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In this episode, Loaf and Janet discuss the upcoming Big Game, the merits of travel over putting down roots, how to deal with the aftermath of a time loop, and what to do when you have a disturbing lack of faith in your boss. Plus: the return of Frankie!
Loaf: Greetings listeners! It is good to be back in the studio with all of you. Not literally with all of you, of course, because I still have not shed these damned antlers.
Janet: Will shedding the antlers make you omnipresent?
Loaf: Ha ha ha probably not. It will just free up some much needed space. Not enough space for our entire listener base, you are correct, Janet. Anyway, it’s good to be figuratively back with all of you. As always, I am Loaf, this is my cohost Janet, and this is Solutions to Problems, where we pontificate upon the obstacles facing you. You can submit your own letters via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by carving morse code into a prominent landmark visible by satellite imaging. So Janet - are you excited for the big game?
Janet: Oh, I love a good game! On Earth, many of our social events are centered around similar sports to the big game, albeit with less lasers involved. In high school, I was on the Varsity Curling Team. I was pretty dangerous with a broom! Do you like sports, Loaf?
Loaf: I enjoy watching sporting events! If I were on my home planet, we would all go to light the mushroom pits then stand at the edges and smell them.
Janet: What’s the competitive part?
Loaf: Oh, no that’s just what we like to do before we watch other species’ sporting rituals. My people actually don’t believe in competitive rituals. We just find them wildly entertaining.
Janet: It’s… not really a ritual. It’s just a thing, you do, to teach children that life is unfair and that you constantly have to struggle for resources and skills just to survive in the world. It’s fun!
Loaf: Well on that we can agree.
Janet: What’s on our docket for today?
Loaf: Our first letter comes from a plant-based lifeform from Moxillius A.
Dear Eeeheeheeheehee and Janet,
I have been offered a job as chief science officer on a long-range survey ship. Yay! This is what I’ve been working towards my entire career. The problem is the grove elders. You see, my species is only ambulatory as juveniles. At some point, usually around a century, sometimes younger, we take root and began the transformation into grove elders. As sessile, tree-like beings, we can advise our descendents and ponder the meaning of the universe. There isn’t a lot of warning, so most of us tend to stay close to the homeworld after a certain age. The elders are concerned I’m too old to go on such a long term assignment, and if I begin to root on the ship, I could die, and my knowledge would be lost to the grove. I am willing to take that risk, and I think it should be my decision. Besides, I’m not even seventy, and it’s only a ten year mission. I think the grove is being unreasonable, but if I go against their wishes, I risk alienating my entire species. What should I do?
A Forlorn Floraform
Janet: What a doozy! Well, I think it’s your plant-based life, and you should feel free to explore if you want to! Do you have any thoughts, Loaf?
Loaf: You know, this one is tricky for me. I know how hard it can be to be away from your people - it’s something I’m especially thinking about today, what with the big game and all. My people really value exploration. I think yours probably do too - I mean, you’ll need something to contemplate once you become a tree.
Janet: You know, I wonder if they could accommodate the tree-ness? Like, uh, put a planter on wheels for them if they start rooting early. We have a lot of great mobility aid technology in the greater galaxy. A back up plan might help ease any early-rooting worries.
Loaf: That’s a good idea, but it might not be that simple. Moxillian root systems get very large, very fast. Much like these [bleep]ing antlers which should have fallen off days ago.
Janet: Wow, Loaf, I didn’t know you understood how to swear in Human Standard Language. You can’t just peel them off?
Loaf: Well, it would be very unpleasant but we may be getting to that point.
Janet: It’ll be nice to have them out of the way before the Big Game. We could go to a sports bar once you stop being toxic. As for our plant friend, I wonder if you could look into short missions? Things that will only last a few years. You won’t get to go as far, but you can still get the experiences you’re looking for without the anxiety of being ten light-years from home.
Loaf: I wish I knew what the grove elders were actually threatening to do to them. Do you think they would actually keep you from rooting if you did go and come back after they told you not to? Because it seems to me like they’re bluffing. I think if you’re willing to risk it, you should go. Most likely, they’ll welcome you back with open branches. But only you know that for sure.
Janet: …. Not to be, you know, ignorant, but what can they really do if they can’t.. move?
Loaf: That is an excellent question. It is possible we don’t know enough about your species to really adequately resolve this.
Janet: *shouting away from the mic* Can someone get the intern? Frankie? Someone? Nowish It’s so handy having someone around to help!
Frankie: Umm, hello? Were you asking for me?
Janet: Intern, yes, hello, sit down with us. But watch out for those. Yeah, don’t. Don’t touch that. You know the rules. Did you bring an infopad?
Frankie: I’m not an intern - *sigh* Um, yeah. Moxillians are the tree ones? Right?
Janet: Yeah, tree-like though. Obviously, trees aren’t people. That would be horrifying. Anyway, do the Moxillians have like, a thing? A thing other than basically being trees?
Frankie: You know, they are an entire species. They have millions of years of history. They have numerous, diverse, cultures. What exactly do you mean by “a thing”?
Janet: You know, a thing, like, um, the Grapnofalians are angry all the time, and Loaf’s species is just really weird. Like good weird, but you know, anyway, a thing?
Frankie: That’s offensive and really reductive. How did you even get hired here?
Janet: ANYWAY. More specifically: if you’re a young Moxillian, and you anger your Moxillian Elders or whatever, what happens to you? Do they have psychic powers? Is it a bad talking to?
Frankie: Hang on a second, I’m looking. Uh, let’s see here, Grove elders, grove elders, ummmmmmmm. Huh. Interesting.
Janet: What! What’s interesting?!
Frankie: Sorry I got distracted reading about their sexual practices. They are into some freaky [bleep], for a bunch of plants.
Loaf: Oh, I remember that. Those were some good times.
Janet: Okaaay. Um, right, but the question was about punishment? And elders? You’re not doing great.
Frankie: Look, I’m in charge of cross cultural sensitivity for the whole station. I wrote my dissertation on coming-of-age rituals in vegetable life and I have a PhD in xenofloral anthropology-
Janet: I had a question about elders.
Frankie: Ok, Ok. They don’t have psychic powers, but they can crowd out his root system and block his sun light so he shrivels up and dies. But this is extremely rare, only for actual criminals, and it still takes like 30 years to actually kill him. I highly doubt they’d do that over this small an offense.
Janet: Thank you for that really thorough response!
Frankie: Oh, well, I-
Janet: You can go now. *door slams shut* So Loaf, what’s this week’s sponsor message?
Loaf: I’m glad you asked, Janet. This week’s sponsor is Nutritional Supplement 48C! Getting ready to have all your friends over to watch the big game? Are all your friends humans between the ages of 35 and 42 and 1.5 and 1.7 meters of height? If so, consider serving a healthy platter of Nutritional Supplement 48C! Nutritional Supplement 48C is organic and gluten-free, and specially calibrated for a highly specific subset of humans! Other humans can still enjoy the great taste though, so if some of your guests are under 30 or over 1.7 meters, don’t worry - it probably won’t kill them. Nutritional Supplement 48C - for a highly specific slice of the populous, it’s what’s for dinner.
Janet: And breakfast, and lunch! And, for the still hungry, now available in pre-portioned snack pouches! Personally, my favorite Supplement is 48A, but only because I’m not yet in the optimal range for 48C, and therefore am afraid of the organ damage caused by overconsumption. Supplements: Perfect for the Big Game, and the small game, and almost all possible situations in which sustenance is required.
Loaf: Personally I prefer snails and other small grubs. But then, I’m not a human.
Janet: I mean I could plug their non-human supplements line, but that’s not in our contract, so I don’t care. Shall we move to our next letter?
Loaf: Yes, let’s do that.
Dear Loaf and Janet,
Last week, a traumatic event almost occurred. Well, it did occur. But only for my wife. She was trapped in a time loop, constantly replaying the day leading up to the event in question until she could figure out how to break the causality and return to our universe with its illusion of free will. She claims to have spent many years trapped in this limbo of pre-determined tragedy! Lately, she’s been afraid to leave the house. It’s been so long since she’s lived without knowing exactly what’s going to happen next, and she’s now afraid of being trapped in another time loop should something else occur. She won’t tell me what the original event was that triggered it, but I assume it has something to do with my work in quantum field generator engines. I know I shouldn’t work on them at the house, but my commute to work can be really annoying and I like using the work-from-home benefit. What should I do?
Grounded on Groundhog Day
Loaf: This is the worst. I was stuck in a time loop for a week once. Of course, the loop was only 12 minutes long. Still, I was a mess afterwards.
Janet: Wow, I’m pretty pro- time loop! I used to purposefully trigger them during exam week in college. Easiest way to keep a 4.0 with a packed schedule, let me tell you. Anyway, I could see it being kind of distressing if you aren’t practiced in breaking time loops. It’s easy, but you really have to know the technique. It’s like stop, drop, and roll, but for those accidental breakages in our traditional understanding of space-time.
Loaf: Okay, but what our letter writer is asking is how to help her wife through the emotional aftermath of what sounds like a very traumatic experience, experienced over and over again every day for years.
Janet: Oh, psh. That’s so easy. Therapy. She should definitely just go to therapy. And um maybe you know there’s some helpful drugs that could help? But mostly therapy.
Loaf: What about Blank Slate Memory Wipes?
Janet: Oh, what a great idea! Getting in on those sponsor dollars. I mean, they sell them in bulk at Costco now. It’s a great deal.
Loaf: If our letter-writer doesn’t want -
*Extremely loud crack, followed by an extended clattering sound.*
*Janet makes an undignified noise/scream*
Loaf: Finally! I thought they’d never come off. Oh I feel ten pounds lighter.
Janet: Only ten?
Loaf: I feel like I could float away. I feel like I just went from 3 gs to 0. Ok, back to work. What were we talking about?
Janet: Time loop safety!
Loaf: Yes! It is important, if you are working on a quantum field generator engine in a home, that everyone in the home be trained in the basics of time loop safety. Make sure your wife takes the course after you wipe her memory though. Otherwise you’re just wasting money!
Janet: For our listeners at home, remember: EGGPLANT.
- E - evaluate
- G - get your bearings
- G - get equipped
- P- prepare
- L- languish
- A- ameliorate
- N- iNterrupt the time loop
- T - time to go!
Loaf: Such a useful acronym! You almost don’t need anything else. You know Janet, I wouldn’t mind getting stuck in a time loop tonight. It looks like it’s going to be such an exciting game.
Janet: Well, I don’t know if um, I mean it’s a little dangerous to trigger a time loop just to watch some lasers. You can just record it for later.
Loaf: Who wants to watch a recorded laser-ball game? Where’s the fun in that?
Janet: How is that any different than watching it on a livestream? It’s not like I ever want to go in person. I value my eyebrows too much for that. Do you know how often I have to get them threaded? It’s exhausting.
Loaf: I don’t know that. In fact I’m not even one hundred percent sure what an eyebrow is. But I’ll take your word for it.
Janet: Oh, it's the little pieces of fur over my eyes, these things here. They’re a little flammable.
Loaf: Those are your eyes? That makes so much more sense.
Janet: What did you think- … You know what, it doesn’t matter. Shall we move on to our next letter?
Loaf: Sure. This letter is coming all the way from the Galactic Murder Sphere.
Dear Janet and Loaf,
I recently started a new job. I’m great at it and I really love my coworkers, but my boss is an absolute nightmare. He’s constantly talking about his religion, which is super weird and unprofessional. Also he has some serious anger issues. In fact, I actually only got this job because he got so angry with my previous boss that he crushed his windpipe with his mind. Anyway, I feel like I should go to SR, but 1. SR is terrified of him, and 2. I kind of feel bad for him, he was in some kind of accident when he was younger and he lost all four of his limbs and now he has a lot of trouble breathing. But oh my god, his breathing is so annoying. He’s all *heavy breathing* all day long. Also I’m scared he’s going to literally kill me if I mess up. What should I do?
Sincerely, Admiral Screwed
Janet: Psychic powers. I just like, had a Feeling it was going to come up today. A PSYCHIC feeling. No, just kidding, I’m not psychic.
Loaf: There’s a lot to unpack in this letter. Where should we start?
Janet: Well, I suppose we should start with the actual issue, which is that he’s afraid of his boss. It sounds like SR isn’t going to be any help here, and confronting his boss might not solve the problem. Maybe he could request a transfer to a different Murder Sphere, one where the leadership is more amenable.
Loaf: This guy sounds downright abusive. Normally I would say there would be a case for legal action here, but this is the Galactic Imperium we’re talking about, so that’s probably not going to happen. Still it sounds like a very unhealthy working environment. Then we get into the religion issue.
Janet: I’m honestly not surprised that this is happening in the Galactic Imperium, which is such a conservative dictatorial empire state. A lot of those dudes are weirdly religious, and into talking about like, I don’t know, physics or something? Lots of forces invloved? I don’t know. It sounds like a lot of the problems our letter writer has are more about the culture of the company that’s letting this guy stay in a position of authority, honestly. The organization isn’t going to back up his complaints, so what can he really do?
Loaf: It’s possible that they’re afraid if they fire him, they’ll be accused of discriminating against a person with a disability.
Janet: Um, maybe, but it sounds like he’s perfectly capable of performing his duties, and also he has psychic powers? Doesn’t really sound like not having limbs is hindering his career at all.
Loaf: It’s true. And even if it was, it’s no excuse to treat someone like that. Admiral, I’d request a transfer, I’d do it very quietly, and if they don’t accept I’d think seriously about resigning.
Janet: Also, don’t comment on his breathing being annoying. It’s not his fault he’s on a respirator, and besides, your co-workers are always going to make weird noises, weird respirator thing or not. Better to get used to it now.
Loaf: Not to mention weird smells.
Janet: Oh, I mean, I just wear a mask some days. I don’t really notice it anymore.
Loaf: I wasn’t talking about me. Do you know how many noses I have, Janet?
Janet: I didn’t realize you had noses, so no.
Loaf: All of these are noses.
Janet: OH, I mean, oh, of course, I should’ve realized. Should I stop wearing my perfume?
Loaf: Let’s discuss this off the air. Anything else to say to our letter-writer before we sign off?
Janet: Hmmmmm, no. I mean, he works on a Murder Sphere. I’m not sure why we care anyway. I mean, we care about all of our listeners, of course! Especially ones who support our advertisers! Nutritional supplements, uh, you know I’m going to stop talking.
Loaf: Alright, Well, then it’s time we leave once more. Have fun watching the game, and go Spider Monkeys! I really think this is their year.
Janet: Wait, you’re supporting the Spider Monkeys? I don’t know if I can go anywhere with you today. PURPLE SPACEFLIGHT FOR THE WIN.
Loaf: I should have guessed from the outfit! Of course you’d be a PS fan. Uggghhhhhh. We’re done here.
Janet: What does tHAT mean - I mean, good night gentle listeners. We’ll be back soon with another episode of Solutions to Problems! Enjoy the game! Support the only team that matters! Go Purple Spaceflight!
Loaf: [over her] Spider monkeys!
Solutions to Problems is written by and features the voices of Austin Hendricks and Nathan Comstock. It is produced and musically scored by Michael F. Gill. Our theme is by Thomas Dwyer. The voice of Frankie is Valerie Loveland. This episode’s letters were read by Dave Comstock, Aryn Orwig, and Ben Halls. Find out more information about us at www.stppodcast.com. Also if you liked this show, please rate and review us at Apple Podcasts, because it helps us know we exist. Last week’s cryptic question was: What do all of these have in common: the wailing of less than half, the reception of a cinquain, abbattoir abbattoir abbattoir abbattoir abbattoir, and the temperature that ends with the state of Puerto Rico.
The common factor is that, when translated, each clue is a reference to an American novel with a number in the title. The wailing of less than half is The crying of lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon. A cinquain is a poem with 22 syllables, so a reception of one would be Catch 22, the novel by Joseph Heller. 5 abattoirs is a reference to slaughterhouse 5 by Kurt Vonnegut, and the temperature that ends in the state of Puerto Rico is Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, because Puerto Rico is often considered to be or become the 51st state of America.
If you got that right, text the word love to yourself over and over for the next 5 minutes. Today’s cryptic question is: In which ancient capitol would you find Avogadro's number, a post-transition metal, a trigonometric function, and a gemstone believer to be the embodiment of the evil eye?
The answer, as well as more questions, on our next episode.
Janet: What the [bleep] ! I trusted you Loaf!
Frankie: That’s a really expensive microphone Janet. Janet?