Free Transcript Project – #13

Pushing Upstream – Episode 01 – St Louis Post Dispatch & DNA Testing

YouTube Channel : https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCRCr8a7XCdy164safAuDIOw

Host :
Twitter : @WinstonWolfe333
Steemit : https://steemit.com/@winstonwolfe


 

[INTRO MUSIC]

Winston Wolfe (Host) : My name is Winston Wolfe, and you’re listening to “Pushing Upstream”. I was born in 1979, in the midwest, and adopted eight days later. Now, at almost 39 years old I’ve begun the search for my birth family, and I started this podcast to document my experiences. I invite you to join me on my journey… Today is June 22nd, 2018. This is Episode #01. The day after I recorded the pilot Episode #00, there was an article that was posted by Kurt Erickson of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. [This] could not have come at a more perfect timing, in my opinion. The name of the article is “Long wait for adoptees seeking birth records in Missouri”. Essentially, whenever the law went into enactment on the 1st of January, for those over the age of 18, people were warned that the wait period could be between three to six months. However, it looks like – considering the number of requests they received; which they didn’t anticipate – apparently the wait time has actually been extended to nearly nine months. Now I personally have not been able to submit my form yet, [although] I stll plan to. But it looks like I’m going to need to plan for a wait period of probably up to about a year. Needless to day, this is a little disappointing. According to the article it looks like 848 people have been provided with either a copy of their original birth certificate, or notified that the agency dd not have a record on file for them. This is something I’m kind of worried about – not necessarily that they won’t have a record; that would be disappointing in and of itself. But also to find out that information may have been redacted. As I said in the previous episode, there is a form you can submit if you are a birth parent, if you decide you don’t want that information divulged. The way I understand that it works is [that] if both parents fill that form out the record is completely unavailable. If only one of them fills out that form, then essentially, you would get a record that has that information marked out. But to be honest, even if I’m not able to get any sort of document – anything that shows any information about either one of my birth parents – no matter what the outcome is going to be I plan on submitting it anyway, and basically planning for probably up to about a year to get anything back, as I said. In the meantime, however, there are plenty of other things I can be doing. I can be searching online. I can also submit my DNA – for example, through Ancestry.com, or through 23andMe.com. Since I released the pilot episode about four days ago I have joined all kinds of Facebook groups for people who are essentially “adopted and searching”. I know that’s actually the name of one of them. There are several different groups like this too, and I’m seeing stories popping up by the hour – from people who are getting results back, people who have had results and have tried contacting the people that it says they are connected to; both positive and negative. I’m seeing things where it almost seemed as if the birth families were simply waiting to be found, and accepted their long-lost child – [laughter] now an adult – with open arms. This is kind of what I’m hoping for maybe. Meanwhile, other people are finding it very difficult to contact their birth family – some of whom are saying things like, “We have come to terms with what we’ve done, and moved on, and we really don’t want to talk.” This is heartbreaking to me – [these] people who are on this journey of self-discovery, [to] find out where they came from, and to see what kind of people they came from, and are being rejected. I’m even seen cases where people are contacting half-siblings they never knew they even had, and are very easily able to talk to some of them, but whenever they try to talk to the actual birth parent [they’re] being rejected. Now, the thing with Ancestry.com – just to kind of talk about that for a minute. This is something I’m actually kind of excited about, because even if I don’t find anybody I can still get some information about my genetic health background, which is very important to me, and important for me for my son. But essentially, for about $100 [USD] from Ancestry.com you can order a DNA kit. It just comes with – to my knowledge – when you receive the kit it comes with a kind of tube, and you fill it up with some saliva and that’s it. You just sent it off and wait for about a month [or] two months, [or] something like that, for your results. [It’s the] same thing with 23andMe.com. Both of these services offer family genetic testing, [which basically will] show you who, genetically, you’re linked to, if the people that it says you’re linked to have decided to make it public, and make themselves able to be contacted. With 23andMe.com, however, not only do you get that, and not only – like [Ancestry.com] – do you get the ethnic background test — which, by the way, I understand should kind of be taken with a grain of salt, because it’s not perfect. But they also offer a service for $199 [USD], which provides that information, but also gives you your genetic health background. Like I said, this is important to me – for me and my son – because I know nothing about my genetic background, obviously, and my son only has half of the information that he needs – which is on his mother’s side, of course. Now granted, I’ve not really ever been terribly sick, aside from just the normal sicknesses people get on and off. [For example], I’ve never had to go spend the night in [a] hospital. I never had a surgery. I’ve never broken a bone. I don’t even wear glasses. But who’s to say that somewhere down on my birth father’s side they don’t have a history of early-40s heart attacks, or anything like that. I need to know what it is I’m up against. Of course, aside from being able to get those services, those two places – [Ancestry.com] and 23andMe.com – they also offer you the ability to download, essentially, the raw data on your DNA. Then once you’ve got that you can upload it to other databases that people upload that information to. For example, MyHeritage.com, GEDMatch.com, FTDNA – which is also [FamilyTreeDNA.com] – and [Promethease.com]. I understand that Promethease actually has a huge breakdown that they can give you on a lot of information about your DNA. I’m interested in submitting to all of these. You’ve got to set those trot lines. Another really useful resource I thought I found, actually, was on a website called AdoptionDatabase.Quickbase.com. I actually found that one by simply Googling “adoption database for Missouri”. That’s really it. There’s all kinds of listings. When you go in there – again, it’s going to be one of those things where it completely relies on the people you’re looking for having gone there and paid to make an entry. I think it’s like $10 [USD], and you can make an entry saying, for example, “I’m a birth mother, and I’m looking for an adoptee who was born on [this] date, in [this] county, in [this] city, in [this] state, on [this]…” you know, and “… you can tell at the hospital, [and] you can tell at the adoption agency that was involved ..” On that particular web site I found an entry that was very, very similar to mine – so much so that I thought, ‘You know what? Even though there’s this one piece of information, of all of the available information on this entry, that’s incorrect, I’m still going to take a look. I’m going to go ahead and see what I can find out.’ I’m going to talk about that, but not on this episode. But to sum up, essentially, everything on that entry that I found was on par with what I expected to find, except that the birthday was wrong. Now, I almost didn’t look at this entry, but then after reading article, after article, after article on advice for people who are on this journey, and on this search, in particular the one thing they said was, “Even if some information is incorrect, if your gut tells you that it’s worth looking into don’t pass it up. Look into it.” So I did, and again, I’m going to save that for a different episode, because that was an interesting experience. It was the first contact I made, and while it was a little bit of a letdown at the same time, I can’t help but wonder if this is not just kind of part of the process for a lot of people. I’m sure it is. I don’t have to really wonder. I’m sure that it is. I know that it is. [There’s] lots of “false positives”. [There’s] lots of getting not only your hopes up. but the person you’re contacting – getting their hopes up too – and having to apologize for that, and then wishing each other “better luck next time”. Now one thing that I will talk about [is that] in the last episode I mentioned several different things that I had wondered over the years. For example: Are they still alive? Are they looking for me? Have I met them and not even known it? That one in particular – that last one about having met them and not known it – there was something that happened to me about 18 years ago, when I worked at a camera store. There was a woman and her daughter – who must have been probably five years younger than me, or so – who came into the store looking for a camera for the young girl. So, of course, I helped these folks out, [showing] them a lot of the point-and-shoot cameras, and I think she might have been interested in one of the Olympus models. The more I was looking at her [I thought] to myself, ‘She could be my sister. This girl could be my sister. She looks like I’m looking into a mirror at a female version of myself.’ I can’t be the only person that’s had that experience, where they’re looking around at people and they find somebody and just kind of look them right in the face and go, ‘My god!’ You know? How do you approach that? How do you go, “Did you by chance have a child that you adopted out in 1979?” How do you drop that? [laughter] You don’t. [There’s] no socially acceptable way to just stumble into that conversation, like, “Nice weather, huh? Did you ever adopt a kid out?” [laughter]. It just doesn’t work that way. So I just had to kind of stand there, and I helped them just fine. I sold her a camera, but I never saw them again, to my knowledge. I just [have] never had that experience with anybody else – to look at somebody and go, ‘I wonder?’ You know, there’s enough similarities in physical appearance that ‘I wonder’. Now, of course, here we are in 2018 and it’s so easy to do a DNA test now, and throw that data into a database to see who links up to you. How much would that have cost 18 years ago? I don’t even know. [I was] probably pretty expensive. I don’t even think the technology was nearly up to par then as it is now – just as with, of course, any other technology – so we really do live in the future [laughter], so to speak. So yeah, that was a unique experience that I wasn’t sure how to describe, [and] I wasn’t sure how to share, over the years. It’s just been one of those things, but it is what it is. This afternoon, on one of the Facebook gourps that I’m a part of for adoptees who are searching, or family members looking for other family members, there was someone on here who wrote – as if they were speaking to their birth child – a post on their 40th birthday. Now I won’t read the whole thing, but I do want to read a couple of highlights, and I think you’ll like where this ended. She said, “You are 40 today. I don’t want to interrupt your life. I don’t want to upset you. I only want to know that you are okay. I was very young when you were born. I wanted to keep you, but couldn’t. The reasons seem trivial now – now that I’m older, and wiser, and not to naive. Do I blame my mother who told me I couldn’t come home if I brought you with me? No, I should have been braver. I should have been stronger. But I wanted you to have a life, a home, a family. Not what I had – a turmoil. You came early – very early. You only weighed one pound and fifteen ounces, but you were beautiful, you were a screamer, and you were mine. I always worried that you had health issues because you were so small. I hope not. I pray not. You are mine, so I know you are a fighter. so if you’re looking I am here. If you’re looking Im not ashamed. If you’re looking, you have family who know about you, who care about you, [and] who want to know you. If you are looking, find me.” Then further down she says, “I wrote you a letter that was supposed to be given to your adopted parents, but who knows if it was given to them. I’ve never kept you a secret, and anyone who knows me knows about you. I hope to meet you one day. I hope to be as much a part of your life as you will allow. I love you.” So I actually went ahead and responded to her, because as somebody in her birth daughter’s position, I think [that] for somebody who sounds so distaught over it – and no blame there – that maybe she could use a little perspective from somebody in our position. I told her, “I’m about two-and-a-half weeks away from being 39. Both of my wonderful adopted parents have passed away recently – dad four years ago, and mom just this past September. I remember thinking years ago that I would feel guilty for searching for my birth parents, because I didn’t want my adopted ones to believe that I was doing it to replace them, or because they weren’t good enough. But I remember one of the last things my mom said to me before she passed away – and keep in mind [that] she had kidney failure and faded into a coma before passing a few days later – was that she was sorry that she didn’t know more about who my birth parents were – or who my birth mother, in particular, was. But I somehow feel that it’s more respectful to them that I waited to embark on this search for my birth parents until now. At one point I’d made peace with not knowing. But now that I’ve got a little boy of my own I feel like I need to do it. I’ve got a non-identifying letter, that was given over to my adopted parents with me at the time of the adoption, as well as a stack of children’s books, a greeting card congratulating my parents on their new baby, and a ring that she wanted me to wear when I got older. Just because they are 40 I don’t think you should convince yourself that they don’t think about you, or that they’re not maybe trying to find you. I just began my search four days ago, and I’ve got some tasks ahead before I can even get a first wave of any useful information. If I can find her I just hope that my birth mother is as anxious to hear from me as you are of your daughter.” So there it is. As I continue on my search I’m learning a lot about other people, and I’m also finding that my story is pretty cut-and-dry, compared to a lot of the ones I’m seeing. For example, I’m finding a lot of people who aren’t adopted, but are doing DNA tests for trying to do family trees, or find out about their ethnic backgrounds a little bit deeper – and in my detail – and in the process they’re uncovering some pretty ugly family secrets. I can think of one instance where a brother and a sister both did a DNA test, and when the taste came back the brother only had half of the people connected to him as the sister did to her, but also had an entire list of people that they’d never heard of before. So essentially – for a lack of a better way to put it – it seems as though the mother in the situation may have been unfiathful. This is a huge secret that can just be blown wide open in a family, and [I have] to admit I’m grateful that that’s not something I’m worried about. I’m not connected to anybody, so everyone I find is going to be a surprise. My hope is that I’m not the secret. On the other hand, I need to go by what I originally said, which was, ‘No matter what the outcome, I want to do this.’ I can be tactful about it, [and] respectful. I get it. [Whenever] I talk about my letter – and I’ll read it, like I’ve said before; I’ll save that for another episode as well. I think you’ll find, like I did, that it seems that my birth parents were probably pretty young, [and] they weren’t ready. I get it. You know, adoption is a fantastic option. It beats the alternative. If you’re not going to keep a kid it beats the alternative. Like I said in the last episode, I’m grateful for the life I’ve had. I don’t know what it would have been had I not been adopted, so I’m not going to speculate, but I certainly have no complaints about the upbringing I got. By as I said, I think that’ll probably do it for this episode, and I’ll go ahead and kind of leave things where thy are right now. In the next episode I think I’d like to discuss the experience of making that first contact – doing the research, and ultimately how I came to the conclusion – before even making that contact – that I was probably not on the right trail. In the meantime, thank you again to all of my listeners. I enjoy recording these episodes and releasing them, and your feedback, of course, is important to me. In fact, I’ve created a new email address for you to send questions to if you want. That email address is : PushingUpstreamPodcast.Gmail.com. For those of you listeners out there who are on your own journeys, don’t give up. Never stop searching, no matter how discouraged you get, because ultimately you don’t know if the people you’re looking for are waiting to be found. But for now, that’s it for this episode. I hope you’ll join me in the next episode, and of course, thanks again for listening. We’ll see you next time…

 

[OUTRO MUSIC]

 

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Free Transcript Project – #12

Mixed Mental Arts #302: Don Mei

Episode Show Notes : http://mixedmentalarts.libsyn.com/ep-302-best-of-east-best-of-west-don-mei-enters-the-dojo

YouTube Channel : https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCV5uJg_7m89dZ-0rqhHT1Ww

Web Sites :
https://mixedmentalarts.online

https://meileaf.com

Host : Hunter Maats : https://twitter.com/huntermaats

Guest : Don Mei :
https://twitter.com/MEILEAF_Don

https://twitter.com/mei_leaf_tea

 


 

[INTRO MUSIC]

 

Bryan Callen : Welcome to “Mixed Mental Arts”. This is “Mixed Mental Arts”. Welcome to “Mixed Mental Arts”…

 

Hunter Maats : … and then just… and then just…

 

Bryan Callen : Welcome to “Mixed Mental Arts”. This is “Mixed Mental Arts”. Welcome to “Mixed Mental Arts”…

 

Hunter Maats : Hi! This is Hunter Maats, and I’m really excited for this next episode of “Mixed Mental Arts”, because Don Mei – today’s guest – is the perfect example of a phenomenon known as “Third Culture Kids”. These are kids who have parents from one culture, and then grew up in another culture, and they find that they belong to neither culture one, nor culture two, but have evolved a third culture of their own. That was a term that I was introduced to in college, and it really fit my own experience growing up. I’m sure that it fits the experience of many of you, and it certainly described Don. Don’s dad – as you’ll hear in this interview – was Chinese. Don’s mom was Swiss, and then he grew up in the UK. His whole life has been about the conversation back and forth between Eastern and Western culture, and specifically with medicine and tea. There have long been these two different traditions – Eastern and Western medicine, [and] Eastern and Western thought – and Don has been trying to figure out, his whole life, how to have the best of East and the best of West. So without further ado I give you Don Mei… Welcome to another episode of “Mixed Mental Arts”, and today is a real treat, because [as] much as we, sort of, “ape” and pretend to have some sort of Asian credentials, and have thoroughly appropriated most aspects of Asian culture, today we have somebody with real credentials there, Don Mei. Don is, pretty much – like if you were looking for a “poster child” for “Mixed Mental Arts”, and “idea sex” between cultures, it’s Don, because Don’s mom [was] Swiss, and Don’s dad [was] Chinese, and then they’ve been doing everything that we sort of showed up to in the last few years for about half century. Specifically, Don’s mom and dad started this bookshop in London, and they were really the first onés to bring Chinese Medicine into the West, and have been acting as a bridge between cultures ever since then, and then … well, we’ll get into Don’s full story, But, essentially, [really] that’s your life, Don, is being a bridge between these two cultures. Is that fair?

 

Don Mei : I think it’s fair. It certainly isn’t something that I considered from a young age [laughter]. It’s only kind of crept up on me a little bit. But I guess that’s just the way it is normally, isn’t it? You kind of are so used to your own culture, and your own background, that you don’t realize what’s different and what’s similar. So, yeah, it’s certainly something that I have kind of taken upon myself over the last five or six years, for sure.

 

Hunter : So, just so that people know your credentials, let’s run down that list that you’re going to be very uncomfortable with, right?

 

Don : [laughter]

 

Hunter : [Because] Don has this great video that sort of sums up his life story in 20 minutes. But you’re the head of the British-Chinese – or the Vice President of the British-Chinese Medicine Association, or something?

 

Don : Okay. Well, first and foremost, I’m [the] director of Mei Group. Mei Group is kind of a cluster of different companies [which are] all focused on the same area, which is this kind of bridge between East and West. It started, as you said, with my parents opening a book shop, just kind of disseminating Eastern ideas to the West. This was in the 1970s, you know, when everything was all about the “Little Red Book”, and [all] of the interesting things [coinciding] with Nixon’s travel to China, and all of the focus that then was placed upon Chinese Medicine, and that kind of morphed and evolved into Acumedic, and Acumedic [was] probably the first Chinese medical, clinical organization outside of Asia. So that’s been running. So I’m a director of a clinic – [a] Chinese [Medicine] clinic. Other things that we do are related to the politics of medicine. So, I’m chairman of the “Chinese Medical Council”. I’m also Vice-Chairman of the “World Federation Of Chinese Medicine Societies”, which sounds very grand…

 

Hunter : [It] sounds amazing! [laughter]

 

Don : [laughter] [I know], it sounds really good! It sounds really good, but in fact that probably takes up about naught point naught… naught… naught…one percent of my time…

 

Hunter : [laughter]

 

Don : … but it sounds great. [It’s] kind of high up there on the C.V. [laughter]. So there’s a lot that’s happening in the politics of medicine, trying to kind of look forward to [different] paradigms in medicine – integrative medicine. That’s a whole other subject. Then [the] tea, [with] Mei Leaf. [It] started off as “China life” [over ten years ago ] – but now it’s morphed into Mei Leaf – and that really is looking to do something very similar. So taking the idea of tea – which is [the] most consumed beverage, after water, in the world – and yet 99.9 percent of people outside of Asia – and I have to say, even people within Asia – kind of don’t really know that much about it. So, it kind of was a really good metaphorical subject, in a way, to describe how, culturally, we think we know something, yet we don’t – or there’s plenty more to learn. So tea is a really interesting [“point of context”] that we find kind of can lead you into medicine, and lead you into all these other aspects to try and explore.

 

Hunter Maats : So, we’ll get into tea, but my father always says that nobody learns their first language the right way. I think that’s very much the thing, is that when something like tea is such an essential part of your culture it’s just everywhere and it’s unconscious. You’ve never had to really reflect on it. You’re never had to think about it, and you’re never really had to understand it. I think that, you know, [there’s] a lot [of] similarity between our childhoods – you know, the experience of being “third culture kids” – where you’ve [picked up] all these ways of being from your mom, [and] these ways of being from your dad, [and] you’re then surrounded by an entirely third culture of living in England, and [you’re] violating norms in some places, things don’t make sense to you, and so you’re having to be very conscious, and intentional about everything, and really having to pick it apart and understand the deep structure.

 

Don : Mmm.

 

Hunter : So I think that’s the interesting thing, is that as I watched all of your videos – and Don has all these great videos for Mei Leaf – that just sort of break down all the aspects of sourcing great tea, the different types of tea, what we look for, [and] this special type of brewing that is practiced. I mean, apparently, in the West, we just boil the shit out of everything [laughter] …

 

Don : [laughter] …

 

Hunter : [and] destroy the flavor, which is certainly my experience of English vegetables…

 

Don : [laughter]

 

Hunter : … as opposed to Gong Fu brewing, which is the style which really brings out the flavors. But so, talk to us about your tea journey. [It is] this great point of contact. [How] did you go down that “rabbit hole” of tea?

 

Don : It started off purely as a practical thing. It wasn’t this kind of life quest that I embarked on. I don’t think you kind of choose those things. They just fall upon you. It started off simply with the idea that we have this medical clinic, and we are serving tea to our clients. Tea is the first Chinese herb, in many ways. So [out] of the Chinese medicinal herbs tea is the first one. [We thought], “Let’s just try to up the quality.” Because at the time we were just kind of [giving just] a little bit [of] lip service to tea. We were serving some kind of medium to low-grade green tea, [and] marketing it as proper, authentic Chinese tea. So I thought, “Let me go and explore [and] see what we can come up with in terms of finding a better product.” It was literally coming at it from a purely marketing product angle. Then I started to learn how much – because growing up in England, of course, I’m used to British tea, right; you know, the classic “Builder’s Brew”, and I thought I knew enough about tea to be able to research this. I very quickly discovered that there was a whole world out there that I had no idea about, and I think that the kind of inquisitive, Western – I would say – desire to understand and put something into a [discrete] box, kind of took over, and I wanted to try to figure it all out within like six months to a year, and here I am like 15 years later still figuring out that I can’t figure it out [laughter]. So it started off purely practical, and then just tasting my way through different teas, and having these little moments of revelation where I suddenly realized that this “rabbit hole” was extremely deep, and pleasurable as well, because it involved taste [and] it involved experience. You know, I love food [and] I love cooking. It’s one of those things [where] I do enjoy that whole aspect of it. So it was a really interesting bridge for me, because it meant that I could enjoy something but also stimulate [a] kind of understanding, and try to break something down, and try to understand “how” [and] “why”, and all the different questions. So it just lead me down this path, and I haven’t looked back.

 

Hunter : Yeah, so there are these very different ways that, I mean, something as simple as tea is experienced by very different ways, and on very different level by different cultures. So let’s talk about that “Builder’s Brew”, which is the quintessential English cup of tea, you know. Firstly, even just the way — we had Sara Rose on, who wrote “For All The Tea In China”.

 

Don : Oh yeah. Yeah.

 

Hunter : Even the way that the British got tea, you know, says everything about maybe how cultural contact should not be done. Right?

 

Don : [laughter]

 

Hunter : So I’d love to hear your encapsulation – your perspective on that story – and also, what is the Chinese perspective on Robert Fortune?

 

Don : I think it that [it still] continues, and I’ve certainly noticed it in the sense that when I started at least – or when I make contact with groups of producers, they’re very reticent to give information, [and] to give answers to questions – for various different reasons. [It’s] not only because they’re protective, but also [with] some of them they don’t know the answers. That’s a whole other discussion which we can get into, [in that] just the way that they look at things is very different to the way that I look at things, necessarily. So I think that that continues – that legacy. There’s a protective nature to the Chinese, especially their approach to giving information. Certainly, the history of tea in India, and the way that the East India Company, and Robert Fortune, took this incredible product that was being enjoyed, and was growing, and was considered this medicine, and this kind of luxurious product, and they turned it into a commodity. They turned it into a commodity through “choose reduction”, which is a marketing tool which is used all the time. You know, why give people 100 choices. They’re going to spend a certain amount of money. Instead, reduce the amount that you have to spend, produce one or two different types, you’ll still get the same income, and you’ve got less work and it maximizes your profit. They did that very well, but the problem is that now everybody – especially in the UK – just associates tea with strong, black Indian tea, and all of the myriad of complexity, flavors, [and] all of the enjoyment  – well, 99 percent of it – has just been drained out of tea. So a lot of the challenge that we have – or when we started Mei Leaf – is just starting to take those blinkers off people. In fact, I have to say that the UK market has probably been the most challenging market. When you compare [it] to the US, [and] when you compare it other parts of, [like Russia], or other parts of Europe, [they’re] much more willing and open to say, “We don’t know anything about tea.”, whereas the British mentality has definitely been one of “Oh, I know tea. It’s a British drink.” So it’s been very difficult to take those blinkers off, but certainly that’s a legacy from that approach to tea – the commoditization of – which happened, you know, many years ago.

 

Hunter : But not just the commoditization of tea, but Fortune snuck into China, pretended to be from China, and then stole all these plants [laughter].

 

Don : Yeah.

 

Hunter :  [Which] is a pattern that was repeated. You know, Brazilian rubber was stolen from Brazil and then grown in Southeast Asia. This was a pattern that was repeated again, and again, and again.

 

Don : Mmm.

 

Hunter : To be fair, I mean, the whole thing was that [there] was this massive market for tea, and the Chinese, at that time, wanted to control the market, and everything. [So], you know, it’s not a clean history… [laughter]

 

Don : No… no…no.

 

Hunter : .. and it certainly wasn’t done in a way that both parties parties felt good about what happened.

 

Don : I think that there was problems on both sides, as you said, but one of the end results of that is that the East Indian Company – [or] Robert Fortune – managed to steal the tea and the seeds, and enough information to produce a single type of tea decently. But because there wasn’t a proper cultural exchange going on it meant that, yeah, the choice became reduced, the quality reduced, and the understanding of tea really became isolated to the Chinese and the Japanese, and some of the Taiwanese, and the actual – predominantly the UK – started to appropriate this drink that they thought they knew everything about, when in fact they knew nothing about [it].

 

Hunter : Well, and that is cultural exchange writ large, because [cultural] transition is so slow, right?

 

Don : Mmm.

 

Hunter : Like, if you think about a child growing up in a culture, it takes them decades and decades to really internalize all of the cultural knowledge. So to think that you’re going to show up, grab some seeds and be like “Yeah!…

 

Don : Yeah.

 

Hunter : … I now have this thing nailed!” is massively naive.

 

Don : Absolutely.

 

Hunter : One of the stories that I think points this up – just sort of as a large, cultural pattern that plays out again – is in Joe Henrick’s “The Secret Of Our Success” there’s this story about the [maximalization] of corn. So the Spanish came in [and] they found this crop that existed, corn, and they were like, “Man! They eat a lot of this stuff. It grows well. Let’s bring this back to Europe.” Then they noticed that they did this weird thing where they would mix wood ash and burnt seashells in with their corn, and they were like, “That’s gross! Like that’s not even food. Why would you do that?”  Sure enough, then, there was a massive epidemic of pellagra in corn-growing regions, and it turned out that that wood ash was actually releasing the niacin, and actually had a functional component to it.

 

Don : Hmm.

 

Hunter : But, as you’re saying, the local farmers didn’t conceptually understand this. For them this was just a learned cultural practice. So these are basic challenges of just being human, and the way we transmit cultures, and very often these things – and I think this is going to be super-important for when we get into Chinese medicine – very often, you know, it comes down to what Jenny Aguilar calls “FEISTY” – “Face It, Evolution Is Smarter Than You”.

 

Don : [laughter]

 

Hunter : So evolution [can] evolve these very, very, very, very smart solutions that the people who are practicing those cultural practices have no conceptual understand of how, or why, it works.

 

Don : Absolutely.

 

Hunter : So you’ve got – and I mean it’s just such a great example that, of course, the British think they know everything. I mean, that doesn’t remind me of high school at all [laughter].

 

Don : [laughter]

 

Hunter : But so yeah, the “Builder’s Brew”. [With] the “Builder’s Brew” not only did they commoditize tea, but then tea serves this very specific function. [There’s] this massive industrial revolution in the UK, and it’s this very functional drink that is a caffeine delivery system that is designed to basically give people a little boost so that they can be productive [and] get back to work.

 

Don : Sure, and it replaced drinking weak alcohol at the time, you know? [It] was always better to not go to work slightly pissed, you know?

 

Hunter : [laughter]

 

Don : [laughter] So it kind of made sense at the time, and it’s still being used in that way throughout the world. But there’s a big difference between using something in that way, and then being able to still get all of those functional benefits – if not more functional benefits – when you have the true stuff – the really well-made stuff – and then being able to appreciate, you know, not just the flavor, but the aesthetics of the actual drink itself, which has been totally destroyed, right…

 

Hunter : [laughter]

 

Don : … by this kind of “soggy tea bag”, right? But, you know, and I don’t mean that in a kind of imperial, “beautiful women wearing costumes with pinkies in the air” kind of ceremonial aesthetics. I mean the actual symbolic aesthetics of, you know, taking time, rehydrating [the] leaf, extracting it, and then watching it as it kind of gives up all it’s flavor and then basically dies, you know, and basically kind of becomes water again. There’s a certain aesthetic which [is so] part of tea. When you go to tea-growing regions, and you visit these farmers, and these producers, and these tea-lovers, you can so see that that’s so [part] of their life story – [those] moments.

 

Hunter : Right.

 

Don : It’s [one] of the thing that makes tea so special, and the reason why it’s been so intrinsically linked with Buddhism, and intrinsically linked with meditation, and all of those things – without going too far down the kind of “woo-woo” kind of area, it’s all about the [fact] that there’s a real, beautiful symbolic nature with tea that has been lost, and I think that people are craving that kind of rediscovery, and hopefully we can all contribute to that.

 

Hunter : But I think [that] the point is that, [well], let’s go down the “woo-woo” area, because I think [that] so much of … I mean, listen, Western culture – as it is manifested in the age of industrialization – right…?

 

Don : Mmm!

 

Hunter : … is massively practical. It’s produced all of these material benefits, but that myopic focus on that – which is what Western atomism tends to do; to myopically focus on one thing – has created a profound spiritual emptiness.

 

Don : MmmHmm.

 

Hunter :  You know, there is – I mean, I read “Man’s Search For Meaning” as a teenager – and boy did that book resonate on some non-conscious, non-verbal level, because we don’t have that experience of, sort of, that strong cultural embeddedness that a lot of people have had. So, I think – especially for sort of “third culture kids” like you and me – we then have to cobble together this global culture that draws the best from all places, and can give us those sort of rich cultural moments. So let’s talk about… Okay, just to even give people an overview, right? [Obviously], China’s huge, and there are all these different regions that grow tea. So, from what I’ve even – you know, my very sort of superficial understanding – it seems like Yunnan [province] is the heart of tea growing in China. Is that fair, or no?

 

Don : Well, Yunnan is the historical heart of tea growing in China, because Yunnan is pretty much where… Okay, so they’re still digging up the archeology of tea [and] trying to figure out when it started, and there’s some, you know, tea rhizomes from thousands and thousands of years ago in certain areas of China. But Yunnan certainly seems to be the first province that really started to grow it [and] cultivate it, you know. These tended to be tribal people – mountain people – so not the Han Chinese, which make up 90 [to] 95 percent of the Chinese population, but much more kind of mountain people that really revered this land, and revered this plant. It’s interesting, because you have to question why they started to cultivate it. It’s in the same area as was cultivating opium at the time, [and] cultivating cannabis at the time. It’s certainly an area that’s well-known for cultivating psychoactive plants that [function] psycho-actively, but also can help them get their caffeine fix, etcetera. So the background – or the real history – of tea, seems to [have been] hijacked a little bit by the kind of “imperial Chinese”. This kind of, “This [is] a great [touristy] cultural heritage thing that we can put out.”, but [it] actually comes from a little bit more, kind of, earthier roots – [we can] put it. It’s a little bit [different] to how it’s portrayed often. I think that that’s something that a lot of people, now, in the West are rediscovering that, and finding that a much more attractive way to get into tea, rather than – as I said – the very kind of surface, ceremonial side of tea.

 

Hunter : Well, and so to talk to us about the people of Yunnan, [you] talk about “earthier”, right?

 

Don : MmmHmm.

 

Hunter : So, [it sounds] like [maybe] they’re agriculturalists, but there is maybe a little bit of sort of that more traditional sort of shamanism, or those sort of hunter-gatherer practices. Is that fair?

 

Don : Yeah. I mean, I think [that] on a very practical level it’s very far away from Beijing.

 

Hunter : Yeah.

 

Don : [laughter] it’s probably one of the [furthest] provinces – you know, one of them – and it’s very close to the borders of Burma, Laos, and Northern Thailand, and in many ways it shares a lot of kind of cultural similarities to those areas. If you go there you see [that] the architecture looks very Thai. It looks very Northern Thai compared to Chinese, and yeah, they have a very different cultural approach to their land, I think. This is what’s really interesting. When they go picking the tea [it’s] a pride, and it’s a beautiful thing to watch, and the way that they treat their tea afterwards, and the way that they drink their tea, is very, very abstract. [I think] this is one of the challenges [for] me coming to understand tea with my Western education – you know, [British] private school celebrating the kind of Western logic, [and] the kind of modular, atomized way of looking at truth, and all of those things – and even though I grew up in a half-Chinese family, where my father was continuously talking to me [laughter] about contradiction, and being accepting of contradiction, and [contradiction] actually being part of truth, and all of those things, which from my very Western upbringing – and Swiss mother – [laughter] found challenging. I would always argue with my father. We would have blazing arguments  – you know, polite, civilized arguments – but still, about truth, and I would always tell him that he was copping out. It was a lazy way that he was…

 

Hunter : Mmm.

 

Don :… you know, that [he] would be so accepting of contradiction, and not ask the difficult questions, and he wouldn’t try to isolate and find the truth…

 

Hunter : [laughter]

 

Don : … and that he was too able to just kind of hide behind these kind of nice abstract concepts that kind of allowed him to get away with stuff. You know? So I came at it from that point of view, and I came to try to understand tea from that point of view, and I think [that] over the more than a decade that I’ve now been doing it – and especially the last five or six years – I’ve totally [come] to really understand the wisdom in this approach, and in Yunnan province they are particularly like this. They will never give you a straight answer for anything.

 

Hunter : Yeah.

 

Don : You know, you ask them a question, and it’s like [to them] that trying to understand things, or trying to isolate “the reason”, or trying to focus on “the why”, is in itself a very childish abstraction. It’s kind of [like] they chuckle about it, like you know, “Oh, here he goes again.. the very rigid Western mind who wants to try to fix something.” In other parts of China it’s similar, but in Yunnan province , if you don’t accept and give in to that, you’re going to have a very frustrating time as a tea buyer. I know a lot of people who I teach – you know, when we do all of these videos to try and teach – they’re [desperately] trying to fix something…

 

Hunter : [laughter]

 

Don : . [laughter] and I have to [now] be the one to go, “No.. no…no. You have to understand that there’s a dialectic in everything”, and then I start to talk about Yin and Yang, and I start to talk about … and it just reminds me of, basically…

 

Hunter : Your childhood.

 

Don : .. my father, and the arguments that I [used to have with] him. Yeah, exactly. It’s funny how it comes back. But yeah, Yunnan province is, by far, the most [like] that. They’re so abstract. It’s all about relationships. [They] never want to isolate any one thing. “Why is it? Is it the cultivar? Is it the earth? Or is it the way you’ve processed it?” No, it’s everything. You know, and you can’t isolate anything, and that is … [I’m not necessarily] saying that that’s right versus wrong, because I think that’s way to simplistic. I think that both viewpoints have a purpose, and whatever work works. But their point-of-view is that if you try to fix it then you’re not understanding what tea is about.

 

Hunter : Right. So it’s the most holistic environment, where they’re really just seeing everything as harmonizing together, rather than trying to isolate the parts atomistically. [It’s so] funny, because as you talk about this, [this wasn’t] the pattern – obviously, not that particular cultural pattern – with my own childhood. But I just have often thought that, “Man! If we took some of these ideas and just gave them to me when I was 10, [laughter] my life would have been so much easier.” Like, I feel like if I could go back and give young Don a copy of Richard Nisbett’s “Geography of Thought” that like so many conversations would have gone so much better.

 

Don : Yeah.

 

Hunter : I mean, that cultural pattern is, I think, a really important one to draw out, because [there’s] that great story about when Nixon met with the Japanese Prime Minister. He says to the Japanese prime minister, “We’re really getting fucked on the Japanese textile exports. Can you dial them down?” Right? And the Japanese prime minister says something like, “This is a matter that we will have to look into seriously.”, or something like that. Nixon, with his very rigid, atomistic mindset like interprets that to mean, “Oh, so you’re going to cut them down?” Then, the Japanese prime minister doesn’t do that, because he can’t like just destroy jobs in his home country because it’s inconvenient for Nixon, and Nixon interprets this as [the] Japanese prime minister having fucked him over, like, “He lied to me!”.

 

Don : Hmm.

 

Hunter : “He misrepresented himself!”, and so supposedly, when Nixon and Kissinger then went to go open relationships with China they deliberately didn’t tell the Japanese – which to not tell the neighboring country, that you have good relationships with, that you’re doing something that major, is the ultimate afront.

 

Don : Hmm.

 

Hunter : [Yeah], so I think that – [and] this is something that I’ve been thinking about a lot – because certain people that I’ve had the pleasure of interacting with over the last year – are obsessed with logic as the “be-all and end-all” of reasoning, and that this is how we find truth, and there are a lot of problems with logic. One [is that] if you start at faulty assumptions you reach ridiculous conclusions that don’t correlate with reality and how things actually work, and the whole point is that the western mind – that atomistic mind – just loves to dissect everything into little pieces, put them in categories, and then insist that a particular thing is that category. So even, before this conversation, we were talking about tea, right?

 

Don : Mmm.

 

Hunter : The reason why it’s so hard for the British to understand tea is because they know tea, tea sits in this bucket of “beverage”, and it is this “builder’s brew” thing, and to conceptualize that there might be other ways of approaching tea, or that maybe tea is not just a beverage but [that] it’s a medicine, and fits in this entirely different bucket, is like incredibly hard for them to grasp because they have such a clear, rigid idea of tea.

 

Don : Yeah. I think it [boils down] to the power of perspective in any ways. You know, one of the things that my father always used to say to me is, “Okay, so how do you paint an elephant?… [If] you had to paint an elephant, what would you do?… Would you just create its silhouette – a nice little outline with the trunk..?”, and you know, “.. or would you go really close, and would you look at the skin, and would you look at the texture?” You know, “How close would you go, [or] how far away?” So, just on the basic idea that, you know, truth us changeable depending on where you’re standing. Then he would take [to saying], “Well, and that’s just drawing. What about the smell, the sound, [and] the touch of the elephant? What about all of those aspects? How would you describe those things?”  Then he would say, “… and you’ve taken it out of its environment. Now put it in an environment. Now describe it. How does that change it? Do you put it in front of a sunset? Do you put it in front of a…?” You know, “How does it change? Then think about you, and how you are affecting the reality of that elephant.” Right? “Then, if you were then to describe the truth of an elephant to somebody, how far would you go? What would you talk about? And not only that, but whatever you choose to talk about – so let’s say you described it as this big, hulking beast of an animal, that would give off a very different impression to talking about it as this docile, vegetable-eating… and so your [communication] actually changes the reality in other people’s minds of what that elephant is, and therefore, their reaction to potentially meeting that elephant is going to be different, and it’s going to affect how that elephant reacts. Because if you go to that elephant scared that it’s this big, hulking beast of an animal then there will be an interaction that may lead to defensiveness, or whatever…”  So the whole idea was that you can take a very simple thing, like, “What is an elephant?” and you can turn it into this massive, you know, very, very expansive area, and the truth is in all of those things, and it’s all about depending on what you want to get out of it. I think that that’s [kind of] what I have learned in my exploration of tea, is I constantly ask the question of “Why?” to these producers, [laughter] and the answer always seems to be, “Because it works.”

 

Hunter : Yeah.

 

Don : You know? [laughter] It’s as simple as that to them. It’s like, “I don’t need to be drawn into that discussion. That’s not important to me.”

 

Hunter : Mmm.

 

Don : You know, “That’s an abstraction. It’s a nice little abstraction, [and] you can occupy your mind with it, but at the end of the day this is what works, and we will try different things, and if that works then we’ll try other things.” It’s purely experiential, and it’s purely just through time, and experience, and wisdom  – versus, kind of, analytical truth. It’s a whole different way of looking at things.

 

Hunter : Yeah, and I think that’s – [I mean], I can absolutely relate to that, and it’s amazing how often elephants come up on this podcast.

 

Don : Oh really? [laughter]  

 

Hunter : Yeah. There’s a real [abundance] of elephants.

 

Don : [laughter]

 

Hunter : John Heidt has this metaphor for the human mind as a rider and an elephant. The elephant is the large, sort of, lumbering, emotional brain, and then the rider is the reflective brain – the slow thinker..

 

Don : Right.

 

Hunter : … who can sort of nudge the elephant over time. Then the other one is the “blind man and the elephant”, that story.

 

Don : Sure.

 

Hunter : So, you know, [I just] think we should just embrace the elephant as the symbol of [“Mixed Mental Arts”].

 

Don : [laughter]

 

Hunter : But [it’s interesting] that you say that, as well, about elephants, because I was in [South Africa] a few months ago, and [again], like my conception of elephant is “Babar”. Like, essentially – and maybe certain types of chocolate bar that like, in the 90s, tried to make wildlife accessible to children in England. Then, [it’s very upsetting], because you start talking to these game wardens, and they say, “You know, elephants are a huge part of the ecosystem. They turn up all these trees. They [have] this role of almost – not pollinator – but like tiller of the land.” and you’re like, “Oh, that’s cool! Elephants are providing a useful role.” and they’re like, “In South Africa we have, actually, an overabundance of elephants, because we can’t cull them, and because they can’t wander across the borders to other countries. So they’re actually destroying the land, because they’re at too high of a density.” Of course, you know, like I’ve done this enough that I don’t just like freak out and get super triggered, but there was a little bit of like, “You’re threatening my conception fo the elephant here!”

 

Don : [laughter]

 

Hunter : “You’re saying that “Babar” is a problem, guys, and I don’t like that. Like, “Babar” is a good guy, and you’re saying that “Babar” makes problems.” So I think that [it’s] very clear that your father was a very wise man, but I think that – based on the sort of education that we received in the West – it becomes very hard for us to conceptualize that sort of dialectic, contextual way of thinking, and it just seems sort of very frustrating…

 

Don : Yeah.

 

Hunter : … because it’s like, “It’s an elephant! You’re overcomplicating this! I don’t like you! Go away! Shut up, dad!”

 

Don : [laughter]

 

Hunter : Then likewise, [with] you talking to these farmers in Yunnan, there’s obviously real value to just experiencing it, but there is value to being able to understand the parts of it…

 

Don : Mmm.

 

Hunter : … and to being able to sort of have a slightly more reflective, and intentional, understanding…

 

Don : Mmm.  

 

Hunter : … because i think [that] one of the problems with cultural transmission is that what can happen is that [if] you don’t understand what the “secret sauce” of the culture is then you can end up messing up that “secret sauce” and then being unable to reconstruct it.

 

Don : Mmm.

 

Hunter : So [you’re] in Yunnan, and [it] helps a lot to have it in the context of sort of : Burma, Northern Thailand, Laos… even, why are we calling it “Burma”?  Like, shouldn’t we be calling it “Myanmar”? Are we such British imperialists that…

 

Don : Yeah. [laughter]

 

Hunter : Yeah, so “Myanmar” [is pretty] sort of jungly, wet, [and] humid – that sort of terroir?

 

Don : Yeah. Yeah. Absolutely.

 

Hunter : Then what sort of teas? [What sort] of varietals are they producing? Are we talking about Oolongs? Are we talking about…? Oh, there’s a lot of Puerh there. What is Puerh? Tell us about Puerh.

 

Don : Okay. Puerh kind of falls under a weird little category of tea. There’s green tea, there’s white tea, there’s Oolong tea, there’s yellow tea, [and] there’s black tea. All of them are pretty clearly defined in terms of process. It’s got nothing to do with the actual plant. It’s got to do with the processing that defines the type of tea, although of course there are some varieties of tea plant that are more suited to white tea, more suited to black tea, etcetera. Yunnan produces black tea [and] it produces white tea, but it’s very famous for Puerh tea. Now Puerh tea is kind of a tea which starts its life as a kind of quasi-green tea, and then ages over time and changes. [It’s] a little bit more complicated to define, but in its very strict sense it’s a tea which is made through low-heating and sun-drying. What that does is when you don’t heat the leaf up in the same way that you would heat up a green tea – [or] Oolong tea – [to over] 250 degrees Celsius, if you kind of just heat it a little bit you slow down all of the enzymatic actions, and all of the kind of microbial actions that are happening, but you don’t kill it off You don’t stop it, and you don’t fix it. So the tea kind of stays alive, and continuously changes, essentially. This is why you get people who will age their tea for 20, 30 years, [or] 40 years, because it will change over time. There’s a delight – and I guess, a passion – for this kind of tea which is forever in flux. It’s never going to be the same. It’s always changing. Every day is going to be different. [When] people start to get into tea, I think by definition, they need to appreciate and celebrate flux in general, because no tea is ever the same. But especially with Puerh, just literally, it’s continuously changing in front of you, and it’s very, very wild. It’s produced from tea trees which are – even though there is plantation Puerh  – in general, the historical, traditional, Puerh comes from these kind of semi-wild tea forests, where the tea plants are allowed to just grow freely into trees, and that means that they’ve got very deep, long roots, which [means] that they can reach kind of layers of soil that plantation teas can’t reach, and it means that the leaf just seems to have a lot more going on. Now, whether or not that be certain chemicals [or] minerals, these are the “whys” that I’m continuously trying to find out , but certainly, these semi-wild, or wild, tea forests produce the highest quality in terms of flavor and effect. It tends to be something that people who get into tea become quite obsessed with. So there will be “tea lovers” and then there’s “Puerh addicts”, you know? [laughter] The Puerh people are very, very obsessive about finding [good tea]. It’s always changing, [with] lots of different mountainous regions [and] hundreds of different villages all producing their own types, so it gets very complex. It’s a whole area that you can explore.

 

Hunter : Really, [Puerh] has sort of blown up in the last decade or so, and there are now people who are spending outrageous amounts of money on Puerh, right? I mean, what sort of numbers are we talking about?

 

Don : Oh, [you] could spend, easily, $10,000 [USD] on a 500 gram cake, or a 400 gram cake – something like that.

 

Hunter : Yeah. Okay, so we’re got Puerh, [which are] these plants growing in the wild, and then also it [basically] sounds like – to simplify this down – like it’s unpasteurized tea. So because you’re not really heating it up very hot the bacteria are allowed to keep working on it, and it’s allowed to mature over these 20 or 30 years, and so it reaches this much more satisfying [and] much more complex flavor.

 

Don : Yeah. That’s a good way of looking at it. Yeah.

 

Hunter : Yeah. So then [that’s] just Yunnan, right? What are some of the other tea-growing regions that we’re looking at?

 

Don : So around Yunnan you’ve got Hu Nun, you’ve got Guang Xi, [and] you’ve got Si Chuan. [This is] very traditional, so that more western part of China – central to western – are very, very traditional, and then you’ve got the east coast. You’ve got Zhe Jiang province, and you’ve got Fu Jian province. Fu Jian province is very, very well-known. But those areas tend to produce a little bit more – [let’s] call them “refined”, for want of a better word – “refined tea. [They’re] less raw, unpasteurized, [and] much more kind of about precision and elegance. So you get this different culture even within China, and it’s expressed very clearly through the tea. Then, if you hop across the ocean, [you] can see, in Japan, how their culture has affected the way that they produce tea, and the Taiwanese produce their own tea. It’s really interesting how tea is a fascinating market [as a kind of] looking glass at the culture of the area. So, for example, in Japan they’ve actually gone down a little bit more of the wise and technical aspects of the tea production, and they’ve kind of made almost like a production line approach to tea, where they’ve isolated each stage in the production, and they’ve really dug deep into the numbers, and figured out : What’s the right temperature? How long to steam it for? What’s the right shaking time? … and it has produced an incredibly consistent quality tea – very high quality, consistent quality. That’s why Japanese tea is so celebrated around the world, because you [kind of] know that when you buy Japanese tea it’s very unlikely that you’re going to get a dud.

 

Hunter : Yeah.

 

Don : It’s very unlikely. However, the problem with that is [that] it’s taken away all of the flexibility from the system. So now you’re in a situation where the Japanese are starting to lose the wisdom of how this all came about, and you’re getting generations of Japanese tea producers, and tea farmers, that only know how to work the machines, and only know how to work the parameters that they’ve been set, and they’ve built these entire warehouses with all the machinery in place, and then there’s the kind of annoying foreigner, like me, who comes over and says, “You know? Why don’t you try something different? Because you’re tea sales are dropping, because you’re not exciting people anymore. So let’s try something else. Why don’t you try making some Oolong teas?” [It’s] very difficult to break out of that rigidity, because they’ve set themselves up with these parameters. From the Chinese point of view it’s chaos, right? You’ve got people doing all these different things, not explaining why, [and] not caring why. Like, they’re just trying shit out, basically [laughter], and they come up with the most steller, incredible, small-batch teas, [and] you’re just like, “How did you do this? How can I recreate this?” They just kind of nod in their very classic way, and kind of nod and say phrases that are very frustrating like, “Oh, if I tell you everything you won’t come back and visit me.”

 

Hunter : [laughter]

 

Don : You know? [laughter] Those kinds of…

 

Hunter : [That’s] so funny.

 

Don : ‘It’s not about me withholding information. It’s just simply that I want to develop our relationship, [and] I want you to come back, and therefore I shouldn’t tell you everything.”

 

Hunter : Mmm.

 

Don : So you get the opposite, where you can get a lot of bad tea coming from China, but you can get this immaculate, incredible, quirky, crazy stuff which blows people away.

 

Hunter : But that’s also why we need Don, right? Because Don goes into China, and he sorts the “shit from the shinola”, “the wheat from the chaff”, [or] “the “tea gold” from the “tea junk””, and then brings back [the best] of China to Mei Leaf, right?

 

Don : I think that [the] ego in me wants to say “Yes.”

 

Hunter : [laughter]

 

Don : [laughter] But I think that the truth is much more about intention. I don’t expect that everybody is going to think that the stuff I bring back is all gold. What I’ve learned, in the 15 years of sourcing tea that I’ve been doing, is that the success comes from actually you loving it.

 

Hunter : Hmm.

 

Don : If I love it, [and] my intention is to express it authentically, then it tends to be a winner. The moment I overthink it, [and] try to think about what other people might want, that’s when I fall into traps. So it’s not black and white, you know? Some people might love a certain tea [while] I hate it, but it’s simply about me coming at it with the best intention, and being very authentic about it. It’s interesting, because when you come at it from that angle you seem to stop asking the questions a little bit more. What’s interesting is, then, the relationships that you build with [the] producers tends to improve.

 

Hunter : MmmHmm.

 

Don : because you’re not trying to back them into a corner all the time, saying, “Why?..Why?…Why? You need to explain this to me, otherwise I can’t sell it.” So when the relationships improve they pull out the better tea [laughter]. So suddenly a whole different cupboard opens, and suddenly you’re tasting different stuff.

 

Hunter : Well, and not only [that, but] the other thing that also helps the relationship improve is drinking alcohol, right? Like there’s [some] great videos of you going out there, and so much of what opens “the doors “tea-ception”” is the fact that you got drunk with them, you ate with them, you hung out with them, [and] now they feel like you have a relationship, and it’s not a purely commercial venture for them. Like they have poured their heart and soul into this tea, and they want to share it with someone who’s really going to appreciate it, and cherish it in the same way that they and their families would.

 

Don : Yeah, and everybody knows [that] when you do business in China that sharing a meal is the essential part of any kind of business deal. But you’re absolutely right. [If] you [extrapolate] out this whole idea of “holistic versus individual”, [or] this kind of “atomized versus patterned”, it really is, in China, [that] the relationships are number one. You know? If the relationship is broken, or it’s not a positive relationship, then [there’s] no point in doing any business at all. The way that they figure that out is by getting you drunk [laughter]. You know? Let’s get him pissed…

 

Hunter : [laughter]

 

Don : … to the point where he can’t stand anymore. Then we’ll find out what he’s like, and then the next day the deals can be done. Also, you know, what’s his capacity to eat weird and wonderful foods? [I’m sure] that a lot of the time they don’t eat half the stuff that they put in front of my face, but they want to make sure that I’m down with it…

 

Hunter : Yeah.

 

Don : … and that I’m prepared to eat it. Then they feel [like], “Okay. He’s prepared to eat ant larvae, and elephant skin. We’re good.” You know? [laughter]

 

Hunter : In general, “fucking with the foreigner” is a universally appreciated pastime in every culture.

 

Don : Yeah, [laughter] and I totally embrace that. I totally embrace that.

 

Hunter : [Specifically], like, I appreciated that, you know, they – because, I mean, this is also one of those universal cultural things, is that everybody does a toast with you, and so the result is that everybody does one toast, [but] you do ten toasts.

 

Don : Yeah.

 

Hunter : So you’re ten drink in, [and] they’re one drink in…

 

Don : Yeah.

 

Hunter : … and that’s really how they fuck you up.

 

Don : Oh, there’s no illusion of fairness.

 

Hunter : [laughter]

 

Don : [laughter] There’s no argument here. I mean, everyone knows that they’re being totally unfair to you, but you just have to go with it. As I said, it’s all about them trying to understand your intention, I think.

 

Hunter : Right.

 

Don : Is your intention coming at it from really trying to appreciate and understand this product that they are [making]? Or is it simply that you want to sell something? You know? So once they understand that you’re happy to get drunk with them, act a fool, and you still love their tea, then things tend to get easier for you.

 

Hunter : Well, I think that’s the interesting thing, is that what you’re really talking about is that you’re trying to, [with] sort of the “Why…why…why?”, that interrogation, right?  You’re trying to open the box with a hammer, right?

 

Don : Yeah.

 

Hunter : [But] if you just establish a relationship with the farmer then he’ll give you the key. Right?

 

Don : Yeah, and a lot of the time, when you use the hammer, you start to tread very close to challenging their face, which we all know [that] in China is a big deal, right? It doesn’t matter if it’s true or not, you don’t challenge somebody and make them look like they don’t know. And a lot of the times – like we said before – this knowledge is just passed down, and there is no reason why. So the annoying foreigner commenting, and saying, “Well, you should understand why you do this, because otherwise, somehow, you are [not] taking your job seriously.” [That] is really dangerous, because that can just shut the door very, very quickly. So yeah, [I’ve] made mistakes in my sourcing – especially early on, and I still get very excited when I’m trying to understand something, and this whole debate, and questioning, comes in. But you’ve always got to check yourself, because a lot of time they don’t know. Or if they do know it’s going to come out in a very slow – over a few days. Suddenly – this tends to be what happens – the questions find their answers once you kind of build the relationship, and you start to see what’s going on. Part of [my] job, I think, is just observing, and then trying to make head or tail of it, and then testing to see whether or not… So, I am still kind of, in a very quiet way, following a western approach?

 

Hunter : Yeah.

 

Don : But it has to be done with the greatest kind of respect and understanding that this kind of pattern, and contextual way of looking at things, has lead to incredible tea, and lots of incredible things, so it’s not one or the other.

 

Hunter : Well, it’s the difference between speaker-driven and listener-driven communication, right? So, yeah, western communication tends to be speaker-driven, [like] “I’m going to ask the questions, [and] you’re going to give me answers.” I mean, even in this interview there is a certain amount of that sort of western communication. Whereas, in holistic cultures there tends to be much more listener-driven communications, where, you know, you [certainly] wouldn’t directly ask your boss a question, right? Like, your boss talks, and then you try and tease out his meaning, and that’s your job, right?

 

Don : MmmHmm.

 

Hunter : So [rather] than being very linear, like logic, where we start off, we set an objective, [like] we’re going to do a business transaction. Therefore, I now need to know this information, which I will extract from you about the terroir, about how it was grown, [and] how it was prepared, and all that sort of stuff, because I need it. Okay, now let’s talk about the a price. Now… dah…dah…dah…dah…dah…dah…dah…dah… and then we conclude the deal.[Compare this to] this very circular process of : we talk, we get drunk… and the westerner is like, “What the fuck are we doing here? I just want to buy tea. I don’t want to get drunk with you!” Right?

 

Don : [laughter]

 

Hunter : Then over the course of days we circle into ultimately doing business, but [we’ve] worked towards that. I mean, I think that the western mind… and this is something that I’ve sort of struggled with, and have been trying to conceptualize, is that [when] there’s talk about development in the West, so much of the narrative focuses on corruption, and that corruption in bad. [But] what we would call corruption – like doing things based on people that you have relationships with, is such a core part of how business is done in China, is done in the Middle East, [and] is done in most of the world, right?

 

Don : Mmm.

 

Hunter : I just [wonder] a lot about that in terms of development, whether we’re trying to impose sort of our narrative of corruption on this mechanism of Guan Xi, or “face”,  and whether… You know, [I mean], ultimately the goal is to create a society that delivers prosperity, and purpose, and all that. Does it always have to look the same way? Are there different paths? I don’t know.

 

Don : Yeah. I [bring] it back, again, to intention. [It’s] one of those things that you only discover people’s intentions through relationships. So deals aren’t done in black and white and paper. They’re done between people, and so if you need to get to know that person, and the relationship is fundamental to whether or not you do the deal, that could be a slippery slope for corruption, but it can also be a way of understanding the intention behind a deal. For example, I [was] in Chao Zhou, which is in South China, and I was looking for teaware. We went to this beautiful master clay [teapot] maker, and we’re talking about handmade teapots that are worth upwards of $200 [to] $300 [USD] dollars for a tiny 70 [milliliter] pot, or 100 [milliliter] pot. I found this pot that I fell in love with. [I] totally fell in love with [it]. [It was a] tiny little  pot, [which was] beautiful, [and] it had this tiniest little mark on it – this tiniest little indent on it, and the master refused to sell it to me. [He] just point-blank said, “I will not sell you that.” I said, “Look, I understand that there’s an error – or a mistake – or it’s imperfect there. But I don’t mind. It’s fine. I’m happy to pay for the pot. I love the pot.” He said, “No, no. I can’t do that. I cannot sell it to you.”, and I was like, “Well, we’re at an impasse here. You know? Because I want it. You’re not selling it to me. Like, you know that I love it. I’m not [questioning] your artistry, that you left this indent…” and he just – for about 45 minutes – it was just back and forth, and in the end I had to give up and walk out very, kind of, a bit sad that I’d missed out on this amazing pot. [Then] a day later the pot came to me, right? But what the master had done is he had given it to a friend of his [laughter]. [This] friend of his had been waiting for a pot to be made by the master for months, and it had been delayed. So the master said, “As an apology I’ll give you this inferior pot to hold you over, right?..”

 

Hunter : Mmm.

 

Don : “… until that pot [is ready].”, knowing full well that that person knew somebody else who knew me. So the master basically gave me the pot through three other people to get to me.

 

Hunter : [laughter]

 

Don : So that’s the really round-about way of doing something that seems – like to my mind – [it] should have been direct, but to him it’s like, “No, I need to protect all of this kind of contextual stuff. I need to protect my face, [and] I need to protect all of these things. So I’m going to give him the pot, but I’m going to do it in this roundabout way.” So yes, things take time, and relationships need to form, and [the] answers tend to come with a little bit more patience, and you eventually [laughter] kind of get there in the end, but it has to come from him understanding that I genuinely loved what he did.

 

Hunter : So beyond tea, [how] has this sort of journey over the last 15 years of sort of really understanding your father’s culture on a much more sort of primal, internalized level, how has that affected you?

 

Don : I think it’s affected me in all walks of life, in everything I do. [I] guess – [it’s not] like just the last five years, [or] ten years. I think that this has been a seed which has been growing ever since ever. Certainly, my father passing away in 2014, and putting me in the limelight – or the spotlight – of having to run these companies, and deal with Chinese medical doctors, and politicians, and this whole kind of world, which I was part of because I was working for 15 years with my father. So it wasn’t like I wasn’t [a] part. But it’s a very different thing when you are the person that everyone is looking to for direction, or answers. Certainly, that was a major catalyst of me trying to kind of figure out how I could walk a similar path, but iin my own shoes, right?

 

Hunter : MmmHmm.

 

Don : That involved me asking myself lots of questions, and dealing with this Western, kind of, analytically way of thinking, and not wanting to disregard it, because I think it’s extremely valuable, and [has helped me] a lot, in many different ways. But to find that integration – to be able to try to find that integration – [is] something that I continuously try to do, and it certainly has really shown itself in tea sourcing, but also just the politics of medicine, and [the] absurdity that I see on both sides of the ocean. [It’s] both on the very kind of pattern-based, kind of, quite [constructed] methodology of the Chinese medical traditional, to the very myopic, very absurd “drawing lines in the sand that don’t need to be there” world of medicine politics. So it’s kind of thrown me in. I’m in at the deep end, so it’s forced me to kind of really review that. Yeah, [and] that obviously filters into your personal life as well.

 

Hunter : Yeah, [and even] – [this] goes back to what your parents were doing, right? To be a bridge – and [the] thing that I really appreciated just from [the] video of your backstory – is the word “complementarity”, right? Like, with Eastern and Western approaches to things it’s not a about fetishising one or fetishising the other, and saying, “This one is the best!”

 

Don : Mmm.

 

Hunter : It’s really about what is the blend between them? How do you have that “bridge”? That’s a word you use a lot, Don, which I love, because the words I use a lot are “right?” and “you know?”, and “bridge” is an actual word rather than just “verbal garbage”. [laughter]

 

Don : [laughter]

 

Hunter : But, you know, it really is this promise of bridging East and West, and how can we get the best of both?

 

Don : Yeah.

 

Hunter : So yeah, let’s talk about Chinese medicine, and let’s talk about Western medicine, because you’ve found yourself in that intersection, and have seen sort of the problems of a myopic focus on one or the other. So what have you noticed? What have been the challenges in terms of moving ideas one way or the other?

 

Don : I think [what’s] surprised me the most – and I think that [my background] has not prepared me for this – [is] the level of entrenchment, the level of fundamentalism, [or] the level of dogma, that is on both sides. [People] are so entrenched – invisibly – in their kind of cultural heritage, that to try to kind of open eyes, or to try to have this meaningful dialogue – [not] just platitudes that kind of serve no purpose – but actual meaningful exchange. In order to find this other way, or these new paradigms of integrations where you can actually blend these different prospective ways of looking at things; these different medical approaches – which I absolutely 100 percent believe you can. Because seeing Chinese medicine in action for the last 30 years [of my] life with the clinic,  and also living in the West, really, honestly, it’s amazing when you start to look at the advice that these two areas of medicine are giving to their patients. When it evolves you start to see that there’s a major convergence – [a] huge convergence – and now we’re finally – in Western medicine, or in Western health – we are embracing lifestyle a lot more than we used to, right? We’re embracing the concept which seems very obvious, right? That nutrition is a very important thing for your health. [laughter]

 

Hunter : [laughter] What?! Don, what is this “woo-woo”  Eastern garbage that you’re peddling here?

 

Don : [laughter] I know!

 

Hunter : You mean I can’t just eat “Ho-Hos” all day and live forever? This is crazy.

 

Don : [laughter] But [the crazy] thing is that I will be sitting in meetings with agencies – medical healthcare agencies – and they will say things to me that make me want to bang my head against a wall, or look for the “hidden camera”. Because [I’m saying things like], “Look, Hippocrates said ‘Let food be thy medicine, and medicine by thy food.'” Like, we need to be giving people advice about nutrition in a much more meaningful way, you know? Rather than just, in Britain we have something called “five a day”.

 

Hunter : [laughter]

 

Don : That’s about as big as it gets, right? [laughter] “Have five a day”, and then they’re taking like really sugary juices and they’re saying, “[This is] one of your five a day.” You know, it’s just like the most nonsensical thing ever, and these people who are civil servants who [not] just enforce the law, but they guide the law when it comes to medicine. They’re saying things to me like, “No…no…no! The definition of food is that it doesn’t have a pharmacological effect on your body.”

 

Hunter : [laughter] … and because we’ve defined it that way, therefore, it can’t, right?

 

Don : Exactly!

 

Hunter : [laughter]

 

Don : I’m sitting there and going, “I don’t know how to actually like respond to that.” The level of absurdity makes me feel like I’m in another dimension, you know? Then they say to me, “Oh, and also, Don, the definition of food is [that] it cannot do you harm.”

 

Hunter : [laughter]

 

Don : So I’m sitting there going, “Okay, guys. How am I supposed to have a reasoned debate with you about nutrition, medicine, [and] healthcare, when you’re talking in a way which is [so] beyond anybody’s understanding of anything logical?” So yes, that’s what’s surprised me the most, is how willing people are to be entrenched in these ideas that seem very, very absurd. So yeah, I mean, that’s been surprising, for sure.

 

Hunter : [laughter] Well, [I think] the first thing is that culture binds and blinds, right?

 

Don : Mmm.

 

Hunter : You know, [one of] the analogies that we’re fond of in “Mixed Mental Arts” is that asking a human about culture is like asking a fish if it’s wet.

 

Don : Right.

 

Hunter : Like you’re wet, [but] you may not know it. [The point] is that it’s very much like the whole “builder’s tea” thing. Like, these guys are wet. They’ve internalized a whole culture, and they haven’t had the benefit that we’ve had of having to swim in different oceans. So the majority of humanity has never really known that it’s wet. I think that part of the thing that I’ve really realized in the last year is [that] I sort of naively assumed that people with a scientific education would know how wet they were. Like, that’s the point of science – to make you aware of your biases, [and] make you aware of all the things that you’ve internalized, so you can question them, and all of that sort of stuff. But what I’ve come to in the last year is that, you know, dealing with a westerner is no different than dealing with a farmer from Yunnan, or dealing with some guy from the hinterlands of Libya.

 

Don : Hmm.

 

Hunter : Like, you’ve blindly internalized your culture, you don’t know that you’ve blindly internalized your culture, and it is driving your thinking. It really is that problem of cultural arrogance, is that you look at all the cargo, and all of the material abundance that the West has accumulated, and so not only are you wet, but you just think that – [it’s] that hardcore naive realism – where you really just think that your view of the world is the best.

 

Don : Hmm.

 

Hunter : It’s that cultural chauvinism of like, ” Listen, we did the industrial revolution, [and] we invented science, [and] we cured all of these things. Don, who are you to come in here with this crazy “woo-woo” nonsense and try and tell me that Robinson’s juice drink is not a fruit or a vegetable.” [laughter]

 

Don : [laughter] Absolutely. That’s precisely what’s happening. You know?

 

Hunter : Yeah.

 

Don : It’s this blind [belief]. That’s, [I have] to say, [why] the “Mixed Mental Arts” platform is so fundamentally important, because as your [exploration] into this has no doubt shown you that it takes time to break that down, and it needs structure to break that down, and it needs continuous spotlights being shone in areas that you may feel uncomfortable being exposed to. So that’s essentially what I’m trying to do, not just to other people, but to myself as well, because I’m just as blind and bound as other people. I mean, maybe [I] have a [slightly] more diverse – [I’ve] swum in many oceans, perhaps – but we all carry it with us, and I think [that] exposing that is so fundamental. That’s why when I go to China I’m talking the same language to them, you know? I’m saying, “Look, you guys [are] so entrenched in historical, traditional constructs – [like] concepts of Chi, concepts of [the] “five elements, [and] concepts of the “Yin and Yang theory”. That’s not to say that they’re wrong. That’s not to say that they [have no] purpose or meaning, because absolutely they do, and we’ve seen the effects, and we’ve seen results. But you have to understand that these need to be modernized as well. [The language] is constantly in flux. The moment you fix the language you’re basically saying, “No more development [is] needed.” Right? It’s the same in western medicine, right? [They’ve had] incredible success at dealing with infectious diseases, yeah? [It’s] amazing. You know, how many billions of people have lived because of antibiotics, and the understanding of the microbes, and the ability to zoom-in, and the ability to use lenses, and the ability to focus on details. [It’s] incredible. But if you just then take that success [and say], “… therefore, everything else we do is right.” You know, [laughter] you’re not evolving, and more to the point – as you say – you’re not being scientific. This is the thing that winds me up the most – this kind of “skepticism” with a “k”, pseudoscience, you know, [and] all [these] kind of “trigger words” that people are throwing out at anything that potentially challenges the paradigm. [I mean], at the end of the day Chinese herbs is not such a difficult concept to understand, right? It’s a herb. You’re eating it.

 

Hunter : [laughter]

 

Don : It’s going to have an effect on your body. [I’m] not even asking you to believe in some vibrational whatever, you know?

 

Hunter : [laughter]

 

Don : I’m just saying [that] if you eat basil it’s going to have an effect. If you eat ginseng it’s going to have an effect. If you combine some plants together they’re going to have a synergistic effect. It’s really not that complicated. So [what’s] the opposition? Why are you being so like “anti” here? Is it because we’re using the words [like] “Chi”? Is it because we’re using concepts of energy, and life force, and all of this stuff? Fair enough. Get it. Understand those are your trigger words. But you have to also understand why those are your trigger words, and [what’s] the background that has lead those to be your trigger words? On the other side, the Chinese, and these Eastern [medicines] need to understand that they can’t just keep grinding their heels and saying, “Well, we have thousands of years of history!”

 

Hunter : [laughter]

 

Don : You know, [as if] that’s like the medal. It’s like, “Yes, good. Congratulations. You have had success over thousands of years, and you’ve built up this medicine experientially. [Those are] all good things, but we need to develop. If we are going to integrate we need to develop. We need to find this complementary approach.” So yeah, it’s on both ends of the spectrum. There’s [no point] in painting it black and white, and it certainly is the case that the Western way of looking at things has lead to incredible results. I have to say – as a little side story to this – the Chinese invented many, many things, right? But glass is not one of them, and the use of glass in Chinese history is very, very low. I mean, it’s superficial, and a lot of the reason why – there is a thinking, [although] I’m not sure how accurate it is – but there’s a thinking that the Chinese really focused on ceramics [and] metal work, and that tea is best consumed in ceramics, right? Whereas the Western drink of choice tended to be wine, which was best consumed in wine glass, and whether or not that lead to a bigger development in glass, and then lenses, and then the ability to look out, and [to] look into detail, [it] may be that tea played its part, actually, in this different way of thinking – the pattern versus the detail; the pattern versus the whole. You know, we don’t know, but it’s a kind of interesting area that China has very, very little experience with glass-making, and glass in general.

 

Hunter : Well, it’s not just glass. It’s also that atomistic mindset, right? It is that desire to – [and] this goes back to the Greeks – like the desire to break up, split up, categorize, [and] figure out all the parts. I hadn’t made that connection until this conversation, but infectious diseases are really the perfect problem for the Western mind, right?

 

Don : Absolutely! Yeah.

 

Hunter : You have to isolate the thing that is the problem, and you have to fucking kill it. Like that’s just what it comes down to.

 

Don : Yeah. [laughter]

 

Hunter : You have to sort through all the chemicals that are out there, and find the one that’s going to kill that thing without killing you.

 

Don : Yeah.

 

Hunter : It’s an ideal western problem, and one of the thing that Nisbett talks about in “The Geography of Thought” is the fact that surgery never appeared in China, right?  Because the body is so integrated, [and] it is so much a holistic thing, that why would you chop out a piece?

 

Don : Yeah.

 

Hunter : So again, like surgery is very much a Western thing to have invented, but in terms of these sort of rigid lines in the sand that don’t exist, there’s a guy out here, Tony Molina, and although Tony’s name is Molina, which is hispanic, right, [actually] a large part of his childhood was spent around his Korean friends and family. So my personal feeling… and he talks about sitting on the floor, and really being like, “This is so cool. This is a real community. I don’t have this. It’s such a great experience.” I think that he’s a very holistic thinker, and I just wonder how much that was picked up from his childhood. But his thing is… and he’s brought together all of these technologies that are basically designed to get the body to repair itself. You provide the targeted signals to the body, and it is these very modern approaches. Like for example, there’s this machine [called] “bio-density”. So if you send a person into space there’s no gravity, and therefore there’s no force on the bones, and so you get osteoporosis. So this provides, you know, you get on there, you generate a force, and then you’re signaling your osteoblasts to upregulate production and create that bone density.

 

Don : MmmHmm.

 

Hunter : It’s really effective. You can bring people in with osteopenia, and they do this for five minute [to] ten minutes a week, and you can see their bone density actually build, in measurable ways, on a DEXA scan. He has had – he and everybody else who’s promoting this stuff – a devil of a time moving this in the West. Of course, where has it had the best reception? China. They’re like, “Oh, duh! Of course! It’s all an integrated system”. Again and again, everything that he’s doing is basically about dealing with these imaginary lines that Western doctors have, where you go to a GP, you tell the GP you have back pain, the doctor sends you to a back specialist. [But] the only problem is that the real source of the back pain is that you actually don’t have range of motion in your foot, and so those forces are being transmitted up and manifesting in the back. The western doctor does a scan, sees a back problem – like there’s something that shows up on the X-ray – concludes surgery – because that’s what the west does – when really, you know, these much smaller fixes, in terms of foot motility, would actually fix the issue. So the damage that is done on both sides, just by sort of blindly running your cultural biases, is vast, right?

 

Don : Yeah,… [and] so you have, [in medicine, we’ve] lost the concept of proper triage – you know, the proper, “Let’s look at a problem, and let’s really take a step back from it, and really try to understand the whole environment that has lead to this problem, before we specialize. The specialization is a great thing, because it leads to expertise, and it leads to all of [the] improved – like the Japanese tea, right? It raises the overall standards [in] exactly the same way as tea. If I come in to a tea farmer’s house, and I try to specialize too quickly – to try [to get] them to answer very specific questions – then I oftentimes lose sight of actually the environment, and lose sight of the actual question that needs to be asked, right? [Like] if I sat and I kind of just observed for a while I would figure [it] out. That’s absolutely the case in medicine. It’s a specialization that’s happening far too quickly. It’s like, we had a Chinese doctor coming to speak with us once, and he kind of just gave a very simple example of mildew in the bathroom, right? If you have mildew in the bathroom you can find out what it is, you can find out what the microbe is, you can find the chemical, [and] you can kill it off, but really what’s causing the mildew – even though the cause of it is this microbe – it’s actually the [humid] environment that has caused it. So both are causes, right? But which is going to have the best long-term results: you spraying it every couple of months, or you figuring out a way to dehumidify your bathroom in some way [laughter]. You know? It’s a very simple idea, but that’s basically the difference in a nutshell.

 

Hunter : Yeah. The challenge for us, and a lot of what I think [building] this “Mixed Mental Arts” community of all of us who have sort of wrestled with this problem of culture, in one way or another, is to basically pool our insights, and to evolve tools so that we can all have these conversations better. That’s why we’re doing the “Mixed Mental Arts Belt System” as just sort of the nine basic concepts that are most important for like giving people the vocabulary, [because] I think that if you’re going to talk to some British civil servant about this sort of stuff I think, obviously, the compounding factor is [as] Upton Sinclair said, “It’s impossible to convince a man of something when his job depends on him not understanding it.”

 

Don : [laughter] Yeah.

 

Hunter : [That’s] the other compounding thing, but the more that we can get humanity to this idea… because I think [that] the difference is, Don, that you know that [culture] binds and blinds. Most people don’t even understand that, right? They might think, “Oh, yeah, culture binds and blinds other people.” But it’s really that when you understand that. So I think it’s, A, that, and the other thing that I think is super-important is [that] for people to be able to see this – and so we can all see this better, I think that, A, you know, humans learn by seeing example, example, example, and then they go to the general principle. So you and I have had lots, and lots, and lots of examples, examples, examples, and then we sort of accepted a lot of these general principles to live by. You have a totally different set of examples from the ones that Tony Molina has, or that I have, or that – a lot of what you’re saying, by the way, have you read Mark Schatzker’s “Dorito Effect”?

 

Don : No, I haven’t. No.

 

Hunter : Oh, see [this] is what I’m talking about [in saying] “pulling toolkits”, because that book is going to be give you so much of what really sounds like science to this British civil servant, where you can talk about food in ways that they’re really going to appreciate. So anyway, [I] think that’s the point, is that we all need to band together. [You know] it’s frustrating when you’re the one person trying to mediate these conflicts. [I mean], for me – in the last year – it’s been nice to know that I’m not alone, and that there is a community of people who think like this, who can help us all have these conversations better.

 

Don : Absolutely, and a growing community. I think that there are people that are searching for this, so [the] MMA platform is really important for that, because one place to send people is a much easier way than [laughter] trying to kind of like cobble together your own personal reading list. So yeah, pooling it is very important.

 

Hunter : Yup, and to that end, I [think] what’s great is, you know, [obviously] you’ve done so much of that pulling together – in terms of tea, in terms of Chinese medicine, [and] in terms of a lot of these things – and [with] Mei Leaf you’ve created a really great set of resources there for people to begin the journey towards becoming “teaheads”.

 

Don : [laughter]

 

Hunter : [We’ve] really only scratched the surface here. Like obviously, being a recovering “WEIRD” I’ve focused on Yunnan, and I’ve focused on Puerh, but we haven’t really gotten into : How do you brew tea, right? The “Gong Fu” brewing style. We haven’t really gotten into the teaware; like what are the cups, and what should we be using? But [I’m] excited to begin that journey, [and] I’m lucky to have a great guide in Don, who – although he’s too humble to ever say he [is] an expert – he’s been on the path for long enough that he can certainly point me to a few things that might help me in my own exploration.

 

Don : Thank you. Yeah, absolutely. [There are] so many more things to talk about, and as anybody who embarks on the “teahead” journey discovers, it’s a world of absolute acceptance of flux.

 

Hunter : [laughter]

 

Don : [laughter] Right? So get ready for everything I say to be contradicted in the next moment. I know you can handle that.

 

Hunter : Yup! [We’re] all going to have to handle that, because that’s the world that we live in. All the old certainties are gone.

 

Don : [laughter]

 

Hunter : [Also] , there are some people that I want to connect you with, because I think that there’s enough of that similarity. I think it would be great for you to talk to Tony Molina, it would be great for you to talk to Mark Schatzker, and I think you’d really appreciate talking to Jenny Aguilar. That’s really a big thing that we’re going to be doing in 2018, is trying to really facilitate “idea sex” where we bring together great, fun combinations, and just watch that exchange of ideas, back and forth, happen. So thanks so much for coming into the dojo, Don. I feel like we can now more comfortably use that term than maybe we could before…

 

Don : [laughter]

 

Hunter : .. [laughter] which is exciting. Plug yourself shamelessly. Where can everybody find everything that you do?

 

Don : The best place to go is search out our channel on YouTube – “Mei Leaf” ( https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCaHBABJFMRAtnKhQp2Cu5BQ ) – search for us on YouTube, and then you can begin your exploration into the world of tea. Just dip in [and] dip out. You’ll find things, I’m sure, that interest you. If you’re interested in Chinese medicine then Acumedic.com is the best place to go.

 

Hunter : Yeah, and I think – that’s the other thing, too – in terms of, as we start to help people realize they’re “wet”, [food and drink] is such a great first point of contact, because once you start to develop an appreciation for those things then it becomes much easier to get into the literature, or to get into the philosophy, or the spirituality, or the religion. So, in general, let’s shamelessly promote all the food and beverage, and maybe then people will realize that it’s not just food, [but] it’s also medicine. [laughter]

 

Don : Absolutely.

 

Hunter : All right. Take care Don.

 

Don : Thank you so much, Hunter. Take care.

 

Hunter : Bye.

 

Hunter : Well, that was Don Mei, and I was so inspired by that conversation with Don that I decided to create a special sub-group of “Mixed Mental Arts” called” “Mixed Medical Arts” where anybody who is interested in figuring out what a truly global medical system – that is the product of “idea sex” between Eastern medicine and Western medicine – would look like, can come, talk, share experiences, [and] figure out how to move these ideas both in the Eastern world and the Western world. So you can find that group, “Mixed Medical Arts” on Facebook, and there’s actually a very interesting new sub-group set up by our own Isaiah Gooley, “Mixed Musical Arts”. So if you’re interested in finding out about the music of different cultures, how they’ve blended, [and] how they’ve learned from each other, there’s that opportunity to go [to]. So thanks so much for listening, and remember, on Facebook : “Mixed Mental Arts”, “Mixed Medical Arts”, and “Mixed Music Arts” .

 

Announcer : I’d like to let you know how you can engage in “idea sex” with us by joining our online communities. If you’d like to help support us, please consider becoming a patron by visiting our Patreon page, where you can get access to behind-the-scenes content, early podcast episode releases, and much, much more. You can find our website at http://www.mixedmentalarts.online to sign up for our email newsletter. For Facebook users, you can find our Facebook page with the URL Facebook.com/MixedMentalArts . From there you can join our Facebook discussion group, or you can give us feedback about the podcast, or engage in discussions with our community members, including Hunter Maats. We also have a Reddit community at “R/MixedMentalArts”. Subscribe to our YouTube channel at YouTubecom/MixedMentalArts for video podcasts and weekly live streams, where you – the audience – have the ability to participate in our discussions. Last, but not least, please follow us on Twitter at “”@MixedMentalArts”, and [the same on] Instagram, to get our latest updates. Join the “Callenphate”, and replace that cognitive dissonance with some “cognitive coitus”. Thanks for listening.                                                                      

 

Free Transcript Project – #9

 

Morgan MacDonald : Hello. Welcome to the replay. I’m out in the world! I’m not in my office. This is really unusual for my Scopes. I am having a FUN Friday. I went and got my hair done, [and] when out for lunch, [and have been] doing some work while out and about, and I was like, “Well, I’ll be like the COOL Scopers. I’ll Scope with something SCENIC in the background.” Although there’s traffic in the background. I apologize. I hope that the little headset mic helps with that.

 

BlueSparkCol ( https://twitter.com/CourtneyOLIN ) : Nice color.

 

Morgan MacDonald : … Thanks Courtney. Yup, [it’s] “rocker chick red” right now. It fades after a couple of days, but this is what it looks like fresh out of the salon [laughter]… Yeah. So today we are talking [about] transcription,  because there are some really cool ways that you can use transcription in your WRITING and your BUSINESS.

 

So as you guys are coming in, say “Hi!”… Courtney is here, I know. Glad to have you… Other people, as you’re joining, let me know what you NAME is, where you’re from, [and] what you WRITE.. I love to talk about what you write, because people write the coolest stuff. I mean, I’ve got people in here who write travel blogs, [and] people who write dissertations on the World Trade Organization. I mean, you guys write about everything.

 

Carlos Ramirez ( https://twitter.com/caramirezga ) :Hola. Saludos desde Columbia.

 

Morgan MacDonald : … Hello from Columbia. Saludos…

 

Gilbert Maldonado ( https://twitter.com/gmaldonado59 ) : Hi. I’m Gilbert from Sugarland.

 

Morgan MacDonald : … Hi Gilbert from Sugarlane. Hey! You’re just like down the road [laughter] . I’m in Houston… [If you guys caught my Scope] yesterday I was reading my daughter’s first book, which she wrote. Well, my nanny helped her write it. It was in Spanish, and I was reading it in Spanish. ( http://katch.me/morgangmac/v/ba292fed-8a57-33a2-8c51-957e2674054f ) So if any of you actually speak Spanish I’m sure you were laughing at me. It’s still on the replay if you want to catch it. But it was a book about a monster eating a family, and my daughter did the illustration. It was funny.

   

Gilbert Maldonado ( https://twitter.com/gmaldonado59 ):  I do [live near Houston]

 

Morgan MacDonald : …You DO live near Houston? Well, very cool. If we ever have a Houston meetup we’ll get in touch… Alrighty guys. Are you ready to hear how transcription can help you in your writing and your business? I’ve got THREE ways I’d like to talk about today. The first is to help you get UNSTUCK in your writing…

 

…Oh, hold on. Pause. Wait a second. I’ve got to do the intro. You don’t even know who I am?  I am Morgan Gist MacDonald. I’m a writing coach, an editor, and author. I run my business and my blog out of http://www.paperravenbooks.com .

 

BlueSparkCol ( https://twitter.com/CourtneyOLIN ) : Haha.

 

Morgan MacDonald : …I know. I forget. Every day I’m like, “I’m on Periscope, and everybody knows me.” Yáll DO NOT necessarily know me [laughter] …. I DO Scope every day about writing, around the lunchtime hour, [to] give you guys a little writing inspiration, [and] some tools and tricks, then hopefully you can use [the rest of] your lunch hour to do some WRITING – or later [in the] day if you don’t have the LUXURY of a lunch hour.

 

All right. So back to transcription. If you find yourself staring at a blank page, and you’re like, “I need to write on this THING, and I don’t really know what to write, but I know that there’s something IN me that I’m trying to get out, but I’m STUCK.” Start TALKING.    

 

Gilbert Maldonado ( https://twitter.com/gmaldonado59 ) : I’m a musician, so this will help with my writing.

 

Morgan MacDonald : … Gilbert [says], “I’m a musician, so this will help with [my] writing.”… Yes. It’s interesting how different brains operate differently. So SOME of us want to use writing as a tool to GROW our platform, or BUSINESS, or whatever. But writing doesn’t necessarily come super NATURALLY. Some of us are writers, and it USUALLY comes naturally, but we still get stuck sometimes. So CHANGING the way in which you try to get the words out helps, and TALKING can often be that thing that dislodges the words. So once you start talking you’re just coming at the SAME concept from a different angle.

 

So what you can do is – [since] most Smartphones have a voice memo app – you can just start recording. Talk to YOURSELF. Explain to yourself WHY you’re having a hard time with this writing. Explain to yourself what it is that you’re REALLY trying to say. Just, kind of, talk it out in a really casual way, and you’ll find that if you give yourself at least five minutes with this “talking it out” [method] you will hit on a NUGGET. You will hit on an idea that you had not come upon before, and [now] you have it RECORDED.

 

So once you get to the point where you feel like, “Okay. I’ve, kind of, talked this through. I’ve got some good ideas.” Now that [you’ve] got it recorded, GO BACK and find those “Ah-hah!” moments, and listen to them AGAIN. [Then] type out the phrases that you were using. If there was something that really CAUGHT you, type those [few] words, and [try to figure out] why those [few] words [meant] so much to you?

 

KandyCoatedModel ( https://twitter.com/Kandyapple504 ) : Good tip.

 

Morgan MacDonald : …Thanks “KandyApple”. I appreciate it… So WHY do those [few] words mean something to you, and, kind of, UNPACK it. You’ll find that as you get a few [more] steps into the writing [the ideas] will come a little bit more, a little bit more, [and] a little bit more.

 

Gilbert Maldonado ( https://twitter.com/gmaldonado59 ) : Awesome.

 

Morgan MacDonald : … Yes, Gilbert. Awesome. You’re welcome… And if you guys are new to Periscope, if you like what you’re hearing just tap that screen, and that sends hearts up, and that lets me know that you are loving this. The comments do too. So comments and hearts are awesome. Thank you.

 

All right  So that’s tip number one : get unstuck… Oh, there are the hearts! Thanks… Okay. Number two : transcription helps you write FASTER. This is a trick that people are starting to use more and more, but it will be interesting to see how it changes the writing world. This is ESPECIALLY helpful if you’re on the GO a lot. If you’re not necessarily sitting right in front of your laptop or desktop for long periods of time, you can DICTATE blogs, or articles, or even CHAPTERS of a book, into a dictation SOFTWARE. Actually, I [take] Scope Notes, which are notes that I take during a Scope – or actually right BEFORE a Scope – so that YOU don’t HAVE to take notes, and I post them on my blog. I will tell you where those are in just a second… Thanks for all of those blue hearts [laughter] Gilbert. Thank you…

 

Okay. So you talk into a dictation software while you’re on the go. [In] that way you can capture those ideas as you’re going. And if you are a talker ANYWAY, this is a perfect way to get that content OUT, so that you can process it. Then – and this is important though – you have to set aside specific time LATER so that you can review the transcript that the dictation software gives you. So you’ll either have to EDIT, or RE-WRITE that transcript, BUT it gives you a HUGE step forward in your writing. When you sit down to write you’re not staring at a BLANK PAGE, you’re staring at some idea that you’ve already talked through, right? So that’s a really good way.

 

In my Scope Notes I give you some APPS that you can look at. Dragon Dictation is a really popular one for IOS, as is Voice Assistant, and then Evernote. If you follow me on YouTube you know that I LOVE Evernote. Evernote also has a dictation component.

 

BlueSparkCol ( https://twitter.com/CourtneyOLIN ) : Do you have to buy a dictation device, or is it an app?

 

Morgan MacDonald : … Courtney [asks], “Do you have to buy a dictation device, or is it an app?”… They’re apps. There are some really great apps. Dragon Dictation is the one that I hear the most about. So they’re [all] in the Scope Notes, and I posted links for you too, so you can go get those.

 

Lilia ( https://twitter.com/L610 ) : Good tip. Saludos desde Peru!.

 

Morgan MacDonald : … “Good tip. Saludos… Peru.”.Nice…. I went to Santiago, Chile for one weekend. It was beautiful. [irrelevant comment] I have not been to Peru. My sister went to, not Lima… I’ll think of it and let you know. But I WANT to go to Peru.

 

Gilbert Maldonado ( https://twitter.com/gmaldonado59 ) : Does it help to to take a little break to come back to it with a clear mind?

 

Morgan MacDonald : …[Gilbert asks], “Does it help to to take a little break to come back to it with a clear mind?” … You don’t HAVE to wait. Actually, I think [that] the transition between talking and writing is enough of a GEAR SHIFT in itself. You CAN take a break, but I don’t think it’s mandatory. If you’re in a groove, and you’ve been talking it out, go straight into writing, and ride that energy. I will say [that] when you are WRITING, and you are really STUCK, don’t try to push through that writing, [but] take a break and then come back to writing. But if you’re going to switch gears into talking I think that’s ENOUGH of a shift that you can transition straight from writing to talking and talking to writing. But that’s something that you’ve got to experiment with.

 

Okay. So number one was : transcription can help you get UNSTUCK. If you talk it out you might be able to uncover what it is that you’re really trying to say.

 

Gilbert Maldonado ( https://twitter.com/gmaldonado59 ) : Thanks.

 

Morgan MacDonald : … Yeah, sure. You’re welcome….

 

Ron Estrada (https://twitter.com/RonEstrada ) : Hi Morgan!

 

Morgan MacDonald : …Hey Ron! Nice to see you… Number two : it helps you write faster. [Finally], number three – and this is ESPECIALLY important for [those of] you who are starting BUSINESSES, or trying to build PLATFORMS for your writing – transcription helps you to REPURPOSE your audio or video content into SEO [strategic] transcripts.

 

Okay. So let me explain what this is. If you are a writer – and I assume [that] if you are on this Periscope that you ARE a writer – and you are SERIOUS about creating a platform that impacts readers AND brings you in some money – because that is a really nice part of building a platform – you need to do more than just write… Thanks for sharing on Twitter, Ron… You need to be creating CONTENT on OTHER platforms; not just your blog, not just your books, [and] not just your articles that you send to magazines, or journals, or whatever. The written stuff is GREAT, but you’ve got to take it UP a level, and you’ve got to go to Periscope, or podcasting, or YouTube, to get the message out in different ways, because people are consuming content in a VARIETY of ways, depending on what fits their lifestyle. Some people like YouTube. Some people like Periscope. Some people like podcasts. Some people like [simply] reading. So transcription helps BRIDGE that gap.

 

You [may] have a lot of WRITING content, but once you start producing audio and video content then you [should] get a transcriber. This is where I recommend that you actually bring someone in to do the transcription FOR you. The Dragon Dictation software and stuff is great if it’s for YOUR OWN purposes, [for instance] if you are going to go back and edit or rewrite that stuff. But if you are trying to create a WORKFLOW, where you are creating content and then are [using] the transcriptions on your web site to build your platform, bring in a transcriber, because otherwise you’re NEVER going to be able to transcribe [all the content] yourself.

 

Ron Estrada (https://twitter.com/RonEstrada ) : Different age groups hang out in different social media sites.

 

Morgan MacDonald : … Ron [says], “Different age groups hang out in different social media sites.”… That is very true. [irrelevant comment] …Hi Chivas! Thanks for joining… Bring in a transcriber to take over content for you, because as a WRITER you’re producing WRITTEN content. As a platform-builder you’re now producing audio and video content, and it’s a LOT of work. But your MOST IMPORTANT value-added contribution is your writing, your content that you’re bringing to the table…. So I do not want you wasting time transcribing your own stuff to put it out there.

 

You bring in a transcriber who does this PROFESSIONALLY. They know all of these tips and tricks for doing it FAST. They have all of these keyboard shortcuts, and they know how to make it [look and] sound smooth and readable. There are TWO [MAIN] benefits to transcription.

 

Ron Estrada (https://twitter.com/RonEstrada ) : Yes! Time consuming

 

Morgan MacDonald : …Ron, yes. Time consuming… ONE is that you are allowing people who like to consume written content to continue to consume [your] content in a written form. So if they know [that] you’re producing podcasts, and Periscope videos, and YouTube videos, but they LIKE the written stuff, they know [that they can] go straight to those transcripts and digest [the content] the way that I like to. … Thank you Chivas. Thanks for those hearts. I appreciate it.

 

[The second major benefit] is [related to] SEO, “search engine optimization”. If you’ve spend [even just] three days in [any] online marketing business you know that search engine optimization is HUGE. This means that, [for example], I am a writing coach and editor When someone goes into Google and searches [for] “writing coach”, or “editor”, or “writing help”, I want MY name to pop up in that Google search, right? That’s how my business finds new clients. That’s one of the avenues. If you are a writer of a particular genre, when someone types in “science fantasy books”, or whatever your particular niche genre is, you want YOUR name and web site to pop up. The ONLY way that happens is if Google sees lots of those KEYWORDS in your content. So imagine [that since] you are producing Periscopes, and YouTube videos, and podcasts, and you’re using those words over and over again – how many times do you think I’ve used [the word] “writing” in this Periscope broadcast. Like a trillion. Not really. Like 30 probably. But when my [transcriber] guy Frank ( https://twitter.com/TranscriptJunky ) transcribes it for me, we’re going to put it up on my web site, and Google is going to see, “Ah! [These] words “writing”, “editing”, “coach”, etc. keeps popping up.”, and [my site] is going to rank higher and higher. That’s how SEO works, in layman terms. I am NOT a professional in SEO, but that’s just what I’ve picked up from my time running a small business.

 

So you get yourself a transcriber. I [can] give you the contact information for my guy Frank. He’s awesome. He does all of my transcripts for Periscope.

 

Ron Estrada (https://twitter.com/RonEstrada ) : Gotto go, Morgan. I’ll put this on my website.

 

Morgan MacDonald : … Ron says, “Gotto go, Morgan. I’ll put this on my website.”… Thanks you Ron. You know there are Scope Notes, so go check those out, and there will be transcripts soon. So let me flip you around. I’m actually going to show you where I keep my Scope Notes on my web site, and you can always find these, because you [probably] don’t have TIME to take notes.

 

So to recap, three ways you can use transcription in your writing. One is to get unstuck. If you’re staring at a blank screen, and you don’t know what to write next, sometimes talking it out is the BEST way.

 

Gilbert Maldonado ( https://twitter.com/gmaldonado59 ) : I have to go. Thank you so much for the info… Your awesome!

 

Morgan MacDonald : … Thanks Gilbert. Thanks for letting me know… Sometimes talking it out is the BEST way. If you RECORD it, you can always go back and find those “Ah-hah!””moments – those key phrases – that meant something to you, and you can use those as your “starting block” for getting back into your writing. Number two is : to write FASTER. So if writing is really long and slow process for you maybe talking it into a dictation software will be helpful and faster. BUT that requires that you set aside some specific time to REVISIT that transcript and either edit it, or rewrite it. Number three is : to grow your platform or business, and that is by getting on these Periscope, YouTube, [and/or] podcast [platforms], doing this audio and video content, and then having someone transcribe it so that your readers will have a chance to READ it – if they like to do that – and [for SEO] Google will love you.

 

Okay. Let me flip you around really quick and show you something.

 

[change of camera view to computer screen]

 

Alrighty. This is my web site, where I post all good things : http://www.paperravenbooks.com I’m in a bit of a business transition, so it still says “editing”  down there. But the web site [page for the Scopes] is http://www.paperravenbooks.com/periscope . If you scroll down this [page] you’ll see all of the “replays”… So those are [some] of the replays, but you see that THIS week I haven’t gotten to upload those yet. [For THIS episode], “Üsing Transcription In Your Writing And Your Business” , if you click “Scope Notes” it opens up my Evernote file where I was taking notes. So it has all of this stuff now for you, plus links.

 

Meghan Diez ( https://twitter.com/meghan017 ) : I love your hair.

 

Morgan MacDonald : …Thanks Megan. [I’m] glad you like it… But you also see – [although] these are not live yet – I’ve got “transcripts” down here. That means, if you like to consume Periscopes through TRANSCRIPTS instead you can go find the transcripts for my Scopes. Google loves my transcripts. That’s the point. Okay. Here’s the Scope Notes. Then,  [as you] can see, there’s my transcriber’s web site there ( http://www.diaryofafreelancetranscriptionist.com ), and then here’s some apps if you are interested in using them. I’ve got links to those too.

 

[change of camera to face view]

 

Alrighty guys. I hope [this info is] helpful, and I hope you have a good Friday afternoon, and a good weekend. I am sending you lots of positive energy and vibes for writing. Do some good work. Get some word count on there. If you were watching yesterday you know that you need to TRACK your word count.   

 

Gilbert Maldonado ( https://twitter.com/gmaldonado59 ) : Looks good.. Gotta go.

 

Morgan MacDonald : … You have to go Gilbert. Yup. Thank you… I might Scope a little bit this weekend, but definitely on Monday we’re going to come back [and] do some more writing Scopes. So hit the little “Peri Guy” down there [to] follow, and that way you will catch the next scope on writing, and we’ll get you writing.

 

All right, everyone… Feel free to hit me up on Twitter over the weekend [at] @morgangmac ( https://twitter.com/morgangmac ) , and I will catch you next for a writing Scope. Alrighty. Bye.

 

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Transcription service provided by : http://www.diaryofafreelancetranscriptionist.com

Day 13 : The Art and Science of Research in Transcription Work

computer and books for transcription research

Feel Free to Choose A Sub-Section of this Post
—————————————————————–
1. Random Thoughts on Transcription and Non-Transcription Related Issues
2. Daily Progress – Research Findings, Tasks and Skills Development
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Random Thoughts on Transcription and Non-Transcription Related Issues

Research is a very important element of the transcription process. Concepts, terms, and words often arise in audio and video files which are within the realm of specialized knowledge and can often only be deciphered through adequate research tactics. In addition, accuracy (in the form of the highest percentage of properly deciphered words in the recording) is often vital in terms of keeping clients content and continuing to use your services, or in the realm of more serious transcription work (legal and medical) errors can have serious (sometimes fatal) consequences to those people and/or organizations who are the subject of the content.

Transcriptionists often specialize in specific areas of subject matter (whether it be the more formal legal and medical transcription, or all other sources of audio/video which deal with jargon-dense knowledge such as computer technology, business projects, adventure sports, eclectic hobbies, debates on current controversial issues, etc.). The ability to research quickly and effectively can help you land a transcription job, keep it, and benefit from the knowledge of the subject matter contained in the recordings.

The good news is that research (especially the type done by utilizing the plethora of powerful and quickly-accessible online resources and tools) is a skill which can be developed (to as advanced a level as you desire). Advanced research skill is a valuable asset which can be applied to many areas of your intellectual, social and occupational endeavors. It increases your speed and efficiency at transcribing, as you will be better able to decipher technical words spoken in the files. This, of course, leads to faster completion of projects and thus the ability to do more projects in less time and earn more income. Advanced research skills also enable you to dig deeper into a subject, while also being able to determine the quality of the source of information.

In addition, along with some additional powerful free software tools, such as the free Evernote organization application – for collecting, organizing and processing your research – you can develop more long-term research projects which may culminate in publication of your knowledge in the form of blogging, book and ebook writing, podcasting, etc.

There are a few levels of research which apply most directly to the actual transcription task which I will cover in this post. I have already written a comprehensive post about the free WordWeb program, and will also be writing additional future posts about specific software programs (such as Evernote) which will expand on the general research strategies and concepts examined here. I will link those new posts as they are published (which should be within just the next few weeks).

The first level (or step) in the transcription research process begins when you encounter words or terms in an audio/video file which are either indecipherable (due to various factors such as : poor audio quality, strong speaker accent, foreign dialect, etc.) or are highly technical/specific to the subject of the audio. To illustrate this in the more extreme form, the reason why medical transcription work requires years of formal training and experience is due to the enormous vocabulary of medical terminology you must possess in order to adequately transcribe the files commonly worked on. While as a general transcriptionist you are more free to simply decline to work on a file which is overloaded with jargon, there are often times when you actually DESIRE to work on such files because the subject is interesting, but you are intimidated due to your lack of adequate specialized vocabulary. In addition, since most files (especially ones you accept from the online boards) have a deadline within hours of acceptance, if your research skills are not up to par you won’t have the time to do the minimum research needed to complete the file on time. This is where the ability to conduct fast and efficient research becomes important. If you can quickly get up to an ADEQUATE level of vocabulary and/or knowledge related to the subject to get through the file via your speedy research skills, you will be able to accept the file, complete it, get paid for it, and perhaps work on additional files related to that specific subject. Many online transcription companies have regular clients who produce podcasts on specialized subjects. If you can get through one of the episodes, you can then find that podcast online, listen to some additional episodes to get a better feel for the style and content, and apply your research skills to expand your vocabulary on the subject. You will then be more able to take on the next episode of that podcast which becomes available through the transcription company job board. It’s usually a rewarding experience to work on multiple episodes of a production, in addition to the fact that your transcription speed becomes faster with each episode as you are more familiar with the people, terms, etc.

The first tool I utilize from my transcription arsenal is WordWeb. When I come upon a word which is indecipherable, or whose definition, spelling and/or pronunciation is unfamiliar I first hit [CTRL + (right click)] to pull up the word (and/or related or rough estimates of the word). I have discussed the features and uses of WordWeb in its own post, so please refer here for more detailed directions. However, from the perspective of research, WordWeb is your first-line weapon in dealing with new words, terms, concepts, and subjects which arise in your transcription adventures. For instance, if you are working on an audio file related to a new book which will be published in the near future, and in the audio file you are able to use one or more WordWeb features to decipher the name of the author (and hopefully also the name of the book and other books and info related to the book and/or author) you can then follow up with the next step/level in the research process – which is to use the various online research tools (ex. search engines (Google), Wikipedia, personal web and/or social media sites of the author, etc.) to dig deeper into the subject.

This second level of research is more complex and allows you to obtain a vast amount of information on the subject. An excellent book which examines the depths of the online research world is titled “The Extreme Searcher’s Internet Handbook: A Guide for the Serious Searcher” (sample copy) and I will be publishing a detailed review of this book in the near future. Although limiting your research techniques to the powerful services which are offered by Google (their search engine being just one of an array of helpful applications) you can fulfill most of your research needs, there is an extensive range of additional services and web applications which will enable you to take your research as far as you want to go with it.These include : web directories, portals, audio and video directories, academic research portals, and many others. I will elaborate on these in the future, but for now I can tell you, with confidence, that for essentially EVERY degree of research most transcriptionists (including those of use who engage in complementary pursuits, such as blogging) desire/need to do, most of it can be achieved using a handful of the basic (let’s call it “second level”) tools currently available and developed to a highly user-friendly level at this point.

The best way to explain this is probably to give you a nice little practical – but slightly fictitious – example, in order to not break any confidentiality agreements which transcriptionists are bound to. Since my main interest lies in podcasting and transcription I will create an example which will clearly explain the process and how easy it is to get from the point of discovering a new podcast production to researching that production to the point that you are well familiar with it and can take your research as far as you desire.
So, let’s say you are browsing the available job board of one of the online transcription companies, and you encounter a nice podcast file on a technological topic such as the cryptocurrency industry (ex. Bitcoin). You have a sample listen to the audio file and determine it is interesting and that you would like to transcribe  it. You accept the file and begin transcribing.
Now in this episode of the fictitiously-named podcast “The Cryptocurrency Revolution” the host interviews a prominent thought-leader and activist in the cryptocurrency world, such as Adam B. Levine. Now, as this is the first time you have heard of this person you start jotting down some notes as you (and/or after you) complete the transcript. Some of the most effective pieces of information to record are : the web site(s) and/or social media profiles of the guest, the names and details of their main work projects (especially podcasts and videos) and occupations, any personal details which especially resonate with you, any organizations and important people they are working with, etc. With just this kind of information – which is commonly made available in the general podcast format – you have enough data to do all the research you will need.
Once you have completed and submitted the transcription you can begin your follow up research on this newly discovered person. A good place to start is entering the person’s name in Google. This will give you a good general list of various resources (and types of resources) to get you started branching out. Since some people have fairly common names, it is often best to first check out their web site where they will have links to their specific (and official) social media profiles (as it is often difficult to pin someone down by manually entering their name in each social media search engine).
At this point I tend to follow through with the following general strategy. First, I create a new “notebook” in Evernote with this person’s name as the title. I then create a new “note” with a title such as “(Person’s Name) – resources)”. I add all of the data I have collected so far since doing the original transcription, including the URLs associated with the person – which is especially helpful since Evernote makes those links active in the notes and so you can click right through to them from within the note. I then begin working through the various resources in the Evernote file (and add additional notes to the file as things progress and I find more information and resources.
Basically, to get adequately up-to-speed with a person’s overall web presence, body of work, and initiating contact with them, I use a regular basic strategy. I begin checking out a few of their social media profiles. Their LinkedIn profile often provides the most valuable information about their professional and creative aspects of their life, as well as the most important contact information. I then follow up with their Facebook and Twitter profiles, which offer a more personal and casual information about the person and their interests. If I like the info I will “follow” their Facebook and Twitter profile in order to stay up to date on what they are doing as I continue researching them.
I then proceed to YouTube, which is the second (and usually final) major research tool needed to get enough information for follow up research into the future. I enter some of the keywords related to the person from the Evernote file. If this person is very active, the search query will return more than enough audio and/or video files to keep me busy for a while and get the adequate info on this person. The YouTube search is especially good for finding episodes of their actual podcast/videocast which I can then follow up on, evaluate and contact the person for potential transcription collaboration in the future.
So, with this relatively basic, but powerful, search strategy I am able to quickly (often in a matter of hours) find enough information about this person who I have newly discovered via a podcast transcription project which I was paid to do, to be able to become further familiar with them and eventually contact and collaborate with them in the future.
To be even more concrete, I used this very strategy to discover the excellent and prolific work of Adam B. Levine of the “Let’s Talk Bitcoin” network – www.letstalkbitcoin.com – and as a result of this discovery I have become an active contributor to his revolutionary open source community project, including some transcription work – one full transcript of which can be found here.
I will conclude the subject of transcription research her for now. More will be written on the subject – including related resources – as it becomes relevant into the future. For now, using the above research strategy should be MORE than enough for the research needs of most of the transcriptionists reading this.

Daily Progress – Research Findings, Tasks and Skills Development

In addition to integration the highly detailed basic research strategy into my daily routine, and consistently going through the daily research routine tasks mentioned in the last post, I have also been spending a bit more serious effort practicing on the one-minute transcription files along with reading through the style guide at TranscribeMe.

What I will say about these one-minute files is that usually offer a healthy bit of challenge to force me to improve both my transcription and research skills. One of the main benefits of the short files are that you can turn them over relatively quickly and so your time, energy and schedule are not tied down by longer files. You can jump in when you have a few minutes and complete a file and the move onto other important tasks.

The more challenging aspects of the system involve the fact that since the files are limited to one minute each, you generally don’t have much context with which to decipher words, terms, concepts, etc. which would be more easily done with longer files. On a positive note, this actually forces you to practice listening even more carefully, as well as developing and implementing quicker and more powerful research skills in order to find the bits of information you need to complete the file. Since there is also a shorter deadline on the file it is more important to increase your listening and research speed in this regard.

So, at this point I am finding it productive to spend a few weeks practicing on these one-minute files while I further concentrate on my research and blogging efforts (which consume a lot of time collectively). Working on the short TranscribeMe files allows me to get some good practice and make a little survival income while I continue building my empire.

As usual, this post is another post which is growing into a book and so I will conclude here. I am also busy working on several new “Free Transcript Project” files which will be rolling out (roughly one or two per week), which offers additional practice and content for this blog. In the next “daily diary” post we will further examine the nature of the online transcription industry companies and some of the cutting edge technology which is being applied to the transcription process.

Happy Transcribing!
freelance_transcriptionist@hotmail.com

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Day 9 : Podcast Transcription : Unleashing the Full Potential of the Spoken Word

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Today I spent another hour working through the remaining TranscribeMe training modules while simultaneously going through the style guide one page at a time. The training modules provide good information and some practice on the kinds of grammar and proofreading skills you will commonly use when transcribing the audio, in addition to the markup tags which are used to deal with any factors in the audio which are either not formally in the realm of speech transcription proper (ex. [silence] to denote a speaker’s silence for tens seconds or more, [inaudible] to denote that the speech is simply too unclear (at least for you) to decipher, and various other useful ones). Learning to use the tags properly allows you to deal with essentially ANY issue which comes up in the audio which acts as an obstacle to you properly transcribing every word in the project.

When I completed the training modules I simply moved in the same manner through the test. Since it is possible to answer a few questions and then log off of the internet, log back on and simply resume the test, I proceeded to take my time with the exam while also continuing to work through the style guide. During the test itself there were a few instances where I needed to directly refer to the style guide in order to answer a question (or transcribe one of the audio files) properly.

Most of the test was straight forward and the questions could be easily answered correctly by anyone who had paid attention during the training and read carefully through the style guide. For some reason, however, in the second part of the exam (right before the end) I ran into some difficulty in the transcription section which I couldn’t seem to figure out. In fact, they give you a certain number of tries to get it right and then, if not successful, you must restart the whole test. So after trying twice I was getting worried that I would have to do all the work of restarting the exam. Luckily, my research instincts came to my aid. After carefully re-reading the style guide a few more times and still not being able to get past the trouble spot in the exam I decided that I needed to try and find additional information about the TranscribeMe system. Luckily, my instincts were correct and I found the answer in one of the videos on the TranscribeMe training videos YouTube channel. In the video they explain that since the audio files have been broken down into micro-chunks then you can never be fully sure if the first word in the file you are working on is the beginning of the first sentence or a continuation of a sentence or questionfrom the previous chunk. Therefore, you are suppose to NOT add ellipses (…) at either the beginning or the end of the file. Unfortunately, although the style guide is generally quite good it does not make this point clear enough (which is the main reason why I don’t feel guilty for mentioning the issue here). I am also aware from a contact who was doing the exam at the same time that they were getting stuck at the same point in the test. I was also to find out later – once I had access to the internal social media message board – that many people had had this problem at this same point in the exam. Fortunately for me, my research training had saved me from unnecessary hassle. Again, the strategy of taking in as much information about a subject from as many sources as possible enabled me to find a solution to this issue without having to bother anyone or wait for a response. This same research strategy has safeguarded my from various problems in the past. As a result of my diligence I avoided the frustration and waste of time of having to repeat the test. In fact, once I found the solution I gave the test one last try and – with fingers crossed and by making the appropriate changes – this time I was relieved to see that I passed.

Once the exam was passed a page came up which explained that I would be contacted shortly by an administrator who would direct me in how to access the workhub and begin working on audio files, interact with the community, and all of the other good things that certified TranscribeMe transcriptionist are able to do. At this point I simply continued working through the style guide, blog posts and other resources I had collected (of which there were already enough to keep me busy for months). Once the administrators contacted me and gave the green light I would simply add the new resources and tasks which then became available available to the overall mix and “things to do” lists. It is all just one continuous training process.

The Connection Between Transcription and Podcasting

I have always had a serious interest in podcasting. I am constantly listening to various podcasts each day and I find that the format has some unique features which make it better than printed text or video in some circumstances and for certain purposes. For instance, on many days I spend so much time sitting up looking at the computer screen and I just want to be able to lay down and listen to some interesting content. In fact, I often schedule my research to alternate between “sitting up” tasks and “laying down listening” tasks. This is much healthier for the back and eyes than constant screen exposure. You can imagine what great pleasure I have found in the fact that the first transcription company I started working for within the last few weeks issues a continuous and eclectic supply of podcasts for transcription and editing.

Here is an excellent video produced by Cliff Ravenscraft, a well-known podcasting expert and consultant, where he discusses four of the top unique benefits of the podcasting format over other forms of modern communication :

Two of the unique benefits which Mr. Ravenscraft’s discusses and which I agree are most interesting are

(1) the effect of the increase in smartphone usage to provide a rapidly growing audience for podcasts and

(2) elimination of mandatory “screen time” (looking at the computer screen) to consuming podcasting content

These are two important factors which I believe will only increase the popularity and consumption of podcasting into the future. For instance, think about all of the people who are willing to listen to a podcast while driving to or from work (especially in traffic), or while doing chores, or as a break from sitting up looking at the screen.

The people over at TranscribeMe have devoted a whole blog post to the issue of podcasting and its relation to transcription : Podcast Transcription where they point out the essential benefit of podcast transcription lying in making the podcast more possible to be indexed in the search engines, since search engines only index text – not audio. They don’t index video either and so the same benefits of transcription apply to video as well as explained in the article Reach More Clients by Transcribing Your YouTube Videos.

Here is an example of a reputable podcast production which includes the transcript for each podcast right on the main podcast page : The Paleo Solution – Episode 112. On this page you will see a link for downloading the (audio) podcast itself and a seperate link for downloading the transcript (in pdf format).

It’s important to keep in mind that one of the most beneficial reasons to transcribe a podcast of video is that it then enables disabled people to access you content. For instance, deaf people specifically can consume your content by reading the transcript. Blind people would naturally be able to consume the audio podcasting content unassisted, but for video they would need a computerized reader device to read a transcript of the content. In either case, transcribing helps to include a wider audience of people who can benefit from your production. For some podcasts, this group of people may constitute a significant portion of their target audience.

Another interesting article from Forbes Funnymen and iPhones: Why the Podcast is Finally Coming Into its Own looks at hot the podcast has allowed those who have less mainstream views to enter the broadcasting market whereas they would have little success approaching traditional networks. Some of these avant garde podcasters do indeed end up succeedin either through the growth of their podcast alone or through being picked up by one of the larger mainstream networks. Therefore, podcasting is a sort of experimental medium which enables new ideas to build ground and eventually become successful.

As I mentioned before, I have been focusing on editing the audio files (including podcasts) from the one company I work for as the transcription files are rather long and difficult for me at my current experience level. Editing these files, however, is very productive and enjoyable. Since most of the transcription text which comes in attached to the audio file as part of the editing project is of relatively decent quality (some more than others) the reality is that if the content of the podcast is straightforward (ex. not too technical) and the quality of the audio is decent (which is usually the case, since most serious podcasters who are actually willing to spend money on transcription spend considerable effort trying to get the best quality production that they can) the process of editing basically involves a rather leisurely listen to the audio file in real time and following the text to proofread for mistakes. This is called “proofing to audio” in transcriptionist jargon, by the way. If there are errors they can usually be spotted and fixed quickly by stopping the audio for a few seconds and making the quick adjustment. Common errors which occur include : the transcriber omitting an important word, simple spelling mistakes, simple punctuation mistakes, the wrong word which can often more easily be deciphered by the editor who is approaching the audio with fresh ears, etc. The editing step of the process certainly IS important as just having an additional person (who naturally possesses a unique skills set and often a higher level of experience in order to reach the editing level) to go through the transcript and audio can catch most of the mistakes made by the original transcriber. I could safely say that in EVERY SINGLE transcript I have ever edited there has been AT LEAST one error which I was able to correct. Most of the time there are several. So, I don’t feel guilty for choosing the less stressful editing jobs for now, since my work as editor actually DOES improve the final transcript product in some way.

Ultimately, working as a transcriber puts you into contact with a regular stream of interesting and new podcasts. There have been numerous cases where I received a podcast from the transcription company which I enjoyed so much listening to during the editing process that I went out to locate the podcast, subscribe and become a regular listener myself. This is just another one of the juicy perks of being a freelance transcriptionist.