SH85 - Challenge Coin: Accepted

This week, Jeremy, Pat, Joy and John talk about

  • Jeremy going on Hiatus (see below)
  • Jeremy going outdoors for a week (see below)
  • Jeremy sleeping outside (see below)
  • Joy getting a baby and Pat writing a book (see below)
  • John’s trip to Ethiopia with David Rees, getting ripped 2015 (Military)
  • Challenge coins (Military)
  • John can't do everything he dreams about anymore (Personality)

The show title refers to Jeremy making challenge coins while he is in the woods and rewarding them to himself for mundane achievements.

”The ups and downs of being creative, discussed over cocktails with friends”

Official Twitter handle: @theshakes, individual Twitter handles: Jeremy Fuksa, Pat Piper, Joy Moeller

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

Jeremy going on Hiatus (SH85)

John missed the opportunity to talk to David Rees (who was guesting the previous episode 84 of this podcast), because math has never been the strong suit of Jeremy. He had talked to David about John's and David's recent USO tour through Africa and David had not heard John’s recollection of the trip. David was infinitely delighted that John’s knowledge of military paraphernalia was somewhat out of date (see story in BW205) and every time John got the caliber of some weapon wrong, David cackled with glee.

The episode with John was the last before a 2 month hiatus because one of their co-hosts was going to have a baby. John had some hiati [sic] in the past and he highly recommends them! He could never have predicted the stuff he does now and it did not logically followed from what he was doing 6 years prior. He only came to it because he took a hiatus where he had the time to look around and say Yes to some things. Jeremy is afraid of it and sees it almost like a cliff: When he jumps, who will catch him? That is a common fear and a lot of people have tremendous anxiety about taking a blind step. Taking a hiatus doesn’t even feel like a step to a lot of people, but it just feels like an abject failure, but it is a step! The only advice John ever gives in these situations is: ”If things come along, say Yes!” These things will inevitably lead to other things and eventually it will seem like you had a course of action in mind, but you were just saying ”Yes” to things until the stars aligned, and they invariably do. It will be ”Hey Jeremy, will you tie this knot for me? Yes!” and he will open a little shack at the side of the river, ”knots tied: $25” The more he thought about it, the more Jeremy felt like he was channeling Ted Kaczynski and saw himself ending up in a shack over the next two months. Jeremy planned to not even go online, but that would be weird for a web designer. He will have to go online! He will just say Yes to a few things and we will see where that goes.

Jeremy going outdoors for a week (SH85)

Jeremy will take a walk through the woods around Watkins Woolen Mill State Park by himself for a week, getting back in touch with some things that used to be him but have not been him for 25 years. He is going to twiddle a stick and he is going to throw some rocks into a standing water, probably also into some moving water. These are some time-tested activities! He is going to kick a hole into the ground with the toe of his boot, he will get curious about that and continue to enlarge the hole, which is a path to American manhood. He might poop in the hole and cover it up. They talk about how bears are not interested in poop, because a bear has bigger fish to fry. Jeremy had been a Boy Scout, he went camping and he was very much a woodsy guy, but now he is the least woodsy guy he knows. He feels the pull to go out there again and reconnect to this piece of him. Jeremy grew up on the great American plaines in Oklahoma and so outdoorsmanship and camping means something very different to Jeremy than it means to John.

As they were talking, John’s screensaver activated and a picture of a bank in Tulsa appeared on his screen, which was really strange. From the Aeron chair Jeremy was sitting in, the great discomfort he was looking for was being covered in bug repellant, which startled everybody because he mentioned it as the worst thing he could think of. There was going to be some sweat, there were going to be some nicks and bruises, and he was going to spend the night outside, but on a bedroll and not in a tent because that is the best part.

John recommends the book Great Plaines by Ian Frazier, because it is one of those American books. The author was a New Yorker, left the city in the 1980s and headed out to discover the great plains which he had a romantic attraction to. Afterwards he wrote this book which is like a very long New Yorker article, but that is not a bad thing. It was recommended to John by Tim Siedell from Nebraska on the heyday of Twitter and John visited him when he was on the great plains recently.

Jeremy sleeping outside (SH85)

John spent a lot of time sleeping outside when he was young and he went back to sleeping outside many years later as an adult. It is not the same and you are very much more afraid than when you were a kid, which is hard to believe. As a kid you are an idiot and you are mostly scared of ghosts, but as an adult you are afraid of real things that your mind can conjure. Every time you hear something in the forest at night, you are picturing all manner of terrible beasts. The ground is uncomfortable because you are old and not resilient. The stars yawn at you with complete indifference to your life and the feeling that the universe has a purpose is lost. You will meet a fear that crypts your heart like no other and you may weep quietly, but that doesn’t disqualify you.

The last time Jeremy was out in the woods he cried a whole lot when he was sitting there with the full moon in the sky. It is a bad scene, but that said, he is going to have an amazing time. Jeremy is only going to be alone for about 3 nights, but that is all the time he needs to experience all he is going to experience, except gradually becoming accustomed to his new life of discomfort. He is not going to become a hardened woodsman and he won’t fully go down the Ted Kaczinsky path, because right before he would be knocking on that door, it will be time to go and sell his wears elsewhere. The others interject that Jeremy is not going to be that close to knocking at that door, but he will still be on the parking lot of the recording booth store several miles down the road. He is going to be in somebody’s backyard and they will be complaining that he is naked, he is crying, and he is starting a fire that looks like it is getting out of control.

Joy getting a baby and Pat writing a book (SH85)

As they were talking about Joy getting a baby, Pat felt a bit left out because he didn't have any big plans. He was about to write a book about a group of old women getting their hair done that he doesn’t know much about, but he doesn’t like writing the beginning of paragraphs and the end of chapters. He constantly edits himself, which is not the best thing, because you should write with your door closed and edit with your door open. John recommends him to go down to the thrift store and get an electric typewriter, because you can’t self-edit with that. At the time before computers you would often start a sentence, but halfway through your thought would have evolved and you would be struggling with the tense of the first half of the sentence and how to finish the idea, so you would use your brain power to land that sentence. This process creates a kind of writing that we no longer have access to, because you just delete it and start again. All these great sentences throughout history as the writer was ploughing through were tortured and garbage, but when you read them back you can see a transformation happening. When you just delete, all that is lost and you don’t have any record of your process.

Pat was writing his book linearly, but there was this part in the book that he was very excited to get to, but he hadn’t gotten there yet, and he wondered if he should just jump there in order to write it as he was playing it out in his head. Everybody recommended him to do so. All those self-help books about the writing process will have a different opinion about this, but John has some experience of working on music and doing all the fun part first. At a certain point you have to set the stage, introduce the people and they have to go together to a third location, which was the thing that was killing Pat.

John’s trip to Ethiopia with David Rees, getting ripped 2015 (SH85)

David Rees is a notorious liar and not a self-reflective person. When he talks about himself he has no real insight into his own mind. As John and David were in Ethiopia, John one time got up very early, he walked around, heard a huffing and as he peered into the window of a building there was David Rees with his headphones on, furiously walking on a treadmill toward an imaginary horizon. John walked into the building, but David did not see him enter because he had his eyes closed and was focussing intensely on this active walk. John sat down on one of the bench-press benches and watched David walk up an imaginary hill for 15 or 20 more minutes before he opened his eyes and noticed John was in the room.

David suggested to do some curls because now he had a monkey he could get to do things. He put some big weights in John’s hands, but John was on the top of his game and did his curls while David exclaimed that this was impossible and John shouldn’t be able to do this kind of thing. For John it was just a matter of lifting these stones, which is a thing he usually does in the course of his life. They are usually mental stones, but John is lifting heavy stones all the time.

When John and David went on a cruise together, David wanted to work out every day so they were going to be buff and ripped in 2015. John was ready to get on the treadmills and lift the big stones, but then David remembered that he was bringing his new girlfriend on the cruise and they would not get ripped 2015 if David was having half a grapefruit and some yoghurt in the morning with his girlfriend. It turned out that David's lady friend was a wonderful person and they spent many hilarious hours on beaches and sitting around, but at no point did he ever bring up doing any exercise of any kind. During the entire cruise they pretended he had never said anything about it and at the end he said that they would go home and John will get ripped in his home town and David was going to get ripped in his home town. Now Jeremy was talking about John’s guns, but John hadn’t done anything about his guns.

In David's version of the story, John walked in like the God of the great white north and randomly grabbed that 45 pounder as if it was nothing, but he hurt himself.

David trained John in so many other respects. If he was handed the raw lump of human clay that is John, and he was given full authorization to form this lump of clay into a Superman, he could surely do it. It is just very hard to turn yourself over. It would be one thing if John would be turned over by a tribunal and would be sentenced to this, but just going to New York and have David Rees vlog him for 6 months is very hard to motivate. David could tin-stamp John an amulet and he would be spiritually ripped.

Challenge coins (SH85)

On their USO-tour around Africa David and John have collected quite a number of challenge coins, because every military person in position of authority handed them one in a secret handshake. A challenge coin is a big coin, like an AA coin, that has a cobra ready to strike or some other insignia that signifies that the person who gave it to you was a bad-ass killer. Many of them are made of brass and if you have one in your pocket, you feel like you are carrying a solid silver Eisenhower dollar. Some of them are like poker chips. The initial idea was that if somebody asked you for your coin and you couldn’t produce one, you got to buy a round of drinks for everybody in the bar, but now trading coins is just a game that bad-ass killers play. Every time they would shake hand with some colonel, they would slip them this death-from-above coin. They were both very excited about them and kept a collection but sadly a lot of John’s have subsequently been stolen. David and John were cherished VIPs on this trip and the stars of this event, so all these stone-cold maniacs were handing them their challenge coins. Getting a challenge coin of the base commander of the US Navy base in Djibouti is quite a grab for a normal.

When Jeremy will be in the woods, he will make himself a series of challenge coins out of wood to give to people. Pat suggests that Jeremy should reward himself with those, like: Skip a rock? Done! Challenge coin to himself. Challenge coin: Accepted! Hole with the front of the boot? Challenge coin: Accepted! Jeremy is not going to do this, but he will make a series of challenge coins.

John can't do everything he dreams about anymore (SH85)

see also story about John's reverse bucket list in RW81

Because of John’s advanced age, he is starting to acknowledge that he will not get to do everything he planned in this lifetime. This is a chilling realization, because he always thought he would live forever. Because he is a generalist instead of an expert, he is jazzed by general knowledge and by knowing a lot of things about a lot of things, but that requires an infinite amount of time. There is absolutely a part of John that wanted to be a farmer for some time. There is a part of him that regrets not having been in the military because he was always interested in it and he never ruled it out! John is right at the point in his life where the prospect of only being able to do a finite amount is forcing him to change how to build his dreams. He can’t just lay in bed and say that one day when he will be living in France, he will get really into local hydro-electric design and be the guy in a small village in France who powers the whole village from an old mill.

That is a great idea, but now there is this voice that has never existed before, asking when he is going to live in France! It is not a critical voice, but a voice of reason that is changing the character of John’s fantasies. Another problem of being a generalist is that John is not especially good at prioritizing general knowledge. He doesn’t want to be a hydro-power-farmer in France any more or less than he wants to be a State Department mole working in some capacity in the US embassy in Japan. If he is going to do either thing, he better chose! This new insight is really changing his little mind. Pat interjects that someone who sits in bed at night and works through WWII scenarios to put himself asleep might be considered an expert in that area, but that says less about John than about the declining quality of the experts in the West. Not because everybody is a generalist, but because nobody likes to study.

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