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The Whippet #80: Be careful!

McKinley Valentine — 7 min read

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Good morning!

Every fortnight I go to write this I have to think "okay... what opinions have I had recently". I'm pretty opinionated so this is usually pretty easy.

But today the only opinion I can remember having is this: it's pretty fun to take the T of the end of words that end in 'ment', like judgement and announcement.

Judge-men. Announce-men. Encourage-men. Measure-men.

But if you do it too much you stop being able to read ordinary English sentences.

Tutankhamun's death mask was originally made for Queen Nefertiti

It's been known for a long time that Tutankhamen died suddenly, because a) he had a fractured leg, and there was embalming fluid in the bone (meaning it was an open wound when he was embalmed) with no signs of healing and b) he was interred in a much smaller tomb than was appropriate for a pharoah. So it seems pretty clear it was a rush job - they didn't have anything prepared for him. [Wikipedia]

Part of that rush job involved using funeral goods they had lying around, instead of ones that were specially made for him. In 2015, Egyptologist Nicholas Reeves demonstrated that around 80% of the goods buried with Tutankhamun were originally intended for Nefertiti, his step-mother (she's the one who looks like this). The famous gold death mask had a cartouche (royal name stamp) of Nefertiti on the inside of it.

The reason this is coming up after so many years is that archaeologists now have access to infrared scans that let them see underneath the surface layers of paint etc to what was originally underneath.

Other hints: the beard was poorly attached (it had fallen off by the time the tomb was opened) and the mask has ear piercings - normally only queens and children were depicted with pierced ears.

Also, many of the other busts found in the tomb have more obviously feminine features:

(That is the lid of a Canopic Jar - the four jars which held a mummified person's stomach, intestines, lungs and liver.)

Side note, see how the headdress has two heads, not just the cobra which you normally see on costumes. The vulture represents Nekhbet, the goddess of Upper Egypt and the cobra represents Wadjet, the goddess of Lower Egypt. Since the kingdoms were united at that time, they both go on the headdress.

The reason why Nefertiti wasn't buried with her fancy mask and other goods is that she was super controversial - her and her husband overturned the state religion and introduced monotheism (worshipping only the sun-disc deity Aten). Tutankhamun overturned this when he became pharoah and went back to the old ways.

(Note that since this all happened about 3300 years ago, none of it's certain. But Reeves is respected and this is considered an extremely plausible scenario by his peers - Egyptology attracts a lot of... amateur theorists, but Reeves isn't one of them. This was all published in a peer-reviewed journal.)

Emotional daredevils

From Jack Druce's always pleasing newsletter:

Re: having social anxiety:
"I’ve never been impressed by daredevils. You see someone jumping 10 flaming buses. I’d rather do that than make small talk at a work function. I would love if there were an emotional daredevil. If there was an episode of Jackass where they all forgave their fathers. Or someone who wrote a poem so vulnerable that they get sponsored by Redbull."

The maximum power that can be produced by one Horse is 15 Horsepower

Horsepower was in reference to horses being used to lift coal out of coal mines, as in the above pic. 'Foot pounds per minute' taking one minute to lift one pound of coal one foot. So a good draft horse can lift 33,000 pounds of coal 1 foot in 1 minute or 3,300 pounds of coal 10 feet in one minute, or 1 foot in 10 minutes. However you want to math it out.

But this is a steady all-day work rate. Unsurprisingly, horses can work much harder for a short period of time. 15 times harder, in fact. That's pretty obvious but I still found it strange that a horse can produce more than one horsepower.

Recommended: this 30-second video

Everyone's seen videos of whales breaching (jumping out of the water) before, but normally there's nothing next to them for scale because ocean. This one has a person a the boat in the foreground and it's astonishing.

Colour-changing mushroom

The Neoboletus luridiformis turns blue as soon as you expose its flesh to the air. It's edible when cooked. Via reddit.

Unsolicited Advice

I can't think of a single time when it would be appropriate to say "Be careful" to someone

"Be careful" often comes across as condescending (like you don't trust them not to be behave sensibly in this situation where it is bleedingly obvious that care ought to be taken - it suggests you think they're stupid or irresponsible). And when it doesn't, it's pretty much just a tiny flash of fear into their hearts. Like, "remember someone might attack you! imagine that for a second before continuing with your walk". That's not a nice thing to do to someone.

People say it to people who are about to go on holiday and that is... what are you doing? They are trying to have a nice time and take a break. Tell them to have fun!

It's also, obviously, completely ineffectual. No one every changed their behaviour in response to the words "be careful".

Here's what to do instead:
If you are genuinely concerned they are not aware of the risks and won't take appropriate cautionary measures (e.g. if they're a child, or it's an unusual risk that not many people know about). "Be careful" is useless and un-actionable - tell them what actual things they should do. ("Cook the blue-turning mushroom for 20 minutes before you eat it" / "the rocks are slippery here" / "that glass is gonna fall, move it to a stable surface!" (people tell me this pretty often and I always appreciate it).

More often though, "be careful" is about the person speaking, and you're saying it because you feel anxious and saying it makes you feel better. I think that is completely understandable! But since it is either condescending or puts a little bolt of fear into this person you care about, my advice is - say what you actually mean. It's probably one of the following things:

"I love you" (subtext: and so the idea of anything happening to you scares me)

"I'm feeling worried about this - can you reassure me?" (the difference is that it acknowledges that it's about you, not about them - it's not condescending because it doesn't imply that you think they're not taking obvious precautions, and it's less fear-inducing because you're framing it as a 'you' thing not a 'reality' thing. Which is largely correct - most of our 'be careful' fears are wildly disproportionate to the risk). I think you can even request specific actions that would make you feel better (calling a taxi, texting you when they get home) if you frame it as asking a favour of them to help you manage your anxiety. (They might say No, but you can ask.)

The underlying principle here is just honesty - actually say the true thing you're feeling, rather than giving instructions to the other person. Take responsibility for your own emotions (which doesn't mean you can't ask for help with them.)

And look, if they do die from whatever this is, would you rather the last words you said to them were "be careful" or "I love you"?

Note that if this seems un-workable because wouldn't be appropriate to say "I love you" or "please reassure me" to the person - for example, because they're just a co-worker and not a friend or family member - then it isn't appropriate to say "be careful", which has strong paternal/maternal vibes, and definitely not appropriate to ask them to help you manage your emotions.

So just stop that, stick to "have a nice night" or whatever.

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

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