RW42 - The Integrity of a Cardboard Tube

This week, Dan and John talk about

The show title refers to a coffee table at John's home when he was in 4th grade that was made out of plastic sheets and cardboard tubes.

Dan was late because he had some technical problems with his digital mixer because they had a power outage earlier. Now it is back up and running and both of them sound great.

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

WarGames (RW42)

John is usually the tech neophyte or the tech luddite of this program, because Dan has a room full of servers and spinning 2-inch tape machines. He even got WOPR running scenarios for him! Dan would be interested in knowing how many WOPRs an iPhone could power now. John thinks that WOPR was 50 daisy-chained IBM PCs with 64K or maybe 128K each. Dan loved that movie, but it scared the hell out of him as a kid.

Matthew Broderick was in there keeping us safe as always. It was one of those movies that made John feel like he should be a hacker. The main character was a normal kid with a hot girlfriend who was also a hacker who would leave his home computer running scenarios while he was at school. When he came home, it would have cracked the code. He had the type of modem that received a phone headset into it. Dan never had one of those and when he watched the movie he thought that computers can’t talk over the phone, but of course that was a real thing!

John’s mom working in computers (RW42)

In 1984 John had a very early modem with 300 baud, but he had no idea how to use it or whom to call. He understood the concept that it would allow this computer to talk over the phone, which was the top technology for long-distance communication that anyone could conceive of at the time. Information could be exchanged with other computers, but where was there another computer? John’s mom worked in computers and when it was time to buy a home computer, she got the cool stuff, but she never touched it because it was a busman’s holiday for her and in her estimation it had no computing power. Her computer at work had a whole building to itself, it was cooled to 45 degrees (7 °C) and the people running it were wearing lab coats.

She would take John into the computer room where she would have to show her badge probably half as many times as you would have to show your badge to get into any Microsoft building in Seattle, but at the time it was very exciting. They signed in on a piece of paper, John got a little sticky badge, his mom showed her pass to various security guards and they would buzz the door and all of a sudden they were in this super-cooled white room with a Mainframe computer all the way down the line and another one on this side and some tape reels turning. When John was a kid, his mom would bring home boxes and boxes of punch cards for him to use as art project paper and reams and reams of super-wide computer paper with holes punched on the side and green lines across it. They always had bins of that kind of paper trash because computers needed a lot of paper and cardboard to do their things.

Dan’s dad would take him to the university where he could feed punch cards into the computer and it would print out something on a daisy wheel printer. It felt like it took the whole afternoon to print out an ASCII-art version of Snoopy with his little football helmet on. In his first year of High School they had a computer class instead of a typing class, because learning to type and learning to program in BASIC was an equal and interchangeable skill. Of course Dan took the computer class!

This is the generational divide between John and Dan: There was no computer class when John was a freshman in High School. There was a computer lab that you had to get checked into by an 80-year old librarian. You had to prove to her that you could sit at an Apple IIe and do something and not spill a Coke on it. There was no instruction whatsoever! Maybe you could take a class with the science teacher who was reading out of the manual. Typing was still a very popular class that John took in Freshman year and he got an F in it.

They sat in a big room full of 40 kids with IBM Selectrics, they had carbon copy paper and they had a book at the side that said ”The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog” and ”She sells sea shells by the sea shore” The goal was to type without looking at your fingers. At one point John could type 60 words a minute and he actually got a job in the 1990s working at a bank based on how fast he could type, but they had no requirement for him to know how to do computers. There was a computer as part of his job in the bank, but his primary instrument was still an IBM Selectric.

Memorizing times tables and the US states (RW42)

Dan was very intimidated by everything that had to do with memorization. He would remember if you told him something or if he watched a movie, but memorizing the capital of every state? He would fail those tests! Those things were a big part of 8th grade for John. Dan could sit in science class and listen to the teacher talk about geocentric orbits and find it stupid because it was so obvious, or he would sit in geometry and go over the theorems and all of it was boring and obvious. He would humor them and show his work, he could sit down and write a 5-page essay, first draft, no editing and get an A on it, but memorizing something? He couldn’t do it! Dan never memorized his times-tables, he never memorized the states, or any of that.

When John was in 4th grade, they had a coffee table that was made out of cardboard tubes and a plastic sheet. It was a 1970s college kid furniture thing. When his mom divorced his dad and moved into her own house, she bought a set of furniture that was made out of cardboard tubes, like poster tubes that were painted red with little white plastic 3-prong adapters that you could stick into the end to make a right angle. They had end tables and a coffee table made out of this with a plastic table top that just sat on top, so if you kicked the table over, the table-top would just fly off. Those were just placeholder tables, but they had them a surprisingly long time before they finally went to Goodwill. They were held together by the integrity of a cardboard tube and the fact that the little plastic end pieces fit pretty snuggly. When it was all assembled, it had structural integrity, but the plastic table tops were the weak link in the chain, because it was nylon or something.

By the time John was in 4th grade, his mom decided that John needed to memorize his times-tables, a long time before his classmates were doing it. They were not even using multiplication yet, but she said that he didn’t need to know multiplication to know his times tables. It was just a question of memorization to have them in his brain and he would understand multiplication as they would work on it, not the other way around. She took the plastic table top off the thing, turned it upside down, leaned it against the wall, made a grid with a ruler and a marker and drew a times table on it. She would sit with John every night and work on the times-table until John had it memorized and he still does. By the time the rest of the kids got around to learn multiplication, John was Jonny on the Spot with his times-cloud he had access to.

Around the time Dan should have learned his times-tables the school was on strike and closed for some weeks. When they came back they had to compress everything they had missed and Dan got left behind and just never learned it. The things that came easily to him were frequently the things that were very hard to other people, like writing. When things in computer programming required memorization of method names and calls to APIs, it was very easy for Dan to remember because he had interest in it and he liked it, but if you told him to memorize something just to memorize it and he couldn’t connect with the value of it, he would just try to figure out a way through it without doing it.

They continue to talk about different US States and argue about the importance of memorizing them. When you think of Nebraska and Kansas, you are already exploring the West. A lot of the identity of Indiana is premised on the fact that it was the frontier. Missouri was the edge of civilization and Kansas City was already in Cowboy territory.

There were two tests in the show notes:

Visiting all 50 states (RW42)

John has visited all 50 states and every metropolitan area in all those 50 states. At the time when he was memorizing all 50 states and capitals in 8th grade, he didn't have the goal to visit every state because he assumed that he would absolutely do that anyway! John carries a lot of assumptions on how life is going to play out and he still carries around the assumption that he will at one point or another visit the vast majority of countries in the world. Right now he is behind the 8-ball because there are a lot of people who made a habit out of expansive world travel and some of his friends have been to a lot more countries, because they went to India/Japan/China and they did the Vietnam/Laos/Cambodia/Thailand vacation trip, going to beaches and renting scooters. John’s sister and John's daughter’s mother went around the world together and they went on a tour of all the tropical beaches of the Pacific.

John’s sister had a boyfriend in Nepal and lived there for a year. He is Nepalese and owns a White Water Rapid guide company in Nepal and she decided that she was going to be a white water guide in Nepal now. John said ”Sure! Of course you are, Darling Sister! See you when I see you!” John hasn’t done any of that, but he still assumes he will because he is only 47 years old! He assumes he will have a reason to visit all those places, which was always the problem: He needs a reason to do it.

John didn’t want to visit Arkansas for the first time as part of some dumb quest to visit all 50 states, but he needed a reason to be in Arkansas and when he eventually did, he felt that he had visited it legitimately and with panache. By the time he was at 46 states, he just wanted to get this done and they booked a tour where they were playing shows in Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana, those were the last 3. It was a legitimate tour and they were playing shows in those states. They drove in, stayed in a hotel, went to the town hall, played the Rock show, collected the accolades, kissed a few babies, high-fived, and drank some of the local spring water.

When they played in Mississippi, the brakes of the van went out and John had to stop every 5 miles, open the hood, throw a bunch of brake fluid into the reservoir, jump back into the truck and drive as far as you cold until the brake pedal stopped working again. They spent an extra day in Mississippi because some guys John found at the side of the road promised they could fix his brakes, but they had completely blown out and they had to run new brake lines. When John had visited all 50 states, he threw a handful of confetti up for himself. Nobody can take that away from him and he just needs to be chipping away at the countries in Africa.

Wanting to learn German, speaking English in non-native countries (RW42)

There was a time when John really thought he would learn German because he had so many reason to. He really wanted to learn it and nothing was stopping him, but he still doesn’t know it 15 years later and he feels bad about it. Dan thinks it is rude to visit a country without being fluent in the native language, but John disagrees with that 100.000%. If you were Swedish and you wanted to visit Spain, the language you would probably use was English. A Swede is going to know English and if they are in Spain, they are not going to try to speak Swedish to people, but they will speak English, because it is the or at least a lingua franca.

If you are visiting Sweden as a Japanese, you are probably going to try and use as much English as you have, because that is the most likely language. In Hungary and in some other Central European countries they were forced to learn Russian in school and after the wall fell they all learned German. You can tell what year someone from Central Europe was born in from weather or not they speak Russian as their foreign language or German. German is a lot more practical language for those people, because the vast majority of tourists are from Germany. The Germans couldn’t take over Central Europe militarily, but now they just take it over touristically.

Even in those countries English is well known. John kind of felt like Dan until he realized that he already natively speaks the language that everyone else is struggling to communicate in. You are doing everybody a favor by just speaking English fluently rather than stumbling over a guide book. In most places, if the person speaks any English at all, that is what they prefer. No-one expects you to speak Laotian. Either you have English together or maybe French in former colonial countries like Morocco or maybe still in Vietnam. Everyone in the Russian aristocratic culture during the Russian revolution era used to speak fluent French, but that is not true anymore. John spoke a little bit of French to get by in Arab countries, but people want to speak English even there.

When Dan was in South Korean, there were two groups of people: The kind that very much wanted to speak English to an American and the ones who thought that not speaking Korean to them was some kind of disrespect. There was no grey area between those two and it was an eye-opening trip for Dan in the late 1990s.

If you speak English in Paris you will meet a lot of people who do speak English, but who do not want to talk to you, because it is France and the French are awful that way. Once John said to somebody in Paris ”Parlez-vous anglais?” and the person replied in perfect unaccented English ”No, but I speak perfect French!” Either that is a very weird thing to have practiced to say with utterly perfect allocution, like ”Okay, asshole!” or you speak perfect English and you are being an asshole.

There are plenty of places in Europe throughout Scandinavia and the low countries where people will correct your grammar because they speak English so well. They speak English better than Dan or John and it is a point of personal pride. The languages aren’t that different and their Germanic tongues understand English. At least in the Netherlands they had their TV programs all in English. Everybody appreciates it if you are comfortable of speaking clearly in English, enunciating really well, speaking fairly slowly, and using words that aren’t overly complicated.

Language is secondary to being capable of making yourself understood. One time John held out a map to a young, bearded, hip student character on the streets in Istanbul, asking him where the center of town was. ”Center” is one of those words like ”taxi”, ”gulasch”, or ”hotel" that everyone in the world knows and Istanbul was once Constantinople, the capital of the Holy Roman Empire! Turks have heard Latin languages before and he wasn’t herding sheep through town, but this was an University student on his way from one Physics class to another.

John asked ”Where is the center?” and he replied ”I don’t speak English!” John tried several times making it very easy, but the guy got very frustrated. John had been traveling for months and months, talking to people who have never even heard of English, but he could communicate with them just fine. If you bump into somebody on a country road and that person asks you a question, the question can be one of very few things: ”Do you have any food?", "Do you know where there is water?", "Am I going in the right direction?" or "Do you want to fuck?” You are not going to get asked ”Have you ever read Camus?" or "Do you have a marriageable sister?” and John wouldn’t even have put the ”Do you want to fuck?” at the end if he hadn’t been asked this a dozen times meeting people on a country road, because in a lot of countries that is a big opportunity.

This student’s life was based so much in his intellect and he was so anxious about not understanding English or he was potentially driven by a Turkish chauvinism that he was angry that John was trying to speak English with him. Perhaps he was motivated by some other thing, but he was all the way up in his head and unwilling to understand. His brain was in the way of solving a very simple question.

Whenever John sees two people looking at a map, he always stops, even if he is not from that town, walks over and asks if he can help them find something. Invariably the question is ”Where is the center?” or ”Where is the Museum of Modern Art?” They never ask if you want to fuck, because they are the ones holding a map, which in John’s experience is not a universal sign for ”Do you want to fuck?”

In Seattle, the person holding the map is Japanese a lot of the time and they don’t speak very much English, but they do understand more English that they can speak. Anybody who walks over to you when you are pouring over a map is a friend. The only thing John stipulates is to never draw on somebody else’s map with a pen. John wants his maps clean as ice and even when somebody at the reception in a hotel draws on their little hotel maps, he will ask for another map without any marks on at the end.

How John reads a book (RW42)

John never makes any marks, notes or highlights in a book that he is reading, because if you do that, you are treating it as a text and you are using it as a tool. John doesn’t read that way! He won’t break the spine, but he will fold pages over and stuff. He does not worry about defacing a book, but he worries about defacing a map. John has carried around lots of books in his back pocket and by the time he is done with them they are trashed. John is not reading a text to derive the essential data from it, but he bathes in texts and if he misses the clue or the thesis, it is less important than he be in the author’s mind along the bumbling path. John’s girlfriend was a law student and to her every text is something to engage with, to pounce upon, and sluice all the meaning out of, but John has a very different relationship with text.

John starts at the beginning and reads until the end. He doesn’t speed read and if he arrives at the sentence that is the thesis, he doesn’t underline it and keep going, but he stops and reads the thesis 14 times, stews in it and moves on once he feels that he understands it. It means that he reads books more slowly, he is a pain in the ass, and he is not a law student. Highlighting things and moving on is disrespectful to the person who sat in front of a typewriter and put all those extra additional unnecessary sentences in there.

John even read all the descriptions of the fucking sea in Moby Dick. If you are a skimmer, the 50th time the words ”wine-dark sea” have been employed, you realize that this isn’t a book, but a song and wine-dark sea is one of the choruses, but John is going to sit and read it. In the Iliad, saying that you ”unpinned his knees” means that you killed them or at least felt him to the ground.

John building pipe bombs and burying his geometry homework in the garden (RW42)

Recently John had an experience that was a little bit like time traveling. He found Geometry in school very intuitive, but the insistence to learn the proofs and make the proofs did completely bounce him out of Geometry and he refused to do it. He loved to do the work on his finger tips, stew on it and come up with the answer, but he couldn’t stand the proofs. He didn’t get far enough into it to understand that he was basically learning his times-tables again and he didn’t do his geometry.

During Freshman year in High School John had been accepted into the alternative program, which was a holdover from the 1970s. In Anchorage, there were two directions the public schools were experimenting with and one of them was the open-plan elementary school where they took down all the walls and the 3rd and 6th graders were kind of mingling with each other. It was an early version of co-education and the 6th graders were supposed to help the 3rd graders how to tie their shoe laces or how to be good citizens. Bringing all of the kids together was a more naturalistic way of learning and these walls and these desks were getting in the way of learning, knowing and socializing.

Right about the time John was getting out of elementary school there was a new fashion called the ABC-school, which were public schools that really focused on the basics. You sat in a hard chair facing the black board, you learned your math and science, and it was basically 1950s education. Both of these concepts were running concurrently with the regular schools that were just doing whatever it was that normal schools did. John knew he belonged in the open-plan alternative school, but he also knew he wasn’t going to be happy there because the total lack of discipline and guidance and the free-wheeling freeness meant that he would do no work at all.

John was fine with that, but it was going to be nothing but problems. Still, he did go into the alternative school and it was nothing but problems, so much so that they asked him to not come there any longer, but go to the normal school and fight his battles there. John was in the alternative school in his Freshman year where he was taking Geometry, a thing that should not be alternativized.

The idea was that a lot of students want to work on their own at their own pace and if you want to go through the text book in 3 month instead of the 9 month school year, then by all means go ahead! In John’s case it meant he was just going to run around the halls, throwing paper airplanes and building pipe bombs in his locker and not do the math. When it came to the spring, and he had gotten a D- at the semester, he was 6 months behind on his homework, and he did get busted for having pipe bombs in his locker (see story in RW84) that he had been building and some kids had asked him if he would sell them some.

John and his friend Jim McNeil had taught themselves how to build pipe bombs. They would light them and throw them in a lake and blow up a bunch of mud and fish, or they would find an abandoned car out in the woods, stick a pipe bomb in it and blow it up. They were absolutely a danger to themselves and others, at any point in time they could have killed themselves and multiple times they should have. In Anchorage at the time you could go into any gun store and buy both black powder and canon fuse, because it was Alaska.

Over time Jim McNeal figured out that a solar igniter that was used to launch a model rocket would remotely and electrically ignite a pipe bomb. They would go to the hardware store and buy a bunch of 8-inch length pipe with two caps per length, of course they were building pipe bombs! These days they would flag you and call the police. You also can’t buy black powder stuff at the Fred Meyer anymore like you used to be able to. Together with the solar igniters they had a big reel of wire and a 12V battery and they would set these things off at great distance. It might have been safer, but a piece of shrapnel could have taken their head off.

To add insult to injury, John was not only building these things, but also bringing them to school to sell them to kids, albeit with a lot of precautions. He was going to give them a whole tutorial: Do not hold in hand, set on ground, light and get away! Don’t kill anybody, that will get us all in real trouble! Somebody told the teachers, one of them asked John to open his locker and he was busted and put on emergency suspension, which was some kind of unusual clause in the handbook that was for students who were an immediate threat to the school and to other’s safety. You could be suspended on the spot with no return date implied.

A regular suspension was 5 days, there was a double suspension of 10 days, but there was no third suspension. If you were suspended the second time, that was it and when you were suspended a third time, you were out of school and got expelled. Emergency suspension had no timeline, but you were suspended until you were determined to not be a threat to us and there was a requirement that you go and see a councillor.

John's mom sat him down in a hard chair and told him that his suspension did not mean he was just going to sit around and doodle while she was a work, but he was going to do all of the geometry homework that he had failed to do during the entire year until he had completed the entire class. She would come home from work unannounced and pop in the door and John needed to be seated at the table, working on geometry, and at the end of the day he needed to show her all the geometry homework he had done that day. It was a bad time!

Months before John had been in the alternative geometry class where the teacher felt just as little obligation to sit around at her desk in the class being a teacher as did the students. As she wandered off to make another mug of herbal tea John rummaged through her desk and found the answer key for the geometry book. For whatever reason there were two copies in her desk, one of them pristine and one of them full of notes and dog ears, so John took the pristine one.

He had never used it because he was never doing any of his geometry homework, but he just took it like ”Haha!” and maybe he could sell it to another kid at some point. He certainly wasn’t trying to get his homework in on time! As he was made to sit at this table by his mom, he pulled out that geometry book and he deliberately and very artfully duplicated what a geometry homework assignment would look like. He did all the graphs, but not accurately and not reflecting the actual work, but as an inaccurate forgery. He would write his name at the top, the name of the assignment, and he would draw those 90 homework assignments. There was no way anybody was going to grade these or do anything else with them than look at them, because this was already the end of April.

John made them look real, he did all the little notations, and ”Oh, I didn’t get that right, let me erase and do it again!” He made them look amazing and it was 1000 times harder than if he had just done his homework! In the end he would conclude the answer, because if his teacher was going to grade them, she was only going to look at the answer and John made sure than every assignment had one or two mistakes, because he didn’t want to get straight As and the only thing that was plausible was a B.

John's mom did come home during the day, but he could tell the sound of her car engine, even if she parked around the corner, and she would pop in the door ”What are you doing?” while John was sitting there at the table with homework stacked up.

Meanwhile the school made him go to a psychiatrist who had to determine that he wasn’t a threat to other students. They wanted to see if he was building these pipe bombs because he was going to kill a bunch of people in the lunch room, but John explained that he was not a dangerous person, but he was just a pyromanic dumbass. Nowadays John surely would have been expelled and he would probably be in prison as a 14-year old, but at the time it was ”Okay, boys will be boys!” and after a couple of weeks they let him go back to school, but he had to meet some requirements.

John was coming back to school with a giant stack of 90 B+ geometry homework assignments and his teacher did correct them, but as John suspected, she was just going down to see if the answers were right. John felt terrible, because if he got something wrong, she would write ”Nice try!” or something in red pen. John got all these assignments back as one giant stack and he got all the accolades. His teacher was impressed, his mom was impressed, and everybody was proud of him, but he felt terrible because of the burden of all this praise he hadn’t earned.

If there had been a guild of thieves and the members would have swooped into John’s house and said ”You are dastardly! Well played!”, he would have accepted that accolade, but he knew no guild of thieves and he couldn’t admit this crime to anyone. John’s mom doesn’t know about it even today, but he is 47 years old and she would just put it into the brimming-over pile of weird crimes John committed from the age of 10 to 40. It would not even be in the Top 100 of things he did. The pipe bomb thing for example is still a bigger deal.

As John got this packet of homework back he felt that it was a significant document, it was a portfolio, or at least a folio. He was very nervous that someone was come upon it, even though he couldn’t imagine who this was going to be, but maybe some forensic scientist was going to look at his grades and say that this B+ in geometry was kind of an outlier given that he has a D- cumulative average throughout High School. The only classes he ever got an A in were Newspaper and maybe one history class.

John also couldn’t destroy this document and so he took all the graded papers and the answer key book, he wrapped them and put them inside of a Seal-a-Meal, a device where you put your food in, push as much air out of it as you can and it was basically a little hot crimping iron that would crimp down on the bag and seal it air-tight. John sealed all this homework that was now the size of a phone book, he took it out in the garden, he dug a hole 3,5 feet (100 cm) down in his mom’s freshly tilled spring garden and he buried it. He couldn’t destroy it and he couldn’t let it sit around for someone to find. Having the instruction book with the papers was key! They had to be together for the forensic scientist to put the clue together.

John graduated from High School under the line of the necessary credits. The administration worked out some kind of Sophie’s Choice deal with themselves and gave him credit for classes that he had failed in order for him to go away, but had this geometry class be revealed as fraud, they couldn’t have graduated him. They were already pushed up against the wall. John didn’t feel confident of destroying the evidence, because that felt like an additional crime, so he buried it in the yard.

Fast forward to John’s 30th High School reunion a couple of weeks ago. John lived with his mom at the South East corner on the lake side of Princeton and Standford in Anchorage. John's friend Kurt Hansmeier lived at the very end of Princeton and his parents still live there to this day, 30 years after John graduated. Kurt was out for a walk with his mom and bumped into the people who live in John’s house now at 1800 Standford, they got to talking, Kurt said that a good friend of him from High School lived there, and they said that they were just tilling the garden not very long ago and they found a bag of homework buried in the garden and they recognized the name John Roderick. The crime was revealed!

If they take that evidence to the Anchorage School District, maybe John's High School diploma would be revoked, but he was also thrilled that the time capsule had survived and he told Kurt that he needed to get that bag back. At the moment of recording this episode, the communication is still open and Kurt hasn’t gotten back to John about it. John doesn’t want to make too big of a deal out of it either, because they might ask ”Why is it so important?” John probably actually drew doodles in the margins of the homework in order to make it look like he had been sitting there, really thinking about the problem. He made little marks like he had been tapping his pencil on the corner of it while he was thinking hard about how to find the area under the curve.

The reason John put the answer key together with the rest of it is because there are 18 minutes missing of Nixon’s tapes and everybody is just like ”Oh, we don’t know what happened!” A big segment of the tapes were just blank or got accidentally deleted and hundreds of thousands of missing emails from the Bush/Chaney/Rumsfeld era around the Golf War are unaccounted for and that stuff infuriates John, because the expediency of protecting your ass robs the historical record.

If they would find James Monroe’s emails and they would be implicating him in some terrible business in the assassination of a foreign diplomat, the importance of that to the historical record is far greater than the damage it inflicts on his reputation. Whatever happened during the Nixon administration and whatever had been redacted throughout history is the greater crime than whatever they were trying to conceal. History exonerates you when you are dead and time marches on, but we can never get back what has been lost.

This was of course John's Freshman Year mindset and he wasn’t thinking all this through at the time, but he understood his impulse that this was a comparatively great crime against the school, the trust of his parents and the institution, no matter how little respect he had for the institution and no matter how much as he felt that this was not a crime against his education. John never once felt that failing to learn geometry was a crime against himself, but forging his homework was a crime against his integrity, because it was an enormous lie and the only delight he took in it was the fact that he did make that homework artful looking. He was not forging a Vermeer, but he was doing a bit of over-clever forgery.

John was covered in shame about the whole affair, maybe being addicted to shame during his whole adult life was part of the thing, but he didn’t want to redact the truth from the record. If he had not buried it in the garden, the crime may have dimmed in his own memory. Burying it in the garden was to put a pea under the mattress of his own mind to remind him that he had done this thing and to remind him that there was a record somewhere implicating him.

The crime remains clear in John’s mind. It is a metaphor that he returns to, because duplicity is a component in the way he navigates the world. John does not reveal his whole self to the world, he keeps his own council and he respects institutions up to a point. He considers himself a man apart and this incident and its implications continues to resonate. John keeps records of all his duplicitousness through time to let history have access to the truth.

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