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The Whippet #24: Virtually indistinguishable from the surrounding terrain

McKinley Valentine — 5 min read

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Good morning Greenland sharks,

Are you old and cold? Is your flesh toxic from living too deep underwater with hardly any oxygen? That's how I've been feeling. Normally when I go to write this section, I scan back over what I've been thinking about for the last week. But when I'm anxious I get really stressed and latch on to the one thing and obsess about it, and it means I haven't really thought about anything this week, not a single other thing, and since you don't want to read about my work stresses, we're at a bit of an impasse. (It also makes me a very boring conversationalist, so be grateful we weren't at any parties together.)

I babysat my baby niece on the weekend and I noticed that when she was crying and upset, she lifted her hands up and away from all the toys and books and distractions I had out, and only when she was calmed down and smiling did she start reaching out for them and being curious again.

I have this theory that we can get tips on our own mental health from looking at babies, because they make zero attempt to hide their distress.

Like, when a kid is tired, they scream and throw a tantrum, and we know it's just because they're tired, but they don't know it, and they won't go to bed. And when you had a bad night's sleep, and by complete coincidence everything today is garbage, you have to remember that you're probably as strongly affected by tiredness as the kid throwing an absolute tantrum.

And I think there's a relationship between distress and small, mean, curled-inwardness, and happiness and ease, expanse, curiosity, a sense of spaciousness. I know I'm at my most self-absorbed when I'm at my most depressed. I feel like this should be tied up with a satisfying conclusion, but I don't have one! I'm a self-absorbed anger-ball right now! Go read about Mount Sunflower!

Mount Sunflower is the highest natural point in Kansas

and it is "virtually indistinguishable from the surrounding terrain." Amenities include a picnic table, a little free library, and a sunflower sculpture made from railroad spikes. Wikipedia

Nightly battles

Get Out of Jail Free cards were real

England's first national lottery was held in 1567 to raise money for the navy and development of ports (this was the beginning of the Age of Sail). It was commissioned by Queen Elizabeth I and Sir Francis Drake, and the first prize was £5000 (the equivalent of, mm, couple million? I'm not a historian) which was paid partly in ‘ready money’ and partly in plate, tapestries and ‘good linen cloth’.

The tickets were expensive - 10 shillings, more than an ordinary worker would have had going spare - and each one entitled you to immunity from all crimes except murder, felonies, piracy or treason. Not even just the winners! They were actual Get Out of Jail Free cards!

Read the original text of the lottery, it's charming. "Suche commoditie as may chaunce to arise thereof after the charges borne, may be converted towardes the reparation of the Havens, and strength of the Realme, and towardes such other publique good workes" and so on.

Pebble toad's defence is to roll down a mountain

"It lives on the top of a type of mountain known as a tepui, in Venezuela. These table-topped mountains rise out of the rainforest, isolating the animals and plants that live upon them. (So interesting!) As a result, many of the creatures have evolved differently."

"For example, the pebble toad is unable to jump very far, an inch being the furthest it can hop. So they have evolved a unique escape mechanism. A threatened toad folds its arms and legs under its body, tucks in its head and tenses its muscles, assuming a "ball position".

Then it hurls itself down the side of the mountain. Source. David Attenborough clip.

Travelling neon salesman's sample case, 1935

9 Vintage Sample Cases from the Days of Traveling Salesmen

Unsolicited Advice

A tiny easy way to be more supportive and positive

This is gonna be short. I just noticed I have a tendency to recommend some stuff by saying "I don't normally like [Writer/Musician/entire genre] but this is awesome!" and then I started noticing a lot of people doing it, and I reckon... let's stop!

1. Would you ever just post "I don't like country music." without the but? Probably not right? Because it doesn't add anything good or necessary? Well, it doesn't add anything good or necessary with the but. Support the arts! Don't couch it in terms of how you don't normally support the arts. And when it's a specific person, jeez just... when is there ever a need to say a totally unsolicited "I don't like your art" to someone?

2. You probably think it adds weight to your recommendation, like "I'm very hard to please, but this pleases me." But actually it reads as "I have no idea what I'm talking about but here's my uninformed recommendation anyway." (Don't get me wrong, it's fine to give an uninformed recommendation! But it definitely doesn't add weight to emphasise your uninformedness.)

I know this because for e.g. I dislike most wine and the wines I like are the ones that taste the least wine-y. People who like wine don't want un-winey wine. They like wine. My recommendations are deeply bland to a wine-liker.

I'm also massively into bluegrass, and whenever someone says "I don't normally like bluegrass, but..." their rec is always some weaksauce half-bluegrass half-generic rock thing because they don't like actual bluegrass.

So yeah - I've started catching myself when I use this phrase, maybe you want to start too.

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

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