RL398 - Tyrell’s Robe

This week, Merlin and John talk about:

The Problem: The throbbing would be upsetting, referring to a throbbing heart reaction emoji you can send in Skype.

The show title refers to the robe of Blade Runner character Eldon Tyrell.

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 Please do not quote these texts directly without applying your own editing first!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.

Merlin creating his own iOS 14 widget stylesheets (RL398)

It is early. Merlin was working on some style sheets this morning, a layer in the web stack that is like a skin you used to put on WinAmp, because in iOS 14 you can screw it up really good and make it look the way you want. Merlin is doing it with the app he uses to track his ToDo’s and makes it look different. John can’t believe there are already 14 iOS’s and how you would be able to choose between them. The problem with the pandemic is that you can’t go in and try it on like you normally would. You don’t want to end up with one of those Chinese skins (no ping pong), but you want to know what you are getting when you pick your iOS!

Problems with the Long Winters website after a PHP upgrade (RL398)

John has a web team as part of the Roderick group. Their good friend Grant Balfour and Lisbeth in Holland wrote him the other day and said that something had changed on the Internet which affects the Long Winters webpage which Merlin pioneered back in the day along with John and friend of he show Sean using some XHTML. It has a forum and a public-facing site and later their friend Ben took over the endeavor. John owes Lisbeth a debt of gratitude that he could never repay for her support of the Long Winters band over the years.

She said there is something with the webpage and it is going to all be cancelled in an hour. Something has changed with the host of the server and it is no longer supported, like those Flip cameras that no longer work, and like that weird A-to-D converter that John had that worked just fine and there was nothing with the hardware that changed, but they just didn’t update the software anymore, even though it is just a little box that you plug a chord into and it comes out the other end. They said if they don’t transfer the webpage over to a different place it is all going to be gone, so what do we do? John likes nothing more than answering the question ”What do we do?”

The old Drupal site for thelongwinters.com has reached end of life and Media Temple updated their PHP version back in June, which seemed to be fine, but Jason texted John in early July that the board was down, which means that Jason is still monitoring the board, it is still active, people go there and use it as an archive. It turned out that the new PHP version was problematic after all. Grant updated the software and now the board runs smoothly again, but for the website, which runs on an ancient version of Drupal, there is no easy fix and even if they could it would only be temporary because PHP keeps evolving.

Merlin thinks their sponsor Squarespace would be perfect for the Long Winters website, but Grant and Lisbeth have already migrated it in their most amazing way. Merlin finds ”migrated it” hard to say, just like ”my disordered eating” that he heard on public radio. On Friendly Fire Ben Harrison’s tag line at the end was something about spoiler alerts (to the victor go the spoiler alerts), but he got self-conscious about pronouncing it early on in the show and started pronouncing it funny because his tongue gets caught up and it became a thing.

Merlin has tons of those, like he can’t really say ”Saturday Night Live” to his TV. There was a director early on in the American version of The Office by the name of Ken Kwapis and every time they say it Merlin finds it adorable. It sounds a bit like a super-chewy Star Wars prequel character.

John’s kitten Alyeska getting her claws on a roll of paper towel (RL398)

Merlin thinks it is like a beloved aged pet where you get a couple surgeries coming up all of a sudden and have to give it a new dog heart. There is a time when you get diminishing returns on a dog, and for John that starts on day two. In Merlin’s house every pet going forward will from day one get an intractable monetary figure placed on their head and Merlin will be keeping track. Merlin way overbudgeted for this fucking cat before they had to pull most of her teeth out and whatever you don’t even want to know. Next time it is going to be an order of magnitude less and Merlin will be keeping the receipts.

John’s family’s kitten Alyeska is named after the ski resort where he grew up. She was named like that by her actual owners, the ladies of the home, without consulting John. He arrived home that day and there was a cat and he was not consulted exactly, but more read into the dossier, a procedure Merlin is very familiar with because like George’s colleague in Seinfeld they only wake him for the important meetings. Sometimes a new shelf will show up or a new car. The car is not in his wheelhouse and he is out of the car business, but he would like be consulted on the shelf because he needs to put the PlayStation there. In my house? In my line of work? In this economy? In these shoes?

Alyeska is a name that you want to use for a pet or a child, but when you try it on there is no child that will fit that name and John doesn’t think any pet can bear the weight of that name either. When John was growing up and you named your dog Alyeska they would bury you in a peat bog. But now apparently half of the dogs in Girdwood are named Alyeska and the other half are named Max because the mountain next to Mount Alyeska is name Max’s mountain. John doesn’t get it, but it is a new generation with a different set of values.

On John’s way to his recording he walked past the downstairs bathroom and saw that she apparently discovered that when she gets her claws onto a roll of paper towel she can do what a cat does, which is turn that roll of paper towel into a giant mess for one little customer to clean up, and that is going to be Alyeska’s titular stage manager, John’s daughter, who is upstairs right now on Zoom class and she has no idea what is waiting for her downstairs. Merlin uses a lot of paper towels that he has delivered from a company from Seattle and in his experience a shredded paper towel is not on balance as useful as an intact paper towel.

Merlin was the first person John ever knew who ordered paper towels from that large-scale company. He was wasteful before it was cool. Now you can say what you want about that company (Amazon) and the man that runs it (Jeff Bezos), but if you need a power cable, within hours a man shows up and hands it to you (Amazon Prime Now).

Sending reactions in Skype (RL398)

John accidentally sent Merlin a thumbs-up in Skype because he mad moused over a little throbbing heart that said ”react” and it threw up a screen with things you could send. John moused away from it, but it didn’t go away so he finally clicked on the thumbs up because it was in the context of their conversation the least weird. If he sent a throbbing heart or a slow clap, the heart would be confusing, but the throbbing would be upsetting. How often do you do a thing on the Internet just to make it go away? Merlin calls that the Bop it! phenomenon because sometimes you don’t realize that your whole iPhone screen is a button and you are just minding your own business and pretty soon the Bop It! is squeaking at you.

Last night John spent two hours deleting screenshots because he has both the Apple and the Google photos and he saw a whole folder called Screenshots and a lot of them are screen grabs of text conversations that are hilarious. Sometimes John and Sean Nelson will have a whole text back and forth that if you just screenshot the section of the text in the phone screen it is something to preserve. When the big Twitter hack happened a little while bag Merlin preemptively deleted pretty much all of his DM’s ever, which takes a lot more time than one would like. He only saved a few from DM-ing with somebody famous, like Paul Feig, out of vanity.

Merlin says that you can only ever post something like that if the other person is funny, not when you are funny, although John Siracusa says that you should never post anything from a text thread because that is not cool. Some of the conversations that John screenshotted where when somebody said: ”I never said that!” and John could show them in black and white. But there were probably 40 screenshots where John had picked up his iPhone and had screenshotted the screen. John loves to cull photos, but every time he goes in there to do it he realizes that he has 25.000 photos, which would be perfect for one of Merlin’s tiny life improvement projects (he calls them Omnibus projects). Merlin is making playlist, deleting screenshots, updating stylesheets, all in the time he saved after he has pulled back from the Discord (he says ”discourse”?).

Tyrell’s robe from Blade Runner (RL398)

Merlin thinks that Barred Owls look like a Ewok from Return of the Jedi and it is a very intimidating owl. It is a large owl and it is an owl owl. What owl is in Blade Runner? A Tyrell owl? Merlin thinks John would look so good in Tyrell’s glasses. John would look good in his his robe.

Paul Allen bought that robe and put it in a display case in the Cinerama movie theater in Downtown Seattle, which has subsequently been closed since he died because all billionaires with quirky weird collections when they die no-one else shares his Trainspotting weirdness and his whole estate transferred over to his sister who is now one of the richest people in the world, but she doesn’t care about 70mm movie prints of Lawrence of Arabia, she doesn’t want her own music festival, she doesn’t care about Jimi Hendrix’s Stratocasters, so they closed the Cinerama, which is a big bummer.

John would go half an hour early if he went to this movie theater, just so he could stare at Tyrell’s robe. They have a lot of costumes in there, like Captain Kirk and Spock. Merlin’s kid would kill to see that, but she can come up and go to EMP (Museum). Tyrell’s robe is all John wants and he would wear it all day. John has some material that could be made into a Tyrell’s robe and there is a seamstress in his extended family who is famous for winning national and global sowing-contests. She designs a wedding dress and builds it out of its constituent parts.

John took this blanket and asked her if she could make a Tyrell’s robe for him, but she doesn’t really like making stuff for men. A robe is just a blanket with sleeves, but she probably just doesn’t want to make things for John. Her husband wear L.L.Bean Shammy shirts tucked into his Levi’s, which is also what Merlin’s dad used to wear.

Is John a Pacific Northwest native? (RL398)

Merlin thinks that John isn’t a native of the Pacific Northwest because his true habitat is Alaska, although he has lived longer in Seattle than in Alaska, or in the sense that he is a European and should have died long ago in a Welsh coal mine. Richard Burton said that if you show a Welshman two doors and one of them says ”Self-destruction” they will always know which one to choose, which is exactly like John or Tom Jones or Cathrine Zeta-Jones. John watched a Conan Brothers movie the other day.

Dylan Thomas came onto Merlin’s mother in law when she was in college at Smith. He touched her leg a little bit and she was like: ”Knock it off, Welshie!”. It is he old Bill Murray thing, giving people stories right and left.

John was born in Seattle, his grandmother was born in Seattle, and this Barred Owl’s grandmother might have been born in Seattle for all he knows. Merlin has heard owls in the Confederate Soldier Park, but he has never seen one. They mostly get hawks in there, those are majestic. John notes that very few owls make a ”Hoo hoo” sound, but most of them make otherworldly screams and terrifying UFO-abduction noises. They probably despise the many stereotypes about owls and they are disengaged from the dialog. Merlin used to have an app for identifying bird sounds that was really cool and John still has that.

Merlin used to have a bird outside his window in Florida that would whistle the Grand Hearts (?) part from Flip Your Wig by Hüsker Dü. There used to be a lot of pigeons on the house across the streets from John’s mom’s house that made sounds until he wanted to murder every one in the world.

John seeing an owl in his ravine (RL398)

The other day John was down in his ravine, moving boulders around, which gave him a condition called trigger finger when one of your fingers gets locked when you wake up in the morning, which is very scary. Merlin had a foot cramp this morning that was very painful, like he had been wearing one ladies’ shoe for too long and your arch seizes up. He wonders if he has gout. We all get these. Merlin’s wife is a runner and she calls that a stitch. But trigger fingers is something else, it is something in the sheathing of your nerves and your finger gets locked in the closed position and you have to open it with your other head, like lock jaw for fingers.

John has a lot of hand history and his hands are his passport. He was down in the ravine late afternoon, building a dam and he needed that rock that he had seen earlier in the day, so he started moving downstream and startled a bird that had been sitting all this time right over his head. The bird took to wing and it was a huge bird and John could feel the wind of the flapping. Most of the birds are 6” tall, some of them are a foot tall, like Flickers and Woodpeckers that are kind of big. But this bird was as big as a cat or bigger and it was a barred owl who had been siting in a tree, clearly watching John, and it flew up to a higher tree, still looking at him.

John talked to the owl for a while and introduced himself as the new guy there and greeted it welcome because he had never seen it before. The ravine was choked with ivy and laurel and holly and you couldn’t see the ground and the owl just couldn’t think because they don’t root around in the underbrush, but they sit up high and look down. John has cleared out all the Ivy and now the owl probably finds the ravine to be a nice place to hang out where maybe a little mouse will run by.

John made it clear that if you are a creature that sees human beings as an enemy, then John is not one of them, and if there will be other people down there he will either authorize them or not, and if not then they can be freely attacked. That is John’s relationship with the crows too, but his number one issue with them is: ”Don’t yell at me!” They need to use a different tone and clearly point out what they don’t want him walking close to. John has a mile and a half walk up to his house and he talks to every crow he sees and they have to be passing that message on.

Later on that day as the sun has gone down and John couldn’t move any more rocks, so he went to his truck and started it up. Because it has an old Rochester carburetor it needs to warm up even though he had driven it earlier in the day, so John was sitting in his truck, thinking about his thoughts, running some numbers, and out the front window he could see the power line that goes between the street and his house that was put in before there were codes and before there were all these rules and regulations and at the point where it is closest to the ground you could hit it with a tennis racket, which is not up to contemporary standards and the city and the county probably are going to want John to raise that up. Merlin calls it technical debt.

Merlin talks about how there is a lot of technical debt in the air traffic control system and in the whole model how a school works that is dependent on a lot of people being in close proximity in a building.

On John’s power-line there was the owl and he is so big that the power-line was bobbing up and down and the owl was compensating for it by pumping his little legs so its body and head were stable. He is too big and the power-line is never going to stop moving, which is not the most comfortable place for him to sit, but he has chosen this place right in front of John’s truck, staring at John through the window. This meant they went from no knowing each other to really knowing each other because the owl was really in John’s space now, sending him a message that hopefully was: ”Hello!” He was in the yard while the sun was up, so it is no some traveling owl that is swinging through, but it is a local owl.

The whole time John lived at the farm for 11-12 years he had a barn that was perfect for an owl and John had rats in that neighborhood, there were fruit trees, blackberries, it was like owl paradise. A few times a year at night John would hear an owl in the neighborhood, but he never saw one. He did see between 8-12 owls in his bedroom one time that were also pillows, but now he has a real bonafide owl, although apparently a barred owl is not native to the Pacific Northwest.

John was looking at this owl in the dark and they were staring at each other for a while, and then John remembered he should take a picture so he can show it to people, so he reached down to the camera and as soon as he pushed the button to take the picture the owl absolutely sensed it and flew off and all there is in the picture is a blur. But because it is an iPhone he knows there could have been a Live Photo, but he couldn’t figure out how to show it at first until he found an option somewhere to convert it to a video and now he has a video of the owl.

People often don’t believe you if you want to tell them a story about an owl sighting. One time they were driving in a parking lot of a super mall at dusk, of the size that you could park an Imperial Battle Cruiser in there, except that every 8 rows of cars they planted a little rows of stunty trees that after 25 years are now 20 feet tall, like those spikes they put on park benches to keep skaters away, except it keeps Imperial Battle Cruisers from parking there. The parking lot was empty and John was not looking for a spot, but he was just driving slowly through there and doesn’t remember why. His copilot with his daughter in the back seat had seen an owl, but as John turned to look at it she leaned forward and was blocking his view of the owl and she moved just for the owl to fly away.

The number of times John has seen a wild owl: He saw one as a little kid when he was 4 years old. For one reason they don’t want him to see them, while other people see owls. Like John was only ridden a horse one time in his life on a guided horse tour, except for the ponies at the fair. This owl is kind of John’s first owl and this is probably the beginning of a great relationship. He is not going to try and take his picture every day, but he is going to sit in his living room, wearing his one-day Tyrell robe, staring out the window with his little atomic cocktail, and the owl is going to be sitting in the tree opposite him and this is going to be how he ends his day.

”What had happened was” that John cleared out all these vines and a lot of the critters were happy that he did this, but there were some critters that were not happy that he was clearing out all of their little hiding places, but John has yet to see an owl snack and say: ”Oh hello, little owls snack! Stick around!”

The old man who owned John’s house before used to feed feral cats and according to the local legend there was an explosion of feral cats after a while and he had 40 cats living in the ravine, at which point his long-suffering wife Eleonore told him that he couldn’t feed the cats anymore. ”Fuck around and find out!” and she forbade him from feeding the cats and the cats went away and without the cats there were rats and he, missing his cats, started to feed the rats because he was getting on in years and we are all God’s children, like John’s old landlord who said: ”I didn’t make the rat! God made the rat!”

There were rats in the wood pile, kicking up dough, and when they got the house ready to sell it to John the ravine was completely overgrown and there was a giant woodpile full of rats and so some enterprising young cousin came with the idea to throw he woodpile over the side of the ravine and when John was pulling out the Ivy he found 4 quarts of wood that had just been thrown haphazardly off the side of the ravine and he had to pull all these old logs out and this chopped-up firewood that had only been thrown down there to sell the house.

The rats had followed the woodpile and now there were rats down in the ravine in the woodpile, but unlike the farm this is a mid-century modern house with no attic and no crawl-space where the rats would be living and where you would need a cat to get them out of there, but it is easier to rat-proof the house. For a long time John’s mom was trying to get him to get a couple of feral cats and he went through that whole phase with the Vito.

Everywhere on the West Coast there are cat rescue places that specialize on cats that cannot be placed with families that are a danger to themselves and others, giant thick murder cats. Merlin has heard that COVID has been good for those kind of animals and even they get adopted now. What they do with these murder cats is that you are never going to have this cat in your house or pet it because the cat will let you pet it for 30 seconds and then rip your hand off, but they will place this cat with you if you have a barn or if you have a rat problem somewhere and if you will agree to care for this cat and feed it and give it shelter and spend thousands of dollars on this feral cat that won’t let you pet it, it will hopefully presumably stick around and kill rats for you.

John’s mom was really into this idea and she was sending him pictures of ratters that all had names like Ghingis and Vlad and Vigo. ”This cat only weighs 64 pounds!” - ”God! I don’t want to get some Mountain Lion that I have to build a shed for” The discovery that the rats in the wood pile have met their match in the form of Vigo the owl John is so thrilled. Nature is viewing!

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