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Where I’m Writing

Where I’m Writing

It occurred to me the other day that if this is the only blog you’re following, you might think I’m haven’t written anything since January. Which would be sad. In fact I’ve probably been writing more than ever, Just in a lot of other places.

So here are a few:

  • Nate Dickson Thinks… is a slightly less formal version of what I write here.
  • Liminal Spaces is where I get a bit more into my moody meditative writing.
  • Many Sparrows is where I write about being a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the 21st century.
  • Exchange Magic Is a novel I wrote during NaNoWriMo 2020.

And others. You can find me on Mastodon more frequently than you’ll find me on Twitter

And you can also find me getting metaphorical at the Midnight. I’ll let you guess what my user name is on that site, see if you can find me!

Experience is Sedimentary, Wisdom is Lamellar

Experience is Sedimentary, Wisdom is Lamellar

Concerning the metaphors for learning we use:

For a long time I understood learning as  sedimentary. We learn by the slow, steady accretion of experiences, based on our choices and the nature of the world. As we subject what we’ve learned to the “pressure” of testing, it hardens into sandstone (knowledge) and—given enough time and pressure—granite (wisdom). 

But there’s a problem with this analogy: passivity. The accumulation of sediment isn’t selective; sediment is whatever lands in that spot. There’s no place in this analogy for the conscientious, deliberate quest to gain specific experiences that will contribute to your knowledge in a desired field.

The part of the sedimentary analogy that resonates with me is the slow, steady growth. We don’t become experts without effort. If you want to achieve mastery, no shortcuts exist; we must stack those ten thousand hours up, at a rate of one hour per hour, during our steady, purposeful practice of the craft. 

So I’ve been searching for a better analogy. This isn’t a red-yarn-on-corkboard search. Just a question mark, sitting quietly in the back of my mind, looking for something better. 

And as I’ve been reading and thinking (and thinking about reading and its effect on thinking) one word has quietly brought itself into my mind, subtly asking for my attention:


Admittedly, not a word most people use. Just looking at it, you sense that it’s related to “laminate” which as a verb usually means “put between two sheets of plastic and seal it there” and as a noun refers to a flooring made of fine sheets of wood grain, stacked and pressed. A feeling of “layers coming together” emerges.  And that‘s what it means. A lamella is a small, thin plate-like structure. Something is lamellar when composed of many lamellae coming together. 

So how is this a more accurate model of accumulating wisdom? 

When making lamellar armor, the armorer cuts each lamella, shapes it, hardens it, aligns it with the existing armor and adds to the overall structure. Their work isn’t random, isn’t passive. 

And this process more accurately depicts my understanding of the act of gaining wisdom. We aren‘t content to let knowledge build up haphazardly. Instead we select information, investigate it, refine it, and add it to our existing knowledge, strengthening the whole and protecting us more completely from errant information.

A Novelist in Business School: Managerial Ethics and Twenty-One Pilots

A Novelist in Business School: Managerial Ethics and Twenty-One Pilots

“A Novelist In Business School”, is a series about putting my literary arts brain through formal management training.

I’m currently taking a class on the Ethics of Management. The glib response to this statement is, “that must be a short class! Har har har!”

But the fact is that for every amoral, thieving, headline-making corrupt executive there are hundreds of thousands of managers and executives at every level who are genuinely trying to make the world around themselves a little better, and are concerned with making the best of the choices facing them.

The author of our textbook is one such. This is a slim volume, and it took me a while to warm up to it; to understand what it is genuinely trying to represent inside its somewhat repetitive passages:

This book represents the crystallized thoughts of someone who has spent decades earnestly trying to understand how you bring your human soul to bear in the act of management.

It’s a deeply intellectualized approach to answering the question “how can I be a good person?”

So What Does This Have To Do With 21 Pilots?

I often wonder how 21 Pilots feels about being the 21st century band that  Gen-Xers in their early 40s point to as the modern music they like so they can say, “See? I’m still cool!” But that is not the point.

The point is that Tyler Joseph’s lyrics are an emotional approach to the same problem. I was listening to “Car Radio” (see? I’m still cool!) this morning while waiting for the train.

from the things that work there are only two
And from the two that we choose to do
Peace will win
And fear will lose
There’s faith and there’s sleep
We need to pick one please because
Faith is to be awake
And to be awake is for us to think
And for us to think is to be alive
And I will try with every rhyme
To come across like I am dying
To let you know you need to try to think

This lyric conveys so much; the internal conflict that Joseph has; that he’s got the kind of mind that explores all possible solutions to the human problem and has tentatively selected two that “work”. And the one hurts (faith, being awake, thinking) is the one that he proposes we do. Mr. Hosmer says almost the same thing:

An action such as lying that is considered wrong in one ethical system will generally be considered wrong in all others, but these ethical systems cannot be reconciled into a single, logically consistent whole.
–Hosmer, La Rue. The Ethics of Management (Page 98). McGraw-Hill Higher Education -A. Kindle Edition.

He’s explored a number of ethical systems and intellectually has decided that there are multiple paths that “work”. And while it hurts, we have to face our ethical choices with eyes open, we have to think our way through them, and accept the choices we make.

Painless Git, Part One, Almost Done!

Painless Git, Part One, Almost Done!

Part One is really coming along!

Sure, Part One is nine chapters long and Part Two is currently slated to be around seventeen chapters, but hey, progress is progress. 

I’m having a lot of fun writing Painless Git, and I think that even if Part Two is longer, it’ll be even more fun, both to write and to read. 

Relative Value

Relative Value

So, my work mouse is dying, which got me thinking about value calculations.

I’m willing to pay for an excellent product, if it does something I need. Or even if it does something I want. But those calculations get weird. Here’s what I mean:

This mouse:

Costs as much as this computer:


Which is odd of you think about it. One is an input mechanism, the other is an entire computer. How could they possibly be worth the same amount of money? And for that matter, why did I pay as much as both of those things put together for this pair of headphones:

The answer, I guess, is because that’s where my values are. I don’t much care about which mouse I use, so I’m not willing to pay all that much for a mouse. I like small computers, so I’m willing to pay for a weird small computer. I love good headphones, so I’m willing to pay  more for them.

First world non-problems, I realize. But here’s the thing. I have no idea about the relative expenses in making these three items. The headphones might be cheaper to manufacture than either the mouse or the PocketC.H.I.P. They’re certainly less difficult. Maybe Sennheiser is using really expensive materials and the price is justified. Maybe they just manufacture to very high standards (they are very wonderful headphones) and the price is justified by the care they took in their creation.

I Didn’t Like Rogue One, But Now I Do

I Didn’t Like Rogue One, But Now I Do

The only movies I have seen in theaters in the past five years have been Star Wars movies. (Before that I saw Tron: Legacy)

I went into The Force Awakens with dubious expectations. The prequel trilogy had damaged me as it has damaged so many others. But from the first scene Episode VII turned me into a little kid again, as excited and smiling as I had been when I saw Return of the Jedi on the big screen.

So I had high hopes for Rogue One. I had kept myself as spoiler free as possible to better let it wash over me on the big screen, to let it transport me back to that childhood where I didn’t even know what spoilers were.

Only, it didn’t. It was odd. I could see how well crafted every scene was, I could see how interesting and skillfully written every character was. But it didn’t move me like The Force Awakens had. And when Rogue One ended I found myself entirely untouched by what was objectively a very emotional ending. I walked out of the theater strangely unfulfilled.

But I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

And the more I thought about it, the better I liked it. I liked knowing these stories, these characters. I found greater appreciation for the cast that gave so much to let the Skywalker Family Reunion happen in the upcoming movies.

And I found more appreciation for the work that had gone into making a movie that fit so well with a movie made forty years earlier. I loved the X-Wing pilots in their 70’s mustaches. I loved the outfits that harked back to earth styles that had faded before I went to kindergarten.

So, while Rogue One wasn’t able to transport me back to my six year old self, it is a movie that works for a whole different set of reasons.

Semi-Comical aside: While I was watching Rogue One I kept thinking “Why isn’t Krennic limping? Where is his cane?” It wasn’t until two days later I realized I was conflating him with MacPhearson from Space Mutiny.

Coming Soon…

Coming Soon…

A brand new book in a brand new format. A book whose main draw is that it will grow and evolve over the next year. A book collecting my greatest hits from over ten years of blogging and writing fiction. A book of remastered classics and astonishing new fiction as well.

A book full of things I never said.

Are you excited? I’m excited.


How I (try to) Deal With People

How I (try to) Deal With People

In church we teach our kids a simple song that has taken on much more significance for me as I’ve grown older. It’s very short:

Jesus said love ev’ryone;

Treat them kindly, too.

When your heart is filled with love,

Others will love you.

— Moiselle Renstrom 1889-1956

What I love about this song is that it’s not at all vague about how you should treat people. Let’s try a few questions. For example, should I love people who have different political views?

Jesus said love ev’ryone;

But surely not people who think things that I think are good are bad, or people who think that things I think are bad are good!

love ev’ryone;

Okay but what about…


Okay, I should love ev’, everyone. But, that can mean, like, tough love, right? Like, love the sinner hate the sin, right? Scare ’em straight.

treat them kindly, too.

ah, okay, true. No scaring people straight. Just love everyone and treat them kindly.

But, I mean, that can’t actually work, right? the world will just stomp me into the ground.

When your  heart is filled with love

Others will love you.

…Naaaaaaah, it can’t be that simple.

Winning friends begins with friendliness. –Dale Carnegie

Wait, what are you doing here, Dale Carnegie?

The legendary French aviation pioneer and author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry wrote: “I have no right to say or do anything that diminishes a man in his own eyes. What matters is not what I think of him, but what he thinks of himself. Hurting a man in his dignity is a crime.” –Dale Carnegie

And you brought a friend? Okay, if a primary song, Dale Carnegie and Antoine de Saint-Exupéry all agree, I guess I can give it a shot.

So this is how I try to deal with people. I’m not perfect at it, of course I’m not. But I’m happier now than I was when I was trying to keep the world at arm’s length through cynicism and sarcasm.


Doctor Who

Doctor Who

or: My Descent into Fandom

“Wait, the first episode is about shop-window dummies coming to life and terrorizing London? Okay, I’ll watch that.”

And that, dear friends, was the beginning of the end.

For most of my life I’ve avoided two things: being a “fan” of anything, and Doctor Who.

(Okay and a bunch of other things as well like spiders and getting murdered, but those are outside the scope of this essay. Sheesh.)

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