RL270 - An Archipelago of Stops

This week, Merlin and John talk about:

The problem: ”The ignition coil did what?”, referring to John’s Jetta being at Dan’s shop and John answering Dan's call live during the show where he is telling John that one of the ignition coils was burned out.

It going really good, but that new Skype sound is bugging John. Merlin still has the old Skype 7.9, but he hates it also, he hates them all! Each new one gets worse. John also got a notification to upgrade to High Sierra that was not easy to dismiss.

There had been a train crash in John’s neighborhood and it was Merlin who told him about it. John learned a lot.

Draft version
The segments below are drafts that will be incorporated into the rest of the Wiki as time permits.

John's dad joined the Navy twice (RL270)

Apparently, John’s dad had joined the Navy ROTC when he joined the University of Washington as David Morgan Roderick. That is also why Merlin gets double jury duty, because he was accidentally registered at two addresses. When John’s dad joined the navy later, he had no way of knowing that he was in the navy already. Because he joined as David Roderick or David M Roderick, he had two numbers. In the 1980s his secretary who went above and beyond to care for this man said ”What’s your retirement plan?” and he was ”What do you mean? I’ll live forever!”, but she wanted to figure out what his plan was and she put together all this government service that he had done and submitted it to the federal government. She said that he actually qualified for a federal pension, but the government said that he was only in the navy from 1942 to 1946 and John’s dad was like ”I joined the navy in 1939” and he had all this stuff like this commemorative cup to prove it. He probably didn’t talk about shooting zero out of the sky. His secretary did all this incredible research that he never would have done. She discovered this thing and dealt with this enormous bureaucracy for getting them to go back to this Indiana Jones filing warehouse to find the two different files and mate them and call them one thing. She managed to put this together and all of a sudden John's dad was able to retire, which had never occurred to him before. John needs at least that, if not a second executive secretary that cares enough about him to say ”you have 5 completed records here!” I do?

John’s truck was on fire (RL270)

John had a little bit of a truck fire last week. In the business you would call it a dash fire, which is not the kind of fire that you necessarily want, but there is not really any kind of truck fire that you are looking for. The truck caught on fire while John was driving on the freeway, which is a bad place, but he was able to get the truck off the freeway huckelty-buck. We are fine! Everything is cool! The guy on the ramp in front of him was going a little bit too slowly and John was talking to him ”Let’s go buddy, let’s go, truck’s on fire, keep moving and get out of the way” He finally got to a gas station / convenience store where he often goes for breakfast chicken strips, he pulled up out front, ran in and found a woman stocking some juice. ”Do you have a fire extinguisher”, ”Yes, right this way” and she proceeded to walk pretty damn casually to the other end of the store, pointed at this thing that was mounted at a wall and John grabbed it like he was about to put out a fire, which he was, sprinted through the store in a bit of a war-movie fashion, he pulled the pin, threw the pin across the floor, jumped in slow motion, there was his truck with the door open and smoke just pouring out of the dashboard and all the heater vents, but the fire has not yet gone overboard.

As John was driving along, he was wondering about that smell of hot plastic because there is no plastic in his truck. He was looking around if maybe the baby did lean something against something so that a vent is blocked or something. Then the hot plastic smell got stronger and John turned on the fan and rolled the window down to blow the hot plastic smell out of whatever it was, but in turning on the fan he got smoke pouring out of the vents. John shut down the fan, but it was too late!

When John came up with this fire extinguisher, he didn’t read the label, but he just hit it and it was one of those awful ones that formed a cloud that immediately went into every single corner of the truck. John felt like he had been hit with tear gas! He popped the hood to find out where the fire was coming from, but it was not in the motor, so he went back around the other side where there was still smoke coming out. He hit it again from the passenger side and suddenly there was a hands-in-pockets-guy standing there spotting for him and also running a commentary like ”I’m a classic car guy myself and I have been in your situation before”, like "Aha!", telling John about all the cars he has had that have caught on fire, all while John was in the middle of putting out this fire. He was fairly helpful in pointing out where John should hit it, though! He wasn’t even an over-talkative guy, but he was just getting all this information into that very intense 10-minute period they spent together. He made John feel good in that he didn’t burn the truck down, but he was also the first of many people saying ”Those fire extinguishers are the worst!”

Fire extinguisher technology has improved considerably and newer models just smother the fire by throwing a bunch of CO2 on it. They are more expensive, which is funny because CO2 is not expensive. Putting out a fire with CO2 is very benign, whereas these old ones are made with a sort of tiny silicate micro-powder that is meant to go everywhere and is meant to create an oxygen-free environment by filling it with this kind of caustic yellow noxious silicate powder. It burns paint, your lungs and your eyes. It is everywhere in the truck, even when you lift a piece of paper in the very far corner of the truck. It is a miracle substance, but it also has done at least as much damage as the fire. John can’t imagine doing this to his house, he would have to have a hazmat team come in! Whatever the cost of CO2-fire-extinguishers, it is worth it. Here is the bummer: John owns a CO2-fire extinguisher that he had purchased for this very reason: he is driving a 40-year old truck. It had been in the truck and John had been meaning to mount it in that cool-dude way where you are mounting a fire extinguisher in the cabin of your cool truck, but he never got around to mounting it and it was rolling around all the time. At some point he was cleaning out the truck to get ready to go on some trip or some haul and the fire extinguisher got swept up in a big armload of things. Not having mounted it, John had cleaned it out into a pile and right now it is sitting in the barn.

The situation felt like somewhere between car detailing and crime scene mitigating. The fire behind the dash had been caused by something! John took the truck to his guy, his mechanic. Everybody’s got to have a mechanic! His dad had a lawyer, a secretary, a mechanic, a doctor, a cardiologist, an accountant, and insurance agent and he knew all those people by names! He would go by their offices and they would see each other at Rotary meetings. He also did have an airplane mechanic and there was the woman at the film stop who delivered his film. He knew everybody! John is trying to build up those relationships and he has for example two booking agents now. He does actually have two mechanics and both of them are practitioners of the style of mechanics that John really appreciates, which is that most of the time their answer is that it is not that big of a deal. You could replace the timing chain, but they wouldn’t! They give that kind of advise.

One the two guys does not want your truck sitting around at his place, because he is doing a booming business of changing people’s oil. His name is Dan and that is probably short for Daniel. He will throw your car up on the diagnostic thing and the computer will give him 4 codes, like the main bearing is out. He is not a bad mechanic, he can take a motor apart. He has got 3 guys working for him, pulling stuff out while he is walking around with a spelunker’s light on his head. Dan is Palestinian and he is Muslim, but he is a member of a kind of very strange apocalyptic second-coming cult (the one who gave John the pitch in the past for something). John knows it is time for him to get going when he gets that look in his eye. Last time he said ”You know this whole Trump and Jerusalem thing, it is a great thing!” and as John asked him why, Dan replied that people are criticizing Trump but he is actually their guy. He pulled his spelunker light a little bit so it was not shining in John's eyes and he really wanted to talk about it.

John’s other mechanic, Clint, does not care if John’s truck is there at his space. He will do long-form deep-dives. One time John took the truck to him because it smelled like gas and Clint couldn’t really find anything, so he left it alone for a day or two and then it really smelled like gas, but there was nothing wrong with it. John took it back, but he couldn’t drive it and it felt it was about to explode because it smelled like there was raw gas in it. Clint worked on it for a couple of days more and found a gas can underneath a blanket in the back of the truck. It was a hot summer day and the gas was venting. It was a bad situation, you shouldn’t do that, but the truck had been with him for 5 days. Still: no charge. John gave him $50.

John goes to hang out in both of their shops, depending on what his mood is. If he wants the apocalyptic evangelical muslim guy, he will go hang out with Dan. He has never any interesting cars in there, but it is just a steady stream of Hondas and Toyotas and BMWs. Clint will sometimes have a 1978 Camaro that looks like it was in somebody’s back yard for 10 years. There is always something going on at Clint. Both Dan and Clint are about John’s age. Clint is old-school, he was a bass-player in a punk band and came to John via some other hot rod friends. John has a friend named Andrew in San Diego who has a 1966 Econoline that is painted with house paint. It is red on the bottom and white on the top and he calls it the Santa van. He has put probably conservatively $35.000 into a $5000-van. This thing is a piece of garbage, but he babies this thing! Andrew is a motorcycle racer and uses it to put his motorcycles in the back. The Santa van is legendary among Rock’n’Roll guitar players and hot rod motorcycle jumpers on the West Coast because they have all seen Santa van and they have all seen Santa van on the side of the road pouring smoke out of it. When John got his first jalopy, Andrew recommended him to take it to Clint.

John took his truck to Clint because he would certainly not take it to Dan. Clint had it for a day and his answer was that as he turned it on and turned on the heater, other than blowing this fire extinguisher garbage, it doesn’t smell like smoke now. It’s a bit like having a stroke and then saying that it went away, so it must be good. A bunch of burned insulation and stuff fell out from underneath the dash, but he got it pretty much all out of there. John wondered if he didn’t want to take the dash down and see what happened, but Clint was like ”not really”. Clint is a curious guy, but he is of the type ”If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it and if it is broke, maybe don’t fix it” It’s like the thing with Merlin’s timing belt that Jerry had warned him about, as his wife always reminds him of. In John’s case, whole Seattle is his backyard and if he is going to break down somewhere, he will have some Rock’n’Roll friend who is a mechanic within 5 blocks.

Adam Pranica told John that the Accutint guys are the best detailers in town. They are going to gather around the truck and laugh at him! They make you feel that your dumb fire extinguisher problem is the funniest thing they have seen in weeks. They are going to do a great job, they are just going to haze you, but John loves getting hazed by dudes in boiler suits that have their name embroidered on it. John is really good at standing there playing the dumb cuck, which it is fun for everybody.

John called Clint to tell him that he is going to get the truck and take it down to Accutint, but Clint said that there was a problem: The battery was ran down this morning and shouldn’t have been, so there was a slow bleed and as he hooked up his electrical testers he found that the electrical rear window and heater motor are both drawing power when they are off. Also if he turned the truck off, they would both work for a while. Clint thought that some plastic insulation in the wiring had melted and there was some cross-over. Clint was saying the whole time that the problem had fixed itself, but John always suggested to take the dash down and look behind it, but Clint was like ”Nah, sometimes things happen and probably your insulation got caught in there and it burned up and it is fine” He probably felt like what can go wrong in these trucks? It only got 5 wires! But John wanted that dash pulled down. Now Clint is curious and John had to call the Accutint guys back to tell them that he got a pushback from Clint and it is anything-can-happen-day.

As they were podcasting, John got a call on his computer because somehow his computer is connected to his phone and it comes up on his computer when people call him. It was Dan calling from Community Automotive. Right now Dan has the John's Jetta. John calls Dan back on the air: ”Hey Dan, it’s John! Is that right? What was it? The ignition coil did what? Three coils in the module, oh, okay, so fully 2 cylinders weren’t firing. I’m grateful to you, you are a special man! In and out. You didn’t damage anything that you need it for a couple of days to fix it? Hahaha, kidding. Oh. Ja. Ja. Well. You are a miracle! I’m going to come see you in a couple of hours.” The ignition coil of the Jetta has a little module with three coils in there because it is a 6-cylinder car and one of the coils had burned out, meaning that 2 of the cylinders were not firing. If you have a 6-cylinder car with 2 cylinders out, it is not a smooth motor. It is a Jetta! John had inherited this Jetta! Merlin had a Jetta for a long time and it was amazing, but John’s is a different Jetta. It is a hot rod Jetta with the VR6. What makes it an R is that the motor is sitting in there side-to-side instead of front-to-back. It is quite a sporty car because it is very light and the motor has enough horse powers, but on the street it looks like any other black Jetta. It can leave a lot of people behind, which is not a thing John likes to do all the time, but he is generally only deploys it when people need to be put back in their place.

John wasn’t worried about the Jetta. It had been sitting around because when he encountered the cylinder problem he didn’t want to deal with it, but he just drove the truck. So now the Jetta is ready and Clint want to dive deeper in the truck. School is out and John’s little girl is here at the house with no car, so nothing can happen.

2017-December: John’s daughter being home with him during school’s out (RL270)

John’s daughter said she doesn’t want to use a car seat in his truck anymore, but she is a little kid, so she has to sit in the car seat. She was like: The truck doesn’t have any safety features, there are no airbags, there is nothing in the truck, so why should I sit in a car seat? Seems like somebody in the family might have talked to her about this or she was listening in on a conversation between two adults. A car seat is supposed to protect a child in an environment where other things can happen, like airbags, but this truck is a death trap, so why should I sit in a car seat? John said that if she will sit in the middle in the back, he will just buckle her in and pretend this never happened. They were driving around and having a great old time, but then she rats him out and says ”I was driving in daddy’s truck without a car seat!”, so now everybody knows! What John was going to say to Clint was to order a bunch of new fancy-ass seat belts, put them in the truck and make them all red. John wants ludicrous seatbelts, but now John didn’t have time to bring that up because his dash-fire seems interesting to Clint.

John got the fireplace working again, so they had been throwing some logs in the fire. They decorated a Christmas tree and it sounds to John right now like she is working on her art project, but at a certain point he is going to have to pick her up, get socks on her and has to do this whole business to go to Dan’s and get the Jetta.

Merlin and John talk about taking your kids to run errants. John’s childhood was just an archipelago of stops. Laundromat, bank, post office, photo shop, gas station, but when Merlin’s daughter has to go somewhere to get something she wants, she considers it an inconvenience!

John’s daughter recently called him equal parts amazing and terrible.

John’s daughter is interrupting him once during the recording, asking him how to spell John’s mom’s name.

They talk about how John can get his daughter into Star Wars. Merlin absolutely recommends the Despecialized Edition, because it is as close to what they saw in the theater in 1977 as it gets.

They talk about John’s dad going to the photo shop and getting his blurry pictures and they talk about Merlin’s action figures.

John not opening his college diploma (RL270)

Picture of the envelope

John’s daughter’s mother was asking the other day about this envelope in the kitchen that maybe contains John's graduation degree. "Is this your college diploma?" - "No! Maybe! No!" She was going to open it right now and John had to rescue the envelope form her. Merlin got tons of feedback after the last episode, especially why he did not ask John to open it on the air. Also John’s responses were like 92% ”Open it!” which is very unusual because controversial topics normally turn out around 50/50. It is finally an open door where people can get just one foot inside and start to rattle John’s cage a little bit. John’s psychiatrist, which he barely trusts, said that the only reason not to open it is to somehow deprive himself of any feeling of accomplishments. What are you keeping it for? Saving it for a special day? That’s an essentialist argument for opening an envelope! Still, not a single person online who wanted John to open the envelope meant him ill. Now the envelope is back on his kitchen shelf unopened and he is worried that somebody might spill something on it. John is curious if the diploma is beautiful, which it probably is. As his psychiatrist told him to open it, he pointed at his wall where he had like 7 diplomas. This was also true of his millennial girlfriend. Merlin gets quite rallied up about doctors and other professionals having their diplomas in their offices.

John has never gotten any awards (RL270)

One of the listeners and a long-time fan of Merlin Mann, a military academic and a young gentleman named Colonel Caplin, was the head of the history department at the Air Force Academy. He is now teaching strategy at the Army War College and does all kinds of military thinking. Colonel Caplin submitted John to go to the yearly national security seminar at the Army War College that takes place right before a new crop of Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines Colonel-level war-fighters graduate from this college where they are taught to think strategy. They have some civilians come in to talk about big ideas, like the use of military power in the geopolitical sphere. They intentionally want people from a wide variety of civilian life without military background who are interested in talking about that stuff, which is John. He is a good example of such a person who wants to sit with a bunch of colonels and talk about the use of American power. John had to fill out an application form online and there was a whole section where he was supposed to list all his diplomas and awards, like ”legion de honor” or something. If you have been awarded the Iron Cross with Diamonds, put it here!

John was thinking hard about it and noticed that he does not have any awards! No-one has ever given him any! The Seattle Weekly gave him a plaque back in 2011, saying ”Tweeter of the year”, he has a ”Thanks for your service” certificate from the recording academy for the 8 years he was on the board and the only thing he could put in that box was King Neptune! It was the only honor he has ever received! Merlin rejects the narrative that life is about a series of arrivals. At one point in 2006 John’s album was just under the Top 10 of the Indie charts. Merlin’s band Bacon Ray was mentioned once in CMJ on the same page as Archers of Loaf, which made him happy for like two years! John was surprised that although we live in a culture of award inflation where everybody gets an award, nobody has ever given John an award. John doesn’t want a fake award! He would accept a Phoney award because they invented it and there should be The Phoney awards. He did get a certificate with a gold star for being King Neptune and that was the only thing he put in this application form, but that doesn’t mean anything to them and they won’t realize the full statue of King Neptune. John helped to redefine the role and how many people are there who are king and also redefine what we mean by king.

John submitted this application completely sincerely, but if you are working for the army, are you going to read this resumé and think ”Is this a joke application?” They have people come in from universities and think tanks around the world and also this guy who has recently been King Neptune of Seattle and who has done a series of short films for ”Visit Seattle”. He also invented the Phoney award which he hasn’t won. His father shot a Japanese Zero out of the sky with his 45. He once had lunch on the USS Kentucky, but no-one there will avow that he was there. Have you ever heard of Aimee Mann? He is friends with her. That guy with the song at the end of a video game is also John’s close personal friend. He was 7-time JoCo Cruise attendee. There were a couple of things he tried to put on there and the only thing he could say about himself was ”Attendee”.

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