It’s a chilly 37°F morning here in southern New Hampshire. If “Back to School” wasn’t enough, this is yet another reminder that summer is on its way out. I lit our wood stoves both to warm the house and to get that initial “burnt dust and cobwebs” smell out of their systems.

Tim and a few friends are taking one more practice SAT exam this morning. The seniors at ASD take their much-postponed exam this Wednesday. Tim’s had three scheduled college exams in the past half year or so that were all cancelled as exam day drew near, but “this time for sure !!”

As some readers might know, I don’t write this on some expensive MacBook like I used to when I wrote on bilikfamily.com. This is a relatively worthless PineBook Pro – a laptop akin to putting a small Raspberry Pi tinkering computer into a laptop frame. I get a kick out of tinkering around on it, “ricing” it, as some computer geeks like to say. It’s like a young guy buying some $2-4k Civic, or Jetta, or an old Prelude who “pimps his ride”.

Meanwhile five years ago I also bought a premium Chromebook Pixel LS for $1300. In all that time it’s always “just worked” and done so very smoothly – running ChromeOS, Android apps, and Linux at the same time. It’s a Lexus sedan of computers. Plain, but comfy and high quality. I think it has about a year left in updates, but then I’ll likely unlock it and make it a decent Linux laptop.

I was thinking about how this parallels in my driving. My daily driver is an Audi A3 Quattro Turbo convertible. A fast engine, a lightning fast shifting six speed dual clutch transmission, and a powered top that can put sunshine on my head in 15 seconds at the push of a button. Meanwhile in the winter it has a separate set of wheels with grippy snow tires, heated leather seats, front-biased four wheel drive, etc. that make it good for New Hampshire winters.

But to be honest, I get just as much fun driving my 14+ year old Jetta TDI with five speed manual. Decent low end torque, excellent fuel economy, but you’ll never beat anyone off the line at a red light. If you’re not careful you might find yourself hunting for third gear while accelerating and doing a second to third upshift. But it has whatchya need: heated seats, a sunroof, and it’s fun “rowing your own” gears, as I’ve done ever since I got my first car.

I have both Google Drive and a Microsoft One Drive for cloud storage that are so easy to use and well supported. But I also have a QNAP brand networked attached storage box in the house for my own local “cloud drive” and lately we’ve been tinkering with an inexpensive setup of “NextCloud” on a Raspberry Pi4 with a fast USB Flash Drive hanging off of it.

I have a Feedly Pro account for tracking news – a smooth and very polished way to track sites via RSS on your mobile or laptop. I also play around with a terminal centered program called “newsboat” which more or less does the same thing but locally and on your own machine.

I have a forced hot air furnace. Like most it’s just thermostatically controlled and as long as I keep the gas supplied and occasionally change an air filter, it “just works”. I also have two wood pellet stoves. They require me to haul in a 40 pound bag of wood pellets from the garage, load ‘em, clean off their burn pots, and light them manually. Roughly every ton of wood they need me to give them a deep clean, or their efficiency drops. Each cleaning takes about half an hour and my hands are sooty for a day or two.

In my first five years of marriage we lived in a small two bedroom base housing with about 1000 sq feet and a postage stamp lawn. Seven years later we’re in this current house - a five bedroom house on 2 1/2 acres. I’ve been here 18 years but would be happy to eventually move back into a small two bedroom place (especially adjacent to a small lake) when the kids are mostly independent.

Maybe it’s a Guy Thing. Maybe I’m indecisive. Maybe some of that Yankee thift and frugality is creeping into this Midwest raised man. Maybe because as an engineer who must obsess about optimization, I’m always looking for alternative ways to get something done at less cost, less power, less waste, etc. Maybe I just enjoy a fuller spectrum of experiences. Maybe it’s trying to understand a broader experience so as not to live in a bubble of “everyone does it just like this”. I don’t know, but it was fun to think about…