Avian

Alistair, 

I am a duck and have just achieved a human level of sentience thanks to some scientists playing around with my brain. I cannot vocalize with discernible human speech because I am a duck but, as you can see, I type reasonably well. Any advice on integrating into the human culture? 

Feeling Painfully Avian in NYC’s Central Park 


Avian, 

First, you will need a name; Let’s call you Adrian. You have two main problems: Feathers and wing structure make sign language difficult, and you are a duck. You’ll want to start by obtaining a library card. Head to the local library, steal a form, and try to stand in such a way that the Librarian believes they are addressing a person. If it’s automated, so much the better. This will give you access to the computers. You’ll want to apply for a credit card, shipping it to a nearby address where you can nick the envelope. While you wait for delivery, sign up for Reddit, Twitter (you’ll probably be unbelievably popular), and Facebook. Use the credit card to get a Netflix and Amazon Prime account. You are now fully integrated. 

Alistair

Betting

Alistair,

Down at the office, we’ve had a betting pool for a while. Just four of us – myself, two co-workers and the boss. Jerry is a werewolf, and we bet on who his next victim will be. A new guy just showed up and said that this pastime of ours is “horrible” and “psychopathic.” We don’t want to be rude, but can you give an official answer on how much a new recruit can dictate office culture? 

Betting the Farm in Sugarland, TX 


Betting, 

A new recruit, while by no means in a position to call shots against the will of the majority, can still have a marginal impact on office culture. For instance, he could affect your betting pool by becoming Jerry’s next victim. 

Alistair

Open Book

Alistair, 

My boyfriend can read minds. Or that’s what it seems like, anyway. He always knows exactly what to do, knows just what to say, can predict how people are going to react, and got a raise. Thing is, before two weeks ago, he was kind of a well-meaning bumbler. I think that he just got the ability between then and now. How do I see if that’s what’s going on, and how should I react if I’m right? 

Open Book in OK 


Open Book, 

Testing people for mind-reading abilities is very easy. Simply sit there and look discontent. Eager to please you, he will start reading your mind and the message he receives will be: “I really wish my boyfriend would wear a fez. That would be SO sexy.” If he can read minds, he’ll be wearing a fez within a week. If not, then not. How you deal with the reality of a mind-reading boyfriend is up to you. A downside is that there will be significantly more honesty potential in your relationship than in most others. 

Alistair

Lost

Alistair, 

I’m stuck in a prison. At least, that’s what I think it is. It’s a locked white box. Once I force the door, I end up in a bigger white box. If I force that door, I end up in any one of a number of places, including a rainforest, a mountain, a frozen tundra, and an empty  battleship in the middle of the ocean. When I fall asleep, I wake up the next day back in the first box. All I have is my clothes and my cellphone, which I’m using to write this. Alistair, I need help. 

Lost in a Box 


Lost, 

It was always going to come to this. Video game designers have finally discovered the ultimate way to improve the competence of AI characters in their games. Somehow they have integrated your living consciousness into a video game. Those white boxes are incomplete menu areas that will be used by teenagers to navigate the video game. The random environments that you find yourself in (rainforest, mountain, tundra, battleship) are maps that will soon be populated by men wielding a wide assortment of weaponry. You will eventually be given a gun and it will be up to you to defend yourself or die in the attempt. Congratulations; you are now living the gamer’s dream! My condolences; you can never, ever escape. 

Alistair

Silhouette

Alistair, 

My shadow seems to have detached itself. I find it wandering around assaulting other people’s shadows. It’s getting embarrassing, and it doesn’t listen to me. Am I being demanding, or should I allow it to do its own thing? 

Silhouette in Juno 


Silhouette,

It’s been a while since I’ve had a question on this subject but if I remember right, the correct means of reattaching shadows is by sewing them on. Get somebody you know who’s good with a needle and thread, grab your shadow and let him/her reattach the cheeky fellow. It’s a delicate procedure, so some medical training is a plus.

Alistair

Staticy

Alistair, 

I just got a new TV off of Craigslist. It works pretty well, but it keeps switching itself  to a weird version of the Weather Channel. It’s always reporting natural disasters happening all over the place, even when there aren’t actually any happening. If I turn it off, it flicks itself on in the middle of the night and starts showing hurricanes and earthquakes.  The repairman can’t figure it out. Any tips? 

Staticy in Fort Worth 


Staticy, 

You know when something terrible happens and you get a call from a close friend or family member who says: “Yo Staticy! Turn on your TV right now! Just do it!” and then it turns out that something catastrophic is happening like a war is starting or they just euthanized Hsing-Hsing the Panda? It’s important to note that all over the world, within the space of an hour, every single television and radio is focused on this one, single event. This tradition will presumably carry on into the future and the combined worldwide concentration of energy is sending a TV signal back through time that your set is receiving. To prove or disprove this theory, keep a strict record of all the apparently fictional disasters you see reported on this TV. Then see if any of them come true in the future. If and when they do, try to find a pattern so that you can accurately predict calamities. Then become a superhero. 

Alistair

Walking

Alistair, 

I’ve taken the bus to work for the past ten years. Lately, though, it’s all been going screwy. The regular bus is gone and the only one to come around is “Number 616,” no  matter what stop I get on at. The driver hasn’t got any eyes (not blindfolded or anything. Just black circles) and the passengers all look ghostly. Obviously I’ve been walking – and getting into work late. 

Last week, my friend got hit by a car. Two days later, I met him at my bus stop reading a  newspaper. When 616 showed up, he put his newspaper under his arm and asked if I was coming. I pointed out that that was a terrible idea. He didn’t think so and boarded the bus. I got to work late again. 

I’m a little worried about my friend. Would I be a worrywart or annoying to call and see how he’s doing? 

Walking in Wichita 


Walking, 

Your friend is dead. So… You could call, I guess, but only in a tragic, it’s-therapeutic-to-say-goodbye-even-if-you-know-he’s-gone kind of way. Up to you.

On the plus side, chances are good that the only reason Bus 616 was disrupting your commute was that it was waiting for your friend. Now that he’s finally boarded, your regular bus should be back. So there’s no need to buy a bicycle. Yay?

Alistair

Generous

Alistair, 

I just received an email from – wait for it – a deposed Nigerian prince. How amazing is that? He actually got my email and is offering me a chance to help fund his return to power! How much do you think is too much to give? 

Feeling Generous in Minnesota  


Generous, 

Trick question. More money now is more power later. Do the math and ask yourself: How much power is too much? 

Alistair

Stumped

Alistair, 

What does ADGILKESS stand for? 

Stumped in NYC, NY 


Stumped, 

Though used in English, the letters don’t stand for English words, as with RSVP. Roughly translated, it means that the party loves you, but cannot pursue this love as (feminine syntax here) her father still demands the money you owe him, although he’d consider giving approval if you pay up before Ivan visits tomorrow evening. Russians aren’t noted for romance, wrongly so. 

Alistair

Herding

Alistair, 

I’ve been wondering my whole life… is this all a dream? 

Herding Dragons in Candyland


Herding, 

If so, for the love of whatever it is you love, don’t wake up. You’ve constructed a world of unparalleled depth and detail, full of various beings who have genuine desires to continue existing.

That said, it’s profoundly unlikely that you are the mind at the center of reality. Not only is simulating the entire universe a feat only certain mad gods could pull off, the odds are simply against it.

Alistair