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The Whippet #145: Another day in the art mines

McKinley Valentine — 10 min read

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Hey so here is a neat thing that's happening: co-reading Bram Stoker's Dracula!

Dracula is an epistolary novel, meaning it's made up of letters back and forth between the characters. The letters are dated, so you can follow along in 'real time', except a century and a half later.

Dracula Daily is going to send out each of the letters that make up the book on the correct dates, and I'm keen cause it's a book I have been vaguely meaning to read for years, and I miss communal media consumption experiences. It starts May 3.

(I am not the person behind Dracula Daily, I just think it's a neat idea.)



Dracula Daily | DraculaDaily | Substack
Get the classic novel Dracula, emailed to you in real time as it happens. Click to read Dracula Daily, by DraculaDaily, a Substack publication with tens of thousands of readers.

Note for new subscribers

These emails are long. If you click VIEW ONLINE → at the top, you'll be taken to the web version, which has a clickable table of contents – more useful if you read it over multiple sessions, or want to link someone to a specific section.

who probably have ADHD or feel like they might

The last section of The Whippet (this newsletter) is always Unsolicited Advice, some of which is EQ/interpersonal, some of which is productivity-ish stuff, and some is misc. I post those as separate articles on the website. I certainly don't recommend exhaustively reading the back catalogue, but you might scroll and find something relevant to you:

Unsolicited Advice | The Whippet | McKinley Valentine
Why wait for readers to ask questions before suggesting solutions? An advice column that cuts out the middleman.

Or for just the productivity-ish stuff, click here: Be More Functional.

Do you know why camels have humps? I mean the second reason why?

It seems obvious but I didn't actually know until two days ago!

So obviously it's a stored energy source to live off in an inhospitable environment, we all know that.

But they have humps because if they just stored the fat all around their body the way other animals with seasonally variable food supplies do, they'd overheat. They gotta stack it up on top of their backs.

When bears come out of hibernation, they're really skinny because they've used up all their stored fat. When camels have used up their stored fat, their humps go floppy, it's pretty undignified:

a bactrian camel with its humps flopping over
Bactrian camel running loose at the Olgii Eagle Festival, Western Mongolia.

Photo is by Terry Allen – more of her photography here. She has prints available.

Another desert animal that has to store its fat away from the core of its body is a type of domesticated sheep, called the 'fat-tailed sheep' because biologists are cowards.

sheep with fat... tail regions

25% of the world's sheep population are fat-tailed sheep! They're found in northern Africa, the Middle East, India, Bangladesh, Western China, Somalia, and Central Asia.

Because they evolved in hot climates, their wool is garbage, and many breeds actually have hair instead of wool. You want to get your wool-animals from really cold places, like Nepal, or the Boomerang Nebula.*

* I won't make you click, it's the coldest place in the known universe. This explanation of how it can be colder than space itself is interesting, though.

Chicken fan art

Drawing by @charlubby, who also does comics about mental health and anxiety and pigeons.


"Wraithed for like an entire hour today. Wraithing is what I call it when I'm in my apartment like, aimlessly walking around and picking things up and putting them down, sighing a lot, like a listless ghost."

Catherine Andrews* in The Sunday Soother, a wellness-y newsletter

* Victorians: not that Catherine Andrews

Manuka honey works on antibiotic-resistant infections (!!!)

(That's honey where the bees have been eating pollen from the manuka plant, native to Aus & New Zealand.)

This is super-exciting because antibiotic-resistant bacteria, especially golden staph (MRSA), is terrifying, sorry to add to your looming dread about the future.

It would be exciting enough if manuka honey was another novel (well, very old) antibiotic to burn through, but it goes much further than that: superbugs may never become resistant to it.

Scientists couldn't get a variety of antibiotic-resistant bacteria to develop honey resistance in a controlled lab setting – something they can do easily with other antibiotics. (Source: European Journal of Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases)

'Natural' isn't automatically better, but if you disregard all natural remedies because of the quacks, you're being equally unscientific.

A few caveats: it works extremely well as a wound dressing, but it doesn't survive digestion, so it's no good for internal/systemic infections. And, it has to be medical grade manuka honey (which you can buy in pharmacies). You can also get manuka-infused bandaids.

Regular honey also works decently as a wound dressing, because it's a humectant (draws water into it - that's why you see it in DIY skincare) so it draws dead/infected cells out of wounds. It also creates hydrogen peroxide when it reacts with water (that's why teens use it to bleach their hair when their parents won't let them dye their hair). And, it seals the wound and keeps it moist. Good post-apocalyptic tip for you there.

However, it doesn't treat colds or allergies or cancer or any of the other things people tend to ascribe to a natural remedy once they get hold of it.

Solid rundown here:

Science or Snake Oil: is manuka honey really a ‘superfood’ for treating colds, allergies and infections?
Manuka honey has a lot of evidence-based benefits, and a lot of rubbish claims too.

P.S. If you're not familiar with The Conversation, they're a good news source. They're a not-for-profit site that translate research (humanities as well as science) into readable and topical articles. They have a bunch of different international editions.

Only writers with relevant PhDs are allowed to publish in it, and they're partnered with journalists to make the language accessible. Qualifications and conflicts of interests are posted with every piece. Of course a relevant PhD is no guarantee of good takes, but there's worse places to start.

Photographer died protecting his film during the 1980 Mount St. Helens eruption

Robert Landsburg was an American photographer who died photographing the eruption of Mt. St. Helens.

On the morning of May 18, he was within a few miles of the summit. When the mountain erupted, Landsburg took photos of the rapidly approaching ash cloud. Before he was engulfed by the pyroclastic flow, he rewound the film back into its case, put his camera in his backpack, and then laid himself on top of the backpack in an attempt to protect its contents.

His body was found 17 days later, buried in the ash with his backpack underneath. The film was developed and has provided geologists with valuable documentation of the historic eruption. (Wikipedia)

I find this story so touching. Not because he was doing anything especially heroic that a person needed to die for – in fact, it's because the good he did by preserving the film was relatively small.

A layman's definition of nihilism is "we're all going to die anyway, so what's the point in anything", and that's with a whole lifespan and world to act within. He had a few minutes left to live and maybe a hundred metres of road to act in, with no opportunities for grand heroism, and he still felt there was something he could do that had a point to it.

A different "you're way too close" photo of Mount St. Helens

towering clouds of ash at Mount St Helens

This was taken by Richard Lasher, who had to abandon his car and motorbike. A helicopter landed in front of him and airlifted him directly to jail. (It's illegal to knowingly wander into the paths of natural disasters, forcing emergency crew to divert resources to rescuing you. Amazing photo though.)

Source & story

The art mine at Pompeii

Someone asked in r/AskHistorians

– the best place on reddit, because it's heavily moderated: they delete any reply that's not lengthy and well-informed –

what happened after Pompeii. Like, yes, explosion, everyone insta-fossilised, town covered in ash. But... then what? Did people go back? Look for survivors? Just leave it there?

The full answer is very interesting, but one bit in particular stuck out to me - the historian describes 18th century Italian aristocracy using it as an 'art mine'.

Pompeii was covered in ash up to the rooftops, but you could see enough building tops poking out that you could roughly figure out where stuff was – in particular, where the temples and palaces were.

For the centuries after Pompeii was destroyed, people went down into the ash to get building materials – all the marble and everything was still there and well preserved. And in the 18th Century...

The Bourbon kings of Naples essentially used Herculaneum and Pompeii as a way of furnishing their palaces (specifically the country villa built along the Golden Mile in what is now downtown Ercolano) with ancient art – frescoes, statues, metal objects, etc. If you go to either site and see square or rectangular cuts in plastered walls, that is where frescoes were removed in the 18th century and installed in the villas of the royal family and their retainers.

Unsolicited Advice: try an oversized keyring bracelet

So I don't know how common this is, but in Australia, a lot of cafes are built in old terrace houses, and the toilet is not 100% on premises, it's like, out the back and in the alley or something. The cafe can't leave it unlocked, so when you need the toilet, the waiter gives you a key with a keyring so big that you cannot possibly accidentally put it in your pocket and forget and walk out with it. Like it'll be attached to a table tennis paddle or something.

I have always thought: I should get a huge fuck-off keyring that I cannot possibly forget about.

wrist with bangle keyring
How did I scratch my hand? I have no idea. Only seeing this now.

My keyring is not quite that big, but it is very hard to lose, and very easy to grab quickly when I'm fishing around in my bag. The hoop is usually sticking out among my stuff and I can just grab it, including from behind my back when I'm wearing a backpack. I spend so much less time scrabbling for my keys, which I especially appreciate late at night out the front of my apartment building, a time I occasionally get the heebie-jeebies.

The second good thing is: hands free! I can carry garbage down to the bin room and have my hands full, but my keys still accessible. Or pick up bulky parcels. Etc.

(Maybe this solution is not relevant to people whose clothing usually has pockets)

I'm only recommending things here if I've been using them for a while and found them consistently life-improving. So: recommended. They're available in the usual places, google "keyring bracelet".

They come with tassels and coinpouches and nonsense attached but you can take that stuff off.

They also come in more subdued colours by the way, I just have the style sense of a 5-year-old, a thing I learned when my 5-year-old niece came over and was immediately tractor-beamed by my gem cushions and other such classy decor.

Comedy bit about Melbourne cafe bathrooms

re: the keyring thing, comedian Jack Druce has a bit about Melbourne cafe bathrooms, which the tourism board will presumably arrest him for one day.

Something I’ve noticed: Melbourne has lots of extremely nice cafes. Cafes where thought has gone in to every detail, the food, the layout, the cutlery, the art on the wall, everything is clean, beautiful and deliberate. The same goes for the bathrooms, IF the bathrooms are in the same physical building as the cafe.

If it’s a situation where you have to go outside and around a corner to get to the bathroom, the rules instantly go out the fucking window. You ask how to get to the toilet, and the the waitress hands you a ring of five rusty old fashion keys that belong on a haunted ship, and says

“Ok to get to the toilet, you have to walk past six stinking bins, turn left at the dead dog, then that’s the door to the bathroom, there will be a man there, he’ll tell you that you can’t go in, don’t listen to him! Push him over if you have to, once you're in, it might be a bit of wait because we share the one toilet with a Judo school and three hospitals. Once you get to the bathroom ignore the bathtub full of trash. there will be some graffiti on the wall it’s written in blood and it says ‘Big John will kill again.’ Don’t worry about that because Big John actually died in that bathroom earlier today… so there’s nothing to worry about.”

You take the key, go have the worst experience of your life, then walk back to a perfect cafe and finish your burrito like nothing happened.

from Jack Druce's newsletter, which I cannot recommend strongly enough.

It's exaggerated for comic effect obviously, but do tell me if this is a Thing outside Australia. (Or any volcano, camel, or honey anecdotes you might have, I'm not picky.)

Thanks for reading!

If you're enjoying it, please consider becoming a paying subscriber. It will always be free for you to read either way, but it makes it sustainable for me to keep doing. (In another dimension, there is a McKinley who keeps time costs down by sticking to the point and never going on tangents. I do not like her.)‌‌‌‌


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