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Act Three: Ashes

How writer (and frequent This American Life contributor) David Sedaris and his family reacted when Sedaris's mother—a lifelong, unrepentant smoker—developed lung cancer. After a lifetime of barbed, funny remarks, no one in the family is prepared to talk about their feelings.

Act Two: What We Talk About When We Talk About The Issues

The 2000 election season was strange in that many of the issues that the candidates debated most heatedly were ones that most of us have no handle on—prescription drug policy, social security solvency...and educational accountability. Producer Alex Blumberg travels to North Carolina, a state where many of the promises both candidates make regarding education are already in place.

Act Three: You Don't Have To Be An Einstein

After he died, Albert Einstein became a figure of international kitsch: Appearing in computer and Pepsi ads, showing up a comic character in movies with Meg Ryan, and until very recently his brain was on the loose without his family's consent...in the unauthorized possession of the doctor who did the autopsy, a man named Thomas Harvey. Mike Paterniti took a cross-country roadtrip with Dr Harvey and the brain.

Prologue

Host Ira Glass talks with people who've been hit by lightning. They describe what happened at the moment the bolt struck ... and how they came to view it later.

Act One: I Used To Bank Here But That Was Long, Long Ago

David Rakoff goes in search of the only existing mementos of a year-and-a-half of his life when he nearly died from Hodgkins Disease. The missing relics are his own pre-chemotherapized sperm — which reside somewhere in a Toronto lab.

Prologue

Host Ira Glass talks with Robert Lipsyte, author of In the Country of Illness, who tells a story of how one lady in New York won the hospital staff over to her side with one conversation.

Act One: Is That Your Final Answer?

When Terry Shine's father was in the hospital, Terry and his brothers spent weeks trying to do whatever they could to help. But first they had to learn the language and customs of the average American hospital.

Act Three: Fire And Ice Cream

When a nurse asks a 14-year-old burn victim out for ice cream, is it a date? Brent Runyon tells the story, which was produced by Jay Allison, part of his Life Stories series, with help from Christina Egloff and funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. The story is part of Runyon's book The Burn Journals. Ira then speaks with an interested party.

Act Two: The Other Nursing Staff

No radio program about caregivers in a hospital would be complete without a few words about the caregiver that is the most omnipresent...in every room, in the waiting rooms, at the nurses' stations. It's television.

Act One: Sleepless In Seattle

What if you asked people for advice and actually took all the advice that everyone gave you? As an experiment, writer Sarah Vowell tried exactly that, when she recently solicited advice from many different people about insomnia.

Prologue

When Brigid starting going blind, she tried to hire someone to drive her around. Only problem was, the guy she hired wanted to carry her groceries, hold her arm as she walked to the curb...he tried to help her in too many ways.