- If words could kill -

9th June '17

I never thought I'd say this, but I was actually a little sad when the term ended and I had to take a week's holiday.

For once, I didn't even entertain the possibility of going anywhere.

Having taught so little that I likely finished the term poorer than I started it (although I haven't checked), and to soon be taking another eight week's off and going home, not spending money unnecessarily had become a priority.

More than that though, for the final three weeks of term I'd established a sort of... routine, inclusive of everything that I always talk about being important, and had done so rather effortlessly.

I was doing some kind of exercise, almost everyday, and I was enjoying it. I was meditating, almost everyday, and I was happy to. I was relaxing enough, but not too much; playing a reasonable amount of PS4, but not too much; watching a reasonable amount of TV, but not too much.

I was kind of living-out my perfect existence.

Being on special offer, I'd even bought a couple of old Final Fantasy games from my youth.

They're now both vastly outdated, but the sentiment remains. And foregoing battlefield, I was now playing my way through Final Fantasy X, which is basically a stress-free game.

It's really just a fantasy story, so even using my PS4 had become relaxing, and for these last three weeks of term, my life was just... ideal. And then I had to break-up that perfect routine by taking a holiday, which made it a weird one.

Normally my goal for the week-off is to live an ideal a life as possible, and then carry that over once I start working again. This time though, my goal was to mimic how I'd been living during term, just without the work.

And so I decided that to fill that void, I'd add some new recipes to my repertoire by cooking as many new things as I could.

It sounds perfect, right? Keep living exactly the same way I was before the holiday, except cooking something new in my "free time", when I otherwise would have been working.

Free time is always a rather tempting concept though, because life just has a way of making it not free anymore.

As had become customary during the term, I went running on Monday; the first day of this holiday.

I'd been looking forward to this run, because I'd become somewhat lazy with my running ever since forcing myself to run 100km in the first 17 days of March.

It wasn't that I wasn't running anymore; I was still going out running a lot. Rather, in the past my rule was very much that I'd start by running 10km, and then if I felt like running further I would, but I would never run less than 10km.

Now though, I hadn't run 10km since March.

5km had become standard. 7.5km had become a long run.

But with March feeling a long time ago, my desire to run longer distances had returned, but the prospect of running further than my body is accustomed to had put me off doing so during the term, because to run to the point of exhaustion and then go into work to try and teach fun and dynamic classes is...

Giving yourself heat exhaustion is probably the best way that I've found to teach like shit.

And I know that might sound pathetic; it's not like I'm running a marathon. In fact 10km is less than quarter of a marathon. But I learnt this week that (depending on your source) Bangkok is the hottest city in the world. And I do all of my running in the early afternoon because... well that's when no one else is stupid enough to be out running so the park's quiet. So it gives some justification as to why I might feel lethargic afterwards.

And once you're used to it, it's fine. Your body can get used to anything. I just didn't want to make the first time I ran 10km since March, a day when I later had to teach, so I'd been looking forward in particular, to this Monday run.

And so my holiday began by overcoming what was probably more of a psychological hurdle than a physical one, and running 10km.

I had to keep motivated mid-run by telling myself 'What's more painful? The pain of running these next 5km, or the pain of living a life of ill-health and premature death?'

That was probably a cruel thing to say, but it did the job, and I made it around these four laps of the park, whereas every other time I've run in the past three months, I haven't.

And being the furthest that I've run for three months, you can imagine, it tired me out. I was pretty exhausted and dripping in sweat once I got back to my condo to do my usual 20-mins of post-run yoga.

I've been doing this for years with an app on my iPhone. I bought the app back when I was living in China for I think £1.99, and I've used it ever since. It's a great app.

It's essentially just yoga videos, but they give you the guidance that you need if, like me, you have no clue what you're doing.

So light-headed and dripping in sweat, I opened this app.

'You now need to subscribe for the low price of £17.99 per year to use this app.'

What the fuck?

With my phone set to automatically download updates, this app had updated itself, and for what is essentially a few videos of previously paid-for content, now it was telling me 'we want £17.99 per year.'

The first thing that I did was switch on my Apple TV and turn-off automatic updates. There's a tvOS version of this app too, and that one hadn't yet updated, so ok, I can at least do my post-run stretching using my TV instead.

Except where as normally doing yoga is fun and relaxing, this time whenever the woman on the video said something like 'take this lovely, relaxing yoga feeling into the rest of your day,' all I was thinking was 'you can go fuck yourself you fucking greedy cow.'

I have a lot of grievances with Apple, and this one is certainly up there.

I'm very anti-subscription. I basically see subscriptions as a way of subtly making someone pay more for something than they think it's worth.

£10 for an app sounds expensive, but 99p per month seems reasonable. Yet one year later, you've already paid more than you thought was an expensive price, and you're still paying for it.

I understand subscriptions if a service is continually provided. For example, if a service provider endures continual costs to provide that service, then the customer should continually pay in the form of a subscription, for example your ISP. That I get.

What I hate is this growing trend where products that should be offered as a one-off price, are being offered as subscription.

This yoga app is a collection of videos, which haven't been updated since I first downloaded the app more than two years ago, and that sit on my phone. There is zero reason that I should have to continually pay to access them. And I blame Apple a lot for this, because they incentivise developers to offer subscription services.

Apple reduces it's own cut for subscription apps, encouraging developers to adopt such a model, really to line their own pockets as customers are more or less tricked into paying more through incremental payments, than they think that a product is worth.

That's just one of a growing list of grievances that I have with Apple, which is key because my next smartphone will be likely coming fairly soon.

I don't expect my iPhone 6 to last much longer, what with the technical issues I've been having with it lately. And where as up until recently I always just assumed that I'd upgrade to the next generation of iPhone; likely the iPhone 8, things like this as well as my desire to become less reliant on my phone, lest I become a zombie, are pushing me ever-closer to Android.

The iPhone 8 is rumoured to cost around $1,000, and you can just... just about justify paying that, if you genuinely believe that Apple are better. You're always going to pay a premium for the best.

When other companies offer flagship phones for about a quarter of that price though, it's hard to justify paying $1,000 to Apple when they're responsible for endless lines of dumb shit like this.

And I've checked. This yoga app is still available on Android for a one-off fee of 175 baht (£4). On iPhone? £17.99 per year.

One of the technical difficulties that I've been having with my phone of late, is that I haven't been able to connect it to my laptop. It just gets flagged by Windows as an unrecognized device.

Had I been able to connect, then I could have used a previous backup of my phone to download the previous version of this yoga app, pre-subscription.

As it was, my only option to maintain access to this yoga app, without succumbing to a £17.99 annual fee, was to wipe my entire phone of more than 50GB of data, and then download everything from a backup on iCloud.

Well that's half of my day gone.

But it worked, I got my subscription-free yoga app back again, so I was temporarily content. But you expect me to pay $1,000 for the next iPhone when I'm forced to do dumb shit like this that takes half of my afternoon?

I thought that it would be "free time". Life had other plans.

Still exhausted from my run, yet simmering from this whole process, going to the supermarket for the ingredients that I needed to make my new recipes now seemed more of a chore than a fun holiday activity.

Reinstalling my phone also meant that I then had to reinstall my watch, which took another thirty minutes. And not only to preserve the subscription-free version of this app, but also because my phone now had no music on it, the problem of how to actually connect my phone to my laptop now came to the fore.

On Tuesday I met a friend, so this got postponed until Wednesday. And I pretty much exhausted every option avaiable on Google of what to do when your computer doesn't recognise your iPhone, and none of them worked.

The only option that I was left with, was one from the Apple website: Contact Apple Support.

Fuck's sake.

So I tried to connect with them on chat, only to receive the message 'Your period of coverage has expired. There's a 1,000 baht fee to talk to any of our technicians now.'

Fuck's sake.

Apple was just stamping itself harder and harder onto my shit-list.

I'm sitting here with well over £1,000 of Apple products in my condo, with yet more spent on software. And you, Apple, sit on the biggest stockpile of cash ever accumulated, and want me to pay you 1,000 baht to talk to you, when one of your products doesn't work.

The fuck?

I've never had that before. I've never had a company try to charge me to get through to customer service. I've contacted Microsoft before, they never tried to charge me a penny. Other companies the same.

My iPhone's literally coming apart at the seams, and I've never held more contempt for Apple or felt closer to Android.

It's weird how sometimes you go to sleep with a problem, but you wake up knowing exactly what to do.

Before my eyes were even open yesterday, I had already reached for my iPhone and opened the Apple Support app.

'I bet that they'll talk to me for free if I tell them I have a swollen battery' I was thinking.

Turns-out I was right, and no sooner was I awake than I was in a chat with an Apple technician, explaining my phone's symptoms.

He responded by starkly warning me that I need to discontinue using the device immediately, and take it in for a service.

Oh, so now when you know that my phone is about to explode, which'll make you look bad, now you'll talk to me for free. It's only when I need help that I have to pay you.

I've known that my phone had a swollen battery for two months; it has the exact same symptoms as last year, when it had to get sent off to Singapore, although it had only become so swollen that the phone was coming apart at the sides for about a week.

And the urgency with which I'd been told that I needed to disconinue using the handset immediately, had filled me with a naïve hope that they might be willing to replace the handset for free, lest avoiding the kind of PR disaster that Samsung suffered when their handsets started exploding.

I wasn't quite that lucky, but they were at least willing to meet me in the middle.

There are no Apple Stores in Bangkok, hence why handsets have to get shipped-off to Singapore for repair. There are 3rd party stores that I'd guess you'd describe as authorized service providers though, and I went to the same one as last year, and he told me exactly what I already knew: "Your phone has a swollen battery."

I know.

Apple obviously doesn't want me walking around with an explosive handset in my pocket, but they don't want to give me a free replacement either, seeing as it's two and a half years since I bought this one. So their compromise was that they'd replace my phone with an identical model for 3,800 baht (£87).

'Fuck it, that's cheaper than any other phone I'm going to be able to buy' I thought.

It still has to get sent-off to Singapore; I don't know why, but I was expecting it. My old iPhone 4 was already charging back at my condo. And it was pretty much deja-vu from a year ago.

Your phone's going to get sent off to Singapore, we'll call you in around seven days.


Of course there's some sacrifice in going from a 128GB iPhone 6 running iOS 10, to an 8GB iPhone 4 running iOS 7, but it's actually not as bad as you think it would be. I can still do most of the things I'd normally be able to do, as long as I'm armed with a bit of patience.

My biggest disappointment was that I'd already bought the ingredients for all of these new meals that I was going to cook, and now I'd only be able to photograph them with my iPhone 4 camera.

For me, I get joy in cooking and eating healthy food, but I also like to have photos to look back over, especially when I'm feeling hungry and need inspiration, so that was the worst thing about it; only being able to take mediocre photos.

Thanks in large part to Dropbox though, for everything else it was worryingly seamless going back to my iPhone 4. And it was good to again have a phone that I could only use for functions that were 'necessary'.

With my 8GB of storage, I only had space for the most important of apps, and that was actually kind of nice.

Makes you realise how much crap you'll accumulate if you have 128GB of storage at your disposal. All kinds of apps that provide no real function.

That took right up until yesterday though. So the first four days of this holiday that were supposed to be fraught with free time, I was occupied by failing technology.

Didn't exercise as much as usual, didn't meditate as much as usual.

Isn't technology supposed to make our lives easier?

I suppose that I should be thankful that it happened on my week-off when I had nothing to do, rather than when I'm working. Especially as, just in the last few minutes I got an email from my manager, explaining that, and I haven't heard anyone say this for a long time, we have more classes than we have teachers to do them.

The fuck? I thought we had no students.

Two teachers left at the end of last term, and I guess that business is picking up.

That's great, except he was emailing me to ask if I'd be willing to work a split-shift; teaching one class at 10am, and another at 6:45pm.

Knowing my desire to spend as little time as possible at work, that sounds like my own personal Hell, so I said what I pretty much always say when my manager asks me to do something:

I don't want to do it, but I will if I have to.

He responded by telling me that he had some other people to ask first, and he'd get back to me.

It's now almost 6pm, and we normally get the schedule before the end of Friday, so I'm kind of sitting on tenterhooks waiting for this one to come through.

What a difference it would make to my lifestyle, if I had to start work at 10am each day, but yet still not finish until 9:15pm.

It'd be a split-shift, so I'd have six hours off in the middle, but what a pain that would be, so I'm sitting here waiting with a mix of fear and hope.

Hopeful that one of the other people he asks takes this bullet for me, but fearful that no one will.

That's really been my holiday in all honesty. With just the weekend left, it's been dominated by technological annoyances. And one more was that my hosting plan for this website expired this week.

I said in the fairly recent past (although I think that it might have been about a year ago now) that I wasn't sure if I'd renew once I got to this point because... well I don't write this blog very much anymore, and keeping this website updated would be one less obligation in my life.

I started it to keep a travel blog, but how much travelling do I do now?

In almost two years, I've only left Thailand to go home to the UK. For most of my weeks off, I can't even be bothered to leave Bangkok.

You can certainly question the value in me continuing to keep a travel blog.

Ultimately though, I quite enjoy having a blog.

I don't know if anyone reads it, and frankly I don't care. I genuinely haven't checked the analytics of this site for years.

Just knowing that it's online though, gives me the motivation to keep on writing it, and much like meditation, writing it helps give clarity to the craziness of life, so I wasn't quite ready to give up writing this blog yet.

I extended my hosting plan for another three years, so unless something unforeseen happens, this site should be online, and I'll likely continue adding to it, until at least the middle of 2020.

With that in mind, I thought this would be a good time to count how many words this blog actually is. I haven't done that since January 2014.

I like to know how many words this blog is though, because it's the biggest appreciation that I can have for numbers.

We hear words like millions and billions being thrown around in everyday life now, but no one really knows what they mean.

If I tell you that there's a million people starving, or a billion dollars being spent, what does it really mean?

It's impossible to fathom such numbers, because we've never done a billion of anything.

Back in January 2014, this blog was 1,942,116 words. Since then and up to the end of the blog before this one, I've written another 764,228 words, to bring the total number of words in this blog to 2,706,344.

Over the past nine years, I've sat down at my laptop and consciously typed-out all 2,706,344 words of this blog, one-by-one. And I can't think of anything else that I've conciously done that gets close to that number.

Knowing the amount of time and amount of effort that's gone into typing this blog, it actually gives me some appreciation for what it means when someone says one million, or two million, or two and a half million. They aren't valueless numbers to me anymore. I can relate how long it took me to type that many words to what those numbers actually mean.

And to put it into some perspective, I have given hundreds and hundreds of hours to writing this blog.

Shit, just to read it would take you days. Go back to the very first one, how long would it take you to get back to here?

Now imagine that every single word that you read was a person.

I think of all the time and the effort that went into typing each word, and each one represents just one person.

It's still only around half the number of people that were killed in the holocaust.

That's what I mean it gives me some perspective.

If you told me ten years ago that 'five to six million Jews were killed in the Holocaust,' it wouldn't have really meant anything. Once you get above a certain size, all numbers mean the same. They're just really big numbers.

One million or one billion were both just numbers bigger than I could fathom.

Having worked, word-by-word on this blog for the last nine years though, it gives things a little more meaning. If you say the number two million to me now, I actually have some appreciation of what it means.

Some other not very interesting stats about this website?

This entire site is made up of 17,081 different pages, consisting of 65,909 files, stored in 1,349 folders totalling 44.8GB

Damn, that all actually sounds like quite a lot seeing as I did all of it myself. No wonder I don't have a girlfriend.

Well on that cheery note, I'd better start praying that some poor sucker desperate for money offers to take a split shift, so I don't have to. Otherwise this coming term could be quite different to the last couple where, not only did I not have to teach very much, but I didn't have a single class to plan from scratch.

I fear that I may have been spoiled, and that reality is about to come crashing back down on my face. So that's something to look forward to.