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The Whippet #44: Confer with your political advisers

McKinley Valentine — 5 min read

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Good morning poppies!

I think a lot about addiction - I'm pretty sure I'm less addiction-tolerant than most people. Even coffee - it bothers me that I'm addicted, and it bothers me more that people are really cavalier about being addicted. When someone says "I couldn't give up coffee, I need it to wake up in the morning" in this completely blase way like they're not literally just describing the symptoms of dependency and withdrawal. It's tautological! The thing where you feel like you couldn't live without coffee is what addiction means. You would not tolerate this line of reasoning from a meth addict.

Plus, *gestures grandly at Australia's culture of binge-drinking and ubiquitous socially tolerated middle-class alcoholism*

I read this article on the accelerating pace of addiction - basically that technological progress is always going to make addictive things more targeted, concentrated and effective - just like it makes everything else more. From opium to heroin, willowbark to aspirin, myspace to facebook.

So the writer's point is that as more things get more addictive, larger %s of people are going to have huge swathes of their life and decision-making controlled by addictions. I don't mean opioids, I mean everything that capitalism wants to sell you that can possibly be made more psychologically addictive. This means that people who want to just not be addicted to too many things are going to look increasingly... weird? But not fun weird. Like non-participatory, pretentious, holier-than-thou weird.

The same way we've always reacted to people who won't have a drink, don't watch TV, don't eat cake, don't join in. (When I say 'we' I mean 'work colleagues and acquaintances'; I have faith that we will always be able to find our people.)

Anyway so look forward to that binary!

"Children should be taught to enjoy solitude"

"We're doing a very worrying thing: we’re not bringing up small people to believe that loneliness might be a pleasure. If I had one way to address the loneliness problem, it would be that nobody ever uses “Go to your room!” as a punishment.

Instead, they should use it as a reward. "Darling, you've been so helpful all afternoon, you can go to your room and do what you want for half an hour."

- from Seven life lessons from a modern-day hermit

Snow Angel of Death

It's the nickname for the wingprint left in the snow when an owl dives to catch a mouse or squirrel. Owls can sense a rodent moving under a few inches of snow and they crash into it talons first.

Japan’s prisons are a haven for elderly women

“The first time I shoplifted was about 13 years ago. I wandered into a bookstore in town and stole a paperback novel. I was caught, taken to a police station, and questioned by the sweetest police officer. He was so kind. He listened to everything I wanted to say. I felt I was being heard for the first time in my life."

“I can’t tell you how much I enjoy working in the prison factory. The other day, when I was complimented on how efficient and meticulous I was, I grasped the joy of working. I regret that I never worked. My life would have been different."

“I enjoy my life in prison more. There are always people around, and I don’t feel lonely here."

Tragic but interesting

Scotobiology: the effects of darkness on life

"Breeding behavior in a range of animals, the control of flowering and the induction of winter dormancy in many plants, and the operational control of the human immune system are all influenced by darkness. In many of these biological processes the critical point is the length of the dark period rather than that of the light.

For example, "short-day" and "long-day" plants are, in fact, "long-night" and "short-night" respectively. That is to say, plants do not measure the length of the light period, but of the dark period."

The cool thing here is it's the active presence of darkness, separate from photobiology (the effect of light on living creatures).

I was always taught that darkness is just the absence of light - but to a plant, darkness is its own thing.

The king of the crows confers with his political advisers (1210 AD)

from an Arabic folktale

Unsolicited Advice

Make your personal admin tasks slightly more delightful

by renaming them things that secretly please you. One a lot of people do is making their passwords something fun to type, and that's the right approach: something that makes you happy but is kept secret, so you can be unashamedly dorky.

- Most banks let you give custom names to your accounts. The intention is probably something like 'main', 'bills', 'savings' etc. Mine are Crystal Cavern, Prismatic Rays and The Vault. If you like any fandoms, this is pretty easy (Gringotts is an obvious one, Smaug's Hoard, etc - please do not let shame be an obstacle).

- Bookmark folders (I haven't done this! I'm looking and mine are just: books, ramen, edit, cat). Group chats, obviously.

- Rename your personal admin day. There are a LOT of words to refer to someone who manages a house and runs useful errands, and they're all more interesting than 'admin'. I like 'seneschal', so I have Seneschal Days, but there's also chamberlain, steward, butler, dapifer. A manciple organises the grocery shopping. Quartermaster? These are all old-timey Europe because that's what I like, but there'd be other cultural and scifi terms as well because it's such a universally necessary job.

- Any errand you do a lot and don't need to communicate to people (grocery run, Bunnings, processing invoices, cleaning) can be given a nickname without much cognitive load. Part of this is changing drudgery into LARPing, even though it's just for yourself.

- My partner gives all his appointments ridiculous names in gcalendar (most recently, helping me put an Ikea chair together was in his calendar as 'putting McKinley's arms on', mother's day is 'mothra's day' and rent due day is 'the landlord taketh away' - I'm not sure I could do this so much because I would forget what it was meant to refer to, which is why I'm only suggesting it for regular errands. But maybe you wouldn't forget and you can do this too.

I'm sure there are a million other places and examples you could do this - you get the general principle now anyway. If there's a thing that you have to interact with regularly and you can inject some delight into it, do it.

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

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