Getting it Ready – Some Notes for the Road

I’ve been away for a bit getting some final planning done. I leave now in a little over a week so I had to take care of some logistical things. If you too are gonna depart for a time to be determined or a round the world trip, I’ve found a few travel things which I’ve focused on. My primary goal with these rather disparate things is to bring things into control so I don’t really depend on others too much.

Here’s my working list of things which I worked on. Its a list in Ulysses as well which is the home for things of this kind:

  1. Mail services. There are a lot of options for this when you hit the road. You can just rent a mailbox at UPS or USPS or FEDex. Just send the mail to the ex-wife and torment her and have her destroy it all. Or do what I did. I found a virtual mail and mail forwarding service specifically designed for travelers. There are even choices with this. Some will make you pay for each piece of mail. Others don’t give you many options in how mail is treated. Each gives you a real address you can use for mail forwarding. They all require a USPS form to be completed and notarized and a monthly or annual fee. I am using this one because it seemed to be the best value but still offers a lot. Find one that works and take care of your stuff.
  2. Travel charging and USB power. I know. Completely different but I have been going through different device combinations and then discounting them because of various limitations. There is no ideal charger with AC ports and USB chargers that will also do the variety of power adapting on the road. There are ones that come closer but you suffer in size or weight so choose carefully. I need one that will charge 4 USB devices and have 4 power outlets and also have plug adapters that do International plugs. Its better to not have to carry multiples of things here. I have the closest one I have found which is this one. Is it perfect? No. There is no perfect one but it will work to charge my devices and I am not lugging around a separate carry on bag for all the adapters I need.
  3. Carry-on versus Checked Bags. No real contest here. Carry-on for the win and pick a bag that is flexible and will accommodate your needs. If you cannot travel really lightly get yourself a 45L bag and do some organization with cubes. I chose the Tortuga Outbreaker because it also handles some needs on organization and function but it trades in some weight for that. Find the bag that fits your zen of traveling and use it. Forget the bags with wheels. Roller bags are dangerous. Also check out a resource I have been using for years when looking at traveling light. The One Bag site is an excellent resource that has driven me to make good travel decisions.
  4. Itineraries and tickets and vouchers and passports and stuff. Be sure you have this managed. I have printed out various and sundry things like proof of onward travel from Japan. Bus tickets from Vietnam to Cambodia. Rail tickets from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City. Remember to take visa photos and pens. I’ve looked at this one as trying to reach even 50% of what I will need when I go. Undoubtedly I will need to get things on the road. Pack technology that works and that leads me to the final one.
  5. Technology that works. I went through this earlier and decided to take a single platform with IOS and MAC devices since I can share a set of applications across them all. But your needs are different. You need to enable yourself on the road and not feel constrained. Don’t self limit to a device which will not fulfill its destiny on the road. Need a laptop with a keyboard? Get that done. Want a tablet for easier use on small planes and buses. Get that too. A cell phone is not an option here. Just plan on it and get an unlocked one so you can plug in SIMcards on your travels. I’ve had android devices in the past I kept but had SIMcards in India and Singapore and Vietnam I would buy then toss. Easy to find cards with data only plans are easy on the road. Make the right decision here to fulfill your needs with maps or data sharing on the road.

Finally, this stuff does not take the place of play. A bit of work up front will give you the play later. Take it on!

I leave in a week and days and work ends soon. I purposefully chose an itinerary to let me burn out the work credo in a place I love. I’ll walk the city streets with my FujiFilm X series camera and my choice of devices. Finally, the needs around work will end. Whether a smaller project continues after me is beyond my control. My last day is set and it leads to my destinations.

Now I know that some planning covers a lot of woe on the road but I want some random events. Life is not a GANTT chart for me after 28 February.

Vancouver Moments

I was in Vancouver on vacation last August and still go through my photo album on Google Photos looking. I wanted to share the beauty of the place if you have not been. When I went on this vacation, I took a FujiFilm X100F camera with me. I ended up taking almost 5 times as many photographs.

Here is one for you from trip. I love the rich colors of the evening setting in. Fond memories of the travel!

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Storytelling and blogging – perspectives and use

From writing blogposts the last one plus decades to moving to creating longer form content, there is a continuity of the journey. Awhile ago I decided to write on Medium before coming back to WordPress and setting up this thing. A few things excited and made Medium more than just content but a platform for creating content.

I felt that Medium had the longer story in mind and writers and creators there were more involved with the longer story. The stories would tell you how long a read was and I felt that it was more in front with the content than a blog was. It also had an amazing assortment of folks busy creating longer form writing that I appreciated. A few things dissuaded me from continuing there though. At that point I had two platforms to write on. I had my self-hosted WordPress site with all the detritus from decades of publishing my drivel and then I had a Medium site with new drivel on it. I felt torn between two competing writing platforms and the energy spent creating split in two seemed counter-productive in a few ways. Why, I wondered, choose to publish a thing on my WordPress blog and then if it were something longer or that I felt was more like a story I would then publish on Medium? I am only one person; not a team of writers or affiliates or content publishers. Its hard enough sometimes to engage in creating on a single platform yet here I was writing on two. I knew one had to go simply because the amount of energy and time to maintain and publish on two discrete writing platforms seemed more than I wanted. I am perhaps lazy but WordPress won out not because it has longer form writing tools because if it does I cannot find it. It won out because of the familiarity I had with writing on WordPress and I felt the community here was richer and more diverse. Medium seemed to descend to 10 reasons why for this and 5 rationales for that type posts. I don’t really care for 10 or 5 things. I want the one thing thing that matters.

I do know people who publish to multiple blogs and separate them by whether its security, open source, personal, general technology, etc. I admire them for the effort at separating their existence into buckets but I have found a thing in one place often crosses over. Where to post then? Both? Kind of self defeating to point people at two places to read the stuff. I’ve seen it separated by type, category, persona. Those people have this amazingly diverse multiple identity thing going and they maintain it over the long haul. Kudos!

So this brings me to the thought of the day. Creating content on the road and presenting a different kind of writing than these curious ordered posts with the latest on the top or a static page welcoming all of you legions of readers to this clumsy place. Perhaps an ad or two sprinkled around for your clicking pleasure.

Its still the same limitation with WordPress. There is no “story” plugin or anything besides creating static pages which then have different rules that I can see. No way to create longer form content so I will most likely create static pages which will show up in my menu as things. There’s no point in trying to find a second tool or platform because my own laziness precludes me trying to create on a multiple of sites.

I’d like to read comments from other WordPress bloggers who create longer form content how they handle it. Separate static pages? Buy up to the business class plan and get a custom theme? Find another platform to create stories on?

To kick the can forward a bit, I’ll start testing out the creation of additional static pages with the beginnings of longer form writing I have been toying with. Most are keyed to life type things but I have started cataloging places I want to see, how traveling for us older folks can be challenging in the planning, and what expectations I have (hint: there are none).

If you create longer form writing which you don’t want organized as a series of blog posts, how do you do it? I’ve asked the support community at WordPress a few times and have not found a concrete approach to doing it.

its the Starbucks in Fremont

Starbucks in the afternoon means some time to enjoy a iced coffee and surreptitiously watch other people that are perhaps watching yet other people. The Starbucks I like going to do this people watching is one I used to visit some years ago. Then I would walk in and it felt like a true Cheers moment when Herb walked in and the bar greeted him. The baristas would note the time of day and asked if I wanted my afternoon drink. The was a grande iced coffee. Sometimes some kind of goodie. Often on Fridays, I’d plan on arriving around 4pm because a group of others arrived shortly thereafter and would capture the long table and get their chessboards setup. Soon more would arrive and the chess games started. The evening sun would blaze the window and the white and black chess pieces swirled the table and men (only men) would laugh and curse and then lose or win. Losers moved to the next chessboard and play the next winner and losers would move all around. It was like a symphony of life because there were no real winners or losers. Everyone got to play and then play again. Soon it was dark and the baristas would offer some free treats and in those days visit with the customers.

Now the time has changed and the long table still lives on but its full of millennials doing school or other stuff. A lot of Mac laptops bloom here and there is a constant buzz of conversation. I hear the swish of newspapers because here people still read classic papers.

Others come in and go out and buy drinks. I don’t know any of them any longer. Time has passed and the Starbucks that was is no longer. A new place has taken over and Erica no longer laughs as she expertly makes the drinks. Everything changes and the evolution of life at the Starbucks is like some ethnological study of culture change. New rules and mores apply. New values and norms are introduced and the culture goes on. Perhaps the old timers bring in their kids on a day and show them the big soft chairs in the corner and reminisce about those long ago days. Perhaps those new aspiring members see the new crowd and will come back.

Is Starbucks a conveyor of values and mores to our culture? Perhaps. Maybe the rules still apply and the shadows of those chess players from so long ago still dance the sunsets and like some ghost dance remind those that were here that the Starbuck universe is complete. The new members have come to their places and we all can watch as the stories are told. I did not hear any of these but on a whim,

Remember son that these moments in the soft chairs are important. They separate us from the others. Grab the chair and hold on to it. Park your backpack in it an its reserved. There’s the line. No cutting. There’s enough coffee for us all.

Then perhaps the day settles and the old timer and the new timer depart. One doubts he will return because the things he remembered are rapidly disappearing. Perhaps the young timer will return. Now the long table is his and he finds that the new millennial society is a perfect fit for studying.

I can still hear the clink of the chess pieces and the call outs of “Check and Checkmate”.

No.

That was the yesteryear of my times. The values being transmitted are different and perhaps I’m not so invited and invested in knowing them. I’ve reached a age where I only take up a spot on the corner of the big table.

That and write a blog post and dwell on my rapidly diminishing days here. Will I ever see this particular Starbucks again after March? It does not matter. Starbucks is a cultural universal and I can study anthropology at any of them.

One step to another step…

I admit to cruising AccuWeather now almost on a daily basis looking at weather reports for March in Japan and Vietnam. March in Tokyo is a transition from winter to spring so it may include a variety of types of weather. Hanoi is warm and getting warmer and there are spells of rain.

The last time I visited Japan was in 2011 around October and November. I had only a few hours in Tokyo and then headed down to Kyoto for some days walking the city. After that I took the bullet train back to Tokyo and caught the Narita Express train back to the airport. Not a lot of time to spend in a city that requires an investment of time and energy. To say

I saw Tokyo

I must be willing to walk the city, have tired legs at the end of the day, sit with a cold beer purchased on the cheap from a convenience store and then look at the harvest of pictures on my memory card. But the real thing to say I saw the city is to know up front I have not seen the city. I will have only seen the city on the streets I choose to walk down. What happens a street over left or right I will never know. Whether its a sleepy neighborhood with school children laughing and running and the brave one asking me to talk English to them or the harried day workers strolling in their 45 minute lunch breaks; all cannot be seen.

I’ve acknowledged that before in my dealings with cities like Vancouver, Seattle, and San Diego. And I’ve found its okay. Its okay at the end of the day when I settle back to perhaps get just a bit drunk to reflect that my feet touched those city streets and I rode on the Tokyo Met Subway.

There are places I will go and there are places I will miss and then I’ll fly on to Vietnam. I’ll stay longer because I want to live there and feel the pulse of a city that has a soul and spirit. I will taste the Pho and walk and see. Its all there for the person that’s willing to miss most of it. Take note of the fact that you have the best method to see things at a pace and speed you can deal with. Forty-five MPH on a tour bus may let you see more as you careen the streets. But ask yourself. What was it you saw on that ride? Do you remember the people? Or just the routes you took to see it all.

There’s a story in me about walking and seeing I fear. A navigation of the paths taken and missed and the why of it. When I finish with work, I think the time will be upon to consider the longer writing I have wanted to do. What kind of writing shall it be? I have a bankroll of stories of a life spent in different endeavors and how each spun into a future that is the past now.

Stay tuned. My end of days doing IT is fast approaching. The stories boil up within and demand some attention. Soon I’ll touch those streets in Tokyo, Hiroshima, and Osaka. Watch the blur from the Shinkansen window as the bullet hurtles.

Getting Old not Falling Apart

Getting old has a certain advantage. I’ve been working on the getting old thing through my 50s and now into my 60s. I found work which finally mattered to me in more than a few ways but it took to the end.

Walking into the social security office about three weeks ago was good. I sat for about three hours both impatiently waiting and secretly watching everyone else. Finally, I was called and met a knowledgeable and fun counselor who joked with me about getting old, told me the truth about how social security retirement works, and filed my retirement claim. By two days time I had been approved for retirement and I knew what I would get and when. Its not a lot of money by western standards but living in Asia for awhile will give me a financial reprieve and I won’t worry about running out of money before running out of month.

I also answered a few posts on Quora about getting old or reaching my 60s. The two are not the same by the way. I know people much younger that act old and I know people my age that act younger. The best compliment was from one of my managers who could not believe I qualified for social security retirement because as RS said,

you are young at heart

And yes. Perhaps the work did that and perhaps its because I knew when I started the job that I would reach the point where the debts were paid off andI had money in the bank plus monthly retirement which gives me all I could want to live on in places like Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam.

But here’s some things about getting old. Just my experiment of one mind you.

  1. Getting old does not mean you stop doing work or finding challenging work. You need the right employer and the right colleagues and the right work. You don’t have to go to a convenience store unless you want to.
  2. Don’t be afraid when you get old. Hit the road and be that vagabond even if its an Amtrak trip across the US. You deserve it now live it. Life is not measured in retirement cups of coffee in McDonalds folks. Its measured in risk taking and finding value in the things you have dreamt about. Don’t give up on the dreams and be afraid.
  3. The opposite of 2 above. Be brave. Take risks and you know because you’ve lived more and know more about how things work. Keep your edge using electronics and mobile devices. They can be a pathway to new places for you.
  4. Define the new thing and make it not like the old thing and then do the plan. Be the instrument of your salvation and learn that you are capable of fine and crazy things. Then do them!

Someone at work mentioned they would never be able to do what I have done and they would not. They have too much. You have to have less and then you can risk more. It sounds crazy, right? But the less you have, the more you can do. I live in a room that is probably 12×16 or so. Its been my home since 2015 and its seen me through all the things above and even more.

Getting old is not getting stale like a bag of chips or losing your edge and not knowing how to use technology to meet your needs. Getting old does mean that you have seen and done and seen and done more. Now, you can choose what are the things to maximize seeing and doing.

Be brave warriors and do the things you see. The world is your oyster like my mom used to say. Now say the magic words and tomorrow will open up.

The magic words are not difficult. They are,

I can do this

And its done.

Tools and Writing

Creating content is a thing I’ve been interested in for awhile. Whether its starting a story or writing a journal or creating notes about my upcoming changes. Writing is both a creative thing and a relief thing for me. I standardized on the Apple tools including my MacBook and iPhone 7 plus because I wanted a consistent interface and tool that would hold all my writing. Instead of multiple environments, I find it easier to use one tool which I can adopt and adapt to for creation.

I went through a selection process before and evaluated a variety of tools and ended up with Ulysses on the Mac and IOS. Prior to me joining the fold, Ulysses changed from a classic model to subscription and there were a lot of people that left. Perhaps they went to something like Byword or another tool. I’ve tried Byword on the MacBook and while it has a very nice and pure writing environment, I’ve become spoiled on the organization that Ulysses provides. Byword is simply too freeform for me to create on. I want the library structure plus being able to theme the writing and editing panes the way I want. I also looked at how I can do a variety of writing and how well each tool handles it.

Simply put, Ulysses handles the type of writing I do better. My use case is spontaneous blogging, creation of a basic note in the Inbox with some ideas around a story, management of lists for traveling plus creating a complete folder based environment for places I am going. I also write rather freeform journals in basic text files. A year is one file with dates sprinkled throughout. I don’t want it searchable or indexable but I can search if I want. The journal is different than the blog in how I create content.

For the less structured needs, the ability to start a note or sheet using the Ulysses parlance and then split it off into a new one at my whim is very powerful stuff. Creating a list and moving it to iCloud and then being able to further edit on my iPhone creates a workflow I really like.

Traveling with the workflow

This is an area I am interested in exploring more. My idea is to start a basic set of information as a note in a folder I have created for 2018 Travel. The note may become a blog post or it may live in the travel folder I created. There are actions to be taken as I drill down the number of days until leaving. I want to journal and blog the trip I take but not let both rule my movements. As I have done before, I want to create the content and then select what blogging I will do.

When in Japan in about a month, I will visit three cities. The thing that ties it all together is the wonderful Shinkansen movements between them. I want a central place with the travel information so if I wonder where and when, Ulysses can tell me.

Past that, I have created travel folders for Vietnam and populated that with the travel information for my flight and train trip from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City. Some will become a blog post and others will live out time as a reference. Images and notes are also supported so I can capture the railroad ticket information by printing to PDF and attaching.

Taking it all to the Next Step

The next step is to create the stories and content for that writing. That can be explosive and subjective and full of malformed paragraphs and sentences. Its the ebb and flow of a process I use to create longer form information. None of it is suitable to share but one day my dream is to publish them on the blog as static content files. I don’t know how WordPress will deal with this. I do know from the creation point forward, its Ulysses for me.

Perhaps you have a different need on creation of stuff. I am still looking at tools but I love the interface and use of Ulysses to catalog, track, and create content. It gets out of the way when it needs to but gives me the structure I want for things that are more uniform.

There are rules for writing for me. One is some things have no rules and the tool must support that as well.

Travel is not being the Vagabond

Its almost the beginning of February which means the last month I will work. In March, I take off and fly to Japan and then to Vietnam. Once in Hanoi, I will spend 3 months living and playing, eating and drinking, seeing and doing. Then I catch the train from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City for more of the same.

To tell the truth its been since 2011 that I have had this dream. At times, I never believed I would get to be within 30 days of going. 30 days of being able to leave the Bay Area. A place I never cared for or wanted to live in. I remember back then sometimes after beer only fantasizing about what it would be like when all the things would come together. I wondered then if I would find a job that would let me pay off all debt. Dreams, dear friends. Dreams. So much closer to reality.

The blog is about to turn a corner, become a new thing. That one category Travel will have a new friend soon join it. I am going to launch the category Vagabonding because what I will do is not travel. Travel to me has a beginning and end. I saw this happen time and again when I traveled for work. I would go to India or Singapore or Hanoi or wherever and it would begin and end. My friend AFT does the same. There is a sublime difference between traveling in a number of days that some company buys you. Then you have to live by a set of company rules. They tell you how long to stay and when to go.

Vagabonding on the other hand has no rules. You wander place to place with no fixed home or job. You may wander. Wandering is another great word and when you combine it with lust, you get the true measure of the words.

So welcome my new category dear readers. I’ll embrace the wanderlust and finally be that one thing which was withheld me. First off Japan and then Vietnam and Cambodia. Perhaps Thailand and Laos and China. Life is open for business.

Traveling and Walking with Sound

Lately I’ve been looking at the portability of choices especially for listening to music on my travels. Bluetooth headphones are essential to me since having some cable that runs to an adapter on my iPhone is not ideal. Nor is a cable around my neck or between the earbuds. When I go walking for over an hour a day or like last night for two hours, I want something that can be easily used and then maintained afterwards. I’ve had cables snagged on tree or bush branches, got cables all twirled around in a mess, and had to carefully place expensive bluetooth headsets into a type C or micro USB cable to charge which just adds another thing to manage.

Since I’ve simplified to a two device footprint that are apple devices, I decided to go with these little guys.

There are a few reasons why these fit the bill for me. First off, they are easily transportable to the point of being able to be lost and I’ll cover that in a moment. Second they fit into the choices I made very easily since the case is a charger and the case takes a lightning cable which makes it fit inside a traveling ecosystem. Third off, the sound and pairing is excellent to my non-discriminating and audiophile ears and they do not pop out of my ears. Finally, no cables or distractions from actually listening to the music.

One of the points though is tracking and keeping these things. By themselves, I could see just losing track of them in a rush to pack or leave a coffee shop or something. I started looking for something to help me remember to pack or hook these to the inside of a daypack or my Tortuga Outbreaker. Enter the PodPocket case which comes in handy colors from my travel buddy Amazon here. The case I bought is the blazing red one like this.

The attraction thing is the color and the keyring and still maintaining the portability of doing the primary stuff with it. Simply place the whole thing in the daypack or pocket or attach via the keyring. I think its harder to lose a thing that is bright red and cries out for attention.

I’ve read others that downplay the audio quality and claim you have to carry another device for X or Y reason. I don’t see that. I listen to music with them on my iPhone 7 plus and I hear all the wonderful sounds. They seem to stay active with no cutouts and the quick maintenance and placement into a case is the best. Charging in the car is easy as well and I can quickly slip them into the case which charges them.

Perhaps they do not have some audiophile quality sound but these tech things are still emerging and how we use them is too. The AirPods are just a update to a bunch of cables and chargers and leave me feeling more productive and able to enjoy music faster. I am not real Apple lover but I chose the ecosystem because of the devices which do not take up space when traveling. Having the 12 inch 2017 MacBook and the iPhone 7 plus lets me go with things in a compatible technology. I can take or read notes on Ulysses on my iPhone or read a story that I have started working on.

The AirPods are just a generational leap forward and perhaps in a year there is something else better. For me, having a set of devices which link up by opening and store the configurations in iCloud mean an ease of travel.