RW171 - A Computer in a box

This week, Dan and John talk about:

The show title refers to John’s custom-built iMac that he had ordered almost a year ago and that he still hasn’t opened, but it is still in the box and is a constant reminder of defeat.

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 Please do not quote these texts directly without applying your own editing first!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

The state of John’s new house (RW171)

John was a little perspiring because he had been doing some yard work this morning in his new house. He is not living in it, but he is in a place where he can't move in yet because he has work to do and it is a heavy enough project that he can't do it by himself and has to hire some people to help, and hiring people is not John’s favorite thing or his strong suit. Once you hire them you gotta have a plan and John has to do some work before he can start. Although John now owns this cool house and he is ready to live there, but he is not able to move in there for two more months.

Today, out of a feeling of frustration, not resignation although that is always a threat, rather than go inside and do the prep work he needed to be doing he went out and took his frustration out on some English Ivy for an hour and a half. Decades of coiling up guitar cables and power chords has prepared him to coil up miles and miles of English Ivy biomass, but pulling it out of the ground, although it is relative to other plants fairly easy to dislodge, it goes for miles, so you grab ahold of a an English Ivy vine and you start pulling and you could just keep pulling and pulling. You are pulling up logs and raccoons and frogs and they are all up in this bundle with you. It is heavy work!

John is living in a neighborhood now where most of the yards are meticulously maintained by hired landscapers who come in trucks with multiple power-tools and they clip everything so that it is just like Bob Ross's hair. That has never been John’s way although he used to work as a landscaper and has nothing against hiring landscapers, but for whatever reason all of the shirking of labor that he does in his regular life he loves to get into the dirt and the branches and clip and chomp and do all the things. John’s property will take a decade to clear and it will break him doing it. Eventually once he gets it all sorted he will probably hire some people to do things that he doesn’t want to have kill him.

John really looks forward to it. He enjoys the work on the house, but it is very easy to look at some carpentry that is ready to be capented and say: ”Oh boy, I should just let that wood season for another day or two!”, but if you put him out in the yard with a pair of gloves and you say: ”Go do that!” he will happily do it and will not even think about it twice. He just goes right out and start weeding or pruning or whatever. The yard is a big part of what John loves about his new place, but what he doesn’t love right now is that he is not living there and he can't even.

The whole reason John is able to own a home is because of this show and their amazing patrons who support the show at and there is going to be benefits to that soon, they have been talking about some Patreon benefits, one of the coolest ones John ever saw! No, it is because 15 years ago his band had two good years and rather than spend the money that he made, which, amateurized over the 15 years he had been in a band, came to about $1000 a year in profit, it came at once and he put all the money into the down payment on a house.

It was at a time when the market was high at the time everybody thought it was going to keep going up forever, but of course it spent eight years in a total slump. John had money in a house and most of his friends when they got a similar windfall from their band at whatever time, some of his friends got much bigger windfalls, but they bought a car, they bought some guitars, they bought some fancy dinners, they bought a lot of booze. Then John sold his house this year and he suddenly understood the whole American capitalist process. He didn't do anything, but the money just grew on its own in the form of real estate.

John bought this house for considerably less than he sold his last house for. It was a good deal because the house needed fixing, and his whole plan all along was that he didn’t want to sell his house and buy a more expensive house, even though that is probably what most people do. John just didn't believe in it, it should work the other way, he put a lot of work into that house and should start again with another shabby house, so that is what he did, he is very glad, but he went into the bathroom and took a piece of loose tile off, he knew what was waiting for him, there was some dry rot, and he began to take the tile down to find the extent of the dry rot.

John knew this dry rot was there. There is absolutely no way that there wouldn't have been dry rot in this wall. It is not the reason the house was inexpensive, it is one of many reasons, and John’s problem of course was that he has seen a lot of houses where somebody went in and dealt with the dry rot that they discovered and made it fixed, but the problem with that is: you have no idea how fixed it is. Did they go in and spray that dry rot with a can of WD40 and put some lows tar paper over it and I spackle it? Or did they go in and take every little bit of bad wood out and rebuild the thing and put in water barriers and so forth?

John didn't want to buy a house that somebody else had maybe not done a good job, he wanted to do the good job himself, but as he pulled the tile up he started to see that there was some dry rot that had attracted carpenter ants and that had also produced some crazy sort of inner wall moss plus giants spiders and there was a seagull in there maybe. John knew this was all in his future and this is also work he likes to do. He is not scared by it because he knows you just have to tear it out and put new better stuff in and you try and do a good job.

John is a little bit too meticulous of a construction person because it is just his nature, he is not somebody who puts four nails in when one will do, but he is someone that will work to get the dovetailing to be perfect or work to have all his joints be beautiful even though they are going to get covered over with drywall. If he were hiring someone to do the work and they spent as much time he would be very mad at them, but because he is doing it he is just happy as a little clam. If he bent a nail he will take it out and work on making it straight again rather than throw it in the garbage and take a new nail because he doesn’t want to waste nails that are perfectly fine. It is not that he is frugal, it is some other thing.

Dan wonders that if you bend a piece of metal and bend it back if it loses some of its inherent strength or integrity or something. If you are making a sword in a forge: No, it makes the sword stronger, but if you are bending a nail and then bending it back you have compromised it, but the thing about a nail is that most of the time when you put a nail into something it is not like the nail is particularly weight-bearing. The nails just tack it together most of the time. Sometimes the nails do some heavy heavy lifting, it depends on the nail, it depends on the spot. The weight is always going to fall back on another nail!

John has been pulling this stuff down and has reached the extent of the problem, but the project creeps of course because since you are here you might as well wire it all for sound and put Nest in everywhere and make it so that all of your light bulbs can talk to you and you can get stock quotes on them. John is not doing that, but the plumbing is galvanized which was fine until he pulled the wall down, at which point why put the wall back up before you replace the old plumbing? The old plumbing is not bad, but why wait for it to go bad?

That stuff is where John needs to hire people. Then of course John’s good friend Ben (King) is an architect and when you have a friend that is an architect and you buy a house you owe it to them to let them design your house for you, which is more of a favor John is doing for him. He is: ”Hey John, can I help you redesign your house?” - ”Okay, fine!" He has come up with a very elegant solution to some of the qui flow problems that were happening. People weren't as conscious of Qui in Normandy Park Washington in 1955 as maybe they should have been, but Ben got high Qui for a guy from Texas. He is one of them philosophical Texans.

Texas has almost 30 million people and they are all in Austin right now it seems based on the traffic Dan has, it has gotten really bad there. Countries with 30 million people: Angola, Ghana, Mozambique, Yemen, Nepal, Venezuela, Madagascar. These countries all have a population similar to Texas. Peru, Uzbecistan. Yemen has in terms of land area 527.000 sqkm, but Texas is almost 700.000 sqkm. You got more elbow room in Texas than you do in Yemen!

Once the guys are there to do the plumbing John figured why not have them do the tiling, which John would have done meticulously when he was 32 but now that he is 51 he doesn't want to tile, his knees hurt, and if they are going to do the tiling and the plumbing John might as well farm out the electrical to them. John could do that, but it is tough work on your hands, electrical work really hurts your knuckles! All that is going to cost money of course and take time and it is going to be even more involved because John is going to be standing there the whole time going: ”So what do you do right there? What's that?” John is going to try not to do that and that is why he is going to be out in his yard pulling up English ivy and every once in a while he will come in and say: ”How is it going in here?”, but it is going to cost him twice as much if he stands around talking. Once it is done snug as a bug in a rug.

John not having packed up his computer (RW171)

John sent a text to John Siracusa yesterday. In February of last year (2019) his laptop quit, totally fritzed, and John was in a panic because this time last year he was in a really tough spot because he had decided that podcasting was going to be a thing that he really was invested in, it was going to be his new career. He had been doing it with Dan and Merlin for a long time as a fun sidebar, but now he had these two other shows and was spending so much time on them and neither one of those shows was producing any income and they were five times more work and then John’s computer died.

He called John Siracusa, he asked everybody and it was really John who was the most enthusiastic to reply, and he designed a computer for him. He said: ”Here is what you want, here are all the specs, it is a custom job!” and John pulled the trigger because he has a friend that works at Apple, he called them, he wanted this computer, let's get it going! He said: "Why don't you send your laptop and see if it can be fixed?” and the apples were like: ”Well, it can kind of be fixed. Maybe it is more worth it to just get a new one” - ”Yeah, but isn't there something you can do? *wink wink*” They got John’s laptop working again.

In the meantime this big computer showed up that John ordered that Siracusa had designed, but at that point John was selling his house and he didn't open the box and put the box in the corner. Then he was sleeping on the couch here at his baby momma's house and the computer went into storage. There wasn't a place to put it, it is a big desktop! At the time he was thinking he was going to set up a big studio and have a big computer on the table hook all his cables into it and it is going to be connected to speakers and it is going to be in a room that has lighting and all this stuff. John had this vision, but of course the vision came before the space or the time. Sometimes that happens: "What I need is a switchblade!” and you go get a switchblade and you don't need a switchblade or you think you will need a switchblade in two years when you finally get initiated into this gang.

John got nervous about this computer being in the storage space and he brought it over here to his baby momma's house and tucked it under the shelf in the entryway of the house where it sat and now he has a new house and has moved the computer over there and we are coming up on the year anniversary of him buying this computer in two months and it has never been opened. That feels maybe not like a personal victory. John is always looking around for evidence of his own failure and incompetence and this is a thing that sits there in the entryway of this house and now in his new house and just broadcasts to him every time he looks at it that he is a numbskull.

When John thinks: ”Well, maybe I should save the day and open the box and set up the computer!”, but set it up where, dude? Put it where and do what with it exactly?

John had a vision, and this is maybe a recording studio mentality, where everything was wired, where the connections were all connected. Like in Moby’s studio he did the thing that a lot of dudes who build studios want to do, dudes and dudettes, which is he has one of every kind of synthesizer (they have a short discussion how Moog is pronounced and that you have to say it wrong to normal people) Also, the Theremin that gets played on Pet Sounds is not a Theremin but an instrument that was made to sound like a Theremin, but is actually controllable because a Theremin is very hard to get in pitch. The actual instrument is called Tannarin (see here), which is a Theremin, but with keys (see Electro Theremin). Dan mentions the stylophone toy instrument he had as a kid.

Moby’s studio is very inspirational because he did what every studio owner dreams of doing, which is he hooked up all of his synthesizers in racks where they are all patched in all the time. You don't have to get the thing out and figure out how to plug it in, but it already has its own channel in your patch bay and if you want to use your Juno 60 you push a button and there it is. John had that dream and the problem with having a laptop is every time you pick it up and take it somewhere you unplug it. Although you are not unplugging it from much, but only from USB and Power, but then you took it upstairs and now you are down there and you want to do something and you got something else running on the other one.

John is a professional podcaster and he wants a dedicated computer that he is going to use for two things only: Making music and making podcasts. He is not going to sit on it and go on Amazon, he is not going to look at the Internet on it, he is just going to do his recording on it. His old janky laptop that doesn't work anymore he can use to look at reddit and just whatever, throw it in the garbage. It ends up that John is still using the laptop that got repaired and he has this computer in a box which represents this dream John has been talking to Dan and everyone about for a year and a half now.

This dream that what his life looked like in 2017 is not going to be his life forever and now it is almost 2020 and John has still not completely made the switch and this computer is just one more…

When John packed up and left his house he forgot to bring a belt. He has a lot of belts and he put all the belts in a bag and put the bag of belts in a box and the box with the bag of belt went into a bin and then that bin went into a larger box and it got put into a space somewhere. John wears belts, he had a belt on the day before, he probably had a belt on that morning, but for whatever reason all the belts went into the bag which we went into the box and for the last eight months John has not had a belt and his pants have been falling.

He could have bought one, but he has enough belts, he doesn’t need a new belt, but he can't find those belts and he is not going to see those belts again until he is fully moving into his new house and all his things are there and he is going through boxes and he opens a box and there is a bag and he goes: ”That is the bag I put the belts in!”, but in the meantime his pants are falling down and he is at an age where that is not cute anymore. It is not even cute when you are 20, but now it just looks: ”Oh, a guy…” You start to get that old man build where your pants don't stand up, that is not how John wants to look. That is just an example!

John could go buy one, but but that would just I don't know that would feel even more of a defeat and he would be committing to living like he is living, which is to say out of bag rather than saying: ”No! My eyes are on the prize! I am already almost in my new house with a new bath-mat, all the dry rot is gone, and then I find my bag of belts and I can mark it as victory and feel the triumph and the accomplishment!”, but the last thing John wants to hear from any of you computer people that his unopened computer is obsolete. He wants you to tell me that it is fine and is going to last forever.

Even though in the grand scheme of things computers are extremely expensive things, but all you have to do is get in one car crash and the computer feels like a very small expense relative to how expensive it would be to be in a car crash. Every month you pay a mortgage payment that is, depending on where you live, probably the cost of a computer just to keep a roof over your head. Money is fake, it is a construct.

John has managed to pull defeat from the jaws of victory in the last 20 minutes and he doesn’t know how he did it. Dan thinks John’s computer is probably fine, it will probably do everything John needs it to do, it is not obsolete yet. Dan’s family iMac was from cash she was from 2013 and was slowly having a hard drive failure, things just kept getting slower and slower and slower and it didn't matter, it was not a software thing, it was a hardware thing, and in order to update the hard drive you got to take the whole screen off. There are these little kits that you can buy from iFixit with little suction cups on the front and special tools that cut around the edges of the screen to break the adhesive and the kit even includes brand-new adhesive to let you stick it back on perfectly and make it factory fresh. Dan did that and it was like a brand new computer, it felt much faster because they were going from a spinning drive to an SSD, it was a wonderful experience and it has now become Dan’s son's primary computer and he uses it to do his homework and play games, mainly playing games. This is a computer that is six years old and John’s one year old computer is not obsolete, it will be fine, John just lost a year of its potential lifespan.

The last computer John had he was still using it 12 years later, although that is not a good thing. That was another part of why he felt like he needed to get this computer pronto because he had these other computers that were failing right in front of his eyes with the smoke pouring out of them. The Anna Banana computer and the other computer, these old computers, you couldn't even buy cables that connected them to new things and John wasn't going to be able to get his stuff off of them if he didn't move fast and it may even now be too late. Dan says there really aren't any good computers out there if you really think about it. Dan has a really good computer, but it is really not that good.

John interviewing Mark Morris at a book event (RW171)

John has been reading a book lately, a paper thing. John’s friend Wesley Stace, who lived in Seattle for a long time, an Englishman in America, a Cambridge boy, is a musician and novelist who lives in Philadelphia now. He co-wrote / ghost wrote the autobiography of Mark Morris, a famous choreographer and dancer who grew up in Seattle and then went to New York and became a internationally acclaimed choreographer. He is retired and doesn’t himself dance anymore, but he is still designing dances and he has written an autobiography about his fascinating life. He is coming to Seattle to do a book reading at the Town Hall, a big venue, a former Christian Science church that has become the place where all the literary events happen, a literary event that is too big to happen at the bookstore.

Mark Morris is going to be In Conversation with John who is going to be talking to him about his book and about his life at the Town Hall. It is an example of the type of thing that John can mature in to doing as a member of the Seattle Arts Community. He is not seeking it, but he is getting this kind of call now rather than invitations to play a benefit show for the junkie foundation. Now they call him when they need somebody to talk to Mark Morris about his life in dance. John said: ”Yes!” because he is interested in him and in it.

John also doesn’t want to be an elder statesman whose purview is limited to music. He never wanted to just be the old Rock person because he never was really that good of a Rock person. Not talking about his music, but Rock people that are good at it are true believers and John never was a true believer, really. He always was a Rock person in context and never fully. Rather than slouch into only doing things that are: ”Hey, let's get the band back together!” the idea that Seattle culture would find a place for him as someone who did events at town hall that were broadly cultural, let's talk to this person, let's talk to that person, and who is going to do that with us? Even though John doesn’t actually want to leave the house if he can help it, he said yes to this and he is excited. It is not that he is stepping into this arena, but he will do a few of these and then he might be on the short list of people for them to call when it is time to do it again.

John’s friend Megan Phelps Roper who was the spokesperson for the Westboro Baptist Church wrote a book recently called Unfollow. She came to town and did a book reading and John was her interviewer at her event as well, but they each other from the world during that period. John was her interlocutor as a friend, but Mark Morris is somebody John doesn't know and he is not part of the dance world. This is a new evolution.

John was reading this book, a hardcover book, and he was thinking when was the last time he read a hardcover autobiography of somebody. It has been a long time and John used to have hardcover biographies or autobiographies of people laying around on every flat surface! John was enjoying it! He sometimes have to remember… He will be sitting there, looking at his phone and since he is here he might as well look at Twitter and play a couple of games of mahjongg and pretty soon it is 11pm and he snaps out of it and wonders: ”Wasn't I doing something? Something else? Oh, I was reading a book! Where did I put the book?”

John is really digging it and he is immersing himself in a culture. He likes to think that he knew something about modern dance 15 years ago because he went to a lot of performances, but he doesn't know anything about dance and it is invigorating to listen to him talk about it as art because of course talking about it as art the things he is saying are true of when you talk about any art. He is an unapologetic advocate for the idea of art and for the power of art and he is unapologetic about his own attitude toward art. If you try to interrogate him he will turn the tables on you, he is aggressively himself, and that is exciting, too, given how mealy-mouthed everybody is these days, how apologetic everybody is. It is nice to read a book by someone who is constitutionally unwilling to apologize for something they are not sorry about, which is loving dance or doing what they want.

John is excited about the event, which is unusual because he wants to do a good job. John doesn't mean that he doesn't normally want to do a good job, but he has been working a little bit harder lately to try and do a good job and not be content to sashay his way through things.


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