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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.

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.

Cord Cutting in the House that Mike Lives in

Cord cutting is complex you know. I have not had a cable TV subscription since 2015 and while we have comcast internet in the house I live in there is no TV. I like watching TV most nights so I have to find things to satisfy that itch.

Roku TV is the primary delivery agent. It allows one to have a OTA digital antenna hooked up so local over the air stations can be received. I get about 40 channels and most come in pretty good. I combine this with a choice of streaming channels to fill in. My primary streamers are:

Amazon Prime Video. This is a great alternative which comes with my prime package and I’m happy with how it works on the Roku.

SlingTV. This fills in a lot of spots for me and since I do spoil myself I tend to over spend during football season and get the entire sports lineup.

CuriosityStream. Nature, history, travel shows. I like the quality of this choice and it works very well for me.

Netflix is gone now. I cancelled it because I never watched it. For me, paying $12 a month for something I never watch was a bit much.

I also have a few other channels that the Roku offers and they have literally thousands of free channels for just about any taste. They have public and private channels. It’s fun to find some SciFi channel and watch for an evening and then move along to another free channel.

I’ve considered the value of the Roku streaming service for awhile now and there simply is nothing like it out there. It’s a platform agnostic thing which offers a variety of streaming sources. Even Google Play Movies! YouTube Red is also there since I have a Google Play Music account.

Have you considered cord cutting? It’s imminently doable but you need to have a few things. Prominent among them is good internet. I upgraded the internet in our house to a Google WiFi Mesh network and a new non WiFi comcast router. I get very consistent download speeds now and the streaming has never been so good. We have three hotspots. Two downstairs and one upstairs. It all works great and advertises the same hotspot wherever you are in the house.

The second is a streaming service that will offer a variety of services so you can mix and match. I like having OTA support so I have a cheap OTA antenna which receives up to 50 miles in my window of my room. It works like a treat for me.

Finally, if you want a solution that is platform agnostic try a Roku device. I don’t think Chromecast or Amazon Fire devices come close to what a Roku can do. The integrated TVs are nice. I have the 32 inch TCL Roku TV. It was cheap and its worked perfectly for over a year now.

Cord cutting works whether its voluntary or something that happens as you move around and have no real comcast TV service. Check out the solutions out there and find one that works for you.

Its the weekend – go enjoy!

Its time for the changing of the season and its my favorite time of the year. The fall times are mostly excellent for going out with the camera on a day adventure and going for walks. Last night was particularly beautiful. Low clouds scudded across the east bay hills and the evening sun tinted things in all the hues. I did not shoot any of the scenes but should have.

Now I also start measuring the “when” of things. I’ve realized that work is a decision and stop gap thing for me now. I can work until December when we deliver a major piece of work. Then I would decide to stop and never have to be up and commute and get frustrated with the whole thing. I would then pay off the two remaining debts I have for a car and some minor financing and go through a large scale reduction in property.

There’s a few places left for me here to see. A trip I could not do in 2010 and have never been able to do with all the things that have happened. I will ride Amtrak coast to coast but at my pace with stops to do street photography in likely places. Most of all I don’t want some pre-planned destination and if I want to stop I just do it.

Now I feel the cool morning breeze on a Saturday morning and my Fuji camera sits on my desk both patient and inviting. It wants out to find things to record and share. I’ll leave soon for some breakfast and then see my daughter force for a day. I’ll ponder over the months remaining to work and do the “what if” scenarios if I stay longer. But there is no longer for work. Its until. Until this one project finishes and I can leave with a clean slate. Then I claim my todays back and get a tomorrow or two.

Welcome to the weekend. Do a thing that you dare.

PSA: Protect yourself out there

Public Service Announcement…

Please check your credit and take appropriate action. I have frozen all three agencies credit reporting via their services they offer. Perhaps this does not protect completely but at least I feel that I took an action or actions that may protect or secure some of my precious data.

For me personally, I can leave the credit frozen for a long time. I won’t be buying a house, renting an apartment, or getting a car any time soon. Others though are probably busier out there. I think my ex-wife will not acknowledge the risk and she will believe that a credit report run 2 months ago protects her.

Here’s some other basic advice. Take it or leave it. Setup dual factor authentication on google for your mail and stuff. They have lots of options for how to do it with a phone or an app on either IOS or Android. Its a bit more of a pain but consider the alternatives. Its not just email. Its your Digital DNA out there folks.

I sat up dual factor authentication for my important stuff and use an easy method to actually log in which is I think pretty secure. Find your own method and then employ it. Be safe out there. You cannot be sure. We are past that point with Equifax. They knew for months and not a word was said. We’ve lost that childlike acceptance of things and now we have to assume that our precious lives and identities and information can be easily had. You can take some steps but its naive to expect that everything is okay. My ex-wife will ask her sister and she will say something like,

Oh, don’t worry about it. That’s not necessary. Its not that big of a deal.

I can hear her now. She is an idiot.

Flirting with Saturday

Its my weekend back from Vancouver folks. I’ve been back at work for a week now. I’ve made some technology changes in my life. I’ve used a chromebook for some years as my only device. Its been well and good but I always feel the need to experiment and try new things. I’ve been intrigued by the Macbook Pro 2017 13 inch laptop for awhile. I see them in coffee shops, airports, and around town. They look pretty sleek and fun to use.

I decided to join that team and bought myself a brand new laptop and I have to say there is something powerful yet charming about this laptop. it runs circles around my Windows 10 powered work laptop. I have a Surface Book Pro I use for work which runs the required productivity applications I find myself in most days. It could be nice but Windows 10 seems to hamper or limit its potential and the work security management and end point tools also create some issues. I don’t use that laptop for personal stuff at all.

Now I have a new toy and I’m busy learning gestures, the major differences with how applications install, and how to use that amount of Unix under the hood with things like included terminals, ssh, rsync.

After having worked for a week, its nice to have a weekend to play with the new toys and consider what I want to do next. Perhaps try out new apps on the Mac. Find a suite spot for the type of applications I enjoy using. There are a few so far that seem significant. One is the Bear Note app. I like that approach and model. I like reading news so Reeder is nice and it reads from Feedly which is handy. I also bought a few commercial programs like PDF Expert to help with a need I still have to manage PDF files. I loaded Office 2016 for the MAC as well. Very well thought out Office environment Microsoft!

Now I am waiting to go pick up my daughter force. I’ll take the MAC with me to play at Starbucks because that’s one of the things which drove me to the buying decision. I wanted a mobile device that I could lug around with little or no discomfort and that was powerful.

I’ll bid you all a happy weekend wherever your trails take you. In the words of the bard,

wherever you go, there you are

Go out and enjoy!

The Next Thing or Things

When you finish a thing, its time to find a new thing. No matter how old or young, we all need the next challenge or thing to do that will take us to the next great place. As I wrote, I finished a milestone of visiting a group of places along the pacific seaboard from San Diego to Vancouver over the past 4 years or so. I had decided way back in 2011 that I wanted to visit more places to walk  and see on my own terms. I could not go from 2011 to 2014 due to issues in my life which had to be overcome. In 2014, I started working on the so-called “bucket list”. I finished in 2017 this last week with the trip to Vancouver.

This leaves me with a new challenge of new directions to take. I’ve been saying here that next year early on I will stop working and retire from IT. Take the money I’ve saved, file for social security retirement and just leave. Since my vacations have corresponded to March and August this year, I will be departing from work end of February next year. A scant few months to end a work relationship, get rid of remaining stuff, and really pack it up and leave.

I won’t be doing any vacations or walking trips again until next March. But then, via Amtrak I will see more cities I have wanted to walk in like Chicago, Boston, and New York. I will also depart these shores for whatever time I am gone to Asia. I want to get back to Japan, Vietnam, Thailand, etc. India holds a special place so I will stay there and see the places I could not see before. I’ll retire and find a new life for myself that has new values and less of the old. The old me is still vindictive and when I drink too much I get mad at things. I guess call me human or something.

So, for awhile, I anticipate less blog posting about traveling because there won’t be any. I’ll focus on planning the real get away next March or so. I don’t know how long that lasts or what I’ll do. That’s up to then and this is only now.

A milestone claimed and another set. Life is forever worth it.

Recent Events, Political Drama, Bigotry and Racism, the President, this blog

I don’t deal well with these things and I try not to let things leak into the blog. This blog is not meant to cover or discuss these things. I will say that I am still an anthropologist at heart and anthropology is the widest study of people, cultures, events I have found yet. The current events are disturbing, saddening, hateful and we cannot just process them from CNN or the Washington Post and expect what has happened to sink in to our national conscience (or lack of one these days).

I could say that I saw a lot of this coming after the elections but we all know that the current political climate is not tenable. We simply cannot continue down the same path. Specifically, we cannot,

  1. act in a rash way to destroy the delicate balance on our planet.
  2. build walls that probably have no value other than as a speaking point in a mis-placed dialogue.
  3. roll back protections for clean water, national parks and monuments. We should be enhancing these places.
  4. appoint people that have no idea what they’re doing into positions where their will may control the first three things
  5. believe that free speech means ramming a car into people

We have lost sight of a key thing and we are now sentenced to wandering in the desert much as God sentenced some to 40 years of wandering. We don’t have 40 years to curb these things folks. Our delicate and beautiful planet, its cultures and places of importance, the air and water we use; all are threatened by an administration that is clearly out of control.

Its a dangerous precedent we are now setting and one we shall be doomed to follow. For each thing we do has an impact to 10 other things and then those 10 things impact another ten. Nothing lives in isolation and there is a thread in this web that touches things which seem to not be connected.

A friend in the Forest Service once told me its not enough to simply re-plant trees after a fire and expect habitat to come back. Habitat is a delicate balance of living and non living. We are intent on destroying that habitat as well as our own.

This blog is about my travels. I want places to travel to.

Travel Mode to Vancouver Ensues

I’ve finally reached the point where my out of office auto-responder kicks in on Monday. Its the “no more to work” days for a week. I’ll be packing my bags this Sunday after some laundry and other chores and then perhaps a haircut. I’ll go for a walk Sunday evening and dwell yet again on the trip up to Vancouver BC.

Its been awhile since a vacation for me and I guess I still cannot believe I am actually gonna fly out of here for some days of walking a new city! I told someone at work what I do and the consensus is that its not a vacation. It is for me. Walking a city is like going to a movie or taking a cruise or sailing or something. It has all the element of enjoyment but happens at a slower pace than the usual tour bus.

I also have all my traditions for after the walk. I find a Starbucks and have that drink and my legs tell me it was a good day. By 4pm I’m back in my hotel room relaxing and perhaps looking at the day’s photos and writing the finishing blog post from the draft I started in the morning. I remember the place I went for lunch and the beers there. Perhaps a bit of TV and then dinner and a few more beers. By this time, I’m tired. Legs are old but they keep going and I can feel the use in them. The sensation of that walking leaves me spent and a bit drunk and very happy. But the days tick away like usual and soon its the last day and I gamble away the morning hours and prepare to leave.

Then back to work and I find the things I need to do have been waiting until my return. My VP tells me he is glad I am back and then hands me a bunch of stuff I need to do and my boss laughs and tells me,

that’s what you get for taking time off Michael

Yep. I know.

But we all need it you know. We need to recharge the batteries without the plans and presentations and the charts and graphs and measurements. We all do it different ways and with different means at our disposal. For me, its walking the days away. Knowing most likely I will never see the city again and if I do, it will not have the same taste, flavor, sense of that other time.

So be it!

Let the vacation ensue.