A short distance to a minor deviation

Catchy subject eh? I am a master of creating subjects or headers with no real basis in what I am gonna write. Call it my particular skill or irritation and frustration point. Perhaps you have stopped reading already. I’m totally cool with that. You will miss a minor deviation from all the wonders of Ho Chi Minh City.

Taking Notes on Mac and IOS – my 2019 and onward revisions

I like taking notes and then being able to edit said notes on my iPhone or my MacBook. Its a thing I do sitting in the room in the mornings and then when I’m out eating lunch or having coffee or over dinner. There is always something more to take note of. I also enjoy applications which sync flawlessly using iCloud between devices. I want the same info and roughly user experience between the devices and if I pay for a subscription, I expect to have gratification from the application developers.

To reach there, I’ve tried any number of Notes apps like OneNote, Apple Notes, Evernote, Ulysses, and on and on. This is all leading me to the app which now has my attention and is actually a joy to use whether in the room on the laptop or on the move. That app is Bear. So what about bear keeps this old retired guy enthralled and using it and not hunting a new app? Here are a few reasons I can think you may want to consider to try or not try:

  1. Its fast. The syncing action is not a sinking action on the MacBook and my iPhone. Everything happens in really fast time and my notes are there when I need them.
  2. The UI and its beauty and simplicity. I do not need a thing overly complex and I really enjoy the use of tags to split or join notes and see them in various sections. I also enjoy linking to another note by typing two left brackets and seeing the existing notes show up. If I am in a tag area like #writing and I create another note it maintains that tag. Cool beans and it lessens workflows to get things where I want them.
  3. Linking notes to other things. You can link between Bear and other apps. By coping the Bear Notes Link it will open from the other application on the MacBook or my iPhone. There is a nice collaboration at work there.
  4. Subscription Models work. I believe it’s a value thing for subscription models and application developers will create value if they see you have skin in the game for the long term.

My Diary on MacBook and IOS in 2019

I’ve gone back and forth on an app to do this. There is a separation line between the blur of consciousness stuff I want to record like a conversation for my future self or a thing to clear from my mind or a frustration or a vent and a note that captures a thing to me.  The note is often undated while the journal entry is not.

So enter Day One for the diary. I use this app on both my MacBook and iPhone too and it has some of the same rationales as above. Its a joy to use and it tags the location and keeps track of where you are and will bug you to create journal entries. I need that sometimes. I don’t have a list of reasons because many cross over. What I expect from a diary app is crispness and a clean interface that lets me get right to writing these time and thought based blurs of things. If an area  demands more exploration or explanation or links of thought, I create a note in Bear and link it as mentioned before. If I start something Bear and I want to reference it in a Day One journal post (like about travel ideas) I can create that linkage.

Combining it all into one thing

That’s impossible and I no longer want a single thing like for awhile i did with Ulysses. I appreciate the closeness but separation of well-designed applications with different UI and purposes is very cool and a desired thing. I want to have my travel notes reference the detailed list of things I keep in Google Sheets but be separate. I want to reference diary posts in Bear. Easy peasy!

Finally, I want to bring it all and find it all on my devices. For me the whole Apple Ecosystem just works the best for me. For you it may be Google Docs. I used that for a long time and its closely integrated. If I moved to a Chromebook particularly with an Android phone, I would export and move.

That’s the final thing for me. I want the ecosystem integration but I also want a way to bail if the time comes. Both of these apps offer attractive and advanced ways to export information and I’ve tested both with a different journaling app that resides on Google Drive.  I cannot see myself leaving though.

What I can see is upgrading in 2020 to a new MacBook or getting the 2019 iPad Air device with the smart keyboard and bidding adieu to laptops completely. It would be easier to travel with just the iPad and iPhone I think. Charging and maintenance, weight and size, comparable use and applications would be ideal!

Give it some thought in your experiment of one. I have not found the final end point. I have found a way station stop along my path that lets me integrate my notes and diary entries. Does it make it all worth it? Perhaps. It does make the trip more fun and keeping detailed notes on travel in Bear is the best! Day One really lets me focus and create thoughts and talking to my future and sometimes past self. I think both are important and finding ways for me to tie them together thoughtfully has been damned good.

Vietnam thoughts, Blog Themes, Other Cool Things that do not go bump in the Night

I’ve been pretty consistently writing on this blog since I left last year. It seems amazing that a year ago I was in Ho Chi Minh City Vietnam and that’s where I am going back to in a few days. I’ll swing through Vietnam for about 2 months give or take a day or something. I could have stayed longer but I designed the trip to Vietnam for a shorter time since I already spent 6 months there and went basically north to south then. Now I am going in reverse and will not go back to a few places that I went before. I won’t see Da Lat again or Nha Trang. I will see Can Tho and Phu Quoc Island. I have not been to either of those before. Then I will jet off to Da Nang which is my favorite place and end up to see a few people in Hanoi.

I already know what I shall eat my first night in HCMC (trying valiantly to not write Saigon). I will have Pho. Down the street and around the block is this little Pho stand I shall visit where the broth is steamy and its a nectar of taste and wonderful sensory overload. For three weeks, I’ll walk around again in the beautiful, crazy, sometimes wierd city of HCMC and its districts. I’ll visit the Ben Thanh Market and try not to buy anything and take pictures with my iPhone. Talking about the iPhone, I am working on my second report on explorations with it and should post it before the weekend.

I don’t have a set itinerary there in HCMC. I will get back to Vincom Center and have Bud’s Ice Cream. I mention this because only time did I feel down or depressed being alone in the last 1.5 years. I ended up eating ice cream in the Vincom Center Mall at Buds. It was a moment where things swung around and I saw so many people walking, talking, some arguing. Those lower feelings soon dissipated and I have not felt that way since. Perhaps I am just built for solitude but I remember what someone said once,

Loneliness is being alone and hating it. Solitude is being alone and loving it

I don’t know that I’ve lived those words but I have come to realize that I am not a terribly social person. I have bad traits. I am selfish, narcissistic and I set a high bar for friendship. Perhaps all those things have combined to make the last years mean even more and some of it is destined every so often to come out in blogposts which let me revel in the backwash of 20 years of blogging or so.

Blogging or so…

It has been over 20 years of writing these things. Most people I met doing this have moved on in many ways. Others have stormed in. What once was a means of expression and creation has become something else. Perhaps it serves those new bloggers in some way. I am a dinosaur though. I still write these things for the joy of creation. Someone could offer me a kazillion dollars to write a sponsored post and I’d decline. I’m just not that willing to set such a low bar for myself to accept money for something I love to do.

In other moments of blogging, since getting the business account, I have been trying themes but not many plugins. I am now on the free Twenty Sixteen theme that Automattic does. I like the theme. Do you?

I think it looks pretty nice on mobile devices and its simple. I don’t like themes with lots of grids or boxes with featured images or themes made for small businesses or lifestyle blogging or selling things or ads or whatever. I want a theme which does a thing well and what it does well is show my content. I don’t need it hidden behind READ MORE… or kludgy boxes. I want you to see all the crapola I write so you can decide whether its worth to read. I don’t really care if you do or don’t but I do enjoy you finding something perhaps that strikes a chord in your life.

I also read a lot of blogs. Okay. Maybe only a few. I try to read the blogs that like my blog. I am not good at following and I apologize in advance. I hope though you do find something in this stuff that lets you see that living life at a slower pace, seeing places with no itineraries or instagrammable moments, or ads is something you maybe like. I like throwing it out there whether you do or not.

Wrapping it all up…

So now I do what I usually do. I wrap all this up for you in a few concise or not so sentences. Life has been damned good for me traipsing all around in slow motion. Ive found ways to enjoy the day to day which was so missing before. Someone asked me once if I missed all that work. My question is,

what the F is work?

I have forgotten. Hahaha.

End of Five Months or so

I left for Singapore on 21 January 2019 and spent a week walking all around and loved it there. Then I flew to Kuala Lumpur Malaysia and spent about three weeks there. I traveled to Melaka, Kuantan, Port Dickson and George Town for about 81 days. Then I left for Thailand. I cut that part of the trip short because Thailand was a disappoinment and Bangkok especially is a city I will never go back to.  So I flew to Siem Reap from Bangkok on 14 May.

I’ve spent 31 days in Siem Reap now and tomorrow I fly off to Phnom Penh for two weeks and then leave on the 29th for Vietnam for just about 60 days. I’m getting back first to Ho Chi Minh City and plan on taking it day by day there for 3 weeks and then I catch a bus to Can Tho for a week. I will fly from Can Tho to Phu Quoc Island for a week and then off I go to Da Nang and finally Hanoi and then come back to Phnom Penh for a week and off to Laos for three weeks.

Its been an interesting 2019 travel-wise and I’ve found and lost more than a few things. I have managed to go through about 4 cameras since I’ve been gone and two cameras on this trip. That has been rather disappointing for the amount of money spent on cameras but it has reinforced my desire to learn better approaches on my iPhone using two new applications to take and edit photographs. I also decided if I did buy a new camera, my luck with cameras would probably stay the same and it would break or become defective at the worst possible moment leaving me again with my iPhone 7 plus.

Other things have come and gone as well the last months. I reached the point with my Merrill Moab shoes that I have worn the last 7 months since the last time I was in Siem Reap that they are just about done. I get about 6 to 7 months of wear out of them walking every day for 5 to 7 miles. A number of pairs of sandals have come and gone as well. I don’t believe Sandals are made for walking like I do and after seeing Birkenstock Arizona sandals only last two months if that, its reinforced my belief that I will never find shoes that approach the use of the Merrill Moab shoes.

Another thing was changing some ideas about what would happen after I visit the US early next year. At first I had no real idea what I would do and had almost decided to just fly back to San Francisco and then go back to Southeast Asia somewhere. Instead, other parts of the world called out so for six months I will see Morocco, Turkey, Egypt, and Dubai. Still not sure what happens after that but I have managed to book all the hotels or Riads in Morocco and I know the date I will leave for Turkey. My next step is to book that flight and also get my visa online for Turkey. I may stay for a month or two in Turkey. Egypt will be quicker and I may or may not do some kind of tour to maximize my time there. Dubai will be a week to kind of slow down and also decide if I will go on to India or Sri Lanka or what.

I have also managed to meet a few different retired expats and today met Monty at the coffee shop. We talked for quite a bit of time about retiring in Southeast Asia and traveling around. I also met this guy Bobby that is doing something different than retiring. He just does visa runs to places and then goes back except now Thailand is blocking that travel so he has had to find other options. Neither of these people do what I do really and while its nice to meet people on the road, I am just as thankful when the time comes to say adios. I just don’t want to exchange email addresses, facebook contacts, or whatsapp stuff. Its interesting to talk with someone but its just as nice when I leave and can walk the places I want to go without them. Its kind of reaffirmed my beliefs (not that I needed that) that my type of solo wandering just works for me. I don’t want a home or a new wife or something else. I don’t think another person could put up with me and I know I could not deal with them. I’ve heard too many arguments from people traveling together about little things. I can imagine how the big things go.

So a bunch of this and that type things. Things found and lost. People said hello to and goodbye to. Now tomorrow I say goodbye to Siem Reap and I don’t know when I will return. I’ve been here twice now and I don’t feel a desire to come back. Later in the year I will visit Kampot and Kep Cambodia for a few days before leaving for Taiwan and Philippines. I want to get back there because I really like Kampot and Kep will be a stay at a nicer resort before leaving for Taipei.

I kinda always mentally sum up the good and bad things. What I’ve gained and lost and what it all has meant. This year has been about getting back to places and finding new places and also planning on going back to the US for a few weeks. As Monty told me today he would never go back and I can see that. I could just as easily not go back too. There is nothing in America that holds or binds me to it besides my daughter who wants to see me. Truth be told the travel across the US is another thing though. Riding Amtrak almost completely across the US was another dream that I missed a few times because of work. Now there are no blockers.

And that’s a good thing I think.

Changing Gears and Gear

Nothing much has changed gear wise for me in the last almost two years of slowly gallivanting around Southeast Asia to destinations I have wanted to see. I’ve captured a lot in photographs and blog posts here and as you probably know I am an opinionated asshole at times and just say what I think of bloggers, photography, instagram, twitter, facebook, whatever. Ain’t apologizing. Too old to change my ways so live with it. One of the rather frustrating rituals has been with expensive camera gear that goes wonky sometimes after only months. Sitting here in Siem Reap I started wondering why. Why do I just buy into more gear that may go sideways in months that costs? I then look at my other travel companions that have not been replaced. My 2017 Macbook 12 inch laptop has been sterling and a great companion for traveling. Great battery life, very forgiving at times, and I love the display. Then there’s the iphone 7 plus. Another device I bought used that has lasted me very well with plopping in SIM cards, lugging through airports, banging on restaurant counters, but never seriously taking photographs besides the food shot every so often. Why? Its not because the camera takes bad photographs or should not be used. It actually takes very good photographs in most situations without expensive add on gear. No lens, no additional things to buy if I would just use the iphone for photography.

So I wondered, why not this morning. What is it that makes carrying a camera the best of all worlds and why should I reconsider things. Simply put, whatever I take a photograph of is for me to keep and share, to backup on social media. I am not into selling photographs or writing up gorgeous trip reports for National Geographic. Simply put the photographs and their maintenance, editing, and final disposition on Google Photos can all be done on the phone itself. I don’t need a device to do this. So why the hesitation? For awhile I believed I wanted to learn photography. Its basics and applications and then apply to my travels. After three or four cameras that have gone sideways, that goal has changed.

Now I want to take photographs of the places I am at, will visit, people, streets, etc. Doesn’t the iphone 7 plus do this well? Don’t I already own a good camera? Doesn’t it backup almost automagically to Google? Yes, yes, and yes!

Its like a rabid thing of what photographers call the GAS. Must acquire the newest gear or just find something that may replace a thing that actually works well because its there and I can do it. No matter that down the road I will wonder why. I am not going to defeat that because I think every techhead has a similar thing. We want relevant technology that will deliver the goods. But what if we temper that a bit and apply it reasonably?

What if I decided to only replace the iphone 7 plus with a later iphone down the road? Perhaps in the states when I see the 2019 phones and I buy a generation old phone like I do that will last years but takes the requisite photographs like Apple delivers to us?

Who am I looking to get approvals from with my images? Why no one of course besides me. Changing gears and gear makes sense then. Simplifying a final area makes sense. Using a thing that I have had for years with me makes sense. It all makes sense until it does not make sense any longer. I may change the backpack when I am back in the states and get new shoes becaue shoes do wear out and the backpack has some features I don’t use at all so why heft it around? But a camera is not one of those things. It ain’t gonna fit on my feet or make the images I wish to share on the blog, on facebook groups, on Mastodon any better than what I get now.

So its time to become a bit accepting, defeat one incarnation of the GAS devil that grips us with acquisitions and just learn to enjoy what I have. It was always there but somehow in the rush to find the camera combination, I ignored the prime directive. For your enjoyment and approbation here it is:

Have fun, enjoy the voyages, record what you want and enjoy looking back on it

That is the prime directive. Nowhere in there does it say to spend thousands of dollars on camera gear that could go sideways in mere months. Be gone that small devil and affliction that makes me think its OK to simply buy another camera because I can.


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.

Moving from WordPress.com to A2Hosting

I am going to be migrating the content from wordpress.com to a2hosting in the next few days. I bought a cheaper plan with unlimited storage there but wanted to tell you all the reasons so you can see if you should do a similar thing or are good;

  1. cost. The cost of the premium plan is $8 a month this includes some storage space as well as access to themes only that wordpress offers. There is no way to use custom plugins or themes. There is no way to edit the themes besides some custom CSS.
  2. upgrading to next level. the next level for me would be the business plan. The business plan costs $25 a month. That is a significant difference only to have support for themes and plugins. Its to wordpress’ loss that they don’t offer more textured upgrades such as so much for storage, so much for themes, so much for plugins. Not everyone is a business blogger.
  3. staying at the same plan. Staying at the same level does not provide what I really want but moving to a host like siteground or bluehost does not either. There is no way to have better storage plans on siteground and bluehost has routinely bad reviews for hosting. Staying at the premium level also does not work at wordpress for me because I would like to expand my blog a bit which I will go into below.

I’ve hit the ceiling with the plans on wordpress.com hosting. There is no place to go further without buying a significantly expensive business plan which has the features I want but charges for a bunch of stuff I don’t. I want to create more of a portal for my travel photography and have some flexibility on how it works, looks, etc. I’ve given up on instagram because it is not a photography sharing service. Its a micro-blogging service with photographs included. Feature wise it does not provide an adequate method to actually share photographs or comment with other photographs. Nothing on instagram has changed that I can see besides the rather vapid and stupid content along with the pictures everyone posts of themselves in every picture.

So I quit. I also decided twitter is no real friend. My issue with twitter is that the followers I have are completely different and do not do what I want or enjoy reading about. Blogging has changed for the worst to me after 20 some years of doing it. We are past the content part of things and on to the money part. I don’t choose to represent myself on twitter monetizing my blog or doing Pinterest or engagement things for instagram. My goals are to simply share a set of photographs I choose of places I visit so my social media engines are going to be simple and I will focus on the blog to let you see the places. From here on out it will be Facebook because I have real friends there and I do not want to lose connections with them and I will continue to use Mastodon which I enjoy immensely as a great signal to noise engine for sharing photographs. I may experiment with flickr again as well but I am not into adding yet more social networks. i don’t believe photographers or those like me that enjoy the art of photography are well served on either twitter or instagram.

So its time to move along and get the blog on a2hosting which is simple actually. I can simply repoint my DNS for mikesplaces.blog to the dns for a2hosting and be done with it. I then upload my export files to a2hosting’s wordpress instance and I have a shiny new blog that I can manage a bit. It opens up the whole theming, plugins, and photography abilities for me and I can look at sharing google photos using a plugin or building custom pages on wordpress to show the places I go

In the end its all I want. I want a way to share what I see and I believe the blog is the best way forward on this.

I am not sure when I will make the DNS changes but having gone through this before, nothing is particularly challenging so I am waiting for the hosting provider to tell me my new wordpress instance is ready.

Old Retired Guy Out Walking

This has been an interesting walk for me. Over the past 1.5 years I am unsure how many thousands of miles I have walked since starting out February in Japan and then six months in Vietnam, 4 months in Cambodia, 5 months in Singapore, Malaysia, and the short trip to Bangkok (which I hated and cut short). Now I am in Siem Reap after bailing on Bangkok and Thailand in general.

I’ve been through a variety of sets of clothing but started with jeans in Japan but it was March then and a jacket and jeans felt pretty good most days. March is kind of unsettled across Japan so you can expect rain, wind, sunshine at random moments in time. By the time I got to Hanoi it occurred to me that the thick US t shirts and jeans were just wrong so I bought cheaper knock off clothing and t shirts that I did not care about. I’ve replaced these any number of times from markets in Cambodia and Vietnam. I also have a few shirts from Malaysia and one from Singapore.

The one thing that I could never find that perhaps suited me were walking shoes besides the Merrill Moab shoes I have bought. I tried sandals from a market and they started breaking down in a month. I tried a pair of branded Arizona sandals from Birkenstock. These lasted all of two months of every day walking 7 to 9 miles and then started disintegrating. I will not buy cheapo sneakers or another pair of cheap sandals just to see them wear through or break after some months. I did buy in December a pair of Chaco Z/Cloud sandals to give them a try but due to some mixups with sending via USPS (don’t do that ever especially to Southeast Asia), they sat in the post office in Phnom Penh for months until my friend Katy got them for me. I have no real hopes that they will last any longer but we shall see. I did buy a second pair of Merrill shoes in Malaysia after finding them in a sports shop and have hauled them around in my backpack for some bit of time. I had decided to trash the Merrills now since they are falling apart and I had to get one of the shoes fixed here when it ripped along the side. Luckily this nice young Khmer guy fixed them up for me for $2 so I can wear them a bit more comfortably my last week and days here.

Here is what I learned from my experiment of one. You can buy cheaper shorts, socks, underwear, t shirts, belts, hats. All of these just work. But there is one thing that touches the ground millions of times and its shoes. If your plan is to walk longer distances in a hot climate and across cities or parks or up and down temple steps, get a shoe you believe in. Just because the press and millennial reviewers says that “tevas or chacos or arizona sandals are best” don’t you believe it! They may be the best for a pair of feet not your own. Maybe you do have a pair of sandals or shoes that work for you. What I have found at some point they will give out and the chances of finding a replacement are not so good if you want the same shoe. I don’t like skimping on shoes since I tend to walk every day just about everywhere I go and enjoy taking walks through cities with the camera. I can’t just head to Ben Thanh Market in Saigon and buy some shoes. After repeated attempts at finding cheap shoes, the shoes will fail, fall apart and sometimes disintegrate on my feet when straps come off, etc.

Just don’t do it. If you buy cheap local clothing and backpacks great. I do that too. I don’t care if they are ripoffs of the brands. My North Face Surge backpack is over a year old now and I got it in Saigon and its a sturdy, well made backpack. I don’t walk on it though but it does go through a lot of hotels, airbnb, airports, etc with me. Shoes though. Shoes are different beasts. I am now convinced I will just have to pay for shoes from the US to really take the place of the Merrill Moab Version 2 shoes I now will be wearing when leaving Siem Reap. I am hoping to get six months out of them in every day wear for 7 to 9 miles walking. In my experience Merrill shoes are good! No shoes I have had will last for years though. I think anyone that says that has some feet that are not my feet or walk differently than I do. It will be interesting to try the Chaco Z/Cloud sandals and see how long they last. I am betting less than a year. If they last longer than 6 months, I’m impressed. If I need to buy Merrill shoes again, I will be able to get them in January 2020 in the states or have some shipped to me in October.

I have not found a sandal or a shoe that matches the Merrill shoes for comfort, daily use walking the miles I do. Perhaps I am just an old retired guy slightly bigger than a young millennial stud or studette or I walk funny or whatever. I believe shoes start to disintegrate the moment I put them on my feet. Gone are the days of ever buying another pair of Birkenstock Arizona Sandals. I did read reviews that said people wore them years and years. I doubt it really if they walk like I do.

Anyways, we shall see with the Chaco sandals. I’ll have them in a few weeks since they are waiting in a box for me at the hotel in Phnom Penh. I’d like them to last for a year. Highly doubtful. I do know I need or have to walk every day. There is nothing for it but to do it. It has become my daily mantra and meditation and thought process. The Cambodian sun beating down, sometimes higher humidity before rain storms, puddles to go through.  Uneven pavement and even things that may snag the shoes and rip them. All are there but walk I must and I shall. What shoes I wear are constantly being narrowed down to the same shoes I left with in 2018. Its just a hassle getting them sometimes.

Such is life for this old retired guy that has to walk each and every day.

Siem Reap to Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh City

I’ll be back in Phnom Penh in two weeks. Be there for two weeks to visit some friends, get a few things done I like doing there like visiting my favorite barber shop and also going back to tour the Palace and Museum. I like both of those so I am going to spend a day doing those things. Tbey are kinda close to each other so its pretty easy to find them.

But then on 29 June, I take off for three months in Vietnam. I’m pretty happy to be going back seeing Ho Chi Minh City (resisting the urge to write Saigon), Can Tho, Phu Quoc Island and then Da Nang and Hanoi. I don’t really have a list of touristy or non-touristy things I want to do. I like just the day-to-day living there so I splurged and got a nice Airbnb in HCMC for my stay. Rest of the places are in hotels for a week to two weeks so prices are not terrible. I will be really glad to have some Pho again to tell the truth and I have been missing a variety of other foods so I will go back and eat some of just about everything but will turn the notch up and have western food every so often because over in Da Nang is this American breakfast place I must visit again. Its the only place I have been that makes true American breakfasts and its owned by a wonderful expat Lady that also does a social mission for young Vietnamese wanting to learn hospitality. I can get pancakes, potatoes, eggs, bacon, and toast there and just feel all spoiled rotten inside.

Since Da Nang is my favorite spot, there are coffee places, dessert houses, restaurants that I want to visit again. I had some of the best variety of food in Da Nang and in Hue. When I get up to Hanoi there is the small Pho shop that sells only Pho north of Hoan Kiem Lake. No menus there. You go in and sit down and you get a bowl of Beef Pho. I hope to meet my Vietnamese friend Cat for dinner one night as well.

Vietnam is a treat to visit I think. A treat for all the senses. Its the people and the places and the history and wonder of seeing young children smiling their hello’s. I just love being there. As I mentioned I don’t have a set of places to go this time but there are bunches of day tours one can do to turn the page and get to somewhere else but I much prefer just to wander the cities on foot. I seem to get more from meeting the city on its terms with my camera and my steps than I do with some well-meaning tour guide limiting the left and right turns to ensure we stay on schedule.

Going Forward…

Then there is going forward and 2020 looms. I start with the trip back to the US but have been busy booking Riads and my first flight to go see Morocco. Morocco gives up to 90 days on the entry stamp for US citizens so why should I settle for less? I also will hop over to Turkey and then Egypt and finish up in Dubai. I am thinking after that it will be around June or so. I should go back to Cambodia then or something or perhaps I will visit Malaysia again and start with Johore and work my way north on the train to Butterworth and my favorite place of all in Malaysia George Town.

Its gonna be an interesting 2019 and I think 2020 is gonna stretch the boundaries and take me to places I have never been. Wandering Morocco, seeing Istanbul, visiting the Pyramids and finally seeing the cosmopolitan Dubai. I’m pretty thrilled by the whole plan even though I don’t know the when and how of things yet.

To Diary or Not… Its the beer talking but maybe it has something to say

I’ve been thinking a lot not only of camera frustrations but about writing a diary. A personal reflection, a thought, something inwardly facing. I read somewhere that you never write something in a diary that you would not want another person to read. Too late. My diaries since 2015 are full of stuff that I would prefer to not have anyone else read. I kept a diary since 2009 when I got back from India and then those got a bit much so I deleted them. They focused on adultery and divorce and bad things. I just could not seem to surmount those things for years. I had read in divorce we go through the five stages and end up with acceptance. I never reached acceptance though. I reached this other stage called,

Learning to live with something or in spite of it

So time had gone by writing the diary. Different tools. Some of them did not export cleanly so I lost things as I got frustrated with the whole thing. The same with almost 7 years of blogposts I figure. Those WordPress exports are just gone in the ether along with the self-hosted VPS I leased or rented. Probably for the better folks.

Because then came a time writing a journal where I turned the corner and learned to live in spite or with a thing. I don’t know if it was evolutionary or revolutionary or I was just sick and tired of feeling sick and tired (like what the AA says). Or perhaps I realized no amount of energy would change a thing. By 2015, my diaries started to change. I can read them now and things are turning around. Not a lot because it would take 2 more years to pay off a huge credit card debt caused by my own stupidity. Then by 2017, I had gotten the last full time gig but the pressure was mitigating and I can see it in my writing. I only did two projects but they both were hell spawned. I told my friend and manager Lee once that the tank was empty. I recorded that too in 2017. I knew I was gonna retire. Then in November 2017 I filed the voluntary separation stuff and then began my group VP asking me numerous times to just stay. I recorded all that too.

By January 2018 I had paid off the car. That was a highlight when I read the 2018 diary entries. Then it was time to go. Time to leave America. Time to pull the roots up and never let any more grow. Life was about to change immeasurably.

And the diary whether in Ulysses or before in Day One or Google Docs all reflects the change, the focus, all the stuff that makes up this improbable Mikes Thoughts thing.

Here’s the question though. Do you diary? Do you write the imponderables or obey the rules and not write what another should not read? I’ve been at it for years through bad and worse and good and other times. Kids and dogs and cats and even bunnies and snakes. Times left to my own devices with nothing to distinguish from the other times. Then it was 2018 and I left. Suddenly life took a turn. I knew and I can see it in my diary where life took this turn. Some would say abrupt but not. It was never abrupt. I had known since 2015 I would go. I just did not know what it would look like or how it would channel itself.

Now I do sitting in Siem Reap after a few too many beers. I can see what time and space and moments have done. And keeping a diary has been a primal force for good and bad. Lost years. Recorded clear text moments.

Its been good when it was good. Other times my words were hateful and spiteful but I never regretted them after. I may have deleted the account or removed the access but since 2009 I know what they all say. One day my daughter will see the sum total of my dairies in clear text. Will she be happy? I don’t think so. I am only human so I write things. Things that get recorded and reread on occasion. Perhaps things another person should not read. So sue me.

I hope you write too. Write for yourself and you can see the pattern and path of things. A diary can be important or it can be a thing left behind as life moves inexorably on its path. I’ve found it to be a force of good (and evil). But the the words are there. At least since 2015. Before that they are will o the wisps. In the ether of a time then and not now. But I know what they said. I don’t regret them. I just move on.

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…


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.