Obigatory welcome to 2018 blog post

Time to write the end of the year blogpost. Perhaps reflect back on the year that 2017 was. A mix of good, bad, and other. I celebrated a year back blogging on after a absence of some bit of time from my self-hosted domain. I still have the WordPress backups of those posts but those will never see the light of day on this blog. Too much storied history there and dark posts which I don’t want to relive even vicariously. So, in the interests of looking back and perhaps by doing so I look forward, I’ll record this. Perhaps I will let my daughter know about this thing. It would be fun to have her write here as she finds hopefully the guy that she will want to spend time with. I told her about a year ago after she asked what she should do,

find a guy and find a job

I believe she has done both. I don’t think education is some important thing that a person needs to do in some kind of strict order. Witness my own stumbling advances to finally getting a MA in Cultural Anthropology and doing new world prehistoric archeology. It took me steps to get there. So, perhaps I will share this with her and let her come on board and record. It may be interesting for those few readers to see the differences in what an oldster like me thinks and a 20 year old.

In lieu of that, here are my things of 2017. Many lead to things happening shortly in 2018.

Debt. I learned that I must pay off remaining debt especially revolving debt and I started this paying off a bill that had loomed for years because of my own stupidity and weakness. Now I have only a $4k car debt left which gets paid in about two weeks. Debt Free!

Credit Cards. These are evil manifestations of cruelty and should be avoided at all costs. If you have the money for a thing you want or need why would you be enticed to pay the cost of the thing plus the credit charges for the thing broken out over minimal payments. Even if you pay it off at once, give it some thought. Credit cards are evil and always have been.

Minimalism and De-Duplicating. I think these go hand-in-hand. You cannot minimize if you have 13 laptops and 5 desktop computers. How many pair of shoes or jackets do you need? I have lessened this foot print down to two hoodies, one pair of sneakers for work, and about 10 t-shirts for work. I have also simplified the electronic foot print to a 12 inch MacBook Pro, a iPad mini, and my iPhone. I could get by with two of the three and lose the mini 4. But I enjoy it and it crosses a few boundaries so its not a duplication. As far as minimalism goes, I live it already. I live in a room that is about 12 by 16 or so. It has a bed, a Roku TV, a mattress and rug and a table. I don’t have expensive sofas and chaise lounges. No fancy dishes or flatware. I do have a Chemex and a goose neck teapot because I enjoy grinding and making good coffee.

Planning. We all need a plan. We need something that lets us position our lives pointing at something. For me, the plan soon executes but for others it may be a plan to do other things. Perhaps travel or being a vagabond is not in your cards. That’s okay. What’s good for me may suck for you. Mileages vary. Just consider at this end of year; what is out there and what you want out of it.

Work and Play. Work has been a love and hate thing for the last months. Its gotten easier since I gave my notice to resign on 31 January 2018. Play for me has not really come along due to this last project but soon I will play. Play is going for long walks in different cities and countries with my travel buddy the FujiFilm X100F camera slung over my shoulder. Its tiring these old legs out and being thankful over a beer or Starbucks at the end of the day. Then I know that Play is good and that there’s a subtle difference between play and Play.

Responsibilities. Lose those if you can. They are chains that lock you to a thing. If you must keep them, target them carefully and make sure you are getting something out of them and the amount you give is equal. I don’t like them and strive to get rid of all responsibilities.

Relationships. The final faux pax. The thing which broke this guy’s armor down in 2009. But I have come out the other side and now I know that we choose these and sometimes we choose them badly. I have written before about people R and E here. They are users and will take and use what I offer freely. But asked for something and they demur. That is not friendship folks. That is being taken advantage of and used. This one and the previous one has been looked at carefully in 2017.

So we come to the end of 2017 and look forward. Big questions remain. Will our embattled president last the next year? Do we really know what we are doing with our increasing isolationism and “America First”-ism? Do we know what climate change and global warming mean and have we done the right thing? Big questions that affect us in many ways. Global warming affects archeological sites and rivers and cliff house dwellings and fragile ecosystems. We are a strike force of development but if we don’t exercise restraints and look at the previous two things at a big level, we lose. We stand to lose more. So much more.

Welcome soon to 2018 if its not already here. Hopefully not the same as that old Who song,

meet the new boss same as the old boss


Happy Holidays 2017

Happy Holidays! Hope your days are good and you find happiness and success in the year to come.

In yet other news because this is a blog and I should write some things as 2017 ends and a new thing gets ready to kick off. This is my last Christmas in the states for a time to yet be realized. End of January I’m done with work and March 1st I fly to Japan and then to Vietnam. This is probably the best gift since about 2011 when I visited Singapore, Japan, and India last. When I go back to work in a week or so, I will only have about 3.5 weeks left to ever work again. This is another gift since I am truly tired of doing IT and its probably tired of me too.

I’ve given a lot of thought to leaving here of late. Its the continuation of a thing for me which started in 2009 or even earlier when I traveled the western United States doing archeology. Back in 2009, I found a full time position which gave me a measure of travel freedom and I could be in Chennai India every few months. I could spend a few days in Singapore as well and take side trips to Japan if I wished. Long time ago, doing professional archeology I was a nomad in many ways and slept in a camper shell on the back of a pickup truck. It was a good and bad existence but the passion doing archeology was always there. It was so much more than the doing of IT.

Now the time has come full circle and I will soon be able to do the one thing in 2011 until 2017 early I never thought I would be able to do. Its not so much about traveling. Traveling has a start and end and I’ve done that. This is different. This is becoming the next chapter of me in 2018 and finding something that has been lost to me. I also have dealt with the remaining financial and other obligations and will be completely debt free in January.

This frees me from worry about having bills still left behind that I have to deal with.

So happy holidays you all. I hope you all find the thing you seek. If its around the corner, in the house with family and friends, or in an airport traveling to a place.

The Right Shoe for the Job

One of the remaining areas I started considering are shoes to wear on the road. I’ve looked around a lot and read reviews on walking shoes, different shoes folks have said were good for traveling. Lets be specific though. What is really needed is a shoe with low maintenance and not requiring re-purchase in 3 months or even 6 months. While I like the Merrel’s Moab shoes; they do not last an amount of time I feel works. I go through a pair in about 4 months. What to do after that? It may be difficult find another pair in Vietnam or Cambodia.

I needed a different kind of shoe. A legendary shoe. A boot. So I settled on a work boot from Red Wing. The Chukka boot to be particular in this model. The Chukka is not a boot you put on one day and walk all day in the next. This boot requires break in and patience. But I think once you do, you are rewarded with a tough and versatile piece shoe that will last the long walk.

I’ve had the boots now for a week and I’m glad that I’ll have time to get them broken in completely. My approach to getting them trip worthy is to wear them a portion of each day gradually increasing the time and what I do in them. Today I’ll wear them in the afternoon for a few hours and spend time with my daughter. In weeks or perhaps a month they will become “the boot” and even more. They will last for the long haul. Perhaps I get them resoled or buy a new pair in a year or two.

Shoes are important on the road. They create the stability not only for the foot but for the endeavor. You need a long term friend there to lean on that will provide the best and durable standard.

Check out Red Wings if you have a mind. Not cheap but perhaps you get what you pay for.

The Saga of the Carry-On Bag

There is a joy to the planning of a trip for the big items. Like the places to see on a two week jaunt in three cities in Japan, what restaurants I may want to get back to in Singapore, what old friends still may want time for a beverage in India. Then there are the smaller things.

I’m down to the smaller things now. Since I’m leaving for a time yet to be determined, packing and the system of packing is important. The bag to choose must fit across a variety of airlines and their carry-on requirements. How is a bag chosen these days to fulfill basic needs of my packing list. I am a long time reader of OneBag and its tips for stress free traveling. It offers set of goals and hints that will make carry-on traveling easier. I’ve done only carry-on to India for months and basically used a simple method of generating my packing list of clothing. Here’s what I do:

  1. Pack enough clothes to last a week. I will use the “rule of six” to meet this. Six t-shirts, six underwear, six pair of socks. I will also take one extra pair of pants that are not jeans and one pair of shorts to lounge and sleep in. How can this be packed in a way that allows the bag to be logically separated by type you may ask. Its actually simple. You decide on a bag that will work for you first off. My choice now is the RedOxx Lil Hombre because it offers the orientation and room I need. I don’t need massive organization but I do need a bag that is flexible and can be compressed and carried a variety of ways.
  2. Pack the clothing in cubes. I use an assortment of cubes from large to small. In one cube goes t-shirts and the pants and shorts rolled up tightly. In a smaller or medium cube goes the socks and underwear. Two cubes which hold all the clothing. I may throw a third cube in the bag for safety. Packing cubes make things easily sortable and findable.
  3. Pack electronic cables in zippered pouches. I have a variety of these in different sizes. I should mention with this one, its been a moving target since I got my MacBook 2017 12 inch laptop what to bring. I have a formula for this though. I have to have an international adaptor that will work in Asia. I will need a surge arrest that is suitable for holding a few things. The first plug has the multi-port USB charger that will charge laptop, iPhone and iPad mini. I also charge my camera and headphones on one of the multi-port elements. The second plug holds my camera adapter.
  4. Don’t over-pack. There is no need to carry massive amounts of clothing. You can deal with doing laundry every so often. You are an adult. Come on! Think it through. Don’t bring stuff you don’t need. This is tough for me. I constantly look at my list in Ulysses wondering. Don’t try to bring more than two devices plus the phone. Cables and devices and plugs really are still a mess even with devices I have chosen that do lightning like my phone and iPad.
  5. Finally don’t overthink this. I do this often and puzzle over the list I have accumulated. I know the things that work since I’ve done it before. I know what I want. I want to be out of the airport and in the cab or bus or train when all the other guys are just getting their luggage. In Singapore once on a full flight from the US, I was first in the taxi line while everyone else was wondering what luggage bay was being used. I watch people wandering around in arrival areas. One bag comes in and the other ends up in Chicago when you are going to Japan. Apply basic thought and vice you want to have your stuff available. Basic travel thinking!

I’ve done the carry-on thing for years and I know what works but still catch myself with more gunk than I need. If you are hitting the road sooner or later give the whole carry-on movement some thought. Read the site I mentioned. Its enlightening and it can help you with the whole travel, arrival and departure thing. Even in the once chaotic airport in Chennai India I left to get a ride to the hotel so fast. The customs guy asked me if I had forgotten a bag. I just laughed and said that never happens to me any longer.

Live long and carry-on!

Travels on the Bullet Train Ahoy!

Today I bought two sets of Shinkansen tickets for my trip in March. I’m traveling from Tokyo to Hiroshima and then from Hiroshima to Osaka around middle of the month. I bought the tickets online here and had them shipped home to me. Included was a ticket on the Narita Express which goes from Narita Airport to Tokyo Station. Exciting times!

I start out in Tokyo on 2 March and spend 5 glorious days wandering in the city that I love to wander in. I probably end up at the Lion Beer Hall more than once for some beer and a plate of their stew.

Then on to Hiroshima for 5 days and seeing the sights there. I think people believe its a somber place but there is also a quiet joy that how it survived and what its done is there for all to see.

Finally, I bullet train to Osaka for 5 days and wander another city I have not been in. Its a joy to be getting closer.

Then I fly on to Vietnam and spend a long time in Hanoi. But first, its the Shinkansen trains that will take me at their speed to places not been. Time is getting closer and I could see it today as I also bought my data SIM card for my iPhone 7 plus. Its easy to get a data only SIM card and use it for hangouts or facebook messenger calls. I can do the same as I travel on.

But first things first. I have another 5 weeks at work and then that goes away. Then a month to get things organized here and bid farewell to a few people. I will miss work. They have been really good to me. I appreciate the money and the friendships there but like I told someone when they asked me to reconsider,

I love work but this is my life. Only a few times to spin the wheel and find a place or two I can call home and see things differently.

And that’s what it really is all about. Seeing things differently and being a part of that difference.

The Places to come and questions left behind

There’s time to still consider things I am told. At work, I hear this.

Are you sure this is what you want to do? I am so jealous but why Asia? What will you do after this fling?

I thought through all the things before I decided to do something completely different. Work is just not something I want to do any longer. I feel that my spirit is slowly suffocating with weekend calls, last minute emergencies, evening webex sessions. So I am pretty sure that I want to do this.

The next question is interesting about jealousy and Asia. People, I think want a change. Life is about change yet some are not willing to take a calculated risk or face the unknown. Its easier to just propel along the known tracks and never want to see that less traveled road. People are basically afraid. The other question about Asia is a good one too. The reason I chose Asia is because I love the aspects of it. I’ve spent years there in various and sundry places working, playing, traveling through. Now I want something that is not just another business trip in 10 days in three countries. Nor do I want a backpack trip where I have to control every last thing I decide to do financially and sit in a hostel with a bunch of folks in a dorm setting. I want a quality of life that I will never have here in the Bay Area or in most places on this continent. In other words, Asia is change and the unknown and I am ready. I want to sit for a spell by the lake in Hanoi and enjoy Pho. I want to wander Angkor Wat in the morning. I want to feel the sleepy slumber time of a neighborhood street in Osaka with a cheap bento box for lunch and dinner of beer and a instant bowl of noodles if I so want.

For the last question; there is no after. I have never had an after. I don’t plan a thing and say,

great! But what will I do after.

That is not a thing for me. The after soon becomes the now and then you are left with a whole galaxy or universe of afters to worry about. Its much better to me to control the now and let the afters come. Will I go to Thailand after Cambodia? Will I get to China or India? Perhaps. Maybe I will just stay somewhere else.

I do know there are train trips to do. One is from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City. Another is from Chiang Mai Thailand to Singapore. Train trips also around Japan on the fabled Shinkansen Bullet trains where I will speed along at 250 and marvel at the world rushing by and hearing the hush of conversations by the day workers on their commutes. Or perhaps subway rides in the big circle in Tokyo my days there. Watching the bustle of Tokyo and the school children and the workers and the tourists all rushing and there I am ambling along with a camera and a phone. I fit in yet I am separate.

So in answer to the well-meaning colleagues at work. There is no after. There is now. I love the questions about things. One asked as a finale why a life of travel. I gently reinforced to that person that this is not travel. This is wandering and being a hobo with no place to end up preset.

Its a Dongle Life we lead

Its a dongle life one way or the other no matter what device I decide to travel with. I’ve settled on a laptop which is the MacBook 12 inch 2017 model with a single Type C connector. It has a headphone jack too. A single Type C connector for all the “connectedness” that I may have.

What’s needed then is a dongle. I must dongle. So I go shopping for a single dongle which will do power, memory card, USB drives, etc. There are a few types. One type plugs right into the port and sits against the body of the laptop. I don’t particularly like those. The second type has a type C connector and a separate body which sits apart from the laptop. I like these better. So, I went shopping for one on Amazon.

I found this one which I have tested a few ways.

This one has a variety of inputs and also does power but it has the little cable connecting it and sits apart from the laptop. So I tested it a bit on the laptop by:

  1. Time Machine backup while the device is powered on the dongle with a 2TB USB drive. Success!
  2. Basic power supply with my type C power connector. Success!
  3. Memory card access. Success!
  4. Small Flash drive access while powered up. Success!
  5. And… multiple things at the same time. Success!

So the dongle life is good and by buying a device on Amazon, I extend the ports significantly while still allowing power delivery. If you’re interested in the device, I can recommend this one on Amazon. It works very well and is not terribly expensive. It does not sit flush against the laptop body and that may be an issue for you. For me, its what I want.

We’re getting to the point hopefully of a single interface on laptops and maybe someday on phones that is a Type C connector. The important part is that my laptop only has a single port while yours may have multiples. What I give up though with this laptop is made up with the form factor to me. The 12 inch MacBook 2017 model is the bees knees for productivity and mobility.

Just remember you need to lead a dongle life!

Reading Stuff

Reading is good. I’ve read a few articles about whether holding a physical book is the best or whether one should get electronic bits and bytes for reading. I personally do not read that many physical books since I like the ease of having a Kindle Paperwhite device.

These little devices make it easier to travel and holding one is with one hand is painless. I enjoy the act of reading on it quite a bit. But, as usual, I wonder if there is a better way to read. Perhaps a device that can fulfill a variety of functions at the same time. Like a smaller form factor tablet. My favorite tablet of all time was the Google Nexus 7 tablet. I enjoyed how well the little thing was put together. I’ve embraced, albeit hesitantly, a new ecosystem by Apple. Its “i” this and that for me. So, I started looking at an iPad. I don’t want a 9.7 inch or 10.5 inch. If I want to get one it has to be small and easy to read on. Then I looked at the Apple iPad Mini 4.

The advantage to a tablet for reading is the rest of the ecosystem. I can combine devices when I leave and have one that does more. I have never held or used the Mini 4 but I believe the form factor would be better for reading. The idea of a brighter screen and being able to consume other media is attractive. The battery life seems good.

But what is better for reading? Which one will make reading better for me? I don’t know. I could get a tablet and the Apple smart cover for a little over $450 and probably could go cheaper if I found a used 64gb one. Apple stopped making those. Too cheap I guess 🙂

So, now I must consider whether to stay with my trusty Kindle or get another tablet. A few salient points arrive.

  1. the tablet has a good battery life I assume but I don’t think its near what the Kindle can do. I judge the Kindle wins the battery life contest.
  2. the kindle can only do one thing. I cannot listen to music on the same device or watch some movie or other. I can do that on a tablet like the Mini 4. The tablet wins this one.
  3. Portability. I think the kindle is smaller and more focused in use but the tablet offers more use. This is a tie.

I think I need to test one out and see how it is reading using the Kindle reader on it. The final fact when talking about using an application is that there is an ecosystem and application style behind the tablet and not so much with the Kindle. The Kindle does one thing. The tablet could fulfill a variety of functions.

I still don’t know why if I want to listen to music somewhere or read mail or do other things I could not just use my iPhone 7 plus. It seems big enough and I could probably just read on it too. There’s something about the screen size that throws me. Perhaps its a thing about it being a phone. I will have to consider.

Reading though is important and how I do it is. I have found so many books now for my Kindle I will not run out for months or even years.

A Vagabond of the Lifeways

I’ve given a lot of thought to steps in life. Steps take us either forward, sideways, or backwards. People I know are going in different directions. Some are keyed to steps at work. They feel that success at work means stepping to something new, something challenging. Perhaps a new consulting gig to tide them over or a new full-time job that will mean more steps.

Others seem lost and their steps do not avail. They take a tentative forward step, sideways step, but end up staying the same or going backwards. If you stay the same and time passes, you might as well be going backwards.

There’s a smaller group that I used to have relationships with that seem trapped or at least like that ball in the games that bounces between different poles. Searching forever searching. But asked; they have no idea what they are looking for. One believes some kind of religion perhaps will lead them. Another disavows religion and believes science is the answer. I remember hearing questions when I did anthropology that weren’t all anthropologists atheists? How could we be the cowboys of science and believe in some “fabrication”. Let’s be clear here. What we believe or not is not open to another’s acceptance or denial. My mom would say that there are things you do not argue about and one is religion. The other is politics.

The truth is that people believe or not and its their business. If you post something discrediting someone for having a conviction or belief you are no better than the one, that dictator, that steals that belief and substitutes it with a body politic or military. People deserve to have things which comfort them. I read my acquaintance R on facebook post the downfalls of religion and others post the upsides of critical thinking, questioning the current political mindset, casting doubt on things because they are masters of the wall post. Let me say this; its really none of your business what another believes if that other person is not foisting an opinion or requirement on you. So anthropologists are not atheists. They have seen the multiple forces that propel culture through advances and one is religion.

Then there’s me. I’ve wondered about the tags to apply to myself come next year. I don’t like the terms digital nomad or ex-pat. They have these preconceived realities that a digital nomad travels the world with the laptop writing or researching or doing marketing and digital media. The ex-pat seems to be a term sometimes which marks a person living somewhere else. I am not either. I am a vagabond. That definition is a person that wanders from place to place with no home or work.

Consider the term vagabond and how it fits a person slowly meandering the remaining years with no work or real home. It’s a person that makes a mark but of his or her choosing and depending on the wandering. A second term is wanderlust. I love that term actually. It’s someone that wanders and finds lust in it. Lust. A passion of heart, mind, soul. Lust that engages us and makes us want. We all lust after things. Some we find and can have and we perhaps have satisfaction. Perhaps other lust we never get and it hangs around shadowing us. Sometimes mocking us. But then when you add the word wander in front; its the road. Almost like a Robert Frost road less traveled. Those with wanderlust want the movement and not the destination. The destination may not exist ever for those with wanderlust. For once we reach the destination, the lust may be over and either we are satisfied or we have found a temporary thing which casts us down and makes us want the wandering part again.

I believe its our indomitable spirit that drives all this. Our very atoms and molecules are made of vagabond star stuff that has traveled miles and hours and generations. So when we ourselves reach past those other terms and desire that vagabond and wanderlust life; we are committing to the things which made us.

I watch people hanging at McDonalds these days and wonder. Is this what they want out of life? This is it? The every day senior coffee and gossip? What about that world out there? I think people reach an age or so and they are scared. They feel that the life out there is not for them but built for millennial spirits. How wrong they are. Life is not reserved for only the young. Us oldsters just move slower but we really do not lose the wanderlust and vagabond feelings. We just hide them and soon they go away.

I say the hell with that. Free up and lose all the stuff you have duplicates of. Simplify and get your stuff into one bag I say. Hit that road to a place that challenges and forget the staid and sameness. Unless your star stuff spirit only requires that. If that is the case, simply stay and order another coffee. That’s your life and assuredly your have ordered up what you want and perhaps you find out its much less than anticipated. Or its exactly as you want. Good! Ignore me.

I am a deviant and itinerant wanderer with the word lust after. I’m a hobo of the lifeways and a vagabond of the times. But that’s me.

You? Your mileage may vary.