RL338 - Jelisa and Robert Saudi

This week, Merlin and John talk about:

  • World population growing exponentially (Factoids)
  • Hardcore History about World War I (Military)
  • War technology, violent video games (Military)
  • John’s upcoming trip to the Baltic countries with his daughter (Travel)
  • John’s house will close in June (Mid-century modern)

The problem: John couldn’t go to the macaroni and cheese store, referring to John’s daughter managing her feelings much more moderately when she is alone with John and when he says they are not going to go to the macaroni and cheese store.

The show title refers to codenames Merlin gives John’s house buyers.

This episode has been pre-recorded on 2019-05-13 together with the previous episode RL337.

John has been busy! Merlin says they are about due and it is just like with baths: Every week, whether he needs it or not! His grandma used to say this, she had a lot of memorable sentences, like "Wonder what the poor people are doing!" John’s grandmother said things to John’s dad that he can’t repeat, all in order to get his goat.

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

World population growing exponentially (RL338)

The German statistician Max Roser is a very interesting character on Twitter who likes to do data visualization of long-term trends of living standards. He describes himself as an economist, but he is very philosophical and he is really good at using data visualization to ”turns out” you about stuff you think you know about. He seems very dispassionate, but he is passionate about the facts.

There is a graph about the size of the world population over the last 12.000 years on his website that shows that around the time John and Merlin were born the population of the world was 3.5 billion people and in 2019 it was 7.7 billion people, meaning it has doubled in their lifetime! For every person who was walking around smoking Pall Malls and driving Lincoln Continentals there is one full-on other person now riding along with them.

It took hundreds of thousands of years to get to 500 million and then it took 39 years for the world population to double. It was 6 billion in 1999, which John still thinks of the population of the Earth, and it was 7 billion in 2011 and it is 7.7 billion now, meaning there are 700 million additional people just from the time they started doing this podcast. No wonder there is so much traffic in Seattle! Think about the addressable podcast market! Those 700 million people are all buying Caspar mattresses, a new kind of hybrid mattress, but they are not currently a sponsor of their addressable market and Merlin wonders why.

This website has all kinds of statistics and it can be food for thought because it is not ideological. It is not just him, but he is the German. In heaven, the Italians make the food, the English are the bureaucrats, the French are the lovers and the Germans make the cars. In hell, the Italians run the government, the English make the food, the French make the cars and the Germans are the lovers.

Hardcore History about World War I (RL338)

Merlin recommends John to listen to the Hardcore History podcast that has been recommended to him for centuries, but it feels like a time commitment. The host does a tremendous job of deep-diving on things that would be of interest for John, but it is just very hard for John to listen to podcasts. Last week Merlin finally jumped into the 3-part series on World War I, but it took him several days to get through the 3-hour part 1 of this, but God is it relevant to so many things! At some point they need to talk about Game of Thrones vs real wars in the world.

About 2 weeks ago Merlin posted on Twitter (he didn’t need to post) about the earliest battles of World War I when Germany was still a very recent country that was only 40 years old. Merlin continues to talk about how World War I was different from what came before. They don’t talk about war enough, but they have to make this evergreen and if they talk about 1914 it is going to bring the milkshakes to the yard (reference to the song Milkshake by Kelis, see also reference about what Milkshake means)

War technology, violent video games (RL338)

America is working really hard on making war be something they just inflict on other people while American soldiers don’t even have to go there, which is going to be interesting and we are halfway there. DARPA is constantly working (with war technology) and everybody loves to see these Boston Dynamics robot dogs that can open doors, but they are not doing that to make pets that can carry your groceries, but they want to have machine guns all over them, drop them out of airplanes in Somewherestan and control them with joysticks from Fort Bragg, that is why the Army is 100% behind all the video games. First Person shooter video games are just trying to raise up a generation of infantrymen who can sit in a Aeron chair.

The people in the other place are still not going to have remote controlled machine gun dogs and they are going to be out there, working, growing poppies, keeping their daughters out of school when something from the sky that sounds vaguely unlike a mosquito is going to drop a hellfire missile on them. They are going to run away from the crater and then the robot dogs with the machine guns will turn them into hamburger.

At home in America people are going to tweet about how mad they are about the latest TV-show, but they are not even going to know about the robot war and there won’t be any reporters anymore because Buzzfeed Something and: Why would you? You just check Twitter, that is where all your information! Maybe Buzzfeed is going to fly over their own robot dog in a Buzzfeed airplane, but that robot dog cannot be everywhere.

They would have to pay a kid who is working for the Army joysticking some killer dog. It is going to be some Chelsea Manning type who got UFOed out of the Army and they are going to be running the reporter robot dog, but John can’t see how this is going to produce news. Merlin suggests that you could recruit people from the e-sports scene (he calls it e-game).

The first people, the original children of the forest, suggested that there was a link between video games and school shootings or other violence, but they got into a lot of trouble for even suggesting that there might be any kind of connection between games where people were violenting and violence. That question got resolved by the sheer number of angry people who replied with their feeling about it, which happens to a lot of questions these days. It does not take much to yell something to the effect of ”Research shows that…”, but it is hard to do research. It is expensive and it is very hard to prove that this kid who grew up with violent video games and then went on to commit violence had any connection between that.

”It is very hard to prove a negative” is one of those sayings that everybody is using to mean the opposite of what it means, just as ”The exception that proves the rule”, whatever that means or ”It begs the question” We have a lot of people who know how to shoot other people remotely, and those people are often zombies or faceless drones, but they could also be drug dealers or villagers with a different culture. Whoever it is that is going to get killed by machine gun dogs, somebody is going to be driving those and it is not the kids that are really into theater.

Merlin’s daughter just killed the Ganons in Breath of the Wild, which feels like an accomplishment, but who is to say she might get a scholarship at some point? The SAT works by getting a bunch of people in a room and asking them questions that require you to be white and middle class, but in the new SAT you will sit people down in front of a controller and ask them to get Mario through a maze and collect the gold coins with a gun wearing a turban to get into college studies called computer maths. What if John just wants to keep his daughter out of school? Or what if he doesn’t and wants to make you put your daughter in school because data shows… The point is that Mario is going to end up being armed.

It wouldn’t be hard for Boston Dynamics to incentivize this behavior by putting a Mario face on the doggo. What if you put your headphones on and there is some music by bands funded by DARPA that sound really violent hard rock like machine guns, and you are out there with your doggo because they are now allowed in restaurants.

If they are barking outside John’s window all day he will go over to talk to the neighbor and they will ask him: ”Why do you hate dogs?” and if he posts about it on Twitter they will ask: ”Fuck you! Why do you hate dogs?” - ”Fucking dog!” When they have to go somewhere they will fly on a commercial airliner and they don’t buy a seat for the dog, but it just sits on the floor next to you, brushing out against you. You paid the same amount for your ticket as they did, but they got a free dog and they are brushing you with it because it is a comfort turkey.

The question is if John will go and talk to the neighbor if there is a barking dog outside John’s window with Mario-face and machine guns. If you post that on Twitter, are you going to get flamed by Millennials who believe that dogs are people, too? Who reads the sign ”Service Animals only”? These things are already happening!

John had that argument with Matt Martin before (see OVTH). John had a hard time saying his name and Merlin says that Marco Arment calls that the snap-to-grid problem, having a name that is close to a more popular name. John might have wanted to say Marc Maron or Mary Martin who played Peter Pan, late of Sandy Duncan, but she didn’t have an eye and would be a terrible robot dog. Sandy Duncan’s Eye was one of the great 1980s bands.

John would say that robot dogs are bad for our health, but Matt would say that anything that saves the lives of American service people is good. It is very hard to argue that more American service people should be put in harms way. How are you going to defend that to mom and dad in Peoria, Illinois? Whenever John says that there is some listener in Peoria they will write them and thank him for mentioning them.

You don’t want to put people in harm’s war, except in John’s opinion, if you don’t put people in harm’s way, then you got no stakes and it is just robot dogs with nobody having any robot dogs reporting on it for Buzzfeed. Like Eddard Stark (from Game of Thrones) says: Without fear you can’t have courage (actually: ”Can a man still be brave if he is afraid? That is the only time a man can be brave!”) The courage is when you are scared and do it anyway.

Daenerys (from Game of Thrones) says the same thing before she dragonfires everything. If you say Dracarys to a fucking dragon and it takes a minute to cock his head, do your job sir and discharge your service weapon! You shouldn’t pause before you burn the baldie! Just get to it! There are no dramatic pauses for dragons.

Lots of people are being died or getting sweated really hard by people who are 8000-10.000 miles away, looking at them through a video camera, and that is not going to get talked about over here and nobody is going to feel culpable. A lot of people are mad that America got stolded (stolen) from the people who were living here already, but all of the people who are mad about it and who are not directly descended from people who were living here already are also people who stole it. If you got here by any way you are also living here and busy stealing it every minute every day. It is really easy to look back and blame it on somebody, but it is you.

Will there be culpability when the dogs of war will be out there warring, not necessarily but probably driven by somebody who grew up playing first person shooter games? Are you personally culpable because we are not paying attention to it? At least Matt Martin has a justification for it and he says that John is wrong because his job as a Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force is to keep other people in the Air Force from dying. If other people have to die, that is not his problem, and who is crying for the robot dogs?

John’s upcoming trip to the Baltic countries with his daughter (RL338)

John is going to be in Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania when this episode is broadcast and Merlin is going to be fielding some of the mail they are about to get. A lot of friends of the show live in those places and John would love to hear some recommendations about good places to get Lithuanian sword canes. He does not want a lot of dumb Russian military forgeries, but he wants to go to some really interesting places where they are giving away cool stuff for cheap, some form of Latvian thrifting, a thing that is no longer interesting to Latvians or Estonians or even Belorussians, but might be interesting to John. This is the first time Merlin is hearing about this trip, but John has talked about it on Road Work (see RW148).

Last Year John went on a motorcycle trip (see RL300) and apparently he does it now every year. A bunch of KTM super fan boys, motorcycle mechanics and racers adopted him for whatever reason and now they are going on a trip to Eastern Oregon, driving around for nine days popping wheelies, but John is not going to pop a single wheelie, he is just going to be around them.

The plan was to do this in the third week of June, but then John got a letter that they have to move it because one of them got invited to the Pikes Peak Hill Climb, which is a big deal in the circle of people who climb hills in motorcycles. Weirdly enough, none of the 10 people on the thread had any problem moving a nine-day trip a week earlier. When John said ”Sure, no problem!” he pretty much assumed that 8 of the 10 guys would say ”What? I can’t just…!”, but they all seem to be living a life like John. Merlin doesn’t like going places and he certainly wouldn’t want to ride a motorcycle anywhere, but that is a chunk of time!

At the same time John’s daughter’s mother, who works in web security, is going to be at a black hat / white hat conference in Scotland. Although she is now a grown-up person who has a job, she still thinks about travel like a student, like: ”Oh, it is too expensive to stay in a hotel, we should stay in a youth hostel!” - ”We are middle-aged people, I am not staying in a youth hostel! Also, we don’t have to stay in a youth hostel!” She was in Scotland already and didn’t want to come home without taking another week or 10 days to do something, go to Portugal or whatever, and: "Why don’t you load up our child and bring her over to Europe on some adventure?" John’s calendar is really giving Merlin the sweats.

During the week when John is on the motorcycle trip and his daughter’s mother is in Scotland the baby will be at her grandparents and when she is there she doesn’t care whether John and her mother live or die or whether she will ever see them again, so she is not even going to notice that they are gone. It will be her summer break and John will retrieve her and go on an airplane with her.

The initial plan was Portugal, but John has been there a lot and suggested Malta. John's daughter's mother likes to go on her computer to find plane tickets while John would rather be in a Dick Cheney underground shipping container (see Dreams and Fantasies) than buy a plane ticket, but she likes it, and going to Malta was complicated. John suggested Latvia and she accepted and John said they should start in Lithuania and go out of Estonia so that he can see them all while he is there.

Merlin is having a panic attack just thinking about what it looks like on a calendar three orders of reality away, but for her it is as difficult as typing. They are going to fly in to Tallinn, they are renting a car and they are going down the road as you do, flying out of Vilnius. Initially they were going to be there a week and she had already bought the tickets, but within ten hours she said that they are not going to be there long enough, and now they are going to be there for like 10 or 11 days.

John is also going to MaxFunCon and he is going to do a mini tour with Friendly Fire, just doing five shows, testing the water, and he is only going to be home for one day in June. He didn’t know any of this the 1st of April except there was some nascent motorcycle trip planned that he didn’t quite remember what month it was happening.

John talked to his mom about it and she said: ”Don’t get sick!” - ”How do I not get sick?” - ”You need to not give a good God-damn about anything. No matter what, you don’t care!” John is going to be on a 14 hour flight with an 8-year old and it is going to be massively #Aloha because she can be aloha, even though it is not her nature. She often gets upset as a form of performance for a certain audience, but John is not that audience. They are going to be traveling solo for a couple of days, they have to get from one place to another in order to get from one place to another and once they are there they are going to have to get from one place to another.

If she has an audience comprised of certain people she will be much more upset about whether or not the bacon is crispy or whether or not the lights are a certain temperature than if it is just the two of them. Then she really goes with the flow (Queens of the Stone Age record). Not that she doesn’t get upset, but she manages her feelings a little bit better and she is not trying to go to the macaroni and cheese store as hard with John as she is with other people because if John says that they are not going to go there, you can’t open a second front, but they are going there a different day and her performance is not productive.

This means that John and his daughter just kind of bobble along, having a good time. They are also going to explore different systems, for example on an airplane. They need to keep moving and get out of the way and once they are on there they are conscious of all the people around them, which takes a lot of energy. You can try to figure out who farted!

Today John got a letter from someone in Latvia who said he really wants John to enjoy himself, but then he spent three paragraphs disparaging his city. There is no place to park and there are a lot of potholes. That kind of thing seems like a product of being slightly younger than John, or maybe it is the thing where you introduce yourself and then say ”I suck!” John has not read the whole letter yet because as he scrolled through it kept going. When this episode airs John will be there or on his way there, so he wants to hear people to tell him what to do, he will ignore 90% of it, but maybe there is one that is pure gold, and he will just be alohaing the shit out of it.

John has always wanted to go to the Baltics. The area comports with a lot of his interests and it is part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. They got all this Russia time that nobody there is happy with and Russia is breathing down their necks again. Every time Putin rattles his saber they can hear it in their houses and America has no knowledge of it. It could be that Russia invades Estonia and we don’t even hear about it because Buzzfeed shuts down, or whatever. We only hear it on Infowars, but we don’t listen to that.

Merlin was looking at the code of arms for Latvia and he didn’t realize how sophisticated the descriptions of such things are. They continue to talk about it for a while and Merlin especially points out the recursion with the Lion and the Griffin. It is a hat on a hat. Merlin asks if John could bring him a T-Shirt in whatever the Latvian Large is with the coat of arms if he can find one. Latvian Large is going to take somebody from Big Wallet.

John’s house will close in June (RL338)

John is only going to be home for one day in June and that is the day his house closes. He got a bunch of offers, none of which made him feel ”Hurray! Triumph!”, but they were fine. Not every time you sell a house is an incredible triumph, but a lot of times you just do it and it is a success, but it is not a story you will tell for the rest of your life about how you bought a thing for a dollar and sold it for a million dollars. It was a Picasso that I found at a thrift store, lol! This house was just a thing that John had bought and that he had sold later and it was fine.

John got these offers and one of them was a family he liked and he thought they would be good for the neighborhood and the house. Another was an anonymous young couple who work in tech. John is not against that, but he knew more about the other couple. Merlin keeps saying that they might be Saudis because those are people who move a lot of money around, according to TV. This is not the house they would do this with, but Merlin insists that this makes it perfect. The problem with the people John liked was also what was most likable about them: John’s house was a little bit of a stretch for them and they needed to be accommodated because they didn’t have the money and needed an awful lot of help.

John had spent the last year, both professionally and personally, feeling that there was a new whammy every day. He was exhausted of whammies, particularly because when the house went on the market everybody said that he was going to sell it in two days for 100 million bitcoins, but then it was on the market for five weeks without a single offer. John really didn’t want any whammies and then the people, let’s call them the Saudis, came in with an offer without any whammies. They were taking all the possible whammies out of the offer. In real estate you have a number of whammies that you see out in the distance.

There is one way this could go right and four or five ways that this could go wrong. They would do an inspection and the hot water heater could need replacing and they would want John to replace the hot water heater, at which point he would be in a situation where he had sold the house, but he would have to spend more money and their offer would become less of a good offer. The Saudis, Jelisa and Robert Saudi, were going to inspect it and knock John down every chance they would get.

Your house gets marked ”Pending” when someone made an offer, you accepted it, but it hasn’t closed, and if for whatever reason the buyer wants a new water heater and you can’t go down in price, they will back out and your house gets back on the market and it looks distressed. You are closer to having agreed than you would prefer, and now you bear the dark mark and you look a little bit like damaged goods.

John had decided to sell the house to the nice family although there were a bunch of whammies, but they were better than the other guys. Then the Saudis came in out of nowhere and said that they will waive all inspection and all financing questions, and they will give John a close date and there is nothing that can stop it closing! They basically said: ”No whammies!”, which made their offer worth way more because everybody else was trying to chip him down. As bad as it felt to not sell the house to the nice people, it did not feel bad to spend four more month for the whammies to drop.

What it means is that the house closes on the one day that John is back from his trip and it is totally a coincidence that he is back that day. He just has to come back that day and stay #aloha. They agreed to let John stay there an extra month, but that means that John comes back from his trip to Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, possibly Finland and Belarus and he has two weeks to get all his stuff out of the house. He is doing the trench run at the Battle of Yavin (Battle of the Death Star) and he got a two meter target. He has to use a Gaia bomb, solve the Earth and then start over, take away the sun. Spock is going to be alive, though!

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