One thing that retirement offers for me is a chance to check out tech stuff that I can explore. Without having to teach it the next morning! I’m a recently retired computer science teacher and a lifelong leaner. I do love learning! It keeps me alive, keeps my brain active, and is an endless source of inspiration (and sometimes frustration). One of the things I loved about teaching computer science, and one of the reasons I switched from teaching humanities, was that there was always something new to learn. I mean, Hamlet hadn’t changed much in the last 400 years.

So my latest rabbit hole is a concentric circle of topics. Starting from the outside ring: Linux (specifically Linux Mint). Then emacs, and then mostly org-mode. And those three are a lifetime of learning right there. I’ve been a Windows user my whole career, though I dabbled in Linux along the way, particularly in setting up and running a Raspberry Pi server in my classroom. So I’m not a complete stranger to the ways of the terminal and linux. But that’s been a while. How long? Well, last time I dabbled in linux, I don’t think Mint was even a thing, or at least I wasn’t aware of it.

So let’s take a look at what I’m learning and doing.

Linux Mint

Went through multiple attempts to get this running on my Windows machine, including VMWare, WSL, and several failed attempts at dual booting. Thanks to the kindness of strangers on Mastodon, I was finally able to get the dual boot working on my desktop.

Mint, they say, is a good step from Windows, and I heartily concur. I don’t mind messing with terminal commands, but I do enjoy a GUI that’s kind of like Windows. And since Mint is based on debian, the terminal commands are familiar to me after using Ubuntu back in the day.

All of my peripherals just worked, which is a far cry from what I remember about my earlier forays into linux. Wifi – check. Mouse – check. Keyboard – almost check (bluetooth doesn’t work with grub). Printer – check. Webcam – check minus. Don’t know if that’s a Firefox issue or something else, but I’ve only been able to get it reliably working (Google Meet) on the Windows side with Chrome.

Got backing up working to my Google Drive with rclone. Have to do it manually, and that’s not ideal, but it’s ok for now.

Bought a sub-$100 Thinkpad for my on-the-go machine and put LM on it. Works great, but now I have to come up with a solution for syncing with the desktop, and syncthing is next on my scary list of stuff to set up.

But since much of my “work” is in the browser and writing (see below), LM in itself is pretty transparent. Which is what I’m aiming for.


I was a committed Obsidian user for the last year. While I still love it, there are a lot of things that emacs offers. Mainly org-mode! But in my #learninginpublic adventures, I’m learning how to change the theme, set up RSS feeds (yay!), find and install packages, like org-bullets, and start to get familiar with the navigation keys.

Emacs is overwhelming. The best advice I read was to just learn what you need to learn and adapt to the emacs way of doing things as you can. So I have a little Field Notes notebook on my desk where I’m keeping track of key bindings, tips, and tricks. All working well so far!

But there’s no doubt that emacs is a lifestyle, an OS, a thought processor, a text editor, and so much more. And for a lifelong learner like myself, that’s pretty cool. Again, I’m indebted to the emacs community on Mastodon, who have jumped in to offer advice and solace to a n00b. I can see myself doing almost all my digital living and learning in emacs for a long time to come.

Oh, and I’m also dipping into the wonders of LISP programming. Mainly config stuff right now, but I’m sure there’s more learning to be had on the horizon.


So the inner circle of my learning adventure right now is org-mode. Since what I really want to do with the computer is write, org-mode is just amazing.

First of all, it makes outlining your writing super easy and flexible. I remember an outlining tool I used back in the DOS days of Windows that allowed outlining like this – up and down movement, indenting and outdenting, changing sub levels, etc. And I never was able to find a suitable replacement. Until now. Not only that, but I also found org2blog, which enables me to write in org-mode and automatically throw it into this blog you’re reading. Icing on the cake!

Of course, org-mode also has a million productivity aids, but since I’m retired I am pretty free of needing to be productive. Woohoo! So I haven’t spent much time trying to incorporate to-do’s, agendas, etc. I just want to write, and so far org-mode is giving me some amazing frictionless space for that.

All of this is always in flux, and maybe in the future I’ll hop to some other platform for my learning and writing. But right now I’m loving it!