WTF Am I Doing With My Life – April 2017

Exercise and Health

Exercise has been consistent this month having only missed one or two sessions due to the Thai New Year and apartment searching.

My current progression of the strength routine is as follows:

  • Pull Ups: 3×3-4 (Aiming for 3×5 in the next few weeks)
  • Chair Dips: 3×8 (Need to find suitable parallel bars to progress soon) 
  • Bodyweight Squats: 3×8 (Need to progress to Pistol Squats this month) 
  • Single Foot-supported L-Sit: 3×15 seconds
  • Push Ups: 3×8 (Need to progress to Diamond Push Ups in the next few weeks) 
  • Inclined Rows: 3×8 (Need to move on to Horizontal Rows soon)

New Apartment

I got a new apartment very close to the BTS and my new job! I moved in on the 2nd of May. The room is decently large with a TV and fridge but no kitchen area. Being only 5 minutes walk from the Bangkok Sky Train is a big bonus and the room is much cheaper than most of the apartments and condos I checked out.

There’s a small gym downstairs which has a weight machine, weights and cardio machines. Unfortunately there’s no pull up bar so I’ll substitute a few exercises in my normal exercise routine with ones using the weight machine and weights.

New Passport

My old passport had no room so I had to get a new one. The process was simple enough and very speedy. I had my visa transferred at the immigration in Bangkok. From my apartment, it took around an hour to get there and cost me about 50 Thai Baht (just over 1 GBP). Super happy about that! I got the BTS to Mo Chit, then the no. 52 public bus heading out of the city. It dropped me straight outside the complex. From there, I got a free shuttle bus to the immigration building.

The office was busy as I got there just before lunch had finished. The actual process took about 4 hours. It was a long day.

Programming

Feedback for Jotsway Canyon has been great! And I’ve made lots of changes. I feel comfortable with moving to Beta very soon and finally adding more stages and content. Planning things out is one of my favourite parts of the process and I’ll be doing this a lot in the next few weeks.

WTF Am I Doing With My Life – March 2017

Hello! Welcome to a new monthly blog where I talk about things I’ve done in the past month.

Exercise

I took a substantial break from the Calisthenics Beginner Routine during this month because of travelling and lack of routine. I’m a bit sad about that but I’ve started back again and have been consistent during the last few weeks with no signs of stopping!

To give an idea of the effect this had, just before I took a break I was working towards diamond push ups and able to perform 3×8 push ups consistently. When I started back this month, I could only do 3×4 push ups with good form!

I’m using this great app that keeps track of work out progression and all I’m doing is adding more reps or time to a few exercises every time I work out, 3 times a week. Half of the fun is looking for places to do pull-ups nearby.

My current progression of the strength routine is as follows:

  • Pull Ups: 5×3 (Aiming for 3×5 in the next few weeks)
  • Chair Dips: 3×8 (Need to find suitable parallel bars to progress soon) 
  • Bodyweight Squats: 3×8
  • Foot-supported L-Sit: 3×20 seconds
  • Push Ups: 3×7
  • Inclined Rows: 3×8 (Need to move on to Horizontal Rows soon)

Programming

Also after a long break, I’ve gotten back into my passion project Jotsway Canyon after stewing up some ideas. The restructuring of the code was daunting so it took some time to sit down and get it done. But once I did, I got into the swing of things again and have been enjoying it.

I’m aiming to release the Android version for testing and submit to Feedback Fridays in the next few weeks to get some more thoughts on the new gameplay loop.

New “World Map” for Jotsway Canyon

At the time of writing, I have 424 Twitter followers on my gamedev account.

Social

I moved to a new city this month! So I’ve been looking at social groups I can join. I went to an improv group and it was incredibly fun. It’s a monthly event and I’m looking forward to making it a regular thing.

Other than that, I’m looking into volunteering at an organisation and attending more social groups next month.

Being Mugged at the Improv Workshop

Travel

I took a trip to an island for a few days – Koh Lan. I’ve got a lot of time but not a lot of money otherwise I’d travel to Laos, Cambodia or northern Vietnam. Things should stabilize next year and I’ll be able to tick one or two places off of my list then.

I enjoyed Koh Lan but quite a few beaches can get a bit too busy for me. We managed to find one or two quieter beaches and had a good swim and rode around on a rented bike.

Wrap Up

Overall this month has been really fun. It’s nice having a good amount of time and I’ve managed to do quite a few things I’ve been meaning to do for a while. April should be similarly relaxed and productive in its own little way. I’m particularly interested to see if I can get back to diamond push ups again! We’ll see next month!

New GameMaker: Studio Project

Birthday Treats

As a little treat for my birthday this past September, I bought GameMaker: Studio during the Humble Bundle sale. It has been great fun to learn! And getting a prototype up and running is super fast.

Having a more visual program to create games rather than hard coding everything took a little time to get used to but there is a lot of back-end tweaking that can be done through its own language called GML. I’ve not scratched the surface!

I’m creating a new game but it’s still going to be a turn-based tactics game on a hexagonal grid. For now, the name I’m using for it is Jaggy Tactics. This time I’d like to add story elements while keeping the same feel. So far, I have this playable in-browser demo.

Why the Switch?

I love libGDX but I became increasingly frustrated with getting the HTML5 build to work. This is important for gathering feedback from players quickly because it’s much easier to direct them to a site rather than having them download a file. GameMaker seems slightly less painful in this regard and distributing is quick and easy.

libGDX still has a special place in my heart and I may go back to it in the future but for the time being, I’m happy learning something new.

I’ll be adding more updates and patch notes to Jaggy Tactics as development continues.

Learning Thai

Learning Thai is something I’ve tried to do since I got to Thailand and I’ve had varying degrees of success. I learnt some essential phrases like “Hello.” and “Thank you.” but sadly my listening skills are awful and I learn best when I see words written down. So I decided I was going to learn how to read Thai.

When I arrived in Thailand, the symbols on signs had a mystery and complexity to them that my brain just couldn’t deal with. So for a long time they were glanced at and filed under “cannot process; do ignore”.

But it’s important to persevere so I looked online for some help. A great resource for starting out is thai-language.com. It has has an excellent guide to the Thai alphabet and lots of reading exercises.

The first thing I did was try to memorise the sounds of all 44 different consonant and then some vowel sounds.

But that was boring.

So I moved on and tried to decipher some basic words I knew. I like puzzles and there’s nothing more puzzling than a Thai word. I mean, just look at this:

thai_chicken

Just look at how puzzling that looks.

This happens to be the word for chicken. It’s pronounced gài (the à accent here is used to show it’s said with a Low tone).

But why?

This word is made up of three things: a consonant , a vowel and a tone marker.

Sometimes Thai vowels are written before the consonant they’re attached to even though they’re said after it (gah!?). This vowel is one of those sneaky fellows and has the sound ai where “” can be a consonant sound. For this word, the consonant has the hard g sound that is needed.

So what about the tone marker? Well, that little dash above the word is one of several tone markers that change the tone of a word. Thai is a tonal language and the tones are important. If I were to just write ไก, it would be said in a Mid tone and could mean something completely different or nothing at all without sufficient context.

For reasons I’ve yet to fully comprehend, when this tone marker is used with , it makes the tone of the word a Low one.

Hmm well that’s one puzzle down! Sort of. Solving puzzles seems to lead to more questions than answers! Why exactly does that tone marker do what it does? Is it the same for all consonants? Why not?

But this is all part of the appeal! I’ll keep going and maybe someday there won’t be any questions left to answer!

Koh Chang – Part II

The next morning, we were picked up from our hotel and bundled in the back of a song taou with several others who had also booked spaces for the four island snorkelling tour.

We headed south along the winding road, every so often catching a glimpse of the sea. The inclines on Koh Chang are up there with the Lake District’s steepest back home. It can be somewhat terrifying, especially if you happen to get caught in a shower. This happened to me the first day on the island. The song taou made several attempts at a particularly steep (and wet) slope, wheels desperately spinning, before sliding back down to try again. I shared a few stone faced looks of terror with another tourist opposite me. On the third or fourth attempt, it made it.

Luckily we had no such problems this time around. When we arrived at the pier, we were stamped on the back of the hand and led like cattle to the boat that would take us south across the sea.

I enjoyed the swaying motions and cool sea air but others didn’t show as much appreciation as I did. The journey took over an hour and this was too much for some. The crew offered nausea tablets to everyone and sick bags were dispersed. Hopefully the trip was worth it for the pale faced people aboard.

The first island was small and rocky. After some tinkering with my snorkel, I made my first plunge and saw swarms of brightly coloured fish. Some were a blue that shimmered as they twitched this way and that. Some had stripes. Some even had ridiculously long noses. But all were beautiful. I couldn’t help but smile and choke on some sea water.

I made my way around the island, gazing at the coral and the multitudes of fish that darted around them. Long, black spikes inhabited the nooks and crannies below. Sea urchins certainly looked sinister and the thought of getting stung was enough to send a shiver through me despite the warmth of the water.

Eventually I found myself at the other side of the island. I heard the horn of the boat signalling it was time to leave so I hastily made my way back.

Too hastily perhaps as, to my dismay, I realised I had skirted too close to the island and currently resided in a shallow area with a field of sea urchins between me and the boat.

Depth was difficult to gauge, and this added to the.. excitement? of it all as I navigated the rocks that didn’t have spikes as calmly and cautiously as I could. Finally hitting open water was a relief. After a quick inspection back on board, I concluded I had narrowly avoided an unpleasant sting. One man wasn’t so lucky, as a crew member had to use a knife to dig part of the sting out of his foot.

The visibility on the next few stops wasn’t as dazzling as the first, but it was fun none the less. Bread was given to attract the critters and although not environmentally friendly, it certainly worked. I hovered round a few groups of people feeding them. The fish were so close you wanted to reach out and touch them. I tried multiple times and failed of course.

The last island was more of a resort. The water was warm and shallow and there was a pier that people could easily walk down to reach the beach. I was content with just sitting in the water, as I do.

A good few people slept on the way back. I could have joined them, but I was already thinking about what I wanted to do the following day. I decided it was about time to branch out and do some more independent exploration.

Koh Chang – Part I

The tall, green peaks on the island of Koh Chang were covered in gentle mists when we arrived at the pier. It was just before dawn. We had taken a late afternoon bus to Bangkok from Lopburi the day before, navigated the city and waited around for a late coach to the ferry. Overall it took us the best part of twelve hours to get to this point, and there was still more travelling to do.

We boarded the ferry and the mists melted away as we sailed across the gulf with the sun rising behind us. Forty minutes later we set foot on Koh Chang.

Song Taou taxis run frequently up and down the road that hugs most of the coast. We hopped in one with little delay, sensing our journey was nearly over.

Lonely Beach is a popular location for foreigners. It came highly recommended by a few teachers we had talked to so we were eager to get there. After a lengthy trip down the western coast, we arrived to be somewhat surprised.

Visions of pristine, sandy beaches and dainty Thai restaurants were replaced with rocky beaches and bars. We took a walk down a street that lead to the beach. I don’t exaggerate when I say at least half of the buildings we passed were tattoo parlours. Indeed, we had come to the go-to party destination of the island. It’s one I’d gladly visit on another journey, but I had my mind set on something a bit more relaxing this time around.

After some discussion, we decided to look for accommodation elsewhere and eventually settled a bit north in Kai Bae. It’s roughly twice the price (500 – 700 Baht a night for a simple fanned room with toilet) but the hub sits a short walk from a beautifully long sandy beach.

It was from here we rented a three man kayak and made our way to a small island that sat just off shore. After running aground and joining the other few castaways, I had my first taste of tropical sea.

I spent some time just floating in the shallows of the warm water and watching the small fish flicker about. The sun was starting to get low so I admired the scenic view of Koh Chang across the water once more before heading back.

Later we had dinner at a lovely Thai restaurant and it’s at this point I remembered my lack of sleep. I went to bed looking forward to a fun day of snorkelling. I imagined myself thoroughly enjoying it, and I was most certainly right.

Karma

For dinner on Monday I was taken to a restaurant around the corner – a favourite of a teacher here. We had crab, prawn and chicken meals to share. There were tons of vegetables – chunky peppers, onion, carrot, cashew nuts and more! – and everything was delicious. I’m going to suggest going there with some other new teachers and maybe I can get the names of the dishes we had and order in Thai.

During dinner, a girl no more than five came to our table and asked if we would like to buy some gifts. Shrines are found in many places in Thailand and these tokens, I was told, were used as an offering to the spirits to gain good karma. Well I just couldn’t resist that adorable face and I was impressed by her English so I got one for myself for 20 Baht and she passed me a looped string with sweet smelling flowers attached.

After being dropped off back at my accommodation, I gingerly placed the flowers on the shrine at the front of the building and awkwardly imitated a bow I’d seen a few Thai people do towards the shrine. Feeling pretty karma’d up, I went upstairs to my room and had a violent bought of stomach troubles. This left me somewhat confused. I’m pretty sure it’s not supposed to work that way.

Light Exploration

The last day of my first weekend was about exploring. Not too much mind. Just enough.

So I took a walk along the main road my accommodation sits on, rucksack on my back and phrasebook in my pocket.

The first item that caught my eye was an internet / gaming café. Several in fact. I took a mental note to have a look some time next week and decided Heathrow should also invest in one or more.

I stumbled across my nearest 7/11 grocery store where I bought instant noodles and seaweed flavoured crisps to supplement my nonexistent food stores.

After a 5 minute walk I arrived at Zon Café and very awkwardly ordered a strawberry and banana smoothy as well as the dish I had the day before by pointing and smiling at the pictures. I made a note of the Thai phrases “I’d like…” and “Please” for use next time.

Just as my food arrived I saw a Thai man slowly leading a toddler towards me. I smiled as best I could despite the jolt of terror that came with having zero conversational Thai. The man, smiling all the while, tried prompting his child to say “Hello” but the child was having none of it and walked away whining. On their way out, I managed to get a wave from the toddler which the man seemed happy with.

After a well earned nap back at my apartment, I decided to go further afield and get some more essentials. It was time to travel to Big C once again and this time on my own.

I decided the simplest way to travel across town was via bike taxi. They’re still mopeds to me but people call them bikes. A local pointed the way to the nearest bike taxi stand and within a heartbeat I was given a helmet and whisked away. The journey took about 10 minutes and cost 70 Baht. A little more than I expected but I was just grateful to make it in one piece.

I enjoyed wandering around the shopping centre and Big C. I found all of the things I could reasonably carry in my rucksack. I took a note of the phone prices for future reference. They’re still pretty expensive. The Samsung S5 is around 24000 Baht, or £440 but perhaps that isn’t too bad for that high end phone. I’ve heard Bangkok might be cheaper for laptops and maybe phones so I’ll have a look there in a few weeks.

While items were being scanned I realised I might not have enough money to pay for all the items with me. After paying and wondering if it was worth the fee from withdrawing money from the ATM, I counted 70 Baht exactly and hoped the return journey didn’t cost more.

Thankfully it didn’t and when I arrived at my destination I marvelled at my perfectly empty wallet as I dug deep for the last Baht coin. I couldn’t have not planned it better.

Productivity

So, having been in Thailand for less than a day, I’ve already moved out of the hotel and into accommodation. Things are moving fast and that’s certainly a good thing. This was due to the amazingly helpful people from the school who drove me around yesterday searching for a place I liked and helped me buy essentials from the local Big C (comparable to a Walmart).

My accommodation is pretty standard but relatively new. It consists of a decent sized room and toilet and shower. There’s also a balcony with a sink outside. Unfortunately, the view isn’t great as it overlooks the car park.

The room comes with a double bed, TV, WiFi and a fridge. There’s room to buy or rent a microwave but I’ve not felt the need for one. Among the essentials I bought was a kettle and some green tea.

Because of the absence of a kitchen, I’ll be doing what most other teachers do and eating out. I couldn’t resist grabbing some Corn Flakes for breakfast though.

I did a quick video tour of my new place!

I’m redeemed! Yesterday during moving day I had two Thai meals. For lunch we stopped off at the Zon Café – a popular meeting point for the teachers it seems. I don’t remember the dish name, but it was shredded pork with rice and it was delicious. It came with a side of fish sauce which I hesitantly sprinkled over a tiny portion of rice to try and found it to be a little, er, overpowering. An interesting flavour to be sure! Perhaps I’ll grow to like it.

In the evening I was taken to try out the local street food in the old part of the town. Various stalls lined the street selling all sorts of food. We settled on one that sold Pad Thai – a nice and safe noodle dish with no spice. It came to 40 Baht (roughly 73p).

Afterwards we headed to a bar that foreigners like to go to regularly. We met up with a good group of teachers from various schools and sat around tables in the evening air. Football is popular in Thailand and the bar was showing Man United versus Sunderland. When Sunderland scored, everyone poked fun at the bar owner who had MU flags pinned to a wall. He took it well.

I had two large beers for a total of 100 Baht (£1.80) before getting dropped off by one of the teachers via back-of-moped. A great first full day to be sure.

The Travel To Thailand

Since my body clock is out of whack, it’s time for a blog post! I arrived in Lopburi, Thailand yesterday at around 1900 local time and after my journey I was very much ready for bed.

Just over 24 hours before arriving at my hotel, I set off from my house in England.

Travelling down to London was predictably dull. There weren’t even any delays to liven things up. I should be grateful but it did mean I had nearly 4 hours to kill before my gate opened. There were, like, a hundred shops and none of them save WHSmiths grabbed my interest. At least whack a Game in there or something Heathrow.

It didn’t help that I sped through customs. It only took thirty minutes to dump my baggage and head through security. I had my bag searched because I forgot to take out my hand sanitiser. I think I aroused suspicion by asking a copious amount of questions about the gizmos the lady was using to probe my bag. “Ooo what does that do?” “What does that pick up?” “What are you looking for?” I realised I probably sound like I didn’t want to her to find something but it all worked out in the end.

While waiting to board I played the Spot the Sexpat Game. Nobody wins that game.

The flight was eventually delayed taking off by roughly an hour so for better or for worse I started watching Gravity. Depending on your perspective, that’s either an excellent idea or a terrible one. I tell you something, the turbulence and take off really added to the immersion.

It was an overnight flight and I did my best to sleep. Getting comfortable was tricky but in the end I settled for folding out the tray in front and burying my face in my arms. I don’t know how much I slept but it never felt like a lot.

Towards the end of the flight we were given a choice of omelette or porridge. This was not ordinary porridge though, no. This was chicken porridge. I had to try it. It had chunks of chicken and bits of what I assume were fruit. Overall it was OK and if I find it again in an actual restaurant I’ll have another try.

Finally, we arrived at Bangkok in Suvarnabhumi Airport. This also went smoothly despite some minor baggage delays. People departing at Bangkok were given an arrival card to fill in on the flight and I did so without specifying a staying address. Lopburi was too vague apparently so I was advised at passport control to put something else down – anything. So I decided to stay at another passenger’s hostel and sailed through.

I was met by a lovely taxi driver holding a sign for with “Johnathon”. I asked if he was from the company I was going to work for but was met with a confused look so I did another initial scout at the meeting point before face palming and realising this was my guy. Who else spells Jonathan that ridiculous way? I showed him my passport and he led me to the carpark.

From Bangkok, the journey to Lopburi took roughly 2 hours. I took this opportunity to practise my Thai a little with the taxi driver and stare out the window. I didn’t see much of Bangkok as we took the highways that skirted round it to the east.

When asked if I was hungry I said yes and we stopped at a fast food place. My first meal in Thailand was a burger. I am shamed by this. 119 Baht for a meal which, from what I’ve read, is pretty expensive by Thai standards.

While staring out the window, on the other side of the highway I saw ambulances and police in the wake of an accident involving mopeds. From what I could tell, there was a body that looked to be in the process of being bagged up. I had seen lots people on bikes and mopeds on the roads, many of which didn’t wear helmets. It was pretty sobering.

At last, we arrived at my hotel. It was booked and paid for on my behalf by the school I’m working for. I met the head of school and was shown to my room after introductions. The room itself is pretty large and comfortable, though I admit I’m just glad to get a bed after that journey.

When the room light was first switched on, I saw something in the corner of my eye scurry behind a painting on the wall. Half unnerved, half apathetic due to fatigue, I deduced it was a gecko. Another sits on the wall in the bathroom. He’s either not alive or just friendlier. I’m going to go with friendlier.

After a shower I settled down and explored the TV. I spent some time getting involved in a Thai soap opera before switching over to Voice TV – a channel I’d actually heard of because of watching Talking Thailand before on YouTube (a chat show spoken in a mix of Thai and English). However this particular show was all in Thai and I soon was struck with an overwhelming desire to sleep which I went with.

And here I am. It’s the next morning and I’m about to get my shorts on and find breakfast. My plan is to have a wander before I meet up with people from my school this afternoon for a bit of a show around.

It’s a sunny, hot day. Time to leave the comfort of my air conditioned room I guess!