Passed the AWS DevOps Pro exam

Two days ago I sat the exam and passed with an 83% overall!

Here are my actual scores and domains:

Overall Score: 83%

Topic Level Scoring:
Domain 1: 75%
Domain 2: 87%
Domain 3: 100%
Domain 4: 100%

I’m actually surprised that I did this well, as I was a bit nervous and not sure if I’d pass or not. I did spend a couple hours the night before studying CloudFormation (WaitCondition & WaitConditionHandle), OpsWorks and Elastic Beanstalk.

And here’s my certification! AWS Certified DevOps Engineer – Professional

AWS DevOps Pro – Practice Exam Passed

Last night I spent a couple hours reviewing my previous exam answers and writing down what I would have done differently and why. I also played around with OpsWorks and ElasticBeanstalk a bit yesterday so that I could better understand those technologies… and then took the exam again this morning.

I passed this time, and here are my new results:

Domain 1. 72% (Continuous Delivery and Process Automation – passed this time, and the only change)
Domain 2. 75% (Monitoring, Metrics, and Logging)
Domain 3. 100% (Security, Governance, and Validation)
Domain 4. 100% (High Availability and Elasticity)

Overall: 80%

I got the exact same score for every domain except the first, so I’m still doing something wrong on domain 2, but not sure why. I reviewed every answer last night, so no question was left un-looked-at. Nevertheless, I’m happy with this result and feel that I can confidently sit the actual exam and have a chance of passing it.

AWS DevOps Pro – Practice Exam Take 1 (Failed)

Just failed an AWS practice exam for the first time!

I currently hold all 3 associate certifications and am going for the DevOps Pro certification next.

Was actually a bit surprised! Fortunately the parts that I failed are the parts that I really don’t care about and will never use (ElasticBeanstalk and OpsWorks). Unfortunately, we’re still tested on those bits and I’ll have to study up. Since I got a 60% overall score, I really think I could have got a “pass” if I’d gotten just one or two more answers correct.

The exam scores 4 different domains, and my respective scores in each domain are:

Domain 1. 36% (Continuous Delivery and Process Automation – failed this one)
Domain 2. 75% (Monitoring, Metrics, and Logging)
Domain 3. 100% (Security, Governance, and Validation)
Domain 4. 100% (High Availability and Elasticity)

Fortunately, to help me study what I did wrong, I took screen shots of the questions and my answers so I can review those later.

HD Wallet Standards for Interoperability

Note: I originally wrote this in April 2016 while traveling thru Asia and kept it in my private log area until now.

Many different software vendors have produced different HD (e.g. BIP32-compliant) Wallets, and it’s nice, but the supposed features/benefits of HD wallets aren’t really able to be used except by the most-technical of end-users. That’s because the HD standard is both really flexible (by enabling a multitude of derivation paths), and because multiple standards are used by wallet software vendors, some of which are conflicting, and each developer will use whichever standard he/she thinks is best, without regard to interoperability or what’s best and easiest for the end-user.

I propose an HD Wallet standard to which all wallets should conform for interoperability, e.g. an HD wallet created by a user with a certain software package, should be able to work with a different HD Wallet software package on possibly an altogether different OS/software ecosystem.


An HD Wallet created by a user at home on a laptop running Windows 7 should also work with that users’ Android HD Wallet software package, and with a minimum of setup required to port over the wallet. It should also work with both at the same time, meaning that a user shouldn’t have to sweep all funds to the new wallet — the user should have the choice of using either wallet based on where they are and what machine/device they wish to work from at that particular moment.

Proposed Standards

Key generation and key serialization are separate and unique processes, and regardless of the generation method used, the user should be able to port the serialized keys to different wallet software. Nevertheless, for ease-of-use and security/backup purposes, I will also address key generation here.

Key Generation

A user should always be able to easily generate their BIP32 root private key via a mnemonic seed phrase consisting of a number of words. BIP0039 is one such scheme, and the popular Electrum wallet uses a very similar, but not 100% compliant scheme.

Regardless of which scheme is used to generate the BIP32 root private key, both the seed phrase and the name of the mnemonic->seed scheme used (e.g. “BIP0039” or “Electrum”) shall be made available to the user so that the user is able to manage his/her own keys at will, without vendor lock-in. This can be hidden on an “advanced options” screen, but should not be extremely difficult to access.

Users can be warned of the dangers of displaying their mnemonic seed in clear-text, nevertheless, all wallets should make both these pieces of information available to all users:

1. Mnemonic seed phrase in plain text, e.g.:

abandon abandon abandon abandon abandon abandon abandon abandon abandon abandon abandon about

2. Name of Scheme used to convert from seed phrase to BIP32 root private key, e.g.:


Key Serialization/Deserialization

All HD Wallets should:

1. Make available the wallet’s BIP32 derivation path for both receive and change addresses, e.g.:

Receive: m/0'/0/n  
 Change: m/0'/1/n

2. Accept a BIP0032 extended key (any derived key/depth also, don’t have to be the original root) and operate on that key as if it were the root.

3. Accept a custom user-specified BIP32-compliant derivation path and operate on that given path as long as the entire path is not entirely used (e.g. every one of the 4294967295 || 2147483647 (whatever the number is) has not been used. The path must end in a ‘n’, which will be used to generate receive addresses. The next-highest path element will be incremented and used for change addresses (e.g. for a custom user-specified path of ‘m/0/0/7/n’, change addresses will be generated from ‘m/0/0/8/n’). Or users can specify a derivation path for change addresses too. Yeah, I like that better.

4. Allow for export of a BIP0032 root **private** key for use in other wallet software.

5. Allow for export of a BIP0032 root **public** key for use in other wallet software.

6. Disallow import of individual keys except by sweeping the key into a BIP32 wallet. In other words, sweeping should be the only method allowed for import of individual keys.


Obviously the Mnemonic seed phrase and all BIP32 HD **private** keys should be encrypted in the wallet software and protected by some form of user authentication, however, as this document is intended only to be a guideline for interoperability for HD wallets, I leave the implementation of security up to the individual software vendors. (And in the hope that each understands the implications of good wallet security and uses industry-standard best practices in doing so.)

Where Apple Went Wrong…

A useless piece of junk

People don’t give a shit about things like a “Touch Bar” with emojis and the ability to pay for stuff via ApplePay. People don’t care about ApplePay, or about “eliminating cash”. And, although governments want to eliminate cash for other reasons, Apple is not the entity which is going to do so.

You know what people want?

Good hardware and software that works well.

Honestly, I don’t even think anybody cares whether their laptop is 0.005 inches thinner or 4 ounces lighter, but the ability to have 32 or 64 GB RAM is fucking huge. HUGE, I say.

Also, people don’t really like the fact that new Macbooks aren’t upgradable at all because the RAM is soldiered to the fucking logic board. That really pissed people off, Tim. I have a feeling that you’ll be remember as the guy who ran Apple into the ground. Then again, you’re also gonna be remembered as the guy who took over after the legendary Steve Jobs passed, so that will probably over-shadow any of your other accomplishments anyway.

People want hardware they can upgrade. The ability to add and replace memory modules, the ability to remove and replace hard drives (such as when they inevitably fail).

Nobody wants a fucking touch bar over the ability to have, say, 32 GB ram on their laptop. Great going, Tim, you useless wanker.

The one thing Apple had going for them is that they made the absolute best fucking computers on the planet. And now you’ve gone a screwed that up with your expensive garbage that’s literally tainted hardware. I’d pay money to NOT have a Touch Bar and to be able to upgrade my fucking Macbook without having to… buy another new fucking Macbook.

Here’s another hint: people don’t like proprietary, because it takes away choice. Nobody wants your fucking useless touch bar, or ApplePay. Or your walled-garden of an App Store. In fact, why not let the people decide, via decentralised reputation system (this is coming in the future, BTW), how to rank/rate apps and let them decide whether or not an app is “allowed” on their own device? Oh yeah, because you can’t. It’s in your nature to want full control over everything everywhere, always.

Honestly, the only way to save Apple from its inevitable demise (timeline: about 10 years or so) is to start making solid fucking hardware that people can use and upgrade, and drop the proprietary bullshit (e.g. Touch Bar) that nobody outside of Cupertino even fucking wants. And for God’s sake, don’t soldier the memory modules to the fucking logic board.

What is Docker? (And good luck finding out.)

Here’s an example of how technical people still can’t explain things:

I search for “What is Docker”, and I even get to the “What is Docker?” page on the official website:


But as you can see, I still don’t get a straight answer.

This page tells me what Docker allows me to do … and what Docker containers are… (but I still need to know what Docker is first).

Hint: The correct answer will begin with “Docker is” and then give a simple, high-level statement of what Docker actually is.

Such as: Docker is a virtualization environment for Linux which allows … blah blah.

I’m not even sure if that’s correct, BTW, because the official website can’t even manage to explain to me what the hell Docker is on its “What is Docker?” page.

Oh, and yeah, they should really hire a designer to fix that site.

Update: Well, apparently the people at Amazon know how to communicate a little better than the Docker folks themselves. Here it is:


They even got the “Docker is … ” bit right. How about that.

Some Things That Will Be Obsolete in 5 Years

Just 20 years ago, the world was a completely different place. And in 20 years, it’s going to be completely different than it is today. Everything’s gonna change. Lifestyles, standards of living. It’s already in progress. We just don’t always see it that way.

Think about it: can you imagine a time before YouTube? That’s just ONE service that’s changed the way we learn, share, entertain and, in some cases, make a living.

And there are several things which just haven’t had the time to change yet. Nowadays, a lot of these are things which most people see as “just the norm”. They’re absolutely ridiculous, but we’ve just come to accept them, frustrations and all. But advances in modern technology make many of these not only unnecessary, but antiquated and downright obsolete. Within 5 years, 10 at most, I think we’ll see all or most of these completely disrupted:

1. Services that require login/account creation

Like this:


Nobody wants to sign up for your damn service. They just want the service. “Free” is an illusion, which people are catching on to. It’s so that you can have “users”, and have emails to spam so that you can promote some paid product. Plus, the smart people who sign up for your service will use a fake email address so they won’t get spammed. The less-resourceful will just get pissed off that you start spamming them (legal or not). It’s a no-win situation.

However, some people would gladly pay a few cents to use your service ONE TIME. Since most of these online services are digital, a single one-time use really doesn’t justify more than a few cents anyway. Put in some data, run it through a proprietary algorithm, spit out some different data. Charge a nominal fee each time.

With the traditional payment systems, paying a few cents would be a nightmare. You’d have to sign up, and hand over your credit card information for ONLY A FEW CENTS?! That’s nuts. Plus, credit card payments are a hassle online, since you have to fill out your personal information every time, and 1/2 the time they fail authorisation if you’re traveling or just because.

But now, with modern cryptography and micro-payments possible (e.g. using Bitcoin and Dash), this is entirely possible. Within a few years, this will be the norm for online payments.

2. Email/password to login

This is way overdue.

We’ll see at least one cryptographic global identity system (maybe a few) come to light. People shouldn’t have to manage a different identity with every service they use. They also want control over their own data, which a global ID system will allow. Of course, if it’s not completely decentralised and distributed, it’s not gonna work. It will also have to be lightly collateralised (to prevent spam/sybil attacks and discourage bad actors) and incentivised (ensure plenty of nodes for constant uptime).

Microsoft is trying to partner with companies on this, but I have a feeling that this effort will end up like all of Microsoft’s others. They’ll somehow manage to screw it up and it’ll fall flat on its face.

I look forward to the completely open-source alternative which is in no way affiliated with Microsoft.

3. Tons of BS paperwork

Hospital visits. Apartment applications. Work applications. DMV registration.

It’s all the same info anyway. Your name, birthdate, sex, physical address, phone number… most of that doesn’t change, and it can be updated on an ID blockchain if it ever does. And encrypted so that you can give that out to only entities that need to know (like the above).

Anyway, most of the time, the info on these papers are entered into a computer and the completed forms are then shredded. What a waste.

Goodbye, useless paperwork.

4. Movies which require you to watch 20 minutes of ads and trailers, as well as threats to throw you in jail.

How long did they actually think people would stand for that? By the way, here’s the pro-piracy argument summed up in one graphic:


Now, I’m not advocating piracy. I AM advocating that media companies begin to:

a. Charge much less for media
b. Distribute on some global decentralised filesystem, like IPFS or MaidSafe, but:
c. Make it somehow incentivised so that each purchase will send the media company the nominal fee (say, $2-3 for a movie), then get a link to the volume on the IPFS.

Yeah, $2 – $3 sounds about right. Ditto for an MP3 album. It’s that or nothing (b/c most people will just want to pirate it instead), so get ready to adjust.

5. Physical distribution of any digital media (DVDs, music)

See above. There’s literally no good reason to own physical media anymore*, as DVDs and CDs scratch and break. But a digital version can be kept without worry about destruction, and taken anywhere and watched/played at any time. Most people just digitise their CDs anyway, and DVDs if they’re savvy enough.

*except vinyl

The reason that most of these are on-track to becoming reality isn’t so much that there’s now a better way, but that… people are tired of the crap in general. It’s a trend. They’re tired of being lied to by politicians, government and media, and they’re tired of being screwed over by large corporations.

If for no other reason than that, things will change, because it’s now possible and we’re all tired of the status quo.

6. Credit Ratings Agencies

I’m talking about Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian. Also known as the “big three” consumer credit bureaus.

Credit scores themselves will always exist, as long as credit does (although FICO may not). People need a way to evaluate risk of lending to someone / an organisation.

By the way, this is one of the biggest shams in existence today.

In the current system, your credit can be totally destroyed by someone you’ve never met or seen, and there’s almost nothing you can do about it.

If you want to refute an entry on “your” credit report, you have to nicely petition the agency (one of the big three listed above) and hope that they don’t flatly push the “reject” button as they scan through the list. But they probably will. Then you have to get a lawyer and prove in court that it was a false (mistaken or fraudulent) entry. THEN, only under a court order, will the consumer credit agency actually remove the item from your report.

The one big power that the big three have over the entire (at least in the US) population is that they control the data, and the algorithms. People have no control over their own data!

Of course there are some people that claim to be able to fix credit via certain “hacks” and knowledge of the system… but we shouldn’t have to deal with any of that in the first place.

So… how to fix it? Blockchain tech. Use a credit system with a nominal fee for entry/id creation, or the previously mentioned “ID blockchain”.

Then the consumer authorises a company to add entries on a set basis (e.g. monthly, weekly, daily, unlimited) and only for a fixed amount of time. (E.g. if an apartment lease is for 12 months, then I will authorise my apartment landlord only 12 credit entries, one per month, for a year.

If I renew the lease to stay for another year, I can also renew the landlord’s authorisation to write to my credit report. (That can even be put into the terms of the lease.)

Credit entries are stored on the blockchain in an encrypted format so that only lenders that are authorised (by the consumer) can see them. But, consumer can’t pick & choose which entries they get to see. That defeats the point. Consumer can either allow ALL or NONE.

Credit scores are calculated through the entries and credit information much as they are today. With one exception: the algorithms are open & available to all. Release the algorithms!

This enables lenders to choose which algorithm to use and what to optimise for.

Want to skew toward paying on time? Go for it. There’s an algo for that.

Don’t care about mortgage payments? Ignore them! Sky’s the limit.

By the way, the “big three” consumer credit bureaus that I mentioned above are scared to death of this.

If the system that I’ve just described actually sees the light of day and develops some traction, it’s game over for them. They just lost billions of dollars in bullshit fees and the ability to ruin others’ lives. BTW, it’s this current system which enables identity theft and fraud in the first place.

What I’ve described is a system which enables people (and companies) to take control of their own credit reports and data, and enables lenders to establish their own criteria instead of just accepting FICO and/or whatever random algorithm the big three decided to dream up.

And why shouldn’t businesses be able to use this system too? As long as the requisite identity fee is paid (prevent spam/sybil attacks), this could be used by any entity at all. The algorithms can be chosen differently based on if it’s a business or a consumer.

This is all accomplished not through declared “rules” of how the system “should” work, but through cryptography, and in particular, a cryptographic key/identity system.

Laws of man can be changed arbitrarily. The only laws that really matter are the ones that this universe is based on: The laws of physics, and of mathematics.

7. Unequal pay based on location, etc.

This is ridiculous, but still happens regularly today. Example: One of the best javascript programmers lives in Singapore, so she doesn’t get paid as much as her San Francisco peers. Her company cites SF’s “high cost of living” as a reason she doesn’t get paid as much. (Singapore has a high cost of living also, so that argument’s codswallop).

Since the advent of Bitcoin, payments to anyone, anywhere in the world are easier than… well, a lot of things. And since intellect workers (like computer programmers and designers) don’t need to be physically present to work, a lot of them live wherever they want these days. So why is a person’s salary still based on location in many instances?


We’re tired of having our email addresses and passwords stolen in data breaches. Tired of have our emails spammed and badgered by corporate marketing departments.

Tired of being forced to choose between paying exorbitant fees or not buying anything at all. Tired of fat cat media moguls getting rich off our DVD/MP3 purchases while the artists themselves receive very little. There’s too much imbalance, and technology is on-track to correct all that.

A decentralised and distributed global technological revolution can’t be stopped. It’s a natural progression which has all led up to this very point.

It’s about time.


My baby passed away today. I’ve known her for the past 5 years (almost to the date). It seems like much longer than that. She was around 18 years old, and we’re not 100% sure of her exact age.

She was white with a bit of grey, mostly on her ears and face. And her tail was really beautiful, w/dark grey rings all the length of it.

She was a generally scared being, most likely from some early trauma or maybe a fight with a brother or sister at an early age. Precious, or “the princess” as we sometimes called her, was very selective of who she would approach, and only a few people were ever able to get close enough for comfort — her “inner circle.”

She spent most her life in the comfort and safety of her indoor palace, but that doesn’t mean that she didn’t like going outside. She loved being outside actually. Loved the breeze, the sound of birds singing… and of course eating grass.

You’ve prob’ly realised by now that my “baby” walked on four legs and was covered with fur.


When she didn’t get her way, she’d get cranky, which happened quite frequently. (There’s a reason she’s nicknamed “the princess”). She loved to play, and it usually ended up with her getting really pissed off, which was oh-so-cute in her adorable little kitten body.

And when it was time to love, she loved. We described her as a “lovey” kitty. Much more so than most kitties. She would give kisses when the mood struck, usually when she was lonely from being home alone all day, ready for bed, or right after just we’d just woken up. Oh, she was so happy in the mornings! Love & treats! She started eating wet food several times a day (her mom spoiled her so much). So much so, that if her treat was ever late in delivery, she’d start yelling for it.


She and her brother had a tolerate/hate relationship, where he mostly tolerated her, and she hated him. Haha! He was about 3x her size, and could probably throw her around… yet this older sister mostly managed to keep him in line… at least she kept him away from her.

But he was also a big, sweet younger brother. Sometimes he’d lay beside her on the bed and they would nap together, just inches from each other. She wouldn’t even know it!

Oh yeah! About 2.5 years before she passed, she developed cataracts & couldn’t see. Quickly went from seeing fully & clearly to completely blind. So that’s why brother was sometimes able to sneak naps together with her.

Of course this changed her, too. Her blindness actually caused her to get a lot more mellow & less scared, once she got used to it. “New people” weren’t so scary after that.

She also got a bit more cranky than before… but maybe that was her old age.

In her later years, when she’d had enough “play time”, she’d get angry and start growling… which only made us want to play some more (because she was such a cute angry kitty!)… so funny! Really funny coming from that little 6.5-pound kitten anyway…

She was such a big part of our family. The whole family loved her. (It would be impossible not to.) We’re sure going to miss her. I will always have her in my thoughts and memories. My sweet, Precious little kitten.


Review: Wiko Lenny 3 Smartphone

Wiko Lenny 3 — A Game Changer? Hardly.
Wiko Lenny 3 — A Game Changer? Hardly.

Update: Be sure and see my update below. Even more brickkery!

I was in Chiang Mai, Thailand when my Nexus 5 finally just gave out. The infamous Nexus 5 “power button issue” meant that I could not use it for more than 2 minutes without the phone just shutting down again, just immediately, as if the battery had been removed. Then my screen cracked when I was trying to get it to work. It cracked bad, so much that I couldn’t see anything even when I could get the damn phone to power up. So it was finally dead.

In the modern world where everything depends on 2-factor authentication (with a cellphone and either SMS or a smartphone app), it’s incredibly frustrating to go without a Smartphone. I won’t even get into the assumptive nonsense of requiring a phone number for just about anything these days. On to the review.

I shopped around for a couple weeks, because I really don’t like shopping and didn’t want to make a bad decision. I settled on the Wiko Lenny 3. I should state that my only experience with a smartphone before this one is with the Nexus 5, which I had for about 2 years.

The good?

It’s an Android smartphone and pretty modern, meaning I can get most (not all) of the apps I previously had on my Nexus 5. That’s about it.

The Bad

Slow. As. Molasses.

The damn thing is slow. Really slow. Like, imagine running your current computer on a x386 machine. Ok, even a Pentium.

It even comes installed with an app called “One Clean” just to kill off any background apps which are eating up RAM memory. Oh, it’s only got 1GB of RAM. I didn’t realise what a difference this would make, but apparently it’s huge (the Nexus 5 has 2GB).

Like, scrolling between screens takes 1/2 a second minimum. I want to emphasise minimum (see what I did there?). I’ve had it take 3 seconds to scroll to a different Desktop screen — just a simple swipe left or right.

Apps take seconds to open. Not fractions of a second, but multiple seconds. Like, I’ve had some take 5 – 7 seconds. It does get better after a reboot, but only a little.

Everything about the system lags all the time, e.g. when typing something on the keyboard, and you try and press a key but it’s still processing from the previous key, and just lags.

Doesn’t recognise swipes/touches well

This actually happens most of the time. I believe it’s directly related to the memory issue. I have to swipe/touch really slowly for it to even register. Otherwise it just gets lost or spotty, e.g. if I tried to draw a line, it would end up patchy, with spaces.

Example: When I use Pleco and try and draw out a Chinese character on the screen, it doesn’t always catch all the strokes. I mean, I’m pressing hard enough, but even just drawing a straight line will result in a broken line. It’s so frustrating.

Extremely Low Storage

It’s got 8GB storage. Ok, fine, I knew that when I bought it. My Nexus 5 had 32GB, and I hardly used most of that. And I filled the thing with videos and photos. But I’ve taken only 3 photos total with this Lenny 3, and installed very few apps (basic things like Google Keep, etc. which weren’t pre-installed, and things like Pleco and ChineseSkill). No Instagram, no Facebook app, none of that junk. Yet I’m at 6+ of out 8 GB already. It is expandable via MicroSD to 64GB though.

“Desktop” Icons

I can’t remove the default app icons from the “Desktop” screen (or whatever it’s called on a smartphone). On my Nexus 5, it was not a problem to remove the Desktop shortcuts, but that’s not possible at all on the Wiko. My solution was to move all the pre-installed junk to a single folder and so all that crapware just takes up one icon space instead of several screens’ worth of screen real-estate.

I’m also not able to create new icons onto the screen. On the Nexus, you open the apps folder, and drag the icon to create a new Desktop shortcut. Not how it works on a Wiko. You just don’t have the option.

Hardware design

USB charger/data port plugs in from the top. When you’re charging the phone while trying to use it also, it’s really frustrating having the cord protrude from the top of the phone. It gets in the way, feels and looks awkward.

The audio jack is on the top also, and this is the one thing about the Nexus 5 that I didn’t like, because it also has it on top. Bad design decisions.


The Wiko line looks nice, shiny, new, inexpensive. What’s not to love? Well, you heard it here first. Sorry Wiko, you’re not a “Game Changer” at all. You manufacture sub-par junk which barely functions.

You might say, well, the Lenny 3 is a low-budget model, and if I really wanted a great phone then I would have shelled out the bucks for a nicer one. And to that I would respond: How you do one thing, is how you do everything.

If Wiko didn’t want to be known for making junk phones, then this 1GB RAM model would never have been released. Don’t try and satisfy that lower price point, and instead focus on quality. But that’s not what happened, and the fact is, this company manufactures junk.

I’ll never in my life purchase another Wiko phone ever again, nor can I recommend it to anyone at all. Buy a new or used Nexus instead. The Nexus 5 has a power button issue, which I blame on LG, the manufacturer, so I’ll opt for the Nexus 6p or whatever newer model Google will release soon that’s not made by LG. But never a Wiko, never again.

One might even ask why I took the time to write this review? Well, when I was searching for information on Wiko phones and specifically the Lenny 3 model, I found nothing. Nothing to help guide me. So, hopefully this can help someone steer clear of an incredibly frustrating experience and save a little cash in the process.

Update: 2016-06-26

This phone is even more of a brick than I expected.

Every once in a while, it will just freeze up completely, and nothing works, short of opening the back and removing the battery. Yep, that’s right. About every 1.5 – 2 weeks or so it becomes a brick until you physically remove and re-install the battery. Not to mention that you have to have fingernails to claw the cover off, because apparently the hardware engineers didn’t anticipate that anyone would ever have to install a battery or a SIM card.

Obviously, this is really irritating if you’re doing something time-sensitive, like trying to take a photo.

I will repeat: DO NOT BUY THIS PHONE.

Saigon vs Chiang Mai (winner: CNX)

Chiang Mai, Thailand is one of my favourite places in the world. After arriving yesterday from Saigon, I immediately noticed the stark constast between the two places. Saigon is loud, crazy, bustling, dangerous, a concrete jungle. And hot. Really freaking hot.

Chiang Mai is less of all of that, in every category. It’s not too loud, a little less busy, not very dangerous, and instead of concrete jungle, it kinda feels like the city was built in an actual jungle. There’s trees, greenery, plenty of wats (Buddhist temples) just about everywhere you look. It does gets hot here, and it feels a bit more humid, but it’s worth the tradeoff, in my opinion.

I don’t ever want to go back to Saigon for a long, long time, if ever. This is my 3rd time in Chiang Mai, and I’m falling in love with the place all over again.

Today will be dedicated to finding an apartment and renting a motorbike. I got a horrible haircut in Saigon 2 days ago, so I’m also gonna have to get that fixed soon. (I look like Chet from the movie Weird Science. The only fix at this point is to get it all buzzed off.)

I’m also excited to see all the places that I loved to visit when I was last here 3.5 years ago. It’s really been too long between visits.

Some things have changed. May Kaidee’s is a favorite vegetarian/vegan restaurant that I sought out yesterday, and apparently they moved to a different location. There’s also a new mall which was built on the corner of Nimmanhamen and Huay Kaew Road. I still haven’t been able to check out all my old hangouts yet. A big surprise is seeing all the touristy places which cater to Chinese speakers. I’ve seen way more Chinese on signs and advertistments than I ever remember seeing in the past.

What’s really surprised me the most is that so much hasn’t changed. Kad Suan Kaew mall is still standing, and it still looks like a giant semi-abandoned warehouse. Aum vegetarian restaurant is still exactly where it was by Tae Phae Gate (eastern gate) of the old city, and they’re still serving the same fare (“The One” smoothie w/spirulina was a hit waaay back in 2012, and apparently still is). But now they have quinoa dishes too.

The Wawee coffee on Nimmanhaman Road is still there, as is the Starbucks just down the road and on the other side. But they now serve cold drinks in re-usable cups with a message to “go green”, and some suggested up-cycle ideas (e.g. make the cup into a planter). They still don’t have soy milk though. (Sigh. Some things *never* change.)

I’m most excited to go visit Pun Pun vegetarian restaurant (both locations), which is one of the best places I’ve ever eaten. Thai food really is the best food in the world. And Free Bird Cafe was another favorite, but less dependable. Are they even still around? Gotta find out.

It’s such a crazy juxtaposition, Saigon and Chiang Mai. If you can handle riding a motorbike in Saigon, then you’ll be totally fine in Chiang Mai. Really, you won’t have any problems at all, except maybe getting used to driving on the other side of the road. I don’t even think I could find kombucha in Saigon. I lived there for 3 months and can’t tell you where to get it (ok, I can tell you where you *might* find it). But here I can find it in several places, usually homemade.

Prices seem a bit lower here, for everyday things like bananas and coffee. The city is a bit nicer in general, amenities are higher quality. It’s much less dirty than Saigon. Maybe that’s not a fair comparison as Saigon is a much bigger city, but then again, I couldn’t find too many areas in Saigon where it was very clean, and I visited a lot of different places during my three months there.

The people seem friendlier here. I have a theory about the collective Vietnamese psyche in general, but I’ll save that for later. Truth be told, the food in Vietnam isn’t that great, and it’s really not healthy. They eat white rice most everywhere. If only they could make one small change, and use brown rice instead, I’d have eaten at the small cơm tấm places a lot more. But I don’t want the blood sugar spikes and low fiber content from eating pure white rice, versus brown.

CNX has more Westerners in general, is more touristy, and definitely has more of a health-conscious Western tourist subculture, at least in the old city area. It’s really nice.

In Saigon, I struggled to find any books in English, and when I did, the selection was scarce. There are plenty of book stores in CNX where I can find any type of book imaginable in English. Sure, of course they have Thai books. But they also have a nice selection of English books. (It’s equally easy to find English-language books in Bangkok.) It’s almost impossible in Vietnam. Things like this are what make it so difficult for me to imagine living in Vietnam full-time. Little things, which add up.

Ok, that’s it for now.