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Am I too young to be self-supervised? Can I throw away my dead grandmother's sponges? How do I make a personal retirement PowerPoint for Rick? And more!

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[Dear Hank and John intro music plays] 

Hank: Hello, and welcome to Dear Hank and John!

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

Hank: It's a comedy podcast where two brothers answer your questions, give you dubious advice, and bring you all the week's news from both Mars and AFC Wimbledon. John! How are you?

John: I'm very, very cold. It's unfathomably cold here in Indianapolis at the moment, and even though this podcast won't go up for a few days, it will still be cold when the podcast goes up. Hank, I've been living near the White River for many years now. This is the first time I've ever seen the White River not only freeze completely over, but in fact there are deer tracks -

Hank: Mmhmm.

John: - that go from one side of the White River to the other, indicating to me that a deer very likely survived the traversing of the White River. Indicating to me that I could potentially survive such a traversing and I could go visit my neighbors across the river. But I'm not going to attempt that because it's too cold to even go outside, let alone risk falling into a river. 

Hank: You - I mean, you could just travel that way. You could go get yourself a dog sled and just -

John: Yep.

Hank: - shoot on down the White River. It's colder in Missoula than it is in Indianapolis, though I guess that's probably not -

John: No, no no no no.

Hank: - a huge surprise. To anyone.

John: No, no no no no. It's like 17 today in Missoula. 

Hank: According to the Google I just Googled, it's 21 in Indianapolis. 

John: No. Sheridan. Do you think that right now outside it is 21 degrees.

Sheridan: [faintly in background] No.

John: No way. No, it is like, 2. At the very most, it is between zero and 2 right now.

Hank: Are you counting the wind chill and also the -

John: No! 

Hank: Indianapolis Star website -

John: No! No! No -

Hank: - is the worst place I've ever been.

John: Hey, don't make fun of the Indianapolis Star website. I've - you know, I've written for them before. Also, apparently, according to Google, it's snowing. And then I looked outside and indeed, it is snowing! So that is a surprise because I was told that it was not going to snow today, and I wish that I had not driven my car that can't drive in the snow, and now I don't know what to do, and I'm a little bit upset. Uh, I don't know how to proceed. All I can - ahh! Hank, it's dark, difficult times. That's all I'm telling you.

Hank: Do you need advice on how to be cold? Because I've been in negative 20. 

John: Yes.

Hank: It happens every year here. And then the wind chill will tack on to that another couple minus 10 or 15 and then you're real - it's just not - it's not a good way to be. 

John: Alright, yeah. Tell me how to be cold, Hank.

Hank: Alright. So. Step one, put on your gloves before you put on your coat, because there will be a better seal between your gloves and your coat that way -

John: Mmm. Okay.

Hank: Because you can't get your gloves to go over you coat. You want your coat to go over your gloves. Step two -

John: What if I don't own gloves? 

Hank: Step one. Step 0.5. Get gloves, and a hat, and a coat. You don't own gloves? 

John: Nah, not really. I mean, I always have gloves but then I've always lost one or I can't find one of them, and then I go outside with one hand stuffed in a pocket and the other hand with a glove. So I'm just sort of -

Hank: [laughing] You know what's -

John: - navigating the world without -

Hank: - one of the things the things that I found out when I moved to Montana 15 years ago was that having your hands out in the cold is unpleasant -

John: Mmhmm.

Hank: - but if you then touch something with your bare hand and it is below zero Farenheit, you have actually injured yourself. So if you touch something metal when it - the heat from your hand is instantaneously gone and you are actually in trouble now. This is a very important thing to note. Like, it's very different to have your hand out in the cold air than to have your hand touching a cold piece of metal, which will happen if you touch, like, your door or your doorknob or a flagpole - I don't know what you're touching that's metal. Your snow shovel. Don't touch that without your leather gloves on. And that is a very important lesson that I learned the hard way. 

John: Well, Hank, I just want to tell you one thing right now, which is that yesterday it was colder in Indianapolis than it was on the South Pole. 

Hank: Mmm!

John: Or possibly at the South Pole. I'm not an expert in prepositions. 

Hank: Well, it is Summer on the South Pole-

John: Also, everything that you just said sounds like really, really good advice - yeah, but it's the South Pole. Everything you said sounds like really good advice. The issue I guess I have with your advice, - I know that this is an advice podcast and we should get to the advice portion quickly, but the only question I have about your advice is like why - I'm not going to go outside. For longer than, like, a minute. Like, I'm going to take out the trash. Other than that, I'm going to hunker down and wait for this to end. 

Hank: Well, if you live in a place like Missoula, Montana where the Sun starts to go down at 4:30 and it often doesn't come up at all because we only have like 120 days of sunshine a year, it's very important to your health to go outside even if outside is very bad for your health. 

John: So, Hank, as you know, I've been trying to go outside more, but right now I'm just not going to do it. Rather than get a pair of gloves, I think I'm just going to wait this out. Let's get to some questions from our listeners. 

Hank: [laughs] You're taking the most dangerous possible course. This first question -

John: In what way am I taking the most dangerous - it seems to me the most dangerous possible course would be to take off all of my clothes and walk outside. 

Hank: [laughing] I mean, not wearing gloves is basically the same as being nude. 

John: [laughs] I mean, I'd like to see a randomized controlled trial on not wearing gloves when it's zero degrees outside versus standing outside nude when it's zero degrees outside. I'd love to see - I'm not sure how you'd make a double-blind randomized controlled trial, because I feel like the placebo would be pretty hard, I feel like it would be pretty hard for people to know whether they were nude. Or I feel like it would be pretty hard for people not to know whether they were nude. But I'm pretty sure science would be with me on this one. But let's move on!

 Question 1 (6:11)

Hank: This first questions comes from Justin, who asks, "Dear Hank and John, are hamstels -" [laughs] hamstels! "Are hamsters able -"

John: Yeah. Ham- 

Hank: "- to live outside in the wild? Where would such a magestical creature be found? This, Justin." 

John: Do you know the answer to this, Hank? 

Hank: I do, yeah.

John: Syria! 

Hank: Yeah! Among other places in that part of the world, but yeah. The hamsters that we have came from a single breeding pair that was brought to the US from Syria. Which is -

John: Yeah! Yeah. It's called the Syrian hamster and they dig very deep burrows. Their burrows can be like 20 or 30 feet deep because it's pretty hot -

Hank: Mmhmm.

John: And so they dig 20 or 30 feet down just to get nice and comfortable which might be why hamsters tend to like those very long tunnels that are just slightly larger than themselves. 

Hank: Yeah! No, yeah, that's exactly why. That's why you are encouraged as a hamster owner to get them those tunnels, because they feel at home in them. Gerbils -

John: Well, wait, let me back up real quick.

Hank: Okay. 

John: Did you just say that they came from a single breeding pair from Syria? 

Hank: Yeah, not only did they come from a single breeding pair from Syria, the breeding pair was a brother / sister pair. 

John: Woah! Wait, so there's an Adam and Eve of, like, American hamsters?

Hank: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, a hundred percent. And they've done studies to see if this is, like, problematic. But it turns out that they are, while genetically distinct and different from native wild hamsters, they are okay. They seem to be just fine. So apparently maybe they had some good systems for dealing with inbreeding already, genetically? I don't know.

John: Wait, so if we went down to two humans -

Hank: Oy.

John: - which, I think -

Hank: That would be bad.

John: By the way, happy New Year. And I think we all know that 2018 is the year where it's 50 / 50 whether we go down to two humans. If we went down to two humans, would that be like, a medium-sized problem or a big problem? 

Hank: I'm pretty sure it would be a big problem, but I couldn't tell you. I've only read people saying that that would be a big problem. I have not read why people have said that would be a big problem. 

John: Okay, um, yeah. Well -

Hank: I wouldn't suggest it. 

John: Let's just hope that the half of outcomes in the weird corner of the multiverse in which we find ourselves where more than two humans survive the year, let's hope that we're in that half. 

Hank: It is really weird to me to think about wild hamsters and gerbils. Like, they're so intrinsically pet animals to me. 

John: Yeah. 

Hank: But in some places in the world they're basically just squirrels. Right? They're basically just ground squirrels, the version that they have there. 

John: Right.

Hank: Gerbils are actually endangered in their native habitat of Mongolia where they are a crop pest. 

John: Hmm. Mm! Yeah, I would imagine that they are a crop pest. To be fair, and I know that I'm going to alienate a lot of our listeners, I'm not crazy about gerbils. 

Hank: [laughs] Why not? 

John: Like I - it's an interesting question. Like, at what point if an animal showed up in your house, at what point do you treat it like a pet? Like, if a puppy showed up at my house tomorrow, I'd be like, alright, you can stay, but like if a raccoon - this has actually happened recently - showed up in my attic, I wouldn't be like, "ah, here's some food and water, and let's make a go of it together." You know? So at what point - I feel like if it was a hamster I might be able to be like, "alright, you're my pet now." But if it was a gerbil I might be like, "I'm going to need you to do your best out there outside in Indianapolis." 

Hank: [laughs] In the negative 20 degree Indianapolis. I don't understand why a gerbil and a hamster would be different in that regard. Is it because -

John: Yeah, I mean, I can't explain it myself. I think gerbils are just a little too big for me. 

Hank: No, they're small! They're smaller than a hamster! 

John: Maybe I'm not imagining a gerbil - I am imagining a guinea pig. 

[both laugh]

John: Now that I have Googled a gerbil, they also are not welcome because they look too much like mice. 

Hank: They do have long tails which makes them look a little mousy. But I had gerbils when we first moved to Montana and I liked them a lot. 

John: Okay.

Hank: We named them Mongolian names because that's where they're from. 

John: Aww, well that's sweet. What happened to them? 

Hank: They died of natural causes. 

John: Well that is I guess the best way to go.

 Question 2 (10:42)

John: This next question comes from Ricker, who writes, "Dear John and Hank, my grandmother died this year." That's really - we're going back to our roots, Hank. All death, all the time. "And when we were going through her things, not wanting to be wasteful, I took an unopened packet of sponges. They're not special sponges or anything, but my question is, should I treat them differently from normal sponges? It feels odd just to throw out these mementos of my grandmother when they get brown and gross, but I mean, they're literally just sponges. Am I being disrespectful of the dead? Candy is dandy, but I'll always be quicker, Ricker." 

Hank: Ah - [laughs] That's good. I like -

John: It's good.

Hank: I like that there's a person named Ricker in the world. 

John: Me too. 

Hank: I mean, this is up to you, Ricker. It's how you feel about your sponges. But I think that you've made the decision, which is that they're sponges. And there are other mementos of your grandmother that are important to you and that you're going to hold on to and that are not going to get brown and dirty -

John: Maybe not! That's not in the question, Hank.

Hank: It does not mention.

John: At no point is it established. Maybe it was one of those situations where everybody was in the house and there were a lot of grandchildren and all Ricker got was sponges. 

Hank: [laughs] In which case, you do have to keep the sponges. 

John: I don't know though! I mean at what point - at some point, imagine like, over the course - I assume Ricker is fairly young, but imagine over the course of Ricker's life, imagine that every time someone Ricker knows dies, Ricker - and I hope you don't feel like this is disrespectful, Ricker, but I'm just trying to play out the possibilities here. Every time someone Ricker knows dies, Ricker goes into the kitchen of the deceased person, immediately goes underneath the sink, grabs the sponges. And like, that's just kind of - that's Ricker's thing. Everybody knows, like, "oh, Grandpa died. Great Aunt Sally-Sue died."

Hank: Save the sponges for Ricker. 

John: Everybody knows that we can split stuff up the way we want to but Ricker gets the sponges. 

Hank: I mean, I have a concern, which is that if and when you cohabitate with anyone ever -

John: Yeah.

Hank: They're going to open those sponges. Unless you keep them in somewhere very good and obvious. Unless you get like a shadowbox for your sponges. 

John: Yeah. 

Hank: People are not going to think to treat your sponge collection with respect, because of how they are sponges.

John: Well, what I liked about this question, Hank, is that it gets at something weird about humans which is that we associate artifacts with their history. 

Hank: Mmhmm.

John: And this is true of anything, by the way. Like costume jewelry becomes far more valuable to us when it's our grandmother's costume jewelry -

Hank: Yes.

John: Than when it's just something that you can buy at a party supply store, and -

Hank: Yeah, you don't have to explain this to me, John. I get sentimentally attached to a rock if I kick it more than three times. 

John: [laughs] I feel the exact same way. That fourth time you kick a rock, you think to yourself, "well, I better pick this up and put it in my rock collection." And then you put it in your rock collection and then you look at - at least for me, I literally have a rock collection. I look at my rock collection and I'm like, "I wonder where all these rocks come from. I have no memory of any of them." 

Hank: Yeah. Well, and it is important to note that kind of all value stems from humans assigning the value to the thing. So this doesn't mean that that value doesn't exist, it's just as real as all other value. 

John: Exactly. That's why I'm saying, like, you can have a sponge that is incredibly meaningful and important to you and so I think the call is yours, Ricker. When you look at that sponge, do you think, like, "this sponge brings back wonderful memories and this will be a great story to tell my grandchildren someday about their great great grandmother?" 

Hank: Mmm.

John: Or do you say, like, "you know, Nanny would have wanted me to use these sponges quickly and efficiently and thoroughly." Which is what, when I think about my own grandmothers, I feel like both of them would not have wanted us to remember them via the sponges. 

Hank: Mmhmm.

John: What do you have of - what do you have from your grandparents, Hank? Do you hold on to anything?

Hank: I've got a few tools from Papaw's tool shed.

John: Yeah.

Hank: Old cool things, like this thing that measures how many rotations something would have rotated if you stick it in. I don't know what that would be used for but I think that it's pretty cool. I've got an elephant from Dad's Dad. 

John: Yep. 

Hank: I've got some Christmas ornaments from Nanny. That kind of thing.

John: Yeah, I've mostly kept Christmas ornaments because they do have a big sentimental value in our home. Although in many cases, the Christmas ornaments with the most sentimental value are the weirdest Christmas ornaments, and people are always like, "where did you get that from?" and I'm like, "oh, well it's a long, sad story." And they're like, "tell it." And I'm like, "okay, but it's really sad." And then at the end they're like, "well that was sad." And I'm like, "I don't know what - I tried - Mm." Next question. 

 Question 3 (15:44)

Hank: This next question, John, it comes from Maria, and we're going to stick to the theme. "When someone is buried at sea, do they make the coffin heavy so that it sinks to the bottom or do they leave it to float along the surface? I need to know because I'm thinking that I would quite like to be buried at sea, although I am scared of the sea and of death. Ave, Maria." 

John: [laughing] That's a good name specific sign-off. Yeah. I do not know the answer to this, Hank. I have to say I am not an expert in burial at sea, and it is something that I have wanted very much to avoid, if at all possible, so -

Hank: Yeah, you're a burial at land guy, right?

John: What do you know about burial at sea? 

Hank: You're looking for a burial at land, that's sort of your plan, correct? 

John: Uh, yeah, I'm looking for whatever - a burial or a cremation at land, and then I would like to have a headstone -

Hank: Right.

John: Regardless of whether my body is actually there.

Hank: Mmm.

John: I'm a big fan of headstones -

Hank: Right. 

John: I like visiting the headstones of our relatives. So yeah. That would be my ideal situation. It's not super important to me because I of course will not, uh, be present. 

Hank: [laughing] Right. I find the phrase "burial at sea," which is very clearly the phrase, a little funny, because burying does seem to indicate some amount of digging. That does not happen with burial at sea. But! I did look up some specifics of burial at sea and you can be buried at sea! The laws are different from state to state. But in the United States you can be buried at sea as long as you get to some place where it's more than 600 feet deep and more than 3 miles off shore. Something like that. You may want to look into the specifics if you're considering this. 

John: Mm! Mm!

Hank: Sometimes you need a funeral director present and sometimes you do not. But you do need to be in a metal coffin that will sink. 

John: Ah! 

Hank: And that is also the case for the Navy when they are burying people at sea. They do their best to put them in a box that is not going to float, because that would be probably just a boat at sea, then. You would just be in a death boat. 

John: Right.

Hank: And you'd probably end up somewhere, eventually. 

John: What about the Viking thing where they just put you on a tiny little boat and then they burn the boat? 

Hank: Right, it's a little bit of a mix there, you get a little bit of both. It does seem like you don't want a super tiny boat. You need a boat that's going to get hot enough so that it's just not - you don't want to get too into specifics here, but you want the pieces to be mostly unrecognizable if they show back up somewhere after having been washed around in the ocean. 

John: Sure. Okay. Well, I still want to avoid it. 

Hank: Right. No, I - yeah. I would like to have a tree or something. I don't know, I feel like I'm getting more interested in, as you have said, a place for people to go to. 

John: Yeah! 

Hank: And I like cemeteries, I just don't know if they are - if we recreated the idea from scratch - which of course is not how humans do things, so I don't expect this to happen. I don't know that we would end up with cemeteries. It might be something more, like at this point a little more friendly and inviting than I feel like a cemetery can be sometimes. 

John: I don't know. I think it all depends - so I didn't tell you this, Hank, but this is an amazing true fact. A few days ago Rosianna forwarded an email that came into my public-facing email address from the sales team at our local cemetery here in Indianapolis. I don't want to mess up the name -

Hank: [laughing] This is like a preorder. Like, you want to preorder your death spot? 

John: Yeah. I don't want to mess up the name of the team that she worked on so I'm just going to make sure I read it - "My name is redacted and I am an Advanced Planning Advisor at cemetery name redacted." Advanced Planning Advisor! I mean I guess there's sort of like two kinds of salespeople, right? There's the advanced planning salespeople who try to get out ahead of the issue by years or decades and then there's the, um, you know, post -

Hank: Yeah.

John: - planning advisors. I don't know what their team is called.

Hank: The rush team. 

John: [laughs] Oh god. Okay, yeah. Anyway, I was like, "Huh. I guess I am now of an age where it feels not that weird for somebody to email me cold and say 'have you considered where you would like your eternal remains to be buried, and if not, how about our cemetery?'"

Hank: John -

John: It is home to more dead vice presidents than any other location on Earth.

Hank: Was that part of the pitch? 

John: Oh no, it's just something I know about that cemetery. Indiana has a really strong history of producing vice presidents who don't become president.

Hank: Mm!

John: It's like a weirdly - it's not to say that that's going to happen with Mike Pence, however, Indiana has produced Dan Quayle -

Hank: Right.

John: So many - and Dan Quayle, by the way, is not even dead. So when he does die I assume he will be buried at Crown Hill Cemetery -

Hank: Just added to the list. 

John: And then there will be yet one more vice president who never became president buried at Crown Hill Cemetery.

Hank: Yeah, you've got to widen the spread there. Protect the title.

John: I was going to redact the name of the cemetery but then I guess I decided not to. 

Hank: [laughs] I mean, well you did give a telling fact. If we're going to talk about the vice presidents, people can look it up if they want to. The question - 

John: Yeah, can I just give you a little list?

Hank: Sure! Of dead vice presidents that are at Crown Hill Cemetery? 

John: Yes.

Hank: Alright, hit me! 

John: Vice presidents Charles W. Fairbanks, Thomas A. Hendricks, and Thomas R. Marshall are all buried at Crown Hill! 

Hank: Wow! I would not have been able to tell you that those were definitely people. 

John: Oh, I mean, none of them are even remotely famous vice presidents. Thomas A. Hendricks was vice president for Grover Cleveland. Charles W. Fairbanks was vice president for Teddy Roosevelt, for a bit. From 1905 to 1909. And the other one I don't even know.

Hank: Well, you've also got a president, John, at Crown Hill Cemetery.

John: Sure.

Hank: Possibly the least- like if you were going to name them, my guess would be that this would be, of the world naming presidents, the last on the list -

John: No!

Hank: - of what people would remember. 

John: Old Ben?

Hank: Benjamin -

John: No way! 

Hank: Good old Benjamin - anybody know the last name of a president named Benjamin? Harrison. 

John: Harrison! Benjamin Harrison! I believe he's the only president Ben! 

Hank: I believe that you are correct that he is the only president Ben. Preceded and succeeded by Grover Cleveland. 

John: That's right! He was the meat in a Grover Cleveland sandwich! 

Hank: Ah - [laughing] which is something that we all should strive to be! 

John: [laughing] I mean who - very few people have ever been so lucky! 

Hank: [laughing] As soon as - I was like, I have to say these words now! I don't know why, but I'm going to say them! 

John: [laughing] Benjamin Harrison is not even one of the 10 worst American presidents. 

Hank: I'm not saying he's bad, I'm saying he's forgettable, because he's from Indianapolis, which is where - it's just - I think that unsuccessful vice presidents are often from Indianapolis in the same way that, like, you know, you want to represent America, and Indianapolis is where all the chain restaurants go to try out their first try because it's basically just distilled America down there.

John: That's right. Do you want to know something interesting, Hank? When we have the next president - he said hopefully - if there is another president of the United States, that will be the moment when Benjamin Harrison becomes the exact middle president -

Hank: Maybe- Yeah. 

John: By number. 

Hank: Maybe that's why he's so forgettable. Because he's just smack in the middle, like we've got the history, and we've got the recents, but the middle is just like, "Ahh, I don't know what's going on." 

John: And he was a one -

Hank: One termer. 

John: It must be said that he was a one term president. And very, very average. And slightly corrupt. But more successful than the three other people who served in the executive branch of the US government who are buried in Crown Hill, because all of them never became president. 

 Question 4 (24:17)

John: Hank, let's move on to another question before I have to contemplate my mortality any further. 

Hank: Is this one going to be not about death? 

John: This question is not about death, Hank.

Hank: Okay. 

John: It is about the death of one's career. It comes from Molly, and the question is, "Dear John and Hank, I just started my new graphic design job last month and as part of the graphics team it's my job to create the retirement Power Point for a long time employee. I don't know anything about this guy, or how to make a personable retirement Power Point, especially since this is my first job. I barely know how to start, much less retire. Dubious advice requested at your earliest convenience. Never ordinary, always anom, Molly."

Hank: Anom-molly! I get it. 

John: Anom-aly. 

Hank: Why is this even a thing that is a job? 

John: Everything about this situation is a disaster. First off, how unpopular must this long-time employee be that everyone was like, "oh god, who's going to make the Power Point for Rick? Oh I know, we can make Molly do it. She's brand new." Instead of being like, "Oh, I'd love to do it. Rick's an old friend of mine." It's like the ultimate insult that like, -

Hank: Yeah, I mean -

John: It's like, "hey" - oh god. 

Hank: Molly, you've got to ask around I guess? You've got to get people to send you some pictures of Rick. Maybe find Rick's Facebook or at least his Linkedin and be like, "okay, how long has Rick been with the company? What have his job titles -" I don't, you've got to - like, what are you supposed to do? You can't give this job to a person! It's like -

John: It's a terrible thing to do -

Hank: It's like calling somebody up and being like, "it's my wife's and I's anniversary, could you make us like a really heartfelt video, that would be great, I'll, uh, send you 50 bucks!" 

John: Yeah. "Can you please put a Power Point together?" Here's what I would do in this situation, because, Molly, I don't think this is a great work environment. I'm going to be honest with you. I think you need to move on from this job and I think the best way to say goodbye to this job is via a really hilarious retirement Power Point for Rick. So, I think the background music has to be Wind Beneath My Wings

Hank: Uh-huh. 

John: Did you ever know that you're my hero. And I think it all just has to be fading in and out of the same picture of Rick that's just his work ID picture just fade in and it's Rick's ID picture, and then you do that slow fade out, and then it's like, "what's the next slide going to be? Oh! Oh no! It's Rick's ID picture again." And it's the whole "Did you ever know that you're my hero." And then the last frame -

Hank: Can I give the last frame? Because I've got a great idea for the last frame!

John: Yes. 

Hank: The last frame -

John: Yes, you do the last frame.

Hank: It fades out and it's a bald eagle! With a picture of Rick's ID superimposed over the head. Just Rick's ID picture. That's it. And then it's just like -

John: [laughing] And then maybe underneath that in script it says, like, "Rick. 1964 to 2018." 

Hank: [laughing] It's like he died! 

John: Yeah! Like he died! Exactly like he died. Like he died and he left behind this photo, this work ID with a bald eagle. It's beautiful, Molly, and you will never have to make another retirement Power Point as long as you are a person working at this company. 

Hank: I mean, I just have to say, I appreciate Rick's long term dedication to the company, and if you can find a way to do that, do it, but I don't know how to do it! Without being like, "Rick, I have to get to know you real quick. Tell me about your Mom. Tell me about your family. Tell me about - like, how did you get this job? Where did you start, my man? What did you want to be? Tell me about that summer when you were a commercial fisherman in Alaska!" 

John: Yeah. Yeah, another thing you might do is like, ask Rick about all the things that he wanted to do other than the career he ended up having and then, like, Photoshop Rick into those jobs, so that Rick can imagine what it would have been like if he'd made it to Major League Baseball or whatever. Because I find that that's something you always want to make people feel upon their retirement. This is such a terrible job to have been given. It is so highly inappropriate on every level. 

Hank: It's real weird. 

John: And I hope - by the way, Hank, p.s., I hope that when I retire from Complexly that there is no frickin' Power Point at my retirement party. Also that there is no retirement party at my retirement party. 

Hank: [laughing] Can everyone please just give me 5 dollars, thank you very much, that's a wonderful party. John -

John: Or make a donation to a charity in my name without having me to be physically present for anything. 

Hank: Yeah. John -

John: Yes.

 Question 5 (28:54)

Hank: Can we answer the question that we got the most this episode, which is, "what do I do with the present that I was given that I did not want?" 

John: [laughing] Yeah!

Hank: Why do we still do presents? 

John: Oh, I mean, it is a disaster from a macroeconomic standpoint. Like why -

Hank: I mean, it's just over and over -

John: - why do we try to pick what people want when they can just tell us? 

Hank: Like we had Liz who - was it Liz? No, it wasn't.

John: Who got the quesadilla maker? 

Hank: Somebody got a quesa- 

John: What a terrible present! I don't want to criticize Liz's Mom for getting her a quesadilla maker, but like - and I also don't want to criticize other people who maybe got quesadilla makers or gave them for Christmas - what a ludicrous Christmas present. Of all the things that can be made without a specific appliance for the job -

Hank: I mean -

John: - quesadillas have to be very near the top of the list. 

Hank: The other thing is that, like - first of all, it's not Liz. It's Nutmeg. I don't know why I said Liz. The thing that Nutmeg liked doing is making quesadillas! And so somebody was like, "Liz likes -" It's not Liz! Somebody was like, "Nutmeg loves making quesadillas, so let's get Nutmeg a quesadilla maker." What? No! I liked making quesadillas! I don't need to have that step taken out. I'm good at it the way that I'm good at it and I like it the way that I'm doing it! 

John: Right. 

Hank: There's just too many things, John. And it's so hard to come up with good presents for people. The Macelroys were talking on their last episode about having a special golden acorn that you give to someone instead of giving them a present, to be like, "Here. I don't know. I don't know! It's just, I don't know. I got nothing. Here's a golden acorn, and that's the present now." And you can give that golden acorn to somebody else, and just pass them around and be like, "I thought about you." Which is all we really are trying to say! 

John: Right. I got - actually, though, I have to say, I got really good presents from you and Katherine, and I did think to myself, like, "Hmm! Hank and Katherine really thought about what I would want this year," and the particularity and specificity of those presents was really pleasant for me. I got a, uh, Indy 500 program from 1974, which was really cool. It was really cool to read through that and it's just like, anybody who knows me knows how much I like the Indy 500. And then I got - I can't remember what else, but it was something else. 

Hank: [laughs] And you gave me a signed first edition of Caleb West, Master Diver! Which is a real -

John: Yeah, Caleb West, Master Diver. It's a classic.

Hank: - weird thing to have found. And I don't even know how you found it. And it's amazing to me that it even existed. And it is now a prized possession. Luckily, I have an unsigned, un-first edition copy that I can actually read. 

John: Yeah. Nobody knows what Caleb West, Master Diver is, Hank. 

Hank: Oh - I think we've talked about it! I don't know where we've talked about it, but Caleb West, Master Diver was the most popular book of, like, 1896 in America. Like the top book in the world, or in America, and of course everyone has now forgotten what it is, but it's a book about a guy building a lighthouse. 

John: Yeah.

Hank: In New England. And it's really specific!

John: Whose name, astonishingly, is not Caleb West. 

Hank: No, yeah. No- Caleb West is the diver. 

John: Yeah.

Hank: That this guy employs. He's basically like a general contractor and he works with a bunch of, like, very hardworking American men on building a lighthouse, and they all have very good skills and they never complain about anything except, like, occasionally the wind. 

John: Right. It's a story of American industrialization in an age where the idea of building a lighthouse was so incredibly exciting that you could sell 2 million books just writing a book about it where nothing else happens. 

Hank: Yeah. I mean, there's like a love interest, kind of, and so on. But yes, mostly there's a lighthouse being built. And the writer, Francis Hopkinson Smith actually built lighthouses, and you can see one of them. Race Rock lighthouse is probably his best lighthouse. It's very cool! Want to check out a good lighthouse.

John: Yeah, we'll put it on the Patreon, actually. We'll put Race Rock lighthouse on the Patreon. He also built the base of the Statue of Liberty before becoming the best selling novelist of the 1890s in the United States. Fascinating character, Francis Hopkinson Smith. He lived a thousand lives. He was one of those people who lived a bunch of different lives. He was also one of the most famous visual artists of his time, and now his paintings are in the permanent collection of many of America's leading museums, and yet his paintings in private sales sell for only a few hundred dollars, because he is so completely forgotten. Anyway. I don't know how we got on that topic. 

Hank: It's almost as if we've been learning an awful lot about Francis Hopkinson Smith for a potential project that may or may not happen.

John: We've been thinking about it. We're thinking about it. I still don't think we've quite pulled the trigger yet. But we're thinking about it. 

 Question 6 (33:35)

John: Anyway, Hank, I want to get this question really quickly if you don't mind. It's from Pri, who writes, "Dear John and Hank, I moved into my new apartment in Sydney about three months ago." Well that was your first mistake, Pri. Everybody knows that if you live in Australia or New Zealand, you should live in New Zealand, because it has no natural predators. 

Hank: [laughing] The thing that I'm always concerned about is natural predators. That's my main concern. Not like, commute time or weather, but whether or not something might bite me. 

John: That is exactly my main concern. Anyway, "The apartment's really cute and quirky and I have a lovely housemate, but every so often I hear some sort of animal on my roof through the bathroom vents."

Hank: Uh-oh. Uh-oh. Well now -

John: Again, this would not be a problem in New Zealand. 

Hank: - I am concerned. Okay. 

John: "It sounds like a possum, but it could also be a giant rat." I mean, why do you think that those are mutually exclusive? A possum is a giant rat. Anyway. "This one time I kept some cooked bacon in my bathroom to lure it to my vents to take a look at what it was, but alas, my experiment was unsuccessful. It sounds really cute, and I want to see it, but I cannot. Any suggestions - " What kind of person hears a -

Hank: Hold on, John.

John: Yeah.

Hank: Hold on, John. 

John: Yeah.

Hank: Possums are different in Australia. 

John: Are they really?

Hank: And they're cuter. 

John: Wait, let me Google "Australian possum." 

Hank: I mean, they're not cute, but compared -

John: Oh god! Oh god, Hank woah - there's not- that's a disaster! How is that -

Hank: But it's much better than an American possum. Which just looks like -

John: Oh no! No, no, no! Hard no. 

Hank: Look at the babies. 

John: No!

Hank: Google "baby Australian possum." Baby Australian possum. 

John: Oh god.

Hank: And then you'll be like, "Oh, yes please. Give me two." 

John: No, no no no no no.

Hank: No? Their eyes are like the size of the rest of their head! They're so cute! 

John: I mean, I am -

Hank: They've got the prehensile tails, -

John: All this makes me love New Zealand ever more, is there - hold on, let me Google "New Zealand possum." I bet there isn't one. 

Hank: [laughs] I bet there is. 

John: Oh dang it, there is. There is one, it's the common brushtail possum. 

Hank: It's the same possum. Yeah, it's the same possum. 

John: Mmm. It swam from Australia to New Zealand. That's a - no! It was introduced by European settlers. Dang European settlers! 

Hank: That's right.

John: Always ruining everything. 

Hank: They're all over the place. They used to be nowhere but in the last 30 years they've gotten everywhere. 

John: Mmm. Of course, of course. Well, Pri - what I would do in this situation is just move. 

Hank: [laughs] I do like your openness to the possibility here that it is something that you might quite like to see.

John: Yeah! 

Hank: I like that you think that the animal crawling around in your vents "sounds really cute." That is not really usually how I respond to the sound of an unknown intruder in my home, but I do like that perspective. I like that you think that you hear something adorable and that you don't think, "man, I wonder if that is a boa constrictor." There was, at our old office, a man living between the floors. 

John: Yeah, I remember that. It was like a 13 and a half floor issue. 

Hank: Yeah.

John: Like in Being John Malkovich

Hank: Yeah.

John: My feeling about this, Pri, is that if you're the kind of person who's not totally freaked out in this situation, and you think it's great and you're putting bacon there for this guest, you're a kind of hard-core and open to the world that I will never be and so I can't give you advice on this topic because you're so far outside the realm of anything that I can understand. 

 Sponsors (37:07)

John: Which reminds me that today's podcast is brought to you by really amazing Australians. Amazing Australians! Unafraid of possums. 

Hank: This podcast is also brought to you by Ricker's dead person sponge collection. It's just a bunch of dead peoples' sponges! 

John: And this podcast is also brought to you by hamsters. Hamsters! They just want to be 20 feet under the ground. 

Hank: And also this podcast is brought to you by John's sad Christmas tree ornaments. Aww, you probably didn't want to ask for that story, did you? 

John: No. No. Also, today's podcast is actually brought to you by our friends at Squarespace. Hank!

Hank: Mmhmm.

John: I recently needed to update my website. You know I have a website, Did you know that I have another job? I'm not a professional podcaster. 

Hank: Um, I'm aware of multiple of your jobs, John. 

John: Yeah.

Hank: I follow your career pretty closely. 

John: I appreciate that. So I had to update to reflect the fact that my new book Turtles All the Way Down was published and to put in some of the reviews, some of the things that people said about it, and it was so incredibly easy. If you've been making websites, as I have, since the early 1990s, Squarespace just feels like a miracle. Like, it's so easy. And I'm not just saying that because they're sponsoring the podcast. It's like, you can have a professional looking website inexpensively and it's not hard. 

Hank: Yeah! Yeah and your website is good and it has lots of information and on the front page the second thing on it is the pod! 

John: Yeah, I know. 

Hank: So thanks for shouting us out. And you can integrate with lots of different online platforms including, of course, Soundcloud, which means that you can just slap a Soundcloud embed into the site and it looks nice and Squarespace knows what it's doing with those. I also use Squarespace for my personal website and really enjoyed creating that website and it was easy but it also looks really good and I had been wanting to do that for a long to get myself an updated, just, place where you go and, you know, just like a brochure place. And it's - there's a lot of different templates and they are all very usable but also very customizable and there are - it also really easily lets you get a domain if you don't have one, but if you do have a domain it's pretty easy to plug into your existing domain name, which is what I did. And it lets you showcase your work. It lets you blog if you want to blog. You can even sell products through Squarespace and it has an e-commerce option as well. Yeah! You can do a bunch of stuff with your Squarespace site. It's good! It's easy! It's why everybody's always talking about SquareSpace. 

John: It's true. Check out You can also use but that is not as effective. 

Hank: So what do you get, John, if you go to 

John: You get 10 percent off, but if you go to, you'll really get 10 percent off your first order. 

Hank: Glad we got that settled. 

John: Thanks again to Squarespace for sponsoring today's show. Hank, let's answer one more question before we get to the all important news from Mars and AFC Wimbledon. 

 Question 7 (40:15)

Hank: Alright John, This question comes from Chrissa, who asks, "Dear Hank and John, I'm 22 years old and I have recently taken a job where my primary responsibility is to plan a series of 4 hour long events four times a year. These events are aimed at nurturing the startup ecosystem in my country, the Phillippines, and I'm privileged to have the support of more prominent people in the tech and startup community, but they are not required to help me and they essentially get nothing out of helping me. I also have no supervisor and no one that I am directly reporting to. No one is telling me what to do or what to aim for. I feel like I - I want to enjoy my job because it sounds like so much fun to be able to self supervise, but I have no key performance indicators - " it's great that you're using the lingo - "to know if I'm doing well or if I'm behind. I fear that I may be too young to be left unsupervised. Any dubious advice on my situation would be incredibly appreciated. Remembering to be awesome, Chrissa." This is a great question and I appreciate it and I also appreciate somebody dumping this much responsibility on you and saying, "figure it out!" It's not great management, but sometimes that is the path that's sort of like a bit of a trial by fire, to be like, you're going to learn a lot really quickly, and it may not produce the best result, and it may not be the most pleasant thing, but you are going to learn a lot. 

John: Yeah. Yeah, no, I mean I think you've got to, for lack of a better term, lean in to that lack of supervision -

Hank: Mmhmm.

John: - and just understand that you're not going to be perfect at this to start. I always try to tell myself whenever I'm doing something new that I never have the expectation that my children are going to be amazing at something the first time they try it. Like, I'm never like, "oh, Alice, you're about to get on ice skates. You will be at the Olympics next month." Right? Like, I put Alice on ice skates and she falls down a bunch and then she starts to fall down less and then she starts to get going and, you know, pretty soon she can skate forwards. And I think you have to have that same set of expectations, and if the people you work with are giving you this kind of opportunity, you've got to treat it as a learning experience rather than being like, "oh god, all the things that I do wrong are going to be, you know, it's going to end my career" or whatever. It's hard to do that, but I find - it sounds silly, but talking to myself the way that I would talk to my children or someone else that I care about and love, is helpful.

Hank: Yeah. I think also putting thing into bite-sized chunks, like trying to make a list of things that you actually want to get done, and if you're having some push-back from the people that you kind of need to be supporting you - so you have some people in the tech and startup community that you want to be featuring and you want them to be having useful and interesting conversations - it's almost like I think about events a lot so I probably have a lot of specific advice for this specific question. But you're going to want to give those people opportunities to feel really cool and important, and it might to you seem like of course they feel that way,  but I bet you that oftentimes they don't and they want those opportunities to be meaningful in their world and to be put on something of a pedestal and to have opportunities to say the stuff that they have learned, and to inspire people. I think that if you can find the stuff that motivates people to actually get up on stage and lend you a little bit of their expertise, that's really what is sort of the key to unlocking this. And that might mean learning a lot about them individually. It also might be learning about sort of how people talk about and get excited about entrepreneurialism, which probably means listening to lots of entrepreneurial podcasts and reading up on whatever all those things are and sort of getting a little bit obsessed with it and driving your brain into that world. And that's a lot to ask, and it's a lot of new information to synthesize all at once. So I appreciate you taking on a hard thing, and I know I have both been in the situation and put people in the situation where you feel too young to be left unsupervised, and it can be a really great experience and it can be a really hard one though. So thanks for your question. 

 News from Mars and AFC Wimbledon (44:46)

John: Alright, Hank. Let's move on to the news fro Mars and AFC Wimbledon. If you don't mind, I'll go first.

Hank: Alright! 

John: Okay, Hank, so the Christmas period is very busy. The Christmas and New Year period very busy for English soccer teams. There is no holiday break. In the span of eight days, Wimbledon played four League One games, which is a lot. 

Hank: Whoo!

John: From those four games they emerged with seven points, which is great! 

Hank: Yeah!

John: That is really not half bad. They beat Southend United two - nil with goals from - actually, stunningly - non strikers. Two of our first non striker goals of the season from Liam Trotter and Tom Soares. That two - nil victory, by the way, matches AFC Wimbledon's biggest win of the year! So, yeah! Then they got a two-two draw at Gillingham, fighting back, it must be said, fighting back - they were down in that game twice and fought back for a 2-2 draw, goals from Harry Forrester and a penalty from the Monserrattian Messi, Lyle Taylor. And then before that they lost to Portsmouth and before that they beat Bradford City 2-1, which is probably the best win of the year so far for Wimbledon. Bradford City are up there at the top of the table. Lyle Taylor scored a 70th minute goal to put the Dons up 2-1 in that game and held on for the win. I mean, unfortunately, despite this relatively good run of form, seven points from four games, AFC Wimbledon are currently still in the League One relegation zone. They are in 21st place. 27 points after 25 games. In order to stay up, Wimbledon are probably going to need like 51, maybe 52 points. So we've got 21 games left to play, and from those 21 games we need 24 or 25 points. So 8 wins from 20 games? It's possible. It's going to be - ah, it's stressful, Hank. There's no getting around it. It's a very stressful situation even with 21 games to go. But hopefully this good run of form will continue and we'll be okay. 

Hank: Well, I mean it seems like things are going - I mean that's good, right? You're -

John: Yeah! 

Hank: Yeah.

John: If we score - if we get 7 points from every 4 games that we play for the rest of the season we'll stay up comfortably. 

Hank: [laughs] Yeah. Yeah. 

John: Yeah.

Hank: But it won't be more than that. It won't be in the middle or anything. 

John: You know, one of the weird things about this season in League One is that AFC Wimbledon, despite being currently in the relegation zone, are only 6 points away from being in 11th. 

Hank: Right. Okay. 

John: But, I mean, frankly, to be completely honest with you, do I care if we finish 19th or 11th? I do not. 

Hank: Right.

John: It should also be noted that the franchise currently plying its trade in Milton Keynes is in 19th and Wimbledon are only two points off of Milton Keynes, which is an interesting turn of events -

Hank: So you would like to finish ahead of them. That would be -

John: And that is our next league game.

Hank: Oh wow. 

John: We'll be playing them away, but before then, and actually after- this game will have already happened by the time the podcast is uploaded - this weekend is our big moneyball game -

Hank: Oh! You haven't -

John: - against Tottenham Hotspur. 

Hank: - you haven't gotten your money yet! I didn't realize. I thought that had already happened. 

John: Oh no, it's comin'! January 6th, AFC Wimbledon play Tottenham at Wembley stadium. AFC Wimbledon of course currently undefeated at Wembley! Never been beaten at Wembley. That may change on Saturday, but currently never been beaten at Wembley and I am taking a lot of hope. Tottenham have played a ton of football in the last week and a half and they haven't looked that good. They look tired. I think they're going to rest some of their stars, and I feel a miracle coming! 

Hank: Alright John, well I'll be watching @sportswithjohn on Twitter to see what happens. And thank you to my phone for always keeping me updated now on my news page with the scores, because these days I always know how things are going. John! Mars news. 

John: Yep. Yes.

Hank: So some researchers just wrote a paper. It's sort of a white papers kind of thing in the journal Nature Geoscience, which is a really big scientific journal. The different way - like, the way that we imagine where life would be and how to find evidence of life is very different if you really want to think about how life might work on Mars.

John: Mm!

Hank: So photosynthesis of course is what drives the vast majority of life on Earth. You either are getting energy from the Sun or you're getting energy from things that got energy from the Sun or you're getting energy from things that got energy from things that got energy from the Sun. Like, it's just - that's how the cascade works. 

John: Mm.

Hank: And there is some, what they call "chemosynthesis" where you take chemicals that have energy in them and you go straight from the chemistry into the life and that happens at, like, deep sea vents and stuff. But almost all of it's photosynthesis, and so we're sort of used to photosynthesis-like life. And that's life that needs to be on the surface in order to get access to the Sun.

John: Right.

Hank: But on Mars, one, it seems that there are a number of potential chemosynthesis candidates. There's a lot of hydrogen, there's a lot of maybe hydrogen sulfide, and that stuff can be synthesized by bacteria into useful energy that they can then use to, like, continue to be alive. So those things seem to exist, and also, the surface of Mars is not a great place. There's no atmosphere. There hasn't been an atmosphere for a long time. There's no magnetic field so it's constantly being bombarded by high-energy solar particles, and so that can really mess up any life forms' strategies for self-replication and such, so, you know, the thing that these writers are, these researchers are saying in Nature Geoscience is like, probably if we're going to really look for life on Mars, and this is a pressing question because Mars - going to be sending the 2020 rover fairly soon, and that's sort of one of the first missions that has the express purpose of "we're going to actually try and look for life on Mars" rather than more geology- based missions like what Curiosity's been doing. And this matters a lot, and if it's just going to be collecting rocks from the surface and doing science on those rocks and maybe even collecting them for later return to Earth in a sample return mission, then if you're just picking from the surface you're probably not going to find a lot because it's a pretty harsh place. And so they're encouraging maybe looking at can we be looking and collecting samples and also analyzing samples from what are called "mineralized fracture zones", and I'm going to quote now, "these would be places where there was fluid flow in the crust and where you get mixing between different fluids from different sources that have potentially different concentrations of important elements as well as dissolved hydrogen, which is a potential source of energy for microbes." So cracks in the crust where water may have been coming from above, but also groundwater would be mixing and bringing energy in the form of these chemosynthesis candidates to potential life that would be looking to continue surviving using chemical energy. So that's what they're looking at, and I don't know that this is - it does seem to be like, if we're going to be finding life on Mars there's also some heat left, it would appear, inside of Mars, so that heat, just sort of the way that Earth obviously has a lot of heat on the inside of it - that heat is less there on Mars because it's a smaller planet and it's a lot easier to cool off if you're a smaller thing, but it seems like there's still some geothermal heat which could be melting water which could be meaning lots of good chemical soups down there for interesting things to happen, but what we are learning is if we don't find life on Mars, it's not going to mean that there is no life on Mars. There is going to be a lot of looking for a long, long time. 

John: Mmm. Mm. That's really interesting. Yeah, I mean it is very strange to think about - and this is something I've been thinking about in the context of your book, Hank. It is very strange to think about what first contact looks like outside of the traditional ways that we've thought about it, or what interacting with alien life looks like when we haven't even - it's just so mind-boggling to think, "well what would life look like if it weren't dependent upon photosynthesis." 

Hank: Right. And we like -

John: You know, what would life look like if it didn't have DNA or RNA?

Hank: Mmhmm. Yeah, and we don't even -

John: It's just mind-boggling. 

Hank: - really understand 100% of how it works with our version of life. 

John: Right.

Hank: We certainly can grind up a rock and see if there was any DNA in there, and we can be like, "well, there must have been something alive on that rock" but if it's not based on DNA, you grind up that rock and you're like, well, I don't know what I'm looking for. 

John: Yeah.

Hank: Like, what is the complex molecules, what does self replication look like if it's not based on the same self replication systems we have? And also, when you start to talk about, like - it gets much more complicated when you get out of just, you know, sort of - I'm trying not to be too jargony here - you get out of just self-replicating molecules and self replicating systems into how do things transfer information and how do we communicate - that would be a very weird thing. Which -

John: Yeah. Yeah. 

Hank: Much more weird, and obviously such great places for science fiction to go and I've always loved those kind of books. 

 Outro and credits (55:39)

John: Yeah, no. I think it's really fascinating. Well, aside from that, Hank, what did we learn today? 

Hank: Oh gosh, John. We learned that you are a prime candidate for the advanced planning advisory at your nearby cemetery. They're really interested in -

John: Yeah, no it's terrible news.

Hank: - getting your business.

John: We learned that -

Hank: Wait, John. John. I have a question. 

John: Okay.

Hank: Is it possible that this is like - can't you be like, "but I'm like, kind of a big deal. Couldn't you just like, pay me to be in your cemetery? It's basically like having another vice president. It's like your last brand deal." 

John: Oh my god. It's the last brand deal you'll ever make. I like it 'cause it's dark and weird but that'd be a funny email to send back, to be like "I have a proposal for you! How's about instead of paying for a plot in your cemetery, you pay me for a plot in your cemetery?" 

Hank: [laughing] I mean - 

John: You're welcome.

Hank: I feel so good for all the people who made it through the Mars and AFC Wimbledon news so that they got that one. Thanks everybody.

[outro music plays] 

John: [laughing] Alright. Alright, aside from that we learned that a sponge is only a sponge unless it's more than a sponge. 

Hank: And we also learned that dang it, I don't need a quesadilla maker. I like making quesadillas. I am the quesadilla maker, Mom! 

John: Mm. So true. Hank, thank you for podding with me. Thanks to everybody for listening. We'll be back next week. In the mean time we want to let you know about the people who make this podcast. 

Hank: This podcast is produced by Rosianna Halse Rojas and Sheridan Gibson. It's edited by Nicholas Jenkins. Our head of community and communications is Victoria Bongiorno. She's helping out with all that Patreon stuff. Thank you so much to all of our supporters on Patreon. You can support us for a dollar and you can choose whether you prefer Mars news or AFC Wimbledon news or really quite frankly neither, thank you. Or for five dollars you can get our upcoming podcast or our patron-only podcast which we are about to record, This Week in Ryans. This podcast is also - the theme music that you are hearing right now and at the beginning of the podcast are by the great Gunnarolla. And as they say in our hometown -

John and Hank together: Don't forget to be awesome. 

[outro music ends]