John Roderick of The Long Winters tells the story of how the song "The Commander Thinks Aloud" was made.
Turtle Story at 1:05
John and Dan talk about dentist chairs, marijuana whippet combos, near death experiences, and John’s path from druggie to sobriety.
In July 2014, Brett interviewed John Roderick about how he became a
professional musician. The conversation evolved into a compelling,
serialized narrative that couldn’t be contained in not just one, nor two,
nor even three episodes.
We present the resulting four-part epic uninterrupted, with the exception
of brief transitions from one chapter to the next. Think of The Origin of
John Roderick as an improvisational book on tape, with each chapter
recorded a few weeks apart.
The end of the year can be a strange, cold, and lonely time. We hope this
keeps your brain warm until 2015.
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Fitting In Cardboard
When I was younger I had this feeling that there was a handbook that I’d never gotten, that explained how to be, how to laugh, what to wear, how to stand by yourself in a hallway. Everyone else looks so natural. Like they’d all practiced together and knew exactly what to do. Even just the way that they’d push their on their face.
My experience was pretty much the opposite. I was conscious of how I sat and how I smiled, and when I was alone with another person I had no idea what to do, or what to say. I could just feel myself panic. It sucked.
I’d imagine what people were like when I wasn’t around. How they’d compare notes on how I didn’t quite fit.Or even worse, maybe they just wouldn’t notice. So I tried to pick up the patterns. I wore what they Wore and said what they said. I even wrote smile more on a sticky note.And over time it sort of worked in a way. I made a version of me that fit in. Whatever that means.
But as I grew older the patterns kept changing. And it took so much effort to keep learning them. And I was still stuck with the problem that it started with, being terrified of the moment when my tricks stop working. I think it took me too long to learn something. That even though there is a thing called fitting in, that it’s something that you can learn and practice, those pages or so thin compared to who you are, that the way to become natural like I wanted to be so badly, is by forgetting what you’re trying to be to other people. And if there is a handbook, you probably get to write it yourself.
If You Are In A Shell
This is Harry. As a boy, Harry was very, very shy.
Some people might have even said that he was painfully shy. As if his shyness caused them pain, and not the other way around. There are many things that can cause a person to recede, to look away from other people’s eyes, or to choose empty hallways or crowded ones. Some shy people try to reach out, and try, and nothing seems to come back. And then there’s just a point where they stop trying.
In Harry’s case, he was slapped in the face and called names designed to isolate him, designed to deliver maximum damage. This because, he’d come from another country, and didn’t know the right words to use, or the right way to say them. And so, Harry learned how to be still, to camouflage, to be the least.
Some people describe this as receding into a shell, where the stillness hardens and protects. But the eyes, even when they look down and away, are still watching, still looking for some way out, or in. Painfully shy.
Then, in middle school, Harry found theater, where he forced himself to speak through other people’s words. And then dance, where he started to speak through the movements of his body. To be so still for so long when you’re young means a lot of pent-up energy, and it was released there, through work, endless work.
If someone carves into a sampling with a knife, the injury is as wide as the entire trunk. Though that mark will never fully heal, you can grow the tree around it, and as you grow, the scar gets smaller in proportion. If you, right now, are in a shell, you should know that you’re not alone. That there are many, many other people like you and that there’s nothing wrong with you. It might even be necessary right now; it might keep you safe for a time. But after the danger is gone, after it has exhausted its use, you’ll find a way out.
You may need help. you might need to work pretty hard. You may need to find some ways to laugh at yourself. Or find a passion or a friend. But you will find it. And when you do, it will be so good to see you.
This is Harry. As a boy, Harry was very, very shy.
Why Trust is Worth It
Alya and Gael have to trust each other. As acrobats in Cirque Du Soleil, they sometimes literally put their lives in someone else’s hands.
Trust is a confusing thing, it seems so simple but when you try to pin it down it can be allusive. I think of the way that my body sits on a surface that’s new to me, unknown, and how my muscles remain tight, anticipating anything and I’m constantly aware of that surface. Over time, with familiarity, I can relax and start to lean back.
For many of us, that initial tension exists so much of the time. We expend so much energy watching and calculating, trying to predict, reading signals in people, ready for anything to change suddenly, preparing to be disappointed.
So much energy spent.
We talk about trust as something we build, as if it’s a structure or a thing; but in that building there seems to be something about letting go.And what it affords us is a luxury. It allows us to stop thinking, to stop worrying that someone won’t catch us if we fall, to stop constantly scanning for inconsistencies, to stop wondering how other people act when they’re not in our presence. It allows us to relax a part of our minds, so that we can focus on what’s in front of us, and that’s why it’s such a tragedy when it’s broken.
A betrayal can make you think of all the other betrayals that are waiting for you and things you haven’t thought of and people you rely on. And you can feel yourself tightening up, bracing; and in the worst cases, you might resolve to trust no one.
But that doesn’t really work.
Trust is your relationship to the unknown, what you can’t control. And you can’t control everything. And it’s not all or none. It’s a slow and steady practice of learning about the capacity of the world. And it’s worth it to keep trying. And it’s not easy.
Alya says that trust is like a fork – not one way, but many ways: physical, emotional, and maybe something else.
I almost imagine trust as these invisible hands that we stretch out into the world, looking for someone to hold onto as we walk into the unknown future.
Alya and Gael began practicing together as friends and now they are a couple.It took time.
So who do you trust and how can you grow it?
Writer and podcaster Merlin Mann joins Antony to stand up (mostly) for the “Watchmen” movie, discuss the difficulty of separating source material from its adaptation… and then there’s that ending.
00:00 Dan: Intro to episode 10.
00:43 Dan: How did you first get into computing?
00:52 Nitin: I started with Apple IIs in elementary school, programming in BASIC. I tried out PCs, and some Linux machines, but mostly it was Apples through high school.
02:43 Dan: What kind of things did you build with them?
03:09 Nitin: My father had some properties he was managing, so a friend and I built some management software in BASIC.
04:41 Nitin: I went college at UC Santa Cruz, where I learned Pascal and then C++.
06:25 Nitin: I started as an economics major, but after a couple of years switched to computer science.
08:09 Nitin: After college, in 1992, I start applying for jobs in Silicon Valley. I didn’t get accepted at Sun and the others I tried first.
09:27 Nitin: It probably took 6 months before I finally applied to Apple.
10:02 Nitin: Steve Jobs was out by then, and John Scully was running it.
11:22 Nitin: Apple was really interested in the enterprise part of the world at that time.
13:17 Nitin: I got a job working for a contractor for Apple, working on developer technical support.
15:55 Nitin: This was a fortunate position, because I was paid to learn about the internals of Apple software and the operating system.
19:26 Nitin: I was a contractor for 6 months, and then I was hired full-time, still in technical support, and did that for a year and a half.
19:50 Nitin: I eventually moved into engineering in early 1995 on the original Mac team.
21:28 Nitin: We were a small team of generalists responding to problems as they showed up. So I got to learn all aspects of the Mac OS.
24:19 Nitin: In 1997 the Next acquisition happened, and Steve came in at the same time.
27:37 Nitin: Developers had a choice. They could keep their applications in a virtual Mac environment, or they had to rewrite in Objective C to use the new Next OS.
28:58 Nitin: Developers were not willing to make the investment to rewrite.
29:46 Nitin: At that time the leadership at Apple came up with a third option, which was called Carbon. You could use C or C++, but what would be produced was code that took advantage of the modern application interfaces.
31:51 Nitin: We had to evaluate all the API calls to decide which ones to make backward compatible.
33:34 Nitin: We used development tools that showed us which API calls were really being used by popular applications.
35:37 Nitin: One of the early efforts was then trying to build prototype apps to use these new versions of the API calls.
39:00 Nitin: We ran into problems like case sensitive file systems. The Mac had been case insensitive, but the new Next based operating system was case sensitive.
40:31 Nitin: At this point I was still doing engineering, rather than application development.
40:51 Nitin: From 1998 to 2002 I worked on OS X, first on Carbon.
42:07 Nitin: Then I got into management. In 2002 I took a position managing the OS X mail system. There were 6 or 7 people on that team.
44:29 Nitin: An example of the type of features I helped add to mail was Spotlight, which was an indexer for your hard drive.
48:35 Nitin: In 2005 I started talking to my boss’s boss about building a team for this new iPhone project that was starting. From Day 1 it felt like a dream job.
50:47 Nitin: We moved upstairs to work with the human interface design team, because there was a working system there that had a Macintosh with a prototype iPhone attached.
53:53 Nitin: It was just a Macintosh running Macromedia Director, that had a touch screen. What would show up was a Macromedia demo.
55:09 Nitin: We were the "Make this real people" who had to build an OS to run this interface on the real iPhone.
56:17 Nitin: One of the first things we focused on was scrolling. That had to be made fast enough to make all the animations work, and make the responsiveness work on the low powered chip used in the first iPhone.
59:46 Nitin: One of the things we were trying to figure out was what the hardest things to do would be. We decided to tackle problems in order from hardest to easiest.
01:01:55 Nitin: One of the first tasks I had one of my engineers work on was getting a motherboard with the ARM cpu that would be used in the iPhone. Could we get all of the interface working on the ARM chip at 60 frames per second?
01:06:31 Nitin: Prototyping is so important for learning about the nature of the problem.
01:09:31 Nitin: Early on we learned that memory on the phone was going to very important.
01:10:03 Nitin: We knew that we wanted to follow the Unix process model.
01:11:04 Nitin: There were all kinds of reasons from security to stability of the system.
01:15:29 Nitin: Apple announced the iPhone in January, 2007, and it shipped in June.
01:16:57 Nitin: The way we were thinking about the iPad was that it was a big iPod Touch. That was a mistake.
01:18:41 Nitin: It was seen as a media consumption device.
01:25:56 Nitin: I learned that the iPad was so much less constrained, because of the larger screen space. At the same time different things, like full screen wipes, were more jarring on an iPad.
01:29:16 Nitin: A lot of the early work on the photos app showed what we learned about that larger screen. It was a complete redesign of the iPhone app for the iPad.
01:34:53 Nitin: We were never done once a design had approval from Steve. That was just the beginning.
01:36:03 Nitin: Now that I am at Jawbone, one of the reasons I’m excited about the wearables world, is that there are so many new problems to tackle.
01:37:51 Nitin: One of the hard problems to an engineer is how many sensors can you pack onto someone’s wrist.
01:38:32 Nitin: As an engineer I get excited by constraints. Those kinds of problems interest me.
01:39:57 Nitin: The special thing about wearables, besides constraints, is how different they are from computing devices.
01:40:33 Nitin: When you are wearing something, that says something about you. People care about that more than they might believe.
01:43:18 Nitin: What it says about you is important.
01:44:51 Nitin: That now becomes the new constraint.
01:46:11 Nitin: What are the uses of a smartwatch that people aren’t thinking about?
01:56:09 Nitin: One of the hardest problems for wearables battery life. Until wearables become as important as smartphones, if you have to charge it all the time, it won’t be worth it.
01:58:37 Nitin: When you are working on a new app, make sure it is useful to you. If not, it may not be useful to others.
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