Looks like this is the “Fantastic People from D.C.” day on Veritrope…

The International New York Times published a story on the continuing crisis of unexploded Vietnam War-era bombs in Laos – and which featured my friend, CHANNAPHA KHAMVONGSA.

Channapha founded an organization called Legacies of War over a decade ago to encourage the U.S. Government to clean up the dangerous weaponry it left behind in Southeast Asia. The scope of the ongoing risk – primarily to Lao children and farmers – remains enormous: One bomb disposal expert quoted in the piece says ‘In terms of the amount [of ordinance] still in the ground, Laos is worse than any other country I’ve seen’.

It’s taken incredible perseverance but, it seems, things are finally moving in the right direction. According to Thomas Fuller’s article, the annual United States spending on the removal of unexploded bombs in Laos has increased to $12 million this year (compared to $2.5 million a decade ago) – due in large measure to Channapha and her team’s efforts.

Legacies of War is exactly the kind of NGO that most people should want to support – A leader dedicated to achieving meaningful results… and a track record that demonstrates she can deliver. The article reminded me that I’m overdue to make another donation – and I hope you join me in kicking a little cash towards this very worthy cause.

This is a link post – You can visit the site mentioned by clicking the main link above (or just click here).

Pum Lefebure at ADFEST 2015 (Photo by Justin Lancy)

Pum Lefebure at ADFEST 2015 (Photo by Justin Lancy)

Earlier this month, I interviewed some of the design jury members for ADFEST 2015, an event which encourages–and awards–excellence in advertising across the Asia Pacific region. PUM LEFEBURE was one of my interview subjects: She and her husband Jake founded Design Army, a Washington D.C.-based creative consultancy, about 12 years ago and their clients include the Academy Awards, Adobe, GE, Disney, Bloomingdale’s, Ritz Carlton, Washington Ballet, Neenah, Smithsonian, and Lucasfilm. I felt like our conversation on good design, creative inspiration, and using your talent to develop a deeper purpose to your work would be of interest to Veritrope readers. Our transcript (slightly edited for length and clarity) is reprinted below the jump… hope you enjoy!

The truly human society is a learning society, where grandparents, parents, and children are students together. In a time of drastic change it is the learners who inherit the future. The learned usually find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists.
Eric Hoffer
Reflections on the Human Condition
So the unwanting soul sees what’s hidden, and the ever-wanting soul sees only what it wants.
Lao-Tzu
Tao Te Ching

A short note from me to you at the start of this New Year: I’m writing this under the bright light of a full moon so as not to disturb my sleeping wife. We’ve been having a lovely holiday in Myanmar since Christmas Eve (check out the photostream here) and have an early morning wake-up tomorrow to watch the sun rise over ruins of an ancient city called Bagan. Not a bad way to start a day, right?

Today, the 4th of January, is Myanmar’s independence day, commemorating when this country (then called ‘Burma’) broke free from Britain. I started this morning riding a shaky electric “E-Bike” along a very sandy, sawtooth-ragged road shoulder. As I wobbled along, the double-tap horns of passing motorbikes and swerving, speeding cars made the traffic feel much more like India than Thailand. I took a deep breath, clinched my jaw, and kept my eyes pointed straight ahead.

We eventually arrived at the nearly 1,000 year old Ananda Pagoda and wandered through the overflowing crowds of a festival which was sort of hybrid between a busy town market and a once-a-year county fair: Human-powered amusement park rides plastered, unaccountably, with the image of Johnny Depp-as-Captain Jack Sparrow, monks of every size, age, and description wandering amidst a backdrop of distorted electronic music playing through overdriven speakers and, everywhere, the smell of unfamiliar foods and spices in the air.

I spent the afternoon back at the hotel, recovering from how I spent my morning.

Bagan is an archeological treasure, the site of thousands of pagodas and religious monuments. Its breadth rivals Angkor Wat. We’ve had a beautiful time so far here in Myanmar and I thought I’d share it with you in case you needed an inspiring place to visit on this Earth or, you know, were wondering why I haven’t answered your email or been fixing AppleScripts inconveniently broken by some new app update.

Looking Ahead

Bagan is now at the center of Myanmar’s nascent rebirth as a tourist destination and, as a place which mixes history with new beginnings, is probably the perfect place to start 2015 and sort through this moment in my life when I feel a strong urge to take stock of where I’ve been – and where I really want to go.

2014 was another peripatetic year: It began in Luang Prabang, Laos and ended with fireworks over Inle Lake, here in Myanmar. In between–Thailand, Hong Kong, the U.S., the U.K., Italy, Switzerland, Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand, French Polynesia. In each place, Lauren and I found old friends or made new ones.

How lucky is that?

Moving around so much hasn’t made it easy to finish everything I’ve started, but I think – I hope – that all this travel has helped me begin to see myself and the work I want to do more clearly. More and more this year, I found myself thinking about how traditions and technologies can work together to make our lives feel fuller and make our world more humane.

Over the past couple of years, I’ve met so many people who use a pastiche of ideas and tools–old and new–to do their best work and build a future for themselves. It often leaves me feeling more curious than certain about how to get at my own best work… but I suppose that means that I’m exploring in the right places. I have some glimmers of the direction that this is taking me and I’m looking forward to sharing more with you here soon.

For now, I wanted to take this moment to thank you again for all of the kind support you’ve given me in 2014: Your personal notes, mentions, and donations make me feel so very grateful to have an opportunity to share a bit of myself with you.

The more I live, the more I understand what a rare and wonderful privilege this is.