It has been quite some time since my last post. The problem is that my computer died soon after our return from Muktinath making it more difficult to find access to write and post. After much testing and a slight hope that some magic tricks would bring it back to life, the dreaded folder with a question mark remained on my screen at startup. If you ever see this, 

…it’s time install a new hard drive.

The good news is that my friend Jim Easton was scheduled to come to Nepal for trekking so I ordered a new drive on line (something I’ve done for clients many times) and Jim graciously agree to pick it up at my house in Glenwood Springs and deliver it to Kathmandu. I’m happy to report that Jim and his friends (Nancy and Charlie) and family (Sister Susan) arrived yesterday. We met him at his Hotel in Boudha, visited and had a nice dinner. Afterward we dropped by his Hotel and took a taxi back to our place in Chobhar.


While I have successfully installed and formatted the disk, verifying it’s viability, I am now required to install an operating system. This would be an easier task at home where I have plenty of tools and computers at my finger tips.

Impermanence is an important remembrance within the teachings of the Buddha. One day we are happy and the next we are disappointed. One day we are alive and the next we have perished. One day we are healthy and the next we are sick. Each day, each moment is a fleeting thought in time. Things improve, things disintegrate, things are created and then destroyed. This is the meaning in the creation and dissolution of the great sand Mandalas in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. While we all know this, we resist and, understandably, do our best to avoid these realities. This is why a good backup is not only a good idea but a requirement. Only time stands between a new computer and a recycled one. So I am reminded.

Anyway, I intend to be up and running in the next few days with more tales of my travels. Please stay tuned.

Dream Travel

Joni and I are enjoying some time away from Kathmandu, traveling to Pokhara during the Dashain Holiday. While Dashain is a Hindu, not Buddhist holiday, our school is closed for a couple weeks. It seems that everything in Nepal is on the Dashain schedule during these 2 weeks. It feels a little like Christmas Holidays with people going home to be with family and friends, buying special gifts and giving thanks for what they have.
When we return, we will begin a new term. While we have only just begun our work, it is great to have time to experience another aspect of Nepal. There are many similarities between Pokhara and Kathmandu, but we are enjoying some stark differences. Most striking is that the traffic is 100 times more tolerable. Pokhara doesn’t have the jams and break neck passing and weaving that is constant in Kathmandu. The result is that I feel safe to walk down a side walk (they actually have sidewalks) and cross the street without taking my life in my own hands. The side street that we are staying on is even more relaxed – so much so that Joni and stroll down the middle of the street on occasion. One of the things that helps the pace and consistency of traffic is that the streets aren’t filled with potholes (and outright pits) so cars don’t have to navigate around things. I must admit that we are staying in a particularly touristy area of Pokhara (in the Lakeside area) so I can’t attest to the pace in other areas of Pokhara. Pokhara is definitely a large and busy city (Nepal’s second largest). It’s size was made real to us this morning when we climbed above the city to enjoy the Peace Pagoda.
It is hard to believe that we have been in Nepal almost 6 weeks now and “on the road” from Colorado for 2 months. In this time we’ve experienced an incredible amount of diversity and variation; people, language, landscape, accommodations, climate to name a few. There’s been variation from our routines in Colorado and an added level of variation between the places we visited since. There has been so much diversity that last night we both commented about how dreamlike this experience feels. You may have heard the expression “dream travel” or the “dream vacation”. I don’t think this is what those expressions are meant to convey but they certainly are apt for our current experience. Travel has put us in a state of mind that is akin to dreaming.
Traveling in our own culture, moving from place to place, meeting new people, negotiating unusual situations and environments can bring on this state of mind. Traveling in Europe increases another level. But when we were in England we had our language (most of it) in common with the people around us. The organization of services were also fairly familiar. While life there was a little surreal, traveling in Asia takes us to an even more ephemeral level.
Dreaming in sleep takes us into a realm where scenes changes rapidly and unexpectedly. Unless you are a skilled “lucid dreamer” you have no control over the experience. At the mercy of the stream of consciousness and the manifestations that appear, our emotions are on a roller coaster. While there are obvious differences between sleep and my “travel dream”, the extent and pace of novelty during travel significantly stretches my sense of reality. For example… In a matter of 72 hours I have been transported across Kathmandu by a former Tibetan Buddhist monk, passed through an area of town that I’ve never seen, stood in front of the Tribhuvan Airport drinking coffee while watching and listening to travelers from around the world, squeezed through airport security (that wasn’t all that secure), figured out how to negotiate my baggage and secure a seat on my plane, squeezed through another airport security portal (a little more secure), sat in a waiting room that felt more like a bus station than an airport boarding area, rode a bus across the tarmac to my flight, flew past the Himalayas and into Pokhara, found my hotel taxi driver (who thankfully had Joni’s name on a piece of cardboard), settled into new sleeping quarters, and negotiated my way around a new town to eat, shop, and visit local attractions (I’ll spare you some details).
In the lobby of our hotel where I am writing, there are 5 clocks showing the time in Germany, England, US, China and Nepal. It is 1:47 here in Pokhara. 11:20 in the US (must be Eastern Standard Time). In Colorado it is 2:00 am. Given that it’s the middle of the night in Glenwood Springs, perhaps I am just dreaming 🙂
Click on the link to view the Pokhara Album in Google Photos:

The Miss’s – Mississippi/Missouri

Joni, Mom and I are on our way back from Starkville, MS. We said goodbye to Hannah and the girls this morning as they went off to school and work. Lilly was excited to begin preschool at her new school. I found her singing and dancing in her playroom this morning, sunglasses on, watching the sun rise out the eastern window. It was a treat to find her performing for no one, with pure joy, unselfconscious. I hope she can enjoy that state of mind for a few years at least, perhaps a life time.

It was fun being in Mississippi with Kyle and Hannah and the girls though we didn’t do much more than eat, hang out, play, change diapers, nap, and chat. The big event was to paddle and swim in their community lake. With a paddle board and a boat with an electric motor, we enjoyed touring the lake and jumping in for a cool dip. This was a great remedy to the hot Mississippi heat.

Lilly had yet to begin school for the year so we had more time with her than anyone.

Having my mom with us added another warm dimension to our visit. There were a few moments when I took a mental picture of the 4 generations of “McGavock girls” around the table. As I get older I realize how precious these moments are and how quickly they pass.

The Mississippi interlude was a great respite from all the planning, plotting, bookwork and bookings we

have been doing. Nice to have the slow pace and time to catch up on some of the more minor details. I took time to organize and consolidate my computer files and finally to merge my user account onto Joni’s computer. We’ve decided that bringing one computer will be all we can carry in our luggage and all we need for our travels. It’s amazing how much weight a computer occupies in the totality of all things for travel. Given that we have an iPad and our iPhones we can definitely do without 2 computers. Turns out that it was relatively easy to replicate all my account information and applications onto Joni’s computer. I also had time to finish the instructions for maintaining our house that I had begun so long ago. Thanks to Google Docs and YouTube I was able to publish and update instructions with photos and movies. Hopefully, this will insure that our house is in tact and maintained upon our return.

Flash forward to Tuesday Aug. 15th …I failed to finish this entry the day I started it. Tonight we are in St. Louis, at the Holiday Inn, repacking our packs for the flight to London early in the morning. We’ll rise at 3:00 and catch the shuttle to the airport by 3:30.

The past week was full of hellos and goodbyes as we visited with my Missouri family. We managed to gather my brothers and wives at mom’s house for one evening and then caught some more time with them and friends at other gatherings. While the weather wasn’t cool in Colorado terms, Missouri was very pleasant for August; though my pregnant nieces would disagree 🙂

As the week progressed our list got smaller and smaller and we managed to cast off more and more of our belongings into storage while we consolidated the essentials for Nepal. It is quite the winnowing process, like a snake shedding it’s skin. I would go through piles of items, let them sit for a time and then decide, “I can live without that”, “They DO have shops in Nepal if I’m desperate”. The final product is 73 pounds of clothes, educational materials, electronics, camera equipment, and miscellany for me and 52 pounds for Joni. I’m certain that the camera equipment and electronics is what pushes me into the lead. Hopefully we have it well balanced between our carry-on and checked bags so that we don’t have to reshuffle at check in. I’ll tell you how that goes later.

It is an interesting moment, here on the perch of our long journey. It is impossible to know exactly what lies ahead, but I know it will be novel, sometimes difficult and exhausting, sometimes exhilarating, precious, and eye opening. Joni and I are determined to be patient with one another, though I know that may be difficult at times. We have a pact to go slow, and remind each other to be mindful of our environment; keeping our “stuff” safe and together.

Passports – check,   money – check,   baggage – check,   sense of humor – check.

It is an incredible privilege to be going on this trip. I hope that we find ways to benefit others as we soak up the diversity of this beautiful planet.


Choosing Tools – Part 2

tool is a device that can be used to produce an item or achieve a task, but that is not consumed in the process. Informally the word is also used to describe a procedure or process with a specific purpose. Tools that are used in particular fields or activities may have different designations such as InstrumentUtensilImplementMachine, or Apparatus. ~ Wikipedia

“Technology is anything that was invented after you were born.” ~ Alan Kay

Technology is so pervasive in our lives that it is nearly impossible to grasp. If we consider all the innovations within the time of human development, we would have to include fire, the wheel, and even culture itself. With a scope so large it becomes very difficult to summarize. As we consider present-day techniques (technology adoption), it is helpful to acknowledge this long history. The fact that we use the tools we have inherited and use in unconscious ways (tools, technology and methods of mental organization) is a testament to our ability to adapt. We are capable (required really) of adopting new tools and methods, use them and forget what and how we learned them. We also forget that we “stand on the shoulders of the giants” who developed these tools. Habits are just that; routines that we have committed to physical and mental memory. Behavior that comes “naturally”.

While this blog is devoted to a broad range of tools, this series of posts explores the “cutting edge” of technology; which requires effort, makes us uncomfortable and requires choice. I am interested in the influence that technology has in our lives. Old and young, business-women and house-husband, teacher, developer, grandparent, and small child. Whether we like it or not, we are pushed and pulled by technology. I want to understand the influence that technology, digital tools, has on us. It makes sense that understanding the irritations and benefits of digital tools can help us choose more wisely. That is the crux of my exploration.

Most familiar to me are the basic digital tools that help us communicate with each other and organize our interests and work. I admit I have drank from the fire hose of technology at times. Sometimes this force feeding has been required within the responsibilities of my job. Sometimes I’ve chosen to explore some new tool and sometimes I’ve simply gotten carried away.

Digital technology and it’s adoption can be informed by other (non-electronic) technologies and applications. There are diverse aptitudes and inclinations for tools of various kinds. The woman who can’t begin to use a computer may have mechanical aptitude, woodworking aptitude, horticultural aptitude, social aptitude. Remembering the arc of innovation that preceded the “digital revolution” can help us understand common threads between the development of digital and traditional tools. Familiar, traditional trades and tools shaped the people who designed the first computers. Familiarity with hand tools, art and craft were an asset to developing skill with digital tools, giving the developers confidence and a model of practice. While there may be many examples of people for whom one aptitude fails to inform the other, skill in one field can inform another. For example, I know a number of musicians that are incredibly versatile with technology. When I help someone understand their computer I try to employ their other skills in the process.

I began this series of posts with a quote from Kevin Kelly:
“I began this book with a quest for a method, an understanding at least, that would guide my choices in the technium. I needed a bigger view to enable me to choose technologies that would bless me with greater benefits and fewer demands.”

Kelly’s sentiment spoke to me, in part because I rely so heavily on technology in my work. More generally it speaks to my desire to find balance for myself and the people I support. My mental and physical health improve when I am observant and disciplined in my practices. Given the amount of time I spend with my computer, phone, camera and other devices, managing them well will improve my quality of life. As a bonus, managing my personal use can help me help others lead a more sane digital life. I must admit that observing others is a great source of entertainment and curiosity. While it is sometimes comical to watch people discuss and use their digital tools, it can be painful, even tragic. In this light, my hope is that my exploration of this topic will help me bring understanding and happiness to people as they make digital choices.

A favorite topic of dinner party discussion these days is technology. The conversation begins when someone comments about their new phone and how it helps or confuses them. Someone else offers advice or explains the alternative they prefer. Before long there is an eruption of opinion, emotion and advice on what is best, what is coming, or why one person hates or resists the incessant marketing and development of new technology. While the conversation is somewhat dependent upon the demographic of the group (and the amount of alcohol consumed) any and all social occasions will suffice; a wedding, holiday gathering, reunion, or coffee klatches. Technology adoption is a hot topic of conversation.

While adults (45 and above) are especially uneasy with the innovation around them, everyone feels the push of innovation; propelling us out of our comfort zone and into change. Whether we accept the challenge to adopt the latest technology or not, everyone accepts the trends and the difference between adoption among children and adults. While there are claims of a “digital divide” that separates older luddites from dialed-in youth, I believe these claims are exaggerated. Granted, our children and grandchildren are more willing to pick up the new method or tool. But this willingness does not often translate to insight and knowledge of the tool or trend. The affinity and willingness to adopt is more related to need, desire, lifestyle and priorities. Regardless of age, those who are willing (comfortable)  to “play” and experiment advance with more ease.

Technology adoption is more reliant on personal necessity than aptitude. One’s depth of understanding and knowledge of the mechanics of a tool is pushed by a need and is supported by various levels of curiosity and persistence to resolve the need. For example, if my daughter only responds when I send her a text message, I will either learn to text or be frustrated and live in isolation from her. Many adults have learned to text for just this reason. We adapt at various rates as the necessity and/or curiosity hits us. There is no question that our sense of competence with a tool may loom large but I find that desire can help us overcome such bias. As with the texting example, the desire to be in contact/communication with my daughter can be a powerful influence for overcoming my lack of aptitude. If my social status or connection revolves around a system of communication and I don’t adopt that method, I will miss the opportunity of association. What began as a tool for teenagers to connect instantly has evolved into a method of touching our children.

As we continue to explore the imperative to adopt and methods for choosing tools, it is useful to remember the old adage that “necessity is the mother of invention”. It is also the mother of adoption. In this case, the necessity for digital tools is the result of a desire to be connected with one another. While it is important to recognize the unintended consequences that it may have (Turkel, “Alone Together”) belonging is a predominate motivation for technology adoption.