Episode 14: You Only Live Eight Times

Janet and Loaf discuss the pitfalls of non-humans adopting humans, what to do when your past lives start developing anxiety, and how to define infidelity when your partner is only having affairs with alternate versions of you. They also speak with Mr. Xorfus, IFM2's programming manager, about the station's annual pledge drive.

Announcer: This is IFM 2.

Computer Voice: You’re listening to a program on IFM 2 Subspace Radio. The time is now half past irrelevant. Coming up next is Solutions to Problems.

Theme Song plays.

Loaf: Greetings, Sentients! And welcome to another episode of Solutions to Problems, broadcasting from high above Earth’s second moon, also known as the Moonplex™ , which will be available for vacation getaways sometime in the next three thousand years. I’m your host, Loaf, and this is my bipedal cohost, Janet!

Janet: Hello, everyone! Moonplex™ is, indeed, a vacation getaway of a future. Maybe not our future, or your children’s future, but surely someone’s future. We’re not completely sure why they’re spending currency units now to have us mention it, seeing as we’ve been ignoring the second moon for a while because honestly it’s very creepy and constantly glowing red, and I think maybe it’s inhabited only by the ghosts of previous Moonplex construction workers? But brand awareness is a thing. Speaking of brand awareness, we have a special guest in the studio today to talk about our station’s annual pledge drive.

Loaf: Please welcome our Programming Manager, Krekamalach Xorfus.

Mr. Xorfus: Thank you Eeeheeheehee. While Solutions to Problems is a syndicated program, it’s recorded right here on Earth’s periphery, but just outside the atmosphere for tax reasons. This WTF standard 7 day cycle, we’re asking you, our listeners, to support Good Radio. Here at IFM 2 Subspace Radio, we strive to bring you only the best in audio entertainment and news. Running this station requires over 40000 currency units a day to finance our reporters, on-air talents, AIs, technicians, scripted content and of course our beloved research team. With such a diverse staff with species from over 200 different planets and moon colonies, we rely on you, whatever you may be, to subsidize our existence so we can continue to bring you the content you presumably enjoy.

Janet: Mr. Xorfus will be telling us more about the pledge drive over the course of the episode. For those just tuning in, this is Solutions to Problems, the show where we take your most vinegary of pickles and transform them into.. a sandwich? Does this metaphor work? We are an advice show. We are trying to give you advice. If you have a pickle that needs.. more or less pickling? You can e-mail us at problemsrequiringsolutions@gmail.com, or add your question onto the comment box of our donation portal as you pledge your support. Anything I’m forgetting Loaf?

Loaf: Given the fact that your brain is still mostly organic, probably! But let’s check out our first letter anyway.

Janet: Is your brain… not organic though? … I mean, you look, you look squishy and organic.

Loaf: My brain is almost entirely organic. I just wasn’t sure about yours, because of the nanites.

Janet: Oh, no, you’re right. I mean, it’s not just the nanites, there’s also this - Anyway, let’s play that first letter!

Dear Janet and Meat Loaf,

I’m writing on behalf of the crew of the Sauceritus 7, an exploratory group of goatbuckles from the tiny planet of Nimetta. We were recently studying the deserts of Earth for the first time, when we came across a human who was lost and made these sad eyes that just were impossible to resist. We beamed them up to our spaceship, fed them some mollifying wasabi, and nursed them back to health. The whole crew has enjoyed the novelty of playing with this human, especially when you dangle food and the hypernet in front of their miniature fingers, but lately, they are consuming too much of our time and resources.

Who knew? We know it’s not ethical to just unload any foreign species we bring on to our ship, but the universal adoption process takes eons, and it would take us 6 light years to get back to Earth. What should we do?


Unidentified Flying Parents

Janet: It’s also not ethical to KIDNAP A HUMAN, much less abandon them somewhere in the galaxy! When will sapients learn that any little cute biped isn’t a pet? We are real sapients with thoughts and a desire for bodily autonomy! Just because we have bulbous eyes and horrifying spindly legs doesn’t mean we can’t do math or understand civil law.

Loaf: It does seem like a lot of species’ have trouble identifying other sapients. You can’t necessarily blame them, I mean, even you humans treated dolphins as non-sapient for what? Thousands of years? Just because they lacked thumbs and therefore couldn’t develop tools or written language?

Janet: Yeah, I mean I guess that’s true but they also like didn’t have vocal cords to speak any kind of language humans could understand. I mean, eventually with the introduction of the neural translator, a lot of those… misunderstandings were addressed. Like people knew they were smart cause they could do like paintings and stuff? But I don’t know. Is it the same? I don’t think so.

Loaf: I remember when I was just a broodling, my third pseudo- there’s no translation, its a type of parent, um… let’s just say Dad, though that isn’t strictly speaking accurate at all. Anyway, my “Dad” brought home this Catablian Mizzlefwort that had been hit by a speeder. We nursed the poor thing back to health, but eventually it started eating so much sodium nitrate that we couldn’t keep it fed. I remember when my “mom” broke the news to us broodlings that we had to release it back into the wild. We were, as the humans say, “lung-broken”. But it was for the best.

Janet: “Heart-broken,” actually. We don’t associate the lungs with any kind of strong emotion. But close! Very close. They are both human organs. Most spaceships are required to have neural translators on board now. There’s no reason any sapient shouldn’t be able to figure out that another being is or isn’t also sapient! I know the translators aren’t perfect, but they’re required for a reason. Really, you shouldn’t be abducting anything from an alien planet because according to Intergalactic regulations, that constitutes poaching in almost all circumstances, and you risk disrupting entire ECOSYSTEMS, like what happened to the Snippleworms of Arnus V. They still haven’t fully recovered.

Mr Xorfus: Yes, Humans require a lot of emotional labor. But Radio Stations staffed by humans require even more that. Please consider donating 27.67 currency units a month to IFM 2. That’s only the cost of one dose of instant sleep replacement. We can take payment in a variety of forms, including Eye Pay, Apple Pay, Pear Pay, and Tentacular Limb Pay. If you’re a member of a species whose financial information is encoded in your DNA, feel free to just send us a blood sample.

Janet: Wow. So this is what it’s like to be interrupted by an ad in the middle of saying something you deem important. I never thought I would be here. Staring at the ad copy I’m not allowed to say. Feeling angry about something completely unrelated to money. Oh! But anyway. There’s an Earth-based organization that was established after Earth’s global government passed an amendment to the Unlawful Abduction Act. Humans in far-off galaxies can be directed to any local Earth embassy, and even if they don’t have their paperwork, the embassy will arrange to have them returned to their original location. If you or a loved one is a human who’s been abducted from your home and condescended to by aliens, there is hope!

Loaf: It probably is best to drop the human off at an embassy. It’s just like my brood-mother used to say “you can’t keep a Catablian Mizzlefwort in a mudpit. They need to be able to spin massive crystalline structures and extract minerals from soil.” The Catablian Mizzlefwort in this metaphor is your human.

Janet: Yes this is exactly the same as that. To the letter-writer- have you just… asked the humans what they want? Like, maybe they have a local friend you could leave them with? Humans actually require less labor when… their emotional needs… like being talked to and treated as an intellectual equal… are met…

Loaf: Yes, absolutely. You should never adopt any sort of pet unless you’re able to offer it a stimulating environment. Anything else you’d like to add, Janet?

Janet: Just that the concept of keeping anything that can communicate clearly as a pet is weird and wrong and we should all feel bad about it, Loaf. Even Snurblatches are a gray area, and they’re so small and so cute!

Loaf: Well said, Janet. Humans may be small and poorly designed, but they’re still people. Now, our next letter is on one of my favorite topics, past lives!

Dear relaxing voices of Loaf and Janet,

I come from a long line of hypnotherapists and neuromesmerizers. For decades, I have helped people deal with their chronic pain and trauma through inductive trance states and past life regression. My problem is that I've recently seen a large spike in the anxiety of past lives, as well as a decrease in their overall altruism. Usually, a past life has made peace with the world, and can be a place of refuge for a future life, but now you have to go back ten generations just to find someone with a sense of calm. This is expensive and time-consuming. One of *my* past lives even lamented that this new full-on existential worry made them feel like they were back to being alive, single, and unemployed again. What can I do to help me and my patients feel more at home in our current and past lives? I really don't want to resort to tampering with my future lives, but I feel all my livelihoods are in jeopardy.


You are getting very very sleepy and when I stop speaking you will offer a solution to my problem

Janet: While I understood every word that was just said for its individual meaning, I honestly have no idea what this person is talking about? Like, I don’t think humans experience past lives in this specific way, even though like, ugh, so many people talk about it like we do.

Loaf: Interesting. I have heard humans musing about past lives, but I’ve been confused about the particulars. It’s much simpler for my people. We remember each life very clearly, with only a slight haze and a buzzing sound to indicate the transition.

Janet: I’m yeah, so I’m very sure we only have the one life, and then we’re just dead or whatever.

Loaf: Really? Only one life? So what happens if you fall into a smurgala pit?

Janet: I.. assume something horrible and then we die. I wonder if maybe we have different definitions of “death?” You know, a true definitely-not-coming-back-because-you’re-rotting-in-the ground-death versus like a serious maiming of one’s physical form that’s still technically recoverable.

Loaf: Well as long as my brain is preserved, I’ll naturally be able to regrow whatever parts of my body are damaged in the death up to eight times. After about the eighth time the body usually just grows into a giant tree. Eventually the tree dies, then we’re dead in a more permanent sense. But after a normal death, things are usually about the same- occasionally we might come back a slightly different gender, but that has yet to happen to me personally.

Janet: Yeah, so our brains don’t do that. We need like, the rest of our organs for our brains to function, which is admittedly inefficient. With humans, when we talk about past lives, it usually means like, there was this completely different human in the past who has the same like, soul I guess? And now we’re the newest “version” of that person, not that we remember anything from the past lives, but also like, populations expand exponentially so if there’s 10 million times more people now then who furnished all those past lives? Do some people have the same past lives? Are some people reincarnated and some not? How is this distributed? I have a lot of questions about the logistics.

Loaf: I see. This is not an uncommon spiritual belief actually. Several worlds have some form of it. Our letter-writer did not indicate on what world they originated. Their particular form of reincarnation does seem to be temporally locked, if we’re talking about going “back” generations. But whether its a physical process or a spiritual one is sort of an important thing for us to know if we’re going to answer the question.

Mr. Xorfus: Do you see how entertaining our hosts can be without even beginning to answer this letter? Isn’t this the kind of programming you would pay to support and to help pass the time during your only possibly-but-likely menial existence? A monthly “sustainer” membership of 102.6 currency units a month can keep your boredom at a level where you will barely notice it at all. As a thank you gift, we will send you a IFM2 hologram sticker that you can proudly display on your mobile phone.

Janet: It’s a great sticker! So shiny, so holographic. And yes! We have good banter but I guess we should answer this question to the best of our abilities, since I think we are being called out on our own show! I think our letter-writer should probably ask some other past lives experts and I think that is good advice.

Loaf: As I was saying earlier, this is a really hard question to answer without knowing the letter-writer’s species and how they normally perceive past lives.

Janet:  Yeah, and I mean, I honestly don’t get why this is a big deal? I talk to a lot other Janets and we all have so much existential anxiety, so I’m not really sure why the letter writer is only experiencing this now. It’s always seemed very constant to me, even between universes. I’m not sure why the letter writer can’t just contact their future lives and ask them about it? I’ve contacted my future selves before and like, I’ve never had a paradox that can clearly remember

Loaf: I just wish there was more to go on. My species doesn’t really carry trauma from past lives. Just culturally, you know. What’s that phrase? “New Me, New Me.”

Janet: Dying really isn’t traumatic for you?

Loaf: No, it’s a lot like waking up from a long hibernation cycle.

Janet: Huh. I guess you can really get used to anything.

Mr. Xorfus: Except living without great radio, am I right? That’s something you’ll never get used to. During any of your past, present, or future lives.

Janet: Oh, it would be horrible. Being left alone without pleasing sounds to distract you from the quiet, anxious mutterings of your own brain. Isn’t radio nice? Isn’t it so nice to have things to listen to constantly? Don’t give yourself time to think. Thinking only begets ideas, and sometimes ideas make you sad or have momentary ambition before you realize you don’t have the means to pursue what you really want in life. Don’t be like that. Listen to radio. Support IFM 2 Subspace Radio today.

Loaf: While you are supporting us, hopefully with your currency, let’s try and support our final letter-writer with some sound advice. This one also deals with the modern multiplicity of being.

Dear Problem Solvers,

I'm a junior security officer aboard an exploratory vessel patrolling the far reaches of space and time. I'm in a serious long-term relationship with one of the ship's science officers and things are going well. Or at least, they were.

A few months ago, I walked in on Crystal with another man. Only, it wasn't exactly another man. It was me from the future. It turns out there was some kind of temporal fracture, and different timelines were coming together all over the ship. Anyway, after we got it all sorted, Crystal admitted to having slept with many, many different past and future versions of me. She claims none of it was cheating because they were all me. I’m not really sure how to refute that? Technically I guess she’s right. But it still feels like cheating. Also, the ship was in mortal danger and this is what she chooses to do with her time? She’s a science officer!

Anyway, now things just don’t feel right. Am I overreacting here, or should I put my foot down?


Fed up in the far reaches

Loaf: Wow. This sounds… complicated. We don’t know much about some of the incidents you mention, but I think we have to acknowledge that most if not all the people she’s “cheated on” you with are actually just… you.

Janet: Yeah, so your past self and future self are just … versions of the same you? And also, don’t you remember when you, as your past self, slept with your current girlfriend? Like, that’s how past selves work in a time loop based causality system, which I’m assuming this was, based on your phrasing and the data you provided. If you and your selves consider it cheating, then didn’t your selves… knowingly cheat?

Loaf: Excellent point… I think. Actually, wait. If past and future self are cheating, isn’t everyone who has sex with the same partner more than once cheating on them..self?

Janet: The semantics here are exhausting! If it’s bothering you now, won’t your future self know that it made you feel bad and not do it? Are you into your own self destructive tendencies? Is that your thing? Do you tend to implode relationships in other areas of your life as well, or just the romantic ones?

Loaf: I think what’s making this complicated is while you were inhabiting the same time as the other versions of yourself they seemed to be distinct entities, but really all of the temporal duplicates were just you at different points in your life. Unless of course it’s not a closed time loop, in which case some of them may actually be duplicates. But either way they would be just as much “you” as you.

Mr. Xorfus: If you, dear listener, do have duplicates of yourself, it would mean so much to us if you could have all your duplicates support IFM 2 with a small donation of 36 currency units a year. Duplicates matching the pledges of their originator actually accounts for 33 percent of our income during every fiscal cycle.

Janet: Really? 33 percent of our income is from duplicates? How many people actually have duplicates? What constitutes a duplicate?

Mr. Xorfus: Oh. It actually says 0.33% is from beings that identify themselves as duplicates of other beings, which is one of the many extremely specific categories you can choose when you pick a demographic as you sign up to pledge your donation.

Janet: 33% and 0.33% are very different numbers! Also, identifying as a duplicate could mean a lot of things. I could identify as a duplicate if I considered myself a beta-Janet instead of an alpha-Janet, which I don’t, because I’m pretty sure I’m in an alpha timeline for a few reasons that I’ve extensively documented.

Mr. Xorfus: Your tendency to be pedantic is one of the lowest rated tendencies you have from our most recent listener survey, Janet. Is this really what you’d like to showcase during pledge drive week? Is this what your advertisers want to hear?

Janet: Ah, no, Mr. Xorfus. Sorry.

Loaf: Wait, I thought alpha and beta timelines were subjective terminology. How can someone consider themself a beta Janet?

Janet: Look, when you all pool together to map all of your collective timelines, you figure out who’s important and who’s not. Sometimes you wake up and realize you’re just Tomato Gardener Janet, not Intergalactic Revolutionary Janet. You realize you were one choice away from being actually cool, and instead you’re contemplating your latest caterpillar infestation. I’m like, somewhere in the middle of that spectrum, so definitely on the alpha side.

Loaf: Maybe this is why it was so important for Crystal to sleep with the alternate versions of our letter-writer! If she considers him to be a beta-version of herself and she wants to be with the alpha version of him, but she still wants to be with him?

Janet: I guess it really just depends on how long the temporal fractures had been occurring. If it was only a few days, I think it would be hard to determine a beta-version from an alpha-version. I think it’s much more likely that she has a very specific fetish for wurpling multiple versions of the same person.

Loaf: That does make a lot of sense. Some people are inherently polyamorous, and some people are inherently monogamous, but I can certainly imagine a person who wanted multiple partners but wanted them all to be the same partner. I wonder if she slept with more than one version of him at once?

Janet: That would be weird, but obviously not outside the realm of possibility, since this particular possibility did happen. Or, well, could have happened? He should probably just talk to her about how he’s been feeling like, uncomfortable or undesired blah blah blah. I mean, honestly, I would be super flattered if my girlfriend only ever wanted to cheat on me with other versions of me. That’s like, so sweet. Unless it’s my evil duplicate. Ugh, she’s so annoying I hat ehr. She’s always sabotaging my time travel equipment and saying what I’m doing is wrong or whatever. It’s super rude.

Mr. Xorfus: Another thing that would be “super rude” would be listening to a radio station without supporting that station financially. If another version of myself were doing that, I’d certainly write them a strongly-worded letter. If you call in the next ten microseconds, you’ll receive a free IFM 2 magnet for the jet repulsor of your EVO suit. Or your refrigerator. It’s a magnet. It doesn’t care where you put it.

Loaf: But we do care where you put your currency units. Here. Give them to us.

Janet: That was almost a convincing impression of capitalism Loaf! Color me impressed.

Loaf: What color is “impressed”?

Janet: It’s - it’s just a phrase. Look, you know what impressed means and what a metaphor is. I think you can connect the dots. Come on. I’m not doing this today. Let’s just end the episode. Letter-writer, and anyone else thinking of writing in, you should probably just talk to them about your feelings and attempt to reach a reasonable compromise via clear communication. The end.

Loaf: This does seem to be a solution to most problems. And with that, we close our episode, gentle listeners. We would like to thank Krechmalach Xorfus for being on the show today.

Janet: Yes, thank you Krech.. Thank you Mr. Xorfus.

Mr. Xorfus: You’re welcome. You know what else would be welcome? Currency units from you, our listeners. Don’t forget to donate.

Loaf: May you also be the alpha timeline in a universe of infinite possibilities.

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. Season two was written by Austin, Nathan and Michael. Our theme is by Thomas Dwyer. The voice of Mr. Xorfus is Ron Prudent. This episode’s letters were read by Lihi Zaks, Annie Moriando, and Zach Gellar. There’s more information about us at stppodcast.com, where you can find full transcripts of each episode and links to support us through PayPal and/or RadioPublic. You can also rate and review us on Apple Podcasts or tag us on social media - our handle is stp_podcast. We’ll be back again in two weeks with more Solutions to Problems.

Mr. Xorfus: So, what are you guys planning to do with your pledge drive bonuses? By you guys, I mean Loaf, clearly.

Janet: Are you sure I don’t-

Mr. Xorfus: Yes.

Loaf: I am thinking about orbital skydiving on Pavrada IV. I hear the views are breathtaking, and also, life-takingly, spectacular.   

Janet: That sounds, uh, kind of dangerous.

Loaf: Why not, you only live eight times. YOLET.