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The Whippet #179: Antarctica is not the answer

McKinley Valentine — 7 min read

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Hello, good people of the newsletter!

I had an ultrasound on my heart (it's a girl!) and it was neat, a lot of swooshing sounds and fuzzy footage of it from every angle, and at some points it looked like my heartbeat was a podcast she was editing, replaying frequency clips and freezing them at certain points.

I asked the technician a lot of questions, such as, "why are you looking at my stomach?" ("I'm not, I'm looking up at your aeorta") and, "What percentage of her patients are interested in what's going on, want to see the screen, have questions etc? vs "don't care, just get it over with"?

She said about 5% of people were actively interested. That is so, so much lower than I expected. I'd have guessed 40%.

In fairness, you gotta factor in: a) some people are not incurious, they're scared, and their fear doesn't manifest as information-seeking like mine does

and b) for some people it's routine – you probably stop being that interested after the 4th or 5th scan.

Still that seems astonishingly low! (hot off the press: People Different)

Other cardiac ultrasound gossip: the technician said when she scans other doctors, they're either really interested from a professional perspective, or they fall asleep.
Takeaway: you're better off having your operation done by a surgeon with an ongoing heart condition, because they get more opportunities for naps.

She also said that, obviously it's bad news when she finds something, BUT... it is what makes her job interesting and she's pretty disappointed if she goes a few days without detecting any heart problems.

(This sounds callous but it's an aspect of this strange strange fact – one of the worst pieces of news I've received in my life, "you have a potentially fatal heart defect", is in fact good news. My partner was talking about what a horrendous year 2023 was for us, and I was like, well, sort of. I mean: yes. But also, technically, this is one of the best things to ever happen to me – it's probably saved my life, right? Weird weird weird. I've posted this to The Whippet before, but it's become very personally and directly meaningful to me:

What is true is already so.
Owning up to it doesn't make it worse.
Not being open about it doesn't make it go away.
And because it's true, it is what is there to be interacted with.
Anything untrue isn't there to be lived.
People can stand what is true,
for they are already enduring it.

— Eugene Gendlin

'Articles' icon

How to look at a Cubist painting (1946)

The final panel of this has (rightly) done the rounds, but I'd never seen the whole comic till now. And it's great! Especially the bottom half. [High Res]

How to look at a cubist painting by Ad Reinhardt

Says more, huh?


Lying to bears at their funerals

In pagan Finland, bears were given very elaborate funerals and buried like high-ranking humans, with grave goods.

I had a photo of a bear here but it was too sad, so you just get Finland

I said Finland, but actually a lot of cultures did this, across Europe, Japan and North America. A bear looks a lot like a human (especially its skeleton) but is much stronger; it makes sense that humans would view it as sacred.

The bit I find funny is that, after the hunt, when they were preparing the body (removing the meat to be eaten, but treating the bones etc carefully so it could be put back together and re-buried), they would pretend they hadn't killed it, and instead talk loudly about how the bear had accidentally fallen in a pit, or been killed by foreigners from a distant country – trying to trick the bear's spirit into not seeking revenge.

At the same time, part of the purpose of treating the bear with so much honour was so that, when it went to bear heaven, it would talk to other bear spirits about what an excellent and noble way it was to die. Future incarnated bears, having heard the hype, would allow themselves to be killed and not fight.

There's an obvious contradiction between those two approaches* and I spent ages looking for an explanation that would reconcile them, but I don't think there is one. Both approaches were taken by the same groups of people in the same ritual; real cultures don't have the internal consistency you'd demand of a fantasy novel.

* although hardly a rare one – "we didn't do it, but if we did then actually it was good and you should be grateful"

This info & below comes mostly from Bear hunt rituals in Finland and Karelia: Beliefs, Songs, Incantations and Magic Rites [PDF]

More neat bear-veneration stuff

A more cleanly resolved tension:

It's wrong to kill a bear, because bears are sacred and good and always innocent, or more adorably:

“People usually believed that the bear was just a big, playful forest creature [...]. Bears had been seen grazing on the same hill, together with the cattle, tinkling the cowbells with their paws, without hurting them."

Therefore, if a bear does start killing cattle or people, then by definition it can only be because it's been cursed by an evil sorcerer, or actually is the evil sorcerer, transformed. Which makes it okay to kill it.

Spell to rile up a bear so it attacks your enemies' cattle and horses

Arise, karhu, from the woods
of sand, avid for horsemeat,
furious cat, from the forest,
crooked hand, from the dark wood,
furry buffoon, from the fields,
to tear the bullocks to pieces,
to terrify the calves,
to assault the horses,
to kill the livestock!

"Furry buffoon" and "furious cat" are deliberate insults, designed to make it mad, as is addressing it directly by its real name, karhu. Germanic, Nordic and Slavic places had taboos on saying the name of that animal, and used euphemisms like "medved" (honey-knower), "beowulf" (“bee-wolf”) – and "bear", which is also a euphemism (from either "brown one / bruin" or "beast").


Antarctica is not the answer

There's currently some jobs going in Antarctica with the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, which went kind of viral because who doesn't want to abandon all their responsibilities and Take To The Sea. My friend Evie replied "They should probably have a screener on that job. “Do you actually want this job or are you experiencing a midlife crisis?”

and it turns out they DO:

[no link; he's deleted his twitter account. maybe Antarctica WAS the answer]

(from the guide for prospective employees [PDF] which is mainly a bunch of emotionally sensible advice on how to have honest conversations with your loved ones. "If you are in a relationship, your partner may have some reservations about you living so closely with others in a communal setting – don’t just dismiss their concerns, take the opportunity to talk them through." It's good policy!)


Original concept sketch for the Facehugger from Alien

by screenwriter Dan O’Bannon

Big egg with an emoji-like creature with an angry face and six pointy limbs yeeting from a hole in it

I saw this shared with the caption, "your daily reminder that it’s OK for first drafts of anything to be rough around the edges", which is a true statement but not demonstrated by this cute and excellent artwork.

Unsolicited Advice

What it means to be confident

So I actually learned this from the "About" page of a therapist whose practice was titled "Cultivating Confidence". Giving away the milk for free, you fool!

Confidence isn't "I am pretty sure I'll do a good job."

It's "I will fundamentally be okay even if I mess it up."

"Okay" partially means "I will not be cast onto the street and abandoned by all my loved ones" but it mainly means "my sense of whether I am an okay person is not dependent on me doing a good job."

And, in fact, that even if you get fired and your partner leaves you and you do end up on the street, you are still an okay person. (I'm using "okay" to mean baseline worthiness, because "good person" feels more complicated).

When people say "women like confidence", it doesn't mean they want a guy who fully expects a Yes when he asks a woman out. It means they want a guy whose self-esteem isn't reliant on a woman saying Yes to him.

There's no point calling this the "true" definition of confidence, because people use the word lots of ways, but it's a good one.


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