Nate Dickson Thinks...

Small Thoughts for a Quiet World.

Let me tell you a story, a story that is over three decades old.

It's a typical December day, I'm in kindergarten. All of us kids are sitting on the floor, around our teacher. The teacher is holding a set of cards with letters of the alphabet on them. The one I remember is “O” because it had a photo of an Octopus, not in the water, but on a gray solid background. Even at five years old I could tell you that octopus wasn't happy about life, if it was still alive. But that's not the point.

Somewhere around “Q” the door opens and another classmate comes in. She's wrapped up, bundled up against December weather. She puts her backpack down, carefully takes off her earmuffs, puts them on the shelf (“R”). She unzips her jacket, takes her scarf off and hangs it on a hook (“S”). She takes her coat off and puts it on the same hook (“T”).

Then she unzips her jeans and takes them off as well. (“NO!!!!” yells the teacher, but the card says “U”.)

But it's okay, she's got a skirt and leggings on under the jeans; they were just doubling as snow pants.

So Here's the Thing

We moved away less than two years later. I'm only about 50% sure I remember this girl's name; it's possible I'm conflating her with the one friend I had in that school before we moved. I certainly don't remember her face; I don't even really remember what color her coat was.

And what's even weirder is that when I recall this memory, she's not a five year old kindergartner, she's an adult. So am I. Contextually, our teacher is roughly fifteen feet tall, because right now I'm over six feet and she's quite a bit taller than me.

My memory of this event isn't a movie, it's just a script. The actors have changed over the course of my life to make sense with me being in the scene. This event happened in the 1980s, but in my mind her clothing (and my clothing) make sense for the 21st century.

Every time we recall a memory our brains wire in new connections to that memory. In computer terms every “read” is also a “write”.

I spend a lot of time thinking people are expecting things of me, that things are “due” by a certain date, even when there are no possible due dates. Nobody is expecting me to post anything on this blog. Nobody is expecting me to get to bed by a certain time, other than me.

Part of it is my #MBA program getting under my skin, of course. It's really hard to get out of that mindset when I'm training myself to always be looking toward the next due date, the next assignment. So it's a necessary evil, but one that will only last a few more months.

I hope.

I've watched the first episode Doctor Who featuring Jodie Whittaker as the 13th Doctor. Twice, actually.

And I'm excited for what the new season is bringing to the table. The writing feels very solid, and lives up to one of the great promises of that show.

The things that the 13th Doctor says, the things she does, they wouldn't be out of place if done or said by the other Doctors. The words are the same, but the person saying them has changed. The 13th Doctor isn't divorced from her past, but neither is she bound by it. And Ms. Whittaker is clearly more than up to the task of making the role her own. Her portrayal clearly has the core of the Doctor; that central personality made up of optimism, compassion, and rock solid wisdom largely hidden by a whimsical face. But she's also clearly added her own new touches, just as every other Doctor has done.


Is pretty much impossible some nights. I've found a few things that help:

  1. NO Caffeine. Mostly because it screws up my sleep schedule and means I will be exhausted again tomorrow, and the next night...until I crash completely on the weekend. So it's tempting, but I try to keep it as a “break glass in case of emergency” choice.
  2. Video Game Soundtracks. If you think about it, they're perfect. They are designed to be peppy, energetic, moody, and engaging, but also to fade into the background while you do something else.

Some Favorites!

Just Check out this Cover! So AWAKE!

Anything by Jake Kaufman, aka “Virt”. But if I had to pick one it'd be the Mighty Switch Force 2 Soundtrack. Especially the tracks Exothermic, Got2BAStar, and Credits(Rescue Girl)

Lazers! Ryderz!

The Lazer Ryderz Soundtrack Technically this is a board game soundtrack, which I didn't realize was a thing. But it's perfect for the game, and great study music as well. Except for Twist Your Mind which always distracts me because the lyrics are a perfect 80's tribute/parody.

I only vaguely remember this game, but I think this all makes sense in context

Ben Prunty! At this point I have bought more Ben Prunty soundtracks than I have games that feature Ben Prunty soundtracks. The Gravity Ghost album won't keep you awake, but it'll help you have better dreams. The Into the Breach OST works when you're grimly determined to finish your homework before you sleep.

I just love this album

Dream On Isn't a video game soundtrack. I just love this album so much. It's always good listening.

I'm waiting for a presentation I just recorded with my school team to upload. I just cut it all together in iMovie, talking about a merger that went down sixteen years ago. But that's okay, it's part of the process. We're getting our MBAs, we're getting educated. A lot of education is about just doing the work, getting through, getting by.

So at six minutes after midnight I have an uploaded video. I send the link to my team so they can do all the team things and get it submitted on time. We're pretty early this week; we did good work and bought ourselves a day with less homework tomorrow.

Or, well, today. Since it's seven minutes after midnight.

This I do as an act of volition. We build our worlds around us through our perceptions. I choose to actively seek out good things in this world. I choose to actively create good in this world. I choose to resist cynicism, to foster understanding, and to believe every person I meet is good until they incontrovertibly prove otherwise.

This doesn't mean I choose to be ignorant of the problems in the world. But I choose to believe that my actions and the actions of others can and will eventually solve those problems.

I choose to see each person I meet as the protagonist of their own story, and to seek to understand them before making any form of judgement. I choose to treat each person with whom I come in contact as my equal.

I reject any and all labels; I will not label anyone else nor will I conform to any label that I or others may try to apply to me. Each individual is unique and infinitely complex. I choose to honor their uniqueness. I choose to find the glory in our shared complexity.

I choose this not because it is natural or easy; indeed in some ways this goes against my nature. Being optimistic in the face of everything going on right now isn't going to be easy. But I honestly can't see any other way to survive.

Thank you, the English Language, for all you've done for us, but it's apparent your services are no longer needed here.

It's interesting how much cultural background goes into making this nightmare of an advertisement communicate exactly what they were meaning to say to people like me.

#pictures #travesty #marketing

Most people who will stumble across this article know who I mean. That little Antagonist who sits behind your eyes, looking at everything you do, listening to everything you say, and criticizing you for it. This is the voice that compels me to read every post on Slack three times before I hit enter and at least three more after I sent it. This is the voice that looks at every action I take as if it were on screen for the world to see.

In some ways the Antagonist is helpful, if you harness it. This is the voice that drives me to keep writing, because if I don't I will have let down myself and all the people the Antagonist thinks are watching me every moment of every day. So I sit down and write to show it that I'm not a sham, I'm actually doing this thing. It can be used as a source of motivation.

But for the most part it's a nuisance. I don't need an internal critic asking me why I haven't put my laundry away yet, or bugging me about an assignment that isn't due for another two weeks. I really don't need it making up dire social consequences for things that will never be seen by anyone else. Like, say, the way I squeeze my toothpaste.

So occasionally I do things specifically to show the antagonist who is in charge around here. There are domains into which it is not invited nor allowed. One of those is my ever-present pocket notebook.

When I started carrying a notebook at all times it got very little use, because what if someone saw what I wrote and judged me for it? said the Antagonist. So I left it mostly empty, only writing things that were important or deep or interesting. But I got sick of that after a while.

Now I intentionally write any and every blasted thing that comes into my head. I have no respect for the lines in the notebook. Sometimes my words take up one line, sometimes two, or five, or they go diagonally up and across the page. My pocket notebooks are a place where I can be creative or pedantic or just draw little pictures or write the physical details of someone I see on the train, so that I can use them in a story later. It doesn't matter. Nobody will ever see my notebooks but me, so they are specifically, assiduously, Antagonist-free zones.

And you know what really drives the Antagonist crazy?

Sometimes, I file away a notebook and start a new one before all the pages are filled.

Each action is a permanent commit, pushed immediately to a shared reality. We can't reverse our actions; they're already out in the world. At best we can hope to revert a few of our bigger mistakes, by putting forth the effort to undo them.

But we are trained to feel cheated; we are trained in games to think that time is malleable, you should be able to go back, try again, save scum, do over. “Game Over” just means “retry” right?

Well, no. We have to take each step, knowing we can't reverse, we can only revert.

Sometimes I really like downtown!