RW141 - Zone Defense

This week, Dan and John talk about:

The show title refers to different zones that John uses to keep things in his house, like the suitcase zone, the cufflink zone and the dust buster zone.

John wished that they could do an After Dark, but he has some guys at a studio across town who are keyed up to have John come in and do some mixing today and this is the only time he can do it because he is leaving on the cruise tomorrow morning and they are getting paid by the hour.

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

Skype problems (RW141)

Skype is an amazing product, but because John has lots of computer problems he can't blame it all on Microsoft. He has his new computer underneath an Afghan right next to him (see RL326), but it is in the box still. He does not like the idea of taking a computer out of the box, hooking it up, starting it, and having to go through all of the Welcome to Macintosh as though he had just landed from Kathatu where he had never seen a computer before and was trying to figure out how to get all the things on it. He needs 10 days where he doesn’t have anything else to do and can just sit down and focus on it. The computer has been sitting under this Afghan for three plus weeks, but John was gone for a lot of that time.

Dan found the image that Skype used when it said John was unavailable, the happy face doing the little ringy-ringy, highly offensive and it is enough of a reason for him to never wanting to use Skype again. As Skype was beach-balling while booting up, John saw that Dan was trying to call him on his phone and Skype brought up a window asking if he would like a personalized emoji with his natural skin color and John was like ”Go die a thousand deaths, Skype! Just fucking…!” John hopes and prays that they have listeners who work on the Skype team over at Microsoft, he doesn’t mean to attack them personally, but improvements could be made. As his mom says: ”It seems like it is still in beta!” She says that about a lot of things in the modern world and she is right. Developers used to beta-test, but now they just release it and let the consumer beta-test.

Back in the early days when they were first starting to come out with Unix for a desktop type machine, they had Linux in one camp and FreeBSD in the other camp. FreeBSD is actually what they based the Darwin kernel on that runs our Macs these days. Back in the in the old days Linux would come out with a new release every day while FreeBSD would release once every two years because they didn’t believe in beta software and didn’t release anything until it had been tried and tested and tested and tried. That mentality of not releasing something until it is done does no longer exist, but people are releasing software as soon as they have something that kind of works.

John hates everything!

Having financial anxiety (RW141)

In addition to that, a lot of financial anxiety had been hanging over John's head for the last year and although there was not exactly a light at the end of the tunnel yet, he felt like 2019 was the year that was going to make 2018 look like 2014. 2015 was not a good financial year because John ran for city council, but 2014 was a very good financial year because Roderick on the Line was making money and John was doing a lot of shows. It just went downhill from there.

2016 and 2017 was the time when he was dating Millennial Girlfriend who lived in California and he spent money as though he was a lawyer himself just to go back and forth and to go have sushi three times a week. Lawyers live a certain kind of lawyers-in-love sort of lifestyle. She did not ever go dutch on things, it wasn’t her style, and John was the man, but it is hard to be a sugar daddy to someone who makes three times or 30 times the money you make. She wasn't footing the bill, and sensitivity wasn't really part of their dynamic.

John thought 2018 was going to be the year where at 49 years old he had a career and it was all going to make sense. He wasn't even trying to sell his house until halfway through last year where it already wasn't making sense, and then he compounded the problem with all of this. He would have just stayed in his house if his daughter and her mother hadn't moved out of town, but he also just realized that he doesn’t want to live the rest of his life in a car. He wants to live close to his kid where he can walk her to school in the morning, that is his only motivation!

Once John was in the process of selling his house he didn't want to just move into some place that wasn't as good as his cool farmhouse with a barn and a swimming pool full of logs, but it had to at least be that good. He got introduced to appreciating mid-century modern architecture which he had always kind of loathed and it set him on a course of anxiety that is not really sympathetic in the retelling. Obviously the world is complex.

Tomorrow John is leaving for the JoCo cruise! He was a very late addition to it because until three weeks ago he wasn't going to go on it, but then he was like ”You know what? I think I will go!” and they said ”Great! Thanks for the heads up!” and they found him a room down in steerage. John said ”I'll do it!”, but he immediately felt ”What am I doing? Why am I going? Why am I doing that? It is not like I need a vacation!”

John didn't have anything to do on the cruise because all the performance slots were booked and he was just going to sit by the pool in heart-shaped sunglasses and read Lolita while 1500 nerds milled around, trying to get in on some tabletop game in the basement. His decision making seemed flawed, but he will have a wonderful time. They Might Be Giants were on the cruise, and obviously John and Flansburgh don't run out of things to talk about. It will be fun, but it still felt like John needed a manager!

John needing a manager / wife (RW141)

John’s mom started saying that John should have a wife, something she had never ever said that before. She realized that her job in life was to administer and John’s job in life was to make things or to think about things. For somebody who is very good at administering it takes a long time to look at somebody else and admit that thinking about things is actually a job. There has always been the role of a public intellectual in the world, but those people either tend to be independently wealthy or work almost always in a university context. They make a living by publishing books, but their real job is to think about things. They just sit in front of a typewriter and put it all down, sometimes well, sometimes not.

Over the course of her life John's mom realized that John is here for a reason and that he is doing things. It doesn't have anything to do with administering details‚ which she is absolutely here to do. There is a similar equation about relationships and marriage is: She should have realized in her marriage that she was good at half of the things and John's dad was good at the other half of the things, and they should have just done it that way instead of defining equality by saying that no one person empties the dishwasher any more often than the other person, but one person handles the money and one person handles the social life.

Dan agrees. He has not done a load of dishes in 10 years for two reasons: Apparently he doesn’t load the dishwasher correctly and really bad things happen like for example sometimes the cup will get full of water because it wasn't at the correct angle. He also leaves too much space between things and more could fit in. He furthermore doesn’t believe in any kind of pre-rinsing or pre-washing of anything. In fact, the instruction manual says not to pre-wash because there is a disposal in it. Dan's wife believes that even if it says so, you still need to do it, which is a philosophical difference. She just said: "You know what? I'll do this and you can do this other thing!” and that is easier because Dan is good at whatever the other thing was and it is better than trying to keep track of who did what last.

John for instance has a very specific way he likes the dishwasher to be loaded and if you load his dishwasher wrong he will absolutely take it all apart and redo it, which is really a problem. John will also let dishes pile up in the sink for several days before he puts them in the dishwasher. There are lots of people, some of them in John’s world, who throw the dishes in the dishwasher in a way that John considers unforgivably haphazard. They put the dishes in the dishwasher immediately so that the sink never has dishes in it. How do these two universes interact? Either the person that doesn't want dishes in the sink learns to tolerate dishes in the sink, or the person that can't stand the dishwasher being loaded incorrectly just never looks at the dishwasher again. What won't work is that the two people try to share the burden of using the dishwasher because every single time you walk into the kitchen one of the two people is going to have a problem.

In a modern world the dishwasher is more than just an appliance to wash dishes, it is a symbolic holy space within the kitchen where the question of what is women's work and what is men's work is adjudicated over and over again. If the job of putting dishes in the dishwasher falls to the woman or the woman-proxy-person in the relationship, there is a baked-in potential for resentment because dish work is gendered and seen as forced labor when contrasted with other more glamorous work like opening the mail. Sometimes two weeks go by with the dishes in the sink and that would be intolerable if John would be living with someone.

John’s mom has started to realize that there are people in the world who do not want to do podcasts nor do they want to write songs nor do they want to think about the gendering of dishwashing, but what they want to do is get things done. They want to administer things and manage things and that is what they are good at. What if John met someone and would think less in terms of that this person makes him feel constantly off balance and his heart is in his throat all the time and maybe his house is going to end up on fire with him in it, but more in terms of this person helping him and having a set of skills that are compatible with his?

John started to think in different ways and he started to look out at the world and say: ”Yes, that girl definitely cuts her own hair and is wearing a dress that she made herself out of old band T-shirts and guitar picks, which is very intriguing to me. Also she seems like someone who does not pay her bills either!” John often does not remember to pay his bills until it is too late and he starts getting letters in pink envelopes. Maybe the girl in the dress made out of band T-shirts is not the ideal partner for him?

This is way downstream from the Genesis question: ”Am I looking for a partner?”, but when John looks at the disorder in his life and thinks about how to solve it, a partner who has an interest in ordering things is as much an option as hiring four different people and putting them on retainer so that they can keep John’s life in some semblance of a trajectory that is at least compatible with the other trajectories, not just a comet off-gassing in all directions, responding only to solar wind, which is how John feels just by looking around the room he is in.

The Zone Defense system of keeping things in the house (RW141)

In John's room there is a Chewbacca onesie sitting on top of a box of wrapping paper with a guitar leaning against it and for some reason it is covered with post-it notes, all on top of a chair that has a sign saying ”To go to Susan” There are seven unfinished projects on that chair! Where does he begin? Start with the project that is at the bottom? That seems unlikely, but the project that is at the top is the one he least wants to do. Every time John walks into the room something else goes on top of it, which was exactly how his dad dealt with things: The latest thing got put on top of the last thing and you could just reach to the bottom of the pile, pull something out and know exactly the date that this pile started.

If you did that enough times the pile got all mixed because stuff from the bottom would get put back on the top again and you wouldn’t know what everything was. His passport would be in there somewhere! John can count on the fact that his passport is going to be somewhere within a five-foot circumference because he is working with something like a zone defense: things belong in zones, rather than in places.

There are a couple of suitcase zones with some of the things he looks for regularly, there are cufflink zones, and there are dust buster zones. The dust buster is only going to end up in three or four places, but it could be in any one of those three or four places at any given moment. There is definitely a very constrained zone where bills and checks go. Bills and checks go the same place because bills and checks belong together. There is surely a way to organize your life where checks went one place and bills when another, but that doesn't make sense to John because checks are just anti-bills or bills are anti-checks, so you put them together and hopefully at the end of the day the checks surmount the bills.

Guitar picks have a lot of zones, but they do have zones and are not just random. You don't just turn around and there are guitar picks everywhere. John has a lot of guitars and they are in zones as well. He will be in one place, pick up a guitar, and strum it as he walks to the other side of the house. Maybe he will stop halfway between one place and the next and work on something, maybe he will happen upon something, and he will work on it on the guitar for a while. Then he gets to the other side of the house and either the thing he has been working on is good enough that he stops where he is and works on it, or it floats away, peters out, or something else grabs his attention, at which point he takes the guitar off and sets it down without taking it back to where he found it.

He sets the guitar down wherever he is and he also sets the pick down on a nearby flat surface, like the corner of a table, a kitchen counter, a piano, or a shelf. Then the guitar stays there leaning against whatever piece of furniture it was that he was standing next to with the pick somewhere else on that piece of furniture. Three days later he may be in a different part of the house, pick up a different guitar and walk across the house playing the guitar until he arrives somewhere else where he leaves that guitar.

There are five guitars in circulation in the house, one in John’s room, one in the other bedroom, one in the laundry room, and one right here, and they all have picks. When you pick up the guitar the next time, you don't necessarily always find the pick that went with it, so there are more picks than there are guitars because sometimes you pick up a guitar and you play it with your fingers for a while as you are walking around. Then you find a pick on the bookshelf and you grab it and flip it around.

If John were living with someone who had a system, when they came into the kitchen and found a guitar leaning there, depending on how cooperative the relationship was, they would either go ”God he just leaves his stuff everywhere!” or they would say ”This doesn't belong here!” and they would pick it up and put it back on the guitar rack. The room John is sitting in right now has a guitar rack with five guitars on it and then there are two guitars and one banjo made out of a cigar box leaning next to it. One of the guitars is a bass. With a little bit of paring down, every guitar in the house could probably be around the guitar rack. John wouldn't mind it.

The thing that would change John’s life for the worse would be if someone were living here and every time they came upon a guitar they went ”God! What is wrong with him? When will he learn to put his guitars away?” No amount of love in the world would be worth enduring living under those conditions. But if there were someone who said ”This isn't where this goes!” and they put it back every time to a place that they thought is where those things went.

John could get used to that because when he were looking for a guitar he would just go find one. It would change the nature of walking through a room and absently picking up a guitar and strumming it as he walks from place to place, but that is a form of marshaled chaos where everything is accident. Maybe that is John’s nature? He could conform to a thing where there was just slightly less accident because he is in this room that has the guitars in it enough that he would still be able to find them. It is not like he is never going to play the guitar again.

People who like to organize things think that organization is virtuous and disorder is sinful because they get that stimulation when they put things in order. They feel not just good, but blessed, and by extension things that are disordered are being cursed. John has been in plenty of relationships with people who feel like John’s way of doing or not doing things is not just a different way but a worse way, and why would he share his space with someone who brought that energy to him? It almost feels inevitable!

John doesn’t want to live in a situation where somebody else also just throws their stuff on the floor because then they would just be living in a garbage house, nor does he want somebody who just walks around his stuff and pretends it isn't there because that feels judgy. If their stuff is all fine, eventually they are going to want their own space that they get to keep fine. That means that John’s space is messy, their space is fine, and there is some detente, some uncomfortable truths about certain spaces. John has never been in a relationship where the other person said ”Look, I am going to take charge of keeping everything organized and I am not going to resent you for it, because it is what I want and I don't feel like you want it or even notice it.” John does want it!

The aspersion that gets cast is that he doesn’t want to have to do it, but it is not that he wants it and just doesn't want to do it because he is lazy, but he is just not wired to do it. He cannot throw a football 40 yards nor can he see the path to walking in the door of a house and not creating a wake of discarded jetsam as he moves through the house. He cannot conceive it! If John were to do it, it would take up all of his mind.

When John is in someone else's house and is not at liberty, he walks through the house tiptoeing because if he were to start being absent minded there, if he were to start thinking and walking around doing what he does, which is just sort of ruminating, you would be astonished at how soon he can disorder a space within an afternoon. It is not a moral failing, it is not evidence of laziness, it is not that he could do it but he just choose not to, but he cannot do it for whatever reason.

Someone needs to truly know that and they need to know that it goes along with John, just like everything else that goes along with him. If you like his voice you also have to acknowledge that he leaves his guitar in the kitchen. This extends to everyone to a certain degree. Just by looking at the way houses are staged to sell, a lot of people really want minimalism in their life. Figuring out a way to share chores and strike equality between two people is very difficult for almost everybody to do. There is also a moral judgment attached to it, it isn't just that you forgot to load the dishwasher, but forgetting to load the dishwasher is a sin, an aggressive act, or a sign that you don't love the other person.

You see those domestic disputes all the time and John is just a really exaggerated case of it because he lives alone and he does that partly because it is easier for him to live alone than try and navigate all the micro-aggressions that go along with just being who he is and sharing space with someone else. John can't afford that much micro-aggression and he would rather be lonely than be in an emotional purgatory.

John has a friend who lives in Joshua Tree and who comes to visit him sometimes. She gets great pleasure from organizing small spaces in John’s house without asking permission. He will come around the corner and some area that used to be disordered will be ordered. If she stayed at John's house a long time it would all be ordered. It is in her nature.

She recognizes that she is doing John a favor, but she is not seeking praise and she never reveals it, but she just does it, they get on with their day and three days later John notices it: ”Wait a minute! This isn't where that was! Wow! Look at this!” and she is reluctant to acknowledge it. In moments like that you recognize that she does also have mental illness, but it is super-compatible with his in that respect. She has systems and she orders her world by system. She is one of the few people in the world John would absolutely trust to load his dishwasher because he knows she has a system for it. Even if the system was completely different from his, it would be a fucking system and not just dishes thrown into a dishwasher.

Character alignment (RW141)

The other day John was talking about his character alignment (see RL326). Dan recently re-evaluated his character alignment as Lawful Neutral, which is what John would have thought. When John was young he thought he was Chaotic Good, which Dan would have guessed. Han Solo is Chaotic Good! You are obligated to do the right thing but you will do it your own damn way. John thinks of himself as chaotic.

John did a character alignment evaluation 10 years ago and it said Chaotic Neutral, but that didn’t seem accurate. He does feel obligated to do right. He did one the other day and it said true Neutral, but nobody is true Neutral! He sensed that the test could not accommodate that in some cases he will pick any of the choices. Merlin said John operates according to so many laws and he is absolutely Lawful Neutral, but that is not true because he follows his own laws only which is not lawful, but chaotic!

Dan is reading from Wikipedia:

Chaotic Good does what is necessary to bring about change for the better, disdains bureaucratic organizations that get in the way of social improvement, and places a high value on personal freedom not only for oneself, but for others as well. Chaotic Good people usually intend to do the right thing, but their methods are generally disorganized and often out of sync with the rest of society. It has John’s picture right underneath this.

A Lawful Neutral person typically believes strongly in lawful concepts such as honor, order, rules and tradition, but often follows a personal code in addition to, or even in preference to one set down by a benevolent authority. Examples of Lawful Neutral characters include a soldier who always follows orders, a judge or enforcer who adheres mercilessly to the letter of the law, and a disciplined monk.

True Neutral tends not to feel strongly toward any alignment or actively seeks their balance. Druids frequently follow this dedication to balance. Most animals were originally considered true neutral because they lack the capacity for moral judgment in general guided by instinct rather than conscious decision.

Dan would have said John is Chaotic Good, maybe even Chaotic Neutral

Chaotic Neutral is an individualist who follows their own heart and generally shirks rules and traditions. Although Chaotic Neutral characters promote the ideas of freedom, it is their own freedom that comes first. Good and Evil come second to their need to be free.

John says that this is not him! He is not Chaotic Neutral because he eschews libertarianism for the most part. He believes there should be codes, but to him the codes seem obvious and they go across the grain. Most people in the modern day may not realize it, but most people are Lawful Good and once in a great while you will find somebody who is Chaotic Good, but to be truly Neutral is tough, especially pure Neutral.

Another site describes Chaotic Neutral like this:

Chaotic Neutral is a free spirit. A Chaotic Neutral character follows his whims, he is an individualist first and last, he values his own liberty but doesn't strive to protect others' freedom.

That is not really John, but he knows a few friends in Alaska like that. It is a very hard road to take. It is not that they are committed to that path, but there isn't an alternative to them. They are utterly free, they protect it, but they didn't choose it. John is definitely not a Catholic Neutral.

Chaotic Good is the rebel. A Chaotic Good character acts as his conscience directs him with little regard for what others expect of him. He makes his own way, but he is kind and benevolent. He believes in goodness and right, but has little use for laws and regulations. He hates it when people try to intimidate others and tell them what to do. He follows his own moral compass which, although good, may not agree with the rest of society. It combines a good heart with a free spirit.

None of those character alignments take depressive tendencies into consideration, but they always try to spin depression as introspection, which is how depressed people also try to spin depression. Equating depression and introspection is a real danger because depressed people thinking it is introspection do not take a critical look at the fact that depression is an alien presence.

All those things about Chaotic Good: If you introduce some illness into it in the form of a mind that is an unreliable narrator, it creates problems and the symptoms of those problems seem like they change the alignment to something like Chaotic Neutral, but it isn't a change of alignment, it is a reactive change. You are trying to fight a bugbear that is internal rather than an external bugbear, so you can't use your bag of holding on it.

Dan thinks alignments are fun, but they don't translate perfectly to the real world. When he was a kid he thought they did. In the old days there wasn't a test, but you just eyeballed it. From the very moment John heard player alignments described in 7th grade there was never a doubt in his mind that he was Chaotic Good, but none of his friends identified with Chaotic Good! For the most part they were Lawful Good or Lawful Evil. A lot of people are Lawful Evil, which means they are self-serving and they are trying to find a reading of the rules that serves them rather than the community.

A Lawful Evil villain takes what he wants within the limits of his code of conduct without regard for whom it hurts. He cares about tradition, loyalty, and order, but not about freedom, dignity, or life. He plays by the rules but without mercy or compassion. He is comfortable in a hierarchy and would like to rule but is willing to serve. He condemns others not according to their actions, but according to race, religion, homeland, or social rank. He is loathed to break laws or promises.

That is so many people in the world!

Because Merlin and John had talked about character alignment recently (see RL326) the people on Gary’s Van actually did a poll: ”What is your character alignment?” and the clear winner of people who listen to this show who are also on Gary's Van on Facebook is Neutral Good.

Of course the second option was Neutral Milk Hotel which a large number of the people felt was their character alignment. John agrees with that and believes them. Third down was True Neutral. The top three answers including Neutral Milk Hotel were all Neutral and it was the majority of the people on the site. Fourth down with only three respondents Chaotic Good and then two Chaotic Neutrals. No one identified as Lawful anything and no-one identified as Evil. It was all forms of Neutrality, Chaos, and Good.

Gary’s Van (RW141)

See Gary’s Van!

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