Factoids

Japanese Ear Picks (RW60, RL250)

Once John was given two Japanese ear picks (Mimikaki) by Scott Simpson that the Japanese use to clean their earwax. John self-administered them because he did not look up how to use them. In Japan they are usually applied by somebody else. There are two types of human earwax, the dry crispy kind, more common for Asian people and the greasy thick kind, more common for Western people.

Southeastern and Northwestern Styles of Flying (RW17)

Based on his demeanor, Dan sees John more as a chopper pilot rather than flying a commercial airline. John does not see himself as a very good airline pilot with all the ins and outs of flying people around. John's model of it is bush pilot in Alaska because he grew up with a lot of them. They are very exciting creatures and full of reckless daring dew. They wear mirrored sunglasses and even Hawaiian shirts. A lot of them wear shoulder holsters with pistols in it. John would fly a Dehavilland Beaver, a Piper Super Cub or a Cessna 180, maybe on floats, taking people around, chomping away on an unlit chair root. A lot of guys down in Miami are flying low-wing planes like Comanchees, which John thinks of as Southeast style plane, because they are fast and cool-looking. In the Northwest, pilots prefer high-wing planes because they are better for landing on rough airstrips and you have a better visibility looking down, while the low-wing planes are faster and more zippy.

Giving presentations (RL125)

When John goes out on stage to do a show, he greets his audience with "All right, listen up, dickholes! Before I do another thing there are a few rules and one of them is: Shut up!" John's assumption is that he is on stage, and not the other person and he has to own the room completely to the best of his ability. Going out with "Hey! For those of you who don't know me…" doesn't work. If somebody doesn't know John, then "Fuck you! You must have been living under a rock!". At his talk at XOXO 2014, 30% knew exactly who he was, 30% had no idea who he was, and 40% was on a spectrum from "I have heard of this guy, I think" to "I've heard of him, but I don't like him" John always assumes that everybody likes him. Otherwise he can't do his style of presentation. It is essential!

John and Merlin were at the Seattle Interactive conference earlier. Afterwards John read a comment from a social webinar expert: "I went to see this group of people talk about social networking. It was a total waste of time, it was just five or six guys up there who liked to hear the sound of their own voices" and John commented "Your time must be extremely valuable if it is wasted by this hour of completely harmless hijinx". There were people in the room who were looking for some new thought technology that would help them to become better app makers and John was not going to provide any of that. He was going to do infotainment of a different sort.

Merlin and John continue to banter about how they both approach giving talks. Merlin always likes to be early and work the room, tries to find some common ground with the audience, like for example if it was hard to find a parking space. John does no preparation and when he comes on stage, he makes the stage his own, like "I don't like where these chairs are!" and "Who put this vase here? This vase doesn't go here!" John does regular shows at The Rendezvous and he has 80 people a week who keep coming back. XOXO 2014 was the first time when he went up and did an hour long thing for a room full of strangers. He couldn't get up at a Seahawks game and give an hour long speech of his feelings and talk in front of 50.000 people. Or maybe… At XOXO he knew that he should not search too deeply on the Internet afterwards, but a quick read didn't uncover anybody saying "This was a total waste of time". John likes giving talks and he is just finding a place to do it where people appreciate the degree of difficulty. To go up and talk extemporaneously for an hour is less difficult for him than it might be for a lot of people, because that is a thing like swimming or running that he can do, but it is still extremely challenging.

Sidearms (RW73)

Dan wonders when soldiers carry a side arm and when they don't. John's understanding is that the typical infanterist is not issued a side arm of any kind, but they are only carried by a small group of people like the Military Police (MP) or soldiers on some kind of special duty, like guarding airports or in an anti-terrorism context. Not many soldiers carry guns, but a lot of them sit with their typewriters or are driving trucks. The army is a huge trucking operation.

Words for your private parts and complimenting people's butt (RL244)

Merlin and John banter about how men and women talk about their genitals in different words, like who uses "dick" or "boobs" and "tits". One problem is that you don't want to make the other person laugh when you are serious. Depending on where you have heard different words before, you will react differently. Everybody brings a whole different bunch of suitcases into this mind room. The current sentiment is to just use the normal words and keep yourself on the road. Merlin had a girlfriend in college who would call it her "girl bottom", but John is not convinced. The word "pussy" seems very sweet at first, but sounds cringey to many girls. Nobody uses "twat" unless you are an Appalachian grandma. John can't use "dick" with a straight face. "Butt" has come a long way. It is a tricky thing because everybody thinks about their butt.

Everybody has some thoughts about their own butt, and it is unclear who wants to call attention to what aspect of their own butt. At a base level everybody wants to hear that they have a nice butt. If you say this off-hand to your date while walking down the streets, they will still think about that situation much later in life. Merlin still thinks about a similar compliment he got 30 years ago. As John was once on the way to Knarr's Tavern with a group of friends, the lady in the group just casually said "six guys and not a single good butt". It had not occurred to John before that women were looking at them in this way. John was then memorizing the butts with the understanding that these were not good butts, gathering information to apply in other situations. He could have made a lot of assessments looking at those guys, like for example: "those are a bunch of dingelings" or "nobody of those has any fashion sense", or "you look like a bunch of soccer players" (which has to be up there with "is this your first day?"), but he would not have judged them on their butt. John was walking next to her and was not part of the group of six, so he is not sure if his butt had made the cut.

If you go deeper and look into what in particular you like about someone's butt, it does get tricky right away. If you ever say to somebody "You have a really big butt", you have just pulled out the pin of a grenade while holding it in your hand and also holding the edge of a cliff with your other hand and your feet swinging in the air. The grenade is furthermore tied to a string around your neck. If you let go of the grenade, then you have a live grenade with the pin out tied around your neck. Before you open your big mouth, make sure you understand what the play is. You could say "Within the larger context, you have a very small butt, but within the context of small butts you have a nice big butt", which is of course strictly limited to somebody you are romantically involved with. You should never comment on anybody else's butt unless you are strictly in a situation where you are naked with them or on the way of getting naked with them. It should only ever be complementary! One of the oil paintings in John's mind house that he didn't put over the fireplace, but where he is unsure if he should put it in the bathroom or wherever else, comes from a girl in college who told him that he has a great body, if only he did a few sit-ups. John already knew that he was supposed to do some sit-ups. She was trying to shape him, because some girls love their partners to 90% as they are, and the remaining 10% are a project that is very exciting to them. At age 23, John had a dad bod, and at age 48 he still had pretty much the same dad bod. He had never had a flat stomach! Universally, women find that John has good legs, and so he believes it.

The comments in Merlin's yearbooks are all very similar and read something along the lines of "weird, but cool", "weird, but nice", or "weird, but smart". The consistency to those remarks is that not only was Merlin weird when he was 14, but everyone said so! Nobody told him in any comment that he had sexy legs. The gist of John's yearbook is "You were a bastard to me for four years, but for some reason everybody likes you still. Good luck!" He even gave that girl her license plate back (see RL240 in stories)! John's impression from Merlin's older photos is that Merlin was a very handsome guy who aged very well into a very appropriately interesting looking middle aged man. He has not fallen apart, but became more intensely him. Merlin is someone who could sell things just with his face. He was handsome, but did not believe it and he never capitalized on it or exploited it. For John on the other hand it was always clear that he was not handsome, but that he was undercooked. At a certain point he grew into his looks enough that now he bamboozles people by his charisma, which is another example of those awful comments.

The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking (RL239)

There was a record called "The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking" by Roger Waters with a naked photo of Linzi Drew on the cover, prominently displaying her butt, in high heels, wearing a back pack, sticking out her thumb. She had been described as having a big butt, but in today's eyes, she looks really lean, which shows that our perception has changed. That didn't help John, because he got miscalibrated by the butt on that cover: he didn't see it as a big butt even at the time.

Talking about butts: The motto of hitchhikers was “Ass, Gas or Grass, nobody rides for free”.

Linzi was among other things an actress (IMDB), for example in American Werewolf in London or together with Hugh Grant in Privileged and several adult movies. She was also the editor of the British edition of Penthouse Magazine.

Fonts (OJR)

At some point 20 years ago John became aware of the Hipster graphic art font fixation. Fonts really blew up and art was happening. There was font-talk in bars but he could not have been less connected to what people went on about it. He could only rarely follow what people would call good fonts and bad fonts. Maybe one could take the results and conduct clinical studies to determine personalities based on font preferences.

Nychthemeron (RL253)

Merlin listens to the podcast "No such thing as a fish" where researchers for the British quiz show QI take 4 topics and each of them will offer an interesting fact that they have learned in the past week about that topic. This was on their word-twitter the day of recording this episode:

Nychthemeron: A period of 24 hours, used to avoid confusion between "day" meaning daylight and "day" meaning 24 hours. It is the period of time that a calendar normally labels with a date allthough a nychthemeron simply designates a time span that starts at any time, not just midnight. Some languages have a word for 24 hours, or more losely a day plus a night in no particular order.

Using it will make you sound like someone who follows word-twitter, though. Another example is the different use of "this week" and "next week" by different people, which is something that should have been resolved 500 years ago. Merlin solves that by providing a wealth of information in his calendar invites, which makes some people roll their eyes hard!

Studio engineers, auto mechanics and doctors (RL183, RW70)

There are two kinds of people incapable of admitting they did anything wrong: Studio engineers and producers, people making record albums can never say "Oh shit, I fucked that up", because the artist will then blame them for the rest of their lives that the record got fucked up by that guy. (RL183) If they accidentally delete the best guitar solo you have ever played, they will never admit that they made a mistake, but they would just ask you to play it one more time. (RW70) The second group is auto mechanics: If you drive 15 feet out of the mechanics shop and the motor blows up, the mechanic is gonna say "well, I think the reason the motor blew up has nothing to do with the work that I did on it, because I didn't touch that part. I was down in there changing all these other things, but I never changed that one thing that ended up being the thing that failed". You take your car to the mechanic over and over and as you drive away the car runs worse, but "well, that problem had always been there and what I did was fine and did just uncover that other problem". As a customer you want the mechanic to drive around and feel the problem, do the work, then get in the car and drive around again to shake it out. The problem is that shop time is $120 an hour, so they don't do any of that to keep your bill down. (RL183)

Doctors also never admit they made a mistake, but they will instead blame it on complications. This it true for a lot of grown-ups. They figure out a way to make you look like the one who screwed it up. Success has a thousand fathers, but failure is an orphan. (RW70)

John's feet (RL245)

John's feet have held up well, considering the work he has put on them. He is a walker, he is heavy, but his feet have never let him down. He can't imagine having problems with his feet, that would be terrible! His knees on the other hand are terrible. His knees and his lungs were the two parts of his body that had not been up to capacity from the beginning, but fucked up knees just means that he is starting to walk like his dad. Going up the stairs becomes a thing. He looks like the Penguin played by Burgess Meredith. One day there will be some technology that allows him to have knee replacement surgery. As he was younger, John had one bad knee and has favored the other one and ruined it, too.

Looking at yourself in a blacklight (RL248)

In Alaska they use blacklight as part of a gold mining operation, because it helps you to descern minerals of what otherwise just looks like a bucket of sand. Gold mines are cabins without electricity and you turn out the gas lights at night when it is time to go to sleep. Being tormented by the sound of mosquitoes flying around you, you find a blacklight in order to see the mosquitos, because you are not going to light the gas light again. When you happen to hold the blacklight on yourself you see all the dander that is on you.

Things John could never do again and it would be fine (RW71)

John doesn't feel strongly enough about sports in general to actually care about it. If he never went to another baseball game, it would also be fine. He doesn't care about very many things enough that it would be a problem for him if he never went and did them again. He loves museums, for example! In June of 2017 he was at the Henry Art Gallery looking at pretty great installations of the type that are done for museums and which nobody would buy to put into their house. Here is John's short list of things that would make him sad if he never did them again:

  • Pet his daughter's hair
  • have a piece of cake.

Even if he would never see a rock show again, he might just be fine. He has been to a lot of rock shows, but there are people who have been to a lot more: His friend Chad Creolo has been to 1000 times more, because he was working as an agent. Chad has also been at a lot of shows he didn't want to be at. At one time he was on vacation with Paul McCartney who recognized him because of his 1940:s look. Paul had critcized him earlier that year when everybody was supposed to wear a suit, but Chad was in his Pendleton shirt as if he didn't get the memo about dressing up for the show.

Gold mining (RW80)

When you do gold-mining, you end up with tailings, which are the rock and sand that came out the back end of your mining operation. There is always stuff left in the tailings that you didn't have the technology or money to get out. During the first pass in gold mining you are just getting the gold floating on top and you are not interested in all the fine particles. Often the tailings are sitting there for years, because they look like stuff that has already been mined. If you fly over Dawson City in the Yukon territories and you go up the rivers on either side, you will see enormous tailings that look like berms or snail trails. When the miners of 1898 were done with their gold pans, others came through with so called gold dredges, astonishing pieces of 19th century technology. Gold dredges are barges that can float in very small amount of water and they were churning the river bed from underneath into big buckets. Conveyor belts and shakers would then take all the gravels into the center of this Rube Goldberg machine. Extracting the precious metals from the gravel is a complicated process based on the fact that gold weighs more and behaves differently than normal rock. Gold dissolves in Mercury which can help you to get all the Gold out. There is also something about Arsenic in this whole science of getting Gold out of the rock.

Where there once were fresh flowing and burbling Canadian mountain streams, there are now these enormous piles of rock. As technology got better, these tailings all of a sudden looked like easy pickins, because you no longer had to tear up the river bottom. Instead you just need to go through this groomed and manicured tailings pile and process it all again. Supertrain is going to go through those tailings again and get everything out that they can. There is this perpetual, long-term wealth to be had just by reprocessing the stuff that we right now think is garbage. Currently it is too hard to get the oil back out of plastic bags, so we leave it behind, but if oil becomes really scarce, it will be just waiting there for us.

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