RL357 - Scrambling the Ham

This week, Merlin and John talk about:

The Problem: The John’s kid is a gourd butcher, referring to John’s daughter cutting a pumpkin and butchering it instead of having the correct technique.

The show title refers to making an egg in a mug and adding thin slices of ham and scrambling it together with the egg after the first 30 seconds of microwaving.

They start the episode with ”Wassup?”, the same joke they ended the previous episode with. John sings Merlin’s name and Merlin says he has to work on his part of the bit.

Raw notes
The segments below are raw notes that have not been edited for language, structure, references, or readability. Please do not quote these texts directly without applying your own editing first! These notes were not planned to be released in this form, but time constraints have caused a shift in priorities and have delayed editing draft-quality versions to a later point.

Egg in a mug (RL357)

Merlin has returned to a technology that he learned about from John: Egg in a mug! People don’t believe him, but it works straight out of the box if you want yourself a straight-ass egg, but you can also go places with it. You can throw some cheese in there, some salt and pepper, and he might even take it too far because he is trying to innovate. The easiest way to do this is to put a table-spoon of butter into a mug, scramble an egg, put some salt in, and on a very-high wattage microwave do the first pass for about 30 seconds, then you squish it around a little bit and give it another blast of 30-40 seconds. This is the super-easy way.

John doesn’t scramble it in advance, but he just throws an egg in a cup, salt & pepper, 30 seconds and then he hits it with the folk to scramble it when it starts to eggify so you get a little bit fluffier egg. Merlin’s friend Max Temkin scoffed at Merlin when he told him, but you get a surprisingly fluffy egg out of this. Max Temkin lives in a house with atrium, he is not the one to tell you how to make an egg in a cup, it is a people’s egg. He hits the raw egg with salt & pepper and maybe if he got a little graded cheese he throws that in there.

The reason why Merlin likes this is that it is very easy and it has minimal clean-up involved. Then Merlin started to innovate in some obvious ways with some ham and some shredded cheddar. He would take a slide of ham, rolls it up, cut that length-wise and get some ham-bits, toss that in with the shredded cheddar and do the whole thing with two eggs. It is surprisingly good when you reached that point somewhere in between a full English Breakfast and Soylent, when you just want body fuel that you will enjoy, that is pretty close to the sweet-spot.

If you slice your ham thin enough you can stick an uncut piece of ham in there, 30 seconds, and then when you hit it with the fork it shreds the ham and you got random shredy pieces of ham throughout the egg, which is a bit more rustic and it is one less step and one less thing that gets dirty. All you have is a cup with no egg left in it because you ate it all, and a fork. It is less work than a cup of coffee in a lot of ways.

Merlin finds a fork the second-most-easy thing to clean, with a simple working-man’s bread knife being the easiest, but John thinks that a knife is a bit harder to clean because you have to keep in mind the sharpness of it. You have to treat every knife like it is loaded! John is a knife-licker, he doesn’t want to start cleaning before he licked it, same with a fork. Merlin would want a Walder Frey kind of fork with just two very long tines, a Game of Thrones fork. Merlin has a titanium spork for his kid for her lunches, which worked surprisingly well. John has a spoon with a fork with little short tines at the end and one edge of the spoon is serrated to cut up your thing.

Children learning basic tasks (RL357)

John’s daughter still spreads it all over. They were cutting pumpkins yesterday with pumpkin-cutting knives that are deeply serrated. He told her to never take the knife out, but to leave it in and pull it half out and push it back in with a sawing motion. She said she got it and stuck it in and pushed down on it, cleaving it and pulling it all the way out and stabbing it back in, brutalizing the pumpkin that got all scarred and bruised. She is a gourd butcher! John always ends up helping her cutting up her food into little bits because otherwise it will be all over the table.

There are certain childhood tasks that Merlin would like to think he had well mastered by the tween ages, like getting left alone at home and starting fires in the fireplace, or really being good at shoe lace tying or cutting his own things without making a mess or getting his own water, let’s not even get started with riding on a bike. But then some of these youths know things like computer programing which Merlin didn’t know back then. When shoes with velcro became popular in the 1980s, people were so mad because kids today weren’t going to learn how to tie their shoes, but it really turned out okay.

John was a late adopter on a couple of things. One of them was tying his shoes and at one point he suffered the humiliation of having his sister come up from the Kindergarten class to the second grade class to tie John’s shoes for him after recess and he got relentlessly teased to the point that he realized he had to learn that. The other one was that he didn’t really focus on learning to tell time. What did he need to know? There was always going to be somebody who would tell him the time. In second grade he still didn’t know and one time he was with a couple of his friends, twins, Thomas and Peter Klüge (?), and they said: ”You don’t know how to tell time!” - ”No, I never learned” and they pointed at a clock and asked: ”What time is it?” - ”I don’t know” - ”Seriously, what time is it?” - ”10 to four?” - ”Yes, it is 10 to four, you know how to tell time!” and it hit John like a brick that he did know how to tell time, but he had convinced himself that he didn’t.

There are people who don’t learn how to read until they are 30 or 40, but they are satisfieced (?) and have learned how to get along without it. There was an adult man in John’s life when he was a young boy, a tender caring older man, who apparently didn’t know how to read, and he would sit with John when he learned to read ostensibly helping him, but in fact, according to the other adults who were monitoring this with a side-eye, apparently John taught him to read. He was probably 38 and maybe John learned to read a little faster than he did, but he got there. He had never had an opportunity to do it where he didn’t feel self-conscious. He was a successful business person who owned a small chain of businesses that did tool-and-die-manufacture stuff and carburetor building. His younger brother helped him and he could build anything, but after helping being an adult in John’s life he came away with a new set of skills. The story is Huckleberry Finn, they were both building a raft, going down the river. What are you going to do? We got no soup!

1970s TV shows (RL357)

Merlin asks a Charles Nelson Riley related question: There were commercials for the BIC Banana Pen and every time Merlin sees the word banana or has a reason to spell it, he does it like he guy in the commercial. John can never separate him from the Match Game. He was really good on there! Adults didn’t really monitor your TV intake and it was racy and Love American Style, John loved that show with Stuart Margolin. Match Game would be on in the afternoon, it was fun, Gene Rayburn had that wackadoodle microphone. You got Richard Dawson, Fannie Flagg, Brett Somers, her and Charles Nelson Riley would have some times. Brett Somers, where did she come from, what was she doing? She was married to Oscar Madison (played by Jack Klugman), which was the equivalent of the Taxi / Cheers marriage.

The bird hiding from John and landing on his head (RL357)

Two days ago John was at a very eclectic house he had never been to before down in Tacoma and included was a bird. They all talked shit about a cockatiel for a while, but this was a parrot who was making the rounds, he sat on John’s daughter’s arm for a bit, it was up on its owner, and when John walked into the room the bird definitely noticed him and John was the only one who was looking at the bird and noticed the bird notice him. The bird then walked behind on its owner’s shoulder and got around behind their neck where John couldn’t see it. It noticed John and hid. Then it peaked its little head out, looked at John and went back to hiding. It was a lady bird named Susan.

At one point John said to the room: ”The bird noticed me and now it is hiding from me!” and everyone looked at John, no-one reacted really, they didn’t even go ”Huh!”, and they went back to talking about cockatiels and Tiki Bars. The bird did it again, so John moved around to make it harder for the bird to get away and the bird went around the owner on the back of her shirt to hide from John. Susan was avoiding John’s gaze, but she was also taking peeps at him. Then John stopped paying attention to the bird because he is the biggest person in the room and he understands that he stands out and it is not the first time he aroused a woman’s morbid curiosity.

All of a sudden Susan took flight and landed right on top of John’s head. Everyone is shocked and the owner said that she has never done this before, ”What is this about?” - ”I don’t know, but now she is on my head!” John didn’t know what that means in bird talk, but he was fine with that and was confident she was not going to poop on him, and for the remainder of the conversation she sat on John’s head, before her owner… not quite as uncomfortable as one would be if your bird was trying to french-kiss somebody else (see RL21), but the owner got nervous and got the bird down from John’s head. John doesn’t know what it is about him and birds.

Merlin thinks that Susan could be a fan of the Long Winters song It Could Be a Breeze, where John says: ”I am a tree, Build a nest in my hair” The owner actually said that she was probably trying to nest in John’s big hunk of hair. Maybe John is tall enough to be a tree, an Ent, maybe she is a Lord of the Rings fan? John doesn’t think that the owners of the bird are aware of John as a musical artist, so Susan must have picked it up on passing car radios or Pandora or something. They said that they know she talks but she has never talked with them. That is a good line for a lyric right there!

Merlin met a dog this weekend and he thinks he has tremendous dog energy and when dogs see him and the way he carries himself they know that he is a person who loves dogs. In this case they said Matzeh (the dog) doesn’t like men and Merlin said neither does he, but the dog came right up and put his little paws on Merlin’s leg, which she never does. People say all the time this or that animal doesn’t like men, but then it turns out the like John. He doesn’t know why that should be.

The gorilla that recognized John as a fellow gorilla (RL357)

John has told the story about the gorilla at the zoo who was sitting there in its enclosure ignoring everyone, he just could not be bothered. John walked into the gorilla enclosure which has glass so the gorilla can see the humans, and as John walked in the gorilla immediately turned around and eyeballed John. There were 25 people there, and they all turned slowly and looked at John and people said: ”He is staring right at you!” - ”I noticed!” They were standing there, eyes locked, and John was not behaving aggressively toward this gorilla but then the gorilla started getting very aggressive, tearing stuff up, and then he breaks eye contact and goes tearing off across the enclosure, got on top of a hump of land and looked at John from up way back there. John just had to spare this gorilla the pain in the ass of him being here, so he left.

The elephant that sneezed in John’s face (RL357)

One time an elephant sneezed in John’s face. John had a Gatorade with him, went over to the elephant enclosure, and had the pop-top cap of the Gatorade that said ”Don’t drink this if this top is popped up” John was standing there with this cap in his hand and popped with it so made a little click-clack noise, and all of a sudden the three elephants that were all the way across the enclosure just turned and ran right at John. Even though there was a moat in between, it felt very intimidating. As they got to the barrier they all put their trunks out as far as they could and they were not that far from John’s face, waving like cobras at him, John held up the Gatorade thing and went click-a-click-a and two of them put their trunks down and turned to walk away and the third one put its trunk right in John’s face and hoses him with elephant snot, like ”Fuck you for getting us over here for nothing!”

People want to kiss Merlin’s lizard, remembering TV quotes forever (RL357)

Merlin learned even before they obtained a lizard, as with all reptiles you can’t kiss them because of the salmonella. You can kiss a bird, though, he is the living proof (see RL21) Everybody wants to kiss Merlin’s lizard because he is very kissable and a sweet precious boy. Talking about Charles Nelson Reilley and the BIC banana, that is Merlin’s file card for banana. His file card for salmonella was PSA in the 1970s featuring Tony Randall and Jack Klugman as The Odd Couple. The Tony Randall character is a really tidy fellow and he came into their kitchenette in Manhattan and there were groceries sitting out which upset him for a variety of reasons, and he says to Oscar: ”You can’t leave all this food out or you might get sick from this food! Haven’t you ever heard of salmonella?” and then the Jack Klugman character said: ”I think he plays third for the Yankees!”

Merlin wonders when he learned the MISSISSIPPI. It is just a thing that people say as a kid. Like RHYTHM. It is like if somebody cuts you off in traffic and you think: ”If this person does one more thing I am going to remember their license plate!” and it is like 5465548 and you just remember. The other day John started saying people’s license plates out loud as he was driving and they all bounced along: BRA-7421, they had telephone number cadence and John was having a great time. Pretty soon he tried to keep three license plates in his mind at the same time, but he couldn’t do it. It is probably a skillset other people have. Adam Lisagor used to be a drummer and he told Merlin the way he remembered polyrhythms was with things like ”Pass the god-damn butter!”

Merlin has told his 110-20 exposure story where one time his mom told him to get film for the camera. Again: The youth today would never get out of the car, go into the Eckert Drugs and buy things on their own, let alone let that be cigarettes. Not even a carton of milk, a loaf of bread and a stick of butter! In that parking lot she said: You go in and you want to get Kodak 110-20 exposure, 110 film with 20 photos on the roll. That was 1980 maybe and that was probably 4 minutes in 1980s and Merlin still feels that rhythm in his bones of 110-20 exposure because he said it over and over up to the point money was exchanged for film. Kids today have no idea about that!

John has never met a person their age that if he said 220 they don’t say ”220/221 Volts, whatever it takes!” Was that movie so widespread that everybody saw it and everybody pulled that line? There were just fewer things to see and even if you had cable there were the same things on all the time. Merlin saw Mr. Mom with that wonderful scene with Michael Keaton and Martin Mull so many times and you imprint on that because it is a funny scene. He is not the stay-at-home-mom, haha, can you imagine? He was married to Teri Garr in the movie. Yesterday Merlin was watching Young Frankenstein: Teri Fucking Garr, call the cops! And then Madeline Kahn in Blazing Saddles!

John’s friend Jim was a construction worker when they were in High School, he worked Downtown on a building during the summer and he would come over to John’s other friend Kevin’s house every day after work. Kevin would answer the door and they would begin their afternoon together. One day Kevin and John were talking and Keven said: ”Every day Jim shows up at my door wearing his hard hat and tool belt, having just gotten off work, and it was only after about a month of this that I realized that you can’t drive a car wearing a hard hat and a tool belt, you have to get out and put that on again just for the performance of coming up to the door. It was so very much in keeping with Jim and Jim’s whole thing that they both sat there in silence and marveled at that.

John almost made a pizza in a cup reference at the beginning of the show. Merlin almost made a Wall-E reference for cupcake in a cup, but then Merlin started talking about Madeline Kahn and John’s mind immediately went to Bernadette Peters because when he thinks of young Teri Garr and young Bernadette Peters, it has been one of these desert island puzzles or trolley problems: If your trolley is coming from the track and on one side is Teri Garr and on the other side is Bernadette Peters, whom are you going to save?

Are we done talking about cute girls? Merlin got a little crush on the lady from Star Trek yesterday, first season ToS. Merlin’s daughter is obsessed with Star Trek! The one with the body switchers (called Turnabout Intruder), the lady who was later in Born Free and then she was later in Star Trek New Generation. Rea Moldauer? She is not quite in Merlin’s pantheon, she is not quite playing at the level of a Teri Garr, but she can rock that little red mini-dress thing. Merlin either means Barbara Baldavin or Sandra Smith

John closing on his new house (RL357)

It just popped into John’s head that tomorrow he closes on his new house. It is the one on an acre.

Some places being so much cheaper than Seattle or San Francisco (RL357)

Merlin’s grandparents in Cincinnati also lived on exactly one acre of land because it was the style of the time. You could just be a little bit out of eye view. When John was on tour they were always making mental notes of all the places that you could buy a house and live in a style nicer and greater than the style you could live in Seattle for way more money and Cincinnati, as soon as you were out of the core 15 blocks, you were immediately in a place where everybody had an acre of land. There are tons of suburbs with really different characters to them, and rolling hills.

You could for 1/10th of what it cost to live in Seattle have a stone home that probably played a role in the underground railroad or the Civil War, and it would be a home that probably had a kitchen that actually used to be a pioneer cabin that they build a home around, and all of it would cost what it costs to register a motorcycle in Washington State. Then you would sit and do the math and you could fly from Cincinnati to anywhere in the country in three hours and in a way it is no further from Cincinnati to Seattle than it is from Portland to Seattle.

One time John stayed with a guy in Pittsburgh whom they met after a show when they needed a place to crash, kind of like John met Merlin. Did it also include Ken Stringfellow hitting on his wife? Three or four months ago John posted something about Dave Bazaan, unquestionably the guy who played the most house shows, he is relentless, he does 250 shows a year, and 10 minutes went by and then Ken (Stringfellow?) who John forgot was even aware of John, he is out there in the world, he was posting from Kazakhstan, and he replied to John’s tweet with two words, like ”Strong disagree!”, contesting that record, and John realized that Ken plays 300 shows a year.

Maybe this guy they met in Pittsburgh was part of the larger Ken Stringfellow orbit and that is why they ended up going back to his house? In his house there was a staircase that took up the space of what would be a pretty expensive one-bedroom apartment in Seattle, it had two-story stained glass windows in it, up you go, it might have had a ballroom, it was a place that even then in 2001 it would have been a $2.5 million in Seattle and it was right close to town and he said it was $80.000.

Merlin live in San Francisco, which is horrible. Sometimes they just turn off the electric because that is a thing now. Only PG&E can prevent forest fires. San Francisco is exempted from this, but nobody else is and dozens of counties up to 1 million households are affected and it could happen again starting on Wednesday. PG&E was held responsible for their equipment having started some of the terrible wildfires last year, sometimes for as simple as they weren’t maintaining their equipment or trimming branches and stuff. John knows what that is like, he doesn’t really trim around his equipment either.

Merlin continues to complain about San Francisco which is basically like living inside an Godspeed! You Black Emperor song, and the prices for everything are high because it is almost like Silicon Valley.

There was a time when $5000 was more than 1/3rd John’s yearly income. When he joined Harvey Danger they paid him $20.000 that year because he kept all his per-diems and it was by far the largest amount of money he had ever made or ever imagined making.

When Merlin moved from Sarasota to Tallahassee for a job it was a huge deal making $22.000 a year. It was a ridiculously large amount of money. His rent was maybe $250 a month. At its highest before they left Tallahassee, he and his lady friend paid $600 for a 3-bedroom house. If you look at inflation there is nothing insensible about this, because inflation is a dick. In 1991, $22.000, $250 per month in rent, and his car payment was similar to that, also $250 per month. The first time John paid $350 a month rent everybody found it expensive. That was when John made $900 a month. Merlin went to college in Sarasota from 1986 to 1991. Those were great years, but John didn’t realize it at the time and thought they were shitty years.

Having missed several years of 1980s TV (RL357)

Merlin used to feel very plugged in to news and pop culture and he could tell you the entire TV schedule from 1975 to 1986, but then he went to college and didn’t have a TV for a while and he totally missed Star Trek Next Generation. The only appointment TV he had his first year of college was the Saturday morning duo of Peewee’s Playhouse and Mighty Mouse (?). John didn’t watch TV in the 1980s very much because MTV and CNN both came on and all he watched was MTV, CNN and Bennie Hill (?). He felt like the TV shows were not very good, he didn’t want to watch Miami Vice, Silver Spoons, or Knight Rider. There are a lot of shows that he doesn’t remember at all, like when did Full House come on the air?

By the time Merlin got out of college he had a VCR and was taping Seinfeld and The Simpson and and Mr. Show and was watching that over and over. Mr. Show and the British Office is something John and Merlin bonded over. Merlin introduced The Long Winters to the office, they had never seen it before, and it basically drove them for a year.

The time around 1986, 1987 (RL357)

It is very costly in a lot of places and it makes you wonder about the future. Kids today! Merlin thought that his prospects were bad, graduating from college. They had just came out the big 1987 recession, the stock market crash, John’s mom lost a lot of money in that crash, every student at school got a letter in their mailbox from the head of the college’s foundation and Merlin remembers it because he used the word ”impact” as a verb, which Merlin found personally offensive. He said something how that recent fluctuations in the stock market would not impact the foundation, given their investment strategy.

The fall of 1986 was when Peter Gabriel’s So came out (including Sledge Hammer) and that resonated throughout the culture so strongly, that and the Bon Jovi record (Slippery When Wet) with Cowboy on a Steel Horse (Dead or Alive). It was also around the time of the big U2 record, which was a world beater, not Unforgettable Fire, but the next one with the hats (The Joshua Tree). They don’t resolve what it is and it is killing John Siracusa!

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