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The Whippet #14: Not a single bolt remains

McKinley Valentine — 9 min read

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My dear scampering fennec foxes,

I recently realised that I don’t like Good Listeners. You know, the kind who, after they die, their friends and colleagues say “he made you feel like you were the only person in the room”?

I absolutely do not enjoy feeling that intensity of attention and expectation. Most of what I say does not matter that much. It’s just what’s on my mind. When someone does that intense, focused listening thing at you, suddenly you feel like you better say something worth the amount of attention they’re devoting to it. It’s a lot of pressure, and it makes me self-conscious and awkward. You finish a sentence, and instead of bounding in with their own thoughts, they wait, to see if you have more to say. I ALSO HATE THIS. I feel like I have to keep talking and talking, like nothing I say is enough for them. The Good Listener’s pause is an unspoken “Mm, and...?”

I always want to say “Do you… have any response to that? To what I just said?” which of course you can’t because it’s toxic.

Of course I do actually like to be listened to. I like people to respond in ways that are relevant to what I actually said. Ideally I like them to cut off the last word or two of what I’m saying, because they’re interested and excited about it and have thoughts (I am so used to this that I often just don’t say the last couple of words of sentences, because they seem so obvious and predictable as to be unnecessary. This habit is really jarring with Good Listeners, because they don’t cut off the last couple of words, and I have to desperately search for them.)

The exception is if I’ve begun the conversation with “I need to tell you about something” or “Can we talk?” Of course then you want some undivided solemn attention.

But Good Listeners give all your conversations the weight of a We Need To Talk talk! That is TOO MUCH WEIGHT for “I just found out that squids have a donut-shaped brain”!

I haven’t put this in the Unsolicited Advice section because I don’t think it’s universal. I think it’s more of a “there’s two kinds of people” thing. But usually, you’re one of the kinds of people, and you have no idea there’s another kind, and finding out clarifies some of your past interactions. In this case, Good Listening of the quiet, expectant, eye-contact sort is given as the best way to listen, the How To Win Friends and Influence People way, so it’s useful to know it really only works for a subset of people, and it makes the other subset uncomfortable and a bit stressed.

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of the device while it is being worn by a long eared dog.

The thieves who steal sunken warships, right down to the bolts

"What these divers should have found was a 6,440-ton cruiser, complete with tower, turrets, and catapult—a ship long and large enough to launch a seaplane. Instead, they found only the impression of a hull on an empty seafloor."

"Sunken warships remain the property of their country of origin regardless of where they are found. Laws regarding their stewardship vary a little from nation to nation, but in general, the ships—and everything on or in them—belong to that country’s navy." While illegal salvaging of ship parts is common, someone is stealing entire ships, and no one knows how.

"A single brass steering station can go for $5,000 or more on the internet. The thousands of pounds of bronze used to make a warship’s propeller can earn about $500,000 in the scrap market. Factor in the fact that a single ship might have two or more propellers, and you’re talking about a significant amount of cash."

"There’s a ton more money to be had if you find ships built before the dawn of nuclear testing. Steel is made by melting iron at super-high temperatures and infusing it with carbon. To make sure those carbon levels don’t get too high, steelmakers blow oxygen into the mix, along with ambient atmospheric particulates. That includes radiation. Natural elements like radon create low-level natural radioactivity. We increased those levels exponentially when countries like the United States and Russia began nuclear testing in the mid-1940s. France, England, and China jumped on the bomb bandwagon a few years later. And with each detonation, radioactivity levels in our atmosphere increased. That meant each time steelmakers were blowing oxygen into new steel, they were also blowing nuclear particulates into it."

"That’s not true for the steel used to fabricate pre-1942 vessels, which is virtually radiation-free."

"For the most part, this kind of theft tends to be a low-tech job. Salvagers pose as fishermen aboard ramshackle boats anchored at the site, and then dive the wrecks for particular parts. Sometimes, they’re audacious enough to arrive with a barge and crane and bring up heavier pieces. They make off with valuable parts first, like those made of brass and copper. But even as salvagers move on to less valuable things like aluminum shafts, they’ll leave plenty of debris in their wake—fasteners, broken metal plating, and of course, the hulls of the ships themselves."

"That’s a huge part of what is so mysterious about these Java sea wrecks: Not a single bolt remains."

"[Experts] postulate that the thieves would have needed a large barge with a massive crane attached to either an industrial magnet or, more likely, a big claw kind of like the one used to grab stuffed animals in a cheap bowling-alley arcade game. Just how big a magnet or claw? Neither Chatterton or Denlay could guess. But they agree that even the biggest known ones couldn’t come close to pulling up a whole ship. Probably, then, the salvagers would have either placed explosives around the wrecks or used a multiton wrecking ball, just like one you might see tearing down an inner-city building.

"Either technique would have taken a lot of time and created a lot of detritus. Denlay says he can’t figure out why no one reported such a massive undertaking. Or why there appears to be nothing left on the ocean floor."

Long read, with a lot of interesting factors in play

Speaking of radiation, I just found out...

Most people who die as a result of acute radiation exposure die from infections, just regular ol' infections. (That is, who die within a few weeks, not instantly.)

The damage done is to their ability to produce white blood cells (and red as well) and so their immune system just can't function at the minimal level you take for granted. The treatment for acute radiation exposure is antibiotics and a bone marrow transplant. (Bone marrow being what produces white blood cells).

Poison Boots

"ca. 1855. Victorian boots dyed with arsenic, to produce a synthetic lavender hue widely popular at the time. Despite being upwards of 160 years old -- the boots still test positive for arsenic."

From the Facebook page Ducking History, which has a focus on everyday items like dresses, toothbrushes, etc. A recommended follow.

Naked molerats are amazing but I hate them

No photo because I hate them

  1. The only cold-blooded mammal
  2. Can't feel pain. Literally do not have the receptors for it.
  3. They are extremely long-lived (30 years, but remember they're small rodents) and they stay young right up until they die, they don't sort of generally break down the way everyone else does.
  4. Almost wholly immune to cancer. "Their cells secrete a kind of sugar, which prevents cancerous cells from multiplying and overcrowding."
  5. Immune to not having any oxygen. They live underground in mass bundles, where there's no fresh air, so they've evolved a bunch of ways of doing this.
    a) "the haemoglobin in their blood is very sticky for oxygen, able to grab oxygen molecules out of atmospheres with very low oxygen levels."
    b) "they reduce their need for oxygen by not generating body heat—they are the only cold-blooded mammal. Keeping warm takes a huge amount of energy which normally requires a huge amount of oxygen."
    c) normally, your pain receptors go crazy if you breathe in too much CO2. Naked molerats lack of pain receptors allow them to comfortably hang in a high-CO2 environment
    d) they can release fructose into their bloodstream and use it for energy. Normally all mammals use glucose, which is much more efficient, but required oxygen to break down into ATP (energy that cells can use). You know who uses fructose? PLANTS. Whole article just on this oxygen thing.
  6. How is there a sixth thing! The sixth thing: they (along with one other mole rat species) are the only known mammals to have the queen/worker/drone social structure (called 'eusociality'). Other animals that have this: ants, bees, wasps. Not mammals. Naked molerats have a single fertile queen, three or four fertile breeding males, and all the workers are sterile.

Any one of these things would be amazing on its own. I can't believe molerats. How are they. Anyway here are photos but don't say I didn't warn you.

Unsolicited Advice

I have to start this with a story.

A while back, my grandma overheard me use the term C.O.D, and I explained that it wasn’t Cash On Delivery, but Call of Duty, and what first-person shooters are, and etc etc. Then a few months later, I came to visit her, and saw she had a PS4 set up in the living room with Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare paused on the screen. She made me a cup of tea and then went on a long rant about some kid spawn camping.

Quickly – what was your reaction to that? Adorable? Funny? Kick-ass? Now I want you to compare that to how you feel about a 35-year-old playing C.O.D. My position is that the gap between your feelings about the two images is roughly the depth to which you have a degree of condescension towards old people. And I think a degree of condescension towards old people is almost universal in Western culture. (This piece is 100% incited by me realising I have it myself.)

When old people use memes, or listen to gangsta rap, or do anything outside of their stereotype, there’s an air of “aw, it thinks it’s people!” to our reactions. We would largely not find this acceptable if it were any other demographic (women, black people) acting in non-stereotypical ways.

The entire cult obsession with Betty White is that she swears and is sexual. But… why shouldn’t she swear? Why is that weird? Why is that funny? People were swearing when she was growing up. They were having sex. Old people are just you, but for longer. (It's hard not to sound trite, sorry.)

(This matters by the way, sorry to be a downer, because old people are often abused, and sometimes it’s because people have condescending attitudes to them and don’t listen to what they say and make decisions on their behalf without asking them. You will recognise this attitude from sexism and other such isms. I was going to say "Don't treat old people like children" but we also shouldn't be treating children this way, so.)

Anyway my advice (to you and to myself) is try to catch yourself when your reactions to old people are different to what they would be for a younger person doing the same thing. Also if you’re feeling angry and defensive right now, spend some time with that feeling. If you really don't think what I'm saying applies to you then hey awesome. But i reckon you're in the minority.

(The story about my grandma is not true by the way. A true thing about her is that she is astoundingly knowledgeable about music because she worked in the music industry for decades. Another true thing is that pensioners contribute more to the economy in volunteering and unpaid childcare than they take away in the pension, but the kind of contributions they make are devalued oh hey does that also remind you of any famous isms?)

Okay I reckon that's hit my limit for too-close-to-political.

If you want solicited advice, send questions to or just reply to this email.

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