RL221 - Riding the Ham

This week, Merlin and John talk about:

The problem: John houseproofed his baby, referring to his challenges when transitioning from not having a baby in the house to having a baby in the house, for example regarding his swords and his vintage poisons.

The show title refers to actors hamming it up, or as Merlin joked around, riding the ham.

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

Being proud to be an American (RL221)

John starts the show with: ”I’m proud to be an American. At least I know I’m free! I’m proud to live in the land I love that gave its life for me” (lyrics from the song I’m proud to be an American by Pat Boone). Merlin finds this to be a good song, but it came under fire a lot and there was criticism about how it got used. They continue to talk about that song. John is actually proud to be an American, and Merlin thinks he is as well. "Let’s start off this show with some American pride!"

Pride is one of the 7 deadly sins and "Pride goes before the fall", a quote that is actually ”Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before the fall” (Proverbs) It is a ”Made the trains run on time” type situation: Every time Merlin tries to explain that anecdote, he doesn’t tell it with the ferocity and clarity that John does.

It is like explaining a pun, like ”If I said you had a beautiful body, would you hold it against me?” It is a double entendre! Mussolini wasn’t actually saying that he made the trains run on time. That anecdote made John cry when he first heard it and it made him cry the first 3 or 4 times he retold it. John was crying tears of joy at the ludicrousness of humanity. It seemed like an anecdote that said so much and spelled so much. Merlin thought it was Stalin because that would have been in line with Russian black humor.

Not wanting to run out of things (RL221)

For Merlin, coffee is one of those things he doesn’t want to run out of, like toilet paper, paper towels, your milk for the kid and your whatnots. There is a phrase "3 is 2, 2 is 1 and 1 is none". Merlin learned if from the Cortex podcast who says that this is an excellent principle for important things in your life. For John it seems to be connected to the phrase ”One boy can do the work of one boy, two boys can do the work of half a boy and three boys do no work at all!” That is some grandfather-shit right there!

John always thinks in increments of $4 million, because if you had $4 million, you put $2 million immediately into bearer bonds or something where you can’t get it and you stop thinking about it as belonging to you. Then you divide the remaining $2 million so that $1 million is still belonging to you, but it is in savings, like in deep freeze. John would divide the last $1 million into thirds: 1/3 is what you are living on, 1/3 is the money you are thinking about what to do with, and for 1/3 you find a way to give it away. Merlin suggests that this would be a perfect topic for an e-book.

John is out of coffee (RL221)

John has been out of coffee. He is not someone who orders his toilet paper on Amazon Prime and he doesn’t shop very well or often. Generally, John gets his coffee for free out of swag bags. Whenever he does an event they will give him a pound of coffee, a pair of cheap sunglasses or a USB-drive on a lanyard. A pound of coffee is usually the gift you give to someone you are not paying very well if they come to be part of your presentation. John usually waits until he is invited to something like that where he gets a pound of coffee and at the end of the event when John is the last person to leave the dressing room there is always another pound of coffee laying around that somebody didn’t want.

There are events where they give you a pound of coffee and a bottle of wine and John usually stands in the middle of the room and trades his bottle of wine for a pound of coffee. He typically comes home from an event like that with a bag of bags of coffee which will putter him along until the next event, but now he has run out. Maybe he should do more events? He hasn’t been to Portland in a month and a half and Portland is famous for giving you a pound of coffee just for showing up at a bridal shower, but John has never been at a bridal shower.

John’s mom, a frequent character on this podcast, came by the house and told him that he was out of coffee. She said Bartell’s had a sale on coffee for $4.99 a pound for a brand that is pretty darn good. She offered John to get him some, but she couldn't go to her Bartell’s because she already used the coupon, but she offered to find another coupon and go to a different Bartell’s. Going to a different Bartell’s to max out the coupon for 4 pounds of coffee started to sound like a George Costanza movie.

The brand in question is not Folgers, but they are not advertising on this podcast and John doesn't want to give them the extra mention. There was a time when people would tape over the word Fender on their Stratocaster because they didn’t want to advertise. You still see it in TV-shows a lot where people are using Apple or Dell laptops, but Apple laptops are very distinctive because they have a large apple on it. Merlin had been asked to cover his apple on video things. John has been told to turn his water bottle in his hand during a photo shoot.

John went to a wedding this weekend and there was a coffee mug with the emblem of the wedding party waiting for every person at the dinner table. They had their own brand! At a jaunty angle within the coffee mug there was a pound of good coffee. Because there were 200 people at this dinner there were 200 coffee mugs and 200 pounds of coffee in this room and John was one of the groomsmen.

He was there early and he knew he was going to be there late and there were going to be some rogue coffee bags. People are going to drink, take off their shoes, dance and leave without remembering to take their coffee and John was just sitting there like a crow on a wire, waiting and watching and watching and waiting. At 5pm he was already planning for 1:45am and he was marking the people in his head who were going to be carried out of that wedding reception on a gurney.

At a certain point the reception was coming to a close and the staff, the people who were going to tear this party down, were starting to clean up, sweep up the debris and strike the set. John told them in the 4 is 2, 2 is 1, 1 is 1/3 way that he had to tithe some of this coffee to these people. There were probably 9 unattended bags of coffee and they were looking around wondering if this coffee was for anyone. Because John had the authority and the privilege to be one of the people in a pink tie, he swooped across the room and came home with 6 pounds of good quality coffee.

In addition to that he found 4 pounds of coffee in his refrigerator that his mom had bought with her coupon. Now John has 10 pounds of coffee, which is too much and he is concerned about his well-being because of the risk for too much coffee. He is concerned about the coffee’s wellbeing as well because he is not sure if he has the facilities to maintain 10 pounds of coffee in a state-readiness. He should put 5 pounds in a place where he doesn’t even think he has it, but where could that be where the coffee isn’t going to spoil?

John being disruptive in the tech sphere (RL221)

John noticed that the latest version of macOS is called Sierra, because they decided to switch from big cats to locations in California. Merlin has always enjoyed the cats. There is an Apple event on Thursday and people are speculating what laptop is going to be released. These are the things that other people have podcasts about.

When people ask what John does for a living and he says that he is kind of in the tech sphere, they will quizzically tilt their heads and say ”Hm?” and John will explain that he is kind of disruptive in the tech sphere and they will tilt their heads the other way and say ”Hm?”, because only Nixon can go to China. Therefore it is important that John periodically talks about techs because it repositions him centrally in the disruptive quadrant of the tech sphere. Every sphere is divided into quadrants! There is a normative quadrant, but that has no future, there is the dominant quadrant and the subversive quadrant. You can only be located in the disruptive quadrant by the culture and the conventional wisdom and in order to maintain a foot in there, John has to talk about tech every once in a while.

The one thing Merlin doesn’t like about Bill Clinton is that he introduced the word ”grow” into the parlance as a transitive verb. In the same way, John should try to locate himself or rather situate himself in the quadrant. John is situating himself with Merlin as the disruptor. You cannot say about yourself that you are woke. Only a stake holder can describe you as woke! You are also not allowed to call yourself a thought leader, not even Steve Aoki, the house musician.

Movie banter (RL221)

Steve Aoki was in a movie made by the Coen Brothers about a twin city (He must mean Fargo, but that was with Steve Buscemi). They talk shortly about ”Hail, Caesar!” that Merlin’s daughter wanted to watch, but John found it not very good because he was not so sure about Clooney. John is usually pro-Clooney because he is a good guy like Brad Pitt. There is ample evidence to be ambivalent about Brad Pitt, but Clooney with his charm and smile is going to get away with it. Him being a comedic actor is a leap that we have been making unreflectively and that we need to stop.

Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? is a very interesting film that a lot of people like, sort of like Moonrise Kingdom, but Moonrise Kingdom is a film where fans of the director can differ. A lot of people think that it is the apotheosis of what Wes Anderson is capable of. John does not agree and he has strong criticisms about that film, and Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? is very similar in the sense that there is an actor in the center of the movie who doesn’t belong there.

Merlin also likes The Hudsucker Proxy and Ladykillers. John feels like Clooney is clowning in this movie and hamming it up. John Goodman is also swinging from the rafters, but he is committed and hamming, but he is not clowning. Merlin wonders if Clooney has jokey fake teeth in Hail Caesar, like Matt Dillon (they probably mean Ben Stiller) with the other guy in the one with the girl with the seamen hair called There is Something About Mary. Merlin also thinks of the movie Snowpiecer where Tilda Swinton has a character with fake teeth and she is clowning it, too! John is not sure if he likes it, because it is just a series of vignettes pierced together with a one-page and that one-page makes no sense at all.

Merlin loves Studs Terkel and he watched a pretty interesting interview from 1960 with him interviewing Buster Keaton. One of the things he said was that when they made their movies, they always had a very good start and a fantastic ending and then they could fill in the middle easily. What an ambitious idea from a different time!

Stranger Things (RL221)

They have been talking before how scripts get made and in particular how shitty scripts get all the way to ”made”. John has recently been watching the very popular TV show Stranger Things. At first it was just a TV show, but things started happening and it became an interesting TV show with good acting, but then the relationship between those teenagers annoyed him and he would have put a little bit of backspin on that. About 4/5th of the way through John hoped that this had better not be one of these shows where the writing falls apart 4/5 of the way through because nobody had thought about how to end it.

In the penultimate episode they had a lot of lose ends to clean up in an hour. Nobody in the writing room was sitting back in their chair, reflecting why in the universe all of this was happening, or furthermore: Not just what was happening, but that things have motivations, too! Another example is Aliens: In so many monster movies the thing is just a thing. Jason and Michael Myers had motivation. When Stranger Things ended John was relieved of the horror of having spent a season with this and then needing to hate it. Television made the landing, arched its back, put its hands in the air and now it is up to the judges of history if they did stick it. John didn’t feel ripped off. He didn’t ever watch Lost.

John getting an iPod video, watching Lost (RL221)

One time early on The Long Winters were on tour with a very delightful band who gave them the first iPods with TV-screens. The other guys in the band loaded their iPods with things immediately, but John kept his in the box for about a year until his mom found it and loaded it up with the history of Indie Rock. She used it until it caught on fire.

One time they drove through Austria and John was sick and just mad. Eric Corsan, the bass player of the Long Winters offered him to watch an episode of Lost, a very popular TV show, so he watched Lost on this teeny iPod thing in a moving vehicle and became very frustrated with every stage of this incomprehensible television show. It is like watching somebody play the video-game Myst, but on a thing that is the size of a large pack of candy cigarettes while this vehicle was moving through space. John got a little car sick and he was sick already.

It was a little bit of a Clockwork Orange introduction. John’s eyeballs were pinned back, he was taped to a chair, and he didn’t want to watch Lost, but he was grateful later when there was a cataclysmic sigh of disappointment throughout the culture that he inhabits or inhibits, in which he chose to locate himself, and John could say ”Haha, fools!” He didn’t watch their dumb show, but he waited until the jury was in. Now everybody else felt like they had been hoodwinked or gaslighted by some people who didn’t write the story in advance. That is not a thing John likes to watch!

Maria Semple’s writing method (RL221)

Maria Semple, the daughter of Lorenzo Semple Jr and author of the popular book ”Where’d You Go, Bernadette” that was in the bestseller sphere is married to George Meyer, one of the guys who invented the Simpsons. He also was a head writer on the early David Letterman Show. Vic Chesnutt had a song called ”The Salesman and Bernadette”. John did a long tour through Europe with Vic Chesnutt, which was a very colorful experience and John loved and adored him, but when he died, he and John had become estranged. He was a complicated guy who lived in a world of complicated people. He did an album with Lambchop in that exact era when John toured with him and they all played a show together in Barcelona.

Maria Semple just gave a talk where she was describing her writing process: First she imagines some characters and then she decides what is going to happen to them at the end and where she wants them to end up. At that point, the book writes itself! You got a callow shrill woman and you want her to get her comeuppance a certain way, so here is her journey on the way to that. That is a very different process from starting in the dark, feeling your way toward 900 pages of gibberish, and then trying to filter that down into 10 songs.

John wishes he could write a novel, but he never tried. Maybe you have to start with short fiction? John may have done this and it was very self-serving, but a long time ago he said the novel is a high art, but the short story is a higher art, because you have less room and fewer words to tell the entire tale. Poems are an even higher art, because you have now reduced the novel’s worth of story to stanzas.

The highest art is the pop song, because now you have taken the poem, cleansed it of all its impurity, washed the filth out of it and kept only the gold, the little shining nuggets. That is why the pop song sits atop the pyramid of all writing as a true condensation. It may be self-serving, but within the sphere John has located himself he reduced the sum total of all human knowledge down to a poster that could go on the wall of a dentist’s office.

Merlin’s dentist has a TV screen at the ceiling that you are more or less forced to look at where he shows photographs of furniture he has built and cartoons about dentistry that he regards as funny. Merlin can’t listen to Beethoven anymore.

Mandolins and Ukuleles (RL221)

Merlin mentioned the show Prairie Home Companion, but John has only ever listened to it when he was over at a friend's house while their mom was cooking for them. It is now hosted by the funny nice hilarious talented Mandolin player Chris Thile who used to be in Nickel Creek and he made the show fun. John Hodgman was on this week’s episode. They also had Lake Street Dive on, which is the best band Merlin has discovered in 2016.

John is pretty darn good friends with Sara Watkins who was on that show fairly often. She, her brother Sean and Chris Thile were Nickel Creek together (Merlin says Nickelback) and they are amazingly charming wonderful talented people. Their covers of John’s songs Pavement and Spit on a Stranger are sublime. Chris plays the Mandolin like if Jimmy Page was a good guitar player and his pull-offs are crazy!

The thing about the Mandolin is: As your Mandolin playing gets better and better, it becomes clearer and clearer that the Mandolin is just there to make note clouds. Bad Mandolin playing is fairly musical, because if someone who is used to playing the guitar picks up a Mandolin and figures out 4-5 chords it sounds just a really high little guitar. But as you get better at it and you get faster and faster and your pull-offs get faster and faster, it becomes just every note all the time. Merlin found that the Mandolin is tuned GGDDAAEE and tuning it sounds like a circle of hell because you got doubles of everything.

John doesn’t know how a Ukulele is tuned although he plays them all the time. He just picks them up and tunes them to his best guess. John ends up tuning all instruments that are left in his hands for long enough for him to take ownership of the tuning in the form of the high 4 strings of a guitar and he just plays notes until he finds some chords. That would be if it was at least over night, like if somebody left their Ukulele at John’s house and told him they would be back in 6 months, John would take over the tuning of it and would tune it like a guitar. An Ukulele is tuned DGBE.

Merlin has a Ukulele guitar that he likes a lot. It is a guitar the size of a big Ukulele and you can just have it sitting around in the family room. Normally you tune this thing the Es and A, but Merlin is doing Drop-G which sounds great and is totally baller. They are not very expensive and it would be ideal for somebody like John or if you are a backpacker or a Lakenvelder, anything like that.

Landjäger and other salami-products (RL221)

Merlin got a Salami-product the other day which is very similar to John’s meat sticks called Landjäger. They have the circumference of a Q-tip but made out of Salami and they are a delicious treat. You can snap into a Slim Jim and you can get it from Trader Joe’s. A good friend of this program generously gave John a basket of Landjägers and said that they drove across their town, which is different from John’s town, bought these Landjägers and would love John to have them.

The problem was that John did not prefer their Landjägers to his own Landjägers. They go a lot of different directions and there a lot of options of how you grind up this stuff that goes in it, seasoning, and casing. Landjägers were originally meant to be carried around in the pocket of a farmer or a goat herd for however long, somebody who goes up into the mountains and comes down some indeterminate time later. John put them in his pocket and walked around because he figured they needed a bit of pocket curing, but it didn’t improve them.

Then they sat in John’s refrigerator for a while to be desiccated, because these things are better when they are desiccated, but that didn’t help them either. You don’t need any silica packets, because if you leave a thing in the refrigerator for long enough it will self-desiccate. The whole time John was covered in a little bit of shame because he likes the people who gave them to him and he did consider it a supreme act of generosity, but he just could not stomach those Landjägers and eventually they went down the river, which is terrible.

A Landjäger is the size of a typical candle that you burned for a hour with wax dripped down the side of it and you took it out and carried it around in your pocket for the length of time it took you to get these goats over the mountain. It is like if you could carry a pickle in your pocket, but the brine would give you a rash, but a Landjäger is not going to give you a rash. The thing about Beef Jerky is that it is hard to eat and gets stuck in your teeth. Landjägers are a more moist than Beef Jerky and they snap like a Slim Jim.

They don't involve any kind of pro-wrestling element when you bite into them and if this was a television commercial, you would be just a normal guy walking around, you would snap into a Landjäger and instantly be wearing Lederhosen and a Tyrolean hat. The tag line would be ”Landjäger - Turns you into a Tyrolean!” or ”Landjäger - Welcome to Garmisch-Partenkirchen” Merlin is not sure if he ever had one. You find them in a Bavarian butcher shop. ”Jodel for a Landjäger” - that is the phrase! Ricola - E.coli. John says that the process of making Landjäger kills E.coli.

Babyproofing your house (RL221)

John was on one of Merlin’s friend’s food podcasts with Don Schaffner //(Food Safety Talk Episode 108). The consensus on that podcast seems to be that there is an element of risk with everything you put into your mouth and all we can do as eaters is to measure the risk and bite into those things where we have determined that the risk is manageable. We should acknowledge that everything is risky, but you just haven’t quantified it yet. That is why anxious people are technically right: The capacity to live in the world is determined by your ability to put the marker of the amount of risk you are willing to take on the sliding scale of risk management.

John’s risk marker is way out compared to others. He is willing to take a lot of risk, knowing that everything could potentially kill you. For example, he has a basket full of swords in this house and when his child was born there was a lot of talk in the culture of the people around him who were helping him making the transition between not having a child in his house and having a child in his house. If they had known about the basket of swords, they would have told him to get it out of there. It is called Babyproofing your house. John was supposed to put things in the electrical outlets and take out all the cleaning supplies from under the sink. They didn’t know about the basket of swords!

John didn’t really babyproof his house, but he houseproofed his baby. He took all of the vintage barrister’s book cases out of what became the baby’s room, because the glass in the fronts of those cases is fairly thin and it is not exactly shatter-proof. He transformed his library into an actual baby’s room and took out all the things that could kill her. He also moved all of his vintage poisons to higher shelves. This weekend Merlin removed the last piece of baby-proofing that they had unintentionally kept around.

Merlin’s cat relaxer (RL221)

Merlin has two electrical devices that through diffusion method dispense a chemical into the air that relaxes the cat. It is like a Febreze for a cat’s emotions and it is one of those things where it is hard to tell if it works. Like the guy who is here to scare away the alligators: Because there are no alligators here, it is working! Merlin got two of these and within a week the cat seemed calmer, but they don’t have a control cat, so it is difficult to say. Merlin’s cat suffers from anxiety and is very skittish. She probably does it on purpose to provoke Merlin.

The cat has been living with them since February and she knows that they walk through the house on a regular basis. She stands in the hallway, stares at something, and looks like a hairy cake. Then she looks at Merlin and her face is like ”What? What?” and when Merlin walks a little bit, she goes into a ready-position. Then she starts walking in the direction that she knows Merlin is going to walk, she stops one step in front of him, acts terrified, jumps a little bit to where she knows Merlin is going to walk more and does kind of a 180 and starts running in abject fear.

This behavior absolutely impedes Merlin from establishing a gentle pace while trying not to step on her. He likes velocity and he likes to get in motion, because you can’t stay in motion until you get in motion. It is very hard to get out of the house on a weekend morning because Merlin lacks velocity in the form of his child who will not allow him to have any velocity until at least 12:30pm. It is like cranking up an old Air Raid siren. The cat knows what she is doing and at night she comes in and Merlin pets her for two hours. They have a good relationship, but she is just riding the ham.

John’s mom raising Borzois (RL221)

John’s mom raised Borzois in the 1960s and she credits herself partly with re-establishing the Borzoi as a viable breed in the Americas. They were fairly endangered because during the Russian Revolution, the revolutionary Russian people killed the Borzois en masse because they were the dogs of the tzars. They only survived in the population that had been given by the tzars as gifts to other kings. John’s mom raised Borzois and sold the pups to the people who are now credited with having re-established the breed. The history of the Borzoi in America goes back to the Johnson family and the Percocet family and John's mom had sold 3 puppies to the New England Percocet, that is where they got their dogs!

They were probably sitting up there in New England, reading a magazine wanting Borzois, and John’s mom had one of the few populations. Now the Percocet get all the credit, but they weren’t really on the Borzoi Mayflower like John’s mom was. She is the ur-Borzoi! She got rid of her Borzois in the late 1960s when Manushka, her chief mare bit John in the face 42 times in the space of 1,5 seconds. In the 1980s when John was in High School his mom decided that she wanted a Borzoi again, and at that point, if a Borzoi would bite John in the face it was probably John's fault. She bought this puppy and even as a puppy they are about the size of a comfort horse. Here you have a comfort horse in the form of a dog!

It suffered from an anxiety disorder that meant that any time it saw you, it immediately ran into every direction simultaneously. Each paw was going in a different direction because it is an enormous wolf-hunting dog living in a home. It would try to hide under the couch because it thought it was the size of a rabbit, but wouldn’t fit there and it would hide under the bed. John was living in the house with a comfort horse sized dog that wanted nothing at all from him and that never allowed him to touch it.

John felt anxious and he hardly ever feels anxious. His mom was able to communicate with the Borzoi, because it bonded with her and perceived her as the feeder. She would ring a bell and the Borzoi would stand on the stool to get the banana. John was the first one home every day. He got off at school and he could transport himself. His sister would just hang out under the statue of Captain Cook and smoke Clove Cigarettes, but John went home because he wanted to take a nap on the Sunroom Couch. Who knows what the Borzoi was doing all day, but as John would walk in, there would be this clatter of hooves as it ran to find shelter somewhere.

Maybe it thought it was prey for Eagles, because it would hide under things and John’s sense is that animals who hide under things are scared of Eagles. If you would hide from a cat, you wouldn’t hide under a bed. You go under for Eagles and over for cats. You go behind to hide from Wilderbeasts, bulls and boars. John was just trying to get on the Sunroom Couch and the dog had an anxiety disorder! Eventually 9 months later, which in the life of a teenager is a long time, this thing got bigger and bigger until it was the size of a comfort piano.

Comfort animals (RL221)

Merlin is losing it when John mentions comfort horses and wonders if there actually are such things. He has seen the comfort duck the other day, he has seen comfort pigs, and he doesn’t want to be ableist, but taking a horse on a plane seems like asking a lot. John wants Merlin to google Comfort Horse. They are small horses, but they are still a horse. You can’t make them as small as you might want for a comfort animal, but apparently people who need comfort animals find the comfort horse to be very comforting. It doesn’t even need a stable, but it can curl up in a basket, but it needs to be a big basket.

John was a rambunctious teen who was bigger than a comfort horse. The dog behaved like an African cat, a little bit like a leaping predator, going straight up in the air. They can catch a comfort duck that is in the process of taking off. If you have enough African cats, you can take down a Wilderbeast and John is not even talking about a comfort Wilderbeast, but a full-sized one. Nothing is more comforting than a small Wilderbeast, especially when it has a big basket.

Merlin and John talk about if you could give a comfort animal to an animal. There is a video of a cat and an owl playing with each other. The owl swoops down and the cat leaps up into the air to bat the owl, but the owl keeps getting back and forth on purpose so that the cat can leap at it and they are both having a merry old time until they retire together to sit and groom one another. There is also a video of big dogs with little kittens. Now that Merlin’s spirit has been broken by this election cycle (of the 2016 presidential election taking place 2 weeks after this episode was recorded), all he and his whole family does all day is look at cute animals on the Internet.

What is the difference between a familiar animal and a comfort animal? Is magic required? John really wanted a familiar animal. In the course of trying to make an orb, it seems like having a cat he could talk to might have been useful. A familiar animal is somewhat under your direction, at least you are able to consult with it. If you had a Capuchin Monkey who could put your food in a microwave and cook it, that is getting pretty close to familiar. But if you are just feeding and petting the thing, that is more of a Blowfield cat. John doesn’t feel like a comfort animal is of much aid to you other than being friendly. You wouldn’t ask it to get on that high shelf and get down that tchotchke or the jar of sugar.

Even the niceness is called into question by the presence of a comfort turkey, because John doesn’t think that a turkey can be nice. They are mean and they don’t even have the capacity to be nice. Whatever part of the brain locates the niceness, the turkey is missing that part of the brain. Instead, the comfort animal is a vessel into which you project your desire to be comforted and the animal reflects that desire back to you. Whatever you find comforting is comfortable. You could have a comfort waste basket. If you bought an extra ticket for a seat on an airplane for a waste basket, it could fulfill that role.

What is the largest comfort animal that John would be willing to take on a plane? What about a comfort sow, which is a big lady hog? John doesn’t know if a hog could sit in a chair if you put it on its butt and belt it in. Would it sit comfortably and would its architecture support itself? Maybe the way they are built the hooves would just be sticking straight out? Maybe you would need to put the tray down and you could put the top hooves on the tray and pull the curly tail under so that the little tip of the curly tail is sticking out.

What happens if we get into something more Darwinian, as John Siracusa would say? What happens if one person has a comfort eagle and one person has a comfort Borzoi? What if you had an owl and a rabbit in the two isle seats across from each other? Do we expect they will leave each other alone, because they have the vest and they know what the deal is? An owl is not going to be friends with the rabbit and of course you would give your comfort animal the aisle seat.

There are actual comfort animals that are actually providing needed comfort to people in need of comforting, but there are also fake comfort animals that Merlin is referring to. He is not saying that this is right or wrong, but it has started to become a problem and there are a lot of people making vests at home because they want their pet on the plane.

Testing children for the gifted program (RL221)

The city of Seattle sent John an email asking if he wants his child tested for the gifted program and as they agreed, they immediately got a reply back that their testing is Sunday morning 7am on October 28th, or whatever. When John said ”I guess so” as a reply to the initial email he wasn’t aware that that meant they were supposed to report somewhere for an SAT test for their 5-year old who can’t write yet! They were startled and talked to some other parents.

Two people said that they had their child tested and it didn’t get into the gifted program, so they hired an independent tester to verify the city’s findings, and in both cases the independent for-hire tester determined that the city was mistaken and the child was in fact gifted. If you can pay to have your child tested into this program, then it is just a place where busy-body rich people are putting their kids and John’s family decided that they were not going to go to this test. Their child will be going to the public schools and let the chips fall! This all sounds baloney and ”No, thanks!” Over in the gifted program they probably make origami cranes.

When John was in the gifted program in 4th grade in Seattle which was called the DIG program (Damn Interesting Gadflies), they taught them to use slide rules. It was the last gasp on the dying day of the slide rule and they decided to teach a bunch of 4th graders how to use slide rules that they had found in the dumpster behind the jet propulsion laboratory because everybody had digital calculators at that points. Had they left them alone for 3 more minutes, they would have made a toothpick Eiffel tower out of these slide rules, but in fact they had somebody to come in and teach them how to use them.

Merlin and John could slam-dunk this today! If they got the resources, if they would get John’s mom behind them, they could go way beyond Montessori, they would get the cheapest building they could possibly get, maybe the place John’s band used to practice by the Hugo house, and turn it into a one-room school house. They would have encyclopedias, atlases and 3 or 4 horses milling around in the room. If you don’t get an education in there, you don’t deserve to be educated. Give me that vest!

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