Nate Dickson Thinks...

Small Thoughts for a Quiet World.

It's spring in my part of the world, which means itchy eyes and sinuses. Working from home means I'm not in an office with industrial strength air purification, so I have to make it work on a personal level and budget. Here's what I've found that works:

  • Vacuum frequently. At least twice a week
  • Keep the window closed, obviously.
  • Wash every fabric thing in the room and change pillow cases on my nap pillow frequently. (what? Naps are good for productivity!)
  • Use an air purifier
  • Keep the door closed helps.

Just in case this helps anyone else.

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I've been thinking about the overstimulation of our reward centers. Not in those words exactly, but considering how we behave these days, as a species.

It's very easy to be entertained or distracted at all times. In older days, a term for a person who was addicted to substances was “Dissipated,” and I think it's very accurate. When we allow our attention to be taken at all times like this, we allow ourselves, our energy to be spread too thin, to be quite literally dissipated across all our interests. When water is dissipated, it has less ability to exert force. A focused stream can cut metal, a slowly seeping puddle takes much longer to effect any change.


According to the Official Site it's currently Bandcamp Friday, meaning Bandcamp is giving all their proceeds directly to the artists instead of to their new Epic Games overlords. So hey, as long as they keep doing that I'm going to keep buying music I probably don't need but definitely enjoy on the first Friday of the month. Some highlights:

Tunic Soundtrack, by Lifeformed

I love Lifeformed, I have for years. So even before I knew about the game TUNIC I knew I wanted this soundtrack. Today's a perfect day to pick it up! As with Lifeformed's other work, this is full of lushly layered sounds, both delicate and intricate, with deeply satisfying bass notes interspersed with crystalline synths.

St. Christopher by Peter Capaldi

Yes, the 12th Doctor Who made an album! This should surprise exactly zero Whovians, as Peter Capaldi's doctor was the first and only one to get to play a guitar version of the opening theme song over the opening credits. His album St. Christopher is, as the title of the first song suggests, beautiful and weird. This is the music of a genuine punk rocker who has grown up and been married for a few decades and fulfilled his life dream of playing The Doctor and now wants to make a solo album.

NO, I'm not getting paid by anyone to endorse these, nor do I get any clickthrough revenue. I just like Bandcamp and these artists and albums and thought I would share.

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I was thinking about sound the other day. Sound is fascinating and our sense of hearing doubly so. If you reduce sound to its most elemental level, it's nothing but a series of higher- or lower-pressure waves that stimulate a specific nerve in our auditory canal. But given those very basic impulses, we can discern many different sources of sound. The sound of me typing on my keyboard differs not only from the sound of my son playing the piano, but also from the sound of typing on a slightly different keyboard.

And for some reason this has always annoyed me. If you look at a visual representation of an audio file, you'll see the overall outline of the waveform, and it seems impossible that such a primitive shape could contain music with voices and instruments and beauty.


Quick follow up on Nate's Novel Finishing Month:

I'm (re-) writing Pacifica on Campfire Writing. I've been looking for a good way to collaborate on projects like this, and they're getting increasingly common. Campfire has a few rough edges to be sure, but I like it overall.

Anyway, if you want to follow along with what's going on with Pacifica in its re-write phase, you can check it out on Campfire's “Explore” site, which very handily lets me keep certain pieces of information back in case of spoilers.

Check it out here: Pacifica on Campfire

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I've been doing NaNoWriMo for years now. As in 14 of them. I enjoy it; but perhaps it's time to move on. The problem is unsurprising: I've started a whole bunch of novels, but I haven't finished any of them. So I've got a whole lot of books or ideas sitting out there in an incomplete state, waiting for me to come back to them. I kind of hate that. There's a sense of psychic baggage inherent in carrying these started projects around.

Not all of them; some were just for fun, and I have no real need to go back to them. That's okay too. But there are a few that still tug at me, still seem to “want” me to finish them.

So I'm declaring February March “NaNoFinMo”, which works well for me, because it's Nate's Novel Finishing Month.

The goal is simple: I'm going to take one of my books, and actually write the rest of it. I have no idea how many words that is going to be. I am going to actually write the part that I've been struggling with, draft after draft, so that my poor characters can have some closure.

After that... we'll see. I might publish the dang thing, even if it's just self published on Amazon or somewhere. Although I'll probably find a service that also seeds it to the Kobo store, since I'm more of a Kobo fan these days.

The Buried Lede

But none of that is really the important part. The important part is: which book?

I've decided on Pacifica. I've been writing and re-writing Pacifica for years now, and I think I'm close enough that I can dedicate a month to ironing out wrinkles and finally tackling that soft spot in the plot around the end of the second act.

I'm thinking of a way to share it as I work on it, Stay tuned as I noodle over that part of the equation.

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This is an article that I'm writing for me, but I'm using the second person “you” to make myself feel better. Just so you know. If you find this useful as well, great!

Okay, listen up. You need to actually get things out there. You need to really finish things. So here's what you're going to do:

Go to an online retailer of the thing you are trying to make. In my case, that's books. So go to some online bookstore. Don't bother with the best sellers, not right now. Right now go down the list a few pages, to the people who are all clearly self-publishing.

Find someone whose book you just can. not. Stand. Revel in how much you hate this book, in how much better you are at writing than this person. Then remind yourself of the following fact:

As of right now, this minute, that person is winning. Their book is up for sale, and people have purchased it. Yours is still in your head or in some rough draft form, and people have not. You are “losing” to that person because they have accomplished your dream, and you haven't yet. You know you are better than them. You know you “deserve” to have your book out in the world where people can see it more than they do, you know your book is better than theirs.

Okay, this is an ugly side of yourself, and you'll never reveal it to anyone else. It's understandable that you're a little ashamed of yourself for thinking this way about a fellow practitioner of your craft. But now it's time to take that shame, that anger, and that (self-)righteous indignation that they are “winning” and you are “losing” and turn it into motivation. Yes, your book still has that one chapter that isn't quite right, and that one section that could use some fine tuning. But look at their book! Their book is all weak parts! And they are selling it! People are reading it and posting positive comments about it! Don't worry about taking on the giants of your craft yet, that will come with time. For now set your sights on getting your book higher up the sales charts than that book. By getting it on the sales charts in the first place.

And when your book starts selling, when you finally get onto the list, quietly buy a copy or two of that book, as silent recompense for using that author as the scapegoat you needed to goad you into action. Put all those negative emotions behind you, they are unworthy of you. You've taken this step. Now you can take the next.

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My first day of high school I walked into Latin class. I had chosen Latin for my mandatory foreign language because I'm a stereotypical Gen-X guy: I didn't want to be in a popular class. I (rightly) guessed that there wouldn't be all that many people in Latin, they'd mostly choose “mainstream” foreign language credits like Spanish or French.

The teacher got up and said, “You're never going to need to speak Latin.”

Which...I mean, we all knew that.

“Not because Latin is dead, but because it's only used by a very few people in its original form. But what you are learning here is the why behind so many other languages. Learning Latin will make you a better speaker of English. And if you decide to learn French, or Spanish, or Portuguese, or Italian, you'll have an easier time with those languages as well.”

I spent three years studying Latin. My third year there were only two of us in the course, so we met at the same time as the Latin II students. I'm eternally grateful that our teacher had us teach them from time to time.

Fast forward to the early 2000s when I was a sole developer at a bookstore. The management team discovered that they suddenly had a software developer, and one of my first projects out of the gate saved the organization tens of thousands of dollars in manual computation time. So they more or less let me do my own thing, leaving me as the goose that laid golden eggs. I used that freedom to teach myself...well, lots of things. Since nobody else knew what I should be doing, I wrote apps in every language I wanted to learn. I wrote Ruby on Rails apps. I wrote an app or two in Adobe AIR (it seemed like a good idea at the time, okay?) I wrote a bunch of PHP and thus paved the way for a number of future jobs.

And I stumbled across SmallTalk.


When I was young my father rented the '80's David Lynch version of Dune, you know, the one with Sting. I fell asleep a couple of times during the movie, and every time I woke up I would say something like, “is this movie still going?

I'd already read the novel, and enjoyed it. I even read the second one was okay.

And somehow that version of the movie didn't ruin the book for me, nor did the sequels. Dune is an excellent novel. There are themes from that book that have stuck with me, that have shaped the way I think.

So I wasn't happy to hear they were making a new adaptation. I'm a little tired of the entire '80's being strip mined for nostalgia sequels.

So I was really resistant when one of my friends—who had never read Dune—told me it was a really good movie. How could it be?

Well, she was right.

Ironically the new movie is longer than the old one, and is only half of the story. But I found that I agreed with their adaptation. I loved the actors they chose for the roles. I re-read the book after watching the movie, looking for what they changed. And to be sure, the new movie changes a lot from the book. But overall, I find that I agree with their changes. They were in the service of making a good movie and didn't really ruin the thread or feel.

So yes. Turns out that you can make a good Dune movie. I'm excited for the second half as well.

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My employer recently planned (and cancelled) a few “white elephant” gift parties. I was casting around, trying to decide on what I might have in the house to give away when I realized something:

I have a 3D printer.

And white filament for it.

And Thingiverse exists.

So I decided to print some white elephants.

For reference, the one the middle is a Danish Modern Elephant and the other two are based on Elephant – Voronoi Style.

I don't love this particular filament, so I'm not too broken up about using a bit more of it on these experimental print projects. I added a base to the “Vornoi” elephant using OpenSCAD because I couldn't get it to print correctly without one.

But now I have a go-to for any white elephant gift exchanges!

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