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The Whippet #116: Crunchy centre of the iceberg

McKinley Valentine — 7 min read

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Good morning!

I got eyelash extensions last week,* which I can recommend if you want pretty eyes and an enforced lie-down in which you can’t check your phone for 90 minutes.

It occurred to me that eyelash technicians have a lot of the same physical skills as surgeons, it’s just the stakes are much lower. They’re putting 160 tiny individual lashes in, exactly at the right points on your lash lines, on exactly the right angle, and since humans are really attuned to how other humans’ eyes look, misplacement looks immediately and noticeably Wrong. So they have to have very good fine motor skills, steady hands, patience, apparent immunity to finger cramps.

What I think is, after the apocalypse, all the roving gangs will fight over who gets the surgeons and doctors and stuff, but the eyelash technicians will be overlooked. So that’s my hot tip for you. Try to grab a book on anatomy or something as well.

* No cases in Australia, I’m not a monster

“Every Actor’s Nightmare, or, A Prayer for Hegelochus”

A pop-punk singer on TikTok wrote a 30-second song about an Ancient Greek actor who messed up his lines so badly that we still know his name two thousand years later.

My favourite kind of internet writing is something that starts out as a joke and ends up surprisingly touching: this fits. Obviously it carries more impact actually sung than just reading the lyrics, so you should listen to it here. Nevertheless:

There was this actor named Hegelochus in 408 BC
Who messed up one of his lines so famously
That two millennia later we still know his name
And poets through the ages carry on his shame

He was in the play Orestes by the famed Euripides
He was supposed to say “After the storm again, I see a calm sea”
But he messed up the accent and in front of all those people
He said, “After the storm again, I see a weasel”

Lord, let it make me famous when my career goes down the tubes
This one’s for Hegelochus
I see the weasel, too…

Proposing “I see the weasel too” as a battlecry for artistic fuckups everywhere <3

More “starts out as a joke but turns earnest” writing:

“I was in charge of the deck chairs on the Titanic, and they absolutely did need rearranging”

Via McSweeneys, and you really should read the whole piece, it’s only a few paragraphs. It’s on the idea that, well, just because your actions don’t seem like they will impact the world doesn’t mean they don’t matter.

The tip of the iceberg: you’re imagining it wrong

Pictured: A scientifically inaccurate iceberg

Glaciologist Megan Thompson-Munson has picked the hill she’s going to die on, and I’m here for it:

The "classic" image of an iceberg is usually some kind of ice cream cone-shaped hunk of ice with 90% of it below the water's surface and 10% above (source: every iceberg stock photo on the internet).  

While it's true that only ~10% floats above the surface of the water, the "classic" orientation is unstable and would actually not be found in nature. An elongated iceberg would not float on its head, but instead on its side. [Link to a pretty readable physics paper on this whole thing]

Although the elongated vertical iceberg is what we're used to seeing, I propose that scientific diagrams show stable orientations that are more likely to exist in nature.

An iceberg simulator inspired by Megan Thompson-Munson’s twitter thread

Someone went ahead and made a little program: you draw an iceberg and watch it rotate into its stable position. It is instant to use and surprisingly addictive. Go draw some icebergs.

Pictured: Somehow technically a more accurate iceberg than the one above (credit: @mcccclean)

Cracking ice

A TikTok with very satisfying footage of the frozen surface of a [canal? fountain?] cracking and breaking as it goes over a little waterfall: link.

Underwater photographer of the year 2020

Crabeater seals swim around an iceberg. These massive and mysterious habitats are dynamic kingdoms that support marine life. As they swing and rotate slowly through polar currents, icebergs fertilise the oceans by carrying nutrients from land that spark blooms of phytoplankton, fundamental to the carbon cycle

Photograph: Greg Lecoeur

All the 2020 winners

“Hey McKinley, is it Good or Bad to be hit by a cannonball?”

I’m glad you asked! And today I can finally give you a definitive answer. The cuirass below was worn by a 23-year-old French cavalryman who served under Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 (where Napoleon was defeated and ABBA realised they were helplessly in love with an unnamed suitor).

Image source

We know the name of the cavalryman though: Antoine Fraveau. His service papers record him as being 179 cm tall (5'9) — fairly tall at a time when the average height for a man was 5'6 (Napoleon’s height, incidentally, if you didn’t already know the thing about how him being short was just English wartime propaganda).

He’s described as having a “long, freckled face with a large forehead, blue eyes, hooked nose, and a small mouth”. Vale Antoine.

Unsolicited Advice: The “I can’t start any tasks because I have an appointment in 5 hours” problem

Not everyone has this problem, but plenty of people do: if I have basically anything scheduled in a day, my brain goes into “waiting mode”. Like, that appointment is the next thing on the list, can’t do things out of order, so can’t do anything else until the appointment.

As you can imagine, that is stupidly inefficient. For anyone else who suffers from Waiting Mode brain, here is the method that help me get at least SOMETHING done.

  1. Figure out when you’ll need to leave the house to make the appointment, and how long it will take you to get ready for it. Be very generous in your estimates. Set an alarm for “time to start getting ready” and a second alarm for “you have to leave in 5 minutes”. If it’s a Zoom appointment, I set the alarm 10 or 15 minutes early so I can transition into meeting-mode, get a glass of water, fix my hair etc.
  2. I actually do this maths when I make an appointment and put the details in my calendar. So it will be like “dentist’s appointment 2pm, leave house at 1pm to catch the 1:10 train”. So on the day, I don’t have to figure it out.
  3. What time is your “getting ready” alarm going to go off? The one with the generous buffer? Let’s say you have an appointment at 4pm, and it will take you 15 minutes to get there. But you’re going to double that estimate to be safe. So you’ve set 2 alarms: one at 3:25pm (“leave the house in 5 minutes”) and one at 2:25pm (“start getting ready”). It won’t really take an hour to get ready, but these are really generous margins because you have to be able to put total faith in them.
  4. Okay! So it’s 10am now, and you have to get ready to leave at 2:25pm. If you spent an hour working on a task, it would be 11am. So an hour is definitely safe. Just 100% definitely. So set a timer for 1 hour and work for that amount of time. Set an alarm for 11am so you don’t worry about losing track of time.
  5. Now, in my experience, I can actually get past the mental block and do some work, because I’ve put a tonne of buffers in and I’ve set up alarms and I trust that it’s not possible for me to somehow miss the appointment. At 11am after the first alarm goes off, I might decide it’s safe to work for another hour and set an alarm for noon.

The reason this works is that Waiting Mode Brain seems to be caused in part by anxiety. It’s worsened by ADHD because people with ADHD have no sense of time and get “hyperfocus” where they get caught up in something and stop perceiving their surroundings. The difference between ADHD and an anxiety disorder is that ADHD anxiety is typically rational and based on experience: we really have missed important appointments despite having 6 hours to prepare for them, because we got hyperfocused on something and lost track of time, etc.

(Fun fact, sometimes adult ADHD gets mistaken for OCD despite being almost the opposite condition neurologically, because in order to manage their life, ADHD adults often develop structures and organisational methods that they get really, really rigid and protective about. But it’s not irrational: they know that if they don’t follow the system, they will lose important documents, be late, let people down, and generally ruin their own lives).

So all the steps are about creating a structure you can trust with external reminders and plenty of buffers. Think about whatever your anxiety might need, and deal with that too (like maybe you have to get ready for the appointment and pack your bag for it when you first wake up and put everything you need by the door).

It’s not a foolproof method (I think there’s other processes involved, such as for me being kind of weird about having to do things out of order, and also bad at task-switching), but it helps a lot. If you have other tips for dealing with Waiting Mode Brain, whether you have ADHD or not, please share!

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