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How long until everyone is related to Beyoncé? When does parenting stop sucking? How can I help the world without being rich? And more!

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 Introduction (0:00)

H: Hello and welcome to Dear Hank and John!

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

H: It's that comedy podcast where me and my brother John, we answer--I'm farting so I'm just gonna let that go and then I'm gonna start over again.

J: Great.  Good plan.

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

J: I'm a little bit stressed out, to be honest.  I've got just a lot of work stress.  

H: I've got a lot of work stress as well.

J: And I blame you for this actually, Hank, because none of my work stress comes from sitting alone in a basement and trying to write a novel.  It all comes from you.

H: You know, I think some of it comes from sitting alone in a basement and trying to write a novel, so.

J: Well, I haven't really written in about a month and a half so it can't--it can't be that at the moment.  

H: I uh--well, I didn't sleep very much last night and I--but I'm still a huge fan of my child.  Sometimes when he's crying at night, I'll go to his cradle and I'll go to try and soothe him but I don't want him to see me, because that will wake him up more.

J: Yeah.

H: And so he'll be crying and then I'll like try and sneak up to his cradle and I'll look at his face to see what he looks like and he'll make eye contact with me and he just smiles.  

J: Ohh.  Ohhh.

H: And I'm like, no, dude.  

J: That's so sweet.

H: It is, but like, go to sleep.  

J: I thought you were gonna say, um, that he can--he can sense you or hear you and he wakes up and starts crying, but yeah, I mean, it's very hard to get babies to sleep, Hank.  There is no--there is no magic to it.  It's--it's very--I'm very sorry, that's all I can say.  I'm stuttering and stumbling because I just--I feel for you.  It is really hard to go through the world extremely tired.

H: Yeah, do you know, John, we actually have several questions from people who have had problems with their babies sleeping, which is the first time I've noticed that.  

J: Which is fine, but we don't wanna get there yet.  We've gotta get to the short poem.

H: Okay, you can do that.  

J: Thank you, I appreciate that.  Today's short poem comes from Kobayashi Isa, and it's a haiku, Hank.  I know how you love haikus.  I really love this haiku.  Somebody sent it in, a listener to Dear Hank and John. Thanks for sending it in.  It goes like this:

The wren 
earns his living

It's good.  Very good.  It's everything I want a haiku to be.  Hank, I have a question for you that's related to the wren earning its living noiselessly. 

H: Are you gonna ask how we could earn our living noiselessly, because I think that would be really hard, because part of what we do is make noise.  It's like, kind of our thing.

J: Yeah, no, that's what I was gonna ask, is there any way we could move to sort of a, like, a John Cage 4:30 style podcast?

H: You just--well, we could do that once, I think.  We could put out a--just a--the short poem and then it would just be silence for the rest of the podcast.

J: Oh, people would love it, people would love it.

H: People would love it. 

J: Um, Hank.

H: Yeah.

 Question 1 (2:59)

J: I wanna read to you a question.

H: Okay. 

J: It comes from Crystal.  Hank and I are both very tired, I don't know if you guys can tell.  This comes from Crystal who asks, "Dear John and Hank, I have a brand new four week old baby.  When does it stop sucking?  Don't get me wrong, she's beautiful and magical and I love her, but it sucks.  Help a momma out.  Give me a light at the end of the baby-shaped tunnel.  Crystal." 

H: I do think that, when the smiling starts happening, that does help quite a lot.

J: Smiling is great.  You know what's even better is like, talking.  Once they can really communicate with you, although, you know, that comes with its own set of disadvantages.  I have a theory that like, every part of parenting is both.  Every part of parenting is both difficult and magical, both exhausting and electrifying, and so you just have to kind of ride the waves of it and understand that it's a wave.  I do think that it gets a lot easier once they start sleeping at night, which four week old babies usually do not do, so it gets easier once you start to be able to sleep six or seven hours in a row, Crystal, and I hope for you that's around 11 or 12 weeks, it might be longer, but that's my hope for you.

H: Yeah, and in general, I will suggest talking to other parents or, you know, people who have like, realistic feelings about this.  Oftentimes, like, when I've read like parent things, like, they gloss over the fact that it's really hard and I think that that's not--

J: Yeah.

H: I think that's not the thing to do.  

J: Yeah, it's really easy to catastrophize when you haven't slept much, like, the longer you go without sleeping, the more minor problems seem to be existential.

H: I think you are right, John.  It is very hard and especially when you are sleep deprived and everything--

J: This morning I had to do the dishes and I was like, trying to do the dishes but I was so tired and I broke a dish and I truly felt like that was it, you know?  That like, I'd reached the end of my experiment with humanness.  That my life was over.  I was just looking down at the dish just being like, oh my God, I've just added 15 minutes to my already busy day.  Oh my God.

 Question 2 (5:13)

H: We've got a somewhat related question, correct, John, too?

J: We do.  David sent us a very long and wonderful email but I'm only going to read the end of it, which reads, "I'm having a baby daughter next month and we haven't  been able to pick a name.  No, we won't use Ryan.  Currently we have it narrowed down to Kira, Elaina, and Oriella, Ori for short.  What is your opinion?  We are open to other names that aren't Ryan."  First off, David, I am deeply offended and also you're making a horrible mistake.  

H: I think that--you know, I think that it's going to be okay, John.  I think that David can make his own decisions, but what is the mistake you think he's making?  

J: No, I don't agree at all.  Ori, Ori, which is a lovely name, by the way, Oriella or Orellia, I don't know how to say it, but it's a lovely name.  Auri, A-U-R-I, is actually an anagram of the name I am going to propose for this child, R-I-A-N, Rian.

H: Well, but there's no N in Auri.  

J: Oh, I'm not that good at anagrams.

H: It's funny 'cause you wrote a whole book about them.

J: Yeah, but I used an anagram generator.  I'm not as smart as the kid in that book.

H: Yeah, that's the nice thing about writing books about smart people.  You can take all the time to make them smart and it seems like you--that they didn't take any time at all.  

J: I guess you could just name the kid Raui.

H: Ra-ra--raiu?  Ra--Uria.  

J: What about like...Rau

H: Or just Rai?

J: You know, when I was a kid, Hank, I had an acquaintance whose name I won't actually say, this is one of those names where it's so uncommon that it becomes very easy to Google the person if I say their name.  All I'll say is that their name was an amalgam of the two colors in the parent's favorite college football team.

H: Oh man.

J: So for instance, if it had been the University of Alabama, which it wasn't, the name might have been like, I believe it's the Crimson and White, so it might have been like, Crimite.  

H: Crite?  That's a bad idea.

J: But the actual name was so much worse than that, but I don't feel like I can--I don't feel like I can out this person so I can't--I can't tell the joke, but anyway, long story short--

H: We're so tired. We're so tired.

J: You should obviously name your daughter Rian.

H: You could name your child Auriella and then call her Ri for short and that's kind of like Rian.  

J: Or just call her Rian for short.  I mean, here's my case, David.  When your kid asks, inevitably, as they will in like, you know, five to seven years, well, where did my name come from?  You're gonna be able to look at that child and you're gonna be able to say it was an inside joke on the internet's 237th most popular comedy podcast.

H: Yeah.

J: And that's something that that kid is gonna take with them and it's gonna keep them warm on cold nights for the rest of their life.

H: Yeah, and what you can say is, it doesn't matter if you're popular, as long as you're funny and aware of the inevitability of your own demise.

J: Memento mori!

 Question 3 (8:17)

H: We've got another question, John.  It's also about children. We're just gonna--I'm picking all the children ones. It's not really a question, it comes from Rhett.  "I just wanted to tell you guys that one night when I was crying on the couch with my few weeks old son breastfeeding for the billionth hour and I realized the baby's umbilical stump was gone.  The dog was chewing ominously. Seriously, Rhett."  

J: Oh, oh, oh, oh boy.  

H: Thanks for that question or statement.

J: Well, you know, lots of people do, you know, people cook and eat the--the umbilical cord.  That is a thing.

H: Well, the placenta.  I don't know that you can eat the umbilical cord, it's got a lot of connective tissue in it.  It's like fingernail.  That was a bad--

J: Okay.  Time to move on.  

H: Sorry, I'm so sorry.  We're both very tired and I feel like I inadequately answered that first question and I want to say that everyone feels this way and it's terrible for everyone when you have a tiny child and you're not sleeping at all and it does--yeah.

J: It is really hard and it's one of the things that people did not prepare me for when I was having a kid, that like, it is not easy.  It is hard.

H: No, it is hard.

 Question 4 (9:25)

J: Hank, I wanna read you a question that I need the answer to and I'm hoping you have the answer to it.  It comes from Alaina, she writes, "Dear John and Hank, Recently people have been telling me that eggs do not need to go in the refrigerator.  That seems silly as I worked at a--"

H. Lies.

J: What?

H: I said lies.

J: Oh, eggs do need to go in the refrigerator?

H: Well, I'll explain it, it's actually kind of complicated.

J: Okay, well, I won't even bother getting to the end of the question, although Alaina had a lovely email, but you clearly don't want me to read it because you cut me off by saying lies.  Why do you need to refrigerate your eggs?

H: Uh, it depends on where you live, remarkably enough.  In the US, we are very careful about salmonella, maybe because we like to eat our eggs pretty raw here. I don't know if that's the case in other countries.

J: Yep.

H: But we do like to not cook our eggs very much and so we--like the Department of Agriculture or the USDA, that's the same thing, or the whoever handles the food regulations in this country, requires that eggs are washed and so the eggs come out of the chickens and then they get washed off so that there's no stuff on that that might give you a disease, but that also washes off a bunch of proteins that like, clog up the pores in the eggs that make eggs last much longer and basically don't require them to be refrigerated, so if you get eggs from your chicken, you don't have to refrigerate those.  You can wash them beforehand or you can basically not wash them at all if you're not super concerned about it.  In other countries, eggs are not washed in this same way, and so they don't refrigerate eggs, and so sometimes people go to other countries and they say, look, look at all these eggs that aren't being refrigerated!  Why do we refrigerate our eggs in America, is it just because we are crazy?  No.  Maybe.  A little bit.  But you can't not refrigerate eggs in America.  American eggs do have to be refrigerated.  

J: Well, just another example of American exceptionalism.  

H: We--our eggs are cleaner than anybody's.

J: We've got the cleanest eggs on Earth and the most refrigerated.

H: Well, we're just trying to keep people alive and that's what we decided was a way to do it.  Salmonella sucks.

J: I am strongly opposed to Salmonella.  

 Question 5 (11:32)

H: This next question that we have is from Naiala who asks, "Dear Green brothers," I like how you avoided the controversy there.  "After listening to last week's pod and hearing the fantastic news of Beyonce's pregnancy to twins, it got me thinking.  It got me and my wife thinking, how long until everyone alive on the planet is at least distantly related to Beyonce?  Like, how many generations do we have to make it before we've gotten to the perfect utopia where everyone currently alive is at least a tiny bit Beyonce? This question is very important, as my wife and I desperately need some sort of plausible utopia to look forward to in these dark times.  Quaffles and Gyoza, Niala."  

J: Well, I have good news and bad news, Hank.

H: I also have good news and bad news, but you go first.

J: Okay, so my bad news is that I'm pretty sure humans won't survive long enough for everyone on Earth to be related to Beyonce.  

H: How long do you think that would take, John?

J: Uh, it--so I know that all people of European descent are related to--are descended from Charlemagne, the--

H: And also everyone else who was alive back then.

J: I'm not sure that all humans are necessarily--

H: No, in Europe I mean.

J: Oh right, not--oh, oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, and I know that all living humans are descended from Confucius and I know that almost all living humans are descended from Muhammad, so it can't have been that long, but I also think that those people from back then had a big advantage because the population was smaller, whereas, you know, if you look a thousand years into the future, the human population is probably going to--it's pretty big now and it's probably going to get a little bit bigger and then stabilize and then maybe slowly taper off.  So, I don't know the answer to this question, but I don't think that humans have a very good chance of existing in 2000 years, which is how long I think it would take.

H: I think that 2000 years is a good guess.  I mean, the things that are gonna mess this up, though, like, the thing that could make it much less is if there is some kind of apocalyptic event and we lose a lot of people.  Then it's much easier for us to all be related to each other more quickly, because there will be fewer people.

J: Only if we make sure that Beyonce's descendants survive.

H: Right.

J: Which is key.  I mean, obviously we need to prioritize that.

H: It's key to this happening but also it seems quite likely.  I mean, it seems to me that Beyonce's descendants would have an above-average chance of surviving, just by where they are going to be on the socio-economic spectrum.

J: Sure.

H: But also because of just being amazing, I assume.  I don't want to put too much pressure on Beyonce's children.

J: I was just gonna say, no pressure, unborn babies.  

H: But I will say that, to be clear, we are all distantly related to Beyonce, like, we are all already like, we share so much in common with Beyonce.  Far more than you could imagine, really.  We are so very close to being exactly Beyonce, but in addition to that, we are all, you know, related to everything on the planet that's alive, so it's not actually that exceptional.

J: That's true.

H: That we are all related to Beyonce.  We are also all related to like, bananas.

J: Righ--well, we're significantly closer related to people of our species than we are to bananas, but yeah, I understand your point.  I think it's important to remember that, you know, the main thing that's gonna be difficult about getting all humans to be descended from Beyonce is keeping humans around as a species for another thousand years, so I think--if that, if we just make that the focus, it will have this like, unexpected wonderful side benefit of all of us being descended from Beyonce in just maybe like, I don't know, like, 3,000 or 4,000 short generations.

H: Right.  Yeah.  Well, definitely not generations.  That's a long, long--

J: Oh, I meant like, I'm sorry, two or three hundred generations.  I don't--I'm so--Hank, I'm so tired.

H: Yes.  I know you're very ti--

J: So bad at math when I'm tired.

H: I have to ask you an important question now.

J: I'm not good at anagramming, I'm not good at any part--I'm not good at any part of--I was gonna say video blogging, but that's not even what we're doing right now.

H: So my important question is, how long do you think it will be until all living humans are descended from at least one minion?

J: Do you mean like minions in the movie Minions?

H: Mm, mhmm.  

J: Okay, so, I've got good news and bad news, and it's actually the same news and it's just in how you look at it, like a lot of news, which is that Minions are not real. 

H: I also think they're--they don't seem to be--they don't seem to reproduce sexually is a sentence that has created an awful image in my brain.

J: Yeah, I mean, I wanna go back in time to the part of life where I had never considered Minion reproduction.  What I like to think of is like, the halcyon days when America was definitely not compromised by Vladmir Putin and I didn't have to think about Minion sex.  

H: I wanna write a whole book on Minion sex now.  I just wanna know how it works!

J: Uh, please, please, don't.

H: Speaking of, John--

J: Yeah?

 Question 6 (16:49)

H: Speaking of, here's a question from Ruby, who asks, "Dear Hank and John, I've noticed that different households have different norms for toilet use during the night.  In my house, we just flush, like, all times of the day, but at my friends' houses, they don't, so that no one is woken from the noise.  My question is, if I'm staying at someone else's house, should I flush or not?  It makes me uncomfortable to leave it un-flushed, but then again, perhaps I should just do what is the norm in that household.  Thank you for making the podcast, Ruby."  Uh, I ha--so, I wanted to answer this question because it brings up a question that I'm curious about.  This is someone else's toilet, definitely, but the water in the toilet is kind of public property.  It--I understand that, like, it's been paid for, but it's kind of a public service, but the thing I put in the toilet, that's mine.  

J: Right.  Right.

H: I made that and so where does the--where's the line between what is mine and what is not mine?  Like, is the toilet handle--the toilet handle's not mine, so should I not touch the toilet handle because that's the not-mine area?  But I am trying to, like, I don't wanna--I'm not trying to like, push a toilet handle, I'm trying to eliminate the existence of the thing that is mine and so the toilet handle's just sort of a mechanism through which I would like to do that.

J: Yeah, I don't think anybody would ever welcome you into their house and say, "Also, don't touch any of the things that are mine in this house", 'cause then you'd have to be like, wait, but I'm currently--my feet are on the floor.  What do I do with my feet?  So I don't think you have to worry about that. 

H: Well, no--

J: I think that the answer here is pretty clear which is if it's--I can't remember the exact rhyme from camp, Hank, but perhaps you will.  "If it's yellow, just stay mellow, if it's brown, flush it down"?  

H: "If it's yellow, let it mellow.  If it's brown, flush it down."  I agree that you can't leave a dooker there for someone to find in the morning.  Definitely not.

J: Right.  No, I think if it's yellow, 100% of the time you just let it mellow.

H: Well, I think that's probably good advice.

J: I believe that by the way, in general.  There's so much unnecessary flushing of toilets in the United States.  This is a somewhat off-topic rant, but like, the amount of unnecessary flushing of toilets in the US is just baffling to me and that's spoken from the perspective of a committed and extreme germaphobe.  It's just ridiculous how often we flush after a small pee.  It's just a little bit of pee.  Now, if you have a dog or a small child that drinks toilet bowl water, then maybe yes, then maybe, but other than that, there is no reason.  Anyway, let's move on, Hank.  I'm gonna--otherwise I'm gonna lose my temper.

H: No, I have an addition, I have an addition.  

J: Okay.

H: I have an addition to make, which is that if it--I think that rhyme needs an addition.  If it's yellow, let it mellow.  If it's brown, flush it down.  If it's yellow and poop or brown and pee, you go see a doctor.

J: It's okay to have a little bit of--somewhat brown pee on occasion as long as you're dehydrated, but honestly, if you're getting your health advice from Dear Hank and John, you've made some terrible life choices.

 Question 7 (20:00)

H: Oh, God, okay, John, you got another question for me?

J: Not really.  Um, I think I can find one, but I--the answer to "Did I have one already?" is no.  No, I didn't.  Oh, this question is from Adam, I thought this was pretty interesting, Hank.  He writes, "Hello, Best brothers--" That's too high of a compliment, Adam.  Unfortunately, we're not able to accept it because of the Gregory Brothers and also the Wright Brothers, you know?  I mean, without them, we wouldn't have air travel.  I--don't get me wrong, I think we're extraordinary, but you know.  Let's not blow it out of proportion, Adam.  Anyway, "Sometimes I feel like the only way to have an impact on the world at large is to first become rich and then use my fiscal power to help people or influence government.  However, until I acquire wealth, what are some ways to help steer this great American ship toward kinder, gentler, and more accepting destinations?  Receptively yours, Adam."  So, Hank, you don't know a lot of rich people.  Like, in your day-to-day life, you don't like, hang out with rich people.  I am like, not to brag, an anthropologist of rich people.  I hang out with a bunch of rich people and I am like, a student of their ways and Adam, I will tell you a secret about rich people, which is that rich people also believe that they need to get rich in order to have an influence on the world at large but they find, as they get richer, as if by magic, that they are never quite rich enough yet to have that influence that they're waiting to have, so you're already there, my friend.  You're just on a hamster wheel that as long as you believe that one day you will be rich enough to make a difference, you will just stay on that hamster wheel trying to get richer and richer and richer and richer and you will find over time that you have more things to spend money on. You'll start to think, "Oh man, I actually need to belong to this country club" and then, if you get stupid rich, you'll start to think, "You know what I need?  What would be better for everyone, including the world, would be if I had a private jet or a yacht or whatever."  

H: Oh my God.

J: If you worship money, it will never be enough.  Whatever you worship, it will never be enough and so that is my theory.  I think if you try to make money to make a difference, in the end, you're just gonna stay on the hamster wheel.  

H: Yeah.  So try to worship making a difference rather than making money and but, like, John, you do see that like, there are a lot of super rich folk that do have this oversized influence on politics.

J: Yes.  

H: There are certainly more rich folks than choose to do that.  It's interesting that a lot of rich people choose to do other things with their money, whether that's, you know, make more money with it or do good things with it or you know, like, get it--put it into like, trying to get candidates elected, but I don't even know that that works that well.

J: No, I don't think it does.  I think, like, spending money to try to influence politics has not been particularly effective in the United States in the last 50 years.  Now, I do think that you can influence, like, state and local politics a lot, but yeah, I cert--buying campaign ads doesn't work.  I think lobbying works.  

H: Yeah, yeah.

J: But yeah, I just think, in general, if--I think you said it perfectly, Hank.  If the focus is not on how can I get money so I can change the world or how can I get money so I can make life better for the people around me, but instead on how can I make life better for the people around me, it's a much more fulfilling way of living, and I know I was like, being way over simplifying in my little rant, so I want to be clear about that, but I do really, really believe that it's just never--it's never enough if it's the end. Like, so make--like Hank said, make the end something that never having enough of it will be good.  Uhhh, Hank, is there an inherent meaning to human life or is it constructed by us?  

H: Is this a question from a listener, John, or is this just you've decided to ask the big one?

J: No, I just wonder what you think.  Is there like, an inherent objective meaning to human life or are we just here to turn oxygen into carbon dioxide?

H: Well, certainly not the second because you can't say "Is there an inherent objective meaning or is there no meaning at all", because there's a second thing.  I think that you, like, there could be a case to be made that there is an inherent objective meaning to life, and which is--the continuation of life.  That is a--it is a natural process, it is a--beyond natural, it is a physical process, the way that life is a physical process is very complicated and cool and I, like, I want to get into it but not right now, but I think that there's also something to be said that, like, if you want to--if you want to create a sort of like, an easily objectifiable purpose for life, you can.  There are a number of things that you can put it on.  I like to put it on complexity.  I think that, like, the work that is being done by all organisms, but by humans better than any organism is like, organization of things, like putting molecules together in ways that would not happen without a life to put them together in that way.

J: Mhmm.

H: Fighting against entropy, basically, like kind of the goal against life is to kind of catch entropy on its way down and be like, while you're crashing down towards a state of disorder, we're gonna do something interesting with this, and so there's like, that's like a way of talking about the purpose of life in a way that like, is fundamental to physics, but I think that really it's all internal to humans, and I--but that doesn't make it not real.  

J: Right.

H: And I, like, so yeah, I mean, like, I think that we both agree that there is a purpose to life, but it is decided upon by the things that are doing the living.

J: Right, one of the things that--

H: And there's nothing--that doesn't make it less real.

J: One of the things I've been thinking about a lot recently is how there is something beautiful and heroic and fascinating about the process of humans and also other animals, but especially humans, making something in a place where previously existed nothing.  Like, that's what a great story or a great work of art or a great poem does, is like it creates inside of you an experience or a space where there was previously nothing.  It like, takes what--there's a line from William Faulkner's Nobel prize speech that I don't want to butcher so I'm going to Google it, 'cause I'm no dummy.  Right at the beginning of this Nobel prize speech, the greatest Nobel prize speech I think in the history of the universe, Faulkner said, "I feel that this award is made not to me as a man, but to my work, a life's work, in the agony and sweat of the human spirit.  Not for glory and least of all for profit, but to create out of the materials of the human spirit something something which did not exist before," and that process of making things from essentially nothing, making something that didn't exist before, that is a cool thing that all humans do.

H: Mhmm, and we do it like, directly in really--

J: Other animals do it, but humans are really good at it.

H: Yeah, we do it directly into each other all the time, like, that's what communication is, is like, is creation of a thing--

J: Right, yeah.  

H: --and like, our conception of our selves even and of the people that like, we know well enough to conceive of is pretty cool.  I mean, it like--

J: I'm starting to feel a little hopeful, Hank.

H: I know, me too!  Good job, John!

J: Today's podcast is brought to you by the meaning of life.  The meaning of life: we think there is one!

H: This podcast is also brought to you by the pee in the toilet.  Just leave it.

J: It's fine.

H: Pee in the toilet, just leave it!

J: That's a good song.  That's a really good song, Hank.  Did you write just that now?

H: I--oh yeah.  It's part of my new ad campaign that I'm working on for pee in the toilet.  

J: We really need better market incentives to preserve natural resources and so I actually think that's a pretty good idea, and of course, today's podcast is also brought to you by Beyonce's descendents.  Beyonce's descendents: soon enough, hopefully, god-willing, all of us.

H: All of us.  Also, this podcast is brought to you by the weird, lumpy stump left behind when your baby's umbilical cord falls off.  It's real gross and your dog loves it.

J: Mm.  That's probably my least favorite sponsor we've ever had.  It's right up there with uh, it's right up there with mating Minions in the least fun things that have ever happened on our podcast.  

 Question 8 (29:42)

H: This question is from Nicole, John, who asks, "Dear Hank and John, I'm trying to write high fantasy."  I want to talk a little bit more about creating things in your brain.  

J: Yeah.

H: "I thought a lot about the magic system and the history and the big ideas in the world but I keep running into minuscule problems like what they eat and how they mark time passing and how do they get from place to place?  The real problem is, I feel like in order to create a world, I need to know sociology, psychology, history, biology, astronomy if I'm making a planet or moon, politics, basically everything. So my question is, how would I go about learning absolutely everything about how people and the world works?  Rebel forever, Nicole."  People are taking the sign-off seriously and I love it.  

J: Yeah, I love that people are really trying to find a good sign-off, although you'll never find one better than 'Memento Mori'.  I mean, ending all of your emails with Memento Mori, it puts you into a next-level of person.  Like, it just means that everybody you know is gonna be like, oh wow, that's my Memento Mori friend.  Anyway, my mentor and first editor, Ilene Cooper, who worked with me at Booklist Magazine and helped me write and rewrite Looking for Alaska many times before it was ever published used to say that the hardest thing about writing is getting a character to walk through a door, and there are times when you can be paralyzed by the complexity of trying to use language to get another person to imagine walking through a door, you know, where you almost like, get stuck inside of that, and I don't write high fantasy, I am not good at world building.  Almost all of my novels are set in places where I have lived but I do think that there's an element of trying--when you're writing, of trying to see it from the perspective of the reader, rather than from your own perspective.  What's gonna make the reader feel like this is real?  What's gonna immerse them in the world?  Which are the details, whether it's psychology or astronomy or whatever, that's gonna make it feel real to them, rather than being obsessed with trying to make it as real as you can for yourself.  That's a hard line but I think, like, that act of empathy of trying to imagine the reader's experience is like, the essential thing about writing.

H: Yeah, Patrick Rothfuss talks about this and has talked to me about it several times just 'cause I've been interviewing him for something or another thing 'cause we're friends and his advice is like, you don't have to talk about all the things. You have to talk about the things that you know well, and so he talks about the fact that like, he's kind of obsessed with currency, like, in his normal life.  He's obsessed with how money works, and so the money is a really fleshed out thing in the Kingkiller Chronicles, like, they talk about making change and all these cultures have all this different money and they have to like, figure out how to like, like, have one kind of money work in another place, and, but like, you know, for example, George R. R. Martin clearly doesn't know anything about how planets work because oftentimes things will happen on the planet that doesn't make any sense, and that's fine, because it's fantasy and like, maybe there's some way that this like, that the winter would last much longer sometimes than it does other times, but like, that doesn't--it doesn't like, make sense based on how we think about how planets work, but it doesn't really matter.  He doesn't really go into why the winter gets longer some years than other years or why winters can go on for years.  He just says that it does, and that's a thing. 

J: Right.

H: And that's okay to not have that part of the world be fleshed out, because like, the politics of that world are extraordinarily fleshed out and that makes it seem real, so you have to like, focus on one thing and you don't have to like, be like, alright, well, I have to make a new kind of animal for them to eat because they have to eat food but it doesn't--I don't want it to just be a deer.  No, just have it be a deer.  

J: Right, in general--

H: That's fine, they can eat deer.

J: The magic of world building for me, like the way that I learn about it, is from reading about it.  Like, the way that I learn about good world building is from reading books with good world building and in general, I think that reading is such a good apprenticeship for any writer, so I would look at your favorite high fantasy novels and I would see how are they doing it? What is the stuff that they're glossing over and I don't even think about it or worry about it as a reader because they're focusing on this other stuff so well and it gives it that granularity and that texture that makes it feel like you're inside the story and feel like these are real people and a lot of times for me, like, what really makes a novel's world building stand out is its character development, like, I will believe almost anything.  Like, it never even occurred to me until just now that winter can't be long, Hank, like, that never crossed my mind because I'll believe almost anything if the characters are developed well and really, like, what sets George R. R. Martin or Patrick Rothfuss apart from the vast majority of authors, including me, is character building.

H: Yeah.

J: Or, you know who--you know another, before we go, another writer who I would highly recommend on world building and character building front is NK Jennison.  Have you read any NK Jennison books, Hank?

H: I have not.

J: Oh my God, so good.  And I don't even--as you know, I'm not huge in the SF/Fantasy world but oh my gosh.  

H: I, well, I'm gonna write it down, 'cause I'm looking for good stuff right now, 'cause boy do I want something to read that isn't the news.  John?

J: Yeah?

  News from AFC Wimbledon (35:29)

H: Do you have news from AFC Wimbledon?

J: I do, Hank, and you know, it is complicated news.  It's--it's--so here's what happened.  

H: Okay.

J: A couple things happened since we last visited--checked in with AFC Wimbledon.  First off, they played Charleton.  Charleton Athletic, it's--so Charleton's coach is a guy named Carl Robinson, and he used to be the coach of the franchise currently playing in Milton Keynes and he said some very disrespectful things about AFC Wimbledon over the years. He's been very much, kind of like, a Bond villain in the way that he talks about the club and he's just--he's an extremely unlikable person.  I don't like to say, you know, like, judge people, but like, he is, like, not liked by a wide swath of the footballing world and AFC Wimbledon were losing 1-0 to Charleton in the 94th minute when Tom Elliott, England's greatest lyric poet and also AFC Wimbledon's current best striker, hit a stunning tying goal, thank goodness, to tie that game and then in the aftermath of that game, something was said by someone to Carl Robinson and Carl Robinson reacted very violently and had to be restrained and, I don't know, so there--there's a lot of hullabaloo going on with it.  A lot of people discussing if the person who said something, I don't even know who it was, it was somebody who worked with the club on a volunteer basis, should be suspended or fired or whatever, and a lot of other people saying, but Carl Robinson is a Bond villain and sometimes you have to say bad things to Bond villains.  It's complicated.  I don't--I don't think it does the club any good obviously to verbally abuse opponents but also, I--even the way Carl Robinson talks about AFC Wimbledon in interviews about that just makes me so mad.  I can barely focus, so like, I kind of get it, and I'm not--I'm not somebody who got my club taken away by these jackasses.  Anyway.  Then, on Valentine's Day, AFC Wimbledon played Coventry City who are currently last in League One, and they're last by a lot and it was a home game, which is the kind of game that you have to win when you're playing the last place team and we were down 1-0 in the 94th minute.

H: Oh my God!

J: Again, again, and again got bailed out, this time by a goal from Paul Robinson, center back, who I believe is 117 years old now, so is a very impressive performance from him, but it does mean that AFC Wimbledon has slipped a little further back.  Now, after 30 games of the 46 game season, they are--they have 39 points and are currently 14th.  The critical number is the team that is in the relegation spot at the moment, the last four teams all go down and currently, Barry or Burry, it's spelled like the word to bury a human, I don't--all these place names are made up, but they're in 21st place on 31 points having played 32 games.  Basically, Hank, if at the end of the season, at the end of the 46 game season, AFC Wimbledon has 50 points, they will probably stay up.  If they have 52 points, they will almost definitely stay up, so the key is to get 13 points from the remaining 15 games.  That should be doable but tying Coventry City 1-1 in the last second of the game is the kind of development that makes me a little nervous going into the last part of the season.

H: I understand your trepidation, John.  I wish the boys all the best.

J: Thank you.  We appreciate that.  What's the Mars news?

 News from Mars (39:48)

H: You know what the United Arab Emirates are, right, John?

J: I do.  I already--I actually read this Mars news.  Hank, I am getting so good at Mars news. 

H: Well, they, as you might know, have a lot of money.  

J: Yeah.

H: And so are, in a weird way, like a sort of like, a hotbed for what can be done if you have a lot of money to throw around.  You know, all that good oil money that's coming in right now and a little bit of like, boy, we should probably figure out how to grow our economy while we have this money so that, because someday we won't have it anymore because oil runs out and they have launched a, just sort of announced a, like, sort of a, like, it's the plans, it's the actual plans to build a city on Mars by 2117.  Now, I know that that's nowhere near 2028, it's quite a distance from 2028.  It's the kind of time when I will definitely be dead, but it's, you know--

J: Ehh, I wouldn't say definitely.  Let's try to be positive.  What'll you be, 140?

H: I'll be 137.  

J: Yeah!  I mean, I don't love your odds.  I would say that it's under 1% but I bet that by 2117, somebody will be alive by the age of 137.  

H: Really?  That's a nice thing to think.  I thought you were going to say somebody will be alive, and I was like, yeah, that's my brother's pessimism coming out.  I bet you that in 2117, someone will still be alive.  But Sheik Muhammed, the Dubai ruler, on Tuesday announced the Mars 2117 project, which aims to build a miniature city on the planet Mars by--within 100 years.  Also the vice president and prime minister of the UAE, Sheik Muhammed.  He said they were currently among the world's top nine investors in space science, which is true.  It gets a, you know, there's a long tail there.  

J: Right.

H: In a series of tweets accompanied by photos of what it describes as the planet's first miniature city, he said 2117 Mars project is aimed to build knowledge and scientific capabilities, involve the conversion of local universities into research centers. The project launched at the World Government Summit will focus on parallel research into exploring the means of mobility, housing, energy, as well as speeding up the time it takes to travel to the planet.  So, there we go.  Go off!  

J: Alright.

H: United Arab Emirates!

J: I mean, I would love to see a city on Mars in 2117.  Mostly because it would mean that I'm still alive.

H: Yeah, no, I would definitely also love to see it.

J: I'd love to see anything in 2117.  

H: I don't know.  Yeah.  I do worry a little bit about my quality of life if I'm alive and 137 years old, but maybe it'll be okay.

J: Beyonce's twins will only be 99.  They've got a chance.

H: They've got a good chance.  They might go to Mars.

J: They might go to Mars.  They might.  They've got a chance.  Hank, do you think there's any possibility of you going to Mars?

H: No, no, no, no, no, no.  No.  No.  Definitely not.

J: Alright.

H: I have too many disorders.  They wouldn't--I wouldn't be among the first, the cream of the crop.

J: Yeah.

H: They don't need anybody who has to use the toilet as much as me.

J: Yeah, I feel like having Ulcerative Colitis on Mars would not be fun.

H: No.  No.  I think I'm going to stay where the medical infrastructure is.

J: Yeah, yeah.  I've been thinking about that recently because I've been thinking about like, lovely places where I could move because it's just so cold here all of the time and also flat, but then I'm always torn because you know, like, I have a doctor here and a dentist and a good relationship with the hospitals which provide excellent care.  Ohh, anyway.  Um, Hank, that's the oldest person thing I've ever said.  I have officially entered late middle age. 

  Corrections (43:46)

J: Hank, before we go, I just have to share a few quick corrections.  First, in our last episode, I said that AFC Wimbledon have been promoted five times in their brief and illustrious history.  Several people pointed out that in fact, they have been promoted six times in their brief and illustrious history because I was forgetting about last year.  Also, in a recent episode, you mentioned the twin astronauts Mark and Scott who took part in the study on the effects of spending an extended period of time in outer space on the human body by sending one of them into space.  Hannah pointed out that you got the twin names wrong.

H: I got it backwards.

J: Mark Kelly was not the twin that spent a year in space.  It was Scott.

H: Sorry, Scott.  And also Mark.

J: Also, Lang wrote in to say that in a recent episode of the podcast, we said that mammoths and mastodons have hooves.  They don't.  They have feet like elephants and then Lang sent in a very attractive photograph of the bones of mammoth feet, which we will put on the Patreon.  I mean, you can just picture the feet from the bones.  It made me very glad that I was not alive during the same time that they were alive when humans were not at the top of the food chain.  I love being at the top of the food chain.  And lastly, about 500,000 people wrote in on the topic of what would happen if gravity was suspended from Earth for 15 seconds and I have to say, the answers varied wildly.

H: Yes.  Callum though, I've been--I looked at this and I tried to figure out who was most correct and I feel like Callum showed his work and sent it in on sort of a consensus area which is that the--the height--the fall would range from around 4.4 meters to around 1.6 meters if you sort of, if like, the Earth turned away from under you as you floated out depending on where you are on the Earth, though, of course, if you are at the pole, you wouldn't move at all, and 4.4 is enough to hurt you pretty bad.  I will say though that if you're in a building, you're only gonna go as high as the ceiling.  You'll just hit the ceiling and you can like, push yourself back down, so that's good.  So, that--from what I have learned from this exercise is don't go outside.  Callum uses the sign-off 'Protons and Pulsars' and we're gonna put the math that he or she, I think he, has done on the Patreon so that you can see and compare notes to see if we are correct at what would happen if gravity turned off for 15 seconds.

  Conclusion (46:17)

J: Okay, Hank, what did we learn today?

H: Well, John, we learned that you have to refrigerate your eggs if you're in America because of weird stuff.

J: We learned that David should definitely name his child Ryan or possibly just Ry or possibly Awooooo.  I just came up with that one, but I like it.

H: And we learned that we are all already related to Beyonce as well as to Minions somehow, I think.

J: We are not related to Minions.  They are not real.  Hank, I mean, if we learned one thing from this podcast, it's that we were gonna stop talking about Minions as if they were real.  That we're gonna treat them as fictional characters forever and after, period, end of story.  That was the one thing that we learned from this podcast.  I'm not even going to continue with the what did we learn bit, because that is the thing that we learned.  We have learned the thing that we learned, which is that Minions should be treated as a fiction and like many other fictions, as a fiction that does not reproduce.  Thank you for listening to our podcast.

H: Thanks everybody for listening to our podcast.  Do not do what I did just did.  I won't even tell you what I just did, but don't do it.  I used Google.  

J: Don't do what he just did.

H: I used Google and I did a thing you shouldn't do.  

J: Don't--obviously, never use Google in a situation like that!

H: This podcast is--

J: Anyway, moving on, you can email us at  We're never talking about Minions on this podcast ever again.  We've talked about Minions for the last time.  This is a de-Minioned podcast from here on out.  You can email us at  You can send us your Tweets as well if you want with the #dearhankandjohn or you can Tweet us directly, I'm @johngreen, Hank is @hankgreen.

H: This podcast is produced by Rosianna Halse Rojas and Sheridan Gibson.  Our editor is Nicholas Jenkins.  Victoria Bongiorno is our head of community and communications and our music is by the great Gunnarolla and as they say in our hometown...

Both: Don't forget to be awesome.