBible except when I really want to read the Message or NLT, then YouVersion
  • Podcasts: Pocket Casts (though I have not listened to a podcast in over a year at this point)
  • Read it later: Pocket (and I’m very unhappy with it)
  • Music: Apple Music (it’s only okay)
  • Library books: Libby (love it)
  • Audio book subscription: Libro (support independent booksellers!)


Alas, it is hard to get by these days without a bunch of subscriptions. Here’s what I have:

  • Apple One Premier: $38 + tax.
    • When it started, it was only $30/month. I use all the services that are included (top ones being: Apple Music, TV+, Fitness, and photo storage space) but the price has been increasing much faster than the value. If there’s another price increase, I will probably seriously look at scaling this back or eliminating it entirely.
  • YouTube TV: $73/mo.
    • This one is new for our family, got it to give our media obsessed (especially sports obsessed) kids something to watch at our house instead of going out to Buffalo Wild Wings every-time there’s a game. It’s basically cable but with a much better digital UI.
  • Netflix: included in cell-phone plan.
    • We’re back on Netflix. Of all the streaming services, I find Netflix content to be the most mediocre. For a while we subscribed to the $9.99 ad-free plan, but they killed that literally a week after we subscribed. We changed cell-phone providers and now it’s included in that plan. I wouldn’t bother otherwise.
  • $15/mo
    • Basically Audible but supporting independent bookstores. I just put this on pause because I now am way behind on using my credits. Without a daily commute, I’m finding I listen to very little audio content.
  • Journaling: DayOne premium. $25/yr.
    • We’ll see what Apple’s journal app provides after a few years of updates, but I am liking DayOne quite a bit.
  • Website: Vultr. $10/mo.
    • Hosting this blog on a little instance for $10/mo. Been completely satisfied with them.

Previous subscriptions

  • Disney Plus.
    • I loved Disney+ when it came out and considered it a great deal at $7.99/mo. Now at $14.99/mo, I’ve already watched most of the back catalog I was interested in, and all the new content is hit or miss. Andor was amazing. Most of the rest of new content was not that appealing.

Moving Air

Growing up — all the dads in the neighborhood had leaf blowers and were obsessed with blowing leaves around. I have become one of them.

Actually, I think my newest obsession is just moving air. Here are some of my favorite ways to move air.

  1. Dyson Stick Vacuum. We got the v11 animal (I think?) and frankly I think Dyson has too many models of vacuums to pick from. But we got ours on sale at Costco and I love this thing. It’s battery operated and we put ours in the kitchen. Our old vacuum cleaner was a chore to move around, so it was a big production to vacuum the house. Not this portable little Dyson. It’s right there, super easy to carry to anywhere that we need it, and it does a great job on both our hard floors and rugs. I wouldn’t say that we vacuum any more consistently then before, but anytime I notice a problem (crumbs on the floor, dog hair on the couch, whatever) — it takes about 45 seconds to solve — so we are spot cleaning WAY more then before. (Pro tip: check the Dyson renewed store for deals)
  2. Electric leaf blower. This thing came in a kit of electric tools we bought from Home Depot. This thing is AMAZING. It’s way quieter than the gas powered ones that our neighbors have. And since we live on a corner lot, we have a lot of sidewalk. Usually I’m blowing leaves from the gutters and sidewalks on to our yard (because leaf mulch is so good for the soil!). I’m also frequently using this to quickly clean the dirt that accumulates in our garage, or blow leaves off the trampoline, or whatever. Since it came in a kit, it’s not a particularly powerful leaf blower and I’m thinking of upgrading to one of the higher powered ones.
  3. Air duster. I have had other dusters, including a battery operated one, but this one is more expensive and it plugs in. That makes it slightly more inconvenient but my gosh this thing is SUPER powerful. In high mode, I’m pretty sure this thing is more powerful than those cans of compressed air. I like using this to dust things like our plants, ceiling fans, regular fans (the one in our bedroom was getting SO gross), keyboards, vents, and surfaces. Then I’ll follow up a few minutes later by running the vacuum cleaner across the floor to pick up all the dust that settled on the ground.

Okay I might be obsessed with moving air. This doesn’t even count the whole house fan we use over the summer (which is GREAT for saving on A/C), or the fact that my ecobee has a built in air quality sensor that is making me think we should get an air purifier to cut down on the dust and improve air-quality inside.

Housing Diversity

I probably have been spending too much time on my local Next Door group. But, a lot of people there are complaining about various new projects that are working to bring more housing to our area.

Now—granted—I live in the very middle of peak suburbia. But it never ceases to amaze me how the complaints about more density in new housing developments always fall back to a couple of issues.

First, they complain about “ugly apartment” buildings. And while I think a lot of modern development can be a bit soulless, I think the same thing about most new single family housing as well. And I don’t think there’s anything beautiful about some of the new houses that are anywhere from 3,000 to 5,000 square feet and may have only two or three people living in them.

Next, they always complain about all the extra traffic from “cramming” a bunch of people into a space. Okay, well never-mind that the people who most often complain about this sort of thing also complain about public transportation and oppose all the efforts to improve transit. (which is the only cure for traffic)

But I think what frustrates me at times is the short-sightedness. Yes – I think there’s a place for single family houses. When you have kids, it’s actually really great to have a good backyard and nice suburban neighborhoods. But—shocker—not everybody has that.

More townhouses, condos and apartments give lots more options for lots more people. I live in a 70-year-old neighborhood that we love, and many of my neighbors are quite old. It’s pretty common (and sad) to see an estate sale at a neighbor’s house and then a few weeks later, a for-sale sign to go up in the yard. Usually these houses have been poorly maintained as the aging owner lacks the ability or finances to maintain their house like they used to.

With more housing types available, I wonder if more older people would choose to leave their single family houses for smaller apartments and town-homes that have less maintenance. And especially if they could remain in a community they love. This would be a benefit both to the older person with less to maintain and worry about, and to whatever young family would move up into the formerly occupied house.

By making effective alternatives available for people, you can accomplish a few things at once. You can enable a higher supply of single family homes without necessarily building more homes. (obviously how significant of an effect this will have will vary greatly on many different factors)

This is the point that I think is often lost with NIMBY advocates. They look at a parcel of land, and perhaps it can fit a few dozen single family homes, but hundreds of apartments and townhomes and other dense housing. The effect this would have on freeing up single family housing is hard to measure — but I don’t think it’s zero.

At the end of the day, everyone’s needs are different, and creating a diversity of housing will better serve an entire community’s needs.