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The Whippet #130: I wish to express my joy of the cat

McKinley Valentine — 9 min read

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Good morning!

This issue kept tending towards the melancholy I’m afraid, sometimes it happens! But hopefully still interesting.

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Council worker testing a website accidentally made real planning decisions

The worker thought they were logged in to a testing environment, but were in fact sending out real approvals and rejections of planning permits.

Terry Rowse butchers’ change of use to a takeaway in Chaucer Road, Sittingbourne, was turned down, with the official comments reading simply “no”, and “just don’t”, while the partial demolition of The Wheatsheaf pub in East Street, Sittingbourne, was granted, with the response “incy, wincy, spider”.

The council now has to go through a three-month formal legal process to quash the rulings. (Source)

Japan’s first cat

We don’t know when cats first came to Japan, but it was thousands of years later than they came to Europe. The first recorded incident of a cat in Japan — in text or artwork — is March 11, 889 AD.

Seventeen-year-old Emperor Uda writes:

“On the 6th Day of the 2nd Month of the First Year of the Kampo era. Taking a moment of my free time, I wish to express my joy of the cat. It arrived by boat as a gift to the late Emperor, received from the hands of Minamoto no Kuwashi.

The color of the fur is peerless. None could find the words to describe it, although one said it was reminiscent of the deepest ink. It has an air about it, similar to Kanno. Its length is 5 sun, and its height is 6 sun. [1 sun = ~3cm/1.2 in. Must be a kitten.]  I affixed a bow about its neck, but it did not remain for long.

In rebellion, it narrows its eyes and extends its needles. It shows its back.

When it lies down, it curls in a circle like a coin. You cannot see its feet. It’s as if it were circular Bi disk. When it stands, its cry expresses profound loneliness, like a black dragon floating above the clouds.

By nature, it likes to stalk birds. It lowers its head and works its tail. It can extend its spine to raise its height by at least 2 sun. Its color allows it to disappear at night. I am convinced it is superior to all other cats.”

Tell me what’s changed.

That quote comes from a longer piece on the history of cats and cat-demons in Japanese folklore, which I recommend.

This is a Bi disk. I tried to find out what Kanno means, but all I got was ‘acts of governance designed to promote agriculture’, such as irrigation (source), which feels like an unlikely air for a cat to have. It might just be a person’s name.

Cat With a Bell by Takahashi Hiroaki, 1929

Why vintage and historical clothes are so small

By vintage, I mean maybe 1940s or earlier. Firstly there’s the reason you’re thinking of: on average people in the west are larger than they used to be. But it’s not like fat people didn’t exist in the Regency Era, so where are their clothes?

It’s for the simple reason that clothing was expensive and so was passed on to poor relations or servants. (Getting the masters’ cast-off clothes was one of the perks of being a maid.) The new owner cut it down and re-tailored it to fit them. That means clothing was passed down to smaller and smaller people and cut further and further down. So the size of a historical piece is the size of its last, smallest owner.

Another reason (and this is for more recent vintage clothes too) is that the stock that gets preserved in good enough condition to re-sell is the sample stock — the pieces worn by mannequins and models.

Source: a twitter thread by a fashion historian that I’ve since lost.

Historical Fashion Twitter

If you like historical clothes (or you write fantasy/scifi and want more varied, non-generic details for clothing), check out Lauren Deutsch’s feed, it’s incredible.

For less royal tastes:

This one was an RT. I always imagined chatelaines as basically just a big ring with keys on it; this is spectacular.

Re-mastered and colourised footage of the last known Tasmanian Tiger

aka thylacine. If you’re Australian you’ve probably seen the original black and white footage, but something about seeing it in colour makes it feel so much more like a real animal that lived, rather than another thing in a museum.

It’s a bit sad, a lot sad maybe, but I think worth having seen all the same. Poor guy.

The original footage was shot by Australian zoologist David Fleay in 1933 on black-and-white film. The National Film and Sound Archive scanned the original 35mm black-and-white negative into 4K and then colourisation experts in France matched the colour through drawings, sketches and paintings as well as pelts held in museum collections.

[Video link here if the embed doesn’t work]

This is a poem and the lack of paragraph breaks is deliberate. Since I normally avoid reading a Wall of Text,* maybe you do too, so I thought I should say: that’s not the situation here, read it, it’s good.

There should be a guy

By Max Lavergne

There should be a guy who every morning rides his bicycle down to the main street and sets up a small glass case of beautiful cakes he has made. He should sell the cakes at a reasonable price to whoever comes. The cakes should be both beautiful and inspiring. They should be sumptuously iced and decorated with fruits and sugared flowers which are not only lovely to behold but genuinely delicious. He should sit on a low half wall and read a newspaper folded into quarters until the cakes are all sold. As soon as the last one is sold he should tie the glass case to the back of his bike and cycle to the market to buy fresh eggs and flour, chocolate, fruit, all the things he needs to make cakes for tomorrow. And then he should ride his bicycle home, where he should kiss the top of the low door frame leading into his widower’s cottage because it will always remind him of her. And then he makes the cakes for the next day. Now that’s what should happen. It should be happening already, in towns all over the country. Hell, all over the world. If it’s not then fuck it. Let the bombs fall. Let them turn the beaches to glass. Return us to hunter gatherers, cowering in caves. Miserable dirty people dying of cold when it rains for too long. Let us slowly work our way back up if we can’t get even that part right when it should be so obvious. See if the next crop are smarter. And if they aren’t then try again. As long as it takes. Let our distant descendants hide in the shadows of the brick walls we built. I don’t think that’s too extreme.

from Max Lavergne’s substack, Infinite Gossip:

* Typically if a writer hasn’t put paragraph breaks in, then they haven’t thought about it from the reader’s perspective, so it’s not gonna communicate any of its ideas well except by pure chance.

The Bat-Eared Fox

Sharing mostly because LOOK, but some extra details:

  • Lives in southern and eastern Africa

  • Not technically a fox (it’s its own genus)

  • Mostly monogamous. Unlike with other canids, the male does most of the parental care, specifically “grooming, defending, huddling, chaperoning, and carrying the young between den sites” while the female goes out to eat so she has the nutrition to make good milk.

  • The only insectivorous canid. Helps people by eating termites.

  • Locates prey by sound, not smell (“all the better to hear you with, my dear”)

  • Because it only eats insects, its jaw is a bit different to other canids: much smaller teeth, and fewer ‘shearing surfaces’ (they’re more crush-y than slice-y). It also has a much larger digastric muscle (little muscle under the jaw that helps you chew), so it can chew faster, and an extra bit of bone for the enlarged muscle to attach to.

  • Wikipedia says “the digrastic muscle is also modified to open and close the jaw five times per second” but I can do that, so I feel like I’m missing something. I guess I can only do it at chattering speed, not at effective chomping speed.

  • “The bat-eared fox can recognize individuals up to 30 m away. The recognition process has three steps: First they ignore the individual, then they stare intently, and finally they either approach or attack without displays.”


Unsolicited Advice: How to not feel one very specific type of FOMO

Look, this is some niche advice, but if you’re like me, you recognise that bitcoin is egregiously destructive to the environment but simultaneously are like “man, if I’d put a hundred bucks into bitcoin when I first heard of it and vaguely considered it, I’d be a millionaire today, ###regret###

I have good news which is, no you wouldn’t be.

Here’s why: if you’d put $100 into bitcoin back in the day, you’d have sold it when it reached $1000. Maybe $10,000. And holding on to $100,000 in the hopes it’d turn into a million? Come on.

Crypto is gambling, and you should never gamble more than you can afford to lose, right? So the only people who held onto their bitcoin when it was worth $100,000 dollars were:

  • People who could afford to lose $100,000
  • People who couldn’t afford to lose it and were therefore making a very, very stupid gamble

And that’s the same at every dollar amount. Some people can’t afford to lose $1000, some people $100, but whatever level you’re at, you would have and should have sold when it hit that figure.

That means it’s literally not possible for a sensible person to make life-changing amounts of money from cryptocurrency, because the only way to do it is to bet more than you can afford to lose. Even if you only initially put a little down, every time the price goes up and you don’t sell, you’re effectively choosing to bet fresh each time at the new higher rate.

(There were a bunch of news stories on the ‘Dogecoin Millionaire’, who did indeed become a millionaire by investing in Dogecoin. Specifically, by investing a quarter of a million dollars in Dogecoin.)

I have known a few problem gamblers — they come into work and say “I put $50 on Santa’s Little Helper and won $400!” and everyone congratulates them, which feels great, which is part of why gambling is addictive. But they don’t tell you that they immediately put that $400 on the next race and lost, and that it was the seventh losing bet they made that day. (I try to avoid congratulating people who’ve had gambling wins for this reason — you never know when you’re enabling an addict.)

The ‘Resulting Fallacy’ is when you judge whether something was a good decision based on its results, rather than its likely results. In other words, if someone walks to the shops and a piano falls on their head, we don’t say that walking to the shops was a stupid decision. When someone drink-drives, and gets home safely without injuring anyone, we don’t say they made a good decision.

There may be people reading this who bet more than they could afford to lose on bitcoin, and won. But don’t fall for the Resulting Fallacy.

For the rest of you, there’s just no universe in which you would have put $100 or $1000 into bitcoin and held onto it till it was worth a million, so there’s no need to have FOMO.

(Here’s the above piece as a separate, shareable article FYI.)

Thanks for reading, I hope I didn’t make too many enemies with the crypto thing! Bitcoin fans can be kind of intense! But then “don’t gamble more than you can afford to lose” is surely pretty non-controversial? Who knows. If anyone reading this IS a bitcoin millionaire, then it seems like a good time to mention that you can support The Whippet by becoming a Patreon supporter.

If you are not a millionaire, but would like to feel like one for a day, why not become a Patreon supporter as well? I will send you a stock photo of a bitcoin.

I am good at sales pitches 🙏


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