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The Whippet #56: Enough to sustain a living hoard

McKinley Valentine — 9 min read

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Good morning! Short intro because the Unsolicited Advice is long and Gmail's inbox filter is unforgiving.

I've been thinking of the prayer fragment, "give us this day our daily bread". I'm not Christian so this will probably either be astonishingly ignorant or astonishingly obvious. I'm not attempting theology, I just like the phrase.

I like it because it is taking each day at a time: give me today the resources I need to deal with whatever happens today. When you're feeling anxious, that's a good, limited prayer. You don't want to think about all the resources you'll need to get through everything that might happen this week. Just give me today what I need for today.
[I just looked it up and it turns out I'm not too ignorant because the word 'daily' seems to be (in the original Aramaic) a newly coined-for-the-Bible word, which makes it hard to know exactly what meaning was intended by it or if 'daily' is an appropriate translation.]

Anyway, I hope you find that as comforting as I do. If not, try this much more confident approach to the day, by Ralph Waldo Emerson:

“Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.”

"I don’t want to get good at gaming, I want to escape the relentless pressure to improve myself" - in praise of Easy mode

"I enjoy video games but I’m not good at playing them. [...] I’m usually lucky if I can go an hour without getting stuck on one pixel of ledge space where moving an inch will mean falling to my death and having to repeat the last half an hour because I forgot to save the game. In these situations, I usually Google around for solutions. If the game is popular or a couple of years old, there have invariably been people trying to get out of the same tricky spot. The other invariable part is that one person, and often many, will reply to the asker, “Just get good!!!"

"I find this response baffling. [ ...] There’s a name for a frustrating, difficult activity you undertake on a regular basis in order to hit arbitrary KPIs: work." [Read the whole article.]

I read reviews of games and put them on wishlists about 90% more than I actually play them, but when I do, I want to be physically satisfying. I like the difficulty level to be so low that I can swing a sword and 20 dudes go flying. Games are meant to be fun; if your kind of fun is overcoming a tough challenge, that's fine, but a lot of people have tough challenges elsewhere in their life and it's not what they play games for. Please play unashamedly and proudly on easy mode if that's fun for you.

Toucan skull

Come on, mate. Sort your head out.

The ‘Black Beauty’ specimen of Tyrannosaurus rex

at Canada's Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology [Twitter]. That's more like it.

Platypus venom may help in battle against diabetes

I think a lot about breadth vs depth, people who have a huge array of interests vs people who have one specialised field they know to the bone. I'm the former, obviously. So is the platypus. Got a LOT going on, the mammal, the laying eggs, the duck beak, the spurs, the fact that it sweats milk out of its pores instead of the normal nipple method (it doesn't have any), DOES HAVE a venomous spur, hunts by electrolocation like a hammerhead shark (that's why they wave their heads side to side as they swim, if you've seen one)... and now THIS.

"After analyzing the genes of the platypus, Dr Frank Grutzner and his colleagues discovered that the creature’s venom contained the metabolic hormone glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1). This is normally secreted in the guts of both animals and humans. It stimulates the pancreas to produce insulin and lower blood glucose levels. In humans, the hormone degrades quickly.

“These hormones have a really short life… they degrade within minutes. We saw within the platypus that there’s a change in the sequence that would suggest that it’s not degraded, and that was a big surprise because usually in a lot of other mammals you look at, it’s all the same sequence and it all gets degraded,” Grutzner said.

“Their biology is absolutely remarkable and different from other mammals… I’m becoming almost obsessed with it.” [Source]

The very few other venomous mammals (are all amazing)

FYI venomous means it hurts you if it bites or stings you; poisonous means you get sick if you eat it.

Vampire bats
Have decoagulants in their saliva to make it easier to feed off blood. This doesn't really harm the prey.

Shrews and moles
Many species have toxic saliva, but it's not to help them hunt, which they don't really need because they eat earthworms, snails, mice, etc - instead it puts them into a coma, allowing them to "sustain a living hoard" over the winter. That's horrifying; I'm kind of on #TeamVampireBats at this point.

Slow loris
Slow loris has two different kinds of venom, which it can mix to make an even more potent venom. It's used for fighting other slow lorises. No word on what happens if all four venoms mix.

Aren't venomous in themselves, but sometimes bite toads and smear the toad venom over their spines.

African crested rat
As above - it chews the roots of the poison arrow tree (the tree you would make poison darts from in a pulp comic strip) and mushes the chewed up roots onto its crested back.

Wikipedia article on venomous mammals

A moon's moon is not called a moonmoon, sorry.

Twitter got pretty excited and certain that it was, but a moon's moon has no official name and may not even exist. The papers that discuss one are all about discussing whether they're theoretically possible, given the need for the original moon to be big enough to draw a submoon into its own orbit, while still leaving enough space for the submoon to pass between the moon and the planet (if it's too close to either, it will be pulled into them and be torn to pieces).

'Submoon' is not an official title either. It's just one term used among many in academia, including meta-moon, moonlet, moonito, moonette and moooon.

But, there ARE planets, including Earth, whose moons could theoretically support a moonito. So the question of why we've never seen one is really interesting to astrophysicists. The question is not really about the moonettes themselves, but about what we can learn from the lack of them. [Source]

Seriously? More from the platypus??

I could go back and put this in the original paragraph but I'm mad about it:

8. Born with teeth, but they fall out and are replaced by plates of bone used for grinding stuff. I'm fine with the bone plates, but don't start with teeth if that's your deal.
9. Their right ovary never works. They are exclusively left-ovaried.
10. "Recent studies it has been suggested that the eyes of the platypus are more similar to those of Pacific hagfish or Northern Hemisphere lampreys than to mammals". Wikipedia if you feel like reading more about this ridiculous animal.

Unsolicited Advice

You will probably never feel brave or interesting or mysterious

Sorry. But it's better to know, so you don't feel disappointed in yourself, or waste energy aiming for it (like dark undereye circles* and cellulite - they're genetic. No cream in the world will get rid of them. That's sad news but at least it saves you %). Bravery/courage is when you feel super scared but do the thing you're scared of because you believe it matters.

So what you feel when you're being brave is: scared. You will actually probably feel weaker and shakier than when you're not doing anything particularly brave. This is important to know because if you need to do something brave (stand up to sexism in the workplace, for e.g.) you can't wait to feel brave, because it's not a real emotion (it's an action you take while feeling the emotion of fear). You miiiiight feel brave AFTER doing the brave thing, but you also might just feel like throwing up or hiding in a cupboard for the rest of your life. (Again, sorry. Please be brave even though it feels shitty.)

~ Anecdote: When I sporadically do yoga, there are poses when you stand on one leg, and the teacher will say "find your balance" and "connect with your balance" and stuff. You know when you feel super balanced? When you are on all fours in cat/cow pose. When you're standing on one leg, you feel wobbly and unstable. Your balance will improve through doing it, but you do not FEEL balanced.

Similarly, I don't feel strong when I'm at the gym. I deliberately lift weights until they're too heavy for me. That's pretty much compulsory if you want to get stronger; it has to be hard. You feel strong when lifting something is easy, but if it's easy, then you're not training very well and you should add more weight. So you always feel weak when getting stronger, pretty much by definition. Flexibility is the same - any training I think.

The reason you'll never feel interesting is slightly different. It's like how you can't hear your own accent. The way you look at the world is just how you look at the world. It can be the most utterly unusual take on things, but it will seem normal to you, and everyone else will seem weird. So you never get to feel interesting to yourself.

Similarly, the idea of being mysterious can be kind of compelling and glamorous, like secretly having ninja skills or a double life as a spy. Someone might seem mysterious if you can't figure out why they do things, what they feel, or what will happen next. But even if you became an international jewel thief, you would not be mysterious to yourself. You would always know what you were up to! Indeed, your plans would be meticulously laid.

You could be the most mysterious person in the world to other people, but if you don't know your OWN motivations for doing things, if your own actions come as a surprise to you... you're probably a hot mess? I say this with love! But adults should be reeeeelatively clear on why they do things. My housemate's not-girlfriend-anymore-for-good-reasons spontaneously bought three kittens off Gumtree [Australian Craigslist]. Like, on a same-day whim, with no plan for how she was going to care for them. (She gave them away again shortly after, they're fine.). That's the closest you're gonna get to feeling mysterious. It's not great, right?

I would also, personally, having been someone who was considered a bit mysterious - just because I moved around a lot so people didn't get to know me that well, see, it's boring - say that it is way way way better, to feel known and seen. Mysterious = being misunderstood, again, basically by definition. It's the opposite of when someone sends you a tweet that is so perfectly perfectly you, because they get you.

And even though you can't feel interesting, you can feel interested, and that interested will probably be interesting to other people.

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