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The Whippet #60: Riverbank justice

McKinley Valentine — 7 min read

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So last week my friend graduated with a Masters of Teaching (Congratulations Tom Steyner!) I'm not sure what subject he is going to teach, but if I were to stereotype based purely on vibe I would say he is going to teach the importance of planting native plants along riverbanks to prevent soil erosion. I mean this as a compliment.

Anyway, they had at the ceremony a professional name reader-outer. Her job is to be able to pronounce everyone's names correctly, going straight from Polish to Chinese to Arabic pronunciation without missing a beat, getting every emphasis and tone perfect. That is so respectful! You deserve to have your name pronounced correctly on your graduation day! But it turns out to be a really specific skill, not any ol dean can do it.

I looked her up on LinkedIn, it's her proper job! She's the main one in Australia! (Dr. Fiona Swin-Lee Price - are any Whippet readers responsible for organising their work Christmas party? Because she would be better than any magic act. It would be amazing. She can pronounce anything.)

I love more than anything hearing about someone who took their niche thing and made a career out of it. I loved The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, not just because I like the KonMari method, but because it's also the autobiography of an absolute unabashed weirdo, a woman with a TRULY nerdy hobby (what is less cool than being super into tidying up? as a teenager? she used to sneak into her parents closets at night to organise them!) who just embraced it and ran with it and built this life around it.

This is the best chart I have ever seen in my life

made by @crunchleaf

Horrible unicorns used to live among us

New research indicates the Siberian Unicorn became extinct only 36,000 years ago, meaning we knew them.

"Weighing up to 3.5 tonnes with a single enormous horn, the Siberian unicorn roamed the steppes of Russia, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, and Northern China.

The University of Adelaide’s Australian Centre for Ancient DNA (ACAD) analysed the DNA of the Siberian unicorn for the first time and found the giant animal was the last surviving member of a unique family of rhinos.

“The ancestors of the Siberian unicorn split from the ancestors of all living rhinos over 40 million years ago,” ACAD researcher Dr Kieren Mitchell said.

“That makes the Siberian unicorn and the African white rhino even more distant cousins than humans are to monkeys.” [Source]

And we're all agreed that the 'Australian Centre for Ancient DNA' is the best place to set the opening sequence of a really special effects-heavy horror movie?

Alibi of the Year (1886)

Handsome anarchist Louis Lingg was accused of throwing a bomb at police during a workers' rights protest. During the trial, he used the above alibi, which seems to have been the truth.

"Defense attorney Moses Salomon said in his opening statement to the jury: "It may seem strange why he (Lingg) was manufacturing bombs. The answer to that is, he had a right to have his house full of dynamite."

"As an anarchist who did not recognize the court's authority, the defense's approach was probably of little concern to Lingg." [Wikipedia, but I must warn you that it doesn't end well for him]

Image from this twitter thread.

Birds too smart for own good

"For the last couple of years contractors working on the road to Milford Sound in New Zealand's South Island have captured footage of keas moving their road cones and equipment into the middle of the road when the workers knocked off overnight."

"Kea Conservation Trust chair Tamsin Orr-Walker said the birds were probably moving the road cones for fun, but didn’t discount the theory that the clever parrots strategically moved the cones into the path of oncoming vehicles, forcing the cars to slow down and allowing the parrots to beg for food."

In world's most adorable conservation solution, kea experts have been building entertainment gyms by the side of the road to distract the birds. [Source, inc David Attenborough clip of them being sneaky]

Bonus tidiness advice: trays, man

Do you have a bunch of assorted items? Would you like your junk to look tidy without having to do any work? It's trays! Traaaaaaaays. That assortment is: sunscreen, supplements, cat treats, computer wipes, nail polish remover, toothpicks, etc, but you put it on a tray and it looks managed and manageable!

Junk, like cats, likes a demarcated space. I bet you could just group everything together on an A4 piece of paper and it would look neater.

Solicited Advice

"What to do when you and your domestic partner have wholly different eating habits?"

So it seems to me this question is not really about food. Because no one writes in for advice on simple scheduling issues.

So this has something to do with the enormous social, personal and cultural associations most people have with food and mealtimes. When I had to go on the low-FODMAP diet, it basically meant I couldn't share a meal with anyone anymore, and more than the inconvenience, I was shocked by how isolating and upsetting that felt. Not being able to accept cookies baked by a friend, bringing my own tupperware dinner to Full Moon Feasts - it made me feel less connected.

And I think of myself as more or less a Soylent Person. (Not an actual eater of Soylent, but someone who views eating mainly as a chore that you have to do to function, rather than a joy and a hobby.) And it still got to me.

So yeah, meals are a big deal. But I don't know what kind of a big deal they are for you and your partner (or if they're a big deal for only one of you and the other is a Soylent Person). It could be something about families, for example - you can imagine a family that always sat down together for meals, until the marriage started breaking up and one parent started eating alone on the front porch, and how a child might then feel on a really deep level that family meals = we're okay.

Or it could just be the only time you're off your phones and actually talking to each other.

So my advice:

  1. Talk to your partner about the underlying emotional and cultural weight you both place on shared meals. It's probably only semi-conscious and really individual so this might take a bit of internal digging.
  2. Look for other ways to meet those respective needs.
  3. E.g. ypu could make a ritual out of always stopping whatever you're doing at 11am to have a coffee together, phones away. Or herbal tea at 10pm. (Sharing beverages fills a lot of the same emotional niche as sharing meals).
  4. Can you agree to some shared mealtimes? Once a week or once a fortnight? And make them super special / focused?
  5. Similarly to 1. be honest and open about the costs of shifting meal patterns (if you don't sleep well if you have a late meal, for e.g.) so you can see what's a real challenge and what's a low-hanging compromise fruit.
  6. If one of you loves big social meals and the other doesn't, can the social-meals person start organising that with friends more? (i.e. is the unfulfilled need about your relationship dynamics, or is it just a general life need that they could get met elsewhere?)

One thing I do a lot, is have a 90% sized meal at the time I want it, and then a 10% meal at the restaurant or friend's house. So I'm still taking part in the meal, but I'm not fucking up my diet too much (and it's much easier to find a small side that's low FODMAP than a whole meal.

Generally I would say "eat whenever you want to eat, but find another way to meet that emotional need", EXCEPT, if you have kids. There's a fair bit of research that says eating meals together as a family has benefits for the kid, both in physical health and mental/emotional resilience. Here's a meta-study of 17 studies to that effect. Obviously people can only do what they can, but it's good to at least be aware of the research when making plans. (You could try the 90/10 meal-splitting thing here too.)

Food is pretty core stuff, linked to survival and safety and trust, and is one of the earliest and most basic, reliable forms of communication (you can't explain to a dog that he's done a good job, but if you give him food, he knows that means "you did good". It's not simple bribery - dogs usually want to please their owners. Food is how you communicate that you're pleased. After a while, you don't need the food anymore, because you've taught them what the words "good boy" mean.*)

So you probably won't be able to just de-condition yourselves. The rest, I think, is just scheduling and compromise.

* This does not apply to all dogs but you get the gist.

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

Right, the subject line: the word to describe a riverbank is "riparian" ie "riparian ecosystem" etc. Riparian sounds a bit like reparative, as in "reparative justice" (aka restorative justice).

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