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The Whippet #82: Precious porcelain rabbit

McKinley Valentine — 9 min read

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Good morning!

So last week I bought a spectacular lamp, it is a 6-foot-high gold palm tree with light globes under each main frond, it fills me with enormous joy. (You can see it here if you are interested, but for the love of god please don't follow me on instagram, it's literally just like, a picture of a couch or bread every few months, and not in a funny ironic way).

The reason I bring it up is because I talk a bit in this newsletter about not owning too much stuff (I once and put it on a spreadsheet, people found the idea either very tempting or very stressful).

On minimalism

I'm not a paragon of minimalism by any means, but I do, not to put too fine a point on it, think Stuff is a curse that is slowly suffocating us all. Stuff used to be difficult to acquire and now it is incredibly, incredibly easy to acquire* and our mindsets and culture haven't really caught up, and almost everyone in the West has boxes - or whole cupboards, or rooms, or storage units - storing stuff they don't particularly like, or if they do like it, they don't get to enjoy it since it's at the bottom of a box in a wardrobe in a storage unit.

* Is that palm lamp some rare vintage find? No, it is for sale online at a mass market furniture store. It took me 5 minutes to buy it.

ANYWAY, the thing I wanted to say is that I think a lot of people are put off minimalism because they think it means your house has to look like this:

That's confusing the aesthetics with the philosophy.

You can have one lamp (or three, or however many you own), and have that lamp be a ridiculous gold palm tree. Or a backlit Coca-Cola sign. It doesn't have to be white, streamlined, etc.

You can do the KonMari method 100% perfectly and end up with a place that looks like this:

Pictured: The Butterfly Club, Melbourne

It is full of things the owners love, and importantly, everything they love is on display and accessible any time they want it. Marie Kondo says they shouldn't have things in storage, out of sight, unused. She says that things shouldn't be in your way and making it difficult to do what you need to do in your everyday life. She doesn't say you shouldn't have a bunch of tacky ornaments if they give you joy.

(People have this weird thing with Marie Kondo where they hear her talking to someone else, and imagine she is talking to them, and get mad. Or they are just hearing the nouns and totally missing the process?

Person: "I don't really like this porcelain rabbit ornament, but it was a gift"
MK: "Maybe you should discard the porcelain rabbit ornament then"
Viewer at home, who has a porcelain rabbit ornament that sparks joy for them: "HOW DARE SHE FORCE ME TO THROW AWAY MY PRECIOUS RABBIT. SOMEONE GIVE ME A NEWSPAPER COLUMN SO I CAN WRITE AN OP-ED ABOUT THIS")

Anyway: there are for sure minimalists who would disagree with me - in particular, it would be a lot of work to move house if you lived at the Butterfly Club, and that restricts your flexibility and adaptability a fair bit - but I think there is this overlooked vast middle ground where you can love over-the-top objects and ornaments and rococo shit but still make thoughtful choices about what you keep and discard.

(A term I like is 'essentialist' which doesn't have quite the same connotations of a mandatory threshold as 'minimilast' does. I think of it less as 'the essentials' and more as 'the essence' - like if you had to, from your home, curate a selection of items that best represent you - your aesthetic, your relationships, your memories, etc, what would they be? It's a fun project and you end up surrounded only by your most beloved things.

(Man, I keep looking at that photo of the minimalist-aesthetic loungeroom - they've managed to make an open fire not cosy. And that couch doesn't look comfortable at all, look how far back the backrest is! No one has femurs that long!)

Statue of Neptune in (near?) the Canary Islands

Pictured: the majesty of the sea

via Reddit.

Dammit, it really does.

Chess grandmasters are so stressed they lose about a kilo of weight a day during tournaments

(2 lbs-ish)

Because they have a massively elevated heart rate for hours at a stretch.

The 1984 World Chess Championship was called off after five months and 48 games because defending champion Anatoly Karpov was losing too much weight.

Source (probably not a good link for people in ED recovery)

Spontaneous self-amputating toe disease

Pictured: the newsletter creator's willingness to find an image for this article

It's not technically a disease, it's a ... condition? There is nothing wrong with the person's toe, but a groove begins to form around the base of their little toe, and it gets tighter and tighter over the course a few months or years, before the toe finally pops off altogether, leaving no wound, just closed-over skin. It's called ainhum.

"The true cause of ainhum remains unclear. It is not due to infection by parasites, fungi, bacteria or virus, and it is not related to injury. Walking barefoot in childhood had been linked to this disease, but ainhum also occurs in patients who have never gone barefoot." It's probably genetic, since it seems to run in families, which I am mainly telling you so you stop worrying it's going to happen to you. Wikipedia.

The Equinox: We've all been lied to

Pictured: cocktail onions

The Spring Equinox was about 10 days ago, on the 22nd of September, when everyone in Melbourne at least starts to feel massively relieved that the days are finally going to start getting longer than the nights. (If you are in the northern hemisphere, feeling annoyed at me for bragging about how spring is coming, now you know how the southern hemisphere feels every March. Except that it's pretty easy for you to avoid Australian media and almost impossible for us to avoid US/UK media.)

Anyway: the equinox is the day when the night and day are of equal length.

Except, it's not. The earth being curved as it is, the equal day/night date varies massively according to latitude. Melbourne is 37 degrees South, which is roughly the equivalent distance from the equator as San Francisco, Seoul, or Athens in the north. The REAL equinox fall on September 19, three days early, for us. In San Francisco, it's on September 26, three days late + the time difference I guess.

And that's only if you count civil twilight as night, which it isn't (that's when the sun is just below the horizon, but because of atmosphere refraction it's still pretty light out, and, I suppose, you can go about the place doing civilian things).

An article on this scandal. A great lil tool for obsessively checking sunrise and sunset times.

Lastly I recommend as app called Daff Moon: it gives you a lil phone widget that shows you what phase of the moon it is, and when it's next going to be new/full etc. I'm sure there's an ios equivalent.

Reader flatlay!

Last issue I was talking about my , where someone lays out a bunch of related objects into a neat geometry. And a reader made me a flatlay!! I am so extremely delighted about this.

This is Marian from New Zealand's daughter's folded laundry:

I'm especially chuffed because it's ordinary objects - they're usually like, a tattoo artists kit, or a bunch of gemstones. I've never done flatlays even though I love them (they are like inventory from an old RPG!) because I don't have fancy things (small things, I can't flatlay the lamp).

But this was very inspirational because it shows you can use anything and it's still delightful and fun. I was extremely inspired and I made one using the ingredients of my meal prep (breakfast goulash). Not pictured, I started to worry about leaving all the ingredients out of the fridge while I was messing around trying to get them to line up in squares. But the theory is solid.

Unsolicited Advice

Today's advice is just a really good Gmail extension: BatchedInbox

It stops you getting constantly interrupted by emails, but you can set it them to arrive often enough that you will never be replying unacceptably late to someone. You can have an email-free day, maybe on the weekend, or a low-email day one day a week at work.

This is a better system than just not opening your email, because sometimes you have to: maybe you have to send an email, or look up an address. "Oh hey there's a new email!" or "oh no, there's an email from [person you always dread getting emails from]". And then you check it because you HAVE to know what it says. But you're about to meet a friend, so you're not actually in a position do reply or do anything with the information. Instead, it just crushes your mood and distracts you when you should have been enjoying yourself.

It also helps with that, "I saw the email, I read it, I thought about exactly what I would write back, and then I forgot about the email". If you don't see your emails until you're in a position to reply to them (like, a dedicated half-hour set aside) then you are less distracted the rest of the day, and better at actually responding when you do respond.

Please note, to the readers I took like 6 weeks to reply to, that I only got this a couple weeks ago, partly because I realised my email processes were completely failing. (I read all of them and think about them a lot, people send real rad mail generally. That flatlay!! I'm just bad at replying.)

It costs $10/month after the free trial month, a price I consider well worth it given the time it gives back to you and the mental fuzz it reduces.

It's also good, security-wise, in that it never actually handles your emails directly, it just automates setting up timed filters and folders and stuff within Gmail.

Boomerang also has an Inbox Pause function - the free version just lets you pause for X hours/days from the moment you pause it. The Premium version (also $10.month) lets you schedule emails but a) it has to be the same every day, you can't set a different schedule for weekends or whatevr, and b) it puts a big banner over your inbox which says Your Inbox Is Paused! Click Here to See Your Unread Emails! which is way too tempting for me.

My suggestion would be to set up a schedule that's not too ambitious. Step 1 is learning to trust the system. If you go from compulsive email checker to "From now on, I'm only checking my emails on Mondays", you'll end up getting tempted very quickly and sneaking into the hidden folder to check. Even "every hour on the hour" is better than "every time, who knows". Once you've learned to relax and know that you'll get them on the hour, then you could switch to a few times a day.

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