RL322 - 1 Infinite China

This week, Merlin and John talk about:

  • John buying a new computer (Technology)
  • Thinking about not being preppy anymore (Style)
  • Walking his daughter to school in the rain (Daughter)
  • Not having a rain coat (Style)
  • American Girl doll (Daughter)
  • Skaters and snowboarders (Style)
  • The Agony of Defeat guy (Stories)

The Problem: John has five-thousand friends, referring to the limit on Facebook of only being able to have 5000 friends.

The show title refers to Apple’s former headquarter at 1 Infinite Loop where they sent John’s laptop for repair, or was it 1 Infinite China?

They start the show making funny noises.

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

John buying a new computer (RL322)

John is reporting to Merlin behind seven proxies, amongst others through the proxy of the old Anna Banana computer. He is using a facsimile of the Anna Banana computer that has been mounted on the Jason Finn computer. Half of the things in the dock are question marks and he doesn’t even remember what they were.

John found his old Flip videos (RL291, section Planned Obsolescence), but he had to first convert them to MOVs via a website before he could open them. He hasn’t had the opportunity to look for his MP3s yet, but he has been backing up. John asked Merlin if he ever backed up, but that is like asking him if he ever urinated. One should not speak of a backup, because it is like saying you haven’t gotten a cold this year. John is using an earlier version of Skype, he never updates, and Merlin is on 7.59 (37) from 2017, living on borrowed time.

John Siracusa has been very generous in offering to help John, but while John has not directly gotten back to Siracusa, he talks to him in his head all the time now, which is something Merlin was already doing. Merlin is cataloging his own failures all the time, but he is still doing it wrong, even noticing it wrong and telling John wrong.

John's friend Todd is a manager at a different Apple Store than the one John usually goes to, which makes everything complicated. Merlin’s manager has now moved to the big Apple at 1 Infinite Loop. He is a very handsome guy with an Utilikilt. Todd dresses as if he went to the J.Crew outlet store at an outlet mall and asked for one of everything. He is a handsome guy who dresses like Scott Simpson.

John has a lot of electronic balls in the air, but he has 5000 friends, which is the fucking problem. Recently he went to his usual Apple Store with his laptop that stopped working. Apple Care had expired and John knew that there was nothing those guys could do, but the fact is still that it stopped working and when John bought the laptop, that wasn’t what he was expecting was going to happen. They were very nice und understanding.

John's first laptop was the white one he and Merlin bought at the UCSF store where their show art comes from. That one got stolen in Chile. He got a second laptop after that which is lying around somewhere, but the battery is not in it anymore. Then he got a MacBook Air, which is the one that got stolen in The Burglary. Detective Akamoto (see RL176, Merlin says detective Fujijama) could not find it again, but he found everything else. The kid who got caught in his car smoking crack had pawned the computer for the crack, even though he had a giant bar of silver basically in his lap. He got some crack for this beautiful wedge-shaped computer, but it was almost nothing and John was not able to recover his laptop.

After that John went to the Mac Store in 2015 and bought a MacBook Pro because he wasn’t so psyched about the MacBook Air and didn’t have all the confidence in it. It was a little slight and now he had the chance for a do-over. He got a MacBook Pro and he never had a beef with it. It was a fine computer with a lot of inputs and outputs and John did a lot of things on it. It only stopped working because the video card broke. The guy said that it will cost $500-600 to fix it, but John could get one of those on the open market for $1000 and. It felt a little bit like being in a Moroccan carpet shop: "Pour me another glass of tea!"

John used to podcast live from all kinds of locations, like from Venice California and from his bathtub. What happened to him? When did he get not good at doing things anymore? Merlin and Siracusa recommended John not to buy a new laptop, but he is going to be traveling and a laptop is also one of the key elements for being able to podcast from the bathtub.

John arrived at an arrangement with Apple and they offered him to fix his laptop. The problem was that because it didn’t have a working video card John couldn’t see the screen to back it up. He went into the Apple Store with a 4TB drive that was slightly bigger than a pack of cigarettes. The guy came out from the back with a giant monitor, set it up on the expert desk and John's computer showed up on the big monitor. He helped John to back it up and he was happy to stay and chat with John for the whole 45 minutes it took. Now John’s laptop was all on the little pack of cigarettes. He sent the laptop away and it is now flying on its way to 1 Infinite Loop or to 1 Infinite China or wherever they sent it.

The computer John recently posted a picture of was the Anna Banana computer. He got home with his Terabyte drive and wanted to put his Anna Banana computer on it as well in order to get his MP3s, his Flips, and his 1000 riffs back. He also has General Desktop Stuff, his dad’s affairs, the Long Winters archive, interviews, IzBook, and he wouldn’t want to lose any of these. The problem is that the Anna Banana computer only has Firewire 400 jacks and there is no adapter to Thunderbolt.

When looking through the clips from his Flip camera John found a very nice video from 2008 of his mom sitting in John’s living room, starting out the window and talking about how much money some neighbor made on flipping their house. Then she looks at the camera and says ”Are you about finished?” Merlin got that camera when their baby was really a baby and that thing was gold! It was so easy and casual!

When John first tried to get into the Anna Banana computer, it would ask him for his password, but he never logged out of this computer and never had to log into it. It was just always on and John didn’t remember what the password was. The hint was from 2006 when he got it: ”Password from the Long Winters website”. It had a Merlin Mann admin account on it that might have gotten ported over from the one they bought in 2002.

John finally figured it out and remembered the right password. He had overcomplicated it because in the intervening years he started to get leet and he had to reverse-engineer his new thinking and go back to a time when his passwords were really weak. Merlin found the password to an old version of longwinters.com which was a real stupid leet version of a Long Winters title.

John couldn’t do target disk mode because he didn’t have a cable to hook it to the other computer, he couldn’t use migration assistant because it wasn’t functional, but he figured out that he could hook them together with Ethernet, which he just discovered after 7.5 years of their podcast. He set them running, made a pot of coffee, went to sleep and when he woke up in the morning, the Anna Banana computer existed on the Jason Finn computer, except it had built itself a new user.

There is so much leet in John’s life because he is on 4Chan all the time, doing his Pete Townshend research (see RL296). John is a reporter and a journalist although CMJ denied they have ever paid him to make fun of the Hold Steady (There must be a tweet from January 2019!). It is nice that CMJ listens to their podcast and it was nice to hear from them, even though they said that John was wrong. They were a big deal back then and if they didn’t pay him, they gave him gold-plated something, but it was not for a free attaboy. John never gets one of those!

John mounted the Terabyte thing to the Jason Finn computer that was already overburdened and lagging because John had made the mistake of updating the operating system. Now it had three users on it: banana_mac, finn_mac and laptop_mac. What John wants is a guarantee (reference to The Godfather). He wanted all of those accounts melted together with no duplication. He wanted one single identity which belonged to him and which had all his MP3s, all the pictures, all the documents, all the flips, all the riffs, all in one, and he wanted to put that on the new computer that John Siracusa designed for him that Apple had to specially make for him.

John will only have 14 days to pick up this new computer, otherwise they will just wheel it out in the center of the mall and the first kid on a who skateboard goes by will it and John will still have to pay for it. If John goes from the Couve (Vancouver) to the Arubs (Aruba with his sister) to the Cruise (JoCo Cruise) he will be gone for 14 days! This computer is going to show up one of these days and John is going to put all the stuff on it.

John Siracusa offered to help him with putting the Jason Finn computer back on an earlier OS after wiping it clean because it was a fine computer and John will just use it to surf the web or whatever. It was fine before he updated it. John could just put pictures on the Anna Banana computer, put it on screen saver and let it show a constant slideshow of all of his pictures in the corner of a room somewhere.

John will have his entire identity all in one on the new computer designed by John Siracusa. He will get his laptop back and he will have his single identity shared on two computers. When you update one it will go right to the other through the cloud! Merlin doesn’t remember John thinking that ambitiously about notional technology. It is an exciting time! They have come a long way from where they were when they met where there was a lot more drudgery when doing these things. John got Google Docs, he got an Amazon Prime account, he has Google Photos, everything goes in there now, and Merlin recommends him to let Amazon Photos do it, too! No belt, but seven suspenders!

The problem with the Anna Banana computer was that neither of the latest iterations of Chrome or Safari were supported and John would have to get Netscape Navigator. He asked about Linux, but they told him that he didn’t know what he was talking about. They say it is going to be the year of Linux on the desktop and John is wondering if Linux is going to have a user interface instead of just bleeps and bloops. Merlin wonders if typing is not a user interface, and Linux has a user interface, but it is like watching a community theater play about computers. Merlin doesn’t know that much about Linux, but John has Unix under his hoods right now.

John has a very ambitious program going, plus he is going to travel, but there is more: He has an iPhone and an Apple Watch (He says iWatch). John has 5000 friends (the friend limit on Facebook).

John a several groups of people who get lunch every once in a while. He got a young dad’s group with only dads in their 50s, he got the Dim Summit, and he has a secondary Dim Summit that is much more Punk Rock than the first one, but is not called Dim Summit. It involves several members of the Murder City Devils, Deep Creep and some adjunct Punk Rock bands. They also get Dim Sum, but at a different restaurant.

The dads aren’t even sophisticated enough to get Dim Sum. It would be funny if John had to do a Mrs. Doubtfire and had to run between the two with his little jughead hat that he puts on when he was at the Punk Rock side and that he would take off to run over and talk to the other guys. ”Do you have hamburgers?” - ”I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday!”

Some of these people use MIMEs (probably ICS attachments to emails)and John can click on them to populate his calendar. They are going to be available on all his devices. He could spin in his chair and look at the other computer. When Merlin sent John a text, it showed up on banana_mac that is running on finn_mac. John is virtualized, it is all happening! The question is if the text also showed up on his watch. Merlin says there is some secret Chinese sauce that will send it to the thing it thinks John is using. It sends it to all the places, but it dingdongs only on the one it thinks he is using. It didn’t used to do this, which was crazy and you thought your whole house was blowing up.

When John sat down this morning, banana_mac thought what he wanted was for it to go bing every time something came through, but when did he ever want that? There is a little red thing over in the corner that tells you when something is happening. Some of this is nascent.

John hasn’t pulled the trigger on the John Siracusa computer because Todd offered him to send it to John’s friend in Portland, but John is not a scofflaw and he will pay his taxes. John could pick up a nice Pendleton shirt while he is there, but he already has a lot of Pendleton shirts.

Thinking about not being preppy anymore (RL322)

What if John would make a conscious decision to not be preppy anymore? From the time he became aware of preppy he has always been preppy. In 1980 he got the Preppy Handbook from his deeply professionally preppy cousins who gave it to him as a joke not-a-joke. He took it as a guide for what shirts to wear, how big the collars needed to be, to which colleges he needed to rush, what kind of Volvo was preppy and which one was not. "Which preppy guy am I? The cute one, the chunky party boy, or the little nibbishy?" Since that time John has adopted the preppy style. Enough of his family was honestly that and he was trying to make it with them, but it turned out that just by dressing that way he was not in the club yet.

John is transitioning to a more Marie Kondo life: He is sleeking it up and he wants a more dramatic living space. What if he got rid of his Preppiness? He could start wearing grey, because that is the color of a preppy suit, but you don’t wear grey shirts. You could wear grey Worsted Wool pants, but you are not one of these guys who is in Girls vs Boys, wearing grey and black.

John never considered the Mod Preppy thing to be preppy. It is some other thing and John could be a little more Mod. The problem with preppy is that it is not very fitted, but everybody is wearing fitted clothes now. Preppy is much loser and you are meant to be able to stretch it out. It is a relaxed look. But mod is tailored. Everybody who gets one of everything from the J Crew outlet store, it is all very tailored.

What if John got more tailored? All of a sudden he could wear all these things he never used to wear, although he won’t go as far as hats because he is not ready to be a hat guy. He wears a Stetson around the garden, but he doesn’t have a going-to-town hat like Paul F Tompkins whos preppiness is some kind of South Carolina preppiness while John is Northwest preppy.

In the Northwest the horses have to ride through the mud a lot, so they are stronger, heartier, and with bigger haunches. Different shoes, different horses, different colors, it is a land of contrast! You can get caught in a squall, there is a lot more waxed cotton, there are no umbrellas and if you wear a hat, make it a Cowichan hat.

What if John just went monochrome? Like modern, like future, like Buck Rogers! He can lift his watch up to his arm and ask Siri what time it is or if it is raining outside, like that ad with Zooey Deschanel when she asked Siri if it was raining outside while sitting in front of a window. It was when she was right on the cusp of her big career and she got a little Apple ad.

John is afraid to bring up his thoughts with the people in his life. Recently he bought a flannel-y and fuzzy grey shirt, not all the way to an L.L.Bean style, but from one of these companies Designed in California, Made in China. John decided he wasn’t going to get anything made in China this year, not even used stuff. Merlin wonders if John was still taking his medicine because he got a lot going on.

This whole Marie Kondo thing is about drawing lines and John is not against China, but he is just not going to get anything from there because so much stuff is made in China and if you eliminate that from contention all of a sudden you got a much smaller pile of stuff to think about. John just kondified a little bit! He is asking himself if it brings him joy and if it says Made in China it doesn’t bring him Joy.

Walking his daughter to school in the rain (RL322)

John has been threatening his daughter to walk her to school in the rain for the entire year although she has been saying he has to drive her to school if it is raining, but that is where the little missy is wrong. It is a 15 minute walk to school from her mother's house. Merlin says it with Luis C.K.: "Sometimes kids got to do it because they don’t want it, that is the point!" One of these days it is going to be raining and they will be walking to school. She needs to be unpleasanted for a while.

John does not admire people who cannot handle a little adversity. The problem is that it is always raining in Seattle, but it almost never really belts you like in Ohio rain where everything is beige outside. There are rains in the Midwest that are going to kill you which only happens in Seattle once in a while. John told his daughter that they were going to walk to school in the rain, not only in the normal amount of rain that they do all the time, but even when it is going to be pissing rain.

Also: They will walk with no umbrella, because they don’t use umbrellas. If it doesn’t rain: No umbrella. If it rains a little bit: You are fine, put up your hood. If it rains a lot: An umbrella is going to be fucking useless because the wind is going to blow it inside out and you look like somebody in a fucking Benny Hill short. Get past the umbrellas! The only exception are those cute bubble umbrellas that you have as a 3rd grade girl.

Umbrellas come with a lot of umbrella etiquette that no-one in our modern days is even capable of holding in their brain. People can’t drive in the rain? People cannot walk in the rain! Merlin takes one in the eye nearly every time. These monsters with their umbrella are three people wide, like a fucking golf umbrella! They are 5’7” (170 cm) and they are not conscious of anybody being taller than they are. It is like the first time you wear a large and heavy backpack and you don’t realize all the things you are knocking into because you are not used to having a back gut. It is the same deal with umbrellas, except it is your whole fucking circumference!

Not having a rain coat (RL322)

They get heavy rain so infrequently in Seattle that John didn’t even have a coat anymore that could withstand that kind of rain. It is the one time when your wool jacket is not quite what you want. Over the years John has had many Marmots and many Spiders, but all of them have passed through his universe and he didn’t have one anymore. John tried to get a rain jacket that will withstand a monsoon, but that is not made in China.

John doesn’t want little fingers making it and he needs some limitation and doesn't just want to go on REI and bleep bloop bleep and now he has a thing. REI can get pretty costly, those Arc’teryx can bee $900 like it was normal. Millennial Girlfriend had an Arc’teryx, a flightless bird with hairy feathers. That is some snob stuff and snob outdoors stuff is a thing that makes John mad.

It didn't matter how expensive it was and how many layers of bonding it had to keep the rain out of the shoulders, everything was made in China and a lot of it was made according to the principle that John doesn’t necessarily adhere to: it is seen as sports goods and needs to be light. They are mixing up the world of rainwear with the world of technicals, they want it to wick, breathe, to be light, to have performance characteristics, and they want it to be eggplant-colored or to have graphics on it.

John wondered how far back he would have to go in vintage rainwear to find the perfect place after the era where Goretex was not properly understood yet and became delaminated over time and before everything was off-shored. Early Goretex is gross and looks like it had a skin affliction. There was a moment right in the middle where things were still made in the US of America and where the technical fabric was not technical yet.

In the early 1990s everything was already off-shored to Bangladesh. John found out that you can buy National Ski Patrol jackets from 1987 with big yellow crosses on the back. When he was a kid you might as well have been wearing a uniform that said General in the US Army. Everybody who owns one of those also knows that people like John want them and they charge $400 for them. Sorry, John is not going to do that! There is an entire universe of people collecting sports wear from the before times.

Instead John found a 1980s brown-tag Northface jacket from the demand-satisfaction era of Northface, before it became a Made in Bangladesh, which is not a bad thing. John didn’t even know it was called brown-tag, but he has a brown-tag Northface vest that in size Large and it mostly fits. This jacket has only one label and it says Made in the USA. It was a beautiful jacket in solid red with no stripes, no eggplant, no swoops, no jingers, no things that say ”technical expert”, or ”extreme”, but it was just a red jacket that you could stand in a monsoon with, made in the USA. John just bought it in the middle of the night.

This jacket is representing a whole other thing and there is not a single person in the whole world who is every going to walk past him and say ”Nice jacket!” or if he does see that person, he is going to stop them and say ”Marry me!” without caring about anything else about them. The fact that they said ”Nice jacket” means something! It is like wearing a green handkerchief in your left back pocket, which means "Skateboard my swimming pool!" It means ”both of us admire Tony Hawk, but never wanted to actually be Tony Hawk”.

American Girl doll (RL322)

The other day John’s daughter asked why everything on that person she saw had the name of the brand written on it. "Welcome to the world!" John doesn’t want his clothes to have text on them either and he often takes the tags off of things. She hates it that her American Girl doll says ”American Girl” on her dress. The doll was a gift from the oldest Hodgman girl (see RL229). She calls her Petunia, or something, and she doesn’t dive into the whole ”We are a company who is going to tell you how to play!”

John's daughter knew about the American Girl doll store in New York and as they were walking around the city (last October) she said she wanted to go there, and John proposed to see the Statue of Liberty instead, which she wasn’t interested in, so John proposed to go to Muji and buy all the notebooks she wanted. He was just waving his arms in the air until she forgot about the American Girl dolls.

The name of Merlin’s daughter’s American Girl doll is Rebecca Rubin, who is from Poland and got into a ski accident. She came over from the Städl and Merlin’s daughter has read some of her book. They use real girls to illustrate their dolls. Melody and the 1960s girls are all like real girls, but not quite, it is the uncanny valley. Kit Kittredge is the OG, she is so preppy that John can’t even stand it and her Volvo is so rusty.

Skaters and snowboarders (RL322)

Tony Hawk is 50 years old, but he is still grinding the coup, he is still pushing the envelope, he is getting mad airs, he is pulling Madonnas, he is bones brigade bra, you got to hand it to him! He is like Mark Arm (from Mudhoney), but slightly friendlier and slightly more approachable. John never wanted to be Tony Hawk because it involved being a skater, which is not preppy and not very good. You don’t want to be a skater and you definitely don’t want your kid marrying a skater or even dating a skater.

There is this red-haired kid (Shaun White) who does sick nose-grabs on his snowboard and wins all the medals, there is even a documentary (The Crash Reel) about him. You think he is just a kid and you don’t want him hanging around, but he looks like Rachel Flotard because all red-headed people look the same. Ann-Margret? She is not a skater! Why doesn’t anybody look like her anymore? Or Françoise Hardy? Or Jean Shrimpton?

Nobody even has a name like Jean Shrimpton anymore, but they would change it to Jean Rosemary. Tony Hawk’s name is already really cool and he didn’t have to do anything about it. John would take Jean Shrimpton over Françoise Hardy every day. It is something in the eyes. There is a picture of Jean Shrimpton and Terence Stamp - so attractive!

Skaters will work on a trick all day, they are filming themselves all the time, they want you to watch when they land that curb jam and they will put it out there like they just pulled it off without ever trying. When skaters land a trick, it is supposed to look like they don’t care at all, like they are so bored by their own trick. They land it and then there are 3 seconds of them skating away and they look like they are thinking about something totally else, like how much homework they have to do before Monday. It is such a put-on, but it is integral to their culture.

The Agony of Defeat guy (RL322)

The carrot-top guy will do a fist bump every now and then, which is what John likes about him. Merlin wonders if John watched that movie with the guy who gets hurt doing the half-piping, not the Agony of Defeat guy (Vinko Bogataj), but you would see him every Saturday. It must suck to spend your whole career getting good at skiing and then one 4-second tape of you defines your entire career. He was pinwheeling, or you would call it a yard sale.

He was a ski-jumper from Slovenia and he did a yard-sale, which is as it sounds: You crash and leave every piece of your gear somewhere on the mountain. John yard-saled a couple of times at tops speed and his body was just thrashed. He has seen people yard-sale where their ski-boots came off, they had such a gnarly crash that the centripetal force took their gloves, their fucking ski-pants, and their underwear off.

Hopefully your friends will be above you on the ski hill and will hike around, pick up all your shit and bring it to you, if the ski patrol isn’t putting you on a sled and taking you down. The only thing that saved that Slovenian ski-jumper was that he yard-saled into a fence. He was going fast enough and without that fence he would have yard-saled right into the forest.

John would be embarrassed to be the Agony of Defeat guy at first, but now he is probably 70 years old and for the rest of his life he can just be the Agony of Defeat guy. He is still dining out on that yard sale, like ”White world of sports, remember? Remember the Agony of Defeat guy? That’s me! How do you like me now? Who is picking up the drinks for today’s session? Everybody but me!” Unfortunately team Transylvania is not playing this year because they tested positively with vampirism.

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