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The Whippet #114: Living that cookiecutter shark lifestyle

McKinley Valentine — 6 min read

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As a result of recent events, I learned that the US President’s desk is called The Resolute Desk. Disappointingly, this is not because the President is supposed to be resolute when he sits there, or even because he signs resolutions at it.

It’s because it’s made out of wood from the ship the HMS Resolute. It was an Arctic exploration vessel that got trapped in the ice and then abandoned, so it’s not, like, super resolute.

Still, I like the hubris! We should all be giving our furniture names like they’re a D&D magic item. The Lamp of Revealing. The Bed of Undisturbed Rest. Old Faithful (a kettle). Power Thesaurus is a useful friend.

Do you only have one living space, and it is also your kitchen and your “office”? That doesn’t mean bits of it can’t be called The Green Drawing Room, The Eastern Scullery, and the Ocular Office (stately homes often name rooms after a major decoration, and I have a big picture of an eye, so). (Teens everywhere calling their rooms The Scarface Lounge, the Escher Salon.)

I also like the idea of having a restaurant/cafe/bar name for your dining table, but the name only applies when you’ve taken all the papers off it and are having a proper sit-down meal or drink.

Here, have this TikTok. Any preface would spoil it, but it’s only six seconds. Sound on.

The Cookiecutter Shark: Funny if you don’t think about it too much

The cookiecutter shark is only half a metre long (under 2 feet) and it very rarely does fatal damage to another animal — it just bites all fish as they go past (and leaves a cookie-shaped bite taken out of them). So it’s more a parasite than a predator.

If you’re that way inclined, a google image search will show you pictures of fish and seals with perfect circular bites taken out of them.

“Off Hawaii, nearly every adult spinner dolphin bears scars from this species.” (Wikipedia)

Courtesy Warning: horrible/interesting description

The cookiecutter shark has suction-cup style lips. It latches onto a fish, then closes its gill slits and retracts its tongue to lower the internal pressure and create a tight seal.

It anchors in with its smaller top teeth, then slices through with its razor-sharp lower teeth. Then it spins itself around like a drill to make a complete circular cut all the way around. Then carries on with its day. Sharks are all about the hustle.

Victoria-era radiator with built-in warming oven

(Couldn’t find original source for the image sorry)

Lots of cold countries have old-school radiators, so there’s no reason we can’t have something as lovely as a built-in warming oven except for landlord miserliness. Give us  our fancy-decorated warming ovens! Give us our hot rolls and coffee!

The death of Gloria Ramirez, “The Poison Lady”

In 1994, Gloria Ramirez was admitted to the emergency department of a hospital in Los Angeles. She had late-stage cancer, and died shortly afterwards.

Several of the hospital workers who treated her fainted — others had shortness of breath, muscle spasms, and other negative reactions.  Five were hospitalised

The coroner’s investigation found that her blood had been giving off toxic fumes. She’d been self-medicating with dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO), which built up in her blood because she was sick and her kidneys were no longer filtering properly

When hospital staff administered oxygen, the DMSO was converted into dimethyl sulfone (DMSO2) (imagine it’s the little low chemistry 2 like in CO2).

Later, she was given electric shocks from a defibrillator, and this converted the DMSO2 into dimethyl sulfate (DMSO4), which is highly toxic.

I actually feel a bit weird sharing this story, because it was 1994. Whereas if it was the 1800s, I’d be completely comfortable going poison blood, how cool is that. But still, if I have to die young, I at least want someone to make an investigative podcast about it. It’s the least you can do for me.

FYI the theory presented here is still hotly debated, but it was developed by proper scientists, and no one’s come up with a better idea (“mass hysteria” is not especially more plausible). More details told with more drama in this article.

Skilfully taxidermied leopard cat

From the Melbourne Museum’s taxidermy collection, more photos here, many fine angles.

Thoughts on communities, being part of one, endings

I recently read a long twitter thread on community-building, and how hard that is to do well. It was talking about fandom, but I think it applies to friendship groups too.

I think we have an idea that finding your community is something you seek as a young adult, eventually find, and then stick with forever. It’s the same cultural idea we have about finding a career path or a spouse.

Especially with the idea of the “found family” — which has connotations of something that will stick for life.

Here’s part of the thread by Lee Davis-Thalbourne:

And even if you *do* hit that sweet spot? It doesn't tend to last. People change, all through life, their relationship to a communities thus must also change, and since a community is literally made of relationships, the community itself *will* change as well.

Eventually, either the community will no longer contain what brought you there in the first place, or what brought you there in the first place will no longer be enough to keep you there. Our relationship with community is fleeting, no matter what point in the life cycle it's at.

I say this not to berate people for trying to find that community - That sense of belonging that comes from community is genuinely important, I will never say to people to stop looking for that community.

Instead, I just want to remind people that communities literally cannot be what you want them to be for all your life. You will go through many communities in your life, you'll probably build a few too. A lot won't fit well, some will fit perfectly. Most won't stay in your life.

At some point, you and your favourite community will part ways. It'll hurt a lot. Maybe you'll leave because you already found a new community. Maybe you'll depart what you built because you just cannot anymore. Maybe you'll be kicked out, no longer compatible with everyone else.

When that happens, grieve, do what you must, then get back to finding or building a new space, with all the experience you've picked up from everywhere you've been before.

(full thread here)

The p-ndemic has sped up the breaking apart of communities — people who always planned to move to a rural area “someday”, or back to their hometown, are making that happen now.

So it’s good for me to remember that they were never supposed to permanent, and that’s okay.

Unsolicited Advice: The future is cup drawer

If you are storing your cups in a cupboard, move them to a drawer.

Pictured: My kitchen drawers. Please don’t dox me.

So much easier, you can see everything, you can reach everything! You use up all the space instead of just the front rows!

This will only be a small improvement to your life, but it will be an objective and tangible improvement, and who is turning that down these days?

Extra details:

I assume you don’t have a spare drawer — move the clingfilm or teatowels into the former cup cupboard, or put your ladles etc. in a jar on the bench.

If you have too many cups for the drawer, put your most-used and favourites in the drawer.

A piece of non-slip matting is nice underneath — the stuff you buy to stop rugs sliding around on wooden floors. Not crucial, just if you have any off-cuts lying around.

Thanks for reading everyone, see you in two weeks!

Patreon link is here if you want to help out.

As always, comments are open and full of nice people:

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