What’s Happening in Thailand

I am writing this post for anyone with friends or family in Thailand who is wondering how the COVID-19 pandemic is being handled here. It is written from the perspective of a US expat of many years who is still in touch regularly with family and acquaintances back in the US, and who is monitoring the situation there (and here) to the extent I can.

How is Thailand Fighting COVID-19

The main tool that Thailand is using to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, which you will become immediately aware of if you set foot in the country, is control of movement (checkpoints and curfews) and temperature/health screening.

Temperature screening

If you choose to leave your place of residence (and most people here are voluntarily choosing to do this as little as possible), you will have your temperature screened at any building you enter.

Dive Bars of Chiang Mai

Dive Bars of Chiang Mai

Through the last year, the city of Chiang Mai, Thailand has become one of the main bases of my life in Asia. It actually took a while for the city to grow on me. If you read my retrospective article from my first visit here in 2017, I am actually kind of lukewarm on the city. There is a reason – one month is not enough time to learn what is truly great about the place. I have spent, collectively, a lot more time than that here now and I still feel like I have so much more to learn. There are many different sides of the city: from backpacker ghettos to tranquil natural sites, some of the best meals you can have in the world, in some of the best company, to also some true debauchery and darkness, that is still beautiful in its own way.

In all of my traveling, dive bars have been one of the essential ways to get at the soul of a place. Here are what are in my opinion some of the very best in Chiang Mai.

Thoughts on Da Nang, Vietnam

Thoughts on Da Nang, Vietnam

I spent the month of January 2020 in Da Nang, Vietnam, a beach city situated in the central coast of the country, roughly halfway between the capital city of Hanoi to the North and Ho Chi Minh City to the south. It seems people haven’t yet written much about Da Nang from the perspective of a long-term traveler, so I wanted to share some impressions and thoughts on my time there.

Great Access

I was coming to Da Nang from Rome, Italy and expected I would have to make a stopover in Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City but this was not the case. An increasing number of airlines have flights into Da Nang International Airport (DAD) including Qatar, which I was flying, and that has direct service from Doha. Furthermore, a very striking thing to me was how convenient DAD airport is – it is only a maybe ~10 minutes’, few dollars’ drive from the beach neighborhood in which I was staying.

Taipei: the user-friendly city

Taipei: the user-friendly city

I never expected to end up in Taipei.

For the last couple of years, I have been working remote. Initially from Berlin, then for an extended stretch from Eastern Europe. For the last 6 or so months I have been in Asia.

I had come to Saigon, Vietnam after several months in Bangkok. In Saigon I had struck up a chat at a local bar with another traveler, a student Brewmaster at Olds College, Alberta, Canada. This traveler, Mike, ended up becoming one of my better friends and more reliable companions on nights out in Saigon over the weeks that followed.

I had longstanding plans to meet up with an old friend from New York in Japan after my time in Saigon, but no idea where I was heading after. Mike strongly encouraged me to go to Taipei, and offered to intro me to a Taiwanese-American friend of his who had been living there the last 10 years and could show me around a bit.

It is this arbitrary sequence of events that found me, roughly two weeks later, landing at Taipei’s Taoyuan International Airport.

Scaling with Rails

Scaling with Rails

I have spent much of the past decade now building web applications professionally. Though not exclusively so, a large part of this work has ended up being with the Ruby on Rails framework. There is a widespread notion that monolithic Rails applications don’t scale, but in my experience I have found such applications often the most readily scalable of all that I have encountered.

I wanted to share some high-level insights and personally-acquired knowledge on this subject, in the hopes that such things may be taken into consideration by teams or developers weighing their options in architecting a web application for scale.

Leverage often comes in knowing what not to build

Leverage often comes in knowing what not to build

Something I have observed in my work over the last few years is that many genuinely competent, highly productive developers are tricked by their very skill into undertaking projects that, though ultimately successful to a degree, produce outcomes much poorer than had they simply integrated with a third-party platform. Oftentimes immense leverage can be gained simply by knowing what not to build.

One of the very wonderful things about the moment that we live in is how many mature platforms – both open source and closed, community-driven and commercial – we have at our disposal.

On microservices and distributed architectures

On microservices and distributed architectures

Like the boiling frog, we often fail to appreciate just how significantly the infrastructure upon which we rely as developers has improved over the last decade. When I began working with the Rails framework in 2010, everything from the hardware we used for local development, to the infrastructure upon which we tested and deployed, was positively anemic by today’s standard.

My personal laptop, reasonably high-end for the time, had a 5400 RPM spinning disk and 2 GB of RAM. SSDs were exotic, even on servers. Nowadays, you can get bare metal servers with 512gb-1tb of RAM, 2x multi-core CPUs and terabytes of fast SSD storage for a price that is perfectly reasonable for even small companies. Similarly, you can easily and cheaply launch fleets of high-spec virtual servers with providers like Amazon Web Services and DigitalOcean at minutes’ notice.

In many ways, it seems to me that we are often basing architectural decisions on imagined constraints. In my experience, a decision to embrace a microservices architecture should not follow primarily from concerns about scalability.

Some reflections on slow travel
Belgrade, Serbia

Some reflections on slow travel

I’ve spent the last couple of years doing what I would call slow travel, spending periods of a month or more in different cities. This began in late 2016 with a job that brought me to Berlin for months at a time over a period of a year. I quit that job last October and in the time since have been through Europe, Asia, the US, and then back around to Europe, where I am for the next several months with no fixed end in sight. I wanted to compile some observations that I’ve made in this time.