RW148 - Wire Mothers

This week, Dan and John talk about:

Bonus-content for Patreon supporters:

  • John’s relationship to movies (Movies)
  • How did John’s life turn out differently after he quit drugs? (Drugs)

The show title refers to an experiment from the 1970s to test if monkey babies would drink milk from a wire mother or if they would seek comfort in another thing that was more shaped like a monkey, but didn’t give milk.

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

Going to IKEA for meatballs (RW148)

Dan just dropped a grand at IKEA getting new furniture for this new office. He is not happy about it, but it had to be done. John tries not to go to IKEA but he has a child and the child has a mother and IKEA ends up being on the plate sometimes. He goes to IKEA for the meatballs. Dan has never eaten anything from there, he heard about the horse meat issue, but that made him want to go there.

In line at the dining hall in college you would pick up your tray and ask the person in front of you: ”What's the ’food’ today?” Some young people always had a choice of what to eat because they went to High Schools with vending machines or where you can walk up and order a hamburger. In John’s day High School was like prison. You would would walk down a line and there would be a glop of this and a glop of that. If the person in front of you said ”Swedish meatballs”, John would be excited because he loves Swedish meatballs. Dan would be put off and probably go elsewhere.

At IKEA you can ask the person: ”Can I have extra noodles?” and they will say: ”Okay” and put extra noodles. The next person will then glop on some Swedish meatballs and John would say: ”Can I have some extra Swedish meatballs?” and IKEA lets you make those choices. It is enshrined on the menu: Extra Swedish meatballs $1.25 or something. The quality of them is precisely like food service meatballs from 1987 which were probably better than food service meatballs in the 1990s or 2000s, but maybe today they have turned a corner and they are better. IKEA meatballs are coated in a kind of sour-creamy cream and John will go to IKEA just for the meatballs, not every month, but twice a year if you say: ”We'll get meatballs!”

John's giant podcasting table from IKEA (RL148)

When John is at IKEA he walks through there, he looks at everything, he touches everything, but he never gets anything. On the way out there is an area where they sell discontinued or damaged stuff with little scrapes on it. Sometimes the stuff is actually destroyed and they are trying to sell it, but let the buyer beware. John always pokes around because in a situation like that there could be a vintage pair or (Yamaha) NS-10s for $84 in there.

One time John found a giant dining room table there with two leaves that was three feet (90cm) across by nine feet long (275cm). It was not made out of Mahogany, but out of laminated stuff, and it is meant to be a grand table in someone's home. It had a scratch on it and it was $120, marked down from $1000 or something because it was a noticeable scratch across the top of it and it is not going to buff out of a veneered piece of furniture. John didn't care, all he wanted was a big space to spread out.

He was coming to IKEA that day from one place and his little family came from somewhere else, so they were in two cars, which happens somewhat regularly. John walked them out to their car, said: ”Okay you guys, see you later, kiss the baby!” and as they drove off John ran back in on a secret mission and bought this giant table that requires four people to move.

He put it on some kind of roller, he could barely control it as he rolled it out in the parking lot, he hoisted it up inside the truck, the whole time just wrestling this giant thing, it barely fit in the truck, he drove it home and he could not move it into the house. He went out to the barn to get a little hand truck that was not equal to the task. John has three hand trucks, one of them is useless and will be overtaxed by two boxes of books, some sort of thing that he got when somebody was moving something. Hand trucks are like BIC lighters: They end up in your pocket!

The other one is an inflatable tyre midsize one that you can actually use to do things. Then there is some heavy duty one. John probably also has three Makita circular saws that various construction people over the years had left when they were packing up at the end. They are always the ones who don't leave a number, you are never sure how to contact them in the first place, they just showed up one day and did a week and a half of work and then they left. John doesn’t know where this third hand truck came from, but he got it to pull his table out of the truck, this unwieldy monster, the hand truck was not enough for it, but he wrestled it in and the whole way he was scraping the table and scraping everything.

Somehow he got it through the door, somehow he moved it through the most awkward door, and eventually he got it set-up. It is a table that most houses could not accommodate as their dining room table and even John's dining room couldn't do it, but he did have a place for it as his podcasting table. He had to modify it because his Røde boom arms wouldn’t clamp onto the side of the table because the lip of the table didn't go far enough, so he got a little saw out. Dan recommends a clamp by Heil that attaches by drilling a hole in your desk, but John is a dual purpose person. If a thing can do one thing you always look for a second thing it can do. Maybe it is a philosophical problem, maybe he should have a thing that does a thing.

When it was time to move out of the house, the real estate agents were very clear that they didn't want this giant table in the room because they were going to stage his podcasting room as a master suite, which did not help drive a bidding war on the house. When John bought the house it was also staged as a master suite, and when he came into the house he said ”No one wants a master suite here!” It is not where a master suite belongs! This room was not built as a master suite, but it was built as a mother in-law apartment which was gutted by some idiot at some point in time who built a master suite no one wanted, but it was a great podcasting studio.

They all said to get this giant table out of there, but where was it going to go? John had paid $100 for it and it was not an antique table that should go into an expensive storage space, so he told his daughter’s mother he would like to move this table into her basement to set it up as a podcasting studio and then there will be no interruption between him selling the house and continuing to do his podcasts.

When John will move to his new house, the table will come the whole journey with him. He set it up down there, his daughter loves it and immediately covered it with toys, but her mother is extremely particular about wood and wants the wood in any one room to match the other wood. It is a dark-stained table, but this room had light-stained wood in it.

There wasn't any beautiful piece of furniture there, it was all a bunch of IKEA slammed-together blond-wood shite, but that was her decision and John could tell that the color of this table kept her up at night. She is a little bit like Dan where a thing which other people might think was not a big deal plagued her. It got under her skin!

She would lay there and say ”Everything is perfect in the world except the color of that table in a basement room where I never go!” It has become a silent bone of contention because she knows that she has offered to help John and this is one of the very few ways John has chosen to ask for help: ”Can I put this table here?”, but she has also decided that it is her bête noire. That is the table John was sitting at to record this episode.

Eight or nine feet (275 cm) across the table there is another chair with another microphone on another Røde arm, waiting for whomever John does a show with to come sit down and join him across this long Game of Thrones table that from one mic to the next is covered with toys. John is all alone and although it is one of these 80 degrees (27 °C) spring days in Seattle, this room is deep in the basement and is always a little chilly and cools down all of John’s giant servers that are farming bitcoins.

John likes to move furniture around the house (RW148)

John likes to move big pieces of furniture by himself in the middle of the night, it is in his DNA. He is constantly moving a couch down a flight of stairs by himself in the middle of the night, halfway down the stairs his entire body was braced against this giant heavy couch and he was thinking: ”What am I doing? What am I doing?”, but he needed to move this couch now and he muscled it down the stairs and by the next morning it was all fixed.

John has a lady friend, a very small person, who comes to visit sometimes. One time after her visit John woke up in the morning, wandering around, and she had done some work on the house while he was asleep or doing something else. She is a ”Do some work around here in the middle of the night” type of person and it took John a day or two to realize that she had moved an entire six drawer oak office desk that had been in one room and all its contents across the house to a completely different place.

It was at a much better place than before and was in such a natural location that he had walked past it six times before he was noticed: ”Wait a minute!” It had to have been aliens who built the pyramids and it had to have been aliens who moved this desk because it weighs 130 pounds (60 kg) and she weighs 100 pounds (45 kg). This happens all the time where you come in and you're like ”I was here at 8pm last night and this couch was upstairs covered with jackets and now it is down in the living room. How is that possible?” It was eight hours that I wasn't here!

(John has told that story before, reference currently missing)

Dan’s hand truck (RW148)

Dan’s main hand truck is a really nice heavy duty hand truck he got when his sister in law left it behind after a move ten years ago. It really makes Dan feel awkward and uncomfortable and he got a new one to just throw in the back of his truck to always have it there. It is a folding one, the wheels and the bottom fold and the top collapses down, it is a light duty one, but it does work in a pinch (this one)

Ordering food with modifications in a restaurant (RW148)

If John goes to a restaurant and there is a combo meal, he will always take the combo meal. The other day he went to a Roadhouse, it had Roadhouse in the name, and they had ribs, steak, green beans, and on the back page there was a ribs steak green bean combo. "Sold!" Sometimes John will ask for the regular sized portions of this combo.

The server in a Roadhouse is always a competent person because you can not be a shitty waiter or waitress there, it is too rough and tumble. Even if there are peanuts on the floor you got to bring it! John's waiter was a 50 year old dude who looked like a guy who would be selling peanuts at a baseball park. He was waiting at this Roadhouse and the people running this Roadhouse had picked him over a dozen other applicants for this job!

John's family is one of those families where each person always has some modification to their order. ”Can I get this, but without that?” One time he was at a restaurant with a young friend and asked to get this without that and as he asked his dining partner if that was okay, she got a smug look on her face and said: ”I prefer to have it as the chef prepares it!” John hated what she just said, it was the terriblest thing! The chef is just some ding dong, this was not a church! John didn't order the thing and for the rest of the meal he just sat there in uncomfortable silence: ”How are your fucking oysters? Are they as the chef prepared it?”

Dan goes the other way! Maybe he will know better than the chef! Maybe he could improve the chef's game by making his own suggestions. One time he went to New York City and had heard about an amazing place with super-awesome smoked and aged meats that had been on TV shows. It was a very hipster place in a good way and Dan was very excited. They had a couple hours before their flight out, and this would be his last meal in New York before the end of the trip.

As they arrived there the guy said that they won’t do this this this and this until dinner time and they just had sandwiches right now. Dan only eats gluten-free bread and of course they didn't have any gluten-free bread because most gluten-free bread isn't as good as the regular kind. The best gluten-free bread is like the worst regular bread. A lot of places would do the dish a little bit differently, they would make the sandwich into a lettuce wrap or put it on a plate, make a salad out of it, Dan didn’t care, he just wanted this great fricking meat that was so awesome.

The guy said he wanted to see if they can do that and he was gone for a long time and then he said he was sorry they couldn’t serve Dan, they couldn’t help him, because the chef had said that it would compromise the integrity of the dish. Rather than have two or three people eating lunch there they didn't approve of the way that they intended to eat their food and therefore they may go elsewhere.

The meal in question in John’s story was beef tartare (see RW78) and it had capers in it because back in the annals of time some chef decided that this was the way to do it. John had had this dish in other countries where one presumes that it originated from, but there were no capers in it. It is not necessary that there be capers in it, but somebody, surely somebody in New York who was preparing this dish, said ”Oh, wouldn't it be better if the flavor of this dish were overpowered by capers?”

John’s suspicion is that the meat was a little past its sell-by date and they camouflaged the smell with capers. In this restaurant it said on the menu that it was with capers and when John sees that his suspicion is that the chef was just following orders from the world. They had no imagination! The chef is just using capers because capers are what is used.

You could experiment with it and it should be a showcase of the quality of your meat, but do not mask it with capers! Why not put curry in it? John just wanted the plain thing without the pollution of capers, but his dining partner said: ”Well, hoo, the chef…” - ”The chef is just throwing canned capers in it!” John had steak tartare in Hungary to great effect and he is always trying to duplicate this Hungarian steak tartare, but in America some bartender that was trying to camouflage his rotten hamburger!

It is infuriating! What is more infuriating is the mentality of a generation that believes that chefs are something other than cooks. If you are eating in a restaurant that has a chef you should expect to leave without being fully satisfied, but that you had a very artistic meal, one that is inventive, one where you say ”What, do I really want to eat scrambled brains with Sauce L'Orange?” and then you eat it and you go ”Huh! Yeah, I kind of do!” That is pretty interesting!

One time John had a fancy friend who took him to a Michelin-starred restaurant in rural France. It was not around anything, but you had to drive through a country lane for however long, it was just a little shack without even a sign out front, and you roll in and you sit down and they bring you food all night long. They bring you seven different courses and every one of them is some little inventive tower of things. You are not even sure if you are supposed to use silverware or how to eat it. It is always amazing!

John was there with his friend because they were touring the World War I battlefields. It had been a rainy winter and they spent a week driving around, stopping at all these battlefields, getting out in the rain, only the two of them in the whole park, and they would get down into the old trenches and wander around.

They were both World War I buffs who were on an adventure. He is a British person who speaks French, he is posh, he is extremely polite and he is genteel to everyone. He doesn't have any arrogance to him because his posh-ness precludes it. All of a sudden there was this amazing food and John felt like a complete American hayseed.

In those environments John is the exotic one, this is what they are all used to and then he is here in a denim shirt, like ”How many forks you get in this restaurant?” That is a chef, and there are only five tables in this restaurant and he cooks at the most eight meals because they are seven courses long, you sit there all night. They are expensive, but he is doing a thing.

But if you go to some restaurant in Seattle where you show up at the table and they're like ”You have a reservation?” - ”No, it's just me and a friend!” - ”Here is a table over here!” and the place is all loud and bustling and everybody is paying $5 for an oyster, that is not a chef, it is a bunch of guys in the back doing short order. They are making 50 meals that night. John is not obligated to believe that this person's capers are a sacrament!

Living an active or a reactive life (RW148)

There are two schools of thought: One of them is that you plan your life and you make positive choices. You see someone across a crowded dance floor and you say: ”I can't live without you from this moment forward!” and you go up to them and say: ”I would like to be with you!” - ”I cannot, I am in love with someone!” It is the plot of every movie from the 1940s and 1950s. The desirer is relentless in their pursuit and they keep showing up places and they keep saying ”But I am relentless!” - ”No, I am in love with this fickle person who has no integrity!”

The hero or heroine of the story says: ”I am a man of the people, bubbling over with integrity, and also: I choose you!” and eventually the object of their desire realizes that they were never in love with the one they were intended to and they run off at the last minute. This is the plot of The Sure Thing and maybe of Say Anything, too. It is a common plot.

Then there is the other way, which is to passively let life wash over you and to wake up every morning and say: ”I have no idea what is going to happen today!” Things happen and you say: ”This seems like a path I will follow!”, or ”This is a disagreeable path!” Sometimes it takes weeks and months to figure that out. ”Now this is a path I will follow for a day, even if it seems disagreeable!” and then two months later you're like ”Wow, why did I ever do this?” Despite the fact that John has watched a lot of these movies and thinks of himself as an active chooser he is not. He is a passive chooser.

Things happen to him and he goes along. That method has traveled him around the world and it has given him all kinds of adventures. Once he is in an adventure he does make positive choices, but if something happens along the way he generally just follows it: ”Oh, we met this person and this person seems bananas. I will follow them back to their place!” and so a lot of John’s adventures are initiated by just going with it, rather than saying ”I have an itinerary!” or ”My plan in coming here is to go to all these places and check them off!”

Living at his daughter's mother's house

Now John is living in his daughter's mother's house and it is nowhere near as oppressive as he thought. He is enjoying it even though nothing here is what he would have picked, it is all someone else's choices, but he has no capacity to say: ”I am choosing this and pursuing it and going to do what it takes to make it work!” or the capacity to say: ”I should pick a life that belongs to me, that I have chosen, that comports with my values!” All he can do is wake up in the morning and go: ”I'm here! I'm here!”

John will move to another room and will do the things he has promised other people to do. At a certain point he will be cast out into the world with no plan in mind, no project, and later he will have to do a thing or he will be hungry or there will be something that drives him out. John will follow that bliss until the next commitment comes up on his list. It seems like the next thing will be buying a house. John has been working toward that goal for a long time, but now that he is without a house, staying in this house, soon having the money from the sale of his house? John doesn’t know what he is trying to do with his life and he has never known.

John's his doctors, dentists and psychiatrists are flung all over this town. Every one of them is an hour drive through traffic away and there is no parking. Going to these things is a labor, whereas in the neighborhood where he is crashing there are very professional looking doctors, dentists and psychiatrists offices in profusion because all the people in this neighborhood are old and sick and psychologically in need of help.

John woke up this morning and thought: ”What if I just found new medical professionals?” He is not in dire straits, but he does sometimes go to these doctors, which he did not used to do. It is part of his transition and now he has appointments. Why not just transfer all those things down here? People do that all the time! It involves making phone calls, it involves auditioning doctors, you go in, you talk to him, you're like ”Nope, not you!”, because you can kind of tell.

John wished that he wanted what he wants enough that he would go in and make the time to audition four doctors, but he would just walk in, the Doctor would be there, and John will say: ”Alright, I guess you are my doctor now!” and then he will immediately have misgivings about the doctor. If he completed this project he would be living positively rather than reactively. It is the type of undertaking where some people are just going to check that stuff off a box and they are also working full time and they also going to yoga, but for John it is like: ”Oh boy, I would have to figure stuff out, I would have to call people!”

It is springtime in Seattle, it is beautiful outside, it is 100% possible that tomorrow he will open up the Internet and there will be a house for sale nearby that will seem really great and he will go look at it and go: ”Can I live here? Yes, I could!” and he could say ”I'll take it!” and there would be all that rigamarole of like ”Well, you've got to have an inspection and what about this and what about banks…” and John could just weather all that.

Maybe the people who are selling the house would say: ”Yes, we accept your offer!” and John would be embarking on that enormous process of having a new house. Then he would move in and ask himself: ”How did I get here? This is not my beautiful house!”, or: ”All of the electrical outlets are two prong and I need them to be three prong!” and John doesn’t want to do that work himself, so now he has to call someone, pay them, and schedule an appointment.

Then he will go down in the basement and say: "Argh, this house was built with cast iron plumbing! I don't want that! I want copper plumbing!”, but what an expense and job that would be. And you have to do it: You call the person, they come in, they replace all that. Much better! All that becomes stuff on your list that you are doing.

John could be right on the verge of that, or he could just wake up every morning in this guest room where his daughter's mother hasn't even hung the artwork on the walls. She has been living there for 10 months, but there are paintings leaning up against every wall that are meant to go up, and they are not paintings John would have chosen. He could wake up one morning and put up all the paintings! Every day is a new adventure!

Dan's view on this

Dan tried to have a plan, but he doesn’t do a very good job of it and is 50/50 on that. His desire is to say: ”Whoa, let's see where today leads!”, but the reality is very very different and perhaps the reality he doesn't really want to see is that there is a lot of structure and a lot of rules that are self-imposed. He leads a fairly structured and rigid life. He tries to wake up at the same time every day, whether he wants to or not, he tries to go to bed at the same time every day, and he generally is doing the same things most days of the week at the same time.

Dan has always been this way, even when he was very little. As a kid he was waking up in the morning around 5:30am and his parents had put the TV to the channel where Speed Racer and Ultraman would come on. He woke up way in advance of his parents and he could go downstairs and turn the TV on and it would be on the channel that he wanted it to be on already. The Archies started at 5:30am or 6am and the shows that he wanted probably around 6-6:30am. He would wake up at the same time every day, go downstairs, turn the thing on and get a bowl of cereal. Really his whole life has been that way and the aspects of his life are that way.

Dan sees the same thing in his son who really enjoys the structure and the routine of life. Doing certain things a certain way at certain times is not a bad thing, but a pleasant thing. His daughter is very different, she doesn't ever want to do the same thing twice, she won't wear the same thing again, and she won't eat the same food unless she has to.

Dan doesn’t like being like he is. It obviously works for him‚ but in his mind he doesn’t feel that way. In his mind he feels like there is just so much to do, there is a lot that he has to do. He is telling himself that when he has accomplished those goals that are usually bigger long term goals and so important that he is working very hard on getting to those he will be able to relax and do whatever he wants the way John does.

He will be able to just wake up when he feels like it, maybe he will mow the yard or get on a plane or teach himself piano. Any of those three things are equal possibilities, he will have no idea what is going to happen until he is already in the process of doing it. What are those accomplishments? Maybe one of them would be making $20 million by selling some start-up, that would be nice! Then he could really do whatever he wanted to do, but he has to work really hard and he is not getting any younger, he is not 20 anymore, and every day he has a day less to do it.

Internally Dan feels very compelled to strive or aspire to those kinds of accomplishments, and it wouldn't be fair to say he is driven by money and he just wants to make money, because it is not about the money for the sake of wanting the money or wanting to buy things, but if he had some giant monetary cushion he would feel okay in not working toward that kind of thing. If he had that much money in the bank, whatever that magical number would be, he doesn’t even know, he wouldn’t have to go to work today, but he could do something different.

Dan doesn’t even take vacations unless he is forced to. He is forced to go on a vacation usually once a year when his wife forces him to do it, usually between 4-7 days where they have to go and do something, whether he wants to do it or not, it doesn't matter, and he generally doesn’t. It is not like he doesn't want to spend time with his family, because he does, but being forced to do this other thing when there is so much he has to do.

This is Dan’s problem: There is always so much more to do and a fairly limited time to do it in. It is a race against the clock, the exact opposite of what John is describing. Dan would love to wake up at 10am, go to eat something with friends and wind up going to a museum and meet this other person, but it didn't happen in college, not now, it never happened!He had to be back for that thing at 2pm, so he couldn't do that.

A lot of it is self-imposed, but that is the way his life seems to wind up. Maybe he is unconsciously organizing and orchestrating his life to be this way and therefore it winds up being that way. Some people attract drama and there is always something. They had a flat tire on the way to work, their friend came over at 2am last night because their cat was throwing up and they didn't know how to help him, this other thing, their parents are coming into town all of a sudden and they didn't tell them they were going to be here in an hour and their apartment flooded because it rained. It seems like some people attract that kind of drama all the time.

That is very rare for Dan and even when something like that does happen he will just shrug it off. They had a leak under their garage as some pipe burst under the foundation of the garage. You could hear almost a hissing sound that they quickly determined was probably water. They had some company come out and they had to use a jackhammer inside of the garage and jackhammer through the floor and reveal that indeed some pipe had burst under there and was pissing out water. They jackhammered it for a day and then the next day came back out and re-cemented it.

Dan had no thoughts about it, no emotion about it, but it was just ”Okay, there is this thing that happened and you got to do it.” He told people about it, but he didn't feel emotion about it. It cost a small fortune and it really sucked and it was inconvenient, blah blah blah, but it is not a big thing. Also, he ate a sandwich that day, no big deal. It doesn't matter.

Meanwhile Dan’s wife or other people are like ”OMG, it is a big deal!”, but it is not a big deal, it is just a thing that happens. What good is feeling something about it going to do? Are you going to feel sad about it that it happened? Are you going to feel angry and frustrated that it is costing money and is an inconvenience? Or do you just move on with it? Spilled milk! Dan’s inner self is the ”Let's go get lunch and see where that leads! Maybe I won't be home for a week?”, but his reality is the opposite.

John's past where he didn't have anything to do

For at least two decades of his life John didn't have anything to do today or tomorrow. He just woke up, someone suggested that he go to lunch or he went to the café that he went to, not because he had to, but because he needed a coffee or he wanted to see what was going on. Somebody there said ”Why don't we do this?”, somebody walked in and said ”I have Primus tickets! Will you go with me to Primus?” - ”Sure!” and then he walked down the boulevard and someone said ”Hey, come hold this edge of this tarp because I am doing a graffiti!” - ”Okay” It was entirely like that.

When John sees young musicians at 18 years old who are already great and are already working on their second album, he is just like: ”Wow!” He was playing music that whole time, but they would get done with practice and go: ”When's our next practice?” Nobody knew! ”Tuesday?” - ”Sure!” There were times when John practiced with his band every day, but not because something was driving them, but it was something to do in the afternoons because none of them had anything to do.

It is a very different approach to life and it was years and years of what some people might consider a waste of time, but John can't imagine a different way of having done it because he didn't have the power and he didn't want what Dan was describing. He didn't want any fear, anxiety or disappointment and the way to avoid that was ”I don't know, did I like the Primus show? Who cares! Yeah, sure!” It was more the adventure of it and if someone asked: ”Do you want to go to Primus?” you said ”Yes!” and then you did it and afterwards you ran into somebody and they said: ”Let's go!” and you went and then it was tomorrow.

The Monkey Baby Experiment (RW148)

In the 1970s they did experiments with monkeys where they, instead of allowing them to be raised by a monkey mother, took a wire mesh and shaped it vaguely into the shape of the bust of a monkey. In one of the experiments they just gave them just the wire shape and in another one they put fake fur on it and a face that looked vaguely like a monkey.

Only the wire shape of a monkey had milk inside of it and some nipples and the monkeys clung on to this edifice as if it was their mother because it provided milk. The question was: ”Do do these animals who we have long suggested don't have sentinels, these dumb animals, do they just do the thing we would expect, which is pursue nourishment? Or do they actually prefer comfort, which might indicate that they had feelings?”

This poor little baby monkey had no mother and the question was: ”Would this dumb insect of a monkey cling to the wire to receive nourishment or would it prefer to hug a soft towel?” and the monkey invariably chose the soft towel. The pictures all show a poor devastated monkey, just barely clinging to the world‚ wondering why nothing grooms it, and the scientists said: ”Aha! We have determined the obvious: Monkeys have feelings!”

They showed that experiment to children in order to depict science. John would also rather cling to the towel if he was a child. You wind up with a monkey that hangs onto a cloth covered wire mesh that provides no milk, but then it leans over, still gripping the real mother, and suckles reluctantly against the wire mesh.

The one acre property at the cliff (RW148)

The other day a piece of waterfront property came online that was very affordable given the area, but it was undeveloped. According to the real estate listing it had an old cabin on it, but it said: ”The cabin has no value!” and that was intriguing. John drove over there and saw that the property is a full acre (4000 sqm) of waterfront land in a neighborhood with very expensive mansions, but the acre is too steep to even build a stair and completely forested. The road where you would access this property is hugging the side of a cliff and the neighbors on either side have built places to park their cars that are cantilevered out over the cliff.

You pull onto this little driveway and your car is just hanging out over the cliff. Half of these little driveways were built 50 years ago, so who knows! It is landslide city! John pulled over, parked in someone else's driveway and started to explore this little piece of property. He climbed over some fence and was in an environment where he was clinging to a tree and the only way he could get down was to dig his heels in and slide to the next tree where he grabbed ahold, his body swung around, and he would be clinging to that tree, like one of those little monkey babies clinging to a mother made of cloth and wire.

John was going down the slope, swinging from tree to tree, and about halfway down he realized he had done it again: It was like moving a giant table from his truck to his house in the middle of the night, except he was halfway down a murder hill, clinging to a tree, and there was nowhere to go. He could not go back up and if he let go of this tree he was just going to tumble down the hill like a sack of flour. There was no-one around and even if he had yelled, whom would he be yelling to? The people who own those big houses were at work, they were not sitting at home podcasting, and all the lights were off in these places because it was 10am.

John saw the cabin far down, completely covered with growth, Ivy and fallen bows of pines, so much so that you could not see that it was a cabin except that John knew there was a cabin there. It was not even cabin-shaped, but it was just a pustule of green. By literal hook or crook John managed to fall down this hill and at the bottom someone had built a retaining wall, a seawall, along the whole stretch of beach. You tumble down, there is an eight foot seawall, and then you are on a beach that at high tide is the ocean. The piece of property was only $100.000!

It would cost $1 million to even begin building anything on this property, just getting the building materials to where you wanted them would require an assault equivalent to D-Day. You would have to bring stuff by boat, you would have to block off the road above in order to pump concrete, you would have to build a funicular, and the whole thing would be such an operation that the $100.000 that this piece of property would cost is an insignificant expense.

You couldn't even take the little cabin, tear it down and build another cabin in its place because whoever built that cabin probably was a Ye’oldy fisherman who built it out of driftwood or lumber that they brought from the ocean, who knows! People from the olden times were much more intrepid than people now!

When the money comes from the sale of John’s house he could just buy this piece of property in cash and then he would have all this potential, but it would be a monstrous undertaking, one that he would almost certainly never undertake. He would own this crazy piece of property for some amount of years and then he would realize there was a reason that the people who owned this sold it for $100.000 and he would be lucky to sell it for $100.000. That is not what John is trying to do with his life right now.

Chernobyl documentary (RW148)

Dan was watching a Chernobyl show on HBO, and he highly recommends it and thinks it is right up John’s alley. It shows the effects that radiation has on people and all of these awful things that can happen. The people who went into it they didn't know. The firemen who were called out had no idea, they thought they were just going to put out a fire on the roof of the reactor. They had no idea that the core was exploding and spewing out gas.

You feel really bad for them because they are these poor people. It is one thing to make a decision to say: ”I know I am about to get a lethal dose of radiation and go in and put this fire out and I am going to save Europe in the process!”, but it is another to think: ”Well, they just said go spray some water over here and I accidentally touched a piece of graphite from the core and now I am going to be dead in an hour.” These people didn't have a chance to make that choice.

Evan Williams, billionaires who don't just do anything (RW148)

A couple of years ago John was in a position to spend a little bit of time with Evan Williams. He is younger than John, probably Dan’s age. He invented Blogger, Twitter, and Medium and he is worth $1 billion. All of those things seem like clockwork inventions to John. You wind them up and you set them free and he went to the next thing. He invented Blogger, he just build it and then he hired a few people to keep it running. He was not expected to write a post every day. It is just a little machine you made.

He invented Twitter and if they had just left it alone, just set it in motion and had moved on! John talked to him enough to know that he is an idealist. He has intended each one of these things to transform the world. He didn't just invent Twitter or Blogger to make a dollar. He really wanted to give voice to people and he wanted to improve the world through conversation. It is something that drives him.

Every single day he goes to work at an office which inexplicably has an open floor plans, and he sits there and does something, he shuffles papers, or he e-mails people. John is thinking: ”You have $1 billion! For the love of God! Why are you working in this place, doing work that is in most practical ways the same as these people you are employing?”

They have to have a job and they came to work today because they have to pay off student loans. They are hoping to retire one day and not have to work. They are doing their job, and that is what he is doing, too! He is the equivalent of a waiter who saved his money to buy a restaurant (see RL335) and now he is just a waiter with more responsibility. He is clearly thrilled by being CEO, but he has $1 billion!

Instead he could rebuild the Hindenburg except put inert gas in it rather than super-flammable hydrogen, and he could outfit his Hindenburg with luxury apartments and he could fly around the world at 20 miles an hour. Every once in a while people would post to the Internet ”There goes Evan Williams in his Hindenburg replica!”, minus swastikas, obviously! He would put something else up there, like Radiohead’s In Rainbows logo or peace signs or something.

He could buy a decommissioned aircraft carrier, or probably not because they have nuclear power plants and the government might not sell him one, but certainly a battleship, and he could just park it off the coast of Los Angeles and learn to fly one of the three remaining P-40 Warhawks (John said Tomahawks) or whatever. He could do whatever!

And yet, he goes to work every day. He takes the freaking BART down to his office and says ”Mornin, Marge!”, sits at a desk and and pushes papers around. He goes to the lunchroom and he eats a vegan salad. John doesn’t understand it! He could just do anything! He could give away 9/10 of his money and still do anything! John doesn’t know what the object of that kind of make-work is. Nobody questions it! Zuckerberg! What the hell is he doing all day? It just seems like busywork. It is not a question of what they could be doing, but it is a question of ”Why are they doing that?”

It is one thing that you have to admire about Elon Musk: He is trying to invent something, he is not just maintaining a website that he cooked up. He is building a cool car and he is going to space. He is kind of an asshole, but he is trying to make a Supertrain, he is doing stuff, he is dating an electronic artist. He is easy to mock because like a lot of rich people he is tone deaf, like Richard Branson who bought an island and all of the people who work for him are going to be supermodels because: ”Why not?”

People who don’t stop working although they could (RW148)

Dan knows a few people who have become multimillionaires and he is consistently very disappointed not just in the way they spend or fail to spend their money, but in them as people. He is really offended by them! They do not know how to have any fun, they do not know how to spend their money, they do not know how to not spend their money well, they don't know anything! Dan enjoys a lot of the things he does, he loves these conversations with John, but he is still doing them as a means to an end.

If somebody showed up and said: ”Dan, your great uncle left you $15 million!” he would set the headphones down, he wouldn't even bother to hit stop on the recording, and you'd never see or hear from him again, except maybe in the form of a postcard from some wonderful location. Dan knows people who have sold their companies and stayed on to steward the company for the next six months, but not as part of a sale requirement! ”What the hell are you sticking around for?” - ”I want to make sure that it is in good hands!” - ”What do you care? You sold it! You are out already!”

”Listen, I don't think you are going to last three months there! They are going to start hounding you, you are going to have to go to meetings, you are working for them, dude! You have made tens of millions of dollars, why would you ever do what anyone else says ever again in your life, unless it is the man, and you have got to abide by their laws, dude! Other than that, why would you ever show up anywhere except when you felt like it? Why would you ever say 'Yes Sir!' to someone unless it was part of your foreplay? Why else would you do it?” Your kid says: ”Oh, I always wanted to see the Grand Canyon!” - ”We will go tomorrow!”

Dan is not talking about buying a Bentley! He would never buy a Bentley regardless of how much money he had! He is not talking about spending millions and millions of dollars on a home, he doesn’t need that either, but he does want some peace and quiet without hearing his neighbors and he will buy land that gets him far enough away from them. Dan can only think about the fun things that he could do if he didn't have to worry about money, maybe this comes from growing up strapped for cash. To a certain degree Dan and John have that in common.

Dan’s mom was an English teacher at a High School. She made $15k a year, which was nothing! They lived in the crappiest apartments in the worst area of Philadelphia and in addition to teaching High School she was working at an Ardi’s, a crappy little department store in a crappy part of Center City. Center City is now a thriving amazing community, but back then this was a dangerous place to go. There were multiple people getting mugged as she was leaving work all the time.

One of the main reasons why they wanted to move to Florida was because Dan’s grandparents were there and could help them out. When Dan was a kid they were struggling all the time. What Dan has done his whole life is not ever wanting to be in that situation again, not ever wanting to have to raise his kids in a situation where he could be in trouble financially. Dan won't rest until that is insured. For him it is easy to say "No!" to going on an adventure that would potentially jeopardize his ability to provide. It is easy to not go to the Primus concert.

Wanting to make a lot of money (RW148)

When John was a kid they didn't have a lot of money and his mom was absolutely terrified that they were going to fall out of the bottom of the world. She had grown up like Hardscrabble and for much of her life she was effectively an orphan who was worked by her grandparents as a house servant. She had a single-minded focus on providing for her kids. She worked 60/70 hour weeks and John and his sister fended for themselves, certainly emotionally. For whatever reason both John and Susan have also lived their lives this way.

In college John used to hear people say this a lot, and it is a common justification for people who graduate from college and get a job at a stock brokerage, even though they have liberal sensibilities, that: ”What I need to do is make a bunch of money and then retire early and devote myself to helping the poor with clean water in Africa” John always felt then, even in his early 20s, that if you wanted to help the poor with clean water in Africa you could just go do that now, you don't need to make a million dollars.

You could just get on a plane right now and spend your life putting clean water in Africa and be helping. It feels like a fake goal to justify wanting to make a million dollars. You have no intention and you don’t give a shit about clean water in Africa! It was always a complaint that John had about people who postponed doing what they wanted to do. John thinks money is fake for the most part (see Money)

John taking the whole month of June 2019 off (RW148)

Just a few weeks ago a friend of John’s told him about his motorcycle plan and this year they were going do to their week long motorcycle trip again which now apparently is a tradition. John and this group of ten motorcycle experts are going to drive around Eastern Oregon with all the volcanoes and mountains and stuff.

They had been planning this thing for six months, but John’s friend had to move it a week up because he had been invited to do the Pikes Peak Hill Climb on his custom-made BMW stainless steel motorcycle, which is a prestigious race. Fortunately a lot of the main players in this motorcycle trip were able to say: ”Okay, we are doing it a week earlier, we will just move stuff around!” and John was able to do it as well. What had been on all of their calendars for a long time during third week of June got moved to the second week of June.

During the first week of June John is doing a little podcast tour of his podcast Friendly Fire, testing the waters because he has never done a podcast tour. After that he is going to MaxFunCon and is gone the whole week. The second week in June he is now going on this motorcycle trip around Oregon. John’s daughter's mother is in Scotland the second week of June and their young daughter has grown up this way. They told her that mom and dad are going to be gone second week in June and she was like ”Great! I get to go to Bellingham and have granddad cater to my every whim for a week!” She will not miss them.

John’s daughter's mother said it seems dumb for her to just be in Scotland and then come home, so why won’t John and their daughter fly to Europe on the third week of June, now that they are free, and they do something in Portugal or something. As much as John likes Portugal‚ he has been to Portugal a lot of times and what are they going to do? Go down to the Algarve and go hang out on the beach?

John suggested they go to the Baltic states because he had never there. She is an active person who gets things done and one night they were sitting around and she said: ”Sit down on the couch and we will buy some tickets to Latvia!” - ”Well, that seems kind of bold!” - ”Let's do it now!” So they sat on the couch at 1am and they bought tickets to Latvia.

They decided to rent a car and be in the Baltic states for a week driving around. Because life is a vacation she thought this was not long enough and they called the airline the following day and said they would like to be in the Baltic States for 10 days instead of 6, and now they are going to be driving around the Baltic states all the way to July 3rd, a place where they have no connections and don't really know anything.

John is only going to be home in Seattle for one day in June. Most of these adventures are things that you would normally not undertake unless you had planned them a long time out, but for whatever reason all this stuff just came together and now John is on what you could reasonably call a work trip that tumbles into one adventure vacation after another, and none of it is really expensive. You can rent a car in the Baltics for a week for a couple hundred bucks and the plane tickets are a little bit of money, but the primary expense is taking that much time off of work.

John works, definitely, and he makes money, and he has arranged it so that he doesn’t work all day and he can take time off when he needs, but he doesn’t have the expense really of going to a boss and asking them for three weeks off. He will write Dan to figure out a way that Road Work is going to continue while he is gone, and Dan will say: ”I hate you and I don't want to reschedule!” and John will have to navigate it.

John will have to call Haddie who will tell Dan what is happening and when she says something he generally doesn’t question it. She is the boss! John did not plan it, he did not sit down at the beginning of this year and say ”I would like to be gone all of June!” and yet it seems like it was all planned and it is an example of the type of thing that people go: ”Wow, that seems fun!” and it was not a thing that he had to work for 30 years to afford. It was the type of thing that he has worked 30 years to be able to do, but it has been more about making choices about what he will and will not do. If he sold a company for $20 million he would not go back to work on Monday, and in a way he did do that, it just wasn't $20 million.


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