Monthly Archives: August 2022

E-reader recommendation

Being an idiot, I somehow lost my Kindle Paperwhite yesterday.  I’m not sure if I left it on the plane or if it fell out of my bag or what, but either way, ug.  In any case, does anyone have an e-reader recommendation?  I loved my older gen Paperwhite, but when it died a couple years ago, I got this one, and I’ve been displeased with it.  It’s slower than my old one, which is surprisingly annoying, and the battery life has been so-so.  Nevertheless, I use it for probably on average an hour every day, and so overall I can’t complain too much.  It’s much better than reading on my phone, for example.

Do you read paper books?  If not, what e-reader do you recommend and why?

in bed with Google

How deeply are you in bed with Google?  Personally, I think it’s a bad idea to get too deeply in bed with any one company.  It’s concerning individually, and more, in the aggregate.  Really, we need a competitor to disrupt Google because right now Google has a scary monopoly and access to crazy amounts of personal data.  Could Google win a war with the US right now?  Hard to say.

Google makes great products, and I continue to use many of them, but I’ve started moving away from total reliance on their services little by little.  Two baby steps: on my laptop, I no longer use the Chrome browser or the Google search engine.  Instead I use Brave for both functions.  It’s great!   In fact, I think the browser is superior.  Google’s search engine is better, but I rarely notice the difference, and on those rare occasions, I just go to and use Google.  I primarily use the internet on my laptop, but I plan to switch over on my phone as well.   I definitely recommend checking out Brave if you’d like a little privacy.

I plan to switch e-mail soon as well, as that’s an easy change and my google account has been invaded by spam to some degree at this point.  I still rely heavily on Google for maps, and since their service is so good, I don’t plan to change that at this point.  In addition, I use Google photos.  I wouldn’t mind changing photo services if there was a good one out there.  Any recommendations?  Lastly, I use Google drive.  I’ll stick with that for now as well.  My goal isn’t to fully divest from Google but to generally diversify the services I use so that no one company has access to too much of my data or control over how I communicate and live.

In addition, I don’t use Google as a sign-in.  I have a few heritage accounts for which I used Google to sign in, but in general, I set up a unique account for ever website and avoiding linking accounts when possible.

I read this article in the NYT about one way Google can screw you over unintentionally.  In this case, I think Google’s efforts to stop child porn are highly commendable and probably worth any collateral damage but I think the article just shows the enormous power of Google and the danger of letting them have too much leverage over your life in the name of convenience.


We are in Virginia for one month.  We came with just one suitcase.  In addition, everyone had a small carry-on for the plane, in which we had a sweater and a few books for entertainment.  That’s it.  In our one suitcase, we had clothes for the five of us as well as toiletries, a first-aid kit, and a couple other little things.

At home, we have an incredible amount of stuff.  Every time one of the girls has a birthday, we have to have a party and they get more – let’s face it – junk.  This brings them great joy for a few days, and then it’s just more clutter.

Since we’ve been here, there have been a few things I’ve missed.  Specifically, I wish I had my bathrobe (too big to pack) and a couple extra sports bras.  If I had my bike, I’d ride it, but honestly I don’t miss it that much.  In general, I’d say we’re much happier without all the stuff.

I’m determined to go home and just ruthlessly get rid of things.  There are definitely things I own that bring me great joy – my GPS watch, my cross stitch, some of the clothes I wear most often, and yes, that bathrobe.  And back home, we have to be prepared for different seasons, school, some activities we don’t do here, like cycling and skiing, plus the girls’ sports and activities.  But even still.  There is a huge amount of junk we could get rid of.

It weighs you down having too much stuff.  Thanks to globalism, which has massacred the American working class and unions, we can afford just about anything.  It’s so easy to accumulate things.  The cost of things is basically insignificant compared to the cost of services.  We spend money on housing, school, childcare, and food (including eating out).  Buying clothes and toys and art supplies really doesn’t even factor, the cost is so low comparatively speaking.  I do budget spending both myself and the girls.  As an adult, you can actually spend a lot on things like bikes and skis and electronics.  But there is just so much cheap stuff you can accumulate.

It feels like this is a change from when I was a kid.  My parents were (and are) EXTREMELY frugal.  So, perhaps it is just the difference in spending mindset rather than a societal change.  But I do think the rise in cost of housing and advent of Chinese manufacturing has changed things.

Do you have too much stuff?  How do you prevent accumulating junk and clutter?

vacation in virginia

We’ve been to a few theoretically warm places in the last few years.  Hawaii and the Bahamas spring to mind.  But neither of them really had truly warm water.  Like, you could go in the water for sure, but you’d better have a towel ready when you got out.  It was downright chilly in the Bahamas and none too warm in Hawaii either, honestly.  Plus, in neither place were we staying ON the water.  (We couldn’t afford waterfront in either Hawaii or the Bahamas.)  We’ve stayed right on the beach in Oregon lots of times, but I don’t think I need to tell you that the water there isn’t warm enough for swimming.  It’s been a revelation staying here at Smith Mountain Lake.  We’re staying right on the lake, and the water temperature is truly just right – not too cold and not too hot.  I wouldn’t change it one iota.

On the flip side, getting in the water twice a day with your kids is truly exhausting.  SML is deep water – by 6 feet from shore, an adult is well over their head in most places, including where we’re staying.  The shoreline is rocky, so everyone just jumps in off the dock or goes down a swim ladder into very deep water.  Therefore, even though L is a great swimmer and B is a good swimmer, we definitely keep an eye on them and have various safety rules.  S is another problem altogether.  She always wants to go in with her sisters but it’s tough being in the water over your head with a baby.  We have some kayaks here, so we usually put her in a kayak and push her around, or have her wear a life jacket and sort of hold her up while sitting on a pool noodle ourselves.  H has been working some of the time, so I’m the one getting in the water the vast majority of the time.  I am exhausted!  Good exhaustion, but wow, talk about needing a vacation from your vacation.

My brother stayed with us for the past week which was wonderful.  I haven’t been able to spend this much time with him and his family for so long.  Also, of course, tiring.  He has a 2 year old and a 4 year old, and generally speaking, either his 2 year old or my 2 year old were upset about something.  His wife is 21 weeks pregnant and such a trooper.  She was really amazing about playing with the kids and just being out in the heat.  The heat is actually not so bad except when running.  It’s been in the high 80s, up to about 90, and very, very humid.  Perfect for swimming and boating.  Not so great for outdoor exercise.

It’s been great to be in SW Virginia overall.  It feels like home, viscerally.  I miss it here, though I obviously see lots of drawbacks to SML specifically.  (For example: sub-par schools.)