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Should I cave to my parents and have them at my wedding? Are we just cats? Why does 98 degrees feel hot if that's my body temperature? How do I read slow books? What do you do when your loved one is in a pyramid scheme?

 Intro (00:00)

Hank: Hello and welcome to Dear Hank and John.

John: Or as I prefer to think of it, Dear John and Hank.

H: It's a podcast where me and my brother, John, answer your questions, give you dubious advice, and bring you all the week's news from both Mars and AFC Wimbledon.

J: Hank, it's been a big week for AFC Wimbledon. Actually it hasn't, there's not that much news from AFC Wimbledon. Is there a lot of news from Mars or should people just stop listening to the podcast?

H: There's always news from Mars, John!

J: Well there's always news from AFC Wimbledon too, it's just... Ah. I don't... How are you?

H: I'm good. I'm good. How are you doing?

J: Ah. I don't know. I don't even know anymore. I'm writing a lot and I'm inside of the story and so when I get, when I get frustrated with the story I feel frustrated with every other facet of my life. But I will say, in weather news here in Indianapolis, the post-Taylor Swift beauty that we have been experiencing, we're just clinging to it. We're just barely holding on. (Hank laughs) The sky is still blue but the temperature is dropping. It's a little worrisome, I'm beginning to think that fall might be in the air. How are things in Montana?

H: It's actually very beautiful here. It's definitely fall, lot's of color on the trees, and I am doing good. I just... We did NerdCon: Stories, it turned out to go really well. It was a treat for me because I got to hang out with a bunch of great people and watch lots of cool things happen on a stage that I was like "I think it'd be funny if we did this" and it turned out I was right!

J: Well, and occasionally wrong.

H: Sometimes, but mostly right.

J: Yeah, I just, I don't want you to be praising yourself too thoroughly, it's unbecoming. (Hank laughs)

H: Well it had very little to do with me. I just put people on a stage and crossed my fingers and I was very pleased to have all of our guests and all of our attendees totally come on their A-game and make a good thing happen and everybody was just down to clown. It was fun.

J: I really liked the attendees of NerdCon: Stories, I have to say. I felt like it was a good and gracious bunch of people who were positive and enthusiastic and it was really... That's what made it special for me was just, you know, being around people who care about stories in the same way that I do. I felt like I was kind of with my tribe. It was a wonderful weekend and thank you for it, Hank. The only down side for me was that I was in a car race against Maggie Stiefvater, a great young-adult novelist, and I... Well, I crashed my car and it erupted into a fiery tomb of death. But fortunately I was pulled from it before I was injured. So, other than that I would qualify the weekend as an entire success.

H: Well I have to say, in fairness to you, you didn't crash the car.

J: I didn't.

H: You spun out.

J: I spun out.

H: It didn't hit anything.

J: I never hit anything.

H: You managed to control the car.

J: Yep.

H: And you didn't slam into anybody or anything.

J: Yeah.

H: But apparently the stress of whatever, of losing control of the car.

J: Yeah.

H: Caused I think the brake line to break?

J: Yep.

H: Which then sprayed brake fluid all over the hot underside of the car. And apparently brake fluid is flammable.

J: Yeah.

H: So, that happens.

J: Yeah, it was... You're right, I didn't crash. I came within about 6 inches of crashing into the wall but didn't. And I was very pleased with myself for about 10 seconds. I was like "Look at that! I managed not to crash." I even put the car into reverse and I was going to keep going and then I realized that I was on fire.

H: Well I call that the car's fault not yours. Do you have a short poem for us?

J: I do, it's Philip Larkin. It was requested, it is request actually today. William requested the poem Home is so Sad By Philip Larkin. It's a bit of depressing poem, I apologize for that, Hank. I know that you prefer the funny stuff. But this is Home is so sad By Philip Larkin.

"Home is so sad. It stays as it was left,
Shaped to the comfort of the last to go
As if to win them back. Instead, bereft
Of anyone to please, it withers so,
Having no heart to put aside the theft

And turn again to what it started as,
A joyous shot at how things ought to be,
Long fallen wide. You can see how it was:
Look at the pictures and the cutlery.
The music in the piano stool. That vase."

Home is so Sad by Philip Larkin. Oh Home.

H: Oh.

J: It is so sad.

H: Well I guess when you take out all of the people because everything is impermanent.

J: Yeah. I guess that's the sadness, Hank. The underlying sadness of most stories is that everything is impermanent. I was thinking today as I was writing that in a way, like, all stories are about a... Not just all stories but also all of life, but every story in one way or another is about a plucky, young hero desperately trying to escape her fate.

H: Yep.

J: And each of us is a plucky, is a is a plucky young person desperately trying to escape our fate until we become middle aged.

H: (Laughs) That's not true, there are lots of plucky middle aged people trying to escape their fate.

J: Right I know, but the only choice is between being a plucky middle-aged person trying to escape your fate and just accepting it. (Hank laughs) Not that, not that I'm frustrated by how the writing's going at the moment or anything. Maybe we should answer some viewer questions in this incredibly depressing humor podcast

 Question 1 (5:36)

H: We have a questions from Renée who asks "Dear Hank and John. My partner and I will be getting married in a couple of months. Originally..."

J: Oh, why bother, Renée! What's the point of being alive?

H: (Laughs) "Originally we planned for it to be just the two of us, our officiant, and our photographer to keep things very casual, stress free, and meaningful to us. To celebrate, and as a concession to our family and friends who wanted to be there, we decided to throw a big party later the same day. As time has gone on, we felt pressure to allow our families to attend the actual ceremony. Do you think we should stick to our guns and do what we want, or will we regret it later?"

J: It's a big question, Hank, and I suspect that you and I might actually disagree. So I'm interested to hear your thoughts on this.

H: I think that I don't know Renée and I don't know Renée's partner, but I do know that marriages are about more than just the two people inside of them. I think that no marriage is an island and I think that it is important, it was important to me that I had important people in my life there to witness me making that super important, most important promise I've ever made, and that I've needed support from outside of my marriage to make my marriage work and I think that's, I think that's true for everyone. And so it's good to recognize that marriage is about more than just the people getting married and a good way to do that, not the only way to do that, is by having those people there at the ceremony. And then in addition to that, in addition to the practical needs of the people getting married, there are also, like, you know, it is about more than just the two of you in a way, and I think that, like, if I was a parent and my child was, like, having the most important day of their lives I would want to be there for that. And I would feel bad about not being able to be there.

J: So, my counter argument is that it's not one of the most important days of your life, that in fact, like, the day of your wedding is not one of the most interesting or important days of your marriage, right. It's the day that you make a commitment to a marriage, but all the interesting cool stuff that happens in a marriage, and I completely agree with you that no marriage is an island and that marriage is, every marriage, every successful marriage requires more than, the support of more than two people. But, like, I don't think that the wedding is that important. Like looking back on my wedding day, I just don't, I just don't think it was that important.

H: But how would you think that our mom would answer that question? How do you think she would react to not being at your wedding?

J: Poorly.

H: 'Cause it's really, like, like yeah. The question, there's the question of, like, what is it for Renée and Renée's partner, there's also the question of what is it for their parents and...

J: Right.

H: And, like, how, how devastated are they? And I don't know the answer to that question.

J: Yeah.

H: But I think that my parents would be crying-

J: Yeah.

H: -in silence.

J: Yeah. I guess my advice would be to sort of follow the path of least resistance because I don't actually think that...

H: Yes.

J: I mean, unless it's gonna be supper stressful and miserable to have family there because it's, you know, broken or unapproving relationships or unhealthy relationships or whatever. I really, you know, I... Obviously you need the day, you need that day to be about you and your partner and the commitment that you're making and you want that day to be special and fun and as unstressful as possible. But if the family relationships are healthy and functional and positive, you know, I would just be like "You can come but can you make it as unstressful for us as possible?". That's what I would say. (Both laugh)

H: Yeah, yeah. And in a lot of ways it may be, it may end up being more stressful to not have them there just because you're creating, you're creating ...

J: Right.

H:Y In striving for a stress free, a stress free marriage you may end up creating drama

J: Yeah, yeah. I mean it's very, it's sometimes very difficult to know what is the path of least drama. It's always the path I try to follow but you just, sometimes you don't know which path it is. (Hank laughs) But I guess, like, my advice to people who are getting married is always to think, to try to focus more on the marriage than on the wedding because weddings pass and marriages, if you're lucky, don't pass until you do.

H: Oh! It's all about death here on Dear Hank and John.

J: Sorry, I just, I'd noticed that we'd almost answered an entire question without talking about the universality of death.

 Question 2 (10:25)

H: (Laughs) Alright John, give us another question. 

J: Alright, this question comes from Matt who writes, "Dear John and Hank. I've been thinking a lot about the intelligence of animals compared to that of humans. I realize that every day my cat knows where to get its food and knows to eat it, but there's so much it could never know. No matter how hard it tried, its brain could never possibly comprehend the company that manufactures the food, or the nutritional value of the food, or the fact that I buy the cheaper kind because student loans are a thing. Anyway, I'm rambling. My point is, are we just cats? (Hank laughs) Are humans staring out into the universe looking right out at something that we will never actually be able to comprehend, no matter how hard we try?" That's my kind of question, Matt!

H: (Laughs) It was like, "I was looking at my cat today and I realized that maybe we know nothing!" 

J: Well, I do think that we know more than your cat Matt, no disrespect to your cat, but, you know, this is a matter of degrees of gray, I think. (Hank laughs) The great thing about humans is that we can collaborate and not just, you know, not just in simple straight-forward ways, like me saying to Matt, "Matt if we work together to pick up this log, we can pick it up, but neither of us can pick it up alone." But also collaborating across space and time; being able to, you know, collaborate, for instance, with Socrates. That's a huge... Or, like, being able to know the laws of Hammurabi, that's a huge advantage that no other species enjoys. And that does make us special, and I don't think that we are just cats. But I do think that we are looking out at the universe, and seeing it through very limited eyes, of course. And also seeing it in a kind of human-centric way. And that seems to me inevitable, and not, like, not particularly tragic or horrifying or anything. It's just part of being a person is that you're sort of stuck inside of person-ness.

H: Yeah, it's often very jarring to me when I realize that the way that I've been understanding myself and my place in the universe, and my relationships with people is much more influenced by my culture, and by just sort of the, you know, the lizard-brain ways that we operate and see the world, than it is on, like, my, you know, my constructed and beautiful psyche and, like, whatever my ego is, like whatever the thing that I think I am, turns out to be a lot simpler than the thing that I actually am sometimes. But, we're also pretty cool. I mean, we have been like... I don't know what we're missing, but we've figured out a lot, and we continue to figure out stuff and I feel like that path is going to continue getting developed for a long, long time. And we will not stop learning things. And in a way, you know, our sort of, like, looking out at the universe is, you know, maybe a little bit like cats looking at food and not thinking about where the food came from, but really the complicated things, the really difficult problems aren't the universe. They're all going on in our own brains, and in the interactions between brains. And that's where all the cool stuff is, and also where all of the mystery is in a lot of ways.

J: Hank, do you ever think about the fact that your brain is made of meat? Like, your brain is edible. Everything, all of your hopes and dreams, I could eat them.

H: (Laughs) Well, you could eat the thing in which the hopes and dreams, the platform in which they exist, but you couldn't eat them themselves. They would cease existing before they got into your mouth.

J: I think our culture around zombies and stuff really boils down to that. Like our contemporary obsession with zombies is about two things: first the feeling that, you know, we may in fact not be running the show in quite the way that we think we are, that, like, we may not be in control of our own thoughts and desires in quite the same way that we think we are. And then second, that, like, our, like ourselves or what we think of as the self, which is located in the brain, is edible.

H: (Laughs) Yeah, I mean that is, eat your brains, the eating of brains is definitely a, definitely comes from there in a lot of ways. Comes from the place of realizing that our, the meat that contains ourselves is just meat.

 Question 3 (14:55)

J: God, this is a funny podcast! Let's have another question.

H: It's a, it's a really funny podcast.

J: I know.

H: I'll give you another question, John. I really liked this one and I want to talk about it. You won't maybe have much to say, but I'll, I'm interested to see what you do say. Owen asks "Dear Hank & John. This might be a mostly Hank question. If my body temperature is about 96 degrees then why does 96 degree weather feel so hot? Why doesn't it feel neutral? I hope that makes sense."

J: Well, first off, Owen, I am concerned because your body temperature is unusually low. (Hank laughs) It should be at least 97.5 degrees and the fact that it is 96 degrees has me worried.

H: Alright, now that we've gotten through the insufferable, pansufferable pedantry, what's your actual answer?

J: No I'm not being pedantic, I am, as a hypochondriac, genuinely concerned. (Hank laughs) I cannot tell you how many times I have taken my own temperature and found it to be between 96 and 97 degrees and called my physician.

H: (Laughs) I am hypothermic!

J: Don't laugh at me, that is not a joke.

H: Oh. Okay. Anything else for Owen?

J: Again, I really think that that's worth checking out.

H: Okay, but anything else? Any actual answer to the question, assuming that Owen means that Owen's body temperature is 98.6 degrees?

J: (Sighs) No, I can't get past my concern.

H: (Laughs) That's not true, John! You can get past your concern, you just don't want to because you don't want to admit that you don't know the answer, because I'm smarter than you.

J: No, we're just different kinds of smart

H: (Laughs) Alright.

J: My mom's been telling me that my whole life.

H: (Laughs) Oh, man. So John, let's start out by saying, is there any situation you could imagine being in and something that was, you know, maybe say, like, 90 degrees, but it doesn't feel hot to you?

J: Well, yes, of course.

H: What's that?

J: 90 degree water.

H: Correct. So what's the difference between water and air?

J: Well, there are a number of differences, you pedantic


H: (Laughs) Well in this case, what do you think might be the difference that causes that difference to be the case?

J: Oh my God, I'm being reminded of how much I

* hated middle school science! (hank laughs) Because it was full of rhetorical questions asked by a know-it-all teacher, who is like, "And what do you think?" And I'm just like, "You know the answer, just

* tell me." (Hank laughs) Sorry, we're going to have to bleep a bunch of that because I got really, genuinely angry at Hank.

H: (Laughs) Well, I like walking through the process of figuring it out.

J: What is different between water and air? A number of things, but I bet that the inside of my body has a ton of water in it, whereas the inside of my body has relatively little air?

H: Yeah, that's kind of the thing. It's that there's far more water in water than there is air in air.

J: Mmm.

H: So there are, you know, there's just, there's a massively large amount of molecules in water compared to the number of molecules in air. So when you're in the air, your body is always, no matter where you are, your body is always trying to cool itself off, because the existence of a human being in the world requires the consumption of energy, and the consumption of energy always produces some heat. And that heat continues to raise your body, and if you didn't have any way to cool down, you would overheat and die. And that is why, and the body has been designed to operate optimally in 70 degree air, because it's, you know, actually because that's sort of the average temperature of the Earth.

J: Not if we have anything to say about it! (hank laughs) We are gonna get that number up! People are always like "Oh human beings, like we don't reach for the stars, but we are reaching for the stars by destroying the atmosphere and raising the temperature of the planet. We are literally getting closer to the stars."

H: (Laughs) Didn't make any sense to me, but I'll let it be. 

J: But I mean, am I wrong that if we just thin out the atmosphere just a little bit, that we'll be closer to the stars?

H: Well, we're not thinning out the atmosphere at all, one. We're making it thicker, that's the problem. Two, no, it wouldn't make us closer to the stars.

J: We're getting further from the stars.

H: We are... (Laughs)

J: Oh. I'm not an astronomer, I'm just reaching for a metaphor here.

H: So your body...

J: So the answer is that there isn't that... We're always trying to cool ourselves off because we produce heat and there isn't that much, there isn't that much air in air.

H: Yeah. So you're always trying to cool off, and so you need molecules to touch you that are colder than you are so that you can dump your heat into those molecules. That's why when it's windy, there are actually more molecules hitting you, and also this sort of layer of molecules that have already sucked your heat out get blown away and are replaced by new molecules that are more of the original temperature, which is why fans work. But if you're in water, there's just so many more molecules that it's much easier for your heat to disperse to them, so if you get in water that's 98.6 degrees, it basically feels like nothing is touching you at all, which is fascinating. Thanks for the question, Owen. Sorry that John hated it so much. (Laughs)

J: I liked the question, Owen, I'm not... I didn't like Hank's answer, just to be clear.

H: I wanted to work through it! I like it when it's a story.

J: My issue is not with Owen, my issue is with that, like, the, like, rhetorical know-it-all approach to answering questions. Like when we are discussing poetry, do I ever say, like, "Hank, what is the rhythm of your heart?" and start from there? No. I just, like...

H: Well, from my perspective, I think this this is important, so I apologize for continuing to talk about it, but from my perspective, like, I like to think about how people figure this out in the first place, or how I might figure it out without having someone tell it to me. And so, when I was asked that question from Owen, I didn't know the answer to that question, but I did know that getting in 90 degree water feels cool, so starting from that, I wanted to figure out, like, what is it about 90 degree water that makes it cool that might make me, give me insight into why 90 degree air seems hot.

J: Uh-huh. (Pauses. Hank laughs) I still feel like a middle school student which is the way I like feeling least in the whole world.

H: That, I can understand that completely.

 Question 4 (21:44)

J: Let's move on to a new question. This question is from Daniel who asks "Dear John and Hank. Is there a way to enjoy slow books? In other words, books that have a droning and otherwise uninteresting tone. I'd love to read Lord of the Rings, but I've heard that it's very slow and easy to lose focus while reading it. That question took an unexpected turn for me Hank, (Hank laughs) because when I think of slow books I think of this wonderful book that I read in college called Islamization in Native Religion in the Golden Horde which is about how the Uzbek people came to identify as Muslims, and it's about 800 pages long and it's definitely got some slow parts. (Hank laughs) It's got some really enjoyable footnotes, but it's a dry read, and it took tremendous focus for me to read it and yet it's still one of the most important books I've ever read, like I think about it all the time. Lord of the Rings, on the other hand, I found to be a pretty rip-roaring kind of read. (Hank laughs) But I think that, I think maybe this speaks to something that's changed in the culture in the last 15 years and changed about the kind of attentiveness that humans specialize in having kind of been altered by the internet.

H: Yeah. Or just by the constant availability of things to enjoy, more than the internet itself.

J: Right, right. By scrolling, the idea of scrolling, being able to sort of permanently scroll through entertainment.

H: Yeah, I mean I think that it is important to be able to take some steps back from the consumption of media and to be inside of your own brain for a while. And maybe if that is something that you are interested in doing, it might make slower experiences more enjoyable. I love to read a lot but it took me a long time to get to there. And I, you know, I think there's an amount of, like, just letting it be and saying, like, "OK, well this is what I'm gonna do for the next hour" and if you read and your mind wanders then that's OK, let your mind wander and when you notice that your mind has wandered, bring it back. And if it takes you, you know, an hour to read a chapter or if it takes, I don't know how long a chapter of The Lord of the Rings is anymore, but if it takes you what you would consider to be too long to be enjoying this thing, but remember that you also spent time with your mind wandering, with your mind doing things and working out problems and considering what happened to it today, and there's nothing wrong with that.

J: Yeah, I mean I completely agree with you. I don't think reading is something that you are born knowing how to do, obviously, and it's not something that you... Like, it's something that gets better with practice and gets much worse without practice. I've found that in my own life, like since Henry and Alice were born I have, or I... I spend less time reading than I used to and as a result my reading has gotten worse. My reading comprehension is worse, my reading speed is worse, I read fewer books per year and I think I read them less well, less generously than I used to and... But I don't think that's just because I have kids now, I also think it's because I spend too much time passively ingesting media and then the active work of reading feels much harder for me than it used to. So that's something I think a lot about, and I do, it does concern me. I love the internet and I appreciate the enjoyment that distraction culture provides me but I do worry a little bit about the fact that, I feel like overall I kind of lead a less engaged life than I used to and reading is one strong place where I see that.

H: I like our answer.

 Question 5 (25:37)

H: I have a question from Maddie that I think is important but is gonna be no fun. Maddie asks, "Dear Hank and John. My younger sister recently graduated from college with a degree in marketing and PR. She elected not to go to grad school right away and instead wanted to work for a year and decide whether she wanted to get a master's degree. However, instead of looking for a job, she got involved in a pyramid scheme. She talks passionately about it to everyone who will listen and manged to convince most of the people she knows to spend lots of money and buy into the program. Her degree, combined with her personality, makes her a great sales person. She's spending a lot of money every month on the program and is spending more and more time trying to build her business instead of looking for a job. Do you have any advice on how I can talk to her without upsetting her, and make her understand that her decision to stay in that business might not be the best one for her?" I really hate pyramid schemes. So I wanted to answer this question.

J: Yeah. I mean, I don't know what to say. I think that it's extremely difficult when you are inside of a pyramid scheme a lot of times to understand that you are inside of a pyramid scheme. There's also something of a fine line between a pyramid scheme and direct sales programs, right? Like, I guess maybe we should start off by defining what a pyramid scheme is. So here it is in its basic form: I say to my brother, Hank, "Hank, if you give me ten dollars, I will teach you how to get people to give you ten dollars." And then Hank goes forth with that knowledge... "And then also if you could just send me one of the dollars that you make every time you get someone, you teach someone how to make ten dollars", and then Hank teaches two people how to make ten dollars, well I have now made 12 dollars just by teaching hank how to make ten dollars, and then, but if more people convince more people how to make ten dollars, I will make much more than 12 dollars because I am at the top of the pyramid. The people at the bottom of the pyramid, which will be a progressively larger number of people, will eventually find that they are unable to find people to teach how to make 10 dollars. But a lot of times pyramid schemes, or pyramid shaped businesses, aren't just about, like, you know, that basic fraud. They may be about selling, you know, selling something, selling some physical good, you know?

H: Health bars. Yeah.

J: And that's where it gets complicated.

H: You often find that the physical good that's being involved in the pyramid scheme is basically just sort of there as a way to make it seem more legitimate and so it will be like ridiculously overpriced in some way. And really it's about, you know, people trying to get other people to give them money because there's this dream of getting rich, and that is why they're often called "get rich quick" schemes, they're also called multi-level marketing schemes, because the idea is that you're marketing at all these multiple levels and sort of sending money up, and the sooner you can get in on the game the better it is for you. It's very difficult to... Like these things are designed in really clever ways and it's kind of, it can often be something that, like, it's almost like something that you should imagine as, like, it's something that happened to a person, like getting hit by a car, that is very difficult to control and then it makes them sort of like, you know, more difficult to deal with for a while because they are... That was a bad example. (Laughs)

J: Yeah, it's more like buying into a cult than it is, like, getting hit by a car. I can't think of a single way in which it's like getting hit by a car.

H: Well, what I'm trying to say, it's a little like something that just, that happens to a person and it's very difficult to have it unhappen to them. And especially because once they, you know, get involved and they start recruiting friends and family, they have to admit to themselves that they have gotten their friends and family involved in this thing that is in fact, you know, very bad for them, and, like, admitting that, especially when you've got all of this sort of, like, psychological, cool, like, hookiness that these schemes use to convince people that they are in fact a legitimate business enterprise, admitting that becomes very difficult, and it tends to come in the form of, like, eventual failure, when you are no longer making money from the scheme, and then embarrassment and shame, which comes along with having previously alienated yourselves from all of your loved ones who you tried to get involved with the scheme and either got annoyed with you or, you know, bought in but then failed sooner than they did, because it tends to fail upward, so it fails from the bottom up. And that is just a terrible thing to have happen, but because of the psychological hooks of the multi-level marketing scheme, arguing with people about it tends to make them get even more obsessed and interested in it and sort of believe in it, especially once they've bought in enough that they're spending a lot of their own money and they don't want to admit they've made a mistake, and also they've gotten their friends and family involved and they don't want to admit to themselves that they've done a bad thing to their friends and family. As a sister, basically what you can do is to be supportive in a difficult time. Like that's kind of what this is, it's a difficult time and just because they haven't realized it's a difficult time doesn't mean that it isn't, and then it will in the future be a much more difficult time as they come to realize the difficulty and sort of like the, you know, like, that they've spend a lot of their time and energy on something that was a bad use of their time and energy, and money.

J: Yeah, I mean I think in general, you know, there's lots of situations in life where you have to love people who are making mistakes. I mean, you also have to accept, of course, that you might be wrong, that this might be a completely legitimate business enterprise, it probably isn't, but it is in her mind. And so you just have to lovingly not support someone, which is very difficult to do but I think it's, when it's gonna be really important is, when it all falls apart, for her to know that you still love her. Anything that can kind of decrease the shame spiral decreases the power of, you know, not just pyramid schemes but lots of different things that prey on human psychology and human emotion. So I think, you know, loving someone and not judging them is incredibly powerful.

H: I agree, John.

 Question 6 (32:32)

J: OK, Hank we have another question, this one is from Brenna who writes "Dear John and Hank. So my roommate and I just moved into an on campus apartment and we are cooking dinner for ourselves for the first time. My question is, at what point in adulthood do you get over the fear of giving your dinner guests salmonella?"

H: Not there yet!

J: Yep, I'm not there. I do not know. (Hank laughs) Definitely past 38, that's all we can say for sure Brenna, I can't see into the future. But I worry... I mean, I spend a lot of time cleaning cooking surfaces and trying to make sure that no raw food has been touched in any way without extensive hand washing.

H: Yeah, I think that the number one way to get over this fear is to work in a commercial kitchen, either at a restaurant, probably is the most likely circumstance that you would be doing that, and then you would know a great deal and you would have a lot of experience with not giving people salmonella. But without that...

J: Well, but also having worked at a restaurant, Hank, I can tell you that you don't always learn how to not give people salmonella.

H: (Laughs) You gotta make the mistake to learn the lesson.

J: Unfortunately. I don't mean to crush all your dreams, but you should worry when you go out to eat, you should make sure that that hamburger is well and truly cooked. I had norovirus a few years ago, this 24 hour vomiting and diarrheal illness that... We were talking earlier about how my wedding day, I don't remember it as a particularly important day in my marriage, I do remember my day with norovirus as a particularly interesting and important day in my marriage because...

H: Me too, actually.

J: Yeah no, there is, you don't know true love until you've suffered through norovirus with your partner. And, you know, looking back on that day, I often think like "Am I overreacting about food safety?" And then I think, "No. No I'm not."

H: I... It was an amazing day for me, my norovirus day, because I was just laying in bed, and then I burped, and then I was like "Katherine, I don't feel well" and then I sat up in bed and then I exploded. And she handled it just so well. Like I got out of the bathroom a half an hour later and like the room was for the most part cleaned up and I was just like "Wow, you just, you just fricking did that! You're like 'OK, time to take care of stuff.' " Yeah, wow I was super impressed and yeah, hadn't gotten the chance to, like, really see what she was made of until then.

J: Right. I remember that I ate a bowl of chili...

H: Oh God. (Hank laughs)

J: Wonderful, home-cooked chili. I'd had whole foods sushi for lunch and then I had a wonderful bowl of chili. And I was just going downstairs to get my standard second bowl of chili, (both laugh) which, I've never in my life eaten just one bowl of chili, what's the point? And so I was going downstairs to eat my second bowl of chili and I thought to myself "You know, there's something a little weird in my stomach right now and maybe, just maybe, I should hold off on this second bowl of chili." And then I thought "Nah, I'm fine, I'm probably fine". (Hank laughs) And I ate about five bites of my second bowl of chili and then I was like "I am going to throw up." And not, like, eventually, but, like, in the next ten seconds.

H: (Laughs) Yeah. I didn't even get that much warning. It was literally the day after Thanksgiving so I had done the thing where you eat all of the Thanksgiving leftovers, so I was just full to the top with cranberry juice.

J: Oh yeah.

H: And stuffing.

J: Oh yeah.

H: And potatoes.

J: Oh yeah.

H: And yams, and marshmallows and pumpkin pie.

J: No, I remember the seaweed from the whole foods sushi, like at the end, you know, at the bottom after everything, after all the chili.

H: Oh man, John, this episode needs a trigger warning.

J: Oh, it came back up in order, it was brutal. (Hank laughs) Oh man thank God we finally found something funny in this stupid humor podcast. Oh, norovirus. Anyway, norovirus is not caused by contaminated food usually.

H: Yeah.

J: So it's caused by eating someone else's poop.

H: Or puke!

J: (Laughs) That's right. Usually poop though.

H: So if it makes you feel bad to think that like "Oh God, I definitely ate someone's poop," there's a chance that you ate someone's vomit.

J: Yeah, I mean... One of the things that really gets to me about being a person who, you know, like, has this mind and ostensibly this soul but is stuck inside of a physical body is that, I mean, how many people's poop have I eaten? Hundreds? Thousands? (Hank laughs) Seriously, that's not a rhetorical question. You told me how many bacteria there are in my body a few episodes ago, I'm asking you now how many people's poop have I eaten?

H: (Laughing) I mean...

J: A lot, right? Like more than five.

H: Probably, probably, probably over a hundred.

J: A bunch of strangers.

H: Yeah. I would say... Well, definitely over a hundred. I mean, I'm sure that the vast majority of times you eat someone's poop there's no negative consequence at all, and you probably eat your own poop every single day, just cross-contamination is too common.

J: You know, the other thing I was thinking recently, Hank, is I was kayaking in the White River, the White River is a beautiful river in Indianapolis, but when in rains more than a quarter of an inch in the city, they just directly dump all of the poop in the sewers into the river. And that's not an exaggeration, that is a fact. It happens maybe like 50 or 60 times a year. And I was kayaking and I was going up something of a rapid and a large amount of water entered my mouth. Like probably I would say between 3 and 6 drops of water entered my mouth simultaneously and obviously I tried to spit it out as much as possible, but I mean there could be hundreds of people's poop just in those three drops of water.

H: Oh, almost certainly, there was.

J: What I'm saying is that, like, if you, like me, have a fear of contamination, it's not irrational, like it's not... One of the things that really bothers me about people...

H: Well it's a little bit irrational in that it's unavoidable. And that it is usually, it is usually fine.

J: Well no, but the fact is I am contaminated, so it is incorrect for, like, for instance a psychotherapist to tell me that my fear of contamination is irrational when in fact I am constantly contaminated with hundreds of other people's stuff.

H: Oh well it's not the fear... I'm saying that your, the reality that you are contaminated is absolutely true.

J: Oh God.

H: The fear of it is what is irrational.

J: Let's move on to our last question for today.

H: No, no, no. We have to let everyone know that this episode of Dear Hank and John is sponsored by other people's poop. (John laughs) Other people's poop: It's everywhere, and you eat it.

J: Oh God. This episode of Dear Hank and John is also sponsored by your wedding. Your wedding. Eh.

H: (Laughs) This episode of Dear Hank and John is brought to you by the totally not a pyramid scheme Hank and John Green magical lip balm company.

J: (Laughs) The Hank and John magical lip balm company: fourteen dollar lip balm, but boy is it good.

H: (Laughs) Send it our way and we'll teach you how to sell other people magical lip balm.

J: And of course this episode of Dear Hank and John is brought to you by middle school science teachers. Middle school science teachers: knowing it all since the beginning of time.

 Question 7 (40:23)

J: (Hank laughs) OK, Hank, we have time for one last question before we get to the news from Mars and AFC Wimbledon, it's a vitally important question. It comes from Sarah who writes "Dear John and Hank. Is honesty really always the best policy, or are there some situations in which discretion is best for everyone?" Sarah, this is such an important question because I can't tell you how much I wish I could go back in time to the time before Hank told me that most of the cells in my body are not mine. (Hank laughs) It's impossible for me to express the blissful ignorance that I enjoyed for the first 38 years of my life assuming that most of me was in fact me and not microorganisms. So yes, honesty is not always the best policy, discretion is often the best choice.

H: Yeah, I agree. I do enjoy being honest when others think that it is not a good idea. I also enjoy that when other people do it and I think that it can cut to the chase a lot especially in business and when there's a lot of posturing going on, or in other circumstances where there might be a lot of posturing going on, but I think in normal every day...

J: Well Sarah's question, to be fair, is about affection, you know, like romantic interest. She did not originally intend it to be a question about the human biome. But at this point I can't read any question in a different context.

H: But yeah.

J: But yeah, I think in the world of affections, it's often quite useful to get to honesty quickly, but of course there is a real and undeniable risk of loss in that as well.

H: Yeah, and especially if you know that they're, that person is already in a relationship or that they are definitely not interested in you, or any of the other, you know, if they are interested in people of a different gender than you are, then, you know, that is a... It's often like, you know... My suggestion is not, like, "Don't be honest" but yeah, don't be honest but also figure out a way to not be so affectionate toward them. I often like to examine people...

J: What? I don't agree with this advice. Sometimes you should be honest, it depends on the situation.

H: Oh yes, I agree. Take away all of the things I said.

J: You basically just told Sarah "No, don't tell them, don't tell the person you like that you like them" Well maybe tell them, depends on the situation Sarah. Honestly, don't take any of our advice seriously, do you know how many people's poop I've eaten, Sarah? Hundreds.

H: (Laughs) I was misunderstanding the question, I apologize, I didn't, I didn't, yes.

 News from Mars (43:18)

J: Oh. I am surrounded by a terrible darkness, Hank, what's the news from Mars?

H: There are pebbles on Mars, John.

J: Oh my God, are you serious?

H: Yeah.

J: Pebbles?

H: But in addition to there being pebbles, they are pebbles of a certain size and coarseness that indicate that not only did they exist inside of a river, but they existed inside of a river that flowed for miles and miles and miles and those rocks flowed down with that river for miles, over a long period of time, not over a short period, not in a mass flood event, but in a circumstance that looked a lot like one we might have here on Earth.

J: That is incredibly exciting. I don't even know what to say. I'm breathless to know that there are pebbles on Mars that look a little bit like the pebbles that we have right here on Earth. Including in South London where AFC Wimbledon play almost every Saturday.

 News from AFC Wimbledon (44:20)

J: Well Hank the news from AFC Wimbledon is about as interesting as the news from Mars this week. (Both laugh) AFC Wimbledon last week played Oxford United, you know Oxford, that's where they have that fancy college in England. I've never thought much of the football club that hails from Oxford, but they did beat AFC Wimbledon one to nothing. Ugh, it's just, it was a distressing, distressing game and indeed, like, you can't help but be a bit worried by our lack of goal production. But we're taking on Morecambe this weekend which will be in the past as we listen to the podcast, so let us hope that we have a glorious victory to celebrate because, you know, I would really, I want the narrative of AFC Wimbledon to be a club on the rise, but then I would also accept the narrative of AFC Wimbledon to be a club in comfortable stasis, but the lack of offensive production is a bit worrisome, particularly given how much talent we have up front with the like of Adebayo Akinfenwa. So yeah. That's the news from AFC Wimbledon.

H: Yeah. Why do you think, why do you think that is, John? Why do you think the Wimblys are having a hard time getting the ball in the net.

J: I appreciate your feigned interest, first off, I'd just like to say that. So I haven't been able to watch a game this year on account of how, believe it or not, they don't put fourth tier English football on TV in the United States. (Hank laughs) But my understanding from fans and from reading everything on their website and listening to the games on the radio is that we just don't have a lot of control of the ball midfield. So really the game of soccer is a game of, think of it as a game of three thirds, right. You've got your defensive third, you've got the middle third of the pitch, and then you've got your attacking third. The ability to get it from the defensive third when you recover possession through the middle third into the attacking third, that's essen... that's the entire game. Like the whole game is actually played in midfield. So we have good finishers with the ball but we don't have, we just haven't had a ton of luck getting sustained possession in that attacking third because it requires traveling through the midfield. Does that make sense?

H: It does. It does.

J: Anyway, I'm sure that there are brighter days to come, I mean at least I hope so because this has been one depressing comedy podcast.

 Conclusion (46:58)

H: (Laughs) Well, it's been a depressing comedy podcast in which we learned what, John?

J: Well Hank, we learned that norovirus can teach you more about your marriage than your wedding can.

H: We learned that there's something about the number of molecules that hit your body that controls how well you can cool off and that cooling off is important and that John does not want to be back in middle school in any way at all ever at all.

J: And of course we learned that the rivers that no longer flow on Mars once made pebbles. Which is sort of beautiful now that I think about it.

H: This has been Dear Hank and John, if you would like to send us questions, you can do so at

J: Isn't it just

H: Oh, you're right, you're right.

J: Sure, no it's fine, you can send it to too, just we won't read them. Because that's not our email address.

H: (Laughs) This podcast is edited by Nicholas Jenkins, the theme music that you are hearing now is from the remarkable Gunnarolla. And as they say in our hometown:

Both: Don't forget to be awesome.