RL330 - Crow Condo

This week, Merlin and John talk about:

The Problem: John’s been working on fretting, referring to his daughter starting to fret whenever they risk being late for school.

The show title refers to a tree in the north of town where all the crows congregate at the end of the day.

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

Having colds and/or allergies (RL330)

Merlin doesn’t think he had an allergy attack, but he probably had a cold. John is having one of those right now as well. The real estate agents who staged his house filled it with flowers and John was wondering what was wrong with him until he realized that they had brought him dead flowers. They were alive when they came, but John killed them with his energies. Now he got a sore throat and was denying it for two days. It is allergies!

Merlin used to get sick a lot in Florida, but after he moved to San Francisco he got sick about 1/5th of what he used to. He did develop some kind of allergy later, which is weird because Florida was a pretty blooming place. Did Merlin ever make a white castle slab out of India’s sacred cow down in Florida? Merlin doesn’t know, but wants to say ”No!” Did he ever potty-train the German Mao down in Florida? Merlin guessed correctly that these are lyrics by the Butthole Surfers. Merlin's pot was boiling and he yelled ”Fuck me gently! Shut up! Do your job, sir!” Everything is all verkackte here, he had a blow-out in his coffee filter and he got really bad snots.

Since Merlin moved to this horrible town, he has willed himself out of many colds, even though he continued to have these allergy things where he talks like Jello Biafra for a while. He got all kinds of snots and his family is grossed out because he got to keep blowing his nose. First he had a sore throat, but then it moved up and he thought it was just allergies because of this god-damn city he lives in. Telling himself it is allergies rather than cold somehow feels more masculine and he thinks he can get through this. First he had some bad night sleeps and now he got all kinds of snots.

John thinks he can beat this one and it isn’t a real one because it didn’t start in his sinuses where it normally does. Right in this very second it is trying to move there, but John is refusing to let it do it (”Leave it!”) ”Everything is fine, you are cool, I am cool, just fucking leave me alone and stop it! Stop right where you are, turn around, go back out, take your shoes off and let’s try this again!” Merlin finds it interesting that John, in an somewhat unconventional but very creative way, has relationships with things. What might sound to an outsider as though he was talking to himself is actually outward-directed: John is talking to his throat, to a possum, a crow, or a cat.

Why do people live in certain places? (RL330)

Some people have been living in rural Pennsylvania for centuries, which makes you think: ”You guys didn’t even have the gumption to get as far as Indiana!” They moved out, they went over the first couple of hills, and they thought this was far enough. 200 years ago Indiana used to be the frontier and they did have some brave people in their family 200 years ago, but then the bravery just went out of them and they were living next to the Tippecanoe Battlefield, but why just stop here?

Merlin think of this a lot in regards to Florida. Why stop here? Of course the terrible joke is that no matter where they go, they will still be in Florida, but why just stop at this particular point? Why Indiana? Why Waxahachie? Why Pensacola? Because this is where veterans will go? Any further and you would have been in Mobile, Alabama and you don’t want to go all the way to Alabama, so you stop in Pensacola because you got some sense!

They have brave people in their lineage who got up and left Florida and kept going. Maybe they were brave, maybe haunted, maybe pursued, maybe only pursued by things in their mind, but still pursued! In Merlin’s case the bravery exhibited by his mother was to go from Ohio to Florida, which is also a kind of bravery.

Never trust a Serb, especially not when they are crouching! Coming to Seattle from Alaska is a little bit of reverse bravery on John’s part, but he had to get re-established because he didn’t want to be a coke dealer and he didn’t know enough about hockey to live in Alaska. If he had stayed in Alaska he would have been some country lawyer in a white suit.

Merlin’s daughter’s clothing (RL330)

Merlin’s daughter doesn’t want to have a jacket because she was raised in California, which is the same story with John and umbrellas. The first thing they tell you when you move to California is: Layers! You always need at least three layers! She says she doesn’t need a jacket because she rarely gets cold because she was raised in this horrible area. Merlin and his wife tried everything! They wanted to go to the REI, they bought her so much nice stuff, but it does not matter how nice it is.

Like every other parent they now mainly go to Target and H&M because she is going to leave it somewhere anyway. Merlin tried putting Bluetooth tracking devices into her clothing, but she doesn’t like that either and she kept losing really nice name-brand clothing and now they just H&M it! It is all just going to end up on the playground in a pile of mud anyway. Merlin thought that interesting her in outdoor gear as a fetish item was going to be the hook, some combination of fetish and ruggedness, a lot of stuff you can sell on pockets, but that didn't work either.

Merlin having a duck in his vacation bungalow (RL330)

Merlin was traveling recently. He is a rollercoaster man and as he was in line for a rollercoaster at a theme park the lady in front of him was wearing Scuffs to the amusement park, Terry Cloth shoes with a rubber bottom, which is not something Merlin would personally wear to an amusement park. It would be a good file card for John’s ongoing file on the dissolution of society. It was the kind of rollercoaster that doesn’t have a floor, so she took them off and held them with her bare feet.

Merlin’s hotel room was a little bungalow with a front door and a back door. As the back door was open a duck came into the room and checked the place out. Three ducks walked up to the back door and two of them hung back while one of them stepped forward. Nothing is cuter in this world than the sound of a white duck walking. Merlin took a video of it and asked it what it was doing, if it was going to check the place out.

Finally Merlin made a move toward the door and he or she exited. The thing about ducks is: Ducks shit. When Merlin lived in Tallahassee there were Muscovy Ducks and they shat prodigiously with a green-black slimy shit, they were dropping deuces all over the capital city. Merlin didn't want them coming in and dropping dukes in the bungalow. The one that came in was probably the head duck for his clan, not to use the term alpha-male.

John walking his daughter to school (RL330)

This morning John and his little person were walking to school. She was fretting the fact that they were going to be a little bit late, which is a thing between the two of them. They have been working on her fretting because she will get worked up into a fret and be in a cycle where the fretting will become fretting about fretting. Merlin calls that being a sad tomato.

She will go into a mode where she will say ”We are going to be late! We are going to be late!” - ”Ho, shush, yes, we are going to be late, but that is not our mantra on the way to school today!” There are other things they can occupy their mind with other than a ”We are going to be late!” loop. John suggested to cut across the park despite the fact that there is no path for that and you have to cut across the grass. The park near Merlin's house is the ultimate cut-across park that is very cut-acrossable.

It was raining in the morning because they are in the Pacific Northwest and halfway across the grass she said that her socks were wet. She was in a pair of Tenny Runners made to be very light in order to be able to win the Boston Marathon, which means they are made of tissue paper and plastic.

The shoe thing in John’s family is crazy-making, because John has pretty reasonable standards of what constitutes a pair of shoes. There are shoe-buying decisions that happen outside of his purview and shoes just arrive. The other day a pair of ballet flats arrived with the word ”Love” on them. John said that if all of his shoes had the word ”Love” on them, he would be a happier person, but ballet flats are not shoes. It is the pajama of shoes. You lose them when you start running! They are not good for anything!

Shoes will appear all the time and there are only a couple of places they could come from because she is not buying her own shoes. There is only John, his mom, his daughter’s mother and conceivably Susan, but Susan could not have bought these particular shoes because she is in Ethiopia right now and John’s mom would never buy a pair of ballet flats that have ”Love” written on them in cursive. John narrowed it down pretty fast!

The larger point is that if you have a pair of shoes that cannot walk across the park without becoming waterlogged, then those are specialty shoes which can only be worn in specialty situations, and they are not general purpose shoes that you put on to go to school!

Seagulls (RL330)

You have to give it to the Seagulls: They are dumb as a bag of hammers, but they do have a lot of hustle! Seagulls never get up to where John lives, but Merlin has them and people feed them by leaving corn out in the park. They probably have a one-pound (450g) bag of corn bits that they dump in the park. There are some crows, some jays, but a lot of gulls.

Merlin should prepare for what he is going to say to the corn person when he will finally meet them. They are attracting those bad, dirty birds and they are conditioning them that there is always going to be corn in the park. Merlin doesn’t want to be unkind, he wants to be decent, and he is still from Ohio and he is sorry for everything. He doesn’t hate birds, there are some good birds, some of his best friends are birds, but seagulls have beady eyes and a very suspicious carriage and any shit they could pull over on him they would do in a heartbeat.

When John was a younger man, he had a friend who worked on the blue and gold ferries in San Francisco, the boats that take you to the Alcatraz Island attraction. There was a bar on this boat and people used to take bread, rip it up into big pieces, dip it in Vodka, stand on the stern of the boat, and throw it up in the air for the seagulls that were trailing behind.

Seagulls are pretty adapt at catching food in the air and people would watch the seagulls get drunk and wobble until eventually they would have to go sit on the ocean. John doesn’t know if a seagull eating vodka-soaked bread would get enough alcohol for it to be toxic, but these teenagers did this because the seagulls tormented them. They followed the boat and it was constant seagulls everywhere. You leave a baby unattended and the seagulls would be all over it, eating it right down to the bone.

Crows, John meeting a crow in the park (RL330)

Two days ago John was at a park and he had a Frosty from Wendy’s, like a soft-serve milk shake. After finishing half of it he left it on a picnic table because he was summoned to a different part of the playground to do a job that another dad who was sitting right there could have done just fine. John walked over and said ”Hey, what’s up shirker?” - ”I have been working my ass off and I am done!” It was a random dad who had been pushing the Merry-Go-Round for a long time and had decided it was over for him just as John and his daughter arrived and John got pressed into service.

As John was pushing the Whirligig he saw a crow up on a wire, eyeballing John’s Frosty. He kept one eye on John as he dropped down to the ground a safe distance from the picnic table, but there was no reason for him to be there! What was he dropping down to the ground right there for? Did he see a worm or a French Fry?

John kept an eye and a half on this crow who did two very casual hops lateral to the picnic table, establishing a perimeter. John was getting yelled at by the children because he needed to go faster with the Whirligig while the errand father was just laughing with his hands on his belly because he thought that this story was about John having been co-opted into being a (inaudible). He was Tom Sawyer and John was painting the fence! They were having a little friendly dad-chat along the lines of ”If it weren’t for you, buddy, I would be sitting over there, enjoying my day!” - ”Hahaha, it is all you! I don’t care about you, you are just another dad!” - ”We’ll see!”

Then the crow hopped up on the seat of the picnic table, at which point John exclaimed ”Hold everything!”, gave the whirligig an extra good strong push and started walking across the park. It was far enough away that the crow didn’t register John as belonging to the picnic table. The crow was a late-arriver, but he might have been watching this scene before he hopped on the wire, he might have seen John drive up and might know John’s license plate number. Then the crow hopped up on the table and was 2.5 feet (75 cm) from the Frosty.

Crows tend to be pretty meticulous and John hasn’t seen a crow just go rogue and knock over a Frosty, knowing that even though he is going to get chased away, eventually the spoils of war will be his. A seagull might just bump into it and wait for John’s fury to abide and then come back, but a crow is a dignified bird. The crow and John were both headed in the same direction, triangulating toward the Frosty and John was like ”Hey, crow! I see you!” The crow registered John, but it was not clear to him that John was on a collision course with him yet.

About halfway across the park the crow realized that this Frosty belonged to somebody, it was that guy who was moving, and he had to decide if he was going to go over and look in the Frosty, at which point John would be hustling. He registered that that was probably what was going to happen and he ceded the ground, took another hop away and to the skies. Not today, crow! He was all by himself. John didn’t know where his team was.

There is a group of four crows who live primarily in John's yard and don’t cover as large an area as this one crow probably did. John doesn’t know what they are living on and what they are doing there. They seem to be commuting and they seem to all live in one tree somewhere in the northern part of the city where there is one Crow Condo where they all live, one tree full of crows, the staging ground for the commute, like a park-n-ride. At the end of the day, the crows all come to the South end of town and fill up the trees before they move en suite to an undisclosed location.

In the great wagon train of crows that leaves their roost every morning, the crows in John’s yard are equivalent to the crows that live in Western Virginia: They don’t get that far. The crow park-n-ride is just down the hill from where John lives and however these crows staked out this turf when they were making deals with each other: Some crows in the group have 15 miles to fly while that other one is just going to peel off here and sit in this guy’s yard all day and crow at magpies, but somebody got to do it and it might as well be them. To John they don’t appear to be lazier crows than other crows, but they still don’t feel like having very much hustle. It might be a legacy thing because their parents always were at this white house.

Crows are complicated enough that you could imagine them drawing straws to decide which one is going to get the Frosty out of the straw. They have a whole society! John has watched a lot of ducks and within duck culture they don't seem to plot as much. Merlin sometimes talks to birds and he lets them know he is there and he sees them. He learned this from John and until now it stood him in good stead. He is still alive and there are no dukes on his floor, but when he thinks of a crow, he thinks of Agent Smith from The Matrix. Crows are a hive mind and in other kinds of dystopian Science Fiction this kind of character animal bot is constantly communicating and integrating information, like for instance Skynet.

The idea is that they are all talking to each other in real time. Crows don’t need a meeting! Agent Smith needs a phone in the room and he doesn’t automatically regenerate! If a bullet goes through T1000 in Terminator 2, it just goes "blorb". There has to be some kind of plot device that keeps Agent Smith from being an unstoppable superpower and that is also true of crow hive minds. They can’t just spooky action at a distance everything, but you can still goof them by putting out a thing of yoghurt and fill it halfway up with vodka because the crow that is 2500 miles (4000 km) away, the one you did this to 2.5 months ago, can’t communicate directly to the crow in front of you.

Dark matter, geometry class (RL330)

Scientists recently discovered two new galaxies that don’t have any dark matter and John tweeted about it. Why would there be dark matter some place and not other place? We discovered dark matter by its absence because for the galaxy to be moving like it is moving it would need x amount more matter in it. Merlin never got to that level of math, but he had geometry as a Senior in 8th grade. John had geometry in 9th grade. Merlin took Algebra 2 two times and it was very annoying as a nearly college-aged person to have literal children in his class. Even 9th graders get really little!

Building trail (RL330)

(see whole background story in RL48)

Recently John had a guided tour of a school that had some babies and some 5th and 6th graders in it and he could see the progression. Babies are cute if you also have one yourself, but now that John's own child is older they are just hateful little shits to everybody else. Merlin says that having a child is a little bit like having a bird: You need to be really into it, they are super-noisy, they poop everywhere, and eventually they say something. Merlin’s neighbor has a bird that just says ”cock!” all day. John says it should be living in The Castro.

John met 2nd, 3rd, and 4th graders and they looked like kids. They were great because they were learning stuff, they had puzzles, and they drew a thing. Now that Merlin has a 5th-grader, the little ones look really little, but when you look at a 6th grader, you go ”No! Not this! Surely!” Merlin sent John a photo showing his wife and daughter from the back while they were waiting in line at South West and pointed out the height differential. They can share shoes now, she is about 5’2” (158 cm) and his wife is 5’6” and change (168 cm). She is a little grown-up with a Harry Potter backpack.

When Merlin had a Kinder, he thought other kids were enormous, but now that he has a Senior other kids look impossibly small and some of the 5th graders are starting to get their secondary characteristics while some of them should be waiting in line for the bus to take them to the National Parks where we won’t see them until they are 22 (see Cutting Trail). How does Merlin feel about the possibility that his kid might go cut trail for a couple of years? He misses her sometimes, but in for a penny, in for a pound. He believes so much in the trail cutting program.

Think about the military: You don’t want your kid to die in some terrible foreign folly, but they do get to retire at 40 and have insurance for life. But if you are a ”Go military!” person, you have to send your child in to the army, it is your noblesse oblige as you are sending junior into helmet land.

And as much as Merlin thinks he has a sweet precious angel for a daughter, she should probably cut trail and she is not ready, which means she is ready. If you are really ready to cut trail, you probably don’t need to cut trail as much, but there is no place on the form where you get to check off if your kid is ready or not, that is why the trail. If you are not ready, you are more than ready, and it you are ready, maybe you are ready. When you on day four are trying to make a belt out of things you found by the side of the trail you just cut, that is when you are going to know if you are ready or not. Because you are not really ready, that is part of the point of the program. They will show you how not ready you were for this. The reason why it exists is to show you that you are not ready for anything!

Merlin and John have advanced a lot of theories on this program and over the years they have almost all 100% been proved correct by independent investigation. You don’t get to work on your vape rig when you are cutting trail, there are no six skateboard moves, and you are not going to collect Pokèmons. The older John gets, the more he hears from people who have been friends of the program for a long time and who are in education, who are parents of kids, who are just living in the world, and the more their philosophy is confirmed by first-hand experience and by rigorous testing in controlled conditions. No-one ever comes and says ”No, 7th and 8th graders should be given free reign, be given their own phones and allowed to live like the grown-ups they think they are”

A lot of people have it all figured out about kids. By virtue of the facts that they once heard a baby cry loud on an airplane and that made them sad, or by having seen a toddler running around in a restaurant they know everything about kids and they are super-annoyed. On the other hand there are people who think that kids are like dogs and that they are sweet precious things. This is the difference between running a greenhouse and collecting seeds: If you collect seeds, you have a tremendous amount of control, you could organize them, you could put them wherever you want, they pretty much stay seeds and they will be really cute as little seeds. It is really different to run a greenhouse. A child is like running a greenhouse as opposed to collecting seeds.

On Merlin's recent flight there were some babies crying and Merlin gave them the little head nod. When you have a screaming infant on a plane, it is too bad that there is not a universal symbol you could throw to that person to say ”I feel you!” because if you would ask them if they want you to walk their baby for a while, you sound like a creep. Now Merlin has a greenhouse and he would love to carry some seeds around for a while. John does it by addressing the crying baby, like ”Oh, are you feeling sad, little baby?” and then the parent knows that John is not hating them.

Merlin feels nothing but utter sympathy for everyone except the people who are mad. Often enough it is a mom traveling by herself with an infant. People don’t realize that you got to get babies from place to place. What would be happening to the human experiment? We can’t just have all the babies in one spot because would pile up! Traveling with our babies is part of the project because we have to send out the spores.

Merlin has a plant he is rehabilitating in his office and he has been through three rounds with this thing. Somebody in his household who likes to get rid of things tried to throw planty out last year, Merlin found planty, he grabbed planty, and he has been husbanding planty back to health. Merlin worked on planty for a good long while! He has been through three re-vivifications of planty just since last August! He thought he lost planty two more times. Now we are seeing blooms and we are seeing green on planty where there has never been green before. It was the two worms Merlin found under the leaves. Just having a flame doesn’t make a fire, which is one of the great Billy Joel songs, you have to have fuel.

John’s Reddit AMA (RL330)

The other day John went on Reddit. He had only been on there a couple of times because he doesn’t like it. There is a fan site for his podcast (Friendly Fire), but John doesn’t like being there because there is always one guy and he doesn’t like that guy so much that he doesn’t even want to be there.

The thing about Facebook is that you can always be ”Hey, I see you, dumbass!” - ”Oh, oh, I just…, oh!”, but on Reddit they will double down. There are a lot of people who are very confused and very emotional in the world, and Reddit is a wonderful home for people who are confused about emotions. It is a powerful mixture of people who have extremely strong feelings, but don’t understand what the fuck is going on with them and that gets directed in some very unproductive ways. That is not what John needs in his life and he doesn’t go around there.

Our relationship with animals (RL330)

When John recently did an AMA (Ask Me Anything) on Reddit, which was fun and he enjoyed himself, he was on there under the name of the podcast FriendlyFirePod, not as John Roderick, and whoever set that one up had followed some subreddits, which took John a while to navigate to figure out where they were saved and how to delete them. He didn’t even know if this was the account of one of the people he works with.

They followed some subreddits with titles like ”Ahhhh” and ”Cute alert”. There was one on craft cocktails, or some other stuff like bunny love. While John was answering questions there were times when he scrolled his main page. Imagine an album signing with Spinal Tap just sitting there blowing your nose waiting for people to come. It is not a big college town.

John was looking at these Ahhhh subreddits and many of them contained videos of aminals [sic] doing something, like climbing out of a bag or chewing on a toy. The captions of those videos almost universally said something in the voice of the animal, like ”Daddy, aren’t I being good?”, ”Mommy, I want you to see my toy!” or ”Daddy, I’m so glad you are home!” John looked at the subreddits he was subscribed to in case this was an April fools thing or a porn thing, but this was the language that this culture used to think of the world. John was not new to the Internet, it was not his first day, but that must have been new, meaning ”new in the last couple of years” because John doesn’t have eyes on everybody on reddit.

It has been fairly obvious for a while that John is always looking for things that are indicative of decline. While scrolling through these pictures he had that queazy feeling that the center cannot hold and this wasn't a sign that we were thriving. Later that day John was out in the world, driving along, and somebody in a Subaru Forester dove up next to him with a dog in the back. Was that dog thinking ”Mommy, look how good I’m doing in the backseat?” John doesn’t know how to be out in the world with this information and know how to interact with other people.

He was already starting to have problems with interacting with pet owners. The human-animal relationship with animals as friends and companions has reached critical mass and is blooming in ways that John can’t get a handle on. After tens of thousands of years of animal husbandry we crossed the boundary to animals as the focal points of our emotional lives not that long ago. We had animals as friends for thousands of years, but animals as the thing that we are focusing our love attention on and that are brining love to us seems new and it is exploding everywhere!

John loves it when a cat can haz cheezburger, because that is the cat speaking as the cat, but in the case of this subreddit the cat was talking to John, addressing him directly about a topic as its nominal parent, either that it is a baby or that it is a full-grown personage who is using baby talk. ”I can haz cheezburger” could conceivably be an adult cat and the ”I can haz” gives you an indication of the level that the cat is operating at.

When the Chick-fil-A cow tells you to eat more "chikin” in a backwards Toys-R-us-style of writing, you get a sense that if cows could write they wouldn’t be smart, which we can see by watching them. A cow isn’t a smart like a dolphin and just doesn’t have thumbs. Dolphins could build whatever if they had thumbs! They are out there tormenting whales and sharks, and they are embarrassing other creatures. A cow is not that and if a cow could write on a billboard it probably would misspell the word ”chicken”. Likewise, a cat that was presented with a cheeseburger would probably garble the grammar a little bit. Even Physicists who moved from Slovenia get the grammar a little bit mixed up.

But for a cat to call you daddy or mommy there must be something else at work. It was a full-grown animal and even in its own language it must have either outgrown ”mommy” and ”daddy” or it was adapting it as a form of sex game. When Merlin's wife is yelling at him about something, like a plant covered with worms, she doesn’t say ”Daddy, I told you not to bring that into the house!” She is not Nancy Reagan! Merlin thinks that if the duck from his bungalow could express a thought, it would go ”Hmm”.

When John is talking to crows he doesn’t put a voice in their head. When he sees a crow looking at him he thinks of that meme where a person is staring off in the distance with very complicated mathematical equations written on a blackboard in the background. He thinks of the crows doing math and in the hive-mind sense, the crow’s mentality generally is ”Yes, talk away, human person! We were here before you and we will be here long after you! This Frosty go with God, but the next Frosty goes with us!”

Merlin finds it difficult to define the term ”Giddy up!” without mentioning a horse. We have been taught by the horse how to make it giddy up, but we eventually discovered the word ”Giddy up!” as the thing that makes the horse go. Did we train the horse, or did the horse train us? John thinks it is the kick in the flank that makes the horse go and you could say ”Bacon cheeseburger!” as long as you kick it hard enough and it will go.

If you apply this line of thinking to the crows, who knows how much work we are doing for the crows! We have arrived at a place where we are comfortable with the relationship. Also, the crows hear a plain-spoken man with a clear tone of voice and even if it comes across as ”Mambo dogface to the banana patch” that crow is going to absolutely understand that you are establishing an accord with them, even if they don’t know the exact words. It is ”Giddy up!” for a crow relationship.

”Gi!” and ”Ha!” are the words that we traditionally use to tell an animal to go left or right. If you say ”Gi!”, it means ”Turn right!”, and if you say ”Ha!”, it means ”Turn left!” That works on draft horses and they use it with sled dogs, but John doesn’t know if that also works naturally with a horse you find in the wild. Like the ants or the crows or Agent Smith, we have no way of knowing how that is encoded upon them or upon us. Somebody knows ”Gi!” and ”Ha!” John recommends Merlin to say it to Planty and see what happens. Maybe the worms will hear it and react to it, and if the worms all move right, the plant is going to move right. Let’s test it out! John is going to start saying it to people as he is walking down the street and see if everybody gets out of his way to the right.

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