BW205 - Obsolete, circa 1993

This week, Dan and John talk about

In After Dark Episode 503, they continue to talk about:

The show title refers to John’s knowledge about the US military that was obsolete ca 1993 when he stopped adding new information to it.

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

Selecting show titles (BW205)

John did not realize that this show was broadcast live and people were able to be in touch in an IRC chat room to suggest titles. The titles can be upvoted on Merlin is going to be pissed if he will hear this because he likes getting a lot of title suggestions and John got 233 title suggestions. The current top suggestions are:

  • ”Obsolete circa 1993”
  • ”Je accusé”
  • ”How to Andy Kaufman an entire military base”
  • ”State Department Fanboy”
  • ”Grunge Rock Seattle Town”
  • ”Playmobil Supertrain”
  • ”Flipflop entitlement”
  • ”Bossed around by John Larroquette”
  • ”Stupid internet watch”.

People in the chat are not arguing, but they are very supportive and loving people. Sometimes they ask questions, for example when John was talking about the AC-130, they were quick to drop in the link for the wikipedia page of the AC-130 and Dan was going to use that for this week's art.

Dan and John’s relationship (BW205)

photo of Dan and John at XOXO.

Merlin is always trying to help people on this show and John was not sure if he was helping anybody, but Dan disagrees and says that John helped a lot of people. People think that their Internet feud is some kind of Beach Boys versus The Rolling Stones thing, who didn't actually have any beef with each other. It was Beach Boys versus The Beatles and The Beatles versus The Rolling Stones, or The Beatles versus everybody.

Dan and John really like each other. They met in person, they spent a great lunch, Dan met John’s family members and it seems like the beginning of a long and fruitful partnership. John gave Dan some business advice that Dan has taken to heart. John couldn’t remember what he said because business advice just comes out of him like chocolate out of a chocolate fountain. Dan says he was talking about the future of 5by5, where it could go and what different things Dan could do.

Sometimes there is this perception of what something is or what it should be, but John said 5by5 can be whatever Dan wants it to be without having to worry about what the perception is. If he is making good stuff people will follow him into whatever he is building and enjoy his good work. That was really good advice! John seemed very sober and it was great!

Co-opting each others podcasting memes (BW205)

Having John guest on on this 5by5 program is an example of the new direction Dan wants to take the 5by5 network. He does not care what are people going to think because it is his show, although it is Merlin’s show. Merlin is to John on Roderick on the Line as Dan is to Merlin on Back to Work and now they have closed the circle. Dan is not very familiar with John’s other show and has only listened to some signature episodes. He started listening prior to the "All the Great Shows” episode (see RL125) and is doing his best to co-opt that term. After he had met John he could listen to John's show because before that he felt too intimidated. Now he started diving selectively into the back catalog of the show.

People email Dan saying that they love ”All the Great Shows” before they will go on to either criticize or compliment something that Dan has done, meaning the phrase has somehow become associated with Dan. Dan’s goal is for people to associate it more with him than with John, although that is a losing battle. John feels like the future of podcasting is going to get more and more competitive which is going to manifest itself by trying to co-opt one another's memes.

The final victorious podcast will be the one that has a co-opted all the memes and then there will just be one podcast sitting on top of a giant pile of Smaug’s gold of memes. All the other podcasts will just dry up and blow away like husks in the wind. Dan can't wait for that day! He wants to be the Smaug of podcasting. He had never thought of it that way but he could do that. He will have a lair! He needs to develop the necessary ruthlessness.

Dan was trying to get off the air 10 minutes ago, but they just keep talking. This is what is called the After Dark, which is another show. After the main show ends Dan drops a couple of markers in Logic and then the After Dark begins, which is the post show where you can swear and talk about poo poo and pee pee. It is the sexy time! Dan is feeling something right now that is different. For him it is late in the afternoon, almost bedtime.

Dan had prepared a couple of topics because he had no idea where the show was going to go. John did a splendid job of taking it full circle, which is very Merlin-esque. Melrin always brings it back, he does a lot of work before the show, he prepares a lot, he has notes, and he has a routine.

Feeling cold, prioritizing comfort (BW205)

Dan grew up in Philadelphia but he lived in the Southern part of the United States for a long time. He never really felt cold until he was in his 30s. As a kid he would go outside in the snow in jeans and T-shirt while his mom was running after him with a jacket. When he was in High School in Florida he would wake up at the last possible second. How long would it take him to get out of bed, brush his teeth, put his head under the faucet in the tub, get in the car, and put his shirt on while he was driving to school? The rare days of cold weather in South Florida, in the sense of the 60s, 50s, or 40s (4-20 °C), never felt cold. He would be in a T-shirt and jeans, no problem.

Dan doesn’t know what happened, but now if it is in the 40s (4-9 °C) now he is freezing and he hates it. People in Russia in the Polar Bear Club will dive into freezing cold water in the middle of winter. John knows it well. He he has been to the sauna and then come out of the sauna, ran down the dock, and jumped into the lake through a hole in the ice, but the Polar Bear Club is a very specific thing on New Year's Day when you run with a bunch of other people into a body of open water. A lot of research has gone into this and there is a medical term for it where you expose yourself to cold water temperatures. The chat room would normally help remember it.

You can do this in your own shower by turning it down as cold as possible. You are supposed to start with your face, then your head, and then you put your body into it. Doing this repeatedly over a month reacclimatizes your body. Not only do you get used to not feeling cold, but it also jumpstarts your immune system. They did some study with kids in Berlin who don't get colds or the flu. It is the concept behind the Schwitz where you go into the Russian bath with a steam room, The Schwitz, and then you jump into the cold pool and back into the sauna and back in the cold pool. Russians, Polish people and so forth will tell you that you will never get sick again.

Dan is absolutely right to start taking cold showers and John suggests he should even flagellate himself with some branches and get a bit of hard scrubbing with a rough brush. In Europe they do that in the sauna and whack you with sticks. We are supposed to be running through the forest!

Growing up in Alaska John had the exact same experience that Dan was talking about: He would go to school in boat shoes with no socks because that was what preps did. The fact that it was -15 degrees (-25°C) did not for a second change his decision making on whether or not he was going to wear socks or not that day. There were times when he was so cold that his life was being threatened. One time he was coming home from Junior High when it was something like -30 (-35 °C). John was bundled up, but it was a couple miles home to walk and by the time he was about halfway home he realized that he was in trouble.

He had not factored in how cold it was and by the time he got home he was very very very cold. As he walked into the house his sister was there and she put him in a hot bath where it took him a long time to get his thing back together. That was one of those times when you are in the center of Anchorage and you forget that Alaska is always life threatening. There is never a time when Alaska is not trying to kill you, and growing up there and learning that makes you approach life on Earth very differently.

You come down to temperate climates and you are still conscious of the fact that the Earth is not ambivalent, but it has a vested interest in seeing you die. If you aren't vigilant, something on Earth will sneak up and kill you and therefore you have to check your six (see story in RL50 when John was beat up) In Austin you could die of heat, snakes, or unreflective 1-4-5 Blues Rock. You are walking down 6th Street and all of a sudden you start to feel weak, nausea and you don't realize it is life threatening.

If it is 60 degrees (15 °C) in John's house during summer he will still feel warm and fine in a T-shirt and shorts and he will be happy that it is 60 degrees and the house feels cool and perfect. But if his house is 60 degrees during winter, he has never been so cold, he is over-futzing with the thermostat, and he is bundled up in blankets and robes, huddling on the couch, because how can it be so cold? Up until the time he bought a house John was just like Dan and had no sense of cold, but now that he is a homeowner, if the temperature falls below 70 degrees (21 °C) in his house during the day in the winter he is walking around like Ebenezer Scrooge with a little hat wrapped around.

This might be a middle aged guy problem or it might be a homeowner problem. Dan is trying to shower with cold water after his regular shower and of course when the water hits your face your instantaneous reaction is to run the other direction, but you get to stick with it. You start breathing really fast and you get really dizzy. It sounds terrible, but it is actually worse than it sounds. You just stick with it and put your arms and your legs in it and eventually you are standing in there with your whole body.

If we were still living out in nature we would have to get cold sometimes, maybe because we had to dive into the river which happened to be 25 degrees cooler than the air around us, or because we might have to endure a winter where we still had to go out. You are not going to just be in your little hut all the time! Now we are completely insulated from all that and we city dwellers are only cold between the house and the car and between the car and the office building. We are not cold for an extended period of time and our bodies have gotten used to that.

A friend of Dan’s from Wisconsin was visiting recently. It gets quite cold there and when they met in Austin he was just wearing jeans, a T-Shirt, a Members Only style jacket, and smart wool socks. John is wearing some smart wool socks right now! Dan at the same time had a pair of shoes, a long sleeve T-shirt, a short sleeve T-shirt, a sweater, a jacket and a hat. Dan's friend was fine and he even took his jacket off at one point. It was probably in the 40s (4-9 °C) and if Dan would have taken his jacket off he wouldn't have been frozen and dying, but that felt really cold to Dan.

We all have started privileging comfort over every other consideration, because comfort is something that people can sell us, we all feel like special flowers, and comfort is something we deserve. Comfort is being lavished upon us and we finally have the technology and the wealth to provide comfort. We expect comfort and we accept that seeking comfort is natural and a higher order of pursuits, but comfort is bullshit! It weakens us and once you get accustomed to a certain level of comfort it no longer feels comfortable and you need more comfort, you need an extra pillow on your bed and you need the thermostat to be turned up to 75 (24 °C).

Scalding your balls (BW205)

John has never revealed on the internet that sometimes he will scald his balls with super hot water just to get the pain, not to punish himself, but there is a punishment element. It is not a sex thing, but sometimes when he is in the shower he feels like turning the water up hotter and when he turns it up so hot that he can't be under it anymore, then he will just turn it on his balls. John recommends it, but not every day, that would be crazy!

John is not saying this just to get Dan to do it, that would be terrible and Machiavellian. Dan knows that John never had a wet dream because he listened to one of John’s shows before. Your balls are a funny thing! What the hell? Who designed this? Are you talking about intelligent design? Come on! The balls? They are ludicrous and under-utilized, but protecting and guarding them is our number one thing to do, which basically makes them a baby doll for guys.

They are like the one egg they give you in High School and say you got to carry this around the whole weekend and not break it because that is what it will be like to have a kid. Most guys will say ”I do that with two eggs all the time!” They are not as pretty as the eggs that you drew a face on, but here are these things that we spend all of our time protecting and what are we protecting them against? Kicks mostly, but also accidental blows. If somebody nuts you in a Bro-context, that is a pretty bad thing, too.

These things are a major component and they are pretty funny. Our only awareness of them is that we need to guard them, but they have so many more practical uses, primarily as a thing to torture. If you scald them or yank them or thack them, you are giving them a new life because they suddenly have a new purpose. They are incredibly resilient and they are a doorway into a consciousness that you were not aware that you had. When your balls get whacked you are on another plane for the next minute and a half.

Recreational use of nitric oxide is much faster that getting it at the dentist because you go all the way down and you come all the way up back to normal. Torturing your balls can be a similar brief transcendent experience where you to go to a different place. Scalding water is the underutilized one among the ball torturing methodologies because anybody can whack them with a leather glove. Scalding is a thought technology that we are going to see a lot more of in 2015!

Dan doesn’t find it crazy per se, especially not after hearing John talk about it more, but Dan does admit to pain avoidance. There is a ”too hot” because you could hurt yourself and you have to find the right balance between hot enough that you are really calling your body to attention, and not so hot that you are actually giving yourself 3rd degree burns.

We think of cold water as being just one temperature and we are not making a distinction between jumping into a 45 degree (7°C) pool versus a 35 degree (2°C) pool. It is all just cold because at a certain point water will turn to ice. The uncomfortableness of hot water has a lot more range. Between ”that's really freaking hot on my balls” and ”boiling” there are 100 degrees of hot water, each one incrementally hotter on your balls.

John’s branded coffee mugs (BW205)

Dan owns one of John’s branded mugs and drinks both coffee and tea out of it. They are still for sale and John is sitting in a room with a box of them, he can see them right there. Dan is ready to buy them because he only has one and at home he is like a bull in a china factory and he is very worried that he is going to break it. He posted on his Instagram that he was having some tea out of it just a day ago (also here). John is wondering if Dan is trying to capture all of John's spirit essence and add it to Dan’s booty pile. Dan need it and is trying to get as much of it as he can.

SF Sketchfest 2015, meeting Merlin in person (BW205)

Merlin had texted Dan 42 minutes earlier and said ”This is awesome! Could you encourage John to talk about our SF Sketchfest if there is time at the end?” and Dan had missed it, but there were still a lot of live listeners left at that point in the after show. John and Merlin are going to do a Roderick on the Line live show at SF Sketchfest (see SFS2015, recorded the day after this episode), which will only be the third live Roderick on the Line. Tomorrow John is also going to do the Paul and Storm, Wil Wheaton, and Adam Savage W00tstock show.

John is incapable of editing himself and in this episode he talked to Dan about his trip to Africa, which was a pleasure to do, but now he will have to talk to Merlin about it in a completely different way at the Roderick on the Line live show because he doesn’t like repeating himself. He also has to talk about all the other things that he and Dan didn't talk about, but it is worth going to see the show because it is very rare to see Merlin and John both in the same place in the wilderness.

It is going to be fun because the people who come to that show are fans who are very invested in the vocabulary. It is a simultaneous pocket universe. They know that they are dealing with two total curmudgeons and are very careful about coming up and saying ”Dr. Roderick” because John might kill them with a garrote. Everybody is aware of that and they do it, but there is an insider knowledge of ”I do this, I am a meta nerd.”

Dan would love to see that show and John offers him that if he will fly out to San Francisco he will put him on the guest list. It is in just a couple of days already, but Dan is living in a world of his own invention: ”You know what, honey? I'm on my way to the airport! I'm going to Roderick on the Line and even though the hotels are all booked I'm just going to get the most expensive room at the Sheraton and I'm going to have a cocktail party after the show.”

That is pretty spot on for how the conversation would go. Dan will try, he would like to go, and if he had known a month in advance, if he had read his e-mail, then he would probably be there because he loves to go to San Francisco and he has never been to Seattle. Dan would consider doing a live show, so they should just make a show. That is a plan for 2015, that they do a live show in Seattle or something.

The energy of doing Roderick on the Line live is very different. You don't see Merlin in person very much and it is a great pleasure to see him in person and they are both excited about it. Seeing John in person is very much like listening to him on the radio. If you imagine him sitting in a chair with his pants off, that is how he is. Dan imagines John in a suit with a little lapel pin. John is in a suit with a lapel pin, but he also has his pants off.

John imagines Merlin climbing up and down a play structure with a wooden sword in one hand, and a pirate hat made out of newspaper. Maybe that will be their stage set-up? A classic play structure, not one of these safe and sane ones, but a dangerous 1970s play structure of the kind they have in Soviet Union. The Soviet Union play structure plays you!

Merlin goes between very high energy and very subdued when you meet him in person, almost like someone is flipping a switch on and off inside him: The Many Moods of Merlin, or Fifty Shades of Merlin. Dan and John both interact with him a lot and they are two of the primary people he interacts with. It is very hard to imagine how all of that information can be contained in one person, not just the data, but also the accompanying analysis and interconnectivity of the data, and all of the meta-analysis.

When Merlin goes quiet John can only picture an Eniac computer with a robot arm going between different reels of magnetic tape, but that is probably not an accurate description of how it works and in reality it is much more like a scene from Avatar and inside of Merlin there is a sort of alien Gaia world with a giant white tree that has thoughts.

True telepaths say that the challenge isn't to read someone's mind, but to not read someone's mind. Merlin is not trying to do it the way that Dan and John would do it, like ”Yeah, that makes sense when you overlay it on this other thing…”, but he tries to prevent things from overlapping that way, from drawing too many connections between things, because his mind is extraordinarily good at interrelating things and seeing truths, it is uncanny to Dan. Merlin doesn't even like people, or does he? Maybe he loves people or maybe he loves them too much?

How Merlin will cope with the JoCo cruise (BW205)

A week after SF Sketchfest 2015 Merlin and John were going to go on the Jonathan Coulton cruise (JoCo Cruise) and be at sea for eight days. Merlin and John spent a lot of time together in the early days of their friendship. One time the band had stayed with Merlin in San Francisco as they came through town and later Merlin sent John an email and offered him that if they wanted to come to San Francisco at the end of the tour and just hang out, they could just hang out. John ended up staying at Merlin's house for a week and all they did was goof around. The picture that is the Rodrick on the Line show picture was taken during that long visit.

Merlin and John are going to be on a cruise ship full of Jonathan Coulton fans and Merlin is going to have a cabin where he can go and be away from people. But during the rest of the day, the big fancy dinners at night, and the different activities Merlin is going to have to learn that if you are on an elevator on that cruise ship going from floor one to floor eight, at some point in that transit the elevator will stop, the door will open and there will be 17 JoCo cruise fans. Their eyes will get big and wide when they see that you are alone on the elevator and they will all get on the elevator and you better be ready to interact with them!

Merlin is going to be on an elevator, listening to the Muzak, whistling to himself, and thinking about the Bay City Rollers or whatever it is he thinks when his mind goes into neutral, and the elevator is going to stop, the doors are going to open, there are going to be 15 people standing there, two of them will be dressed as My Little Pony, and they are going to be like ”Merlin Mann!” They are going to get on the elevator, he is going to be at the back of the elevator, and it is going to be very interesting to watch what happens. By the time the elevator gets to the 14th floor, maybe they are all going to be talking about the Bay City Rollers. It is all going to be happening in the next couple of weeks and it is very exciting to John.

Merlin is going to help a lot of people and he is going to see a lot of things that he has only heard about. They have talked a lot about Bronies (see RL37) and about cosplay (see for example RL37 and RL60) on Roderick on the Line. There will be 1000 people on this cruise across a very wide spectrum of people in the nerd alternative culture. There will also be some straight up tech people and a lot of people that you would think of as ”Oh yeah, Maisie Glotz, she's a normal person, she likes to have a beer after work and she is one of the coolest people in the IT team”, but she also has a secret life as a sea monkey on the JoCo cruise.

There will be a lot of people for whom this cruise is an eight day excuse to get wasted all day on frozen liquor drinks and talk to other people about IT solutions, Next Generation Star Trek, Settlers of Catan and some serious Meme dives and other shit that John doesn’t even comprehend.

There will also be a lot of nerd sex, given the looks on people's faces. They are liberated from the basement of the engineering school where they teach hydrology and put on a floating island of debauchery where it is 90 degrees (32 °C) every day and they just lose their minds and they are all fucking each other backwards and forwards. There is a pan-sexual nature to it with a contemporary notion of gender and sexuality as a free floating overlay. People are exploring and it feels like a tempest. Merlin will be in for a ride! You want to talk about binary sexuality? He is deeply entrenched!

Merlin has a lot of touchstones and cultural commonality with people and a lot of the people on the cruise are going to be fans of this program (Back to Work) and his other work on the Internet and they are going to have a lot to say to him. When somebody walks past Jonathan Coulton, they say: ”Dr. Colton!” or whatever, they do that nerd thing where they tip their hat. ”Hello sir!”, that kind of recognition. They talked about the deferment thing. When somebody will do that to Merlin it might just annoy him or he might take it as a teaching moment, it is really hard to know.

John has never seen Merlin in a Con environment. The closest Dan came to it was during WWDC in San Francisco where all of the Apple focused geeks descend and they will have a little event here and there. Last year Merlin really threw himself into it, stayed out late and had a good time. Other times he will position himself very close to the door, he will keep his backpack on, and at just the right moment when no one is looking he will back out of the room and be gone. This is what John also does in a Con environment, but on a cruise ship all you can do is be gone into another place on the ship that is also colonized by people who have 20 sided dice in their pants and want to talk to you about every detail.

A lot of people on the JoCo crews would pass as Normals, but this is an environment where they are free to shed their normal costume. Merlin, Dan and John have found ways to make a life for themselves in the world where they don't have to pass as a normal anymore. Merlin tried to pass as a Normal for a long time, but one day, and John remembers the day, he talked to him on the phone, Merlin was like ”You know what? I am done! I am just done pretending that I am going to care about the normals or of being a normal. I am done! I am over it!” - ”Wow! Alright, here we go! POW!” Merlin has been making a real life for himself as his own self. When John first met him, his primary computer was a PC and the Mac was a thing that he had just bought and was just learning about. Talk about a transition! That whole thing where you are not pretending anymore…

John is absolutely living in a world of his own making, but he is one of the few people who is not sharing every element of this other universe. He is often the person who appears to be peering in the space time temporality and being like: ”Oh, oh excuse me!”, backing out and closing the door, not realizing that in this world people were having sex with those Avatar tails. It doesn't look like the sex that John thinks of as sex, but if you are getting off on it, so… It is going to be very fun!

Coming to Austin (BW205)

John has a lot of business to transact in Austin. Every couple of years he needs to get a new Steve Avon hat because the buckles get tarnished and rather than polish them John will just get a new one. He will also spend some time looking for good barbecue until he realizes that all barbecue is the same and what he is really looking for is tacos. He will sits at a friend's house for an afternoon or two and realize that no-one in Austin locks their doors and that somehow neighborhood dogs are just free to roam in and out of your house and kitchen.

No-one seems to know who owns the dogs because everybody is just sitting around drinking Modelo beer and everybody is always a little baked. Every time John goes to Austin he has that moment when he understands why people live there: You can be baked all day, you leave your doors open, the temperature is always kind of the same, and everybody has a little bit of a drawl, but not so that you mistake it for the South.

Many people are saying that they like Austin, but they don’t like the rest of Texas, but there is a lot of great stuff in Texas! Austin is still just enough Texas that you will see a dude walking around with a true Cowboy hat and Cowboy jeans and Cowboy boots and nobody thinks twice about it. It is not weird. If you saw that pretty much anywhere except Texas, you would be wondering if that guy thinks he is a cowboy. In Austin he is just a patron of the establishment that you are in and no-one pays any mind to it.

Dan welcomes John to his studio anytime! He will bring a couple of guitars and they could play some songs, whatever he likes. He doesn’t have the fancy preamp that John prefers, but he can rent one. Some friends of John’s own a bar in Austin called the Mohawk and a lot of good acts come through there. John played the opening night of the Mohawk and he has a long relationship with them. Also John’s booking agent lives in Austin. John could sleep right here in the studio because they have a bed and a little Casper mattress right here. Dan is going to give John the USO treatment, except Dan has a sink in the office.

John’s upper back issues when he was drinking (BW205)

When John was between 18 and 26 years old, at the time he was drinking a lot and doing a lot of drugs, he had constant upper back pain. He would show up at somebody's house and the first thing he would do is sit in the doorway and rub up against the door jamb like a bear itching himself on a tree, trying to massage the pain out of his shoulders, neck and back because nobody had strong enough hands.

John never knew what caused the upper back pain. After he stopped drinking and doing drugs he went to a battery of doctors and health advisors because he was very ill from the last big run he had taken at it. One of the reasons he stopped drinking alcohol was that his neck and shoulders seized up so that he could not turn his head anymore. It was complete rigor mortis and stayed like that for a couple of weeks.

A Naprapath and acupuncturist-type-of-person eventually told John that they identify liver trauma in Chinese medicine as manifesting itself in the neck and shoulders. It seemed a little bit convenient given that John was suffering from evident alcoholism and also had this neck problem, but this pain had plagued him for the entire eight years, it was often incapacitating, and right at the end it was completely incapacitating and terrifying. As soon as John quit doing drugs and drinking the pain went away and it never returned. John has no other back pain either. This had been a constant dragon and he credits that interpretation unquestioningly.

John never heard about that conclusion again and he never researched it on his own, but this one person had told him that the Chinese medicine interpretation of the interconnectedness of things concluded that the liver manifests itself in your shoulders: It was enough of an explanation for John because he didn't have those problems anymore.

When he was 24 years old the pain was so strong that he was rolling his head on his neck to stretch it and he would lay down on the floor and get girls to walk on his back and up on his shoulders and bounce up and down, which seemed like a bad idea, but it was the only thing that gave him any relief. You couldn't squeeze deep enough to get to the pain, he had to have somebody jump on him.

Dan’s lower back problems (BW205)

Dan says that lower back pain is common for geeks who were sitting in the wrong posture in front of a computer for many years, the kind of back pain where your core muscles don't develop properly and your back muscles become overworked in supporting your body. Then your leg muscles and your hamstrings begin overcompensating for the now overworked back muscles and the whole system is breaking down because, go figure, all the muscles in your core and legs are supposed to work together.

Dan was working a lot and he was not doing stretches, yoga, strength training or whatever. His exercise was jogging which of course would aggravate these problems. He eventually developed a chronic lower back issue that wound up manifesting itself a couple of times but at one point he had to stay in bed for a number of days in tremendous pain.

Dan had always been very open to Eastern medicine or acupuncture and it really helped him with a number of things, but he always thought going to a chiropractor was a racket. They were not real doctors, they took classes in a High School on Thursday nights for a couple of weeks. Dan believed in rolfing and German tinctures, but chiropractors were a bridge too far.

But while he was in pain one of his friends recommended a chiropractor who did a thing called A.R.T. (Active Release Therapy) and at this point somebody could have said ”Oh, go to this lady, she is going to pour some melted butter on your left arm and it will fix you!” and he would have done it, he didn't care. The concept is pressure and physical therapy muscle extension. They put pressure on you and then help you move your leg or your arm or your back or whatever it is that is hurting. It is not so much about adjusting your spine as it is about applying pressure. As a result your muscles relax instantaneously and all tension that was in there of the muscles contracting disappears.

When your hamstrings and your glutes start being overworked they start affecting the sciatic nerve and you get sciatic nerve pain which is terrible. At this point Dan was ”Do whatever you want! Here is some money! Make this go away!” and as he walked out of there he could immediately move again and was not in excruciating pain, which totally changed the thing. Dan worries about Merlin because he has got an ongoing neck-pincher or something and he talks to Dan about that on the show all the time.

There are different ways in which John and Merlin allow old-man-isms to intrude into their show. If they let everything in, then it is basically two old guys and on rocking chairs in front of a country store yelling at the clouds. Merlin has been protecting them by not talking about his pinched back and John has protected them by not talking about torturing his balls. It keeps the show useful, contemporary and sane. Young people feel like these two guys are reasonable people who have something to contribute to their way of thinking.

If they talked about how their backs hurt, they would be shedding young listeners in droves. In this episode Dan and John have brought the whole thing full circle and now they have entered into a world where they might as well just start talking about sciatica, which John doesn’t even know what that is. John doesn’t look at encyclopedias anymore and if he would google he would probably get pictures of it and he probably doesn’t want them. The sciatic nerve runs from the lower back all the way down each leg. It is the largest nerve in your body.

If you have a back issue the other muscles start to compensate for the injured or tired or overexerted muscle, but they will overwork themselves and your body will try to protect the sciatic nerve which will cause it to feel pain. Sciatic nerve pain is a special kind of pain that no over-the-counter pain medications can reach and you just have to get the muscles to relax themselves one way or another.

Dan went to a physical therapy lady who gave him a number of different stretches and exercises to do, none of which would seem to be especially challenging to Dan’s friends who are training to go into the Army, but Dan has to do them now probably forever and he has pretty good core muscles now, they are stronger than he has ever been in his whole life, because he does the stretches all the time every night like a religion with that pain looking over his shoulder. As Dylan says: You've gotta serve somebody.

John’s high blood pressure (BW205)

John's experience of being on USO tour and realizing that everybody in the armed forces was younger than he except for the commanding officers has really made it clear to him that he is getting older. He always thought that the silver in his beard was maybe just a joke. Women love that, but that is another thing that Merlin and John leave out of their podcast because Merlin is very uncomfortable when you talk about girls or sex. Now John is confronting the knowledge that he is getting older, but he has not yet started any kind of regular body conditioning. No stretching, no exercise, no daily regimen, no Metamucil, no anything!

John still has the physique of a person who eats a lot of lamb. He seems like a guy who is going to show up at your steak restaurant and order more than one side, but he still seems like a fit person, he is not someone where you think ”Oh boy, he has really let himself go!” He has the exact same physique as he did when he was 17 years, which sounds nice but when he was 17 he looked like a kid who should definitely be on the rugby team, he looked like Moose in the Archie comics and Moose is big and people were scared of Moose. Moose wasn't what you would call slim, but he was just big all around. That has been John’s journey through life, which he can't complain about, because big has its own attendant privileges. Arriving somewhere and being big certainly communicates to other people first of bigness, but it also has seriousness attached to it.

Now John is 46 years old and he is pursuing the same course as he has done throughout his life, which is that he eats whatever he wants whenever he wants and he doesn’t do any kind of normal exercise or stretching even. He spends a lot of time in the bathtub and eats nuts by the giant handful. The last four or five times he had been to the doctor they said ”Do you normally have high blood pressure? You have 110 over 90!” - ”Is that bad?” - ”Well, it's not the worst I have ever seen” and John immediately went ”Oh, okay, then it is not a problem!” and because he didn't have a regular physician he just went to random doctors in random places and the next time he went to another doctor somewhere else and he said: ”Oh, do you normally have high blood pressure? It is 110 over 90, it's not the worst I have ever seen” - ”Okay good! No problem!”

When John was in Niger they had this whole MASH unit who were just flipping playing cards into a hat and John said ”Since we are here, why don't you guys do some regular maintenance on me, like tighten the fan belts or whatever it is that you guys do?" One of the things they said was ”Do you normally have high blood pressure?” First it was 143 over 103, then it was 154 over 98 and 140 over 108. It seems high, but the doctors all said ”It is not the highest I have ever seen.” and it is not a problem.

Now a year later John wondered if he had high blood pressure. People always say that high blood pressure is a killer and high blood pressure is other bad things, but when John looked at treating high blood pressure on the Internet, which he has of course done, it says things like treating high blood pressure is really hard and lame and you are not going to like it. The first thing to do is exercise and eat better and John went ”Oh shit, alright, that seems reasonable!” but he hasn’t started doing that. So this is where John is at right now: He feels on the threshold of needing to do something about an invisible old-guy health problem.

Unlike upper back pain which is very invasive in your day to day life, you only notice high blood pressure issues when a doctor or multiple doctors ask you about it. John is not any more anxious or jittery, it is not that he wakes up and goes ”Oh, my blood pressure is so high!", but it is this invisible thing that he tried to pretend he didn't have for about a year and kept waiting for it to go away and it keeps not going away.

Now John has to deal with it and doesn’t want to, which means he needs to go to a doctor and get a doctor relationship and he doesn't want to do that, because doctors are such a racket. He has to climb up that ladder of thinking doctors are real, or whatever and they are going to say ”You need to eat better and exercise!”, but the Internet fucking told him that already!

John is not going to exercise or eat better because he doesn't want to get fat, but he is going to have to do it because he has high blood pressure. He might as well just put on a powdered wig and go sign the Declaration of Independence. John not only feels old, but oldtime-y. If this had been only a few years earlier and somebody would have said he was suffering from yellow fever, he would have been like ”Oh well, it will get better!"

When John gets sick he crawls into the corner of his closet and pulls the blankets up over his head. If he will wake up in the morning, then he lived, and if he won't, then he wouldn't know. High blood pressure is one of the leading causes of heart attacks and now John is sitting in a bathtub eating a meatball sandwich and wondering if he is going to have a heart attack right then and there.

This is how the Wikipedia page for John is going to end: ”Never finished his 4th record, died in the bathtub eating a meatball sandwich because of his untreated high blood pressure” John hasn’t done anything yet, but he is talking about it now and he is probably going to get some tweets from people saying high blood pressure is a serious problem. When you say something like that on the Internet then somebody will come out of the woodwork who’s job it is to hector people who neglect their high blood pressure. John didn't even know that was a job.

John had been gluten free lately, but the day he and Dan had lunch was his birthday and he was eating pizza. Ever since then he has just been eating gluten because he had eaten one pizza and he might as well just start shooting heroin again because there is no point to discipline. John needs to arrest all these things, he needs to take control of his life and those are things that he is constitutionally disinclined to do. Like so many of his brethren he is more inclined to think that a) He will live forever b) He will live forever at the age he currently is, and c) The things that affect other people do not affect him because he is invincible.

Those principles have held him in great stead his entire adult life. Here he is: 46 years old! More than a lot of people could say! Merlin is still much older though than both Dan and John. He got an early start and he was into R.E.M. in 1981, back when music meant something. John wasn't even aware there was an R.E.M. in 1981, but he was still listening to his Studio 54 8-track, thinking that disco was a relevant social cultural movement.

The 2-XL toy robot, 8-track players (BW205)

John had never heard of the 2-XL robot toy. You would put an 8-track tape into it and it would talk and play games. It looks like a slot machine for kids and has four buttons on it that would make it jump to the different tracks, pretending it would react to your input. For several years this had been a great source of entertainment for Dan. He was born in 1972 and John was born in 1968 and those 4 year difference were the four years of culpability of this kind of dumb toy. It amazes John that he had never seen it and Dan is surprised about that. You could also just play an 8-track on it.

John did have a portable 8-track player that was a red cube with a little handle that would slide down and the 8-track tape went in the top of it. His dad had an 8-track player in his car. John did not have the cool bad-ass round thing that looked like a ball sliced at an angle because his dad and mom were not audiophiles and both generally bought the cheapest A/V equipment possible. John's dad was a practitioner of the belief that five cheap cassette players were way better than one good cassette player and so they had five cheap cassette players, none of which worked very well.

John's mom just believed that one cheap cassette player was all anybody would ever need and she didn't understand why his dad needed five. When John was in High School the dad of the kid three doors down had a Nakamichi tape player that popped the cassette out, flipped it around inside of a little robot box, and popped it back in. The tape heads in tape players that auto-played the other side were never fully aligned, affecting your sound quality, and the only way to do it was to flip the tape around.

This was a Nakamichi tape deck that was probably $2500 in 1983 and they had one because he was a balding doctor with a beard who spent a lot of money on his stereo. This kid was the envy of everybody! John’s dad would just buy a boombox in an airport. John's 8-track cassette cube was a really nice piece of gear and he must have gotten it for Christmas from an uncle or somebody who gave him something nice for once, because neither of his parents would ever splurge for something so cool or have understood that it was even cool.

Merlin just texted both of them a picture of an ad of the Panasonic 8-track player from a magazine that reads: ”It looks like a detonator. It sounds like dynamite. Kaboom!” It was super hot.

Not having branded clothes, going to thrift stores (BW205)

On the first day of 8th grade everybody in school was wearing that first white leather Nike with the blue or red swoosh. It was the shoe at the dawn of an era and everybody in school had it. John’s mom went to the shoe discount place and bought him Stadias that looked similar except the swoosh looked like a whale. It was a total rip-off, like the J.C. Penney alligator shirt that had a little dragon in on it, which John also had. John had enough pride that manifested itself in in such a way that he wore those things to school with defiant pride.

He knew he was going to catch a massive ration of shit for his Stadia tennis shoes and his flame-and-dragon polo shirt. He knew the kids were going to dump on him the moment he walked in the school and they did, but he wore them with pride because his mom bought them and he was not brand-concerned, even at that age. He was like ”Fuck you, alligator shirts!” He took a real hard stand on it and it inspired one of his friends to say: ”Are you just immune to social embarrassment?” - ”I am fucking immune to embarrassment. That's right!”

Dan suspects that was why John never went to the Army because they could never have broken him. The problem was that he was not immune to embarrassment, he wanted those goddamn shoes and shirts that everybody else had, but he realized that it wasn't forthcoming!

Dan never had any branded anything ever, they just couldn't afford it. Dan and John are relatively the same age, but Dan is smaller than John in every measurable dimension and that was how it was for him in school as well. He wasn't a hobbit per se, but he was a short kid. John is not just taller, but also deeper than Dan and volumetrically larger. Dan has a lot of hair, but John has a lot more hair because there's more of him. There is more surface area and there is more to love. If John was the tallest kid in the class, Dan was the shortest kid in the class. Dan seemed like a normal sized person to John in the sense that all people seem small to him and Dan was just another one of these regular people.

Being the short kid, Dan’s mom would buy him regular pants, but what you are supposed to do if your kid is a little bit short is to hem the pants yourself if you don't want to send them to a tailor or a cleaning place. The cleaning place around the corner from his house will hem your pants for $6 the next day and they will look fine. Dan’s mom, God bless her, never wanted to spend $6 or whatever it would have been in 1978 to do this, but she would fold the bottom part in on themselves. In her mind she might have been thinking that Danny would get taller, because instead of just cutting off the material and having it like you are supposed to, he would have a 6”length of pant hemmed on the inside. She would never cut it off and kids would make fun of him for this.

To her credit though, one day not long after Star Wars she showed up to pick him up from school. Back then after school you just ran around on the playground until your parents came and when she came she stepped out of the car in front of all his friends and contemporaries and held up a beach towel and let it unfurl very dramatically in the wind and it was C3PO and R2D2 beach towel. For three days Dan was the coolest kid in school because everyone had seen this white beach towel with C3PO and R2D2, probably a 5' beach towel. She totally made up for that hemming of the pants thing just in that one moment. John never had a similar experience.

At a certain age John’s mom started to say that if he wanted a shirt with an alligator on it, he could buy it with his own money. John was freshman and sophomore in High School and he finally got up the courage to say ”Mom, I know that it's back to school time again and I know you are heating up the Sears charge card to go get me some Garanimals, but honestly, there are issues at play here. Kids are wearing Vans and Levi's and Izod shirts and I get a lot of flak for showing up to school in my off-brand clothes. I would like to sit down and go over what the possibilities are of me getting an Izod shirt” This was right when Izod shirts were transitioning to Ralph Lauren shirts. The real forward kids already had Ralph Lauren shirts, but the Izod shirts, the Lacoste shirts, still had a lot of good credit.

John’s mom said: ”If you want those shirts, you can buy them with your own money!” John went to the store and realized that those shirts were $90 in 1983 money and it revolutionized John completely once and for all in understanding that for $80 dollars in 1982 you could buy a Dodge Dart. He went to school and saw all these Lacoste shirts and Polo shirts and was just appalled. Every one of these families was spending this kind of money on these dumb-ass shirts and that was right when he tipped over into thrifting. His mom was the canny savvy lady that she was and she gave him his clothing budget for his back to school clothes, which amounted to about $70 for the year. She said he could go buy whatever he wanted, but she wanted to introduce him to a concept called the Goodwill.

They have been going to Goodwill his whole life, but he was just a kid in a shopping cart trying to get to the toys. They walked through acres and acres of clothes, all of them $0.50 and both his sister and he went like: ”Wow! Problem solved!” That began a lifetime of showing up to events dressed inappropriately in western shirts and pants made out of Hawaiian shirt material. You can buy so many clown costumes here and he could just wear them to school because no-one would stop him. On pictures nowadays John always wears a nice suit, but they are all from thrift stores, which is cool now, but John doesn’t want it to be too cool because he doesn't want other people going to the thrift stores gobbling up all the good suits. They are already doing it! In Austin that is normal.

John thinks that most young people are going to thrift stores buying Hollister clothes, just used garbage clothes, but John started wearing suits right about the time when he realized that was the secret untapped area of thrift stores. You aren’t going to find any cool pants from the 1960s anymore, but you could find cool suits from the 1960s and that was the big transition for him. It was more important that he had cool old clothes than it was important that he dressed a certain way. He started dressing as the clothes dictated, which meant that if he found cool 1960s suits, that was what he was going to wear, and so far that has worked for him.

Outro (BW205)

Dan had to close this show at this point because it was almost 7pm and it was rush hour. He was going to turn into a pumpkin in 10 minutes! John wondered if they could have kept talking and what would have been the next thing they talked about. Bigfoot? John has so much fucking shit to say about Bigfoot, but Dan has to end the show because there are external forces at play. It is Dan’s son second favorite topic. They agree that their next conversation, whenever it is, will have to start on Bigfoot.

John thanks all of Dan’s listeners and thanks Merlin Mann for being the connective tissue, the glue that holds the Internet together, and to Dan for being the other glue, the two tunes of glue that you combine with a little Popsicle stick to make the super-hard epoxy. Merlin is the caramel colored glue and Dan is more of the ebony colored glue, you mix them together and it forms an unbreakable bond. John is the broken pot.

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