Dan Benjamin

Dan Benjamin is John's co-host on Roadwork. He was born and raised in Philadelphia, he lived in Florida for a while until he finally moved to Austin where he today runs the 5by5 podcast network.

Family (BW230)

Dan’s grandfather was a metallurgist his whole life and he worked for the government in World War II with anti-ballistic armor for tanks. That didn’t mean he didn’t have other interests or pursuits, but his job every day going to work revolved around metallurgy. Dan knew what Tungsten was when he was very young. Because Dan's grandfather was a scientist, his whole approach to the world was using the scientific method in a lot of ways. His view of the world was that things could be understood and he taught Dan at a very young age that you could find the answer by consulting books, or you could determine the answer by testing the world with the scientific method, coming up with a theory, proving or disproving it and trying again. (BW230)

Even though his granddad had a very specific deep knowledge, he had the same kind of approach to other things in the world. Nowadays it almost seems that younger people don’t want to be pigeonholed and they don’t want to be an expert, like it would be somehow bad. Being a generalist always hurt Dan. It was hard for him to find a job until he got into the startup world where all of a sudden it was good to know how to run a Linux system, being able to write code, being able to sell to someone, to also write pretty good and maybe draw a little bit. All of this stuff suddenly fit together for Dan in that kind of a job. (BW230)

Coffee (RW70)

John thought that Dan would be a coffee snob, but that was a long time ago. Back in those days, long before it was fashionable to be snobby about coffee, he was even roasting his own beans in the oven. After they had gotten their first kid, coffee became just a necessity to function and Dan cast all his snobbery aside and since then he can enjoy coffee everywhere. Yes, he can tell the difference between coffee from Houndstooth or other better coffee places in Austin. Dan thinks that Starbucks is just fine and their coffee is perfect, but he can't eat anything from there, because he is gluten-free and pretty paleo. He doesn't eat many carbs in a given day. (RW70)

Business (RW14)

Dan does not consider himself successful in a professional capacity, because there is still so much left to accomplish and he has just scratched the surface. He has made a career as an early adopter in the creative field of broadcasting that was unforeseeable when he was in high school and was still unforeseeable during his early adult life. His work is still incomplete and he is not even 1% on the level of success he would like to achieve. He is so far behind and so late getting here that it almost washes away any degree of success he might have had. Dan is a very driven person and most of the things he has done until now feel like immense failures. If he would measure himself with his peers, people he went to high school with or whom he met early in his career, then he would seem successful, but he is thinking much bigger and will maybe never achieve those things and never feel successful, maybe that is why he tries as hard as he does to make something better. On a personal level, as a member of a family with wife, kids and house in a nice area, he feels fairly successful. He tries every day to be a good parent, but he doesn't feel like he is there yet. Dan sees success on a personal level as happiness: If you are happy, then you are successful. On a professional level it is much easier to set goals, often financial goals. He does not use the comparison model as John's mom does, because he does not feel that he is competing with other people. His wife will often tell him to be proud of what he has done, but he is not even close to what he wants to get done and he is already now running out of time. (RW14)

Learning Instruments (RW16, RW67)

Dan once had a guitar in the shape of the USA. John once had a chance to buy one of those, too, but he found it ridiculous and has regretted it ever since. Dan's mom had an original mid-late 60:s Martin Juggernaut that she kept in the attic while they lived in South Florida, to the point where the neck had warped itself pretty badly. (RW16) When he was in High School he really wanted to learn how to play the guitar, but he wouldn't have anywhere near the money to buy even a basic guitar and he didn't have a way into that community, he didn't have a friend who played guitar. But he could buy a harmonica and so he did. Dan was horrible at it and couldn't even play a long blue note as in When the Levee breaks. (RW67)

Dan was trying to play the blues and what he could afford at age 14 was a harmonica. He was trying to learn how to bend notes, but eventually his mom came and asked him if harmonica really is the instrument he wanted to play. Dan replied he wanted to play the guitar and his mom said she would give him the one that is up in the attic. Dan remembered it from when he was a kid. He had a very hard time playing on it. They took it to the guitar store and learned that the reason it is so hard to play is because the neck is warped and the strings were on since 1979. The neck could be replaced, but that would be very expensive. He would instead give Dan credit if he would buy another guitar in the store. It was not much, maybe $150, so Dan didn't have many options and one of the options was this guitar shaped like the USA. It was made from very heavy wood, had a pickup in it, which was good because he wanted to play Led Zeppelin I and II. Dan traded it for an Ibanez that had skull stickers on it, so it is long gone. (RW16) In 4th grade Dan played the trumpet and in 5th and 6th grade he played the saxophone, but he was not good at the harmonica at all. (RW67)

Do it yourself (RW17)

Dan can do anything on old 70:s and 80:s cars from servicing the brakes and up. He enjoyed doing an oil change every few months, cleaning the filters and everything else. It also saved some money. Dan knows how to do most basic things around the house, but stays away from the electrical stuff as much as he can, except maybe from changing a light switch or put up a ceiling fan. Nowadays he feels bothered by the fact that he doesn't have the right tools and the right time to do it anymore. The first time he replaced a toilet he was surprised over how easy it was.

Dan's first house was in Florida, a 1940:s little shoe-box of a house, and the previous owners had let it go long ago and done just enough to it to be able to sell it. Dan and his wife didn't know anything about houses. His wife thought it was cute, he found it affordable and close to where he worked, and that were the only criteria they had. It was an opportunity for Dan to learn what he didn't know, because he couldn't make the house worse. Things were missing or broken or so badly done that any experimental repair he did could not possibly mess it up. The house was off level and they had to raise it 4 inches in the back corner. They re-did all the countertops and cabinets, they did basic electrical work, fixed the floors, doors and air conditioning and all the stuff that you just learn about when you have an older home. After a certain point it doesn't really scare you anymore.

One time Dan came home from work and heard the water running and he realized it was coming from under the kitchen, from inside the house. It was a wooden home up on blocks with a 2 foot crawlspace under the house. There was a pinhole leak and he called the plumber at 6pm on a Friday. The guy was bumping around under there and it sounded that the water stopped but the guy was not coming back. Instead, he was just sitting in his truck smoking. The bill was $400, it was just a racket, so Dan realized he had to learn how to do all of this.

Dan's family have always been city dwellers. His grandfather was a metallurgist and worked for the government doing anti-ballistic armor for tanks and stuff. He worked in a lab and was a full-on scientist, not a handyman. Dan's uncle was French from a city called Brest. He was an electrical engineer and was a 100% do-it-yourself handyman kind of person. Dan doesn't think that his uncle has ever hired someone during his whole life to do something that wasn't for a project requiring a cement-mixer level tool. He didn't wear a beret, but everything else couldn't be more French about him. Of course, his car had to be a Peugeot. It had problems from the day he got it and he would fix them all by himself, frequently with parts that we would just find or make. He installed a little 2-position switch with wires running down along the dashboard and into the door. Apparently the fuel pump had failed and instead of getting a fuel pump for several hundred dollars, he went to Radio Shack and got some other kind of pump that was controlled by some other kind of battery with a switch, so when he wanted to start or run the car, he had to flip that switch and fuel would start flowing.

When his uncle got an IBM PC, he wouldn't get it from IBM, but he would source the parts, even at a time before you could source parts yourself easily. That really taught Dan something, because if you can understand something, you have an advantage in the world: You can figure it out and make it work. Nowadays we can't even upgrade the hard drives in our computers anymore. Everything is sealed and untouchable and it leads to this philosophy of being stuck. You can't soup up the car a little bit by adding some custom mufflers or replace the stock air intake. Those days are long gone. In the interest of efficiency we have made everybody a technician without anyone being a mechanic.

Self-control and meditation (RW72)

For many years, Dan had a really great meditation practice which made a huge difference, so much so that people who knew him from before told him that he had turned into a totally different human being. In some ways, the way Dan reacts to stress or anxiety differently than it used to be, even though he still gets stressed out and still has anxiety. There was a time period when Dan had a really strong Martini every single day after he came home at 5pm, just to take the edge off and make him feel like a normal person. There was a time when he was prescribed a low dose of Xanax and after taking one he thought that this might be what normal people feel like. Dan was always anxious and always stressed out, which is called generalized anxiety disorder and takes it's toll mentally and physically. Nowadays, exercise is a huge part of coping with it. He exercises every single day, 7 days a week. Since he had the problems with his back, exercises are no longer an optional thing. If Dan is feeling super-stressed out, there are breathing exercises that make a big difference.

It is fairly easy for Dan to be disciplined with himself and his habits. He has always been like that, even as a kid. He went Paleo almost 7-8 years ago and he never cheated in the sense of eating things that are far outside of the Paleo diet like gluten. If you want to get strict Paleo, they would even say no dairy and sugar. Dan has never eaten pizza or buns to his burgers. Those things are just off the menu now and he doesn't have any cravings after them, just like others will not think of eating a piece of cardboard or a rock. Dan doesn't have any emotion about it, he doesn't miss it, he doesn't crave it, and someone else could sit right across from him, eat it, tell him how good it is and Dan would be happy for the person, but would not feel anything else about it. John tried to be gluten free for a while because he likes to try everything and he has a very strong ability to plant his foot and say "No!", but what Dan is describing feels to John like a superhuman ability. Dan didn't have coffee or anything with caffeine in it since October 2016. Back then he had to stop because he had issues with adrenal fatigue, sleep issues and other things. When the doctor told him that, he countered that he needs two cups of coffee just to enjoy his third cup of coffee and he cannot function without it. He enjoyed the energizing feeling he got from it, but over time he felt the negative effects of it and had to stop. That was it!

Inner monologue (RW73)

Dan doesn't think in the same trifecta than John (Past/Present/Future John) and he does not have conversations with himself anymore. While he used to have a constant inner monologue going on, it went away after the 3rd of 4th year of his meditation practice. He can totally understand the part where Present John feels anxiety about playing an upcoming show. Dan only rehearses presentations with great reluctance. He absolutely does not look into a mirror when he does it, because it is already hard enough to look into the mirror 30 seconds every morning. It is absolutely not easy to be Dan. He is happy to have gotten rid of this tiring, unnecessary, constant narration while John finds it the great joy of his life because he has a very rich life in his mind, he entertains himself and is in great conversation with himself.

2017-September: Dan ditched a flu (RW82)

In September of 2017, Dan’s son had a flu or something. Many people will take their kid to the hospital immediately if they have a temperature over 99 degrees (37 °C), but Dan does not do that. His son had a fever between 102 och 103 (39°C) for a few days and he was coughing, but he is recovered now. His wife had a cold, his daughter had a cold and his son had this flu thing, so Dan got himself one of those surgeon masks from the Walgreens and wore it during the evenings, which seemed to have worked.

There are too many things happening right now and Dan can’t afford to get sick. While he does work when he is sick, he can’t podcast, which is maybe 20% of his work spread out over the week. The rest of the time he is writing code and managing servers and that kind of crap. After recording the show with John for about an hour and then spending an hour editing and publishing it, he is going to spend the remaining 6 hours of the day writing code (as in Computer Programming) and do support.

Dan the computer programmer (RW82)

Dan had been using a computer since he was 11 years old. He got a TRS-80 Color computer with a cassette drive from his Bar Mitzvah money, grew up with a computer and had a computer for most of his life. Since that time, Dan has also been programming computers. He has never really not been doing it, but how much of his time he could spend doing it varied over time. In the early days of 5by5 he was still doing consulting work and writing code for other people. When he shifted to doing 5by5 full time, he was coding a lot less, but he still did the 5by5 website from the ground up, both the code and the design. A couple of years ago Dan stared building a podcast hosting platform called Fireside. He had been writing code every day for a year to build it and after the launch he still writes code to improve it, add features and fix bugs. A normal workday doesn’t go by when he is not writing code, primarily Ruby on Rails for Fireside. He also manages the infrastructure for it and there is a lot of back-end stuff like Varnish VCL configurations. In addition he still has to maintain 5by5. (RW82)

Dan started making some Podcast Method videos to teach people about podcasting equipment and stuff, but those have some way to go before he can release them. Back in the day, 5by5 was his main job and he was recording 2 or 3 shows a day which didn’t leave him much time to do anything else. A while ago Dan hired someone to sell ads which has let him take time away to do Fireside. John knew that Dan was doing things like going to the Office Depot to get some highlighters and stuff, but he didn’t figure he was a code-monkey. Although Dan is the proprietor, he can’t afford hiring an army of 25-year-olds to do the work yet, because the site does not go like gangbusters at this time. There is a guy who helps him with some of the features and he has a designer who can fix CSS-bugs in 5 minutes. Dan is writing code, attending server-stuff or support tickets 6-8 hours a day and he is enjoying it. If it was twice as big as it is now (and it will be), he can afford to hire someone full time to do that, but while it is a lot of work, it is fun work. Dan enjoys writing code and is teaching himself a couple of new languages, like Go and Node. (RW82)

Guns n' Roses at New Year's Eve of 1989 (RW13)

Dan went to a big Guns n' Roses show on New Year's Eve of 1989. At midnight, Axl counted down and they had some fireworks going on. The venue was the Joe Robbie Stadium in Miami with 50.000 people, but for the most part they were playing pretty much exactly what was on the album and Dan found it very satisfying. Dan got to see so many different bands, because he was an usher at the University in Orlando when he was in college. There were two venues in town, the huge stadium and then the much smaller stadium where even some of the bigger acts came through on. What could be a better job in college than to hear all those free concerts? His appreciation for seeing a different kind of performance grew during that time and he no longer found it necessary that every band is playing everything exactly like on the album. (RW13)

Thinking about a military career (BW205)

Movies like Stripes made Dan believe that the military might be an option for him, but when contrasting that to actual war movies like Patton, the part where everyone is dying seemed very unappealing. In High School, well past the point when he was even remotely considering doing anything like that, his friends started their own physical training so they could go and enlist. To make it through Boot Camp, they needed to make this many push-ups and run this far, all of which was really off-putting to Dan at the time. Even though Stripes seemed pretty fun with the GMC RV and all, at close reading you were going to be bossed around by John Larroquette which is not a thing Dan was prepared to have happened. Even MASH seemed really good until he saw the one special episode with the boss and the baby. After that it wasn’t fun anymore. Those guys were doctors and they could be sassy because they were needed. If John were trying to put himself in the MASH story, he would be the guy with the spoon in the chow line, slopping corn onto Frank Burns’ tray. He wouldn't be a doctor, but the long support tail is still important! (BW205)

Dan's getting sent a more expensive knife and the way Jesus works (RW74. RW76)

Both Dan and John enjoy picking up a pocketknife. Dan was about to get a new one and did a bit of research. John had a SpiderCo police model with a serrated edge but he lost it on the beach in Cannes, France around 1994, before he stopped drinking. Dan had one of those in the early 2000:s. Now Dan is looking at the SpyderCo Delica 4 Lightweight FRN Flat Ground PlainEdge knife. It has good ratings and it costs $60, more than Dan would normally spend on a knife, but he ordered it anyway from Amazon. When he opened the box, there was a completely different knife inside with a black blade, bigger and more expensive. It looked like military Black Ops, so Dan returned it and ordered it again to get the correct one, but the exact same thing happened and he got one of those black knifes again! According to the John Roderick philosophy, this is the way Jesus works and the universe wants Dan to have this knife! (RW74)

One of John's friends said that she met two guys standing on a random stretch of road and as she walked past them at a languid enough pace, she heard them talking about how difficult it is to be a Christian in LA and that they don't get any respect. She didn't understand why those guys were standing there and what the significance for her was, because: How hard it can be to be a white male Christian in LA? John explained it by telling her that this is how Jesus works! Now she can't get this conversation out of her head and later she is going to bump into somebody in a bar, she is going to like him, and during the third half of their date he is going to say that he is Christian and it is really hard to be Christian in LA. Normally she would think "Oh, give me a break!", but she has been thinking about it for a week and now she met somebody in person and is a bit more sympathetic to it than she would have been otherwise. She is a Jewish girl, so she is not going to share his persecution complex, but she is sympathetic and will go out on a third date. This is just spooky Jesus at a distance! (RW74)

As Dan removed the sticker on the knife's box, there was a barcode underneath and as he scanned it with the Amazon app, the article that came up was a SpyderCo ParaMilitary 2 knife, almost twice as expensive than what Dan had paid for his knife. Now he is definitely going to keep it! Dan has a home protection culture in his life and won't let a home invasion happen. John hopes that it is not ever a thing Dan will have to do, but one day this knife might be the thing that saves him! He should hide it in the far back corner of his closet and when has to retreat all the way back there, he will remember the knife that the intruders don't know about. (RW74)

If Dan would not keep the knife, he would be tempting fate and John suggests that neither of them at this stage in their lives should be doing that. There are times to tempt fate, but you got to know when to hold them, know when to show them, and know when to fold them. You don't want to be sending back knives that keep coming, because it is the type of thing that might trigger a spy movie plot: The doorbell rings and two guys in black suits hand you a box with this knife again and they say "Look, keep the knife, Dan!" Dan tweeted about it and listener Chris asked him as a knife enthusiast demanded to know what knife it was. Dan sent him a link and Chris replied that it is unusual to find any S30V steel in the blade under $100. (RW74)

Just lately John went to the Safeway to get his usual slice of 6-layer cake and they didn't have it, for the second time already, so he is afraid he ruined it by talking too much about it on the Internet. Dan should not make the same mistake with this knife, but he is definitely ordering another one and John wanted to get one, too, (RW74) but two weeks later he hadn't yet ordered one. (RW76)

Listener Gabriel wrote in two weeks later: Amazon has determined the correct knife for Dan's situation based on what his neighbors around him have ordered. (RW76)

Random facts

Dan would play IntelliVision in the back of the mall. (RW83)

Dan says that he has this innate ability to read other people really well and sometimes he can just feel that things are not right and he should not work with a certain person. Every time he went against it, he was regretting it later. Then he started over-analyzing things. Maybe his actions were based on the impressions and he tainted the actual outcome: He might have been Schroedinger's catting it. (RW13)

There is a super-cool tunnel between Philadelphia where Dan grew up and Wilkes-Barre where his grandparents lived. The tunnel would always be the highlight of the trip for him. They drilled it using dig-and-blast style and it was square-ish instead of round. Dan finds tunnels weird and creepy. (RW70)

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