Topics I Ponder

I have no certified expertise in any of these areas. I am informed and actively engaged in them. That is all.

Virtual Reality

This is my most active topic with over 50 articles related to VR linked, (below the picture). They range from think pieces to narrative evocations of VR community.

The earliest is from December, 2016 and since that time I have become a Top Writer on VR on Medium. Virtual Reality is a niche topic and my interest is almost exclusively in Social VR — a niche within a niche. I think that little world is where important New Worlds are being worked out.


There are over 25 death and dying pieces linked here, all published since 2017 on Medium.

It is the topic I am most qualified to write about (I was trained by the Zen Hospice Project and served as a hospice volunteer caregiver for eight years), but it is not especially popular to readers. Only one article on this topic has more than 200 Views, the one titled, “Death Meditations.” I will keep writing and keep trying find ways to help people get deeply engaged in this topic.


These stories are drawn from my Saying Goodbye experiences in VR.

I have no training in grief support or even counseling in general and what goes on in the events is not like traditional therapy. People say things they have trouble saying anywhere else. No one tries to fix them. Everyone listens respectfully and actively because they feel these things too. People who speak know that they are heard and that is a good step.

I have hosted Saying Goodbye every Tuesday evening (pacific time) since the last week of March, 2020. I have not missed one week. It is always powerful.

The pieces on Skye’s Funeral and the memorial for RBG in VR were very popular.

I am not well-qualified to write about China but I feel compelled to anyway.

I was actively involved on the ground at high schools and universities in China during the years 2000–2008, traveling and working there in the transnational education business for months at a time.

These were the glory years of China and the US and they filled my China experience with hope, even though I understand it was just a moment in a much larger and more complex unfolding.

Despite my lack of qualifications, the piece on, Sister Milk Tea, from November, 2018, has the most Views and most Reads of anything I have written on Medium. It is not my best story, but it was my best-positioned story.


I draw on my own experiences in Cambodia to write about working with organizations and artists there — producing 360 degree videos for VR and fundraising, producing music and storytelling events on a virtual stage.

Most of all, I write about what it means to work with people in other parts of the world. I have lived in Phnom Penh and other parts of the countries for months at a time. I really go into it and took Khmer lessons — got good enough express a few basics and pick up on some conversation around me.

I have a lot of friends there. Many of them are artists and some of them have been instrumental in rebuilding Cambodia by rebuilding its arts and culture.


I have been meditating on a daily basis since 1974 but I didn’t start writing about meditation until recently. I think I felt the topic was too big and my perspective was too limited.

The articles here focus on a new, hybrid form of group meditation in Virtual Reality. Here, I do feel that my perspective is worth sharing because the tradition is being formed right now and I am involved in it.

My son, Jeremy Nickel, is the founder of a community based on meditation in VR. Sounds futuristic but because of the accelerator effect of the pandemic, it is growing and thriving now.


My attitudes about aging are non-normative and it shows in my behavior.

I feel like I’m getting smarter and more emotionally accessible in my early 70s. I’m better at handling almost everything.

I work out every day and I can still do 32 pushups and 32 sit-ups. I know my outlier aging experience doesn’t last. I know I’m going to die and I accept it. I would even say I appreciate it.

Through continual involvement and exposure, I feel that I have developed a relationship with death. It’s not like I’ve settled things so I don’t have to think about it any more. I haven’t settled things at all. I’m actively engaged with death all the time. Relating to death is how I’m aging.

Philosophy & Consciousness

These are not exactly hot topics. They are not widely read.

Maybe if I had something more useful to say, more people would read my stories about philosophy and consciousness.

I’m working on it. I know that exploring the overlaps between Buddhism and Quantum Mechanics has been done before, but I don’t think it has been done in the most useful way.

I also think that there is a perspective that many Indigenous People have maintained, despite efforts to eradicate them and their ideas, that fits perfectly with the ideas of Nagarjuna and Carlo Rovelli and invigorates them with a healthy dose of Nature.


I have no standing to write about anything any more.

Once I did. For one relatively brief sliver of my life, I was certified as having high level expertise in something.

It began in 2020 when I was 54 and Utah State University, in the gorgeous Cache Valley of northern Utah, awarded me a doctoral degree in Instructional Technology and Learning Sciences. It ended when I retired from the compensated institutional practice of online teaching, learning, and administration.

This is a harsh view of who is heard and who is listened to, but I think it is accurate. I don’t think it’s a great way to organize a culture, when, for instance, Generals who keep losing wars keep having standing on the topic and any outsider with a new perspective is dismissed.

This broad and unfocused, un-hash tag section has some of my favorite pieces. I love the Fudgsicle piece and I’m working on the follow-up. My Joe Rogan piece from 2018 has over 5,000 Reads, which is big for me. Bucky Fuller, Plain Vanilla, Crypto for Good, and Sports Must Die.

There’s some good ones here.

I will gradually add more of my writing to this framework. I have writing that goes back to 1965, (analog) and much more already digital. I wrote about China over 20 years ago in a hopeful way that is not erased by subsequent events because it wasn’t based on unrealistic assessments. And more, some of which is available now, along with lots of pics and video, at

bye for now, tom



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Tom Nickel

Learning Technologist focusing on VR, Video, and Mortality … producer of Less Than One Minute and 360 degree videos