RW159 - The Sloth Problem

This week, Dan and John talk about:

  • Being an Apple fanboy, being dependent on technology (Technology)
  • Getting rich and not having to work again (Technology)
  • John’s dad wanting $50.000 in the bank (Parents)
  • Recognizing Sloth as an illness (Personality)
  • Uncle Cal flying to a board meeting (Family)
  • John applying to the Army War College again, the military being a logistics operation (Military)

Bonus-content for Patreon supporters:

  • You can't choose your audience (Career)
  • Merlin listening to the first 10 seconds of John’s album (Career)
  • Don't leave comments on the Patreon feed (Patreon)
  • Saying Howdy and Y’all (Language)
  • Looking for the passion in life (Humanities)
  • Dating as an older parent with a young child (Children)

The show title refers to John recognizing Sloth as his illness because lately he hasn’t been out of the house walking around as he has previously done for many years when he first moved to Seattle.

John starts the show plugging in his microphone because he was using the USB-slot for an external hard disk and there are not a ton of USB slots on his laptop.

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

Being an Apple fanboy, being dependent on technology (RW159)

Last night John watched the Steve Jobs movie and he learned that Steve Wozniak wanted the computer to have a lot of slots while Jobs thought that slots just meant that people would hook up their ham radios to their precious computers. It was like watching a war movie, it was good!

John wonders if Dan was a Steve Jobs fanboy, but Dan wouldn’t call himself a fanboy of anything in particular. He certainly liked a lot of what Steve Jobs did, but he thought of him as a regular person who happened to be very smart and very talented. He never saw him as a God-like being, he never worshipped him, and he never dreamt about him. The way Steve Jobs understood technology and business is something you are lucky to see once in a lifetime.

Dan wouldn't be upset to learn that saying this did qualify him as a fanboy, but he has never been in the situation that he sees a lot of Apple fanboys or Apple apologists in and he would never put himself in that category. Compared to a regular human being or to John he probably is a fanboy. A fanboy is somebody who can't hear criticism and Dan is able to hear criticism about Apple. There is plenty of talk about Apple Computers on the Internet and on podcasts and they don’t need to talk about that here.

Back in the old days Dan used to do podcasts mostly about Apple for hours 5-6 days a week: The original Talk Show with John Gruber, Marco Arment’s first podcast, John Siracusa's first podcast and the podcast about Apple with Jim Dalrymple called Amplified. All of these shows were basically just about Apple and Dan completely burned himself out on it and got to the point where he just couldn't talk or think about it at all anymore.

Dan is not that interested in that stuff, but he just wants his phone and his computer to work and John barely even wants those things. He wants his computer to work and he wants his phone to just fucking shut up. Dan doesn’t want to use a phone or a computer, but he has to because it is his job to do it, which is the difference between Dan of 2019 and Dan of 2010: Back then he was just excited about technology!

When the iPhone came out in 2007 Dan was definitely an iPhone fanboy for a long time and he had definitely been a Mac fanboy for a long time, but now he doesn’t want to use those things. If you told him that he could make a living at the same level of enjoyment that he gets out of it now, but he didn't have to use a computer or a phone or any technology or even be around any technology and his life would be just as complete without it right now, he would be so happy to get rid all this crap.

The difference between Dan and almost everyone he knows is that most people like their phones and their computer. They want to use this stuff, but for Dan it has just been work. He started using a computer when he was 10 or 11 years old, at a time when no-one used computers at all. He has been on a computer every day for 36 years and he is done!

Dan doesn’t need to use it anymore, but he has to use it because it is his job to use it. He is happy to have this job, he is not complaining, but if there was an alternative and he could make a good living without ever having to do any of this stuff again he would put it down and never look back. If he ever strikes it rich and some big excitement business thing happens you will never hear from him again.

Getting rich and not having to work again (RW159)

Most people who have made millions of dollars by selling their businesses are still showing up on Twitter every day, but: "What are you doing?" In Rock’n’Roll music John got close to people who later became successful and famous rock stars. You can't resent your friends for it because being a rock star is a singular thing that happens to 1-5 people and it is related to talent‚ but also charisma, looks, showmanship, timing and magic.

John is very close to some people who are now millionaires and Rock stars and it is hard for them to just go out to lunch because they are afraid that somebody would come up every three minutes and bother them. John is much more willing to go to the local pizza parlor because he enjoys sitting there while people come up and hassle them, it is just one more fun thing in his day, but his famous friends are over it!

The tech world was not just people who got rich, but thousands did not. Some people got rich just because they were standing there, some got rich because they were user number one, and there was that freaking guy at Facebook who spray-painted a mural and they gave him stock instead of the $3000 they were going to give him so he ended up being worth a $500.000. It was a crazy play-money thing!

The Steve Jobs documentary shows him screw up and getting booted out of Apple, then Next was laughable and he screwed up even there until he eventually got hired back by Apple and all of a sudden he was worth a couple $100 million or more.

Dan and Merlin were standing around in the tech world all throughout that whole period. Dan was in the first couple thousand people on Twitter and he even turned down on a job there when they wanted him to interview for the V.P. of technology. He doesn’t regret that decision, but he missed out on plenty of stupid things, often because he did not live in San Francisco.

Merlin has no excuse, but Dan lived in BFE nowhere frickin Florida stupid, spinning his wheels, wasting time. Back then start-ups happened in San Francisco and if you weren't in San Francisco you weren't really going to be part of that culture or any of that stuff.

Dan did not go to San Francisco because he wanted to be close to family for a number of reasons and he also didn't know anything about San Francisco and he wasn't in that situation. For most of his life Dan had a very 1950s mentality of getting a house, starting a family and be stable. He doesn’t know where that came from or why he believed that.

Dan didn't really know his dad very well and his grandfather filled that role for him, so perhaps he got some of his values. He completely missed out on all of those opportunities while many of his friends went on to become multimillionaires. For every one of them who did there were others in the same situation as Dan who were being an idiot on the sidelines.

The richest Rock dude John knows is Duff McKagan. He probably doesn't ever have to get a job at a drugstore and he is probably set up. The other rich rockers did not get as rich so they could just buy an aircraft carrier, but they had to stay in the world and all of them still are in the world. None of them just disappeared to a cabin, except maybe Colin Meloy.

At what point do you have enough money where you don't have to do anything again anymore? What are the interest rates now? You can invest your money and get a 4% return and if you put $1 million to the bank you get $40.000 in interest a year. You certainly can live on $40.000 a year, not in Seattle, but lots of places in the world, or it would be a wonderful supplementary income to most people.

$1 million is still the threshold if your goal was to not work, which John’s was for a long time, and live in Guatemala. You could keep your $1 million in an American bank and get $40.000 a year. You could happily go down to the beach every day, have a piña colada and some fish tacos, and you could walk up and down the beach in your cut-off jeans shorts with your scrappy little dog. You would be off the grid and the army would never come with a helicopter to bring you back because you would be the only one that could talk to the Whopper.

John’s dad wanting $50.000 in the bank (RW159)

John’s dad's dream was that he one day would have $50.000 in the bank. This was in the 1960s and that would be $400.000 today. It never came true although he was into a lot of investment schemes, like he owned 10 acres (40.0000 sqm) of Strawberry Fields in the center of what became Bellevue Washington where Bellevue Square Mall is, which is now worth hundreds of millions, but he sold it in the late 1960s / early 1970s when Seattle had a big economic crash. He didn’t have to sell it if he would have been good with money, but he sold it for $5000 and had paid $5500.

He also started a couple of banks, but he wasn't a banker at heart. It was a time when you could just start a bank as a lawyer and he understood that bankers got rich. He started a bank in Washington called Bank of the West and he was also part of a bank up in Alaska, it was the Wild West out here! He liked to screw the IRS, banks and insurance companies and he got a lot more pleasure out of screwing them than actually making money.

When he died he left a trail of financial destruction. It didn't slop over onto John or his sister, but many people were left holding the bag because his estate didn't have any money. If he had had a $1 million estate all those creditors would have been in line and would have chipped away at the money, but all they could do was to watch their paper fly away.

John does not want to die in debt to a bunch people, that is not how he sees the world, but that was definitely how his dad saw the world. John is worried about having enough money that he doesn't have to work. He likes to count money. If you gave him $1 as a little boy he would prefer you to give it to him in nickels so he could count it or stack it in different stacks.

When people started donating to their Patreon it was exciting to watch the number go up, but then John started asking questions like: "How much is that in a year? How much does that break down in a day? How much is that per episode?" He was stacking and re-stacking nickels, he likes playing, and money is a thing he likes to play with, not with its purchasing power, but with the numbers in a bank book. As a kid he valued money for itself, not for what it could do, and he had to unlearn that.

Recognizing Sloth as an illness (RW159)

John always recognized Sloth as a grave illness in himself, an illness up to the level of a sin, but he always indulged it. Now he sees it more and more as an illness because it is going to affect his health in the sense that he is stiff all the time. His shoulders hurt, his back hurts, his neck hurts, and he doesn’t sleep very well.

John used to tease his dad when he would come over to his dad's house and find candy wrappers for little Hershey's mini candy bars in his bed: ”Seriously, you are eating chocolate as the last thing you do at night, so much so that you don't even put the candy wrappers on the night table?” - ”Shut up!” He was probably embarrassed by it, but John is starting to eat a handful of Hershey's chocolate chips as the last thing he does before going to bed as well, right before he thoroughly brushes his teeth.

The phone is John’s ultra-enemy, though! He will just lay down on a couch, look at his phone and get transported to 100 other worlds because he follows a link, he reads an article, he does some research on some terms in the article that he had never heard, he looks at pictures of his friends that they posted and an hour just goes by seeing if Busy Phillips is staying on top of her workout regimen, and seeing that John Hodgman put slime on today. He will look at some e-mails and answer them and pretty soon the sun has arced across the sky.

What John doesn’t do at that point is jump up and say: ”Let's get outside and breathe some air!” This is repulsive! This was six hours of a beautiful day! He will get up, walk over, make a little cup of coffee, and just sit in a different chair as though that was enough of a scenery change. ”What are you talking about? I got up and walked over here!” The Pacific Northwest is a beautiful place: You can walk in any direction, and yet John's phone is right here and it can take him to Paris.

Doing these shows is hard work, but that isn't sufficiently well-rounded to stand in for a life. Many days John wakes up, does a show, does some research associated with the show, does some Internet maintenance, some answering, filing and refiling, and then his work day is concluded.

Sometimes it takes five hours, but a lot of people would then be headed to the gym or would have earned their tennis time. If you work in a steel mill all day John can see that you are coming home and saying: ”Phew, I am exhausted, I would like to just sit on the couch for a little while!” although there are lots of people who work in a steel mill all day and then come home and work on their hot rod car all night.

John is genuinely at a crossroads. No small part of the impetus to sell his house and get another house was that his old house was a place where he had descended into a static life. He had his routines and his neighborhood, but one by one he had closed down the avenues of healthy outdoor living.

When he first moved to that house he was just coming from a 15 year part of his life where he would walk between 5 and 10 miles a day unless he was going through a major depressive episode. If he had to go to lunch or to the bank or wanted to meet a friend, if he needed to turn a paper in at the college, if he needed to do whatever his job was or if he was going to see a show later that night he just walked everywhere, he didn't take a car.

When he moved to Seattle in 1990 he didn't have a vehicle until he moved his dad down from Alaska in 1998 and ended up with the Ford truck with the Chevy motor. Driving that somewhere was its own adventure and he was not going to drive down to the Crocodile, but for 8 years whenever it was time to go to a show he would put his hat on and walk. Driving a car would have been the last thing he would have thought to do! Why would you even do that? It would have been so much more trouble!

In the course of a normal day John would leave the house a lot earlier, he would walk down to Broadway, somebody would say: ”Hey, why don’t you come over to my place and we will talk about this?” and they would walk up to 15th Street. John didn't have a Fitbit or anything, but every one of those transactions was a mile and a half and he easily walked five miles a day just doing nothing. If he did two other things, certainly if he went to a show, which he did five nights a week, it was even more.

When John moved into his house back in 2007 he had been living that way for 17 years. He did get a van for touring, but when they weren't touring he just parked it. He once saw a guy in a band driving in town in his Rock van and he looked so ridiculous! One person in a 15 passenger van? Where was he going? To meet somebody? Driving that big thing in the city is ludicrous. Those vans are made for the interstates, not for around town.

When John moved into his house he had to drive, but he would still get out every day and walk and walk and walk and walk. There just wasn't anything to see. There wasn't anybody to visit down there. There wasn't anywhere to go because he was in the suburbs and there wasn't anything there.

John had never been in the business of: ”I am going to go out for a walk!”, but he was always walking places. He would babysit his mom's dog Gibson and take him out for walks, but over time he lost all the reasons and pretty soon by 2010 he wasn't walking as much. By 2012, before he even had an iPhone, a day would go by and he would have read The New Yorker all day. What happened in 2013? ”Beats the shit out of me!” His daughter was two and John doesn’t know if he did a damn thing.

Uncle Cal flying to a board meeting (RW159)

One time John’s uncle Cal infuriated John’s dad because he flew down to Palm Springs in his company jet in order to have a board meeting with the people who ran his Palm Springs enclave. They had received a demand from the staff for a $0.25 an hour raise across the board for everybody who worked there at the Smoke Tree Ranch.

The entire board of the Smoke Tree Ranch flew in from all around the country, which cost more in aviation gasoline than that raise would have cost for over ten years, to have a board meeting where they voted down the raise because they felt that giving everybody a $0.25 an hour raise was untenable and wouldn't be sustainable. The Smoke Tree Ranch would fall into disrepair and it would become a smoking wasteland.

They all got back in their fucking jets and they flew back to wherever the hell they live on the same day. John’s dad was just storming around: ”You got to be insane! That board meeting cost $250.000 for a $0.25 an hour raise!” John’s dad had always been labor at heart, but there was also just the pure insanity of it. From Uncle Cal's perspective the budget for the airplane gasoline came out of a completely different account unrelated to the Smoke Tree Ranch budget. ”You people with your fucking shell game!”, but it made perfect sense to Uncle Cal!

John applying to the Army War College again, the military being a logistics operation (RW159)

Their listener Edward Kaplan is a full-bird colonel in the United States Air Force. He teaches history at the Air Force Academy, maybe he was the head of the History Department even, and he enjoys listening to podcasts because the thing about the armed services is that they move you around.

In 2017 he was director of Aerospace Studies in the department of national security and strategy at the US Army War College in Carlisle Pennsylvania. Prior to that he had intelligence roles at Beale Air Force in California and he was Flight Commander at the Misawa Cryptologic Operations Center. He was assistant professor at the Air Force Academy and strategic planner at the directorate of intelligence on the joint staff. He is a Air Force tech intelligence weirdos who is extremely dangerous.

A couple of years ago Ed Kaplan had put John’s name into a thing at the Army War College where at the end of the year in the spring they invite a handful of civilian community leaders, thought leaders, and influencers, to attend the War College for a week and sit with the newly-minted colonels, generals, admirals and whatnot.

The War College is taking these successful officers who have not reached the rank of Major and followed the Peter Principle as a prep to take on a larger leadership role. They are studying not just: ”How do we breach the door of the insurgent's hideout?”, but they are studying stratecery and politics and how to be in command of larger scopes.

At least in the way the military in America is run, that is the point when they need to be reminded that they work for civilians. You can spend your lifetime in the military and although you are reminded that you work for civilians a lot on paper, in practice you work for other military people and very definitely you don't work for civilians.

Some guy from the local Piggly Wiggly doesn't tell you the way he wants you to direct traffic, but as a General, not a Brigadier General in most cases, but further up, you have to start interacting with civilian leaders. You answer to Congress, really, and ultimately the American people.

Retired Lieutenant Colonel Matt Martin, the Air Force officer who took John, Jonathan Coulton and David Reese to Africa, really opened John’s eyes to the fact that most people in the military are engaged in logistics jobs and even war-fighting people spend an awful lot of time on logistics. They got to move all this material and all these people from here to there. They have to take these shipping containers and get them to the forward operating base.

They get really good at that until they become a super brass and then all of a sudden they are sitting in a room with some guys from Congress who ask them how to get inside the hearts and minds of a foreign population in a far-off land and the military will suggest some kind of logistical solution.

It is how America has fought the war in Iraq and every war since Korea. What you don't think is: ”What is the culture where we are? What are the multitude of tribes that have 1000-year grudges and relationships with one another? How do we understand what their interests are? What are our interests here and how do we get those interests to align? What is our real problem with who we perceive to be the enemy and how is that different from their traditional adversaries in the region and is that really something we want to get into? We got some beef with these guys, but do we really want to worm our way into a 1000-year grudge match that they have with the neighboring tribe? Is that going to work out for us?”

Our solution is: ”We need to cordon off this area, do house-to-house searches, get all the men in fighting age down into the streets and the ones whose hands smell like gunpowder we are going to ship off and the ones that don't we are going to put on a list. After we do that we are going to mark that area as being pacified and we are going to move on to the next area. If we go from area to area on a map and draw red lines around it and say: These people are pacified, the ones whose hands smelled like gunpowder are gone, by the time we get to the end of that and every part of the town is circled red, the town will be at peace and we will move to the next town! We will draw peace lines on a map and by the end the country will be at peace and our mission will be accomplished!”

If you go in and say: ”Jeez, but it seems like every time you do that, as soon as you leave all the guys whose hands didn't smell like gunpowder go back home and learn to shoot a gun because they are so pissed off, and then you got a problem in your rear area, as we say!” the response is: ”Well, we didn't have enough technology to really accomplish the job, we didn't have enough support from Congress to do a proper job, and so we need to go back into that area with a redoubled effort and use the same exact techniques we used last time, except go harder!”

There is not any real incentive to send sociologists and State Department veterans who have spent their entire lives studying the tribal concerns of that region because the solutions those people would offer don't involve any shipping containers. The State Department guy says: ”Here is the problem: None of these people have interests that align with the United States and if we get in here and try to monkey with this dynamic it is going to blow up in our face. What we need to do is take a completely different approach, which in some cases means to leave the bad guy in power because to take him out is to create a worse situation!" et cetera. It is diplomacy, it is global politics, sociology and religious studies. It is fucking what colleges are for, but that is not what the military is good at.

The military is super-good at flying in and by day six they have built an entire site in a place. The Air Force is fucking genius at terraforming and building a tiny America anywhere in the world, the Army is incredibly good at running obstacle courses with hostiles all around them and neutralizing that opposition, but it is within the vacuum of the situation. They neutralize those people, but they are not thinking about who their families are.

Zero Dark Thirty (movie) shows that they went in and they pulled Osama Bin Laden out of there, but the most compelling thing about that movie in that moment is: They left 21 kids under the age of 18 and 4 moms just in there: "We killed your dad and all your dads and we are taking big dad with us and all the computers. You guys stay in school! Peace out!”

John doesn’t know what you are supposed to do, whether you should put all 21 of those kids on a helicopter and take them to America and send them to Choate, but if 5 of those 20 kids don't become super-devoted leaders of a global terrorist network, John will put it with you! What is the solution to that? Who knows! But it isn't an Army solution!

Unfortunately the world builders of the West think too often that they can go in and bring clean water and erect a couple of schools and then the people will naturally prefer clean water and schools and will abandon female circumcision and stoning and become Democrats, but that has not proved to be true, either!

John is not saying that the State Department knows what to do, but it is super-complex when America goes out into the world and decides that we are going to start moving chess-pieces around, just like England wasn’t very good at it before.

John often imagine these things to be far greater and more sweeping than they end up being, but when he got invited to the conference on world affairs he imagined he was going to be sitting on a panel with an admiral and the head of a Hollywood studio, and in a way it was that, but the event itself was diversionary. Those people did sit on panels and give talks‚ but the people who attended the Conference on World Affairs, the audience, were a bunch of retirees and other interested people who were able to pay to attend these conferences.

The Conference on World Affairs did not actually have a goal or a plan in mind. It was a great event, but it was a circle-jerk. Maybe that Admiral and that head of a Hollywood studio heard something on one of the panels and went back and conducted their business a different way, but seemed at the end extremely unlikely.

There is a certain amount of networking happening and all of a sudden a Hollywood studio owner and an admiral know each other, but most of that is butt-slapping. Maybe they call one another up once in a lifetime and go: ”Hey, I need your help!” and they might even get together for cigars. It is the ultimate CEO networking where they are in very different spheres.

The idea is great: You would have a conference and talk about really big ideas with leaders across a whole scope. The answers would be employed somewhere and someone would be taking notes. The Conference on World Affairs would produce a document at the end, a set of recommendations for the United States in going forward solving this set of problems.

Rich, famous, successful people are bored just as anybody else, and if you are not somebody who wants to take a shit on a toilet made of diamonds, you end up being somebody who goes to meetings in Switzerland, who flies into his Bilderberg Group, lunching, and then flies out. What is getting done doesn't matter.

Ed Kaplan wanted John to go to the Army War College as one of the civilians and sit in a class because maybe by just sitting and listening for a week these generals might rub elbows with some snorks. When John was King Neptune he rubbed elbows with some of the top brass: 3-star admiral Nora Tyson who at the time commanded the Pacific Fleet or Admiral John Tammen who was a 1-star at the time and now is a 2-star and on his way.

Tammen was running the Bangor Sub-base before he got called back to Washington to be at the Pentagon as director of undersea warfare and now he got another one of these job descriptions like Ed Kaplan does, like: ”What are you doing now? Strategic strategery?” John couldn't even make sense of his job description the last time he read it. Nora Tyson is retired.

John spent a lot of time as King Neptune in this social group of 1-to-3-star admirals because Seafair week was one of the funnest things that they did in the year. They have parties on their ships and they see one another, which they often didn't get to do because in the course of their normal job they are each running something somewhere and they don't get to all hang out together. From the moment he arrived on that first party on that first boat John just marched over to this little cluster of admirals and was like: ”Make way for the king!” They were all John’s age.

What a lot of people don't know about top ranking officers in the military is that they are all deep nerds who have degrees in mechanical engineering from the Virginia Polytechnic Institute. None of them went to the Naval Academy or even a college John had ever heard of. They all went to these weird little engineering schools, they joined the Navy when they were young, and they love what they do. They love machines and they love things that go fast and things that go boom. They are Star Trek people!

John has a lot of experience with nerds, he really hit it off with this group, and it was mutual. They are nerds with power and charisma because you don't get to be a 1-star general or admiral if you don't have a certain amount of charisma. There are a lot of people vying for each level of promotion, like there are 20 majors to one lieutenant colonel job and there are 20 lieutenant colonels to one colonel job and you got to make it through that narrowing aperture. These are people that are used to talking shit to each other and obviously they are used to people saluting them.

After a week of of socializing with them John realized there was a missed opportunity here. These admirals are basically Adam Savages. They are peers of Adam Savage in age and in inclination, but they are never going to meet Adam Savage, and Adam Savage is never going to meet them. If they met and sat around for two hours they would realize their incredible overlap in knowledge, interest, and attitude. None of these top brass were saber-rattlers or hard core anything! They were smart people who read.

It is against the law for them to appear in uniform and say they support this or that, and for their whole careers if you ask them: ”Where do you stand on this?”, at least publicly they will say: "I can't comment on that!”, but a surprising number of them are extremely sympathetic.

If you ask them: ”If the president tells you to bomb Korea an hour from now, what will you do, Admiral?” the only answer they can give is: ”Yes, I will bomb Korea. I serve at the pleasure of the president!” But when the moment comes to pull the trigger, we can’t know what they will actually do, and John feels now much more reassured because in talking to them he felt very much that in that moment they would not act blindly.

They did reserve a certain amount of discretion for themselves and that is certainly scary from a standpoint that a lot of them are juggling nukes, but hopefully there are enough turn-your-key-sir situations that prevent them from just going rogue. It also gives them an opportunity to say: ”You know what? No, I am not going to turn my key! Let's instead listen for that one more signal of confirmation!” or whatever.

The prospect of going to the Army War College filled John with a lot of enthusiasm and expectation. If only he would get to meet these people and learn from them a little bit and then bring that back bring to Road Work and Friendly Fire and Omnibus and to Roderick on the Line and be able to say: ”Here is something I saw that most of us don't have access to! Let's get this new experience in play!”

Two years ago John didn't get accepted. He had applied in a lackadaisical way when Ed Kaplan contacted him out of the blue, similarly to when he met Matt Martin: John says a lot of things about drone warfare and Matt Martin disagrees with him almost 100%, but he wrote John out of the blue and told him that he was talking out of his ear. John replied: ”Why don't you take it on the lam, random dude?” - ”Maybe you should read the book I wrote about drone warfare?” - ”Oh, I guess you are not just some Well Actually!” John read the book, he liked it, and they became friends.

Ed Kaplan sent John an email: "Hey, do you want to go to the Army War College?” - ”Yeah, do you want to go to Bumbershoot? Because I think I have a better chance of getting you into Bumbershoot than you do of getting me into the war college!” - ”Actually, I teach at the War College!” John was excited, but he sent him a bio like: ”John Roderick is a guy who's got some podcasts or what-effs. He is in some bands. He would be cool at your thing!” and he didn't get in. The selection process is opaque even to Colonel Kaplan, even though being a professor might carry some weight.

A lot of the people who get selected are leaders of the community, which means sports figures and Chamber of Commerce people, guys or gals who work for non-profits that are not too controversial, the director of the Red Cross, or somebody who works for the Gates Foundation. Within the world conformity is recapitulating. As a conformist you want conformity and if you are in the army you are certainly a conformist looking for people who are going to check out. Although it is a pretty broad set of jobs it lies in a pretty narrow band of where you are in life. No mayor is going to do it, but a deputy mayor maybe.

John never looked at a list of the people who have done it, but he has a pretty good sense of who it is. He didn't apply last year because he was a little stung about it, just like he was super-stung when he didn't get back into the Conference on World Affairs. Some people have been every year for 30 years. Roger Ebert famously went to the Conference on World Affairs for 40 years until he was the king of it and when John went for the first time he had just recently died and everyone was still mourning him. The implication was: ”Now that you have been invited, we will see you next year!”, but John didn't get re-invited because he underperformed, let's be honest. That was before he started taking bipolar medication.

This year John contacted Colonel Kaplan and said he wanted to try to go to the war college again. At first he felt like: ”Well, we tried that!” - ”Let's just try it again!” and John wrote a resumé, trying to think of everything that he could say that would make the selection committee understand that he is a bona fide, respectable‚ relatively conformist, normal American.

What John has and what they do want, is to get the word out. They want to integrate the Army with the world at a certain level. Ed Kaplan is a great example: He would be an intellectual if he were teaching at the University of Pennsylvania or at Berkeley, but because he teaches at the war college we don't think of him as an intellectual.

When we hear War College we think that they are in there drawing lines on a map and saying: ”If two tanks come at you this way, you send your tanks over this way!" There is a desire in the officer corps to be understood by the public and to be thought of as a branch of the government. They think of themselves as an important part of the American public life.

They devoted their entire lives to serve the United States and they don't want to be marginalized, they don't want their work to be just thought of as logistics and they definitely don't want to be lumped in with the worst elements of our culture who just want blood at all costs. They want a group of people to go to this, have a positive experience, bring it back to their communities, and say: ”Let me tell you what I learned!”

They don't know what they are getting into with John! He has a lot of reach! He could attend an event like that and share it with a significant number of people that might have reverberating effects. He has been working on his resumé and his daughter was very frustrated with him yesterday: "It is sunny out, let's go play!” - ”I have to write this letter about all the amazing things I have done!” She just rolled her little eyes: ”Ugh!”


Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License