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A Day in the (Virtual) Life: Founder WFH in Middlebury, Vermont

A few weeks ago, I interviewed Geopipe’s co-founder Christopher Mitchell, working from home in NYC. To balance the equation, I chatted with co-founder and Chief Science Officer Thomas Dickerson, who works from home in more rural Vermont.


Christi Kroll: Things have been crazy for everyone. Since everyone at Geopipe has shifted to working from home, is your schedule completely out of whack?

Thomas Dickerson: The day is pretty structured. The cats make sure that I get up at a certain time for breakfast. At Geopipe, we aim to be readily available for online communication between 10am -5pm. It’s pretty regimented, but the schedule hasn’t changed too much. [My wife] Courtney has a job, and we always try to maximize the overlapping of our free time.

CK: I know you’re a cat dad of 2…how are the cats liking quarantine?

TD: Agnes is of the “why are the weird annoying servants spending time in my house?” mentality, but Rascal is enjoying the cuddling.

CK: Geopipe gives people the experience of the real world at their fingertips. With so many people feeling cut off from the outside world, do you feel that the need for Geopipe is more urgent?

TD: Being able to connect in virtual space, and have it feel like the real world, is definitely something that is resonating with people right now. For example, we’re helping the Brown Esports team to build the entire campus of Brown University in Minecraft. We provided them with the exterior environments. and they’re crowdsourcing getting students to build the inside of the buildings. Their goal is to get official recognition and connect with Admissions to create virtual admissions tours.

CK: Do you have any recommendations for people working and studying from home for the first time?

TD: When you’re working from home, there’s fewer external stimuli to remind you to do stuff. Have timers and online reminders to eat, if you have the tendency to get lost in focus, set timers to get up and move around--your body will not feel good if you’re sitting in the same place for 8 hours.

Generally, I’d encourage people to think about ergonomics and eye strain and things like that. Make sure that you have your color temperature on your computer screen set appropriately, especially if you’re new to a whole day on a screen. You just have to think about protecting your body and your health, because humans weren’t designed to stare at lights.

CK: How would one implement those precautions?

TD: There’s a couple of things. One is that most computers nowadays have a night mode setting, or “dark mode”, that switches the color scheme to dark backgrounds with light text rather than the other way around, which is readable but reduces the overall light coming into your eyes.

You can also install a program which lets you control the color temperature of your screen. Install the app, put it in “bedtime mode” and set the color temperature to incandescent bulb or candle, and it will shift the distribution of colors coming from your screen to be more red or orange, rather than blue light.

People frequently think of red being hot, (infrared light, fire) but the other end of the spectrum is even more energetic (UV light) and tire your eyes more easily. If you think of someone looking at their cell phone in the dark, the backglow on their face is blue. That’s what we’re trying to avoid. You could also get some blue light glasses.

CK: Those are really helpful recommendations—I feel like we don’t always consider the repercussions of looking at screens all day. After the screens are put away, what kind of things have you been doing in your leisure time?

TD: I don’t have any big LEGO projects going right now, but I’ve been watching Picard and Season 7 of Clone Wars. Picard is good. It’s kinda dark and regretful in the way that you would expect if you take the optimism of TNG and marry it to the reality of the age that we’re currently living in. It very much has the underlying Star Trek moral sensibilities. The continuity matters. Courtney and I have also been working through the Shannara books in chronological order.

CK: That’s so funny! Christopher mentioned that series as his quarantine reading in his interview as well!

TD: I basically brainwashed him. Christopher only reads things that I tell him to.

CK: I’m sure he’ll love to hear that. Have you picked up any new hobbies during the quarantine?

TD: This isn’t a new hobby, but I do like to homebrew my own wine and cider. I had a batch of chocolate beetroot wine, inspired by a red velvet cake, and it’s weird and high proof (for something brewed rather than distilled). I’d say it somehow has the right character for sipping during the apocalypse.

CK: Chocolate…beetroot…wine? What does that taste like?

TD: Mostly like alcohol and a little bit like cocoa. It took a while to make—it’s juiced beets, natural processed cocoa powder, sugar, and a quart of skim milk …

CK: (interrupting): Milk?? In wine??

TD: Lactose is a popular ingredient in brewing, because most yeast can’t eat lactose. Strained it, and brewed it for two weeks. It smelled like chocolate and bananas and sort of tasted like chocolate…dirt?

CK: That sounds… interesting…

TD: I made another quart of apple cider and combined it to thin the mixture and have left it to carbonate in the fridge for 3 weeks. We broke it out recently and it wasn’t too bad!

CK: Cheers.

Agnes checking out the homebrewing process.

Thomas's alma mater, rendered into Minecraft by Geopipe and the Brown eSports team.

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