Problems with hosting provider

It turns out that from the moment I started trying to migrate the blog to a2hosting I had technical issues that seemed difficult to resolve for them. Everything from site security settings that I could not change that limited using an offline or even the wordpress.com app for posting to timeouts and firewall issues that blocked access to the site. After about 10 hours of back and forth with them, I decided it was simply not worth it. What I had gotten instead of a relatively painless migration which was to move my blogposts and then repoint dns had become a quagmire of issues with their linux support team, how site security plugins worked, how they did not seem able to support blog clients. Its relatively easy to change the DNS pointers back to wordpress.com but then I decided I would just opt for the business plan for the next year and probably onward. I just don’t have the appetite to fix these things with hosting providers.

DNS is still kinda propagating but I can vpn in to the US and push out blog posts so things are good. I think if I try again it will not be with siteground, bluehost, a2hosting or any of them. I may try again by going the Linuz VPS route and setting it all up myself. I just don’t see it happening any time soon.

I don’t feel that my requirements were unique at a2hosting. I just don’t feel they were up to the challenge of a basic workflow I have to publish here. They wanted to whitelist a single client IP address so I could use a blog client but I asked them what happens when I leave here which I will do? Its basic functionality lacking at a2hosting or security run amok and blocking access to how a whole lot of people want to post to their blogs.

Based on this, I cannot recommend a2hosting for wordpress blog hosting. If you want reasons, here are some:

  1. they do not provide a platform easily used to create and post to wordpress blogs.
  2. their very own plugins cause issues with trying to use wordpress
  3. their security wrappers around wordpress cause functionality problems with clients like MarsEdit and the wordpress.com app.
  4. and a whole host of firewall and access issues, apps that could not log in to wordpress, general site malaise, and less than stellar support to tell me it was not possible to be a “road warrior” user. This is something that basic wordpress.com sites handle very well.

So if you are looking to move, consider carefully and perhaps do more diligence even though I asked questions. The hosting providers really do not care if you are one of the lower echelon of users. They make no money off you and create and wall off wordpress installations so basic use cases cannot be accomplished.

If I were to recommend a service, it would be Digital Ocean and setup your own VPS and install wordpress without all the BS. Next year I may go there.

Productivity Platforms, words, ecosystems… Some thoughts on things

I spent a bit of time recently comparing the different productivity applications for what will work for my admittedly simple needs. If you research online on applications that run on your ecosystem (mine is Apple), you will find those apps which just about cover all the bases and there are a bunch of adherents to those apps. Then there are the ones that split their work across multiple apps. Lets look at some constants though that I considered:

  1. Portability. The real thing is not the app itself; the real thing is the data or the contents or whatever. You should be able to take the data where you want and not be constrained by sets of conditions imposed by the app. So what is the most portable? Clear text or markdown is the most portable. So we will start there. You want something that is clear text and if you can start things in clear text, you are farther along than having to export from an app’s proprietary system to text.
  2. Centralized User Experience. If you are like me, you want a single thing that you can adopt and use that meets a set of expectations on your platform. In other words, you want to write a diary or a note or a blogpost and be able to share the data. Its much easier if the experience is similar. Another factor is where the data goes. Its easier if the data is centralized in the cloud and not on some individual device somewhere.
  3. Fits your life and style. You want something that if you write an article, story, blogpost, diary entry it fits. For me this has meant experimenting with so many apps but finding one that lets me bring all the little things together that have to do with text and notes.
  4. Understand diversity and embrace though. Some things just do not fit in clear text and you have to be flexible. Perhaps a list of travel destinations, itineraries, and reservations is best served in a spreadsheet like Google Sheets. Be flexible and understand and appreciate the diversity. Also be the first to admit your particular choice is not the one and be ready to move. Hoping your data is portable (see part 1 above).
  5. Be productive, happy, and enjoy your work, play, information. If you are not happy with the choice you will not use the choice. Instead you will seek out exceptions to the methods and soon if you are a lumper the information is split across many distinct apps. Not what you want? Perhaps time for a change. If you are a splitter, its all okay because you know the mind map where things are. This information in this app, diaries in that app, notes are in another app. Blog posts in yet another app.

So the last rule is the most important in all of them. You have to be happy with the choice. If its enforced it reminds me when I worked using Microsoft Project for project schedules. No one was completely happy with the choice but we all chose it anyways. Perhaps it met a threshold of use which is another idea. Is there a threshold of use or diversity which is acceptable? Like if its meets 75% of your needs its okay and you can deal? Give it some thought and perhaps there is no one tool for you that meets the goal and you decide to splump. Splumping is my word for doing both and you basically decide because the threshold is not met you need to find the tools that work the way you want.

So you may ask me what is the tool? There are as many tools and approaches as blogs and everyone captures notes, diaries, information the way it works or perhaps does not work for them. For me, clear text is the portability thing. I also want all the information in one place where I can go where the tool presents it in a way that makes me able to find, add, delete, edit the information in a single place. Finally for me it has to empower me, make me happy to use the tool, and be able to sit down and use it with no hesitation.

If you are the classic lumper you will want a single source of the power. If you are a splitter, its easier to draw that mental mind map with muscle you have and know diaries are in Day One, notes are in Evernote, writing is in IAwriter or Ulysses. You know the map, right?

I am not a splitter though. What I want is a single bucket where all the ideas flow from. I don’t have many ideas but what I want is a way to take what I do have and not search across the MAC hard drive for a thing. Here are my rules and exceptions. See what you think:

  1. If its information with words and text, it goes into Ulysses. This includes diaries and journals, blog posts, ideas, thoughts, travel plans at a high level with graphics included.
  2. If its clear text based, it goes into Ulysses. All the basic notes and classifications, web links and pages I wish to study and keep. It all goes via the Ulysses share app from Chrome.
  3. If it is not clear text based, it may be better served to be in a spreadsheet. Some things like detailed travel plans are just better served in a spreadsheet like Google sheets.
  4. If its an image or a PDF and it supports 1 or 2 above, it gets added as an attachment to the note in Ulysses.

So what does this do for me workflow wise? It gives me a single bucket more or less besides 3 above to find things, tag things, search for things, export things if I need to. Writing is not about the next great American novel. Writing is any time you put figurative pen to paper. What do you want to capture? How do you want it saved? What will happen years from now if you happen to turn all this over to someone else? I have this dream of some day turning over the Ulysses library to my daughter. It will have a decade of journals and notes, ideas, curses, wonderment and…

Content!

I really want the content to shine through so it must be in clear text and it must be portable and meet all the criteria I’ve laid out. I can accept spreadsheets for things and let them help me but if its information in words and notes, it belongs in the central repository.

For me that repository is Ulysses. Perhaps if you are not on a Apple ecosystem, you will find something else. But I have to admit its why I chose Apple stuff. Its not merely the hardware or software once removed. It’s the ecosystem. Its how it all comes together and integrates. For me, Apple does it best. No pressure and stress folks!

Perhaps for you it’s something else. Give it some thought though. Information, access to information, backing up information, finding and searching reams of information. Very important stuff. You may be like me and only have a few buckets. But why not make the buckets easier on you. Clear text and markdown will always be easier. Its the basic cross platform thing defined well. Words. Simple words.

Now what you do with the words, their influence, how they turn your world is something else. Thanks for reading this slight variation on my travel stuff. Its been brewing for awhile since Thailand. Ulysses just gives me a platform to write whenever on iPhone or Mac.

Back to Ulysses for this kid …

It’s the beginning of a new day. For awhile I played with using a variety of productivity and personal apps like Day One for journaling, the WordPress app for blogging, and IA Writer for creating content. This approach while providing app developers livelihood really segregates the content into little buckets.

So this morning moved everything back to one tool named Ulysses. Much easier when all the content and notes are under one roof besides my dedicated travel plan which is in google spreadsheets.

I can write a blog post, create text based diary posts or work on longer content all within a single app. Much easier!

A small hotel room, a thought, email and memories

Sometimes the moments are rich with memories. I’m sitting in my small hotel room in Petaling Jaya thinking about going out for a walk today and got some email on LinkedIn from a previous work colleague. Since its been a year plus now, not many in that community offer me work any longer but some still catch up. The recruiters have thankfully stopped offering connection requests and consulting positions that are

Just right for me

Of course they are not. None besides the last one was just right. If you have done IT and consulting you know how the drill is. You can read a thousand recruiters pitches and find elements in each one that will work. Sometimes more than one element. You can reflect that you know that thing but then there are second, third, fourth things which are not known. You know you will get asked during the phone screen about them. If you are or were a Project Manager, its always the mixture of things. I graduated from doing projects to managing large and intricate programs that were high risk, with short fuses, and with difficult vendors, never tried hardware in data centers, and cloud environments which had hidden risks and limitations and even advantages that we did not really know until we were well on the way. But be that as it may, I received more than my fair share of positions from recruiters that had two pages of things. I read one that was the kitchen sink of requirements to which I responded,

How many project managers you looking for to fill this thing?

Of course the answer is only one. Therein lies the problem with doing IT Projects and Programs. Throughout my 20 years of doing the work up until my last contract and then full time gig, we were the first to blame. I was yelled at, screamed at, threatened, insulted, demeaned and belittled and those were the good days. I was also told that it was our job to take notes, manage the calendar, and setup the WebEx meetings. What about the projects I always silently wondered? Well, I did not really do many of those until the end. My last two projects my manager and the executive leadership let me go. I just took the two multi-million dollar programs they handed over and delivered on them. They were full of intricacies and complexities, the schedules were wrong. They had to be done in 3 months and not 7 months. The schedule had gotten strange and I had to whack it back in shape. The vendors and subcontractors were concerned because none of our solutions had ever been used before. They basically added time to the schedule to account for discovery and issues. Well, all that had to go so I instructed them to trim it all out and only believe it could be done. Not that it would have issues. This resulted in shaving months off the schedule. But our vendors and partners were unhappy and told my management. My group VP just laughed when he told me about the phone calls from the client executive management team. He told them,

You will have to take the schedule, risks, and issues up with Mike. He owns all that.

Of course, that left IBM flabbergasted. When I worked for IBM previously, rarely were the project and program managers left to manage the programs or projects. We were bean counters to the 9th degree.

Why all this now?

Good question. Because of an email from a work colleague who I particularly enjoyed working (and drinking beer) with.It reminded me of how IT is broken in a few ways and how we do it anyways. I have so many friends that project and program managers who really hate it. They feel deceived and lied to. Perhaps played. But then it comes time to get the next gig. Up goes the attitude and “can and will do” feelings. I did the same for 20 years. It was all a facade, a fake, a story. For the first 18 years plus or minus a few startup things I did, I was just a bean counter and explainer to CIOs of other companies why a thing could not get done.

Now I’m retired…

And I have the right and privilege to complain even for things in the past about how IT Project and Program Managers are treated. We are the least appreciated and most blamed people on a project. Retiring has meant that the lens and mirror has shattered and I can look at the email my friend sent and realize how truly great retirement is from that world. I have a simpler life. I don’t do tasks and milestones and schedules and accomplishments. Or blame. I don’t like responsibilities either and shy away from them. 

All of this came tumbling through from a single email from a LinkedIn connection and friend. Now the whole previous life has unraveled and become something that is in the past. Yet I remember. And I’m glad to not be there any more. So that’s a reflection and perhaps a damning one on certain recruitment practices and certain beliefs by previous managers, CIOs, CEOs and others of our value. I can easily say now that if you don’t like it too bad. You ain’t paying me any longer.

And that Is such a good thing.

The Day of Petronas Towers and of Malls – The Thoughts of the Life Led and the One to Come…

DSCF1522

Its funny you know that as I wander the streets and buildings and malls and wonders of Kuala Lumpur that I find a thing of insurmountable worth and feeling after a year on the road. I was sitting the Suria KCC mall right by the twin towers today and had this flash of insight. I guess I’m gonna warn you I am going to write some personal shit so if you wanna click away, I got ya. I’ll post pictures of the towers on my picture of the day post too but this stuff occupied some head space today and yesterday. You may have noticed no blog post yesterday. I had these thoughts about life while I walked yesterday in KL and today while I toured on the hop on/off bus and when I reached KL. There is one picture perhaps that kinda seals it for me and its not a warm family type thing at all. You can see its just a building. Its actually more than a building that got me. Its one of the two towers of Petronas with clouds gathering behind it. I took it with the the FujiFilm X100F today and as I look at it and after the guide and I talked about the nature of the towers, it dawned on me. This one picture is of a single tower that makes up a pair but yet it is not diminished on its own. 

In other words, it stands on its own and creates a sense of beauty and worth by itself. Sure you can argue that without the other tower this one would be less and that has come to me several times since I divorced back in 2011. Therein is the history part of things that occurred to me with this singular picture. So stop now if you don’t want to read my mental meandering…

Divorce is not bad or good, it just is…

It dawned on me looking today at this imposing building standing by itself that if I had not gotten divorced, if my wife had not done what she had done, I would never have paid off all my debts. Would never have retired and left the United States. Would never have found myself on the road and lost myself so many times before. Sometimes folks, the thing you find that is hell on earth is actually only a momentary hell and the spot it occupies on earth is measured. Sometimes, and I would like to tell one particular FB friend that you have to wait and be patient. You cannot walk it back with a thousand FB posts and try to erase it by deleting or disabling your account. It takes time for it to become the “just is” part of things. 

When I track the years back and look, there were these seminal events that had to occur or I would not have been able to do what I did. I had to have all the miserable and shitty debt I had because it taught me a thing. I had to have over a decade of stupid IT consulting jobs that had no point because it made the final job more memorable. I had to live in a series of small rooms to prepare me to live in small rooms. I had to take small baby steps because large leaps would not have worked. Perhaps this all sounds so selfish or egotistic or whatever and I’m sorry. 

I paid a series of debts though both financially and mentally and socially and came out the other side. So what can you take away from all this introspection? What can you package up and take back with you? What is there waiting to become your own? I would only say,

You cannot get there from here

Sorry. My road is not your road but your road can be even brighter. Like the sun shining behind the Petronas towers you can do it too. You don’t need to look back until you are ready to look back. You don’t need someone else if your path is solitary. There is nothing wrong with solitude and traveling solo. Someone once remarked to me,

There’s a difference between between solitude and loneliness. Solitude is being alone and loving it. Loneliness is being alone and hating it.

Don’t despair though. Paths are never meant to be shared. Even the smallest little change is a new path for you. If you find a life ending and your path is unclear, I believe a new one is waiting for you. It may not be like anything you ever did before and that’s okay too. Don’t wait for the new boss. Perhaps the world looks just the same. Reminds me of this song…

You may end up meeting the new boss and it will be the same as the old boss.

That’s tough crap dudes. You can do better. It may take something completely different. You can do it though.

2018 – The Year Ending and the One Starting

It seems a blogger must publish a retrospective blog post at the end of the year or on a blogging anniversary and often if you are more socially minded on so many followers or page views reached. I stopped caring if I ever did about how many people follow this blog or page views. But the end of the year deserves something I think. It deserves a statement of a life spent doing something that took almost a decade to reach. I won’t go month by month and will spare you the boredom of all the little things that occurred along the way. Here are just a few recollections or thoughts from my 2018. Perhaps yours are completely different and more meaningful. Mine are simply mine.

  1. The year 2018 was the year of finishing work for me. I reached the point in February where I could work no more even though I was asked to stay. I told my boss I had no more gas in the tank. In truth the previous 4 months of the project had exhausted me and took out any desire to continue doing program management. I told my manager this and he laughed and agreed that I should do what I wanted. On 28 February, I left working forever and on 1 March I left the states for Japan.
  2. The year also saw me realize that while it took 10 years almost to get through the pain of divorce and terrible debt and a lot of misery that 2018 was indeed a capstone of a thing which sealed up all those years of misery in a time capsule of sorts and buried it away. I had finally done a thing in 2018 which had been imagined and dreamt and wondered at. In the dark days before, things just seemed out of reach and so far away that however I stretched I would not grasp. Now I know what it feels like to grasp that reality because I’ve been living it for almost a year now. It feels both awesome and almost a fantasy at times. I realize that the year gave me a gift that was slow in unwrapping and had surprises still for me that the world of slow travel and vagabonding would be so interesting and exotic and different. My few locations ensured that. Vietnam and Cambodia have been that royal mix of things which have kept me stable for months at a time. Never rushed to reach another shore or for that passport stamp. Never working or taking one of the other titles like digital nomad and never needing to.
  3. Finally, the year marked a coming of age in other ways too. I was able to finally see the end of so many years of self imposed hell on earth caused by debt. The final debt for the car rolled off my shoulders in January and I gave my car to my daughter on 28 February on my way to the hotel by the international airport in SF.  There is a last material thing there which is the sum total of that coming of age.  A small rubbermaid container is all that remains of a life spent both in heaven and hell for years. Things that departed in the coming of age were things like goals and tasks and responsibilities. What remained was a free life of moments to see and walk and take photographs and travel slowly.

Someone asked me if they could do this. You cannot do what I did. What I did was mine alone. It was my 2018. What you can do may be better or different or perhaps you will decide to do nothing at all. If you punt though and you are sorry later the only blame to levy is at your house. When given the chance to grab life by its moments you may have decided its too risky or difficult or demanding. Perhaps what you would do is. What I did is not.

Goodbye to 2018. A wonderful year for the most part spent not working, not being responsible, not creating more tasks and goals that I would have to defer on. If you are getting close to a next thing perhaps you can find it on the road. I would have never found it back home. I was haunted there by failure and lack. Vietnam and Cambodia have given me so much in return. Perhaps your return is elsewhere. That’s why you cannot do what I did. Yours may be better! I hope so. 

Welcome to 2019. Hopefully a year for the better for all of you. Mine is.

Photography Attitudes — don’t be that photographer

I read an interesting story on PetaPixel which I link to here on arrogance and attitude in photography. It seems amazing to me with such a wonderful medium of expression that we still find people willing to judge if someone chooses to shoot photographs in film or digital. Even hobbyist photographers are not left out it seems from the first paragraph of the review. Here is the thing about photography and I’ve said it before. Its not up to “them” to decide what camera, whether you shoot in black and white or color or decide to shoot in film. Perhaps if you make your living with the camera the “them” out there can stipulate the delivery and execution but if you are enjoying the creativity found during a walk or stroll in Ho Chi Minh City its not.

The article goes on to question how any group can impose a will or sanction on creativity but not just for the professional photographer. For us hobbyists as well. We should do things the way they say because they know best. Here’s a quote from the article,

But that doesn’t answer the question of why many still think they may tell others what to do and what not to do with their work, with their creativity, with their lives, and with their time. Why is chemical photography perceived to be a threat to some? Another question I can’t answer: if it isn’t perceived to be a threat, why would anyone even bother to try to discourage people from doing it?

But really the question is more basic. Its the my way or the highway thing. If we don’t do digital photography or if we want to shoot in film to spark the creativity or personal fulfillment its not wrong or right. It’s our choice.

This is a fundamental thing with the whole art and science of it. Its not just the JPEG shooters and the post processing argument. Its not whether one camera is better than the other. Its not the size of the lens unless you have lens envy. We need to take care not to make photography so hard to enjoy for the avocational or hobbyist that they stop experimenting and sharing. We’re not all gonna do things the same way. The article goes on to say,

Instead of focusing on divisive arguments like Film vs. Digital, Canon vs. Nikon, Mirrorless vs. Mirror, Bayer vs. X-trans and so on, we should give a chance to the uniting aspects of photography. Because as with every other form of art or creative expression, photography can create and sustain joy. The joy of having created something beautiful worth sharing with the world, or at least giving the world a little insight into oneself, through photography.

So this is the essence of the whole thing to me. There is no right camera. No right way. No autofocus versus manual. No aperture priority versus shutter priority or just shooting on automatic. What its really about is the creativity, the zeal, the wonder of creation. The next thing is sharing it. To me, the creation is the moment when you see a thing. The top of a building, the smile of the tuk tuk driver, the sideward glance of the person. Perhaps a discarded building in urban ruin. Maybe a moment of sheer creativity where the thing grabs you and insists. If the first thing is the moment of creation, the next thing is the moment of sharing. I think others are constrained by what they see on the Instagrams and Twitters of the world. Their followers and attachment rates and somehow they strive to get the approval of those that follow them. Want to do black and white photography but what if your legion of 10.5 thousand followers dispute and don’t like? Want to do candid street photography?

I think that here is where the arrogance of photography starts and ends. The real truth is that I bought my camera and you did not. I’m saddened that people cannot let self expression and creativity rule the day. I’ll never claim to be a photographer because I’m not. I’m just a guy that enjoys taking the odd photograph and not being constrained by a set of imposed values that a group of others seem to hold.

The article concludes with this,

Whatever works best for you is okay for you, as long as you can express yourself through it, even if it’s something as simple as a portrait of a grumpy looking cat.

If photography ever becomes so elite that a chosen few can tell us the how and what of things, the art of it is lost and the thing that replaces it are the norms and values of those elites. Photography needs all of us from the professional with the great gear to the wanderer of streets with the Fuji X100F. Without the sum total of them all, the parts are lessened and we will drive people away.

That’s my take!

A bit of this and that — Ex-pat Lifeways and Friendships

What I’ve learned being on the road about the retirees and ex-pats in Cambodia is interesting. I’ve met or seen more than a few and there are centers or locations where they gather and live. I think Kampot is one such place as is Phnom Penh. I have not been to Siem Reap yet. That comes next week but I’ll spend a month there too so I have no doubt in my slow travel method I will see what the retirees and ex-pats do there.

In the hotel I stay in here in Kampot there is a sizable percentage of older travelers. People do not stay long in this hotel since the cost is higher. Its a short stay vacation type place although the property to me is just beautiful and the obvious attractions like free breakfast and a nice patio bar always win out. There are cheaper guest houses and if you are gonna stay longer probably you will find a room or apartment to take. There are costs with that as well. You have to have power and water and internet. These are monthly charges. As you settle in you have to buy food since eating out over the long haul may not suit your purpose but I have to admit if you eat local or street foods you can get by pretty cheap. I only eat a meal a day so I tend to just buy what I want and not really worry.

The other thing is I don’t think people travel much to other countries once they settle. Its a long term relationship between person and city and there is the community of retirees and ex-pats that will welcome you. Most cities have get togethers or meets to get the group together and socialize. I’m personally not into that and I don’t fit the mode since I don’t want to settle down because there is so much left to see out there and the slower travel mode I have adopted and adapted makes it easy to taste both short and long term stays in places. It also opens the door on getaways on buses or trains or even flying to a neighboring country like Thailand or Vietnam.

Meeting Others?

As I mentioned there is a larger population of ex-pats in many of the cities of Cambodia. Its not really a hard country to live in but there are differences one has to adapt to. I think the ex-pat and retiree groups kind of bond together to get others familiar with the differences and provide some bonding for new and long time members. I am not a social person and really don’t do well meeting other retirees and ex-pats on the road. I’ve met a few and there are so many obvious differences. One is that they all smoke. I cannot stand cigarettes or the smell whatsoever and restaurants here often allow smoking throughout. The other is there is a social bonding by being a member of the group that just being an American on the outside does not give. There’s not a private club but I think a lot of the ex-pats tend to want a recognizable thing so the weekend events are better than just meeting another person at a restaurant or bar. I met this person from an ex-pat forum in Phnom Penh and while he was interesting there is not a lot of mutual interest because I don’t intend on stopping or staying in a place long term. The visa to me here is an instrument of flexibility. If I did not have this one, I would find another place that offers a similar one like the Philippines. Staying put, like many do, does not provide a lot of familiarity to me.

I guess the other thing is the solo travel. I am very content to travel this way. I don’t need to be surrounded by a social group of ex-pat retirees on weekend visits to restaurants to meet, eat, and drink. I also don’t intend or want a local lady friend which is quite easy to get here by all accounts. Age disparity is just accepted here it seems like but its not something I want or need.

Finally, meeting someone on the road is different. Paths may never cross again and perhaps its okay. I don’t really want someone’s contact information or have a desire to friend them on facebook or follow on twitter. Its like the two ships crossing paths. Momentary greetings but soon the ships pull apart and each goes its own way. Some would say its a lonely existence but I would not accept that. There are those of us that cannot thrive in a solo adventure and then there are those that can. Meeting people at hostels or hotels or even meeting local people is not a big goal of mine. I have met a few Vietnamese people that are friends.

Final Note on the Butte County Fire

Sad to say an old friend that I have lost contact with over the past few years got burned out in Paradise, California and escaped with only a car full of things and his older daughter. I think his life there is over and he will hopefully not return because the city looks completely destroyed. I have not talked with him for years for a variety of reasons and how we would define our friendship could be questioned. But no matter what, I’m glad he’s safe whether he is in a good mental place now or not.

Will we ever talk again? I don’t know. I don’t feel like there is a pressing need. He has things he needs to do now. Being in Cambodia there is not a lot I could do anyways and we drifted apart for a number of reasons. The reasons are still valid to me and while I could give him a hug and tell him I’m glad he’s safe I don’t think I would want him back the way it was. I feel leaving the US forever kind of signaled that there are people out there I left behind for reasons. He is one. I wish him good luck and hope he finds some happiness and I’m glad he’s safe. But there is not much else there for me for him. I guess I am broken too with relationships. Perhaps the last thing with retirees and ex-pats for me is building any kind of meaningful relationship with someone or even not a meaningful one. I just don’t care any more.

I know I sound jaded or cruel or egotistical. Guilty on all fronts. I also am critical, somewhat obnoxious and selfish. Sorry folks. Those are my good qualities. Hit the unfollow button if you like. Won’t hurt me a bit.

Mikes Concept Workflow – Ideas, Discussion and what works and does not

Awhile ago I built a basic workflow in my productivity tool named Ulysses to try to help me stage information and have it flow through different stages. I have not really followed the approach I had lined out but now feel its time with writing other content more to try again. So in the interests of sharing here is a post on how it works. Just as a background, I use the Ulysses App which is on Apple platforms for this but you could use Google Docs just as well.

The basic idea for me was to kind of get organized. I don’t have massive amounts of information coming in and I don’t have a team on Slack collaborating with me. What I do have are these sometimes extemporaneous ideas that come to me walking with the camera or when I am reading something. I could find another app which captures it but truth be told, Ulysses is my one home for all text. I don’t need separate tools for the jobs when there is only one of me. So, information kinda comes in in various ways and I write little notes. These notes are free form things like,

look at www something or other and read their idea about Vietnam

So that is in what is called a “sheet” to use the Ulysses parlance. Does each little crumb have its own sheet? Not at this point. It may end up there next. We are at the Inbox level of things where these sheets get filed. Its here where things have gone awry for me and ideas propel with alacrity to other points in the workflow so I have decided to attack the problem head on here in Otres and try again. To ease the discussion, here is the workflow and how it’s used.

Inbox. The home of the little ideas captured in sheets. These are freeform ideally although that folder is empty now because I have not been good at maintaining this part of the workflow.

Stuff to do. Often the thing becomes something I want to do. A place to go or see on a walking trip. The sheets move here with some additional classification such as the where, maybe a map, a time, etc. I am still not good at this point but I have used it.

Ideas. At this point, the stuff to do yields ideas. Formative plans that I can act on. This is a good stage for me since things burst through on walks or over beers or when I’m reading. I have repositories for these things like :

  • Blog Posts. The idea is destined to become a blog post. When it gets here, its created and published using Ulysses publishing to WordPress tools.
  • Mikes Journal. The idea is not good for a blog post. It’s become too personal. The journal is a freeform text document using some markup but mostly its just typing into one sheet for each year. Ulysses is damned good at longer documents!
  • Travel. A catchall folder with sub folders for this year and next that needs some reorganization.
  • Stories too Edit. It may become a story. I only have one now I am working on. It kinda came this route.
  • Fuji Camera Notes. Infrequently I find a thing I want to keep on photography like a website or an author or something. I try to keep sets of notes on this stuff.
  • Blog Articles. The original idea was to create static content or “pages” on WordPress. The idea may end up as a blog article or static post.

So this is what I came up with as far as a workflow in Ulysses. What are the problems? Well, there are lots of little places for things to go. So the first thing I’ve decide to lessen the number of folders. I will pull down to only an inbox that will then feed the blog posts, journals, etc. The second problem is discipline. We all are spontaneous creatures and ideas come willy nilly at the dead of night when you wish they would not. My idea was having the same tool on the phone and the laptop meant I would be able to deal with this. I still believe that. Its just not how I use the mobile app on my iPhone. That is going to change. I want to have the mobile app play more of a key role as I slim down the workflow folders.

Some folders require reorganization. The travel folder has sub folders and lots of sheets and attachments of maps and pdf files. No real organization within the folder. I am going to study that problem and come up with a more elegant solution for travel. Its not just some app like TripIt. I don’t particularly care for more apps to store things in. Since my tool is Ulysses and its so well built for organization and function, this is it and I must learn more how to use it.

Finally is the journal. There is not much to be done there. I could simply move to something else but for me it breaks the basic rule of use. Why would I pay for Day One when my journal is a freeform text document and it just works for me?

Integration and Exporting

I want to finally discuss integration and exporting. If you decide to implement a workflow I think its important to find a central repository that you can live with and that’s integrated into how you do things already. I think Google Docs is really superb at this. But there are others too. So the simple rule is pick one you already feel good about. Don’t just buy a subscription to Ulysses or find X tool because legions of people swear by it. This is a tool for you folks. Make it stand your use test and it integrates, if you want, to mobile platforms.

Exporting finally is huge. The tool you choose should export to other formats. You may want a sheet in clear text or pdf or even a word docx. Make sure you can do these things. At some point, I may change back to Google Docs and I want the export path well paved from Ulysses.

Conclusions or such…

So there you have it. A workflow I don’t use but that is a start to trying to organize how I use information and maintain it in a single organizing and integrated tool. Rather than the helter-skelter of a tool for each thing which may work for you, my limitation is finding the nugget of information when it could be in Google keep or a Google Doc or perhaps in a text file somewhere. I dealt with this by buying the subscription to Ulysses. Its still a learning thing so the final conclusion is not written. But it works! And it works to help me find things and write things and publish them. I do feel the need to simplify the folders which I am going to do here in Sihanoukville while the rain falls and and days are slow.

Give it some thought folks. Do you want a home for things that you can then turn into a workflow to help you? I thought yes and no at first. Now I think yes with some caveats. It needs change. But life is all about change! Embrace it or ignore it at your peril.