Black Friday has Struck the Mike Force

Today is a big shopping day both in stores and online. I drove by a few stores today and did not see the lines but I can testify that my Friday breakfast spots were much busier. I ended up having my big meal breakfast at the Country Way Restaurant in Fremont which was nice. Always room at the counter for a single dude.

I had decided to shop for a laptop because I am still waffling on using the iPad Pro for my travels. I had the MacBook Pro 13 inch for awhile and while I liked it, a friend’s family ended up needing it more. I started looking again today on eBay and found a 12 inch 2017 MacBook (not pro) for almost half price. The things I like about this tech include the form factor, larger drive space, and still with no fan. I guess I was into self spoilage because I went on and got a new daypack and a travel backpack from my favorite vendor RedOxx. I had and used the AirBoss for years but the need this time was for something I could use in a variety of ways. I went with the Lil Hombre which is a new entry. I started considering what a travel backpack has to do to make it worthwhile for me. These packs are a specialized thing and I will use the finalist for a long time on the road. It must be able to hold the clothing I will take and be TSA friendly for carry-on. I detest checked baggage since having stuff end up basically at other places or checked all the way through when traveling to India. I landed in Singapore after 17 hours of flight only to find the company had made a mistake with the next booking. The baggage was trapped in the terminal storage area and I had to rent a transit room with no clothing changes or other required hygiene type stuff. Very painful. At that point I knew I needed something else. Enter RedOxx and the AirBoss.

Now my needs are different for this kind of bag. What is needed is a bag that can be carried in three or four ways like across the body, on the back, slung over a shoulder, or with carry handles on side and front. It also cannot load bottom up like a backpack does for cross country. I should be able to unzip the bag and have everything easily reachable. The Lil Hombre is this bag. It has three containers but is absent the usual internal storage compartments. That’s okay actually since I ended up also buying the next thing.

The next thing is a daypack which can hold a variety of things but still be slid under the seat in front. I settled for a North Face Jester Backpack. This versatile little pack will hold two devices, camera gear, paperwork and is of the usual North Face quality which is top notch. The daypack is the daily expression of use while the carry-on bag choice fulfills the need to carry, store, and flexibly transit international lobbies.

I think the two new bags fulfill what I need for carry-on and personal carry. It’s about three months before I leave the place. Finding the final travel things is fun. Considering the counts of things, what I will need to sustain myself on busses and trains and planes has always been fun. The act and art of this travel is different. Not returning after XX days means its more important than ever to find things which will provide that flexibility and worth. I could say money is not an object but it is. It always is but I will be going with the devices I choose and we shall see how well I have planned this. The truth is no amount of planning ever offset the karma of travel. Things go crazy on any flight, train trip, bus ride. Once riding the Coast Starlight Amtrak train, we were delayed for hours outside of Portland Oregon because of a freight train mishap. You get a sense of things when a delay happens or you are booked on connecting flights and you succumb to the desire to check bags. At least the baggage checking thing is not a thing for me any longer.

Have a good Black Friday. Sharpen those deal cutters and find the bargains for the things you want and need. I probably bought a few extra things. Such is life in the Mike lane.

Thanksgiving 2017 – moments in time sublime

It’s Thanksgiving. Long weekend with no work and a few things to be thankful for. I guess I think of the same things each year when the big holidays come around. This year though is different. There are things that are going to happen which change things up quite a bit. I always consider the things that I have and don’t have and I think each group have elements to be thankful for. Let’s see if I can get them and you can see how your things perhaps are better or more inclusive. Maybe I’m wrong for the things.

  1. I have my kids and I’m thankful for them. They both are interesting, fun, sometimes irritating. They both are supposedly adults now so its interesting to plot how my thanks have changed. I need them and they need me less. When they do need me its something different than when they were 5 or 10. The needs are fewer and farther between. And yes… I’m thankful for that. Because that leads to the second point somehow.
  2. I have less responsibilities and ownership. Life is more minimal and I sit here after drinking a bit too much beer last night and after breakfast out at Carls Junior thinking about that less of things. Many have families and mortgages and loans and debt and homes and cars and miles to go before they sleep. I have less of those things. My debt is mine to own now. It’s so little at this point that its another thing to be thankful for. With less comes the ability to have more. More independence and ability to pick up and go with fewer things to manage. I could never indulge my third thing unless there was less of these things.
  3. I’m thankful that I can soon not just travel but experience the world out there on my terms. I feel I’ve paid the different gods and have reached that point where things are not owed and time has been returned to me. A wonderful feeling that could be scary but its a thing I’m thankful for nonetheless.
  4. I’m thankful I figured out a few concepts around marriage and friendship and have so-called acquaintances or colleagues and I came out the other side of them all. I’ve realized the greatest thing is not finding someone else to share life with but finding things in life that are good and if there is another person to share its okay but not required. Figuring this out meant I could bid adieu to work colleagues and even work itself. That leads to a final thanks.
  5. I found a work thing which has been beneficial to me and for me and for them. I’ve been able to deliver truly large integration projects that have mixed up cloud and premised data centers with large vendors and I’m trusted to simply deliver and manage. But a work thing has an end state. No one should just continue to work until all is done and there are no more mysteries to cross off the list. I’m thankful for the promotions and awards and bonuses which have allowed a few of the other things. The real thing though is the opposite of work. That is play folks. Play is waiting. Like a child puzzling over that half unwrapped Christmas gift I can only see the few end states of leaving next March and not returning. The rest requires additional play and time and meeting the other “thanks” categories.

Let me ask you all what are you thankful for? Do you see a path forward or is the path still a plan in process. I’ve puzzled it over since my divorce and felt at first the sting of loss and almost bereavement. Now I see that things have happened a certain way and perhaps as my friend and mentor RWR would say of doing archeology “find the idea”. I have found it Rog. It was there all along but sometimes the closest things to your eyes and mind are most cunningly hidden.

Such as the things this wonderful day I am thankful for. I know they don’t encompass Thanksgiving dinners and pies and family moments. For those I leave to you all. They are worthy things if you find worth in them.

Travel Plans and Itineraries

Planning for a long trip (not a vacation) means a few things. By long, I don’t mean rushing through 9 countries in 3 months and declaring done. Instead, one must adopt the slow pace to the countries and move in, take up residence, travel in the new home. I’ve set a few places now in my itinerary and made a few decisions about how I manage things here. Gonna cover the decisions first and then the itinerary.

Decisions to be made or have been made

Finances. I believe that this a tough one. So many choices of how to do things. Do I get a prepaid travel card, credit card, use my existing Bank of America. I actually stopped in yesterday to talk with the BofA representative and while I agree with most of what he said, I believe a credit card is not necessary for someone like me that is completely opposed to their evil. Instead, I opened a Capital One 360 checking account all online and linked my BofA account to it. There are advantages to the Capital One account like transaction fees, online services that already have the banks linked to each other, a lot of good reviews by expats on the service, and finally not having all the “beans” in one bucket. I can decide how to move money around between accounts and use the Capital One account for daily things when I need a debit card. The real thing is cash I think and a way to carry cash securely. You have heard of money belts, secret compartments, fake wallets. I believe a simple $15 to $20 dollar neck wallet is the way to go here. It would be pretty hard to take something hanging around my neck. The real thing with finances though is to manage them when traveling. I have to practice a new way of thinking about money when I get there.

Phone Service. We know that most financial institutions want a phone number to text you at. There are choices here. I could buy a VOIP account and install the client on my iPad Pro. I could use Skype and buy a real number. I could just use Google Voice with what I have. The issue may be that it does not work in some places. That’s without a decent VPN solution. Once you factor in something like ExpressVPN, more choices and alternatives emerge. I can use a local number and get SMS messages, set calls to forward where I want, and make calls on Hangouts for a small cost. The best part of this is there is no new hardware to buy or phones to get for this.

Postal Services. This is a big one guys. What to do with my snail mail service? I cannot just leave it going to a place I am not at nor just buy something like a mailbox where I never know if I get something I need to act on or need emergency forwarding to a hotel in Thailand. Enter virtual mailbox services. For about $100 a year I can receive all mail there with a real address, get the mail imaged or destroyed, and never worry whether my daughter can act on a thing fast enough when she has her own things in her own life. So I will buy a virtual mail service and have all my mail forwarded to that address. With that real address I get flexibility and I get a year’s coverage. For the cost, this is a secure and flexible alternative to the usual issues.

IRS for fun and profit. I have not figured this out yet. But I have a year to deal with it after this next filing. There are solutions out there that expats use. I just need to lock in to one that works. Perhaps e-filing is an option.


I started studying destinations about 6 months ago when the plan started taking shape. I wanted to spend longer times in countries that are cheaper and shorter times in places that cost. Here’s the so-called itinerary for your consideration.

Japan. This is an expensive place but there is a part of me linked there somehow so I will spend two weeks traveling in Japan. I’ll get back to Tokyo for 5 days, get to HIroshima for 5 days, and then end in Osaka for 4 days. This will cost a bit but I only do 2 weeks there because of cost. Japan is also a gateway place for me to go on.

Vietnam. I will spend six months split between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh city. I plan on seeing what each place has to offer and the surrounding areas like HaLong Bay and wherever else the spirit takes me. I already have a six month Visa for Vietnam.

Cambodia. I will spend three months in Phnom Penh and see ancient temples, archeological and historical wonders. After three months I will move elsewhere in Cambodia. Perhaps I spend a year there by extending my e-class visa a few times.

At this point I have the plans for lodging and travel made for the most part. There is a mystery in things still like the train service down to Ho Chi Minh City from Hanoi. The bus service from Ho Chi Minh city to Cambodia. All is fun though to me and the leisurely pace sticks with my goal to not rush through a set of countries on a whirlwind tour. I also think anyone on retirement can live in these places and I’ve added more to my list that will come. These include Thailand, Malaysia, and India for longer stays and Singapore for a shorter stay.

Someone at work asked when I would get back. There is no telling. I don’t want to come back here. This place is lost to me.

So, there you have it dear readers. A few basic things and an itinerary. There are things to get done before that I have saved off in Ulysses which now is my go to place to record and track things. Things need to get done at a pace of time but I have through January at work and then through February to take care of the edge cases of things.

On 1 March though I fly. First up Japan and I am so excited at the prospect of getting back and seeing Tokyo first.

Friday’s Fuji Fun Times

Fridays away from work are fine days for shooting some photos using my Fuji X Series Camera. I found some new Acros film simulation settings so have started visiting some places around here and taking more black and whites. There is a certain texture and completeness to the black and whites which I really enjoy.

There is subtle nature I believe to these settings and the contrast and edge jump right out. Much better than my earlier settings.

I’m still a basic and novice photographer but I sure enjoy my chosen camera. I think the Fuji X100F is a great learner’s camera. It’s small, the form factor easy to tote around on vacation and travels and such, and there are lens for it one can buy if so inclined.

There’s a coupe of favorite haunts of mine that I like revisiting because they are close. The first photograph is in Historic Niles and the second at a BART station in the east bay. Both offer interesting perspectives and I can wander around easily with the camera.

The architecture of being done or being built in the second area is cool.

Since its close, I can always head over there to test things out. I don’t worry about mess ups since its a 10 minute drive from where I live.

Next weekend after Thanksgiving, I’ll head into San Francisco for a day of street photography downtown, in China Town, and Union Square. May spend the night or just come back.

Moving to a Challenge — the new beat of life

I decided awhile ago to move from working to non working. It was about a year ago give or take. I knew then my time was limited doing IT and specifically IT Project Management. There’s something about it that’s demeaning and irritating, frustrating and anger producing. I realized that people should not do things that produce those results in them. I had a debt due that I had been paying for years because of my mess ups earlier. I left a marriage with debt and collection agencies hounding me. I got both credit card providers to agree to a repayment plan through a non profit debt management company. That left me having to work more years to get to a place where I would have money saved and at the end point of revolving debt. Now I’m down to a single one which gets paid in January. I will be basically debt free then with an amount of savings and retirement that will let me do a few things. I also was lucky to keep my frequent flier miles which meant I could leave and not pay much for the flights. To get to Asia one has to fly. No hitch-hiking and no driving. That can be expensive. Then one has to fly between places if other modes of transit are not available.

I decided then to retire on my own terms and I knew I had to wait until the debt God had his way with me. Divorce creates a lot of pain and hatred and little or no reconciliation when you are egotistical and narcissistic like me. I journeyed through all the steps those 5 steps which are supposed to end at acceptance. Problem was; that never happened. Still has not happened. No happy acceptance of divorce. Instead a “living with or in spite of it”. I have learned to live with it.

But the end of the story is happy dear readers.

Now I am an old guy. I spent the required years in IT and I am able to get on with a thing I am going to outline below. If I can do this, I really believe anyone can. So why do people sit at McDonalds bemoaning the lack of excitement and challenge? I don’t know. But I see them each day gathering with their senior coffee and some kind of granola bar. What the hell is that about I always wonder.

So I set out to make a change. I decided I would not go gently into that good night. I would rave and yell and shriek and be just the same way with adenture I have always been. Age is no boundary. It’s not being a millennial or nothing. We old guys just move slower but I believe many of us have adventuring and hobo spirits and they are crushed. Crushed by the Bay Area and the expenses and no way out. Manhandled by life events.

So I said “fuck that”. Fuck it all. It’s not worth it.

Go To Asia

That is what is needed. I must go to Asia. So I booked airline tickets with those miles and am flying to Narita Japan on 1 March. I’ll spend some weeks in Japan in Tokyo, Hiroshima, and Osaka.

Then I fly to Hanoi Vietnam for 6 months. I have that all booked with rooms that cost a fraction of what I spend here. I will live good and see things and not sit in some senior center wondering what happened. I will find streets to photograph and people to study and other beers to drink.

After Vietnam its Cambodia. Another gem and a cheap place. I’ll spend perhaps a year there and then its Thailand or perhaps Laos or Malaysia.

You see the “Go to Asia” thing creates choice. Instead of sitting at the corner coffee shop and wondering where it all went; I am going to find some of it all.

I believe anyone can do this but I think getting old interferes with the risk taking and challenging life ways. We get sedentary and not willing to take chances. We move slower and we think life needs to be slower. It’s not true folks. We are made of star stuff and our spirits can be indomitable warriors but we get sequestered into a place where the movement is down the block and not across the ocean.

Take it back you all. No one says you have to give it away when you turn a certain age. Find your place. Do what Chris McCandless did. Go into your wild place. It may be a city or a state or place of mind.

Don’t just sit. Move. Life is not meant to give up so don’t.
Be the brave of heart and soul and never say you won’t
Venture forth and taste that trail that hastens to meet your eyes
Time is not real and minutes or seconds do not haunt by or fly
Travel the far paths and find the poetry that inspires
Don’t tire

Be that brave one and find the place that you see. That far shore
It’s the place you know. It’s beyond that final door
Time to risk and challenge whatever comes to be
Time to see

By Me.

On the road soon with changes

This last week saw me give notice at my employer and completely change my travel plans. I started looking at what it was I wanted to do. I want to get completely away from the states to a cheaper place. My friend Robert at work says that the Bay Area is a special economic zone where prices are inflated, homes are out of reach, and people cannot retire and live.

I decided to do something different so I booked my airline flights for a first leg of an Asian trip. First off I fly to Japan and spend two full weeks in three cities there. I am going back to Tokyo again and then on to Hiroshima and Osaka. I’ll wander the cities much as I have done before but with no end date and no date to be back here. Instead I fly on to Hanoi Vietnam and have purchased a 6 month visa there and I’ll live in Vietnam for months at a few places I have already arranged.

Life is cheaper there by a long shot and my money will go much further. I’ll be able in six months to see a lot of the country, do a lot of photography, and not rush through the countries in some kind of strange and quick order.

Next up after that will be Cambodia. They have great deals too so I will spend months there. Perhaps after that it will be Thailand and then Malaysia and a stint in Singapore and India.

Will I ever come back to the states? I don’t know. I can get a retirement visa in Thailand and spend a year there with no real worries. There is nothing for me here that I can see. Kids are grown up, friends have gone different ways. Nothing is left here. I told a friend at work that now its time for me. People spend decades or lifetimes at stolidly working, being true to the cause. Perhaps underneath that there is wanderlust and the desire to hobo. Maybe not.

I know age has nothing to do with the desire to go. It’s this innate thing I have that this place is not THE place for me.

By March of next year, I’ll be gone. The blog will live on and record my travels like it was meant to do. Perhaps I will write something else about the travels. How an old guy can do the same as all those millennials wandering around the country with backpacks.

Stay tuned. I am gonna write a post soon on how I did this and what it means for me.

End of Work Means Start of Play

The end of work time is approaching sooner rather than later. The planning accelerates now. I’ve let my employer know that I will be giving notice end of the year. By March of next year, I’ll be done here in the Bay Area and will be on the Amtrak seeing the country. This big ole confused country that I currently live in. I have a plan for leaving here and now with the dates established, I can move to a second level of planning which is nailing down travel dates. I will be done with work by end of January but you all know how the last month is with short-timers attitude. I won’t be given new projects because I won’t be around to do them. They will hunt around for a new Program Manager and hopefully find a person. Or not. I’m not sure that most people value Program Managers and some will be glad I’m gone. I guess I am not easy to get along with but when are Program Managers supposed to be? We are supposed to create friction and measure what the company and technology and business needs are against the ultimate outcome of a project success.

Now I know I will be on the Amtrak early part of March next year going to see my mentor first. I can buy the ticket if I want and that kind of legitimizes the whole thing. It’s fun to look at a map of where Amtrak goes.

I know now I can go wherever I want and stay as long at each place. Once work is done in a matter of a few months, I won’t have to return after a vacation is over or come back to a project waiting for me or vendors not starting on things because I was not there.

So off I will go to Los Angeles first from Oakland and then up to see my friend and mentor RWR. I’ll stay as long as I want and then ride Amtrak from Los Angeles to Austin to see my friend Nancy. Then on to Chicago for some street photography in a new place. I’ll stay there for some bit of time and go on to New York and Boston.

Then its back to Seattle on the train to see the country in reverse on a different route. And then…

The long haul flight kicks off and a new adventure awaits in those other places I love. I’ve waited for so long for this time. It’s bittersweet in a few ways. I went through divorce and some bit of reconciliation but I never accepted the outcome of the thing. I will never accept it and will just live with how things ended up. The divorce judge said I was not getting enough in my 50%. He was wrong. I got the best 50% by getting the least. My possessions are really minimal and leaving here in a single backpack is not challenging. Now I know I get the best part of things and I just had to wait until things became the way I wanted. Such is life and living. Like my mom used to say “you have to make each moment count”.

The Train Whistles and Memories Stir

Early morning trains come and go just hundreds of feet from my room here. I sit in the mornings and listen to the lonely tunes the wheels and rails bump and grind. It’s one of those sounds each morning over coffee I consider. I can sometimes tell the difference of the amtrak and the freight trains. Both cross the road by the house live in countless times each day. If the days are good at work, I listen rather absentmindedly. If the days were worse or I leave with a sense of despair the trains are an escape for me. I can imagine the amtrak Capitol Corridor train that often crosses mornings and evenings. I know where the train goes and it would take me part way to the places I really want to go. I could board the train tomorrow and make it to a place like Sacramento and then go on. Perhaps on to Reno or Denver. I could also go to Seattle or Portland or Los Angeles. Different drum beats of destinations that will lead me on.

I think the train whistle is a lonely sound that splits the days and nights for me. It signals to the driver and pedestrian but it also signals to that lonely human element. The element that wants more and different and its keen and pitch cross over and each morning I know I am not long for the Bay Area. There is not enough here to keep me and the trains take me away.

One day I’ll join that train or another. I’ll whisk away to another place and that time is not so distant. It’s November and I realize I only have about 60 days to work and then I will be that wanderer that sits on the train crossing from Shanghai to Beijing or to Los Angeles or to points in between. Because I’m a train wanderer and instead of sitting in lonely distance as the trains and the whistles go; I will join them and perhaps then I will wonder and wander more and the trains will take me.

I know I won’t sit in this room and wonder or try to tell whether its a freight or amtrak voyager. Perhaps I’ll sit at the second level with a cup of coffee and the Fuji camera handy and this room, this bay, this state will just be another memory that the train took me away from.