Sunday, December 27, 2015

My Mug

Monastery Interior
A few weeks ago I found myself sitting in the monastery (above) in Taksindu, Nepal. We were witnessing a "sang" ceremony which helps us remove obstacles in life. It was a powerful experience to observe something like this at all, but then something over-the-top happened.

Throughout the ceremony everyone's tea would get refilled (this constant refill ritual knows no bounds apparently). At one point one of the monks just in front of me left his place on the bench to go make the tea rounds, and that's when I saw it; the exact same mug I had used for tea everyday in the office at Gnip (my old company).

There's nothing fancy about the mug itself; it's a cheap "Made in China" thing. A friend gave it to me about a decade ago. I've seen a few of them over the years. I still have the mug, and it's gone through a few super-glue repairs, but I don't use it as much.

I'm still deciphering the meaning of it all. My mug, at an empty seat, in a Buddhist monastery, in a tiny mountain village, on the other side of the world in Nepal.

The Mug

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Sleeping Pills/Ambien

Coincidentally, many years ago, Ambien hit the market right when I started doing a fair amount of international travel for business. I was stoked. Sleeping in significant time-zone offsets from my home time-zone was obviously a challenge, and I'd always have a packed schedule the next day, so "sleep" was imperative. I saw an ad on TV for Ambien, and set out to my doctor's office for a small prescription.

International travel was changed forever for me. I could force my body to "sleep" when everyone else was sleeping in whatever locale I was in, and I could force my body "awake" during the daytime with tons of coffee. It worked pretty darn well. Of course I was far from settled or in-balance, but it was close enough and I could perform 90%+ during these bursts of tired travel.

Eventually I started using Ambien at home when I had big work-stuff to do "the next day" and couldn't afford a bad night of sleep. I didn't use it much at home, but for a few years, I used it say five nights per month. Luckily I was able to restrict it mostly to sleeping on the other side of the ocean.

I haven't been "working" in an operational sense for a year-and-a-half or so. The daily responsibilities that come with colleagues and running a business have fallen away. My international travel therefore has been all "pleasure" related, without critical meetings taking place "tomorrow."

I recently set out on a trip to Asia with a fresh Ambien prescription fill. I planned on my usual routine of popping 10mgs for the long-leg flight overseas, jamming on coffee, then spending the first several nights popping 10mgs to force my body into sleep submission. However, I realized I didn't have anything crucial on the other end, so skipped the pill on the flight, and just let my mind/body regulate sleep for me. I kept coffee in the mix throughout the trip, but I made it through the entire trip without using the sleeping pills. I also made it through re-entry in my home time-zone without them. The prescription I had filled, never got used. I thought it was so cool that I could do a big trip like that without jamming my sleep with a drug.

I've probably slept 150-200 nights with Ambien (or some random derivative/knock-off of it that the pharmacy decided to swap out on me). 75% of the time I used 10mg amounts, but often I would split the pill and do 5mg just to tip me over. My sleep challenges were around falling asleep, not staying asleep. I'd often heard about Ambien causing people to have weird dreams or to behave oddly the next day, but to my knowledge I only ever had a few, small, odd, brief, episodes during all that time. I didn't restrict any behavior while on Ambien. I drove cars the morning after. I drank alcohol alongside it. My perception was that everything was always just fine. I would wake up with a very minor "Ambien hangover," as people call it, that I just attributed to my mind and body being out of sync, rather than some side-effect of the drug.

Anyway, while the environmental shift of "no work" has probably been the impetus for my parting ways with it (not a luxury we all have), I have to say it felt great to do this last trip without taking it. While I was of course tired, my daily activities permitted me to power through with coffee, and go to bed when I wanted to at night. I didn't have client/customer/prospect/business dinner/drinking meetings that took me into the wee hours of the night.

If I start doing international business travel again, I strongly suspect I'll use it again in that context. It only makes sense.

That said, on the whole, your mind and body will eventually find a way to rest and sleep; with or without it.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Day In Pictures: Nepal Trek

As part of a broader visit to Nepal to help rebuild Chhulemu with the Himalayan Development Foundation, here's our crew during a five day trek to Dudh Kunda ("Milk Lake"). Sherpa Mountain Adventures got us there and back safely, and we had a ton of fun!

Chhiring Sherpa - our lead Sherpa, guide, and translator.
Kale Sherpa - associate Sherpa, guide. He also hosted us in Taksindu one night at his guest house/resort.
Mingmar Sherpa - Comedy relief and most experienced Sherpa on the trek.
Lara from Bainbridge, Washington. Fellow trekker and trooper who did the trek with a solid head-cold.
Keri from Denver. Fellow trekker.
Kate from L.A. Fellow trekker and photographer I learned a lot from.
Sonam Sherpa - Ball of energy 17-yr-old porter on the trek. He can carry more than you; always. Funny guy with lots of English.
Dawa Sherpa - A bit mysterious this guy. Later learned we were trading fresh incense for kerosene with him. He was randomly with us for the day.
Norbu Sherpa - Porter extrordinaire.

Chhiring Sherpa - Names get re-used a lot in Sherpa culture. This Chhiring was another porter on the trek.
Jangbu Sherpa - Our chef on the journey. Amazing what this guy can do with portable food and kerosene burners. Yum!
Db Pakhrin - Another porter. I nicknamed this guy "the beast." Any load. Any day. Any distance. No complaints.
Ashisa Rai - Happiest guy on the trek for sure. Acted as a porter for the trek.
Rabin Rai - Porter.
Yoman Rai - Porter. Jokester amongst the porters, but didn't engage with us directly much.
Prakash Rai - Kitchen assistant.
Kanchha Rai - Kitchen Assistant.
Pasang Sherpa - Kitchen assistant.
Laura. Another trekker and fellow Canon photog. Learned a lot and we shared lenses. She didn't want her picture taken on "the day" so I got it later.

Monday, December 14, 2015

I Hope This Isn't Our Virtual Reality Future.

In the context of our Virtual Reality future, three things have struck me over the past handful of years.

As a kid I imagined totally immersive gaming, wherein even your economics would play out in a virtual world (you would earn and spend totally virtually).

I quickly arrived at the conundrums and degradations that these following first two productions dive directly into; it's scary. The last bullet is a powerfully positive use.

  • Caprica TV Series. It was just a few years too ahead of its time. It's an incredibly well done depiction, in a pre-Battle Star Galactica realm, of our real-lives tied to our virtual lives.
  • Uncanny Valley short film. A more fictional documentary-like short film. Yikes.
  • New York Times VR. A month ago the Sunday Times delivered with Google Cardboard VR goggles, and links to several powerful stories to consume "virtually." A really powerful view into how storytelling/journalism can evolve if we get this right.
As with anything else, there will be strength, and weakness, in the proliferation of new tech and ideas. Fingers crossed this goes well.