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.

End of Work Means Start of Play

The end of work time is approaching sooner rather than later. The planning accelerates now. I’ve let my employer know that I will be giving notice end of the year. By March of next year, I’ll be done here in the Bay Area and will be on the Amtrak seeing the country. This big ole confused country that I currently live in. I have a plan for leaving here and now with the dates established, I can move to a second level of planning which is nailing down travel dates. I will be done with work by end of January but you all know how the last month is with short-timers attitude. I won’t be given new projects because I won’t be around to do them. They will hunt around for a new Program Manager and hopefully find a person. Or not. I’m not sure that most people value Program Managers and some will be glad I’m gone. I guess I am not easy to get along with but when are Program Managers supposed to be? We are supposed to create friction and measure what the company and technology and business needs are against the ultimate outcome of a project success.

Now I know I will be on the Amtrak early part of March next year going to see my mentor first. I can buy the ticket if I want and that kind of legitimizes the whole thing. It’s fun to look at a map of where Amtrak goes.

I know now I can go wherever I want and stay as long at each place. Once work is done in a matter of a few months, I won’t have to return after a vacation is over or come back to a project waiting for me or vendors not starting on things because I was not there.

So off I will go to Los Angeles first from Oakland and then up to see my friend and mentor RWR. I’ll stay as long as I want and then ride Amtrak from Los Angeles to Austin to see my friend Nancy. Then on to Chicago for some street photography in a new place. I’ll stay there for some bit of time and go on to New York and Boston.

Then its back to Seattle on the train to see the country in reverse on a different route. And then…

The long haul flight kicks off and a new adventure awaits in those other places I love. I’ve waited for so long for this time. It’s bittersweet in a few ways. I went through divorce and some bit of reconciliation but I never accepted the outcome of the thing. I will never accept it and will just live with how things ended up. The divorce judge said I was not getting enough in my 50%. He was wrong. I got the best 50% by getting the least. My possessions are really minimal and leaving here in a single backpack is not challenging. Now I know I get the best part of things and I just had to wait until things became the way I wanted. Such is life and living. Like my mom used to say “you have to make each moment count”.

The Train Whistles and Memories Stir

Early morning trains come and go just hundreds of feet from my room here. I sit in the mornings and listen to the lonely tunes the wheels and rails bump and grind. It’s one of those sounds each morning over coffee I consider. I can sometimes tell the difference of the amtrak and the freight trains. Both cross the road by the house live in countless times each day. If the days are good at work, I listen rather absentmindedly. If the days were worse or I leave with a sense of despair the trains are an escape for me. I can imagine the amtrak Capitol Corridor train that often crosses mornings and evenings. I know where the train goes and it would take me part way to the places I really want to go. I could board the train tomorrow and make it to a place like Sacramento and then go on. Perhaps on to Reno or Denver. I could also go to Seattle or Portland or Los Angeles. Different drum beats of destinations that will lead me on.

I think the train whistle is a lonely sound that splits the days and nights for me. It signals to the driver and pedestrian but it also signals to that lonely human element. The element that wants more and different and its keen and pitch cross over and each morning I know I am not long for the Bay Area. There is not enough here to keep me and the trains take me away.

One day I’ll join that train or another. I’ll whisk away to another place and that time is not so distant. It’s November and I realize I only have about 60 days to work and then I will be that wanderer that sits on the train crossing from Shanghai to Beijing or to Los Angeles or to points in between. Because I’m a train wanderer and instead of sitting in lonely distance as the trains and the whistles go; I will join them and perhaps then I will wonder and wander more and the trains will take me.

I know I won’t sit in this room and wonder or try to tell whether its a freight or amtrak voyager. Perhaps I’ll sit at the second level with a cup of coffee and the Fuji camera handy and this room, this bay, this state will just be another memory that the train took me away from.

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.

Writing, Blogging, and Apps to Consider

It’s been an interesting few days of trying other writing tools and comparing against Ulysses on the iPad. I’ve tried Byword, IAWriter, and MWeb. They all have their bright spots but I cannot see how any can compete against Ulysses for my use cases. I want something that both lets me get to writing but also has some organization and management that is easy to get to. The apps fall into a few possible domains of use. The first is that they get out of the way to let you write. This is what IAWriter does and perhaps MWeb. The second is that they offer some organizational and functional management and perhaps that is Byword.

What none of them do is treat the whole writing experience like Ulysses. Each of them has a downfall or limitation. The document management for MWeb is rather simple and moving documents around the iCloud library is hard. You have to know when and where to slide or rename or whatever. I would call it clumsy. The applications that offer a full on writing experience like IAWriter make it difficult to publish to WordPress or finding the correct sequence because they are about writing I believe.

What I need is a tool that does the variety of things well. I like a pleasant user interface but that has a set of powerful tools right under the covers. I want it shared (for now) and be able to let me see my posts on my phone. All can do this. I finally do not need something to interface with github or other things like Jekyll.

After all this testing and experimentation, its funny to come back to Ulysses and admit that its the best. I think it offers the best combination of management and then writing or writing and then management a person needs. I am unsure of how the subscription model works for a single device that still wants to use iCloud to store and protect the files. I’ve bought the 200gb of storage there primarily to last me some bit of time and make the space available for all the applications which want to use storage. I did ask my friend Mikka Luster via email to weigh in because he is more adept at the whole document management and writing thing.

So it comes down to a set of things which work on Ulysses and a set of things which require some lifting on the other applications. Some just don’t seem to make use of the features of IOS 11 that much and others have a clumsy management or library implementation. I want the best of all worlds for when I write. When I get to a single device I want a composite set of features that lets me be productive whether on a bus in Japan or a train in China. The one thing must be consistent as well and offer the best of a set of tools to write, publish, and save off to a friendly cloud.

If you are looking for an app to write with but you real considerations are productivity and not just setting down to write stream of consciousness, you probably want Ulysses. I would go with IAWriter otherwise but I don’t like how it deals with images. MWeb while nice for creativity; falls short when I want to move things around.

This has been fun and I’ve spent a bit of money and the nice thing is if I wanted to go to another solution, I have them. I can download one easily.

Saturday Starts Here — Get in Line

The Saturday blogpost comes to you courtesy of a week spent considering a few things that have come my way.

The Raiders won! I am thankful for that 31 to 30 game because I think they needed it to maintain some kind of season and to show they are a team past rebuilding and have the champ stuff in them. I am not as big a fan as once when I would go to the games, drink a few beers, watch the fights in the stadium, and marvel at how some folks dressed up. At the zenith of the fighting season, I witnessed two women go at it down rows and rows of seats from me. The game was a losing affair and so was the fight since both got arrested and taken away. They also lost me to going since the violence and their back to back losing seasons were like twin whammies. That with rising prices for beer seemed to be a destiny thing when they lose. I bet if they studied it, beer and food prices go up when the winning season goes down.

End of October around the corner. Hard to believe yet true. I am down to the dual digits of time left to work. I can see a time when I simply float away and LinkedIn has a final position called “Gone”. That position will be the position from then on and I will be able to hit the road and start finding new things with my camera and life and all the other parts that are patiently waiting.

Minimalism in Technology. I spent a bit of time studying what device is the long-term keeper for on the road, in hotels and airports, and on trains or buses. It has to be the iPad Pro device I have now with the keyboard and pencil. The MacBook Pro went to someone that will use it. I’m left with two phones and the iPad Pro. This means things like cables are simpler and what I pack dwindles down to a lightning cable and a card reader plus a battery charger for my camera. It’s important to reach a finale in tech too and find the useful tools that can be packed away.

Relationships foo bar. I’ve come to realize since the post on friendship that I am no good at building and maintaining relationships or perhaps I suffer from egotism and narcissism like I expect. I am also terribly selfish and I admit openly to all these things. So when a person from the past shows up that is someone I thought was lost, its strange yet wonderful but I know not to read much into it. I don’t have relationship or friendship stuff to offer. I’m damaged goods and I know it.

Finally, there’s the work thing. The work thing which is affected by all the other things. I love the work thing but my days numbered there. I cannot see a path to staying longer not because of some suckage factor with work but a thing with me.

There’s a Saturday laid out in buttons and bows and temperatures in the 60s here. Beautiful fall weather and I’ll go soon to see my daughter and its all good. A Saturday spent reading and marveling a bit on things that go on and do not go on.

Shall we prepare to start the next thing? Why of course. No waiting and the line starts here.

Project Manager Dragons I have met

It dawned on me today as I worked on getting a project back to a position where we could deliver on it; that this is it. I found myself gazing at the calendar on my Windows 10 work laptop as our WebEx call went on and our vendor vacillated between wanting to deliver and being a bit afraid of risk. I listen to these things and think still that there are two types of project manager out there.

Type 1. This project manager excels at no risk and no issue projects. The timelines are easily achievable and the work is sub-divided into decent segments and the milestones are all well defined and reachable. This is the non chaos project manager type. This person will deliver on your project as long as there is no change. The technical team is perhaps bored with this. There is nothing to excel at and nothing challenged or gained. It’s all status quo.

Type 2. This project manager (of which I count myself as one) wants challenge and perhaps wants risk and wants a project which will stretch the team. This leads to a test of delivery and confidence in the team. Risk and change are equally endorsed and perhaps even wanted and loved. It may add stress to meetings and the vendor may get uncomfortable at times but the delivery and execution is there because the technical team feels excited and thrilled because the work has challenge. It’s more fun to deliver and meetings are exciting events where innovative solutions are met for problems.

My larger cloud project has a few reasons why type 2 works better. We don’t know everything about how the project evolves and gets delivered. We cannot eliminate risk in this setting. We simply don’t know. So what do we do? Add weeks to the schedule and play it safe? No I say. I tell our vendor, a major cloud provider to be brave and confident. I tell them you can do it. They believe it I think.

Perhaps their project manager is afraid of the unknown and she kinda crosses over to Type 1 here and there. That’s okay. It’s my job as a program manager to gently force what my company leadership wants while ensuring we retain the pride of delivery and execution.

I don’t believe the pride of delivery and execution comes from the status quo folks. I think it takes challenge and risk and the unknown. We will deliver this on time and we know it. But we will meet the project dragon head on and that monster will breathe fire and smoke. Better to be a type 2 project than a type 1. Because as a type 2 team we expect it and are geared up for the challenge. If we were a type 1 team; we’d be shocked and go around hand wringing and crying and mumbling it was not in the scope.

Yes. Better to be a riotous and fun occurrence for my going away party. Let there be change and risk and challenge and we will meet it head on and it will be ours. Even if there is a project dragon out there waiting.

Ulysses is my Tool User’s Choice

I’ve been thinking a lot about a centralized publishing and writing application on my new ecosystem; namely Apple. The truth is that Apple devices whether they are MAC or IOS are very well suited for finding a single application which can provide service to write short-form articles or longer term book or story type publications. I’ve settled on Ulysses on my IPad Pro as the central environment from which I can do blog posts like this, write longer form stories, or diary and journal entries.

What does it take to have a single application that will provide a full and multi-faceted document creation and management environment? I’ll play back a huge error I made in Starbucks today and you can see what you do want.

I inadvertently deleted three years of journal posts in long text files which I painstakingly imported from google docs into Ulysses. I was mad and disappointed at the stupidity of what I had done. Then I remembered that I had chosen Ulysses for a reason. It does really nice backups and restores. So I launched the “manage” function and found the latest backups for my journals and restored them. This was the “huzzah” moment I must say. I then knew that Ulysses with its intelligent handling of backups and restores was my perfect thing. You can have a wonderful integrated environment but with no service wrapped around it, a stupid yet human error can bring it all down.

So the single application you want manages all that and when the time disaster recovery time comes you have the acid test of how it handles a oops. I got my files back with a single touch or maybe two. I became a happy camper at Starbucks and realized that I should not split the journal across multiple apps nor should I install a second app that may provide writing services. You want to find an application but you really want the service that backs it up and makes it relevant and useful. We are all tool users and the idea that a single thing with intelligent handling of my files really makes the subscription worthwhile to me. I don’t mind paying for a thing that provides a set of values and when disaster hints offers me a path.

Here is where it ends up at least for me.

The use of Ulysses is not just a text or writing application. It’s an integrated solution which lets me create but it also protects me from myself. I don’t want to lose things so if I split things across multiple applications or clouds I may lose sight of where a thing is or the latest. Multiple applications cause that faster because I will hunt which app was it that I put X or Y in.

When I go to travel first part of next year, I will want to record the things but have a place to track my things when I get ready to leave the US after my train trip across it.

If you are looking for an application and you are on this ecosystem, consider Ulysses. I moved ecosystems to IOS because I wanted that centralized set of tools that I believed Apple offered. Sure I could have done it all on Google Docs. But I wanted the presentation layer too. I wanted a thing which made creation fun and extended my use. I am not an Apple lover. I don’t really care for it one way or the other. What I do care about is the presentation of information it does and how the applications I have chosen extend across the available environments. If you are a tool user like me, a habilis by trade, you know. You don’t want to use a metate for a projectile point.

Find the tool that may work. It may surprise you when you weigh what it can do. I sure was.

The Value or Not — Friendship Equated

Saturdays around here are quiet days. I read a bit on Facebook for whatever reason. It’s not like I find a lot of value there but most or all of the people I’m friended up with are real friends. This got me thinking today about the value of friendship as one gets older. I’ve gone through multiple generations of friends. Some were close and then drifted apart. Others have passed on and left that void which does not simply fill up after the time goes by. Yet others I have felt that were friends never deserved the title. Perhaps I am demanding or demented but I have a theory of friendship and perhaps I’m wrong. Would not be the first time.

It goes like this:

Friendship is a bartering thing. Each person arrives with something to get and give and the get and give is value. Not just material value but thought, feeling, other value. If a person has to give and never gets that is not friendship folks. That’s something else. If the other person only takes and never gives that also is not friendship. Again, it’s something else.

This produces a dialog for me when I question those that recently have only taken and never arrived at the friendship table with something to offer that equals what they want. Take person R for example. He wants only information from me. He wants a name of a person that can do X. I ask for a thing from R but he cannot do it. Where is the equality in that?

Person E has a similar view where he will not email, call, contact me unless he wants something. He is not in it for the exchange where each of us gets something of value. He only wants and does not offer up a thing of value.

So in my stunted and questionable world view, these are not friends. They are not colleagues or any other almost friend like acquaintance either. They occupy some other less vaunted space and I merely decide to stop the communication.

I also think as I get older friendship becomes even more difficult. Someone at work asked whether I still wanted a relationship because that is of value. A relationship is also an exchange and a bartering. Both people arrive with a thing of value. Without that, its not a relationship. My mom used to say “its give and take. If one goes away, the other takes over”. Such it is. And as I get older and more feeble and more opinionated it dawns on me that I have raised the bar higher or others have. Some will only call when they need a thing. The hell with them. Others will ask for a thing. The hell with them. If you are with me, be with me. Arrive with a thing of value and if you value mine, we have something. If you are just there to take, I may put up with you but what you are putting up there is not friendship. It may be manipulation.

So for people R and E I can simply say that in my world view which is crazy and old and full of contradiction (whose is not) you are not there. You don’t get the full monte and not give the full monte.

Have you thought out what friendship is to you? Do you just offer yourself up like some sacrificial lamb and take the worst that people give and call them friends in need? Getting old means I can be brutally honest with people R and E and others. Here’s the answer:

Don’t assume. When you do you make an ass of you and me.

I still value friendship when its a thing we both arrive at. Unfortunately, those are few and far between and I’ve moved on expecting them. Consider it yourself. What is the importance of friendship in your life? How do you estimate a friend? Do you have friends in the workplace? Do you imagine after sustaining a divorce or separation that another relationship is out there for you?

Sometimes I feel that certain things, because I’m getting older, I can speak about as my experiment of one.

Sunday was meant for Black and White

Today was black and white photography day in Palo Alto. I drove over after some morning chores and decided to shoot nothing but that on University Avenue in downtown. I visited a wonderful district with a lot of simply beautiful homes and then the edge of the downtown and residential district.

I really like the learning part of things with black and white and the custom Acros film simulation on my Fuji X series camera. It creates really nice depths of available colors and I setup the values a bit to get things more snappy.

Seems like I only really get Sundays out these days with the camera so I try to visit a place with a variety of settings to practice on. I may have to go back into San Francisco one of these days and perhaps spend the weekend and get a whole weekend of street shooting in across all the places that SF has for photography. A trip on one of the bay cruises would be nice too.

Finally, I like to take rather simple shots to capture regular things that I find on my strolls. It’s fine to find the great things but sometimes the shape and shadows and hues of black and white are striking to say the least.

I also share some of the work over on Instagram but my main photo sharing is on Google Plus using Google Photos these days. I have a collection there which I really enjoy posting to. If you don’t use Google Plus because you think its a ghost town or there are not many people there, you may be right. I have over 3000 followers though on my photo collection.

I also share on Facebook on occasion. I don’t particularly care any longer for Facebook because it seems the newsfeed is overtaken with pro and anti political things and the fun and funky things I used to enjoy seeing have gone away. That’s too bad.

LinkedIn is another one of those strange phenomena. I don’t understand it any longer so I don’t post technology news there. It used to be a serious professional networking site. I could read reviews on Apache, or open source, or databases or see jobs and serious discussion on jobs. These days, it seems it suffers with selfie posts, puzzles of word and math, and a variety of personal posts that either encourage or refute other people’s political and social thinking. It’s sad and one day I’ll just go away from there. The usefulness is getting lower there and I could see a time when I simply close my account. I wish I could lock the account for awhile and leave it that way much like what Facebook does.

On the subject of photo sharing, since I’m still learning how to do the photography thing, there’s a value in finding other’s posts on Instagram and seeing what they do with the FujiFilm X100F. It’s such a versatile camera and fun to use and learn. If you think photography is all about a smart phone, I think you may be missing some of the learning and flexibility and fun.