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.

Sunday in Vietnam

Here it is Sunday in magical Vietnam. I had some nice Vietnamese Beef Stew last night for dinner after wanting Bun Cha at a particular restaurant but it was closed for some emergency. Today I will venture forth camera in hand to further test and have fun with the new F2 35mm prime lens on my X-T30. I can say if you are looking for a good combination of travel camera, prime lens, and kit lens; consider getting the X-T30 with the F2 35mm prime lens and buy the camera and 18-55mm kit lens together. The cost is very competitive and you will get the same innards as the world class X-T3 camera. FujiFilm does this a lot so I thought I would offer my own take on the value of this camera for someone like me that moves very slowly in places in Southeast Asia.

  1. size and weight. The heft of the X-T30 is excellent for travel related activities and when you bundle it with the kit lens you get something which is not outrageous size wise. It will fit in a smaller over the shoulder bag you can find easily. I would consider though getting one of the smaller prime lens for day to day use. The F2 35mm prime lens is a perfect size and reduces the heft of the camera. So if size is a prerequisite for travel but you still want interchangeable lens at a good price, this camera size with the prime lens is nice.
  2. quality. My goals are to never edit photographs or take RAW images. I simply do not want to be bothered with the editing and time it takes. My goals are to find devices which work to meet my needs not for me to adjust to meet their needs. The quality of Fuji JPEGs is legendary and with the wonderful film simulations available like Provia, Classic Chrome, and Acros, you get different takes and abilities at quality to get the image with different effects. Wonderful for lazy people like me!
  3. price. Lets talk price. You can find the X-T30 body only for under $900 and you can find deals on the body with kit lens at decent prices hovering around the 1k mark. I don’t do links where I make money when you click. Go use a browser and view them at amazon or something. The second price is for the prime lens. I paid $369 for it here in Vietnam at the FujiFilm Style Store downtown. That’s pretty comparable to prices all over internationally and its backed by Fuji. So you can get the whole works for less than the cost of the X-T3 camera body only. Wow! A camera that captures the essence of the X-T3 in a lot of regards for less. Give it a look price wise.
  4. fun. This stuff is supposed to be fun folks. If you are not a professional photographer or believe yourself to be one or you are like me and just want a way to capture images to share, you will want something fun. I use an iPhone 7 plus for photographs as well as the X-T30. Both are fun but lets be honest; a dedicated camera has more knobs and dials. I like to play with knobs and dials. FujiFilm cameras have them in abundance and they are retro style so you look plenty cool as you mess around. Finally its supposed to be FUN.
  5. learning and education. Photography can be an expensive habit. Look at me. I went through a number of experiences mostly bad with cameras. I am hoping that the X-T30 lasts longer because along with FUN I want to learn. Not composition and the rule of thirds or light and shadow. I could care less about those things. I want to learn more about the places I go and then capture them so I can refer back or share them good or bad. I’ll take a few good images but many more bad ones and for me its all grist for the mill. I rarely delete photographs since Google Photos lets me upload them for free. I have found that by not deleting images, I can go back later to my albums for my two weeks in Japan and find things there I simply don’t remember taking.
  6. Finally, sharing! Sharing is what I enjoy doing at a few levels. I want to share the photographs so you can perhaps get a sense of a place but I get to choose the mechanism and the places. I don’t do Instagram or Twitter because I find no value in either of them. Instagram honestly is a joke to share photographs. You cannot even comment with an image of the same place or a different place. There is not even a desktop application for the site. What the Hell is that about? So its a joke really and its full of people self-promoting, taking scads of pictures where they are in each one (perhaps to prove they were there) and then writing the vapid captions which are the real purpose of the site. Lets just call it micro-blogging with basic photo sharing. Twitter is not much better in my book. It is full of a bunch of bloggers who do the same self promotion, pompous sponsored posts, trying to gain followers to the other social sites like Pinterest or whatever and its monolithic. You cannot find a photography community on twitter because all there are are hashtags. In the final analysis for me, neither site works so I share on the blog, Facebook (which is actually better at photo sharing than its bastard cousin Instagram), and the wonderful and focused Mastodon instance I belong to. That’s where I share the photographs. I choose the sharing and you choose to visit the blog and see them and read what I write.

So it is Sunday in Vietnam and the camera awaits some pleasure I will find. First will do the morning coffee somewhere and gather the moments before me like the net thrown out in Mekong Delta that the fisherfolk use. The moments always illuminate the places to me and I can capture with the camera the things and people and the places that either matter or don’t matter.

Welcome to Sunday in Ho Chi Minh City! Come on over. It’s a wild, wonderful, magical place where you can find a measure of things you may seek and a few you do not.


Learning iPhone Photography – there’s more to it…

And I am pretty glad to have found a few things to help me learn more. Since I started focusing on using my iphone 7 plus, I have wanted to find an app or two on IOS that would maximize a few things. First thing is the ability to both take automatic shots with reasonable defaults but also have manual controls which extend how I use the camera in new ways. I found the Halide application which has a wonderful default set of functionality but when you are ready to pick up the pace it offers a bunch of under the hood power. The app allows reasonable and sensible automatic controls but since the iPhone 7 plus has twin cameras it can also provide additional functionality. One of the other things it does which I am just getting to is shooting RAW files. For a long time on digital cameras I swore off ever shooting RAW files because of the cost associated with apps that were then required to edit those files. Having it all on the iPhone makes it simpler with an app that is integrated with Halide. So enter Darkroom. When I want to create images that extend beyond what the defaeult does with automatic shooting, focus, and basic management; I can shoot in RAW format and then pass the files to Darkroom for processing. I had not thought that this would be a thing I would do but learning how it can all be done in a basic workflow means I can extend photographs which I choose that should be post processed but still on the iPhone.

I bring all this up for a few reasons and perhaps it has challenged some preconceived notions I have had with how powerful and flexible iPhone photography can be. There is a sense of flexibility with using a device like the iPhone 7 plus with an app like Halide that is a powerful learning and education tool but then since I have nothing but time really I can get RAW files into Darkroom that I want to work on and create an additional level of value. Its all about learning!

The iPhone 7 plus and perhaps in the future a new iPhone when I get back to the US means I do not need to buy expensive digital cameras for what I want to do ever again. I have a set of never-ending learning tools in Halide and Darkroom and if I just want the basics, Halide does that too.

I’m very impressed thus far with the flexibility and use of both apps. I plan on taking them both out for a few walks around Siem Reap while I’m here for the next days and then extending my use of them in Phnom Penh. Its exciting, challenging, and a sense of fun to find a thing which I thought was so basic and sometimes without a sense of learning to have levels of functionality I never knew existed and not have to spend countless thousands of dollars to do things which I can learn at my own pace on. Its all in the same device I use day to day for other things which really makes the whole flexible, fun, and creates new levels of entertainment.

I wondered before while still using a variety of digital cameras what it would be like to just shoot photography on the phone. Now I can see that whatever I may want to do to an image, the combination of these two applications and whether i have an iPhone 7 Plus or whatever I upgrade to, will always be a sense of fun and rewarding times!

I am very appreciative of apps that really cost so little that will give me entertainment, knowledge, and a sense of fun again around photography.


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.


Why I bought the WordPress Business Plan

I am not a business nor an affiliate or selling anything nor will I ever sell anything. There were a few reasons that I decided to go with the business plan and I’ve since thought through what I will do next. I enjoy the better storage options with the business plan. I like the ability to upload themes which opens a larger net to being able to customize and produce more of a photography element after awhile. I enjoy being able to use plugins that can be uploaded. There are a few other options as well which perhaps are important. One is stability and use. My blog is important to me whether it does e-commerce or sales or other stuff or not. I want to publish posts on my travels and not be challenged with different security or other issues. I also want to play with the blog a bit. The business plan does not really allow much in the way of play like hosting the site on a Linux VPS would but the VPS solution, which I have done many times with WordPress, means I have to pay attention to Linux updates.

I know I will not stay with WordPress past May of next year because of the expense but I also know that I will be testing a new provider way before then to ensure that the basic things work. I do not believe that a2hosting would have ever worked and frustration had struck so its easier to just take the current option and take the credit I got for my account and pay the difference.

Here though is what I would like for a hosting provider:

  1. unlimited storage and unmetered transactions. I don’t want to be bullied over a photograph or something and I don’t want access to be throttled because of some reason.
  2. i don’t like unmeasured security that causes a lack of functionality for the basic use case. WordPress.com is not perfect here either but for the meantime it works for me.
  3. themes and plugins to use as I wish to extend my site and be able to manage images and content against the visual quality of the site. I’ve enjoyed playing with themes the last few days.

So in the final analysis, is the business plan worth it if you are not a business owner or digital marketer or online or affiliate? No! Its not worth it but I got a discount because of my current account with them. I would never just renew the business account for a year at the price and I believe wordpress.com does us a dis-service but not offering more textured upgrades. We are not all transitioning from premium to business.

So what’s next…

What’s next is to find a hosting provider that will give me a basic and vanilla Wordpess installation with no security plugins, blocks to access, and meets the thresholds. Will I last until next year here? It is kinda doubtful. I could move again and not renew the plan and export my content and leave. I am not 100% with how wordpress.com does stuff. I do believe there is the element of doing a thing that will not last but give me some fun and enjoyment so when that wears off, I may decide to move again this year or next. Nothing locks me into using wordpress.com and I cannot see paying the full cost for a business plan again. In the meanwhile though, its nice to have something that functions, that I can update, that I can play with as I want.

If I were to find a thing that is the next thing tomorrow, I would probably do the same things again. Try it out, see if its a thing I want, etc. Blogging is not about making money to me. It is more about a platform I can enjoy and use and be happy with. I want to share more photographs, more travels, more places with everyone. I do this only because I enjoy it and I don’t really care about the expense of it all except if the expense means a limiting factor is suddenly employed.

Should you use wordpress.com? I don’t think so in all honesty if you are going to move past the premium plan and you are not a business. Its not super impressive what you get besides the points above which are significant to me. Again, there is the familiarity, ability to use a similar interface to publishing, the storage, themes, and plugins. All of that can come with a different provider for less.

So let’s see where things go. I do know where I am going in three weeks. I am leaving for Vietnam for 3 months or so end of June and that has me pretty excited! A thing though that has really frustrated me is the camera thing again. Yesterday the little Lumix camera just started with errors and finally would not even start but only show a system error each time. Cameras are the bane of my existence but I have to have a camera. I dislike shooting photographs with a phone. There is something about it which is not fun or playing or how I would use the camera to record a thing. Now I have no camera again which is frustrating. So when I get back to Phnom Penh in a week I will sink more money into cameras and buy the FujiFilm X-T30 camera. I hope it lasts longer than three months. Maybe I should just wait and buy the Sony RX100 Mark VI camera. I don’t know that the little compact cameras any more will just work for me either. Cameras are extremely frustrating points to me. They are not stable things, do not last, and cause problems when I least want them to. If I just shot photographs with the iPhone I would have still had the same camera since I left for Southeast Asia.

Very frustrating.

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.

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.

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!