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The Whippet #84: "To leave hurriedly and secretly"

McKinley Valentine — 8 min read

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I have a cold so as always I am on my crusade about not coming into work when you're sick. The train in is always full of coughing and sneezing people who should be at home. IT IS INCREDIBLY RUDE TO KNOWINGLY PASS ON A DISEASE.

Today I am expanding on Point 4 of my 7-point rant from ... jesus, September 2017 ().

A normal encounter:

Person 1: "I think I'm coming down with something, I've been feeling crook all morning"
Person 2: "Don't worry, if it's the same cold I had, it's not a bad one."

This is not how colds work! Unpleasant cold symptoms (runny nose, inflammation, sneezing, fatigue, feeling miserable etc) are not the virus itself, it's your immune system's response, diverting all your energy to virus-fighting, flushing out your respiratory tract, etc. For this reason, taking things that boost your immune system

And so: if you catch a cold and you only have light sniffles, that doesn't mean the cold virus was less severe, it means you had a mild immune response. Obviously there's correlation - a really bad virus triggers a more intense immune response - but it's also just really specific to the individual. Look at hayfever/cat fur allergies for example. It's worse if there's more fur/pollen, but some people also just have a much stronger immune response.

So a cold that was really mild for you can still knock someone else for six. And if they already have a respiratory condition - COPD or bad asthma, say - you can seriously mess them up.

(Incidentally you have different types of T Cells (immune response helper cells) for different kinds of threats. The cells that respond to bacterial and viral threats are different to the cells that respond to threats from parasites. When you have an autoimmune disorder (celiac disease, for example), asthma, hayfever, etc, it's the parasite immune cells that are overreacting. So being allergic to stuff doesn't mean you're any better at fighting off viruses.)

I would like to end this with a shout-out to my co-worker, who came in to work sick and put the best ever "I'm sick" message on the work Slack channel. This is the right attitude to have if you come in sick. Even with my crusading it had never occurred to me to frame it this way. It's incredibly bold and I love it.

(work details redacted)

P.S I know lots of people don't choose to come into work sick - they have to because their bosses make them, or they live in a country without paid sick leave. If your boss forces you to come into work sick and you infect someone else, your boss should be charged with assault, because they're responsible.

This is how big a Harpy Eagle's foot is

Fact: harpy eagles are an extremely good bird (the link is just a google images search but what more do you want?)

River-crossing puzzle subversion

by Roxy Drew.

(If this doesn't make any sense, this is the puzzle the joke is based on. It's not really Lewis Carroll's puzzle though, it goes back at least as far as the ninth century, according to Wikipedia.)

There are still a few spaces left in my Newsletters Workshop

This Sunday! At the Wheeler Centre in Melbourne, next to the State Library.

You will learn:

  • How to find your newsletter’s voice and tone (which will probably be totally different from mine, that's fine!)
  • How to establish a writing/publishing schedule that is sustainable for you
  • How to maintain a fresh supply of ideas and content
  • How to choose from the free newsletter software options and set up your template
  • Everything that's on these index cards

You'll also get to hang out and chat with a bunch of other people who are thinking and creating and trying to figure out how to make this work for them, which is one of the best things about workshops.

More info and tickets here! Join meeeeeeeeee.

Everyone wants to be this racoon

by probably my favourite internet writer, Rosa Lyster.

"How many times in a day does the strong urge to bail come over you? Ten? A million? To scoot under the guard rail of your responsibilities and just LEAVE. A hundred times? All the time? You can’t do it anymore, really. Firstly, there is nowhere left to bail to. The darkness is closing in on all sides, there are no more ice floes left to float on, the branches of the trees crumble as we try to hold onto them, etc.

But. BUT. Say you could bail, still. You know what you would look like when you did it? You would look like this raccoon.

This raccoon is a verb, and that verb is “to abscond.” I love him so much I once by mistake attached him to an email instead of an invoice. I like to think that my editor understood, that she received it as the gift that it is. I hope that you will receive it in the same spirit."

Read the whole thing, it's wonderful.

I also absolutely love this piece by her: "Listen up bitches, it’s time to learn incorrect things about someone you’ve never heard of" but it will probably only be enjoyable if you're familiar with a very specific type of online discourse.

Lightning-struck tree

Click the image or here to see more angles.

What it was like to live through the AIDS crisis in the 80s

One of the things I am trying to do with this newsletter, is understand more about the world, and learn all the things I can't learn just from using my own eyes, and generally get as much human-ing in as I can in the lifespan allotted to me. I was only a kid in the 80s, but I remember that HIV was a death sentence. It's an absolute marvel and wonder that it no longer is, it is a good thing beyond belief.

Read Stephen Guy-Bray's memories below. They have both a huge amount of sadness and a huge amount of warmth. I think some of it will also feel familiar to people experiencing climate grief now.
(Please note: about halfway down there are some ugly slurs that were used against the writer. I decided not to delete that bit because it's not my story to edit.)

This was originally a twitter thread.

"My parents lived in New York City then and I spent a lot of time there so I had had some experience of AIDS earlier than most of the Canadians I knew. It took a while to get to Toronto, but always gaining speed. At first scattered reports and then what seemed like everyone dying.

There was so much panic and fear, and so many weird theories, in the press and by word of mouth, about what caused AIDS and what cured it. So many people believed crazy things.

I remember early on discussing it with one of my best friends. He said we didn't have to worry because it wouldn't get to "people like us." I was stunned by this and asked what he meant. He said "boys from good families."

I was going to tell him the many ways in which this statement was stupid and indefensible but then I looked at him and realized that he, like me, was a young man who thought he probably had only a couple of years left and he was very scared, as was I, so I decided to be nice.

I'm glad I was. His brother was also gay (we'd had a stormy affair a couple of years earlier) and within the year he was dead and buried. By then a lot of people I knew had died, but this was the first time someone I had been in love with had died.

Mourning is difficult. I was no fool, so of course I knew that it's terrible when people you love die. And it is terrible. It was worse than I thought. But it turns out that it's also terrible when people you don't know that well die. So much of my social world gone so fast.

Many were people I had worked with, friends of friends, or just people I regularly saw at bars and parties. We didn't know each other's last names and had never exchanged phone numbers, but I missed them when they had died.

I decided not to focus on names in this thread because it would take too long, but I want to mention Russell, just because he was the first I knew to die. He was a sweet boy from a small town who came to Toronto to live his big gay life. He had a good year.

We had all grown up in a very homophobic atmosphere, but in the late seventies it really looked as if things were changing and that it would be possible to have a good life as a gay adult. And then AIDS.

I noted with great bitterness that the homophobia of the guys who shouted faggot at me segued effortlessly into AIDS jokes. Do you know what AIDS stands for? Adios Infected Dick Sucker. They loved that joke.

Culturally, the trope that you can only have gay characters if they die gained new undead life with AIDS and led to much mawkishness. If you want to read a good book that shows what things were like read Allen Barnett's The body and its dangers. He died of AIDS too.

As we lived through those years -- those of us who did -- we still had largely normal lives, or at least what we thought of as normal. We were young and we were determined to have fun and to live as if our lives could mean something.

Sometimes I discussed it with other friends in grad school. We wondered why we had started degrees we wouldn't live to finish. We went on anyway and some of us did live to finish those degrees.

I have often wondered what got me through those years. I think it was a distinctly queer combination of toughness and frivolity. It perhaps made me too tough, so sorry, friends. Young Stephen was soft and that's a great quality in a man.

I see young gay men now who are very soft and I think it's so beautiful, but it wasn't an option for me, or so I felt.

I'm happy with the frivolity. A number of people over the years have taken the time to tell me that I'm too frivolous but you know fuck them. I think I earned the right to be frivolous and you can have my frivolity when you pry it from my cold but expensively manicured fingers."

Stephen's twitter thread again.

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