RW230 - Adam's Bomb

This week, Dan and John talk about

The show title refers to John’s daughter asking him about the atom bomb and calling it Adam’s Bomb.

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 Please do not quote these texts directly without applying your own editing first!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

John not finding the correct headphone adapter (RW230)

This is going to be an unusual show for John because he is working at a considerable disability as he was unable to find an 1/8”-1/4” adapter for his headphone jack. Because of his long career in pro audio he has 1/8”-1/4” adapters all over, he could pave the road to hell with them, male and female, every direction. Headphones nowadays come with 1/8” jacks and have screw-on 1/4” jacks adapters because your computer has an 1/8” input, but every piece of pro audio gear has a has a 1/4” input. He did find an adapter finally, but it is a mono adapter and the audio people will recoiling in horror because John is only monitoring Dan and himself in his left ear only, which is his good ear because the right ear has suffered the most snare drum and hi-hat damage.

John is using the same microphone and it sounds he same to Dan as usual. Sometimes John will use the Apogee analog to digital preamp and sometimes he will use the FocusRite, but so far no-one has ever mentioned hearing a difference, although on this show and on Roderick on the Line his audio is captured after having been reduced down to 8-bit audio by the Internet, filtered through a coffee filter, run underground for an hour in muddy water and then de-essed by of piece of Behringer compression gear. People that love the sound of good, crisp, quality podcast audio have never heard that from him, except on Omnibus and the late Friendly Fire where he recorded at his end.

The difference between a FocusRite and an Apogee is probably negligible compared to the other things that degrade the audio quality. Dan as a pro audio person who has presumably racks and racks of gear with fans whirling all the time, and yet in the style of 2011 or 2014 they still record over Skype and it sounds like John is talking to him through a walkie talkie. It is not quite that bad, but Dan can hear John. ”I can hear you!” is what George Bush famously said when he wasn't really listening.

John’s road trip across the United States (RW230)

Getting a cough from having a road trip through wildfires

John has a little bit of a cough because he recently drove through some states that were shrouded in smoke from the Western fires and he has sensitive lungs, he is not thrilled about fires being the new thing. They used to sit in Seattle and say: ”Haha, we got all the water we need, the weather is mild, the only thing we have to worry about is earthquakes and volcanoes!”, and just like people that build in the Mississippi River Valley, in Cape Hatteras, or anywhere on the Florida coast they would say that the last natural disaster was surely the last one to ever happen.

But the introduction of 100+ temperatures and late summer forest fires is a drag that takes the smugness right out of us them up in the Northwest. Fortunately they all have N-95 masks. John was in a motor vehicle and had the air recirculator on as part of the air conditioning, and he thought he was immune and the particulate wouldn't get in, but it did Asbestosis Mesothelioma. He is vulnerable to that kind of thing. He was on a road trip and feels confident in tying his cough to the forest fires, but he also has a lingering feeling like: ”Oh shit! Maybe I picked up COVID in a truck stop bathroom, and now I am coughing because I have a breakthrough infection!”, so he is going to get himself tested today and he hopes he didn't get it.

Despite all of their precautions as a family, traveling across America you meet a lot of dingdongs out there. He is a compulsive hand-washer, but you still got to find a way to get out of that bathroom because a lot of those doors open inward and if you are in a short sleeve shirt and it is a blower hand dryer you are really trapped in there until either somebody comes and opens the door for you, or usually he finds a way to use some corner of his pants pockets to open the door. Sometimes you have to wash your hands, you realize the doorknob problem, you open the door, you hold it open with your heel, and then see if you can reach back to the sink to wash your hands again, but sometimes you can't do it. There are a lot of challenges in traveling and he never should have done it, he should have stayed home.

John rediscovering the variety of the United States again and again

John’s family went to Columbus Ohio 3/4 of the way across the country. They went through Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Arizona, Nevada, Idaho again, Oregon, Washington, a giant loop around the soft wide underbelly of the United States with a lot of road time and a lot of good times and great memories and maybe a family-wide case of COVID, but let’s hope not.

As John was in Texas he thought of Dan, but Texas always seem so big until you are in the largest state of the Union: Anchor down in Anchorage. John was all the way up in the panhandle, which is three Texas's away from Dan. When Dan lived in California people were asking him if he went to Los Angeles much, but he was in San Francisco and Los Angeles is a whole other country until Elon Musk's MagLev underground Hyper Train, which is a little bit of a Supertrain, makes that a half hour trip. Texas is a funny place and during his trip there was a weather phenomenon that wasn't exactly a tornado warning, but there was a cloud that was raining and made it feel like it was very near them although it wasn’t.

The sun was creating sun-sprites, little glowing figures dancing around the cloud, there was a Halo, at a certain point it looked like there were two suns, it was a whole Star Wars ride of weather that was making up for the fact that there wasn't a damn thing on the ground, except a couple of towns that once upon a time had a last picture show in 1970 and now that is all gone. When you cross between American states things change right away. The difference between the Oklahoma Panhandle and Texas should be negligible, it is an imaginary line, but there is a huge difference between Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas.

When Dan was driving up through Vermont and going into Canada, as he crossed the border it looked very different 10ft away from where the other one was. Is it a different fertilizer? What is happening? Even though those state lines are big straight lines drawn absently by surveyors on a giant table somewhere in Virginia, they were surveyed by intrepid people in proto-Stetsons, actual Beaver hats, and there is a probably an inclination as people were doing those surveys that they just followed what would be the gradation of climate difference. As you are moving north you are moving out of the subtropical Texas into the planes. The whole story of the Oklahoma Panhandle is a fascinating story.

Even crossing between Texas and New Mexico, it was like the sun changed and almost immediately you are in the mountains. For two days you were in a place where there was no mountain, not a hill, half the time not even trees, and all of a sudden: ”Boom! Mountains!”, and for the rest of your trip across the United States you are interacting with mountains in some way or another. John has been across the US back and forth in every direction 50 times, but every time you have a whole new experience because you take even a slightly different route, you get off in slightly different towns, and a whole different thing unfolds. John really likes the United States, for all of the bad things you hear about it on the Internet it has a lot going for it, it is one of the biggest countries nonetheless, and Dan claims it is even the biggest country. The purpose of the journey was that there was a wedding, but there are a lot of easier ways to manage a wedding.

John’s daughter being in the formative age to go on road trips

John, his mom, and his sister all have long road trip histories. His mom and sister have road tripped together many times, and all three of them like to get behind the wheel and go a long way. His mom and sister both also like to get behind the wheel and drive a short distance, they just like being behind the wheel. John’s Dan loved being in his car, it was his place, and his sister feels the same way. She just loves being in her car. His mom, too. It doesn't matter if they are in traffic or if they are running errands. They went to the hardware store, they forgot a thing, hey will turn around and go right back to the hardware store. John doesn’t want to drive his car a short distance, but he will drive 6000 miles.

They all have a lot of road trips under their belt and think of themselves as road trippers, it affects how they see the world, but none of them have done it in a while. John has taken his daughter on a couple of long road trips, but she was too young and was just in her car seat, Goo Goo Ga Ga-ing, but now she is old enough that that she will remember this road trip. Her mother is not a road tripper and has never driven across the United States and was interested in it. She drove down to California once, spend the night in a motel halfway down type of drive.

John’s daughter is 10.5 now and when Dan was her age it was 1981/82 and he remembers a lot from that time. When you are raising a child you follow along and when she is five years old and you are doing interesting enriching things it is getting into her at some level, but she is at best going to have a sense impression, maybe she is going to remember the Eiffel Tower, but it is not going to be part of her cosmology. At 10.5 some of that is going to stick. John went on long, weird trips with his dad and he remembers them well and he thinks of them as formative.

She was the perfect age during the pandemic, old enough to be self-sufficient and able to spend hours at a time, finding her own reading or doing her own work, but also not old enough to really know what she was missing, not old enough to not just accept the circumstances as just another thing. If she had been 14 it would have been really hard, and if she had been 4 it would have been really hard for different reasons. Right now, the idea of putting her in a car and driving her across the country and saying: ”Look over there, honey! You know what kind of cactus that is?”

She is old enough to roll her eyes at him, but not old enough to hate it or to internally resist the whole idea. She can internally resist trying to retain any knowledge of the different cactuses that her father has pointed out, but most of the things that happen are going to unfold in a way that she is just absorbing them, she is not sitting petulantly, arms folded, listening to The Cure, but John doesn’t know how much longer that window lasts where he can say: ”You know what we are going to see today?”

John’s daughter being interested in the atom bomb, visiting Hanford

They went by the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, the place in Eastern Washington where they built the atom bomb. Los Alamos is where the science was being done, but Hanford was the first operating reactor. There were sites all over, one in Tennessee Valley Authority had a big place where they built a city out of nowhere down there, but Hanford was the first reactor, and one of those reactors is still reacting. It was a top secret sites, but is now a super-fun site and whatnot. It is visible in the distance from the road.

About four months ago John’s daughter asked him to tell her about Adam’s Bomb. ”What is Adam's Bomb and why do we talk about it?” - ”My Darling, you have come to the right person!” They watched a lot of Hiroshima footage, John talked about the physics of it, the chemistry of it, he rolled out the periodic table at one point, and ever since then he has been talking about elements and the way that they interact with one another and ions and electrons, because it comes up, like any science, you don't have to look far for it to come up.

John doesn’t know it very well, but enough that if she says: ”Why does the salt do that?” he got just enough that he can tie it back in. Adam’s Bomb has become a thing she is interested in, and how could you not be? All you have to do is see one Adam’s Bomb and you know something is up. How the heck did they do this? John is still filled with wonder. They were driving by Hanford in the the middle and nowhere, it was the desert, they were on their way home, everybody just wanted to get there, but John said: ”I am sorry. I know you said no more missions, but we are going to go out of the way to go look at Hanford and just appraise it, not because there is anything really to see except some smokestacks in the distance, but it is important that you know what it looks like because you will read about it and you will have been here.

Also, you need to go to those places and take a knee in some way. This is a world-historical thing. The UFOs wouldn't have bothered contacting us, they wouldn't have come up from their ocean bottom layers if it weren't for Hanford!” John obviously really enjoys that kind of thing, she is trying to figure out how much of it… She knows some of it, she needs to scorn because it is important that you scorn your father in some things.

John’s daughter voluntarily memorizing the state capitals

At one point they were driving along and she was in the back seat. He had bought her a paper Atlas because when you drive across America you have to have a paper Atlas. If you are just looking at maps on your phone, it is an impoverished experience. You need to be able to flip back and forth from the pages, you need to try to follow the road as it goes across the binding of the map and on to the next map and doesn't quite line up, you are always looking for a spot that ends up in between two maps. That is just as important as learning to build a fire.

She was puttering around with her Atlas, and at a certain point it became clear that she is independently memorizing the state capitals. No one has ever suggested to her that that is even a thing, he has never said: ”One day you will memorize the state capitals, it is one of the things that we do in American history class in 7th grade! Everybody has to do it! No-one remembers them! It is a classic example of wasted time that keeps 7th graders from smoking cigarettes and having sex! I memorized all the state capital. I don't remember them!”

She was in the back, puttering along, humming to herself, and John realized she is memorizing the state capital and eventually she said: ”Do you want to know how many state capitals I know?” - ”Do I?” and she runs down 18 or 19 state capitals she had committed to memory. They had visited several of them and she was doing the best possible thing, tying the new information you have to a first-hand experience. They have been to Des Moines, Iowa, they have driven up to the Capitol building and looked at it, they have been to Helena, Montana, they have been to these places on this trip and it wasn't a coincidence that John took them to state capitals. If it had occurred to John he absolutely would have said: ”Why don't you memorize the state capitals?”, but then she would have hated it and it would have just seemed like a chore and another one of dad’s dumb things.

It is the type of thing she will keep working on and she is probably halfway to knowing all the state capitals, and she is several years ahead of the time that John was forced to learn and then immediately tried to forget all of the state capitals. He used to know every country in Africa, but after he learned them all a lot of them changed their names and some of them change their borders and at a certain point he got a little bit lost and then you just surrender and he is lost his way. If you gave him a map of Africa with all the nations it would be like solving the Sunday Crossword puzzle, he would work on it for a while and walk away, come back and go: ”Rhodesia is not a country. What is it called now?”, it would be one of those.

John’s daughter’s mother seeking the vacation in the trip, which is the opposite to John’s approach

Her mom enjoyed it a lot, but they also get to the heart of the difference between a vacation and a trip. John’s daughter's mother wants to go on vacation, she wants to have a vacation, she enjoys vacations, and she loves a trip, but what she is always trying to do is find a vacation inside the trip. John is absolutely the opposite, he is always trying to find the trip in any vacation. He doesn’t know what to do on vacation, he would never take a vacation, the idea of going somewhere just to be there is very alien to him. Over the years there have been times when he found a certain cafe somewhere and he had gotten up every morning and had a little espresso and read the Herald Tribune and he felt this was all he needed today and he was just going to sit there and watch the people go by.

Those are great moments, but most of the time he will instead try to find the catacombs, in particular the ones that are off-limits. It is not even really that he is happiest in the crypt, but he wants the mission to give purpose to the vacation. In driving across the country, his daughter’s mother is taking it all in, enjoying the experience, enjoying the the family all being together, but her side-motivation is to find the comforts, the good meal, the nice hotel, she wants it not to feel like work, she wants it to feel like a reward for the hard work we do elsewhere: ”This is how we are going to spend our free time and we are going to do it by having fun and by being relaxed!”

Deer being stupid and running in front of the car

Driving across the country is not always relaxing. When you see deer interact with the highway and you realize that deer aren't smart, they are gifted jumpers, but not smart, and deer somehow in millennia of evolution understand the wolf, the coyote, the bear, the mountain lion, they very definitely understand the dog, and they understand a human, but they don't understand a car. From a human being standpoint you look at the deer and you go: ”Well, I know you didn't evolve to understand what this is, but just using your senses, which are acute, your sense of smell, your sense of sight, your sense of hearing, here is a hurdling block with flashing lights and roaring sounds, why would you leap in front of it? Run from the wolf, run from the bear, run from the lion, run from the dog, you would think that a deer would just default to run from everything.

But they run into the car, they jump right in front of the car, and there is really not a damn thing you can do about it. In Texas over there in Hill country there are a lot of deer and it can be carnage the way the cars interact with the deer right there around LBJ's house, and it can be really hard to travel that road. You have weird little deer the size of dogs, but out in the mountain west the deer are very large, and they are just as dumb as the dumbest dog. A dumb dog would run in front of a car, but it is usually because it is chasing a butterfly or something, it didn't just look at a car and go: ”Maybe the best place to interact with this foreign thing is to jump in front of it!”

The deer is not jumping in front of the car to challenge it and it has 360° of choices of the next direction and statistically it probably chooses the 270° that aren't directly in front of the car most of the time. John has been very fortunate in all the years of driving across the country that he has never hit a deer, although he has been driving at night, driving fast, and he felt like the captain of the Titanic sometimes where you know there are deer everywhere, it is pitch black dark, it is summer in Wyoming, and it is just dumb luck that some big deer doesn't jump in front of his van at 80 mph. A lot of bands have hit deer, and John has seen what happens to the van and to the band, it is always gnarly, but it can be really destructive.

John had a friend in Alaska that hit a Moose and the Moose came through the front windshield and ended up in the backseat of his car. He survived it, but: ”No thanks!” The largest thing that Dan ever unfortunately hit was a rabbit and it didn't do any damage, but a deer is a big heavy animal and it can do serious damage. The speed you are going when you hit the deer has some effect on the hit points. You roll for damage on a 20-sided die.

John was driving across the country and he was just marveling at how in all of nature's magic the deer has such a selective flight mechanism. They are certainly aware of alert to even freaked out by cars, but they respond so curiously and John doesn’t understand it well enough to judge it. As he was driving he said to his companions in the car: ”Do not follow the example of the deer! If you see something you don't understand, an UFO for instance, a giant ship, a thing, a pulsating orb, then run away or at least hide behind a tree!”

Driving being intrinsically stressful

Driving is intrinsically stressful, not just because of deer, but just because in the same way that they did not evolve to understand what a car was, we barely did. Being in a little crate hurdling 8 times faster than we could run, covering 600 miles a day, all of that is very strange to our natures, and it cannot help but add a soupçon of anxiety to everything, you are always a fish out of water, even when you are very relaxed, sitting, listening to your tunes, staring out the window, but some part of you realizes that this isn't a movie and even movies make our heart beat faster.

The idea that at the end of the day they would get somewhere and relax and luxuriate with cucumber slices over their eyes was not the kind of voyage that John knows how to facilitate, but his daughter’s mother is not very good at finding a vacation in even his dumbest missions. She realized pretty early on that she needed to focus on finding a vacation for the members of their party who were open to vacationing. When they got to the hotel John didn't want to go in the swimming pool or put anything over his eyes, but he wanted to sit and shake the road off of himself and have a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup.

Like every trip he goes on he wanted to go in and find Sex in the City on TV. It was during the Olympics and every night they would go watch the Olympics in the hotel, which turned out to be great, like a framework every night at least the first 3/4 of the trip, to see what is happening with the badminton or the synchronized gymnastics.

Watching the Olympics (RW230)

The Summer Olympics feature so many powerful female athletes and young athletes. His daughter is very attuned to when there is unequal representation. She is not very into movies that don't have a strong female lead and she calls it out, like: ”Well, this is Baloney! Where are the girls in this?” - ”Well, this was made in 1945 and girls didn't exist in the 1940s!” - ”I don’t believe that! That seems like pure Bull!”, but the Olympics aren't like that at all and it is much easier to sit and talk about the sports and the body and what it does and how kinetic people can be. The gender of the participants doesn't even really enter into it because there is so much going on, every event is different, and it is thrilling to watch the Olympics with her.

Dan doesn’t have very clear memories of his first Olympics, it must have been after 1980s when the US boycotted them, but as a kid he was watching it, especially with his grandparents who really enjoyed it. He was definitely double-digit ages, Los Angeles and 1984 probably. John’s first Olympics was the 1976 Olympics and Montreal. He was 7.5 when that Olympics was broadcast and it was a thrilling Olympics. The Olympics prior to that in 1972 in Munich was really a bummer, but in 1976 Montreal seemed like such an exotic and cool place and Nadia Comăneci got a 10. John watched the Olympics every day on NBC. They were so devoted to the Olympics then and even now it feels like a thing that brings the world together, but back then it felt like the whole planet put down everything to watch this contest. Now there is just too much going on.

Dan was watching a documentary about the Challenger disaster, showing old footage from that time period. You could see as they were starting the space program, it takes you through the entire thing, how they brought the astronauts together, how they started the whole space program, all of it leading up to the disaster. What Dan found was very interesting about it was that even as comparatively to today how disconnected we all were from each other, how on the same page everybody was about big things, whether it was a shuttle launch or the Olympics or whatever. There was still that patriotism. Being patriotic is almost a bad word today, but there was very much a tangible patriotism that our country is going to space.

In the same way people appreciate the Olympics. The closest thing now is soccer, that enthusiasm and excitement seems to be the only place you will find that now is there and maybe the Olympics.

Changes in the first vs the second half of John’s dad’s life (RW230)

John went very much in depth about this topic in RW128

John thinks a lot about how things have changed, change in general, and he revels in it a lot. When his dad was 86 years old John asked him to ask his friends at his old folks home to divide their lives in half, the first 43 years and the second 43 years. His dad was born in 1921, so the first 43 years would take him to 1964. Kennedy had just been assassinated, The Beatles were on Ed Sullivan, the Mercury program was launching people into space, Vietnam hadn't yet happened, the Baby Boomer thing hadn't happened, and the second 43 years from 1964 to 2007 there was Vietnam, the Baby Boomers, the energy crisis, the sexual revolution, AIDS, increasing wealth disparity, the rise of the personal computer, the man on the moon. Which of those two halves of your life did you feel like you saw the greatest change?

Thinking about 1921 when John’s dad was born, he still laced up his shoes with a hook, he wore high socks and nickers to school, the automobile and airplane were still new inventions. everyone wore suits, even the hobos, there was an incredible segregation in the country: class segregation, race segregation, religious segregation, but also the technology: By the end of World War II there were jet airplanes, we were flying to space, and we had television. By 1964 we had recognizable jet airplanes, almost exactly of the kind that we use today, except the ones we use now are shittier, they are faster and quieter, but it is a shittier experience. We already had color television, we had fewer shows, but if you saw a television now it would be recognizable, the clothes would be recognizable, the Rock music of 1964 we still listen to, and it is still better than almost anything subsequent.

What has changed in the second half of their lives, all those things that are disparaged like the computer, the electric toaster, and the refrigerator that talks to you, how have any of those things… John’s mother grew up on a farm where she had an outdoor privy and they didn't have electricity at first, but when they did get electricity they didn't have appliances, they didn't have a hot water heater. Until she was in elementary school they fetched water from a well. The difference between that and having a refrigerator, a stove, a washing machine, what an enormous change! The difference between the refrigerator, stove, and washing machine of 1964 and the one that we have today is just an incremental change. John’s refrigerator in his house is from 1977 and it is loud, but it works.

They almost all said that the greater change was in the second half of their life and they meant that the social change trumped the technological change because although it was incredible to have clean drinking water and jet airplanes, but what boggled their minds was women's rights, the equal rights movements, the idea that we had progressed so far and so fast in terms of equitability. They said that even conscious of the increase in wealth disparity because in the course of their lives they had seen that 3-4 times, situations where: ”Well, now the rich have all the money!”, ”Now there is a labor movement!”, ”Now the labor movements become a weird, corrupt thing, but there is tons of regulation!”, ”Oops, now there is no regulation!”, ”Now the rich have all the money!” They recognized that that was a cyclical thing, but you couldn't put the Genie back in the bottle of people being liberated and that was the thing that struck them all as having been the more profound change.

When John looks at the United States, the fact that in 1976 the whole world sat down and watched the Olympics, and it is what we all talked about, everybody watched the Columbia launch, and everybody watched the moon landing, and the fact that there is none of that now or very little. If astronauts walked on the moon tomorrow 80% of the people wouldn't register it. When NASA does something amazing a bunch of nerds all sit down in front of their computers and watch the little Rover, but it is not even on television.

It is hard to know exactly what to lament. A lot of futurists and modernist and just regulars celebrate aspects of now that John doesn't and they rue aspects of now that John doesn't. It is part of a growing feeling of being out of step that has been going on for decades because even in 1994 he felt like: ”What are you wearing those pants for? For the love of…!” He already was a curmudgeon, but he doesn’t want to miss-judge what is the best change and he doesn’t want to mistake good change for bad. All change has collateral damage and maybe it is the nature of things that we will all end up in clothes made of bark because no-one cares anymore about how long your shirt collar is.

Yesterday John was talking to Ken’s son who is 18 and he was over when they were recording Omnibus, he was talking about his freshman dorm that he is about to move into, and he was all bent out of shape because the dorm that they assigned him was an old dorm that didn't have broadband, some old brutalist dorm from the 1970s that they had scheduled to tear down and then they decided at the last minute they couldn't tear it down. He ended up getting into a dorm then that did have all mod cons, and in the: ”Let me tell you about the old days!” John realized that in his dorm in his freshman year, every one of the 4 floors of his dorm had a phone half way down the hall, and when it rang the person who was closest to it picked it up and directed the call to its intended recipient by shouting down the hall: ”Roderick! Phone!”

If you wanted to call somebody it was a pay phone probably. John went to college right after the introduction of those phone cards where you could dial the number and then dial your code number instead of having to put a million coins in or instead of having to use the local call collect. In those early years John probably made equal numbers of collect calls because the phone cards didn't always work and he didn't always have one. John was telling this story and he is not that old, although he is over the 43 mark for now being in the second half of this experiment and looking at his life up to the point that he was 43 it feels of a piece. In 1986 the idea that each dorm room would have its own phone felt like: ”Yeah, sure, somewhere in America there is a college where every kid has their own phone in the room, but that is a level of decadence that is probably unhealthy for those kids. What if you could just talk on the phone anytime you wanted? What else would you do? You just sit and talk on the phone. You wouldn't even go to class!”

But even until John was 43, even with cell phones, even with the Internet, it still felt very much that the Internet is the same as writing letters to people, it is just faster, and cell phones are the same as phones, you can just carry them with you. All the other changes that John never could have anticipated, just like in that dorm he never could have anticipated that one day those questions wouldn't be relevant anymore. Sure, you got a phone on your watch. Dick Tracy had that, but that is not how we interact with each other anymore. You don't make phone calls, really! The nature of the way we talk and what we are talking about is the thing that changed and why we communicate and what we communicate about is the thing that science fiction writers couldn't predict.

They would have said that everyone will have their own phone line in their own room and now why would you want a phone line in your room? Nobody wants that! They want broadband for gaming! You could explain it to John as a 20 year old: In the future everybody is going to want broadband for gaming, and he would have understood, but he wouldn't have been able to put together a picture of society, a picture of what the world felt like to live in.

That is what John’s dad and his friends were saying: In the first half of their lives the technology changed so much, it was all very exciting, now they could get from here to there in half the time, but what it felt like to live in the world didn't really change. You could travel across America in half the time, if you could afford it, and when you did that you dressed like you did when you went on a train. When you got there, there were porters to carry your bags, like there had been for trains and for stage coaches. That was true in John’s own childhood. When you went to the airport it felt like going to a train station more than a spaceport, even though it looked spacey.

What John’s Dan was trying to explain and John didn't really understand it even then was that they could never have predicted what it felt like to live in the second half of their lives, and a lot of that was founded in confusion and disorientation. Up until Vietnam his dad had never considered that the United States would not be the righteous actor. He was a Liberal Liberal Democrat, but the idea that the United States wouldn't be acting in good faith was more than just a matter of disagreement between people of good faith, it became this whole separate universe of like: ”Well, then what are we doing if the government is lying to us?”

John finds himself now in middle age in that stew. There isn't quite a Vietnam, there is not a feeling of the scales falling from his eyes, he was not naive and now can see, but it is more a feeling of decay and rot, and the disillusionment isn't surprise as much as it is disappointment. Is that maybe more akin to the sort of cyclical approach that that generation had to looking at trends in wealth disparity? Where they said: ”Yeah, this comes and goes. Right now it is these assholes on Wall Street. When my father was young it was those assholes at the railroads. And before that it was people trying to corner the diamond market. Right now it is tech and big agriculture and big Pharma.”

John’s dad would be 100 years old this October and if he were alive he would be watching Biden putting teeth back into the antitrust legislation and he would say: ”God damn right!” because he believed that the unscrupulous people were always going to try and find a way and the point of government was often playing whack-a-mole because there is always somebody that is going to try to graze their sheep on BLM land without paying and there is always somebody that is going to try and hock a patent medicine or steal the family farm or take pension plans and invest them in bundled mortgages.

The government is the only authority that, if it is working properly, can do something about it and then there will be something else and that is why government isn't perfect. But he would say: ”Yes! Hell yes!” and he would be looking to the next 20 or 30 years as a period where now we were going to redress that, we are going to take that concentrated money out of the hands of that 1%, we are going to redistribute it, and it is going to be a time of reordering. John is sitting here at this point in his life wondering: ”Is the second half of my life going to seem more impressive or less?” because it is not necessarily so that if the future is two steps forward, one step back, sometimes a generation lives half of their life through a step back, and you get to the end and you go: ”We didn't we didn't get as far as I hoped!”

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