RW180 - The Kitchen Floor of the World

This week, Dan and John talk about:

The show title refers to John’s believe that the world is about to be reorganized, just as you reorganize your refrigerator, by taking everything out on the kitchen floor and starting to load it in from scratch.

It is pretty chill in Seattle. John was clipping his fingernails yesterday and took his glasses off, which you should never do, and of course a fingernail sped away from its tractor beam and bonked off of John’s eye. It didn't get scratched, but this morning he felt irritated at his eye and at that fingernail and at himself. It all comes down to being irritated at yourself! John never takes him glasses off to cut his fingernails, what was he doing? You need eye protection at all times if you are clipping your fingernails, that is the advantage of wearing glasses.

Raw notes
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Coronavirus, shelter in place, people still going out (RW180)

It is going pretty good in Texas, they don't have a lot of cases of the Coronavirus as compared to the other areas of the country because cowboys are immune to a lot of infectious disease. Also they have 400 kinds of olives at their PCC there. Dan was just reading an article about how well H-E-B is prepared and they will continue to have food coming in and things are well-stocked. HEB is the big grocery store in town. Back in like January they started to prepare for all of this as they saw what was going on in China and they reacted to it by already starting to plan.

On Monday they issued a Shelter in Place, which is that they don't want you to go anywhere, seemingly targeted more toward businesses than individuals. A lot of small businesses were still open and people were still doing stuff and if you take those things away, then the regular people have no reason to go anywhere. At least not yet they are not policing it the way that LA is policing it. Somebody said on Twitter that their friend got stopped and had to pay a $400 fine to see his girlfriend.

It is weird that people are still socializing and going out and doing stuff when everyone is literally begging them, forget about what is legal, to please don't. People like to make exceptions for themselves and John is certainly not immune to excepting himself from certain rules and regulations like stoplights in the middle of the night in the warehouse part of town, and generally you feel like you can care for yourself and manage yourself and that this doesn't quite apply to you, but if you are paying attention at all, every possible argument has been covered by people: ”You are not going to get sick, that is not what we are worried about. We are worried that you are going to carry it to somebody else!”

We are on the Internet and we are watching what people are talking about on the Internet, maybe to a fault. John’s phone sent him a message that was like: ”You have been using your phone a lot!” - ”Fuck you, phone!”

The computer lab in John’s High School (RW180)

The people John went to High School with, if you search their name, you find nothing. He graduated from High School in 1986 and there was definitely a computer lab in his junior high, a windowless room next to the library that had formerly been a paper storage closet and they continued to use it as storage, they pushed a couple of shelves out of the way and put four tables with four Apple IIe. There were kids in there playing Oregon Trail and presumably programming and John would go in and watch kids do computers, which is something he has always done. He has always gotten a lot more pleasure out of watching kids do computers than he ever did doing computers himself.

In high school, there was an actual computer lab. John’s High School is a mid-century one story, flat, sprawling, flat-roofed building that was shaped like a donut and you could walk in the giant circle. The high school had 2600 students and in the center of the doughnut in the hole there was the library, the teacher's lounge, a student lounge, and the school theater. John was a junior before he realized that there was a staircase that went up to a second level, an attic room that was next to the theater that was twice as tall. There were tables of computers everywhere!

There were kids up there doing computers and John went running out of there, never wanting to go in there again, and he stayed as far away from it as he could. He had a computer, an IBM PC that had 64k and two disk drives, but he didn't want to be doing computers, he used it as a word processor.

Dan spends a lot of the day on the computer and it is not just the tool that he uses to do the thing, like a hammer, but it is everything, it is where he reads and gets entertainment and news and if he had a hammer that did that he would throw it away: ”I don't want something like that in my house! It is going to dominate all my time!”

Ken said that smartphones made the Internet so terrible and he is not wrong. Until smartphones John used his computer as a typewriter and considered himself Mr. Computer. When he went to college he took his PC that his mom who was a computer person had bought in the fall of 1982 when it first came out. John took it to college with him when he went in 1987 and it still felt like: ”I have a computer!” His roommate didn't have a computer and none of the kids on the floor of his dorm had a computer, except one guy who was a total, not a revenge of the nerds nerd, but he was strong and fit, a fit nerd, there was a kind of nerd who was really strong and worked out and did the javelin or whatever, and he had a computer with a color monitor.

He and John would talk about his computer and he was funny and charming and handsome, but he was a nerd who got good grades and he was going to go get a good job somewhere and be married and live happily ever after. He was king nerd or something. He threw the javelin and he played Dungeons and Dragons and he wanted to be a helicopter pilot. He had a computer with a color monitor and it surely had powers. John would sit in his room and he would do things on his computer, like animate a little orb or something.

John had a computer and that put him in the ranks of the heavy hitters. He had a 5-6 year old IBM PC with 64k and two disk drives that continued to work and be impressive even until 1992 when he got a Mac classic.

When John said ”computer” his Amazon Echo started playing Stan Getz. You can only change the name of the assistant to three things and two of those things the neighborhood kids know about and they come into the house and immediately one of them will be like: ”Alexa, play Old Town Road!” - ”No, stop it!” John had to change it to the C-word just to protect himself. He wants to call it Baby Yoda, but they won't let you because they don't want 100.000 people in the country to call Amazon ”Hey fuckface!”, like all companies in this Internet economy they think they are great and they don't want to be mocked. If we could change the name to anything, we would all be mocking them all the time. John just doesn’t want the kids playing Old Time Road and he wants to be able to say the C-word in this room without it starting to play the Charlie Brown theme.

John’s generation has not fully embraced computers (RW180)

John doesn't think people his age embraced computers except for a very small subgroup, and by the time you are 25, if you didn't ever have a computer like everyone in his dorm didn't, then you needed to have a reason to use a computer because you are not doing book reports anymore, and a lot of those people probably got an early iMac because it was all the rage or maybe they had a kid and they got them a computer. Then they started to hear about Facebook from their friends, but they were super-busy with with other things. John is astonished that there are 15 people that John would like to get in touch with and he is using his highly developed search engine manipulation skills and cannot find any sign of them, not even has scraped their data, and he doesn’t think they all are dead. How can you be 50 years old in our world today and have zero Internet presence?

Dan has wondered the exact same thing! He does not have a Facebook account, but he has executed Google searches and LinkedIn searches and other places and many times it does come up with a Facebook account as a result, but generally speaking he cannot find anything about anybody that he went to high school or even college with. A lot of these people work in fields where they are using a computer. One friend became a stockbroker and went into brokerage training, he trains new stock brokers or something relating to that, he teaches classes, he travels around, and Dan knows for a fact he is on the computer all the time, but there is literally no trace of him. It is not intentional, there is just nothing out there, not that he has avoided it.

People that Dan still has kept in touch with, whenever he talks to them and tells them he can't find them on the Internet, one guy is an IT guy who supported data centers and networks and went on to go into sales engineering, being the engineer that is compatible with human beings and gets to go to sales meetings and help the sales guys sell stuff. He did that for years and now he is a C-level dude at some company. There is nothing except one picture of him from his LinkedIn profile from years ago, and that is it! It just seems so weird because the space that Dan lives in is all computers and everybody that he generally interacts with on a daily basis is active in those spaces.

John is 51 and Dan is 4 years younger. John graduated in 1986 and Dan in 1990. He started school a year earlier because his birthday is in October, and so did John. When John looks at his high school reunion Facebook pages, the kids that were freshmen when John was a senior have a lot more buy-in on their reunion pages than John’s class does. They were only able to get in touch with a small fraction, and the number of 1986 graduating seniors who are participating in the online world that some of the students put together as part of the reunions is a much smaller group than class of 1990 or beyond.

Somewhere between Dan and John there was a tipping point where normals and snorks started to be exposed to computers, not because they were interested in them and pursued them, but because they started to become part of the curriculum or part of the world. It probably came through gamers because a lot of kids played video games that didn't have computers and at the point at which computers and video games started to collide and become a single platform, that is probably when kids started to have exposure to computers and also they were in color now and could do things that were interesting in a way that John’s IBM PC with an orange monitor could not.

John’s first computer, the IBM PC with 64k (RW180)

John’s mom had spent decades looking at green monitors and now there was this new really far-out space-age technology where they were using orange monitors because it didn't fatigue the eyes so badly. It just doubled the amount of cool tech that his PC had over almost any other computer he would encounter. John’s friend Kevin’s dad was a doctor, he was one of those middle-aged guys that was a technology adopter, and they had a Compaq, the original one that folded up into a briefcase, the one where the keyboard was the lid, a large rectangular metal box with little buttons on the left and the right side that would eject the keyboard that had become the lid. Inside of that there was a little tiny screen, probably a 6” screen diagonally and next to it were the disk drives.

It was so heavy and not a super-portable thing, but it seemed so far out that you could have that tiny screen and that you could carry it with you and take it to work and then bring it home. Kevin's dad kept buying new computers. They always had something interesting over there. Kevin ended up in the long run with a master's degree in conflict resolution and worked at all these different things he wanted to be, and he got caught in that tractor beam of: ”I want to do all this fascinating work with people and work of the mind, but in the meantime I am going to do tech support for Nordstrom in order to pay the rent!” and pretty soon that tech support job became an IT job and a programming job and now he is a computer programmer.

John’s computer habits (RW180)

John still doesn't know how to use computers, he still prefers to sit and watch kids do computers than to do them himself. Every once in a while he will sit here at at this thing that he uses all that time, and he does four or five things on it. This computer has so much power, so many skills and talents, he could be making movies on it, he could use this whole suite of this palette and all these paint brushes and all these recording technologies and publishing technologies and what he does is he looks at Wikipedia and he does his little Ring Around the Rosie of go to Facebook, see the comments, go to Twitter, see the comments, go to Bring a Trailer and look at some cars, go back to Facebook and see the comments, go back to Twitter and see the comments, like a dog that doesn't really want to catch its tail and just languidly ”chases” his tail around and around.

John doesn’t go to very many things, he doesn’t have 25 bookmarks, when he is done with something he doesn’t have anywhere else to go. He can play Threes. He doesn't use this stuff, although he is on it all the time, but he is not using it to its potential. What does it become? It is like a trunk call, he picks up his party line out on his farm and there are only three other people that he can talk to and they are all other farmers, so why does he have the phone at all? What does he need it for?

Coronavirus, lockdown and homeschooling (RW180)

Here we are in the middle of our sequester. John is doing some home-schooling, but he is also counting on her to have initiative. Dan like this time period because he trusts that his kids can school themselves. His involvement with their education is as minimal as possible right now, he want them to teach themselves what they need. You should not feed them for a few days and then put some food behind a series of puzzles and they will have to solve basically an escape room. That will teach them!

Dan’s kids are both in a private school and they are expected to continue learning via e-learning and they get their assignments in the morning and they are expected to do them in the afternoon and turn them in at 8am. Dan’s son. His daughter is in 3rd grade and for her it is more fun stuff, like they watched a video from the teacher and then read a thing and drew pictures. His son actually has assignments to do and turn them in digitally. The kids in public schools don't have to do anything and Dan had thought the private schools were more lackadaisical about it.

They are going to have to do something. When they go on their college entrance exams in 12 years and the colleges will ask: ”What did you do that year?” and the kids are going to have to write an essay and if they say they sat around and played video games they are not going to get into college. That is going to be the dawn of a new era where they don't let everybody into college. There is going to be a reordering, some in ways that we are hoping, some in ways that we are not, some in ways we can't even imagine.

Bands having accidents with their vans, driving from California via Shasta to Oregon (RW180)

It is basically going to be the thing where you look at a cupboard and it had an organization initially and then stuff kept going in there and then it got reorganized at some point and then stuff kept going in there and it had to get kind of organized to accommodate the stuff that was arriving still, and eventually you open the cupboard and you can't find anything in there. It happens in the refrigerator sometimes. John is not somebody who can go into a tangle like that and straighten it out from within. He is somebody that takes everything out of the refrigerator, put it on the kitchen floor, and start from scratch.

You learn that in when you are in a band and you are loading a bunch of equipment in the back of your van. Not an insignificant number of Rock musicians have died when their vans rolled. Bands get into accidents. That is how Cliff Burton of Metallica died, he was in a tour bus, they were playing poker, Cliff won the game and the prize was that he got the best bunk in the bus and then the bus went off the road and crashed and Cliff died. His last poker hand is one of those dead man's hands where you are not supposed to… A king and an ace or something.

There is surely a list of dead-man hands. A lot of that stuff started in the old west where a guy would get shot and the hand that he had would be the dead man's hand because he got shot at the poker table. The Cliff Burton dead man's hand is a real thing. When The Long Winters were on tour, a Portland band by the name of The Exploding Hearts rolled their van on the highway outside of Eugene, and John had played Eugene that night and were asleep in their hotel room out by the highway in Eugene, and they in the middle of the night, only a couple of miles from where John was, rolled their van and three of them died.

They woke up the next morning, they all had flip phones, of course, and there were all these texts and phone calls from people because the initial news was ”Indie Rock band in single van crash in Eugene” and how many Indie Rock bands can be in Eugene at any given moment. They weren't playing in Eugene, they were a Portland band and they had played in San Francisco and had done the thing that they all did, which was: ”Oh man, it is 1am, we could find a hotel in Sacramento. We could drive as far as Shasta. Why don't we just drive up to Shasta and get a hotel up there!” and then you are on the road, everybody goes to sleep, the driver is driving and listening on the radio.

You get to Shasta and you think: ”I'll just press on!” From Shasta to Portland it is a doable drive. You can leave San Francisco at 1am and get home by lunch. You are young and why the fuck not? Just party on! You wake somebody up at Shasta, but right there at Shasta you are entering into one of the hairiest interstate drives in America. There are a dozen places in America where the interstate qualifies as an interstate with four lanes, two on either side or even more, but it is going across a terrain that does not make it a safe, happy road, but it is a crazy mountain pass that just happens to be a wide road.

That road of Northern California going into Oregon has a couple of different passes and it gets hit with insane weather. Even when it is not insane, which it often is, the road itself is just insane. It is made by the Corps of Engineers, the freeway people, so it has big sweeping turns, but you go off one side and you fall forever. The turns are coming through these crazy switchbacks. I90 coming through Montana and Idaho, that is an insane corridor. There is a highway in West Virginia that is coming out of Tennessee into West Virginia that is just bananas.

This road between San Francisco and Portland or Seattle, they all know it and have done it 1000 times, and you get confident that you can just do it in your sleep, but it is very technical driving when it is dry and light out, but as soon as it is dark and as soon as the weather gets at all inclement… It has happened to John, you get there to Northern California and you say: ”I am just going to press on!” and it is a really hairy drive all the way to this town in Oregon called Cottage Grove. It lasts a lot longer than you think and it is harder than you think, even if you have done it 100 times. You get to Roseburg or Medford and you think: ”Oh, I'm in Medford, it is a big town!”, but then from Medford to Cottage Grove is a whole other hairball set of this road.

You get to Cottage Grove, which by the way is where they filmed Animal House, and all of a sudden you are down, out of the mountains, it is flat, the road gets nice and wide, you can see for 50 miles in every direction, and the freeway is done in that grade that they put on the freeway in the plains states where the freeway itself is a corridor of a quarter of a mile wide and it is graded in a giant proud hump where the whole thing is a giant shallow mound. You get down and ”Ahhhh” and you don't realize how tense your muscles were, you don't realize that you had been gripping the steering wheel with white knuckles, your shoulders were hunched, you were in this combat drive.

You think you made it and it is chill all the way home, but this is the devil's moment in this drive because it is still two hours to Portland and if you have been driving all night and you were so clenched and then you let that relaxation and you look out at this road that just goes straight and flat for an hour and a half, your body relaxes and you just nod off. It happened to John a lot. For whatever reason, you are young and you are on tour, you have somewhere to be, you don’t just say: ”Oh, let's pull over and spend the night and go to the Cave of the Ten Bears!”

You have to be there for load-in and it is eight hours from here and ”We have to do that drive sometime and I am still awake, so let's do it!”, but then you start to nod and you are out in the middle of nowhere, it is the middle of the night, you don't see a hotel coming. John has bipolar disorder and would drive right past a motel and be like: ”I don't like that motel! There is a better motel somewhere in the distance!”, but everybody else in the band is asleep and John is all alone, just in mind war with himself.

Then you catch yourself at 80 mph in the dark, which is not a time to be nodding. You roll the window down, you put some aggressive music on, you pinch yourself, you punch yourself, and there are all these things you try to do to snap back. If you pulled off to the side of the road and had to hunt a saber tooth tiger right now you would wake back up. The sleepiness is the hypnotizing that happens when you are just seeing the highway coming at you for hours and hours and you are obviously tired.

Eugene is just right past Cottage Grove, it is the next thing. John’s band was on tour and they went down and did their tour and when they came back through Oregon John called the Oregon State Patrol and asked about the mile marker where that crash happened and they gave him the mile marker, and they got to the spot 10 days later after their short West Coast tour, but there was no sign of it, they had erased any sign of a crash and regraded the gravel and so forth, but they knew where it was and there was absolutely no reason to have gone off the road except that you nodded off and your van just gradually went over into the soft and then you felt the steering wheel wiggle, jolted awake and jerked to the wheel, and if you jerked to the wheel to get back on the road and the van either started to slide or did that crazy carving wabble as a van is trying to get straightened out and it just rolled. The guys in the back were asleep and were lying out, they weren't belted in, and they just got thrown out of the van in every direction. There are amps and guitars and stuff flying around. They were a great young band and they just were all died. It was terrible!

Long before The Exploding Hearts crashed, bands would tell one another the legends of bands who had rolled in their van and when you are packing your gear and are building out a van, putting your bunk in there, if you got stuff in the van, you are always thinking somewhere in the back of your head: ”If if the van turned over, would this become a projectile? If we rear-ended a semi or if a semi rear-ended us, would this thing suddenly become a fatal missile?” There is only so much you can do. There is a bunch of shit in that van and if it rolls over, it doesn't have an internal steel cage and they are not all in four-point harnesses.

A lot of it is just mystical thinking, like: ”We are safe because I wedged that box of T-shirts in between that kick drum pedal on the base amp!”, but none of it is really going to save you. John does have that Jenga or Tetris skill set honed by all that work. Eventually John traded with Eric Corson who was Mr. Math and Science in their band and he became the loadmaster. You would just bring your stuff out and set it down. The trade was they would load out, which is the worst part, pick up your amp and carry it off the stage through the club, and out the alley door, and deliver it to the back of the van, and Eric could stand there as loadmaster and fit everything together in this Super-Jenga. He was pretty genius at it.

That is all by way of saying that John likes to organize the refrigerator and that is what is going to happen in society. What we are about to see is that we are going to take everything out of the refrigerator of society, we are going to put it on the kitchen floor of the world, and we are hopefully, if we do it right, we are going to throw away the half a thing of pesto that has been in there for a year, we are going to throw away the takeout box that when you open it up and look at it, you can't remember ever having gone to that restaurant, we are going to take the five things of mustard and consolidate them in one thing of mustard.

You take a spatula and put all the peanut butter in one peanut butter jar, stir it up and put it in there, even though John doesn’t keep peanut butter in the refrigerator, but the other day he took three or four things of peanut butter and combined them into one. At the end you are going to look at the refrigerator and say: ”Wow, if I could just live like this all the time! If I could just have a refrigerator like this, life would be so much easier!” The cartons are all lined up square relative to one another, the refrigerator door is like a storm trooper utility belt, you just reach down and whatever you need, you got your Tricorder there, your phaser, all that Star Wars stuff, communicator, and for a little while you believe that you are never going to go back to five mustards.


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