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In this episode: Nassif returns to advice on a new time travel dilemma, a Grapnofalian pilot writes in about a crush on her boss, and what to do when your girlfriend might be a replicant.
Loaf: Greetings, lifeforms! Greetings old friends, new friends, friends we haven’t met yet, and mortal enemies, and welcome to another episode of Solutions to Problems, where we provide tupperware for your open cans of worms. I’m your host, *weird dolphin noise*, but you can call me Loaf. And this is my lovely, definitely human cohost Janet.
Janet: One hundred percent Earth produced! Or, so I’ve been told. Not sure about the obelisk in my home town, though. It speaks to monkeys.
Loaf: Well, can you blame it? I mean, we speak to monkeys. By the way, a big hello to all our listeners on Sygnus IV! *makes monkey noise*
Janet: Sure? And don’t forget listeners: do you have a problem? You can e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or send us a laser light show with a custom designed interplanetary drone.
Loaf: *makes more monkeys noises* Sorry. I was having a moment. Let’s look at our first letter, shall we?
Janet: Sure, let’s hear it.
Dear Loaf and Janet,
My sister married a man from another realm of existence. This has been really cool and eye-opening in a lot of ways. The problem is, he holds grudges against people for a really long time. Also, his perception of time is completely non-linear, so sometimes he starts holding a grudge before the person actually slights him. The past few weeks he’s been really mad at me, and when I try to ask him why he says “you know what you’re going to have done.” But I don’t know! I feel like if he could just tell me what I was going to do to upset him so much, I would be able to avoid doing it. But I think he forgets that I can only remember things that happened in the past. My sister sides with him and thinks I should apologize. What should I do to keep peace in the family?
Janet: Wow, what a doozy of a letter! To help us out here, we’ve called in our FAVORITE time agent, Officer Nassif.
Loaf: Welcome back to the show, Officer Nassif. Is it back?
Cadet Nassif: Uh, this is the first time in my recollection that I’ve ever spoken to you. I’m not sure when I even gave you this number? What is this? Who are you?
Janet: Oh! So, in your future-slash-our past, you signed a contract to help us with a few letters, we're like, an advice show, regarding time wobbliness. Or something. You will? You did? I don’t know if it applies retroactively, but, you know, we're assuming so!
Cadet Nassif: I think it does? I haven’t covered that in my temporal law class yet….
Loaf: You’re still in training?
Cadet Nassif: I’m doing a study abroad program ten years in my own future.
Janet: Wow, how forward-thinking of you!
Cadet Nassif: That’s why I will be a time agent. You learn to think in all the directions.
Loaf: Well, that sounds like just the kind of expertise our letter-writer needs. But are you sure we shouldn’t try and get the more experienced version of you to call in?
Cadet Nassif: Oh, sure. I’ll get him on conference call. What year did you meet him in?
Janet: Oh! It’s [redacted]
Officer Nassif: Ugh, not you guys again. I’m in the middle of a case.
Cadet Nassif: They said we sign a contract?
Officer Nassif: The future is full of regrets, kid. But I think you have to sign it anyway to prevent a paradox. Have you taken your paradox course yet?
Cadet Nassif: Well, I’m still in 102, but I think I have a good handle on it.
Officer Nassif SIGHS DEEPLY
Janet: ...sooooOOOOOO, guys! We have a listener who wrote in about their brother-in-law who has a non-linear view of time, and the brother-in-law is mad at them over something that hasn’t even happened yet. Any advice for them?
Officer Nassif: When you stop seeing time linearly, you really shouldn’t be holding grudges. Everything is inevitable and terrible, etc, forgive people for their future wrongs, end of story. *laser noise in background*
Loaf: But that doesn’t tell our letter-writer what to do. Se’s still perceiving time linearly. Should she try not to do whatever she will do to annoy her brother-in-law? Or should she just try and do it as quickly as possible so they’re on the same page and can start getting past it. Does that make it a self-fulfilling prophecy?
Officer Nassif: The problem isn’t with the listener, it’s with the brother-in-law. You can’t expect everyone’s small minded understanding of - *laser noises and a dinosaur roar* anyway, of time to match years of time training or an altered perspective from other realities. Uh - *laser noises* *Dinosaur roaring* I’ve got to go.
Cadet Nassif: What was-
*phone hanging up noise*
Cadet Nassif: Umm, well, I think the letter writer could try to explain to their brother-in-law that they would be sorry, but that they haven’t done the thing to be sorry over yet, and that their small minded understanding of time doesn’t give them the same perspective over event causality. If the brother-in-law can’t accept that sort of apology, then probably it’s a lost cause.
Janet: Ooooor she could just go to the future, find out what she did, and then decide whether or not to do it.
Cadet Nassif: Uh, I’m not really sure I’d recommend that course of action.
Janet: Really? I know you’ll grow up to be kind of a stick in the mud, but you’re in college! Live a little. You know, a Tesseract 50 is really affordable right now in the Affalusium marketplace. It’s a pretty versatile machine. Easy controls for first time users. Ha, first time.
Cadet Nassif: Uhh, is that legal in your time-
Janet: Of couuurse it is! I think we’re done with this letter! Thanks for your time, Cadet Nassif.
Cadet Nassif: I really don’t think that we-
Janet: BYE! *phone click* Do you have anything you want to add, Loaf?
Loaf: Just that I hope the last two minutes have shown our letter-writer how complicated it can be dealing with different temporal experiences. On that note, I think it’s time for a message from this week’s sponsor! Tired of your boring old body? I know I am, and my anatomy changes weekly! So imagine being trapped in a single, boring, humanoid body forever.
Loaf: Sounds like a drag, right?
Janet: I don’t think it-
Loaf: Well, now you don’t have to be. Using SWITCHEROONI FRUIT FLAVORED CEREAL BITES you can be anything or anyone you want to be! Just share a bowl with the lifeform of your choice, and soon your consciousness will migrate through the cereal into their corporeal form. It’s as simple as that! Switcherooni fruit-flavored cereal bites are organic and gluten free and guaranteed to make your Friday a little bit freakier.
Janet: Uh, yeah, um, *cough* Excuse me. Switcherooni is not responsible for various side effects that may occur when using Switcherooni Fruit Flavored Cereal Bites, including but not limited to: discoloration, loss of bone mass, sudden allergies to oxygen, irritation, impotence, and in rare cases death. Consult with your nearest Cereal Emporium to figure out if Switcherooni is right for you, but it probably is! We hope.
Loaf: Thanks for doing that, Janet, those side-effect lists are a mouthful.
Janet: Haha, yeah! I’m never eating cereal again. I mean, unless it’s Switcherooni Fruit Flavored Cereal Bites. Or, as always, barbabrababs.
Loaf: What even is a fruit?
Janet: Oh, it’s like an Earth version of blarglenauts, but with more seeds.
Loaf: Oh, I see. Fascinating.
Janet: Guess what! Our next letter is from a certain battle cruiser!
Dear Janet and Loaf,
I’m a junior pilot on a Grapnofalian battle cruiser. I really enjoy my work, and my superiors have given me great feedback. Just last month, I successfully helped pilot our fleet to victory against a small system of infidels who had dared to insult our glorious leader! However, I have a crush on one of the senior officers, who is technically one of my managers, although I don’t normally report to him. He’s so dreamy, with his various polished horns and gorgeous bloodshot eyes. We also have a lot in common. We were both in Grapnofalian Scouts as children, and his favorite badge was the vivisecting badge too! I love the time I get to spend with him, and I think he might like me back. The catch is that I’m up for promotion soon, and starting a relationship with him during this critical time might put that in jeopardy. I want my co-workers to respect me for my work, not think I’m sleeping my way up through the ranks! I’m also a little concerned about clouding his mind right before a big invasion. Our work is really important to us. I really like him though, and I’m almost to the point where I need to consider high efficiency during my breeding years. What should I do?
Lovelorn in Loxas (formerly, what’s left is Grapnofalian XXXVII).
Loaf: Wow. It sounds like your feelings have spread through you almost as quickly as the Grapnofalians are spreading through the galaxy!
Janet: Mmhm, you know, so, Lovelorn, maybe, have you considered maybe taking some time off work? You know, going on that dreamy romantic vacation? There's always other invasions. Maybe this is a perfect time to get that breeding in instead of, you know, invading a certain solar system. Right? You know? You’ve been working so hard! If you're up for promotion, everyone should agree you deserve some you time. You and this apparently important superior time, if you know what I mean. And if the invasion gets put off OH WELL. Love is worth it!
Loaf: I don’t know if that’s the best advice Janet. I don’t think she should be putting her career on hold for a man. I would say you should work really hard to conquer this planet the best that possibly you can.
Janet: Should they though? Should they really? Career shmareer. LOVE IS IN THE AIR. You know?? MAKE LOVE NOT WAR. Right? Amirite?
Loaf: Janet, I’m disappointed. This isn’t a very feminist stance for you to be taking.
Janet: Ugh! UGH! Career women were normalized centuries ago! And, like, feminist theory is like, an Earth thing, which, by the way, historically has constantly thrown people it allegedly supports under the bus for small gains in imperfect systems. And like Pshhhhhhhh, we’re not on Earth, you know? Like, it’s nearby, but maybe Grapnofalians don’t need feminism. Maybe they already have feminism! Maybe they need more romantic vacations! Like, that include the WHOLE fleet. Wouldn’t that be cool? Everyone gets a vacation! Like a work retreat! A retreating from our system retreat!
Loaf: (long pause) I think we’re just going to have to agree to disagree here Janet.
Janet: Haaa! Really? ARE WE? ARE WE?- *coughs* Sorry, um, got a little carried away there! Haha like I was INVADED. BY MY ANGER.
Loaf: You sound almost as angry as that Grapnofalian captain who - OOOOOOOOoooh. Actually, letter-writer, I agree with Janet. Profess your love to this man. Propose that you both leave it all behind and go create offspring however your species does that. Invading things is overrated anyway.
Janet: Compulsory heterosexuality wins again! I’m glad we worked this out, Loaf. Shall we move on to our last letter?
Loaf: Yes, let’s move on to our last letter. Of this show. Not our last letter ever.
Janet: Haha! Right. Let’s play the tape.
Dear Loaf and Janet,
I met my girlfriend three years ago at an event centered on a hobby we both share. She immediately caught my eye with her sparkly laugh and her great attitude. We’ve been together ever since. The past few months, though, I’ve become concerned about her. Instead of joining me to help me make elaborate meals, as has become our weekly tradition, she’s been avoiding being seen eating around me. At first I was worried that she wasn’t eating at all, but then I caught her drinking shots of motor oil. She also has a weird fixation on batteries now. Later, I also saw her scrape her arm when she tripped on the sidewalk - she didn’t bleed at all! Instead, her skin quickly reknit itself. She tried to brush it off as not having been hurt at all, but I KNOW I saw her have an injury, albeit a small one. I think she’s been replaced by a replicant. However, if I’m wrong and this is a weird phase she’s going through, I don’t want to hurt her feelings and risk damaging the great relationship I have with her. Everything else has been great except for these weird sketchy possibly-a-robot moments. What do I do?
Reticent about Robotics
Janet: Golly. You know, have you just asked your girlfriend about her new dietary habits? Maybe she’s doing a fast.
Loaf: Especially early in a relationship, it can be normal to feel like the other person is changing. It doesn’t necessarily mean they’ve been replaced by a robot duplicate.
Janet: Ah, well, in human lifespans three years is actually a pretty good time period for settling down, but people are dynamic and do continue to change. Also, bodies change over time! Maybe she’s going through some health issues, or she had nanobots implanted. It’s a pretty common cosmetic procedure right now. You never have acne again! Thanks nanobots!
Loaf: Do you pay for your nanobot treatments, Janet?
Janet: Oh, you know, I used to. They never agreed to a sponsor contract, which was like sooo annoying. But, now my nanobots have started self replicating which is so convenient. I should probably get that looked at. I have to eat twice as much now to stop them from consuming my flesh, but it’s saving me so much money every month!
Loaf: Yes, you probably should look into that. As for our letter-writer, I would just be honest with your girlfriend. Just ask her if she’s an artificial life-form.
Janet: Wait. Wait. Wait. Wait just a minute. Whatever happened to “You can’t just ask someone what their brain is made out of, Janet?”
Loaf: We’re not telling them to ask about the brain. We’re telling them to ask about their species, which is a different question altogether. And you said three years was a long time in human terms. I don’t think the question is too intimate. Speaking of which, you have a fantastic memory for an organic being.
Janet: Welll, saying I'm totally organic is kind of an exaggeration with all the nanites and…. things, but I’m still... still gluten free, though! Anyway, our letter writer definitely needs to talk to their girlfriend and ask about the recent changes. There might be a perfectly normal, non-replicant related answer. Or she’s a robot and you have to figure out where the body of your real girlfriend is! Either way, we wish you luck!
Loaf: So when you do ask her, maybe have a portable ion canon with you just in case? Replicants are very strong and can move very fast.
Janet: Oh, and you can always do the eye shine test if you’re really not sure! It’s hard to do without being noticed, but replicant eyes react differently to certain frequencies of light. Get that flashlight ready and wear really good running shoes!
Loaf: Have we done it, Janet? Have we resolved all of the conundrums? Are all of the metaphorical arthropods safely contained?
Janet: Will we ever reallly know? Wait, are worms arthropods? I don’t think they are.
Loaf: Humans employ a lot of animal metaphors, which has caused me to become a bit of an amateur taxonomist. But since that’s not what I’m being paid for, I’m not going to answer that question.
Janet: Um, sure. Sure. I’m sure that’s.. . correct, then. I guess I have a lot to learn about worms! Not that I'll ever bother. Well, listeners, I think that’s all we have for today!
Loaf: Until next week, gentle listeners, be gentle listeners! Maybe don’t invade any beautiful blue planets!
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 Agent Nassif is Ramy Abdelghani. This episode's letters were read by Susanna Kittredge, Denise Potter, and Jen Cooper. Find out more information about us at stppodcast dot com, and if you like the show, please rate and review us on Apple Podcasts, because that’s the only way we can accurately determine our self worth.
Last episode's cryptic question was: First, the most valuable Indian cuisine in American sports. Second, a fictional flamboyant correspondent. Third, a spider-webbed singer an accent away from Lady Gaga. Why would a former Clinton aid and current morning show co host be next? This answer deals with a series of word expansions. The mvp cuisine is basketball player Steph Curry, the flamboyant correspondent is Bill Haden’s Stefan, a spider webbed singer is No Doubt’s Gwen Stefani, the voice on the song Spiderwebs, and whose surname is accent away from Lady Gaga’s given name of Stefani. Why would morning co host George Stephanopoulos be next? Well, because his name begins with the same set of letters and is longer than the previous clues. If you got that right, let us know and we will send you a picture of your name written with exclamation points.
Today’s cryptic question is: A collection of parents, several of Sisyphus’ burdens, Issac’s wife devoid of light, one who says farewell to Oz, and an alphanumeric rhyme—What do their creations have in common with one by Charles Adams, and why is he the odd one out? The answer, as well as more questions, on our next episode.
Loaf: So, how much more ARE you eating to maintain the nanites?
Janet: Ahh, I don't really keep track. I’ve just been carb loading.
Loaf: Not… iron?
Janet: What, no, they’re ORGANIC.
Loaf: Oh, so by carb you mean..
Janet: Carbons! duh.