In the Zone

I went on a Los Angeles Mycological Society mushroom foray with Bat Vardeh of Foraging and Mushroom Hunting Women of SoCal, on the 9th way up in the Angeles Forest. It was the most gnomecore thing I’ve done in a long time.

We traversed an area dramatically altered by the Bobcat fire of 2020, giving our gnomecore revelries a bit of a post-apocalypse vibe. But amidst the destruction we found mushrooms that thrive in burn zones. The fire vaporized whole trees leaving nothing but a pit where roots used to be. In fact you could follow the negative space of those vaporized roots in the landscape. Within these crevices tiny mushrooms have started the work of transforming the burned remains of the forest into a new landscape.

One thing I learned on this walk is that children are the best mushroom hunters. One particularly enthusiastic kid found the first mushroom and consistently, throughout the day, found more and more. I think it’s because children don’t have the filters on sensory inputs that we adults have. They welcome sensory chaos and don’t yet have the fully formed defenses we adults have to filter, classify and, at worst, ignore the wonder around us.

We didn’t’ find any edible mushrooms, though morels pop up fleetingly in similar burn sites. But I’m happy to look at any mushroom and edibles are just the icing on the cake.

In addition to mushrooms, the fire revealed opportunities for an archeology of late capitalism. Here a Wizard Charcoal Lighter can from maybe the early 1970s washed down from the nearby Buckhorn campground.

And a vintage Pepsi can, also from the early 70s. If only the fungi could learn to metabolize these things but I’m afraid we’re stuck with them.

More on mushrooms in burn areas.

Peter Kalmus Arrested in Climate Change Protest

I’ve taken a break from Twitter for a few weeks and so missed friend of the blog Peter Kalmus’ arrest this past week for locking himself to the JP Morgan Chase building in downtown Los Angeles. Peter, a climate scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab, says in an editorial for the Guardian that he and other activists, part of Scientist Rebellion, chose Chase because the bank funds the most new fossil fuel projects.

Explaining his action Peter says,

Nothing has worked. It’s now the eleventh hour and I feel terrified for my kids, and terrified for humanity. I feel deep grief over the loss of forests and corals and diminishing biodiversity. But I’ll keep fighting as hard as I can for this Earth, no matter how bad it gets, because it can always get worse. And it will continue to get worse until we end the fossil fuel industry and the exponential quest for ever more profit at the expense of everything else. There is no way to fool physics.

As this protest took place during a week when temperatures here broke records you’d think that the local media would have said something but there wasn’t a peep about it with the exception of the excellent LA Podcast.

Peter was a guest on episodes 39 and 116 of our podcast. You can follow him on Twitter at @ClimateHuman. There’s a fundraiser for his and other activist’s legal defense here.

iMac Drive Upgrade

The old drive covered in 12 years worth of dust.

I belong to a cult. In my cult we have different levels achieved at great expense. The leadership is authoritarian and opaque. We use technology to mediate our experiences. The headquarters is in California.

The cult is called Apple and I’m in deep and have been for a long time. Since 2010, most of the thousands of posts on this blog have their origins on the dusty drive you see above.

I always think of the way Umberto Eco described the Apple cult and its main competitor,

Indeed, the Macintosh is counterreformist and has been influenced by the “ratio studiorum” of the Jesuits. It is cheerful, friendly, conciliatory, it tells the faithful how they must proceed step by step to reach – if not the Kingdom of Heaven – the moment in which their document is printed. It is catechistic: the essence of revelation is dealt with via simple formulae and sumptuous icons. Everyone has a right to salvation.

DOS is Protestant, or even Calvinistic. It allows free interpretation of scripture, demands difficult personal decisions, imposes a subtle hermeneutics upon the user, and takes for granted the idea that not all can reach salvation. To make the system work you need to interpret the program yourself: a long way from the baroque community of revelers, the user is closed within the loneliness of his own inner torment.

Over the last year I’ve set out on a project to demystify Apple’s closed system by popping open its sleek minimalist objects to peer inside, to fix and prolong the life of a motley set of Apple junk I’ve come into possession of. I repaired an iPod and a iPad. Last week I revived my 2010 iMac.

In order to upgrade that iMac with a new solid state drive, I had to find an identification number. The i.d. number I needed was printed on the bottom of the “foot” that holds the heavy screen in a microscopic type printed gray on a gray background. Apple has a fetishistic design aesthetic that I’ve come to see as getting in the way of the functioning of the machine. The USB ports, for instance are placed in an awkward to access rear portion of the screen so as not to interfere with the sleek look of the damned thing.

To peak under the foot of the iMac I had to lean it back and use my iPhone camera to magnify the type. As I leaned the heavy iMac I inadvertently tipped over a small statue of the Egyptian god Anubis that had been banished to the windowsill of the walk in closet above my computer. Anubis fell and struck my iPhone, shattering the screen. So I had to add a new iPhone screen to my computer parts order (!).

In a technological realm designed for easy repair, which is not the capitalist world we live in, you’ be able to easily access all the interior parts of your computer. Such is not the case, of course, with an iMac. It’s not the worst repair project I’ve ever tackled but I wouldn’t call it easy either. You have to carefully lift the heavy screen out of the case and detach a bunch of delicate cables in order to access the old drive.

Once you put the iMac back together you have to install new system software. I’ll spare you the details but just say that Apple makes it difficult to install legacy software on old machines. In order to do it I needed another old machine and some arcane commands in the terminal application to get the iMac working again.

The end result is a remarkably fast and new seeming computer. The old drive in my circa 2010 iMac could not keep up with system and program demands and became so slow as to be unusable. The new solid state drive I installed makes for a new computer good enough for most of the tasks I use it for. You can do this same upgrade with old mac laptops.

Still, the arduous process of ugrading this machine made me want to deprogram myself from the Apple cult and join up with the Linux folks and some more user-configurable machine.

If you want to try this iMac upgrade for yourself here’s how to do it.