RW44 - Agnostic Wolf Attack

This week, Dan and John talk about

  • John’s mom taking care of customer service (Parents)
  • John's roach problems, taking all the light-bulbs (Vermin)
  • Smashing roaches in both Hungary and Bratislava (The Big Walk)
  • Roaches in Dan’s temporary house in Austin (Dan Benjamin)
  • Roach in a bong (Vermin)
  • Chemical pest control stuff (Vermin)
  • John doesn’t like to go to sleep or wake up (Sleep)
  • John’s first time at SxSW in Austin (Shows and Events)
  • No Country for Old Men (Movies)
  • John’s ancestors growing up without bugs (Vermin)
  • John is scared of wolves (Pets)
  • Dan wants to die from a great white shark (Dan Benjamin)
  • Dan’s uncle built the James Bond submarine (Dan Benjamin)
  • John’s claustrophobia and fear of scuba diving (Anxiety)
  • Being handcuffed i the back of a police car and being in jail (Anxiety)
  • John's greatest vulnerability being deprived of free movement (Anxiety)
  • Genetic diversity (Factoids)

The show title refers to the different categories of wolf attacks, which are incredibly rare these days, one of them being ”agnostic”.

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

John’s mom taking care of customer service (RW44)

When Dan called to record the show, John was speaking to his mom who had American Express on the phone and needed John to authorize her to be able to look into his account. He took over and talked to Nicole from customer service and told her he she can call his mom his manager.

John started to use the MINT service that sends him credit card alerts, like ”Did you know that you spent $42 on french fries?”, but John doesn’t even eat french fries. Today they sent him an alert that American Express just charged him $27 for some kind of fee, which is of course outrageous, so he called his manager (his mom) and yelled ”What the damn hell? What do I pay you for?” and she got them on the phone. Now it is all taken care of. John’s mom is even better than his sister! His sister can scare people on the phone into doing what she wants, but his mom is like one of those Orcish War Machines from The Lord of the Rings that methodically assails the walls of Gondor until the walls fall. She and this young lady Nicole surely have a wonderful talk right now.

Dan wanted to be on time today and John was ready. He ran outside, got into his truck, and started his truck, which takes some time to warm up of course because it is a carbureted motor. Usually John gets into a fugue state in that situation because he doesn’t check his email or his device in the morning until he is sitting in his truck waiting for it to warm up and this time he went down a little device hole until he realized that the truck had already warmed up a long time ago. He couldn't make it into the office to be on time for Dan anymore, so he turned off the truck, walked back in and is now using his mobile podcasting rig at his house.

John's roach problems, taking all the light-bulbs (RW44)

One time John was in the basement of an old building in Pioneer Square, the oldest part of town, and he saw one of those big roaches which they normally don’t have in Seattle. This building is right by the waterfront, which is where you would expect gross roaches to arrive to the city on some boat. John had never seen one in Seattle before, but he has seen them anywhere else.

One time in Washington DC John saw a staircase made of old brownstone and the top had been knocked off from one of the little towers at the end of the railing, called the steins, made out of wrought iron. Giant black roaches the size of rats were pouring out of this thing like water out of a fire hydrant! John stood at a safe distance from this fountain of pestilence and couldn’t believe his eyes, because it represented that there was a 9th layer of hell underneath the sidewalk with a billion roaches all headed to the daylight. Seattle does not have those, but they only have the tiny little brown roaches the size of a finger nail called German roaches.

The only time John had seen those was when he was living in a really shitty apartment and he complained to the manager who said it was not his problem. Later John had a rat coming out from under his refrigerator. In his horror he first thought "That's a big mouse!”, but it was clearly not a mouse. It ran toward John and as it saw him it turned left, ran under the sink and was gone. John called the manager of the building and I said there was a rat in his apartment. He was from India and said ”John, I did not make the rat. God made the rat. If you have a problem with the rat, take it up with God!” and John said that he couldn’t live in this house anymore. When he left he was so mad at the manager that he took all the light-bulbs. He didn’t need them, but he took them all! That was a low moment in John’s life.

Roaches in Dan’s temporary house in Austin (RW44)

Dan’s family has noticed a couple baby Texas roaches in their house. They are bigger than a thumbnail, but they are not big, but also not cute, and when you see one every once in a while you smash it and it is not a big deal. In Florida they had a whole different kind of Roach which Dan used to call Palmetto Bugs, or maybe they are an American cockroach. They are 3 inches (7.5 cm) long, they fly, and they get in your house. You usually only see them out of the corner of your eye when they are up on a wall or in the corner on a ceiling, and you have to go after them with a broom or something because you are not going to sleep once you know it is there.

When Dan sold their house in Florida and moved to Texas, they were naive enough to think that it would be like in Florida and you could drive around to find a house to rent. They were expecting their second child and they wanted to rent a house for a year to figure out which neighborhood they really wanted to be in, where the schools were and all that stuff. Once they would feel really at home in Austin and once they would know where people with families might want to live, they would start the process of buying a house and they were not in a rush.

Because many people had the same exact idea, the rental market was just crazy! You had to work with a real estate agent to rent a place and by the time you would make it to look at the place to see if you wanted to rent it, it would already have five offers on it, all of them overbidding the asking monthly price, and the rental price was more than what you would be paying to own the place on a mortgage. These crazy bidding wars that are happening on the front porch of the house are very common in Seattle.

The broker told Dan that it would be much easier to buy, even though it was still a hot market. They had to spend a week doing nothing else than learning Austin and they were forced into buying a house, but they did fine because the goal had been to buy anyway and they could have afforded to buy from the beginning, but Dan just thought it would be better to rent and figure it out. During that week they were in a vacation rental, kind of like an Airbnb before Airbnb. It was a really rainy May and one night Dan wanted to sit out back and just enjoy the evening.

He went over to the door and there were Texas roaches, 3-4 inches (9 cm) in size with thick heavy abdomens, coursing over the windows of the door in waves. He looked out the window and they were everywhere! This place probably had never had pesticide treatment of any kind. He just shuttered and decided he was never going to go outside. One morning he woke up early to make some coffee and there was one sitting there on the stove.

One evening Dan and his wife were laying in bed and heard a tick tick tick tick tick sound. They could see a Florida Palmetto bug coming out of the ceiling fan and they both just sat there looking at it, not sure what to do. The fan was on low speed and they were hoping it wouldn’t go onto the fan, but while they were in bed they couldn’t really react to it, they couldn’t get a broom, because then what would you do? Turn off the fan and try to whack it down? As all this was going through Dan’s head, the bug jumped on the fan blade, it got slang across the room, took flight and started flying. It was terrible!

Dan has seen Palmetto bugs going up the shower curtain, and he has seen one when he used to keep a fish-tank and was changing the water: He had a hang-on-back filter that was sitting externally on the rim of the tank and when he moved the filter a little he saw that there was a small family of these things, two or three of them, living underneath the hang-on back-filter. It was disgusting! He has also found them in shoes. One time when he was a kid in High School, one of them went onto his face at night while he was asleep. When Dan’s kid says ”I saw baby roach, Daddy!”, he snaps into action, into Hunter Dad Mode!

Dan bought his first house right out of college. He was pretty good friends with their neighbor and after they moved away from there, the neighbor told Dan that the guy who bought the house was trapping rats and bringing the carcasses out in bags at a time. They had to get that house tented for termites. In Texas they have scorpions that sting and they have talked about tarantulas. John is getting the creeps!

Roach in a bong (RW44)

There are no bugs of any kind in Alaska and nothing with venom survives in Alaska. There are no venomous snakes and there are no venomous anythings. There are spiders, which might have venom. In Seattle spiders are absolutely a much larger portion of the biomass than humans by weight. Spiders are just part of the deal here, but there were no spiders in Anchorage. The biggest insect problem in Alaska is Seagulls.

John knew some stoners over the years and one time he was talking to a guy about roaches, which is a very popular topic in general that comes up eventually because people are from heavy roach places and from light roach places. The guy was from Florida and he had picked up his three foot graphics Bong, took a big hit off of it and there had been a roach living in the bong that went in his mouth along with the weed. John promised he will never smoke pot in Florida and he actually never smoked pot in Florida a single time.

Chemical pest control stuff (RW44)

You can buy the commercial grade stuff online at that is made by the Advione company and that the pesticide guy would use. The same company makes a pesticides that John has found very effective in killing sugar ants. John once had a professional pest control exterminator to get raccoons and possums out of the attic and when he saw John's Advione ant stuff, he asked John where he got that, because that was the thing he used and John told him he knew a guy, but he got it on Amazon, who are making everything available. It has 7787 customer reviews and is the #1 best seller in patio, lawn and garden. You get 4 of the cockroach tubes for $20.55 with a little plunger and two tips.

At least in the case of the ants, they love that stuff and they will eat it. They will also take it on to their mandibles, take it back and feed it to their whole hive, as ants do. It creates havoc inside their little nervous systems and is actually an awful chemical weapon that, if Saddam had actually had something like this, the Gulf War would have been justified. If the ants were capable of mounting a Gulf War style attack, they would have every justification. The ant Colin Powell would be standing up in front of the ant U.N. holding some Advione in a bag and there would be outrage. It would actually be a just war, but John doesn’t care because ants are awful.

John doesn’t like to go to sleep or wake up (RW44)

Dan’s TV is sequestered somewhere in the family room, he never does anything else in bed except sleep and ”what have you”.

John has tremendous sleeping issues because he doesn’t like to go to sleep and he doesn’t like to wake up. Even when he finally decides to go to sleep, he does not do it right away, but he is laying in bed at 5:30am, unable to hold his eyes open, but the Captain in his will cabin on the bridge: ”Just one more! Eke out! One or two more minutes of life before you go gently into that good night!” and John is doing crossword puzzles, he is reading magazines, and he is jolting from falling asleep on his feet. John is actually in his bed and he could have been asleep for the last two hours, but there is a grouchy old will somewhere in the cabin where his will lives, because your will doesn't live in an apartment in the town, but your will lives in a cabin somewhere where other people don't intrude on it.

That character refuses to succumb to sleep until there is no further resistance. Likewise, the sleep bubble, sleep cotton, or whatever drowsy fairy named sleep cotton in a gauzy pink outfit and floaty translucent wings there is, doesn't want John to wake up at all! He wakes up at 8am and he could get up, but no! He doesn’t need to get up! At 9:30am he should probably get up, but he just rolls back over! This morning John actually noticed it as he did it. He sat up, he threw the covers off of himself, he stretched, but the act of stretching is a kind of anesthetizer and as soon as he was completely stretched out the only thing that his body could do was grab the covers, pull them back over himself and sleep until 11:30am.

Dan’s sleep issues are different from John’s. He uses an alarm for failsafe, but he is always awake before the alarm and he is as fully awake right after he wakes up in the morning, for better or for worse. If he had to operate heavy machinery, he would be ready to do it. He could throw a dart at a target if he was required to. If somebody were to burst into the room and attack him with their hands, he would be ready to defend and counterattack. When his eyes open in the morning, he is immediately back to business and ready to go. Instant alertness!

Dan is not instantly flying out of the bed, landing in his shoes and walking out the door, but he likes to relax in the morning if possible. Still: he is awake and alive. If you build associations with your bed that are not fitting into those two categories of sleep and ”what have you”, for example you shouldn't do what many people do, like watch TV, read, or browse the Internet on your phone. The advice is to keep those activities separate and not even do them in the bedroom. The bedroom should just be a staging area for sleeping and other things. Doing that seems to have helped Dan.

John’s first time at SxSW in Austin (RW44)

One time John was coming down I35 just North of Austin, heading for SxSW festival. It was before the time when SxSW excluded anyone else from being Austin. John was at SxSW between 1998 and 2003 and although it was growing fast, it still felt like a funky Texas-y independent music festival. They built a Hilton Hotel right off of 6th Street which seemed ridiculous and a little bit hopeful. How were they ever going to feel this thing? At first, King bedrooms during the festival were $99, but now the daily charge is what you could get a 1974 Dodge Dart for. John was there right after you couldn't stay in the Hilton for cheap anymore and right before the whole town went crazy.

As they headed down I35, they stopped at a Super-8 at 2am. John was staying with a girl and his bandmates needed a place to crash, so they pulled into the Super-8 and John got them a room. They were 3 guys, so two guys would get a better and somebody got a roll out mattress. They rolled the mattress into the room, they pulled the blanket back and it was swarming with ants! Of course this was the last room and the last roll-away bed, sorry for the inconvenience! They rolled the roll-away bed out into the parking lot and sleep two guys to a bed. John felt terrible for them the next day, but not that bad, because he was somewhere else where the bed was clean and soft with white sheets and a breeze through the window.

No Country for Old Men (RW44)

During John's very first weekend at SxSW he read ”No Country for Old Men”, because the girl he was staying with had it on her nightstand and he was there by himself in the morning with nothing else to do that day. His band mates were all fighting ants across town and he was just sitting there and having a leisurely read. It is a very good book and the film adaptation does a very good job of translating it to the screen! The ending of the movie is somewhat unsatisfying, because the ending of the book is somewhat unsatisfying, but the ending of the book is better than the ending of the movie.

The film is very close to the book and surpasses it in the acting, but at the very end you are wondering how they were going to pull this off and communicate all the nuance and confusion. The book is unsatisfying not because the writing is bad, but because it doesn't resolve. There are more questions than there are answers. The same is true for the book The Long Walk (They talked about this in RW14) where the whole point was the abominable Wolf snowman.

John’s ancestors growing up without bugs (RW44)

John was mostly growing up in a world without bugs and because he was reading about scorpions, hairy spiders, venomous snakes and big giant hissing flying bugs when he was young, he had a very native gross-out effect about bugs. If any of that thing is encoded in your genes, John doesn’t have any ancestors in any line of any branch of any part of his family who originated in a place any further south than Belgium, with the exception of one branch of his family that is Swiss and Switzerland, but although it is South of Belgium gets a pass because of its altitude.

John's mom has traced their ancestry for branches of their family as far back as the 1300s and you have to go farther back than that in order to find anyone that came from South of the Rhine. None of John's ancestors ever lived in a tropical place or in a place where there were bugs and there is very little native experience with bugs in John's genes. Most Americans are a little bit related to Tecumseh or their great grandparents were from New Orleans or something where there is a little bit of genetic diversity.

John might be somebody who could catch smallpox because he doesn’t have any resistance, although he has tremendous resistance to smallpox, but he is afraid that, if he goes into some cave or some wet place, he is going to get some tropical foot eating disease that he has no immunity to because they just didn't have that in Denmark. As a result, John's travel was inhibited by a fear of bugs and gross crawleys from the time he was very young. He is so creeped out by crawleys that, at least when he was in his 20s and was traveling profusely, he didn't want to travel places where there might be crawleys.

He was already 30 years old when he had his experiences with crawleys in Bratislava and along the Tisza river and he still couldn't go to sleep even it he was beaten to the point of exhaustion. John has never been to Laos and to so many other places because of his sense that there is going to be something the size of a mouse in his shoe in the morning that doesn't nurse it's young. John is pretty fine with a mouse in his shoe because a mouse gives milk. He would be fine if there would be a dolphin in his shoe! He had a possum living in his house for half a year and had a lot of sympathy for it. Eventually that sympathy ran out, but every night he was tormented by this possum and in the morning he was like "Oh, you know, the little possum with his possum babies” John feels bad about killing rats, but he does not feel bad about killing things with antenna!

John is scared of wolves (RW44)

John is embarrassed about the fact that he is scared of wolves. Dan says that wolf attacks on humans are super-rare and the country with most wolf-attacks is France. Between the years 1200 to 1920, only 7600 fatal attacks were documented. In modern times they occur most often in India and neighboring countries, and there are few historical records or modern cases of wolf attacks in North America. In the 50 years up to 2002 there were 8 fatal attacks in Europe and Russia and 3 in North America (Dan reading from Wikipedia).

Experts categorize wolf attacks into various types including rabies, infected, predatory, agnostic, and defensive. John wants to know about agnostic wolf attacks! Why would an agnostic wolf even care? Agnostic attacks are motivated neither by hunger nor fear, but rather by aggression designed to kill or drive a competitor away from a territory or food source. As with predatory attacks, these may begin with or be limited to exploratory or investigative attacks designed to test the vulnerability and determination of the victim. Even when pressed until the death of the victim, agnostic attacks normally leave the victim's body uneaten, at least for some time. John is blown away by those facts and he is going to apply the principle of agnostic attacks to many other things of human interaction.

There is almost no scenario where you could be harmed by a wolf. John has seen wild wolves that were caught and captured and kept tied to a chain and they were scary! It may also be encoded in his genes, because wolves were scary to his prehistoric ancestors in a way that bugs were not, but that doesn't make sense, because John is scared of bugs because they are alien to him but scared of wolves because they are familiar to him? This whole fear encoded in the genes theory still needs some work!

By contrast, between 1890 and 2011, at least 20 people in North America have been killed by cougars. Which kind? The animal? *ding* Mountain lions, cougars, pumas or panthers are all the same critter with different names. Dan always thought a panther was a black jaguar, but a black jaguar is something that you buy when you are a dentist! They continue to talk about various big cats. The Florida Panthers is also their hockey team.

John knows a guy who knew a guy who was attacked by a panther. He was just running on a logging road and a panther jumped on him from up high.

Cougars are the mascot of Washington State University, but these are again not things that can be found in Alaska, especially.

Dan wants to die from a great white shark (RW44)

Dan eventually plans to go out through the Great White shark and he told his family to prepare themselves for it. Like an old Eskimo, when he will have outlived his usefulness, instead of wandering out into the snow, he will make a pilgrimage to where the Great Whites are. The pretense is that he always wanted to swim with the Great Whites and he will just leave the cage and swim to his destiny. Dan has told this to his wife since they met years ago and she is ready for it. Getting attacked by a cat would be horrible, but under the ocean everything is peaceful and quiet, you are under the water and you will just be taken away, the salt water soothes your wounds and you are just out. Dan is going to wait until he is ninety something, he is not doing it this month!

Dan’s uncle built the James Bond submarine (RW44)

As someone who purports to have tussles with anxiety, Dan loves the ocean and has no fear of the ocean. Nothing really! He doesn't get seasick, he has done scuba, he has done snorkeling, he has done it all! To John the ocean is the most fearsome thing on Earth! The ocean has no sympathy, the ocean doesn't care, it is enormous and the depths are full of horrors. Even the waves on the beaches are there to kill you! Everything about the ocean does not care, but that is what Dan loves about it and he would love to go down in a sub.

The ocean is straightforward and you understand it because you know where you stand with everything. It is agnostic, that is what is so terrifying about it! The ocean is neither defensive nor predatory, but it is an agnostic killer and Dan is just Mr. At Peace With The Ocean. He doesn’t like the beach but he loves the ocean and he loves boating. When Dan was about seven years old, he was in a summer camp where he had to get certified to canoe and to use a small sailboats. They would teach you how to ride them in case they would capsize, and if you couldn't ride it you had to learn how to hang off the side of it and tread water for seven minutes. Dan loved that stuff! He just loves boating and his dream would be to live on a boat on the water! His wife doesn’t want to hear about it, though!

Dan was never certified to do scuba, but he did it anyway using his uncle's stuff. Dan's uncle is an electrical engineer and he was working for a sub company in South Florida who built the bad guys sub in the James Bond movie ”The Spy who loved me”. Afterwards they got some cool copper souvenir key chains with a picture of the sub and James Bond on them. Dan's uncle had all kinds of scuba stuff and he went scuba diving in the ocean at a reef. He learned it in a pool at his grandparents’ condo in Bouka. All of this rogue scuba stuff sounds to John like Dan was saying ”Oh, I never got certified, but I did a little bit of motorcycle stuntman work!” They argue if this is a big deal or not.

Genetic diversity (RW44)

One of the nice things about the modern world is the moccachino-ization of America. Through the process of miscegenation we are finally creating a blend of human beings and a new race of people. John knows the violin player Eyvind Kang who’s mother was from Iceland and his father was from Korea, which isn't a combination of humans that ever could have existed or it would have been the rarest and unusual form 100 years ago. Here we are in America and we are making this tremendous group of new human beings that have the highest resistance to disease and the highest combination of capabilities we are selected for are now combined.

John's daughter's mother is an American polyculture person and her heritage is a little bit French Canadian and a little bit of this and that, while no one in John’s family has any kind of genetic diversity when it comes to being geographically diverse. His daughter is all of a sudden one of these wonderful people that have genes all over the place and John hopes that it gives her resistance to not just smallpox but also claustrophobia. It is unclear to John how all that stuff works, but he keeps dreaming about it.

The former drummer of The Long Winters, Nabil Ayers has a Black father and a Jewish mother, which is not an uncommon combination. Lenny Kravitz and Slash are both like that! Maybe that is a good combination for a musical genius? It seems to be the natural outgrowth of the fact that the white people who brought African-American music to the popular culture were overwhelmingly Jewish. There was a lot of affinity between those two cultures and there were a lot of Jewish people who wanted to get this Rock ’n’ Roll on wax and on the radio. It was much more likely that there were going to be half Jewish half Black kids than they were going to be half Presbyterian half Black kids.

Later it turned out that Nabil's dad was 1/8 African-American, 1/4 Native American and 1/4 Louisiana Cajun. He went down this list of all of his grandparents and he was considered a black guy and Nabil thought of himself as half black, but really he was only 1/24 African-American. He had black physical characteristics, that was what people assumed he was and that was how he was treated. Thinking of all the things in play in his friend that they both didn’t know about was astonishing to John. He can't even think of all the different admixture of people from around the world that had arrived together in John’s friend while thinking of the impoverishment of his dumb Western England. One grandfather was from Wales, that's a lot of genetic diversity! Boring! Which is why John has set it upon himself to have 40 wives, one from every nation, one from every peoples. If only.

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