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What do you do if you're lost in the forest? Is Santa subject to trademark laws? Should I take a boring job for money? And more!

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 (00:00) to (02:00)

H: Hellooooo and welcome to Dear Hank and John.

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

H: It's a comedy 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.  How ya doing, John?

J: I'm doing well, how are you?

H: I'm good.  I just had some Thai food.  It's beautiful outside.  It is a solid 8 or 9 degrees and I'm wearing quite a coat, my friend.

J: We should add that it's 8 or 9 degrees Fahrenheit.

H: Correct.

J: Celsius, it's like, -60.

H: Sorry to all the people who have this bizarre, this bizarre system of calculating temperature where 0 degrees is cold and 100 degrees is very, very dead.  

J: Oh, Hank, how are you doing overall, other than the cold?  Are things good?  How's fatherhood?

H: It's good.  Things are good.  He's getting to be--he really likes me singing as far as I can tell.  He just wants me to sing all the time, and that may just be me being like, oh, this is a fantastic, I get an excuse to sing in my house all the time, which I never had before, but it seems to make him smile.

J: Yeah, I have to say, my children never loved the sound of my singing voice, but that may ultimately be because nobody does.  

H: I do have a hard--I do have a problem that John, I tend to sing him whatever song just pops into my head, so I'll be like--

J: Sure.

H: I'll be like, uh, singing Rocky Horror songs, maybe a little inappropriate, being like, let's give 'em something to talk about, baby, and I'm like, like your big poops or something, not like what we're talking about in the song.  

J: Hank, we should also say that the 2016 Project for Awesome was a tremendous success and thank you to all the listeners of the pod who contributed.  We raised more than $2.1 million for charity and thanks to everybody who was part of that.  It was an amazing weekend, we felt very grateful for it, and it distracted from the not-so great news from AFC Wimbledon.

 (02:00) to (04:00)

H: Ohh, I'm sorry about your 1-0 loss, but we'll get to that eventually.  

J: Alright.  Would you like a short poem for the day, it's from Emily Dickinson?

H: Yeah, sure.

J: Alright, this poem's often known as "There is no frigate like a book": 

There is no frigate like a book to take us lambs away
nor any corsairs like a page of prancing poetry.  
This travere may the poorest take without oppressive toll.
How frugal is the chariot that bears a human soul.

I just love a good poem about a book, Hank.  I love that books are still, as Emily Dickinson points out, a very frugal chariot to bear the human soul, so I thought I'd read that poem.  Do you have any questions from our listeners?

H: Yeah, here's a song about frugal chariots, John.  It's from Dania, who asks, "Dear Hank and John, I cannot throw out my frugal chariots ever.  It doesn't matter if I think it's a terrible frugal chariot or if it's actually falling apart, I can never bring myself actually to dispose of any of my beloved volumes of frugality in their charioticity, but I have shelves full of old unsalvagable frugal chariots which have become unreadable.  What should I do?  Do I need to just get over this and throw them out?  I may not survive this ordeal.  Just to bring death in here somewhere.  Any dubious advice is needed."

J: Hank, I don't know if you've ever gone through someone's house after they died in order to figure out what to do with all of their stuff, but it is one of the least fun things I have ever done and I have done some unfun things.  So my advice to Dania is to throw away your books so that other people won't have to later.

H: I also, I wanna find out what Dania's doing to her books to make them so unsalvagable and how many of them are--

J: Presumably reading them in the bath.  That's what I always do.

H: Ohh, reading them in the bath.  Yes.  I mean, I have probably destroyed, of the books I own, like, three in my entire--and it has--usually has to do with water.  

 (04:00) to (06:00)

Like, a water bottle opened up in my backpack and I was like, well, this copy--

J: I do--look, I also hang on to a lot of my books, obviously, and I have a very difficult time letting go of them, and it can be a nice thing to be able to go through old books and read your notes in them or to rememeber the experience of reading them.  There are lots of books that I might wanna reread someday, but I'm always trying to cull.  The person I look up to most, and this is Rosianna, who always, despite being one of the best read people I know, never has more than 50 physical books at a time.  She only keeps 50 books.

H: Well, I--I don't know.  I have such a--I have such the attachment.  There are so many books on my shelf that I haven't read in more than 10 years, but I just, I want you, I love you, you are such a great thing that I--

J: Yeah, no, I mean, and like, I think that's fine.  If a physical object brings you joy, there's no reason to get rid of it, but if it's stressing you out, then I think there is a reason to get rid of it, and then there is also the consideration of the people who will come after you, but I don't think that's necessarily, like, a pressing concern for Dania, which, you know, on the upside, you've got that going for ya.  

H: Yeah.

J: Alright, Hank, I have a question for you.  It's from Claudia, but I don't know that I know the answer to it, so I thought that I would ask it and see if you do know the answer to it.  She writes, "Dear John and Hank, If you have a 2-D object and you look at it from the side, can you actually see it or is it just invisible?"

H: Well, first of all, Claudia, you don't have a 2-D object.  They don't exist, can't exist, but if it did exist and you did put one of, like, one point of vision on the edge of it, it would be invisible.  It would not exist.  It would be impossible to have that happen with both of your eyes at the same time, but yeah, you don't though, unless you do have a 2-D object in which I would step slowly away because I don't like the idea of what you have done with our dimensions.

 (06:00) to (08:00)

J: I don't know.  I feel like we haven't been particularly good to 3 dimensions, maybe we don't deserve all of them anymore.  Maybe at this point, humanity just hasn't earned that third dimension and we should be reduced to two so that we are all invisible to each other from the side.  

H: Uh, it's gonna be real hard to breathe and function in that universe, John, but we'll make it work.  I've got another question, John.

J: Okay.

H: It's from Hannah, who asks, "Dear Hank and John, So one of my greatest fears has always been that I will somehow end up on a desert island or kidnapped or something and I'll be wearing my contacts and I won't have my glasses or contact solution with me and I'll just have to wear these contacts for the rest of my life."

J: Yeah, no, I'm gonna stop you right there, Hank, because this is also one of my greatest fears, so Hannah and I have this in common, and there is an easy solution to it, which is that you should never not wear glasses.

H: Get Lasik also is a potential solution.

J: Nope.  Never not wear glasses.  That way, even if you're on the desert island and your like, glasses break, you can use little like, palm fronds to like, remake your glasses and they would be very hip.

H: Yeah.  Or just like, make a monocle out of them.

J: Right.

H: Be like, oh, hello, I am posh desert island man.  I've made a monocle with my eyeglass piece and a bunch of strands of palm.  Very good, you can have the really bad fake British accent, wonderful, wonderful future for you on the desert island.  This is a multi-part question, though, John.

J: Okay.

H: Hannah goes on to ask, "Also, did cavemen need glasses?  Also, could animals use them, like Simon in Alvin and the Chipmunks?"

J: That is a good separate question.

H: Good separate question.  Simon from Alvin and the Chipmunks does apparently need glasses.  It may just be a fashion choice so that he can be like, hey, just to be clear, I'm the nerdy one.

J: Right.  

H: So they put these on me, but yes, I think that animals--it's hard to tell, 'cause you can't be like, okay, what letter is that, Jeffrey the dog, but there are definitely animals that have worse vision than other animals, like beavers have really bad eyesight.  Lots of animals that don't tend to use their eyes as much have bad eyesight and it does take a lot of, you know, sort of fine-tuning, evolutionarily, to get to really sharp vision, so my guess is that there are a lot of dogs out there who have bad eyesight and you're like, why don't you get the ball, and it's like, my dog's always been really bad at getting the ball.

 (08:00) to (10:00)

It's like, well, maybe your dog needs glasses, but that's not actually a thing that you can figure out.  It would be wonderful if we could figure out how to figure it out though.  I'm interested in that.  Can we give dogs Lasik?

J: Uh, don't get dog Lasik.  I mean, that's the last--that's the last thing we need to add to the world of veterinary science and of course, early humans did often need glasses and that was just, but they didn't have them, and then you just make it work.  That's my understanding anyway.  That's kind of what I did when I was a kid, actually.  I had really poor eyesight as a child, and often, like, an hour or two into summer camp, I would lose my glasses and then I would have no glasses for three weeks and I would just kinda make it work.

H: Yeah.  I also think that I don't--there's no way to test for this, but my guess is that people before eyeglasses and before sort of modern ways of taking care of ourselves and feeding ourselves, they died more if they didn't have good eyesight and so overall, the number of people with good eyesight was higher because it was selecting for that.  We are no longer selecting for that.

J: Yeah, in general, I would not have fared particularly well in a prehistoric humanity.

H: Yeah, I'd probably be dead, too.

J: Oh, no, I would definitely be dead.  You would have died at like, the age of 5.  I just think, like, I don't have the like, genetic toughness that allows you to become a successful early human.  I am extremely succeptible to all physical and mental health problems.  

H: Who do you think made Simon's glasses from Simon and the Chipmunks?

 (10:00) to (12:00)

Did he have, like, name brand?  Are they Ray-Bans, or did he like, get 'em from some mail order place?  Or, well, they seem very homemade to me.

J: Well, Hank, as it happens right now, I am at the Alvin and the Chipmunks Wikipedia, which is actually called Munkipedia, of course, because of course it's called Munkipedia because they're chipmunks, and also because chipmunk movies love a good pun, like Alvin and the Chipmunks: Roadchip, Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked, they all have fantastic puns in them.  I should also say that the folks at Fox 2000 who made the Alvin and the Chipmunks movies also made The Fault in Our Stars and Paper Towns movies, so I'm a little bit biased but I do really like those movies.  So--

H: So you know those people.

J: According to the CGI films at Munkipedia, Alvin's eyesight is extremely poor as he is unable to see a toaster waffle fall directly in front of him without his glasses.

H: Did you mean Simon when you said Alvin?

J: I did.  I'm sorry.  I'm not that much of an expert.  

H: Okay, you got another question for us?

J: Uh, I'm just gonna stay with Munkipedia for a moment, if I can.  In Alvin!!! and the Chipmunks, that was the first time that Alvin is--is it Alvin, which one has glasses again?  Simon.  That was the first time that Simon wore glasses with blue rims, so that was an innovation.  Usually, it's black-rimmed glasses, but they went with blue rims in Alvin!!! and the Chipmunks.

H: Well.  I mean, they, don't you think that Simon made that decision?

J: It's not clear to me how much creative input Simon has into the films.  I--my understanding is probably not a lot, although I have heard that Simon is responsible for the title of the second movie, which was of course, Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel.  

H: Oh, well, I mean, he is the smart one.  

 (12:00) to (14:00)

I am now at the Alvin and the Chipmunks Munkipedia wiki and I have to say that the falling snow is a really wonderful effect.  It is wintertime, but in addition to that, it's showing the four, sort of like, main itera--like, re--or at least, four of the iterations of Alvin and the Chipmunks and on the upper left hand corner of the background we have what is probably the original Alvin and the Chipmunks drawings and they are fine, and then there was a slightly evolved version of that, where they look quite nice and this is actually sort of what I remember as a child, and then on the right hand side, we have the CGI versions, which are very different from each other.  One is much more anthropomorphized than the other, but both are, I find to be extremely unsettling and I don't want to be in the same world as them anymore, so can we move on?

J: Unfortunately, we can't, because I've just found out that there is an episode of Alvin and the Chipmunks called For Whom the Bell Tolls, and I'm trying to determine how similar it is to the Hemingway novel and the answer seems to be not that much, but you would be stunned by the complexity and length of the individual episode explanations over at Munkipedia, your #1 source for Alvin and the Chipmunks trivia and information.  Do you wanna know where Simon's name came from?

H: Sure.  I mean, it's a name that other--that many people have.

J: It was a--it came from Simon (?~13:36)--I'm not very good at names, who was a violinist and record producer from 1939-1955.  (?~13:43) recoded music for 20th Century Fox films until he chose to enter the recording industry independently, cofounding Liberty Records.  One of the major acts who recorded on Liberty Records was Alvin and the Chipmunks and so that's why they named Simon, Simon. 

 (14:00) to (16:00)

Theodore was named after Theodore Keat, who was also a cofounder of Liberty Records, so there you go, we've gone all the way down the Alvin and the Chipmunks rabbithole.  I'm so excited about our new podcast, Hank, Munkipedia: A Guide to the Guide to Alvin and the Chipmunks.  

H: Okay.  I'm gonna move away real fast before I accidentally make another Alvin and the Chipmunks joke and we continue talking about this.  This question is from Sonia, who asks, "Dear Hank and John, If one finds oneself in a forest with no memory of how they got there, what is the correct course of action to take?  Does she begin walking in the hopes that she will stumble across some form of civilization, risking wandering away from it, or should one remain in the spot where she is in the hope of rescue?  Again, she has absolutely no memory of the forest or how she may have gotten there or whether she came alone or not.  Please help, as this question is bothering me."  I hope it's just bothering you because it's just like, you are afraid that this unlikely circumstance will occur and not because you are currently emailing us from the forest.  If so, I have some suggestions for other people you should have emailed first.  

J: Right, or maybe just use the GPS to walk out of the forest.

H: Right, Google Maps is your friend, if you got--if you got a data connection, you're gonna be okay.

J: I know that I always think of Dear Hank and John as the #1 source for wilderness survival tips, so I'm excited to find out what you think, Hank, but of course, I know that if you find yourself in the middle of a forest, you should just--and you don't know how you got there, you just give up.  Everyone knows that.  Just give in.

H: Speaking of giving in, John, do you wanna know a sad story about giving in?

J: Yes.  Sorry, I am right now on the Munkipedia page for Simon's alternate identities, and did you know that the original Alvin and the Chipmunks TV show, there was a Cinderella episode where Simon plays the Fairy Godmunk?

H: No, John, I didn't know that about Simon being the Fairy Godmunk, but you interrupted my intro into this story I wanted to tell about hopelessness and giving up.

 (16:00) to (18:00)

J: Okay, great, please tell me. 

H: Okay, well, so you remember in 1980 when I hadn't been born yet or I had just barely been born and Mount St. Helens erupted?

J: I do.

H: Well, they--some scientists had had a pretty good idea that this was gonna happen and they had closed down the park around Mount St. Helens.  For the most part, there was nobody nearby, but a couple of people had decided that they were going to not heed those warnings or that they were scientists or adventurers or photographers and they were going to go and document as the impending eruption arrived, and one guy, I can't tell ya his name because I've forgotten it, was there.  He saw the eruption beginning.  He took some photographs of it.  He took some photographs until he could no longer see and then realizing that he was not going to escape, he unwound the film, put it in its canister, put the canister in his backpack, and then laid down on his backpack so that the film would stay safe so that people could see the photographs that he took, and then he lay there and died and was covered in ash and found 17 days later.  

J: Right.  I remember that story.  It's very, very sad and I don't know why you felt like you had to tell it on our podcast, Dear Hank and John, when we could have been making very happy Munkipedia jokes, and now we're in a dark place.

H: Well, at least we got those photos.

J: It is kind of a beautiful story, but at the same time, I do wish that nobody had died in the Mount St. Helens disaster.  Hank, what do you actually do if you're in a forest and you don't know where you are?  Don't you stay still and wait for rescue?

H: You would make a base camp where you are and make some sign of where you went.  In fact, there was another guy and his name I do remember, because his name was Dave Crockett, and he, his car got trapped as he was trying to drive away, and he marched off and he wrote on the car, in the ash, like, went uphill, and he managed to outrun the ash flow and survived.

 (18:00) to (20:00)

So if you are Dave Crockett, and in fact, you can go on YouTube and you can listen to the videoblog he made back in 1980, where he's talking to the camera about how he thinks he's going to die.  It's very eerie, and then figures out that he's gonna be okay and he's very happy.  

J: I feel so weird.  Like, we have suddenly inhabited opposite consciousnesses, like we're in a freaky Friday situation or something, because you're the one who's obsessively talking about extreme darkness and all I want to do is tell you an astonishing fact that you cannot possibly be ready for, which is that in the 80s chipmunk show, there was an episode where they recreated Star Trek.

H: Yeah. No, I believe that.  I think I may have seen that one.

J: It was called Star Wreck: The Absolutely Final Frontier and Simon played Mr. Speck.  There was also a spin-off of Robocop called Robomunk where Simon played Dr. Simonize.  Some of these puns are not very good and there was a spinoff of Splash called Sploosh in which Simon played Trusty and a spinoff of Batman in which Simon played Batmunk/Bryce Wayne.  That's not even a pun as far as I can tell.  

H: No.

J: It doesn't feel like, at a certain point in the 8th and final season of the 80s chipmunks televsion show, it does feel like they were giving up, but let's move on, Hank, to another question from our listeners.

H: This one is from Louise, who asks, "Dear Hank and John, Do Santa and his elves have the right to make trademarked products, because you ask for things from Santa and it's like, okay, but isn't that made by Nerf and not by the elves?"

 (20:00) to (22:00)

J: Right.  That's a great question, and the answer is, of course, that Santa can do whatever Santa wants to do.

H: Well, he has a deal.  He has a deal with Nerf and Nerf has factories that make Nerf guns and then Santa has the exact same capabilities as those factories only at the North Pole with Elves.  

J: Correct.

H: And he has a deal with all the major companies.  He even has a deal with, like, you know, Mac or Apple and Western Digital, the people who make harddrives.  Like, he's got a deal with every single company.  It's pretty remarkable.  He's got a deal with DFTBA.

J: Yep.

H: As soon as we started up a company, he was like, okay, well, we--you know, Santa at the North Pole also has to make this--these products so that when a child asks Santa for them, he can make them and so, we, you know, signed up to do that.

J: It's a little bit of an uncomfortable licensing conversation, of course, because you can't go into it the way you would with a normal licensing partner on account of how uh, you know, like, we all love Santa, but we found a solution that works for us and it's been great and I know that every company in the world is similarly.  Did you know that Alvin of Alvin and the Chipmunks actually has a last name?

H: Oh my God.

J: It's Seville.  Like the, I believe that's a city in Spain.

H: Yeah, that's what Dave's last name is.  It's cause Dave's last name is Seville.  They just got his last name.

J: (?~21:24)  But why is Dave's last name Seville?  He said, knowing that the answer is somewhere on Munkipedia.

H: I don't know, 'cause that's his last name.  Oh God, it's almost like I know more than you about Alvin and the Chipmunks, John.

J: Not for long!  Not at the end of this hour.  

H: Okay, this question is from Hannah, I'm going to ask a question from Hannah while you look why Dave Seville's last name is Seville.  "Dear Hank and John, I have a difficult decision to make in my career.  I am a software engineer and am currently interviewing for a job as a build engineer, which is a non-coding role that requires slightly less technical expertise at least in my field.  The build engineer job sounds boring and unfulfilling, but for some reason, the salary is $12,000 more than my current job, a huge increase for me.

 (22:00) to (24:00)

I'd be able to pay off my student loans a year early, two years instead of three years."  Hannah!  Two years--

J: That's incredibly impressive, being able to pay off your student loans in two years or three years.  

H: Yeah!  Have you been paying them off for the last 25 years like the rest of us?  "Two years instead of three years and finally move on with my life."  No, you can move on with your life before you pay off your student loans, too.  Like, like, there are things that you--you don't have to completely tied down, I don't think.  There are other things that you can do.  Anyway, "My question is this: should I willingly accept a boring job for significantly more money?  I really feel like I will be selling out by taking a non-programming job.  Also, my drive to work would be 15 minutes longer."  Why didn't you start out with that, no!  No, don't take a job that you're gonna like less that's gonna put you in a car for 30 minutes times 365 days a year.  I know it's not that many, it's more like 250 but still!  

J: Hannah, I'd like to tell you a story.  I'd like to tell you a story about a man named Ross (?~23:13) Sr.  

H: What's happening?

J: Ross also faced a choice when he got home from World War II.  He faced a choice between going and living a normal life, having a normal job, and following his passion, which was to speed up the sound of his own voice using a voice recorded that he had bought and sing songs in a voice that sounded like a chipmunk voice.  Ross had been stationed in Seville, Spain during World War II, by the way, and do you know the choice that he made?  Did he make the choice to take the non-programming job that paid somewhat more but only for a little while and who knows what the future holds and if you are making a living doing what you love to do and saving 30 minutes a day, isn't that wonderful? 

 (24:00) to (26:00)

That's--he made the choice, I'm sorry, I lost myself in trying to make the connections here, but the point is that he chose to follow his dreams, which were not like, totally random dreams, they were the completely realistic dreams of a man who just wanted to make a living singing with a sped up voice that sounded like chipmunks, and he did it.  He did it, Hannah, he did it and that is the whole reason that we have Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel, the whole reason that we have Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked, the whole reason that we have Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip, which for a while I think also had the tentative name Planes, Tranes, and Automosqueals.

H: Okay.  

J: So um, I think the answer here is very clear, Hannah, that if you're making a living doing something that you like and find fulfilling that you will, over time, find more opportunities in that and an extra year paying off your student loans is not gonna be a huge deal in the scheme of things.  That is my opinion.  I think you should go to Munkipedia, look up Ross (?~25:11) Sr. and just be inspired.  Just be inspired as I have been.  

H: Um.  Well, I do--I did the math and I do wanna say that just by--if you're spending that time, that extra time in a car, that's about 125 hours per year that you'll be extra spending in that car for $12,000, it's about $100/hr to drive to your job, so that's not nothing, but if it's not a job you wanna take, don't take it.  Do the things that you wanna do.

J: Yeah, I mean, the only advantage, Hank, is that it does make it more likely that Hannah will continue to be a listener of Dear Hank and John if she's spending more time in the car every day.

H: That's very true.  Additionally, it also is sometimes, especially if you can move back, like, if there's a potientality for you to be like, I don't like this that much, can I please go back to my old job, it might be interesting to see if you do actually like this job as a build engineer more.  You don't actually know how--whether you're gonna like it or not until you do it, and I don't think that it's like, selling out to not be on the ground doing the thing.

 (26:00) to (28:00)

You might just be doing a different thing that you also like and that's also interesting.  I definitely wouldn't--I worry about people being like, but like, this--like, I wanna be on the ground doing the thing, but also like, organizing people do the thing is a different kind of doing the thing and also an important part of doing the thing, so I wouldn't--I wouldn't discount it just because you think that it's not like the, the work that you have previously in your life, sort of like, idolized as like, this is the work that I should be doing.  You don't really know and there will always be new paths being laid out in front of you and you get to choose which of those paths you go down, and choosing before you know which paths are there, I think, is something that causes a lot of people stress and anxiety and also gets them locked into stuff.

J: Right, but it sounds like Hannah knows what she wants to do with her life.  She knows that she likes working in programming, and I would encourage her to continue doing that.  Maybe, though, you can always try the strategy of going into your boss and saying, I have another job offer, it's for 12 grand more, can I squeeze you for a little bit extra?

H: Right.  

J: But I don't know, I'm not an expert in that, Hannah, I don't want you to get fired or anything.

H: Well, maybe, it may be that this is at the same company, is what I was assuming.

J: Well, I mean, who knows, Hank.  The point is that if you look at the career of Ross (?~27:45) Sr., I think you have a good model for how to build a good life inside of tech companies as well.

H: That is a good point.  This podcast, of course, is brought to you by Ross (?~27:55), the creator of Alvin and the Chipmunks, also defender of liberty in World War II.

 (28:00) to (30:00)

Defender of Seville and defender of the idea that you can accomplish anything if you have a vision and just a tiny, tiny bit of modern technology.

J: And of course, this podcast is also brought to you by Ross (?~28:16) Jr. who has kept the chipmunks' dream alive.  

H: Thanks, Ross.  Thanks, Ross.  Podcast is also brought to you by Santa, strong-arming small businesses into great licensing deals since the beginning of time.  I'm just kidding, Santa's licensing deal is actually very, very beneficial, which is why everybody signs up to do it.

J: That's exactly right.  And of course, lastly, this podcast is brought to you by frugal chariots.  Frugal chariots, available now at your local independent frugal chariot store.

H: You know, John, we actually have a real sponsor this week, and this is NerdCon: Nerdfighteria, the event that we are running and going to be at, and I know that it's weird that it's not--it's not actually a sponsorship 'cause we're not paying ourselves but we would love if you would be interested in coming out to NerdCon: Nerdfighteria.  We will be recording a live episode of Dear Hank and John.  We will be hanging out doing all kinds of other things, Q&As and being on panels and there's going to be a bunch of cool people there like Nathan Zed and Charlie McDonnell and many others that you can find out at NerdCon: Nerdfighteria.

J: And it's in Feburary in Boston and you can get tickets at  Hank, can I ask you another question?

H: February 25 & 26th in Boston, Massachusetts.  Tickets are $60.  Please come, we'd love to see you.  Yes, you can ask me another question.

J: Alright, Hank.  We have a question from Barbara in Germany who asks, "Dear John and Hank, In the last few months, I've had some mental health issues.  With help, I'm slowly getting better, but as I do get better, I've started to ask myself why me?  Am I not as strong as others?  Take care, Barbara."  Um, I am familiar with that feeling and also with the feeling of, oh, if I were just a little bit more mentally strong, I wouldn't have to deal with this, and I think some of that is received from messages in the culture, but I also think some of it is probably, you know, your brain talking to you in a way that's not kind or generous.  

 (30:00) to (32:00)

Different people have to deal with different things in their lives.  Different people have different sets of problems and you have yours and comparing yourself to other people or constructing your illness as weakness, I don't think is helpful in the end.  I think having a mental illness doesn't mean that you're weak anymore than having any other illness means that you're weak.  All it means is that you're sick and you need treatment and you need to get better and focus on that rather than on sickness.  It's very difficult to deal with the 'why me?' question because it's always there.  I think it's there for people who have any kind of illness, but I find that trying to focus on being well and getting well and taking good care of myself and being nice to myself is helpful on those fronts.  

H: I think that was a good answer, John.  I've got another question from an Anonymous asker, or Anonymous questioner, and I like this question and I think that it's fascinating and I have been wondering when it was going to happen, and so here it is.

J: Okay.

H: "Dear Hank and John, First, know that I am a fan and generally love everything you do.  I may, however, have one issue, which is it seems that John has a personal vendetta against my father's place of employment, (?~31:32) Zinc products.  You see--"

J: Oh, the number one maker of pennies in the United States.

H: "They make penny blanks for the US Mint.  Being a fan, I have listened to countless discussions from John about the penny and don't even necessarily disagree that the penny is bad for the economy.  However, I am very pro-penny for a very selfish reason: my dad is old enough that he would have a hard time finding gainful employment at a place he has not worked for 35+ years.  So my question is, and I think this is the biggest question as well, how do we reconcile the things that we agree with in principle when the result of that principle would lead to a major personal loss?

 (32:00) to (34:00)

It's one thing to say that we have to be willing to compromise the good of the many for the few--"

J: Yeah, I mean, this is a really interesting, difficult question.  Hank and I have run into this a few times in our own careers and lives, most notably when the US Congress was debating a bill that would have made it very complicated and expensive for to continue to do business because of the complexities of local sales tax in the United States, consumption taxes in the US are not national, they are by state or by city or by county.  There are literally thousands of different sales taxes in the United States, so if and when e-tailers like have to calculate sales tax, it's just going to be a huge expense on them.  On the other hand, not having to pay sales tax means that companies like don't contribute to the places where our goods are purchased, which is not fair, so Hank and I are in favor of people paying sales tax on stuff they buy online, even though it is not in our best interest.  However, we are also coming at all of this from an extremely privileged position that's different from the position that your dad is in, in making that consideration, because is not the only way that Hank and I, you know, make a living.  So, I also think that we're running up against this on a much larger scale in the way that we're talking about globalization, like, we know that globalization has been good for the economy overall.  We know that it's created lots of jobs both inside the United States and outside of it, but we also know that it is probably part of what's increasing the global disparity of wealth.  

 (34:00) to (36:00)

It's part of what's increasing the number of people who feel left behind in the economy, and that wealth inequality is bad, it's not--it's not just like, ethically bad, it's bad for the economy.  It's bad for the cohesiveness of social institutions.  It's just objectively bad.  So, you've gotta balance that knowledge with wanting, you know, an efficient well-run economy, which in my opinion would involve no pennies.  

H: Yeah.  Yeah.  This is--and I think in particular, like, I would like to think that there's a world where like, you know, there are--people need zinc for stuff and if you know--

J: Yeah, but not on that scale, Hank.  Like, I mean, that's the thing, like, on some level--

H: Yeah, it's a lot of pennies.

J: Right.  We have this all over our economy.  Pennies are one example but we have lots of examples of this, right, we spend way too much money on healthcare.  While spending way too much money on healthcare creates jobs, it creates lots of jobs and lots of fairly high paying jobs, relative to a lot of the economy, but we spend way, way, way too much of our total economy on healthcare, so if we were to make that more efficient and have a healthcare spending level that was closer to, say, Australia or Canada or France or Germany or literally anywhere else on Earth, then there would be a lot of jobs lost and a lot of the jobs would be good jobs that would be lost, and so it's really difficult--I don't know is my only answer.  

 (36:00) to (38:00)

Like, I don't know how to manage that.  I don't know how to, you know--I don't know, and I love your question and we wanted to read it because we love it, not because we have answers.  

H: Correct.  I also have just done a little bit of research, John.  The company that owns this like, penny making operation also owns one of your favorite companies in the world, John.

J: Really?

H: The makers of the Sharpie pen. 

J: Oh.  God, I love Sharpies.  I mean, I don't understand why I don't have a brand deal with Diet Dr. Pepper and Sharpies.  It is totally unjust to me.  I--how is it that I'm able to have a wonderful and fulfilling corporate relationship with my friends at the Mars company, maker of my personal candy bar, Snickers, and not have a relationship with Diet Dr. Pepper and the people at Sharpie.  I signed 150,000 copies of The Fault in Our Stars with Sharpies.  I should have--I should be able to get some free Sharpies out of that, man.  I'm still paying for my Sharpies, Hank.  I go to CVS and I buy my own Sharpies and I feel like I should be getting them for free, I really do.  

H: Oh, John.  I just had a thought.

J: Yeah?

H: What if we could create something that the economy would be really, really into--

J: Yeah.

H: That would cost more than a penny but it would use the penny blank that the US Mint had stopped using to create new pennies, so like, we just need to create a product that people are gonna be really into and they'll buy a lot of and they'll cost like, 2 or 3 cents, so that the--so that we can get rid of pennies but then people will have a product that they will love and want to be a part of their lives and will bring them satisfaction and continue to have people consuming these things that are already being made.  What is that if we just--has to like, marbles?  Like, it should be a game that just sweeps the nation and it's--there's gonna, there's a dance that goes with it.

J: But is it going to be a game that sweeps the nation and like, 200,000,000 penny blanks are gonna be used every year?  I just, I don't know.  I appreciate your enthusiasm and your optimism, but in general, I feel--I feel in a bit of a place of discouragement when it comes to capital markets and what they can do well and what they can do poorly.  

 (38:00) to (40:00)

Hank, can I read you one response that we got?  We got a wonderful email from a fan of AFC Wimbledon whose dad has both the AFC Wimbledon and the Wimbledon FC crest tattooed on his body, who suggested that I get an AFC Wimbledon tattoo, which I'm not taking off the table, but I really wanted to read this one email from Yua, I hope I'm saying your name right, in the United Kingdom, who wrote, "A few days ago, I celebrated my 30th birthday, moving one year closer to my demise.  Anyway, one of the the gifts I received was the new Amazon Echo Dot and we randomly shouted very important questions such as asking the distance to the nearest sushi restaurant for which it tried to direct us to Houston, Texas, and then last night, my girlfriend and I decided to ask Alexa to play your latest podcast.  A bit later that evening, we received an email from Amazon to say that we had purchased a large teddy bear and thank you.   The next ten minutes, we were ranting about being hacked and how Amazon was rubbish and how they're taking over the world, and then we paused to consider for a moment and decided to look into this further.  This was when we became aware that the machines and corporations have finally started the revolution and are out to get us, or at least our wallets.  Looking into the history of our device, I was able to find out that during the time we were out of the living room, Alexa was able to construct some form of conversation while, you, John, were discussing your refusal to use--"

H: Oh.  Oh my goodness.

J: "--Mac keyboards and Kenny Loggins albums, which somehow, Alexa interpreted as "Do you like being here with your big bear?"  We now have a large plush bear and since you did request it from our new machine overlords, can we please have a forwarding address to send it to?  Think of it as a gift to your children."

H: Oh my God.

J: Absolutely.  We will send along a PO Box that you can send the bear to if you really want to, although feel no obligation, please, seriously, and I am delighted that Alexa has purchased you a bear against your will.  

 (40:00) to (42:00)

We are living in a strange, strange future, where we no longer have to even want things for Amazon to send them to us.  I gotta say, Hank, I have an Alexa, but I also have a Google Home, and Google Home is so much better.

H: Yeah.  Yeah.  Okay.  So here's my question.  Could we, right now, say a string of letters, of words, that would result in thousands of peoples' Amazon Alexas sending Sharpies to your home?

J: Yes, absolutely.  Here we go, here we go, Hank.  Ready?

H: Could we change the address?  No, don't do it, don't do it!

J: Yes, I'm doing it right now whether you like it or not.  Alexa, hey, it's me.

H: Nope.  Nope.  No!  

J: I'd really like a hardcover copy of The Fault in Our Stars sent to my home.  Thank you.  

H: What about, I wanna--

J: Okay, Google.  Purchase The Fault in Our Stars by John Green right now.  Hardcover.  First edition.

H: John, I don't think you can actually do that.  Like, I think that that's--like, that actually might result in it happening.

J: No way, really?  

H: I don't know.  It wor--it happened for this person!

J: Uh.  Nah, it's gonna be fine, Hank.  Everything's fine.  It's no big deal.  I mean, the worst thing that's gonna happen is that people are gonna get a lovely book and I'm gonna get 60 cents.  

H: Well, what about this, what about this?  Okay, Google, who is the creator of Alvin and the Chipmunks?  I really wanna know if that worked.

J: Alexa, can you play Alvin and the Chipmunks Christmas, please?  Thank you.

H: Well, now the podcast is off.

J: Yep.  Now the podcast is off.  Nobody's listening anymore, but they are enjoying what I would argue is the greatest Christmas album of all time not recorded by John Denver.  

H: Oh man, you haven't heard my Christmas album, then.  

J: Alright, Hank, let's move on to the news from Mars and AFC Wimbledon.  I'll get the news out from AFC Wimbledon out of the way quickly.

 (42:00) to (44:00)

AFC Wimbledon played the franchise currently (?~42:06) their trade in Milton Keynes over the weekend.  They lost 1-0.  Life is long and full of minor disappointments, but that is certainly one of them.  AFC Wimbledon should have won that game, maybe?  I don't know.  Who knows?  The point is that now we're 10th in the table, sitting on 29 points after 21 games, so, you know, not there at the top, but also not there at the bottom, we're just right comfortably at 10th.

H: Um, John.  The news from Mars is very good, very exciting.  Curiosity has left the lake basin and is now traveling up the side of Mt. Sharp.  It has recently sent back some data that people have analyzed and determined, John, do you know what boron is?

J: Uhh, no.

H: Boron is a chemical element and as I'm sure you're aware now that I've told you that boron is a chemical element, but it is water soluble in netural water.  So it doesn't like super alkaline water, it doesn't like super acidic water, and it is clear that there was a ton of groundwater moving around in the Mt. Sharp basin after the lake--even after the lake disappeared, so there--this lake existed for a long time, but then there was an active groundwater system that was moving elements around and it was pH neutral, like, close to pH neutral.  So this was like, perfect conditions for life.  Not just that as the Curiosity has been traveling up the side of the mountain, the composition of the rocks have changed, which means that there are chemical gradients on Mars, so there are areas that are different, like, substantially different geologically from nearby areas, which is like, also a great condition for life because it means that life could be--like, could be feeding off of those chemical differentials and then finally, we have, we like, this groundwater situation is making us think that the horizon for when Mars was a nice place for life, for when there was liquid water and it was warm, pH neutral liquid water, could have been in the hundreds of millions of years, which on Earth, by hundreds of millions of years in, Earth life was happening.  

 (44:00) to (46:00)

So I just want to advocate, because there's only so much that robots can do, though I am in favor of them doing more, if we could get humans to Mars by like, I don't know, 2027, it would be an amazing opportunity to find what might be a completely unique ecosystem based on different biologies that probably doesn't exist anymore.  It may exist in very small pockets, probably doesn't exist anymore, but I'm starting to feel like probably did exist, and that's a weird crazy thing for me to say, 'cause I have not been super like, into exobiology, but like, the conditions for life were very good for a very long time on the surface of Mars, it seems.  This is all information that we never would have had if it hadn't been for Curiosity doing great work and the scientists doing great work with that data, and what a fantastic mission, Curiosity now, I think, in its third year on the planet, has been accomplishing.  It's so, so fantastic the kinds of stuff we've been learning from this mission.

J: Well, Hank, I'd like you to explain to me why it's so important to do this by 2027 if the life is, in all likelihood, already gone, and will be equally gone in say, 2028?

H: Um, you know, I think it's just--I don't have to explain myself to you.  

 (46:00) to (48:00)

J: Alright.  Hank, what have we learned today?

H: Oh God.   I don't know.  

J: We learned--what do you mean you don't know?  We learned so much about chipmunks!

H: We did.  We learned a lot about Ross (?~46:18) and also Simon and Theodore and Liberty Records and the color of Simon's glasses and their increasing progression into creepier and creepier forms as 3-D technology has gotten better, for some reason, it only makes chipmunks worse.  But we also learned that if you are found in the middle of the forest, you should take pictures, then put the film in your backpack, roll up onto it, and get covered by layers of volcanic ash.

J: That is, of course, terrible advice, like everything in our podcast.  We also learned that if you are looking at a 2D object, you should be concerned.

H: Yes, very concerned.  And finally, we learned that Santa is a extraordinarily accomplished businessperson in addition to being one of the most giving and sweet entities upon this Earth.  

J: I know.  Hank, there is so much to be discouraged about in this world, but there is also much to be encouraged about.  Thank you for podding with me.  Thanks to everybody for listening.  Thanks to Nicholas Jenkins for editing the podcast.  Rosianna Halse Rojas and Victoria Bongiorno help out as well.  Our theme music is by Gunnarolla.  You can email us at or check us out on Twitter at @hankgreen and @johngreen, and of course--did I say our theme music is by Gunnarolla, because it is.  Even if I said that twice, I'm that proud of it.  Thanks again for listening, and as we say in our hometown...

H&J: Don't forget to be awesome.

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