Attitude And Opinion

Being a creator vs being a consumer (OJR)

John was always a believer in things, but not a fan in particular. He doesn't usually want to dive into somebody else's imagination and doesn't usually prefer to be in someone else's world rather than in his own. He is just not made this way. John is looking at stuff and wants to know how it is made, but as soon as he knows how it is made, he doesn't want to stay around it and have it hug him. He is a creator of things and not as much a consumer of things. For example, he watched Star Wars in 1977 in the Cinerama in Seattle and the impact was enough so he didn't have to see it again. His friend Sean Nelson on the other hand is profoundly a creator of things, but also a consumer of things and that was always a friendly tension between them both.

Tolerance for disasters (RW39)

John has a very high tolerance for disaster. Whenever something crazy is happening, he just wants it to be the craziest. Like in August of 2016, Putin was sending some tanks into Ukraine and John wished that he maybe would invade Ukraine which is not so easy to invade. Putin did that right before the G5 conference in order to play his cards in a certain way. John was calling it "The Ukraine" again and apologizes, because he had been raised with the Ukraine being a part of the Soviet Union. The same is true with Rhodesia which he also cannot stop calling Rhodesia although it is modern Zimbabwe.

John thinks that a tsunami hitting the West Coat of the US, killing a lot of people would be bad, but if a tsunami is inevitable to hit the US at some point, then why not have it happen right now while John is alive? Why not have all the inevitable things happen right now? If it happens in 100 years, he is not going to be around to see it! If UFO:s are going to come and hover over the cities, let's get that happening! Dan interjects that hurricanes are really bad and he has experienced several of them when he lived down in Florida. It is easy to take the things you have for granted. John replies that he doesn't necessarily want it to be his house being taken away, but there is collateral damage to everything.

Made in China (RL177)

John does not want to buy anything Made in China anymore, not because he has anything against China, but he just made a decision to set some limits and define the space, like you fence off the garden to keep the deer out. There are a lot of things nowadays that are made in China and deciding not to buy any of it already takes away the first decision - just a way of sorting. After that he had to make another decision: Are things Made in Hong Kong or Made in Macau made in China? When it comes to Made in Taiwan it depends on whom you ask, but John's world view supports Taiwan as an independent country, because he has some friends whose parents come from Taiwan. Macau and Hong Kong have both been their own colonies, city states that had been leased from China for 99 years by the Portuguese and the British, but then times changed and in the late 90:s China did not renew their lease and the two cities returned to China as special administration areas, and Made in Macau is now kind of a label trickery.

John used to live in an old warehouse building where the guy who owned it didn't really own it, but he had a 99 year lease and he fixed up the building just enough so it could inhabit people and work as a rent generator for him, but he couldn't redevelop the property. Maybe he could sub-sell his lease, but was going to be dead before that lease would expire.

Hong Kong and Macau have kept one foot in the capitalist world. There is still gambling going on in Macau, like in a James Bond town. Gambling is a big cultural thing for China, because older folks in Merlin's neighborhood are very much into gambling Mahjong and the like.

Taking Naps (RL238)

Merlin thinks that naps often feel like weakness and that liking to take a nap is like a secret shame that many of us share. But he loves to take a nap and even puts them on the calendar sometimes in order to make sure he actually gets some rest and not just goofing off on the Internet.

John is a long-time super-napper and shares some insight: One hour is not the optimal nap duration and quality of naps does not increase with length. When you sleep 90 minutes to 2 hours, you will break your cycle. John says a 5-minute nap has the power of a 1000 naps. It is not meant to be a Churchill-nap (where you behave like you are going to sleep), but just "dropping the spoon", just like restarting your Mac, just leaning back and falling asleep quickly. Do not seek comfort before taking a nap! John keeps a pillow in his truck to make it easy for him to take a nap even in his driver's seat with the seat belt still on and without catching the attention of the cops. The day-time naps are very necessary for John, but experiences increasing problems sleeping at night. On the other hand, he does not want to be treated for sleep apnea, so he does not like to talk about this to a doctor.

Bathrooms with electric hand blowers (RW60)

John hates bathrooms with electric hand blowers. He feels the same about leaf blowers: although there was already the rake and the broom, they implemented this thing that hauls like a hovercraft. There is a movie theatre in Seattle with giant bathrooms, but if only one person uses the hand blower, you can’t be in that room and you can’t hear yourself think! Nonetheless, everybody uses them. Dan even calls them a hoax. He would only shake it off (his hands), but not use the blower. John says that after washing your hands, you run your wet hands through your hair which will already take care of a big portion of the problem, but Dan is doubtful, because of the potential germs in the hair. Soap, by the way, is not inherently clean, it can contain bacteria. The washing process removes them from your face, because bacteria want to cling to the soap more than to your face. But when you are washing your hands too much, you can get sick because of the germs in the soap! Soap dispensers do not have locks, everybody could put anything in there, like LSD (Drugs).

Paper towels and washable towels (RL48)

As a person from the Northwest, John conserves paper towels and uses washable towels as an intermediary layer between him and everything instead. Don’t bring up Howard Hughes who puts paper towels and toilet paper on everything! Although there could be a lot of disease carried in washable towels, John would just be carrying his own disease down to the washing machine. It is your disease, as far as you know, which started to sound like Billy Corgan lyrics. Who cares about the drummer of The Smashing Pumpkins? They were so serious!

Group Showers (RL48)

Didn’t we learn enough from history to not go into a room where everybody takes a shower? It is a bad idea! When John was in Wendler Junior High, the coach would stand at the door of the shower with a clipboard and check off your name if he saw you take a shower. If you didn’t go past him, take your towel off and take a shower so he could see that you have wetted yourself from top to bottom, it was impossible to get an A in gym. It was super-psychological! In 7th grade there are kids who are already men and there are little skinny kids who are still very much boys. The coach was standing there at the doorway, chanting ”Shower Down to get an A!” in his weird Oklahoma accent.

Throwback Thursday (RW61)

John finds the hashtag #tbt everywhere and notices it is used to post embarrassing photos of yourself on Instagram, no matter which day of the week. Dan argues that if you use a single letter to abbreviate the days of the week, then Thursday is abbreviated by R, because T is Tuesday. John agrees that TBR sounds like Tuberculosis or some old-fashioned sports car. John is greatly interested in pictures from somebody else’s past because it is a form of interesting self-curation. John used to have picture albums on the shelves and flipping through them was a thing John liked to do on Sunday afternoons. Unfortunately in the 90:s, John’s mom decided that three shelves used for photos was not efficient and used 600 man-hours taking the photos out of the albums and putting them into boxes. The problem is that they get scrambled very quickly and all continuity and historical context is lost. Some of the photos were even given to other people when they happen to ask for them. His mom also got rid of pictures of pets and landscape and now John has 40 different boxes with people in no particular order.

Overhearing other people's conversations (RL243)

Merlin finds it fun to listen to other people's conversations at the Apple store. He would also start interactions, like for example if he sees someone who has Airpods, he would ask them if they use double-tap for Siri or for Play/Pause. He does a bit of Thomas Friedman work and tries to get a gauge on how people are using the product. A burger place where Merlin sometimes gets his lunch has an array of tablets (like the pedalboard of Jerry from The Wrens) to take orders in different formats. For John, this sounds like something that the old Merlin Mann, the technology pundit, would be interested in talking about, but these days Merlin is just a lay person, just a farmer, just hoeing his row, or hoeing his till. Is this just a distracted interest for Merlin? Or is he still Brad Pitt or Christian Bale in The Big Shot, keeping his hands in the game. John agrees that he also likes sitting on the bus and listen to people talk, not out of a vocational need, but just watching his friends and what they are doing.

Text messaging (RW82)

John thinks that the invention of text messaging is one of the most genius inventions in human life because he doesn’t want to talk on the phone and he doesn’t want to be in the same room with someone if he doesn’t have to. He has carried along entire relationships with people all with texts. Because John is a writer, he can communicate his thoughts and feeling pretty closely via words. He texts and he sends and then he receives and he reads and he replies and he sends.

Managing your points (RW82)

If John were somebody who managed his Starwood points and American Express points and Delta points, he would live in a land with chocolate fountains and people would throw gold coins at him. He would be getting free shit right and left and everywhere he went there would be somebody in a pillbox hat handing him a pillow. Sting from Quadrophenia would be carrying his bags up the stairs! Maybe an iPhone X would enable him to manage his points better, but John cannot imagine a worse prison to be in.

Anesthesia (RL280)

Like Max Tempkin, John does not like anesthesia. He really doesn’t like the idea of going out and waking up later while people are fucking with his mouth and stuff. He doesn’t like the prospect of a doctor coming into a waiting-room and going ”He didn’t make it!”, having his family go ”But it was a wisdom tooth?” and the doctor reply ”Yeah, but we did something wrong” They never say ”wrong”! Once they give you a thing that reduces the amount of breathing, anything could happen. Anesthesia is the toughest part of it and it is very difficult to get right!

Listening to NPR (RL238)

Listening to NPR is like a dishwasher in the background. John never really listens to NPR which surprises Merlin who has gotten into it quite a bit.

State Fairs (RL260)

It was a long time since Merlin had been at a state fair, he wouldn’t even know where to go. When he lived in Florida, they would go to many regional fairs. On two occasions as a child he was almost killed by Bob Hope at the Ohio State Fair when he was almost hit by his limousine. A lot of young people aren’t going to appreciate how cool it was to almost get killed by Bob Hope, because he was arguably the country's most popular and best known comedian. He is the original Tom Hanks. John once saw Count Basie at Disneyland and thought that meant he had some real connection to the real America, but Merlin almost got killed by Bob Hope! Merlin’s favorite fair is the Strawberry Festival in Plant City where they celebrate the harvesting of strawberries. It was a generic fair, you could see Night Ranger or a Country band, but you could also make your own strawberry shortcake and Merlin likes anything with strawberries. It was not a Build-A-Bear-type situation, however.

Privacy (RW47)

John is very revealing and talks about intimate things on his podcasts. Although some stories seem fantastical, they are all 99% true. Every once in a while John changes somebody’s name to protect them. Despite that, there is also a lot that John doesn’t say about who he is and what constitutes his life in both the socio-, psycho-, and spiritual sense. He tries to maintain privacy, but he doesn’t care about privacy the way it gets talked about for the most part. If you want his passwords and read all his email, that is fine.

John is not worried about being surveilled or tracked, because to a certain degree it is inevitable. The praise that contemporary technology delivers onto us comes with the side-effect that we are being watched all the time and that his debit card knows exactly where John has been. Somebody at Safeway headquarters somewhere in California can probably tell you more about John than some of his closest friends, just by the virtue of knowing what he is buying at 11:30pm and knowing about the number of DiGiorno pizzas John has shame-purchased at 11:39pm when he hadn’t eaten and should just go to bed. There is a ton of privacy stuff to be concerned about, but that ship has sailed.

John was all exercised about privacy 15 years ago and he still conceals a great number of things about himself. Privacy is extremely important to him. He does talk about shameful things, but other things keep him slightly out of focus and are not known by anybody, maybe except for his mom. In concentric circles out from her, people know him very well, but it tapers off in a volcano-shaped graph and most people are further down the slope.

John has never mentioned his siblings before Episode 47 of Roadwork because it never seemed necessary. It was however very necessary to mention his sister Susan, because she is a formidable force and influence on him throughout his life. She is a key element in understanding what John is talking about. When John posted a picture of his brother in October of 2016, people were concerned and contacted Dan privately to ask him to relay the question to John.

Swearing (RL281)

When Merlin's daughter was born, he really tried to stop swearing, but you don’t realize how much you swear until you try to stop it. John would put in a little cocktail-feather toothpick every time he would swear because he knew he was doing something wrong. He doesn't find it the hardest thing to not swear in varying company because he always feels like there is a little flag in every swear.

Getting paid for doing nothing (RW85)

John likes being on the beach and play in the waves, which is why he likes going to Hawaii, but just laying in the sun next to a swimming pool is something he doesn’t understand. Dan agrees! Dan loves kayaking or boating on the ocean or on a lake, but sitting by a pool for hours drinking alcohol? You couldn’t pay him $1000 a day to do that. In a cabin in the woods by a lake, yes! But not by a pool with all the chlorine and people screaming! John would take the $1000 and bring a ukulele or something to entertain himself. There are those new clear plastic ukuleles that are sweat-proof. They are actually pretty good instruments and play pretty well.

A lot of people work through their whole lives with the ambition to one day just chill. Their goal is to have nothing to do. John has plenty of time to do nothing and he does plenty of nothing, but he does not have any ambition to do nothing. His ambition is always to do something and to make himself useful and to produce something that is going to be good and lasting. He is always judging himself based on how much he has accomplished toward that goal and he always finds himself wanting in terms of sheer output. He both wants it to be good and he wants to be a lot of it, but he often does not do either. John hears stories about people who feel lucky because they retired at 59 and get to sit around doing nothing, but that is not what John wants at all. He wants to be 90 years old and do something that helps people. Dan completely agrees. John is never content and never has the feeling the he earned his leisure because he did his thing. He takes an awful lot of leisure, but he never feels like he earned it. John is lucky in a sense that leisure is part of his work, at least that is how he has designed his life. He is not driven enough to get up every morning at 6am, go out for a run and then come home and write 100 pages. He is not Michael Chabon and has not won a Pulitzer Prize, but he does want to do something other than sit by a pool.

For $1000 however he would feel that he was doing something and that was to earn $1000. That is $365.000 a year which would be a very good wage. Dan wouldn’t do it because he would be miserable. A pool on a cruise ship would be better. John has spent a lot of time on cruise ships and it is a popular topic of conversation between him, Jonathan Coulton, his wife Christine (Conner) and her sister Liz how it would feel to be on a year-long cruise around the world. They are all very familiar with a 7-day cruise and they are trying to picture a 14-day cruise, let alone a 40-day cruise or a 400-day cruise. You feel the creeping dread of being locked into this cycle. Even after 7 days, John is already good and doesn’t wish it for it to last longer. But a year long cruise? You’d get really bored, walking down the same hallways and going to the same restaurants and laying by the pool drinking. Dan has tried sitting by the pool and drinking all day, but he will have only one drink, maybe two. It doesn’t sound fun or interesting for him. Not that long ago they was on a family vacation in San Antonio at a beautiful resort with wonderful hotel rooms, wonderful food and a pool with a lazy river going all around the property. If you have to be in a pool, at least you are in motion.

The leaf blower controversy (RL282)

There was an article in The Atlantic about some rich neighborhood in some Santa Barbara valley, a beautiful liberal oasis where everybody had a beautiful home, the trees rustle in the wind and it is always 75 degrees (24°C). It was the perfect incubator of middle-aged liberal culture because there were no problems, but at some point a rich white person broke the social convention and hired landscapers who used gas-powered leaf blowers. It became a huge issue in the community because some people had decided that the Civil Rights Movement was already tied up with a bow and their neighbor with the gas-powered leaf-blower was the new cause to fight. They were hanging up posters, but the guy with the leaf-blowers was one degree more libertarian and said ”You can’t tell me what to do!” Then somebody noticed that all the landscapers were hispanic and it became a race issue because you were asking them to do their work with a broom. All similar articles that John has read in his entire life are always on his mind in every situation. It is part of being as woke as he is and he doesn't walk down the street without always being conscious of everything.

Toy brand loyalty between Playmobil and Fisher Price (BW205)

In January of 2015 John went to a model train show, because he is a man of a certain age. He saw an ad about it in the newspaper and only the people who still read the newspaper also want to go and see a model train show, so it was a perfect collaboration. You put a small ad at the back of AARP magazine and a big one in the newspaper. John was a little disappointed by the execution of some of these guys who didn’t bring their A-game to the train show and some of the trains were a bit under-thought. The crown jewel of the train show was a huge Playmobil train world constructed of Playmobil people with their little gas stations, airports, farms, pirate ships and so forth. There was actually a train running through this very effective ad for Playmobil. John thought that these Playmobil people were very cool because they resemble the Fisher Price people that he played with when he was a little kid. Playmobil people are obviously superior to the Fisher Price people, even though it pains John to say that.

Playmobil arrived on the scene just after John was a kid. He was still playing with his Fisher Price, those little wood dowels without arms that that would fit into little circular slots of a car, a train or a plane. They even appeared on the cover of Sunny Day Real Estate’s first album Diary! John was thinking about getting some of those Playmobils for his daughter, but he felt a little bit of brand loyalty and a little heartbreak at betraying his Fisher Price people! He was about to inflict Fisher Price on his daughter out of a sense of brand loyalty and a feeling of ”These were good enough for her dad!”, but then he realized that he shouldn't be an idiot because the Playmobil people are 1000 times better! They are the evolution of the Fisher Price people! There is no reason to feel brand loyal to Fisher Price, because what did they ever do for him? It was just a dumb toy that they made! We act like this because we are tribal people. We think of ourselves as modern, but and all our modernity gives the lie to the idea that we are primitive. In our hearts we are still primitive tribal thinkers (and now they will get an angry letter from somebody for equating ”primitive” and ”tribal”)!

Random facts

John had a pilot's license when he was 17 (RL25).
John hates going to the Laundromat (RL25).
Picture of John from his High School ID-card, Wendler Junior High 1981-1982.

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