Nate Dickson Thinks...

Small Thoughts for a Quiet World.

This Tree Confuses Me.

This is awesome. I've walked past this tree daily for around a year now, and today it does this. It literally stopped me in my tracks, and I had to take a picture.

Sure, this weird little tree is just some ornamental that someone planted in their front yard. I'm sure there are people all over the world who will look at it and say “ah yes, that's a insert Linnaean name here, quite common in insert part of the world here.

But to me it looks like something that belongs in a coral reef, not someone's front lawn.

Nature is amazing. Infinite variety, even in a downtown setting.

Liz Phelly wrote about Spotify's mood monetization.

You should read the entire article, but here are some good quotes:

““At Spotify we have a personal relationship with over 191 million people who show us their true colors with zero filter,” reads a current advertising deck. “That’s a lot of authentic engagement with our audience: billions of data points every day across devices!”

And more succinctly:

“In a data-driven listening environment, the commodity is no longer music. The commodity is listening. The commodity is users and their moods.”

But... we all kinda knew this, right? This is how free services work. Spotify is a little different because there are users who pay for the service. Those users won't be presented with targeted advertising, but how much are you willing to bet that their data is being excluded from the data being sold to third parties? Yeah, me neither.

So what's the answer? Just dump Spotify? Honestly if Apple Music were a viable alternative I'd consider it. Apple is making a reputation out of being very conservative with user data and that might be good enough.

Or maybe the answer is to take your data back in the form of hosting your own music streaming. Plex will manage your music collection for you, and PlexAmp lets you access it from just about anywhere. A lifetime Plex Pass is about the same price as a year of Spotify Premium, although you do have to provide your own music to use Plex.

Which is probably a good thing. BandCamp is quick to point out that you listening to an album on Spotify will probably net the performer around 4¢, while buying their album on BandCamp will give them roughly 85% of whatever you paid. The performer cuts from buying MP3s from Amazon or AACs from Apple probably aren't as good as BandCamp, but probably better than Spotify.

For now I'm taking a hybrid approach. I have a hefty collection of FLAC files I bought off of BandCamp hosted on my Plex Server, but I still use services like Spotify or Amazon Prime Music to listen to new things that I'm not ready to buy yet.

And I'm quietly reminding myself that when I'm listening to Spotify, any number of advertisers are also listening to me.

I've been using Evernote off and on since it was in beta and only on Windows. The fully-networked, store-your-stuff-on-the-cloud version has been a part of my life since... well, it looks like November of 2010:

A very plain photo of a chair in some sunlight.

I took this picture to see how Evernote dealt with photos on an iPad. It wasn't meant to last forever, it wasn't really meant to be anything, just a test of the system. But it got caught, and now it's been faithfully copied to every computer I've owned in that time, every mobile device that has had Evernote installed has had that as well.

Not that Evernote is perfect. It thinks the orange rectangle in this picture:

Some pinecones in a blurry picture.

Is the word “chair”. Which is funny and fascinating at the same time.

Aspen on Mulberry on deck.

Summer is well and truly here.

I've actually tiptoed back into working on Painless Git again. I enjoy writing, but it's daunting when I look at the overall state of the project. There's so much left to do! There's so much left to think about and perfect and publish!

And that's fine. On the whole I'm okay with big projects. I just get caught up in the excitement and want to do it all right now. I want to convert it to Markua , the new Markdown dialect that Leanpub is using. I want to convert it to a course instead of a book, or as well as a book, I suppose. I want to put in a whole bunch of images and awesome stuff.

But I have to do school stuff. I have to take midterms this week. One tomorrow, one on Friday or Saturday. And assignments are still due every day.

There is so much to do, so little time in which to do it. But I think I prefer that to the alternative: a boring life, nothing to do, no aspirations, goals, or hopes. Sounds terrible.

I should be chasing kids around, getting them fed and dressed and ready for the day. But that can wait.

Or I should be getting myself up and dressed and ready, but that too can be put off for a few minutes more.

Instead I’m looking at the sunlight make patterns on the wall. Coming through the Venetian blinds, and through the leaves outside it looks like a photo from the 1980’s, so it’s very stylish right now.

This morning could be hectic and stressful, but I’m trying to choose quiet instead. It’s not bad.

I’m in my final semester of my masters degree program. When these classes are over I’m done with school, this time probably for good. For the past two years I have put everything other than school on hold. So I have shoved my writing into corners. Okay, I did NaNoWriMo both years, because I need to keep some sense of who I am.

But mostly my writing has been gathering dust on some hard drives. That’s not the interesting part.

The interesting part is that some characters in my books have refused to go into corners. So, Angel Liz, Cylee, And Wane Early mostly. Angel Liz you can read about on Monday Stories, the other two are from a series of books I’ve been working on… whooosh, for almost a decade now. Somehow these three characters have been sitting in the back of my mind, gathering my experiences into themselves, doing a little here and there to remind me they exist even though, in a strictly technical sense, they don’t. I keep having ideas for Liz’s central conflicts. I keep seeing things the way Wayne would see them, inspecting the world the way he would. Cylee is always trying to break free, get out, find meaning somewhere else… okay, yes, I do know how insane this sounds, thank you so much. Anyway. I‘m excited to get back to actually writing in just a few more weeks.

But the real kind. The kind that involves being in plays in front of other people.

Two of my kids love it. Me?

Terrified.

Which is odd because I used to love it. Many years ago I would do school theatre and enjoy it. I never cared about the audience or making a fool of myself, I just liked playing in the space and pretending to be other people. It was a natural extension of my love of sorry, I think.

And I think that’s where my kids are right now. They are young and fearless and I love that. I’m so glad they feel like they can be themselves, that they feel safe pretending to be other people.

You can't abbreviate your hair.

Even though that's what abbreviate means. “Make it brief” and brief means short.

Except I guess that brief generally means short in terms of time, huh? A brief moment, a brief note.

Oh, a brief note...briefcases! Named for carrying legal briefs, briefcases are full of shortened versions of the full case files, which were shortened, much like hair is.

I guess these days you're probably just putting a laptop in your briefcase. Do people do that? I just use my backpack.

But...legal briefs are physically shorter, right? I guess we think about written things in terms of reading time, not physical size, huh?

Oh, we're done? Should I say “thanks for abbreviating my hair?” Nah, that's stupid.

Thanks!

A couple of weeks ago a friend/co-worker of mine was interviewing for a promotion. A few minutes before this friend's interview they started panicking and asked me in a chat:

How is it fair that your WHOLE FUTURE depends on the answers to a few little interview questions?

And while I understand their point, I had to disagree.

Eight months ago I interviewed for a promotion and didn't get it. While I was waiting for the final confirmation I felt exactly like my friend. I felt like my whole future, my career, everything, depended on that decision. And when I didn't get the job I was understandably crestfallen.

But the next day still came. That particular “story” ended and I was able to go on.

And last month I got a different promotion, one more suited to my overarching career goals.

I'm not saying that it always works this way, of course. Sometimes you lose and then you lose and then you lose again. I've been there too. Even in that state I've found that there is a certain value in just surviving to the end of a “story” or “event” or whatever you want to call a certain set of experiences.

Hence the Title

It's important for us to work towards our goals. But when a specific effort doesn't pan out we should learn from it and move the heck on. Let's be glad that things end and that we can go on to other things. It doesn't matter if things end well; when they end you have a chance to look around, shake it all off, and start again.

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