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The Whippet #1: Crabs, cats, cake and crows

McKinley Valentine — 4 min read

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I went to a Melbourne City Council meeting on Tuesday, and I won't tell you why because I made a zero-contemporary-politics promise, but I will tell you about the agenda item immediately preceding it: as part of the metro tunnel works, the statue of Burke and Wills in City Square will have to be:
1.1. moved
1.2 stored
1.3 restored to its position afterwards.

The Burke and Wills Historical Society strongly opposed sections 1.2 and 1.3, and said so in no uncertain terms. "To confine that Statue to temporary storage could result in depriving generations of Victorians from viewing the Statue and learning about this historic expedition."

The Royal Society of Victoria agreed, brought up the fact that they had founded the expedition in the first place, and that the statue should be moved to their grounds, "where it can gaze northwards towards their passage to the Gulf of Carpenteria, rather than westwards, into a financial institution." (The Royal Society mentioned this "looking at a bank" issue twice.)

The Council assured them that the City of Melbourne could never forget Burke and Wills. "We all know the Statue. We all love the Statue. We are all accustomed to the Statue's position in City Square" and passed the motion intact.

If it sounds like I'm mocking the situation, I'm not. I'm completely charmed to discover people care so strongly about something I'd not even been aware of, and were willing to get up and argue with the mayor about it on a Tuesday night. In fact I was so charmed that I stayed on past the agenda item I was there for to listen to the next one, but it was much less interesting: should they send a letter to the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning? (I vote no, as it's only a few blocks away, you can easily walk it.)

'Mrs' Didn't Always Mean Married

The Mrs/Miss distinction, which is intolerable if compulsory and we're all glad to be rid of, is pretty new. Both are short for 'Mistress' and both, up until the 19th century, could refer to unmarried women. 'Mrs' was a mark of social status and that higher status could mean a marriage, but could just as easily mean being head housekeeper, owning a business, or being a respected scholar in a particular field.

'Miss' arose in the mid-18th Century as a way for upper class unmarried women to distinguish themselves from women of business – women with, god forbid, a trade.
Full article

Oh huh!

Sabre-toothed cats ('tigers') are only one member of the extinct Machairodontinae subfamily: there are also dirk-toothed, dagger-toothed and scimitar-toothed cats.
Wikipedia page

In Praise of Bin Animals

"We have created an ecosystem in which intelligence is prized above all else.The strength or endurance of the wolf could not save it from rifles; the rapid reproduction of the rabbit protects it only where its habitat remains intact.

The survivors are the bin animals: the ones who can extract resources from our waste products, who can outfox (so to speak) any attempts at capturing or controlling them. They are the raccoons, the bears, the rats, the pigeons, the crows, the foxes, the ibises and the gulls." Keep Reading

Excellent Crabs

Boxer crabs (or pom-pom crabs) go through their lives with an anemone in each claw. (The anemones have defensive stinging cells.) If you take one of their pom-poms away, they'll induce asexual reproduction in the remaining one by tearing it in half. If you take both away, they'll steal one off another crab and do the same thing, so they always have two at all times. Full article

Two-Wheeled Robotic Pack Mule Wants to Carry Your Stuff

"The Gita robot homes in on the user's belt to follow them around." (It's still in prototype stage, but being made by Vespa and looks like they're pretty serious.) Full article

Poor People Deserve to Taste Something Other Than Shame

(I mean just read this though)

"And that is what we are saying, when we talk disdainfully about poor people buying lobster and steak, or nice phones, or new clothes. We are saying, you are not sorry and ashamed enough. You do not hate your poor existence enough.

Because when you are poor, you are supposed to take the help that is never enough and stretch it so you have just enough misery to get by. Because when you are poor you are supposed to eat ramen every day and you are supposed to know that every bite of that nutrition-less soup is your punishment for bad life decisions. Your kids are supposed to be mocked at school for their outdated clothes — how else will they know to not end up like you when they grow up?

When I hear these words, I don’t think of lobster or steak, I think of Boston cream pie. " Keep reading

Ask me a question!

In this section I will answer a question on literally any topic except contemporary politics, however informed or ill- I am. (You can ask by just replying to this email - make sure to include how/if you want to be named.)

Suggestions for catchy names for this section also welcome.


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