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The Whippet #138: Nothing rhymes with money-laundering

McKinley Valentine — 9 min read

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Good morning!

To new readers: I stop talking about myself after the newspaper icon, if you want to skim.

To everyone who knows me IRL: sorry I’m still talking about how great contact lenses are, this is my identity now.

To everyone else: I got contact lenses and they’re the best, I’ll never go back to glasses, you’ll have to pry them off my cold dead eyeballs. I’m gettin so good at putting in my contacts I no longer need to tee up a podcast before I start 🎉

Anyway, when you get (soft) contacts, they give you a big speech about how important it is never to sleep in them. I assumed this was like how you’re supposed to remove your make-up before you go to bed, a thing I never do.*

* Eyeliner hack for people who are bad at eyeliner: Put on way too much eyeliner the night before, then wipe away the excess when you wake up, using moisturiser and a cloth or tissue. The rest will have all settled in between your eyelashes and you get a perfect tightline.

But no: really, really don’t go to sleep in contacts. Contacts prevent oxygen getting to your cornea. The better quality they are, the more oxygen they allow through, but even the best are blocking some.

So if you wear them for too long, new blood vessels start growing in towards your iris, like plants growing towards the light.


Spooky moment unrelated to neovascularisation (the upsetting thing above, neo=new, vascular=vessels).

So, daily contact lenses come in individually sealed pouches, marked L and R.

Today I opened the pack, put my left contact in, then my right, then looked down and the R pack was still sealed. Where did I get the second contact lens from?

There are only three possibilities:

  1. The L pack mistakenly had two lenses in it. This is fine, although would mean I was wearing the wrong prescription for my right eye.*

  2. It was a discarded lens from a previous day. This is terrible, this is how you get extremely serious eye infections that cause blindness, there is a reason the optometrists are so hyper about cleaning your hands etc.

  3. Ghosts. I don’t think I need to tell you how problematic a haunted eyeball is


* My left eye only perceives the truth, and my right eye only perceives lies

Medieval warhorses were no bigger than modern-day ponies

Destrier - Wikipedia

That’s really the whole story, but it’s a great story.

The researchers examined the bones of about 2,000 horses dating from the fourth to 17th centuries found at castles, a medieval horse cemetery and other archaeological sites in England, as well as combing historical records and fictional stories of chivalry.

[Full article at The Guardian]

Warhorses were small and light; the big horses were slow, farm-working horses.

My sense from reading history is that they do not seem small when there are thirty of them charging at you full pelt with dudes with spears on them. And probably the best way to recreate that feeling on film is by making the horses huge? So maybe the spirit is still correct.

Kintsugi but make it body horror

Translated Vase series by Yeesookyung

Kintsugi is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery using gold leaf, and philosophically about making the flaws/damage part of the art, rather than trying to hide it. If you’re thinking, “that would make a good metaphor for trauma recovery”, every self-help author on the planet is wayyy ahead of you. It’s so over-used as a metaphor that I’d forgotten kintsugi actually still is beautiful and poignant.

Seoul-based artist Yeesookyung makes Frankenstein kintsugi sculptures that I find delightfully upsetting. It reminds me of, I wanna say the ending of Paprika? “Enjoyably creeped out” is probably not quite the response you’re intended to have, so I’ll offer an alternative:

The series, titled “Translated Vase,” was first inspired by the Korean artisan tradition of destroying porcelain works that are not deemed pristine, and she has continued to make the fused pieces since 2001. Intrigued by these tossed aside works and shards, Yee began saving fragmented tea cups and pots rejected by contemporary masters. Honoring the works’ dismantled states, she traces each crevice in 24-karat gold leaf in the style of Japanese kintsugi, merging the unwanted works together in a way that heightens the beauty of their distress.

She also did a piece I really liked titled “The Very Best Statue”. She “disassembled images of Confucius, Lao-tzu, the Virgin Mary, Jesus, Buddha, and Ganesh into categorized parts and colors” and presented them in a questionnaire.

Page 1

People filled out the questionnaire on which detail was the most suitable for The Very Best Statue and then she actually created them. I noticed everyone loves the arm holding the scroll, and they’re right to.

You can vote on the next Very Best Statue by filling out this form.

Kintsugi Court

US Artist Victor Solomon used kintsugi to repair this dilapidated Las Angeles basketball court. The artwork was launched(?) to coincide with the return of the NBA after its covid shutdown.

More photos and story here.

Quick tip: It’s always money-laundering

Whenever you see a news item about how some artwork or random object has been sold for an absolutely madly disproportionate amount of money, assume it’s money-laundering, and you will be right 99 times out of 100. These are typically presented as “haha so crazy” stories, and as always with “haha so crazy” stories, it just means you’re missing the piece that would make it logical (the piece is money-laundering).

For example, in April last year a deli in rural New Jersey was, for some reason, publicly listed on the stock exchange. It reached a market cap of $113 million despite only taking in $13,976 revenue the year before. The little deli that could!

Is it money laundering? It would probably be illegal for me to suggest that, but —

Hometown spent $170,767 on “professional fees,” which is presumably the absolute bare-bones cost of paying lawyers and accountants for the upkeep of a public company, which, again, Hometown is, despite also being a single deli. It also spent $320,000 on “consulting — related parties.” (Bloomberg)

— it’s certainly something  other than a normal deli, right? Something that involves moving large sums of money around?

Here’s an article on money-laundering in the art world if you want to get the general gist. NFTs are the next evolution of an identical trick; you just cut out the artist middleman and save on storage space.

Anyway, it’s a handy heuristic: if you find it funny that something’s being sold for such a crazy price, assume it’s money-laundering, and you won’t be wrong very often. It needs a little mnemonic rhyme or something.

P.S. If you’re thinking “you know what else sells for a ridiculously high price? an apartment in any Australian city” — that’s right, it’s money-laundering.* Our laws are like a huge big loophole that says “please come and launder your money in our property market.” (International readers: don’t.)

* Obviously not every property bought and sold is to launder money, but enough of them are that it artificially inflates prices.

Gimme depthscraper 🖐️✊🖐️✊

We all want underground cities but they won’t give them to us.*

* I would hate this, I get seasonal affective disorder if I’m out of direct sunlight for more than five minutes. But I would want to love it.

Accurate simulation of giant orbiting banana, should it ever come to that

(No it’s genuinely interesting)

Just a fun recent judge’s ruling

This is a case from the Australian Fair Work Commission, December 2021.

The worker, Mr Brownbill, supplied a proof of vaccination certificate to his employer, and the employer said it was fraudulent and stood him down. Mr Brownbill is claiming wrongful termination.

The case is being heard over a Microsoft Teams conference call. The certificate gets shown to the judge and it has a blatantly dodgy-sounding URL on it, which takes you to a site that generates fake vax certificates. Here’s the judge:

[5] Having clicked on the hyperlink, it appeared to me that the means by which the vaccination certificate had been procured by Mr Brownbill may have been fraudulent and that the certificate he produced may be a fraud.

[6] I expressed this view to the parties.


[8] During a further exchange with Mr Brownbill about a separation certificate he says he was sent to him by the Company, he terminated his involvement in the conference by stating:

“Fuck this, I’m not wasting any more time with you corrupt idiots.”

[9] From this, I have taken Mr Brownbill to have discontinued his application pursuant to Rule 10(2)(c) of the Fair Work Commission Rules 2013. The Commission’s file will now be closed.

Full ruling at AustLII.

If you ever want to see the full details of a court ruling (for example, the very recent Djokovic vs Minister for Immigration case), AustLII is the place to find it. It’s often really fascinating, because it lays out the whole logic path and shows the relationship between the legislation and how it’s interpreted and applied.

Same vibe, but for voting

Generally speaking (at least in the UK and Australia, I don’t know about elsewhere) if a person’s ballot paper makes it clear and unambiguous how the person intended to vote, the vote gets counted. So it doesn’t matter if you put a tick or an X or colour the box in, so long as it’s clear which box you’re indicating. (There are scrutineers from every party to oversee and argue about it.)

Anyway my favourite of these is from the 2019 European elections: someone in Leicester wrote “wank” next to every single candidate except for the Green Party, next to which they wrote “not wank”. The vote was deemed valid.

Unsolicited Advice: Emotion/stress processing technique with a key difference

So the technique is just “write three pages about how you’re feeling, possibly in the format of a dialogue with yourself”. I won’t go into that because you’re probably familiar and really there’s not much to it.

The key difference: destroy the pages immediately afterwards in a very thorough way, and pay attention while you’re doing it so the memory is locked in. Destroy them even if all you wrote was “today was a nice day and I ate a sandwich”. Destroy them especially if you wrote something bland.

What is happening is you are teaching your brain that those three pages really are a completely safe place to be open and honest, because they always get destroyed, no matter what.

So the first few times, you might not get any benefit out of it, because you’re just in the “teach my brain to trust me to destroy the pages” phase.


There is a pretty common habit-building technique which is to start with a tiny habit — do two push-ups, write for 2 minutes, etc. Many people who swear by this method say that, once they’ve got started, they end up doing a full set of push-ups, or writing for an hour.

The flaw for someone like me is that I know 5 minutes of writing isn’t enough, and that it’s a trick to get me to finish the whole piece, so I resist the 5 minutes just as strongly as I would have resisted writing for an hour.

One way around that is to, for the first week or three, put hard end limits on the habit as well. Really do stop after 2 push-ups or five minutes. Set an alarm if you have to.

You’re trying to teach your brain that you really are sincere about the tiny habit being enough.

Honestly this would never work for me with writing because I have specific, quantified tasks that I need to complete on deadline — half-finishing is the same as not finishing. But for something like push-ups or a walk around the block, where there is always a difference between 1 and 0, I think it would be worth trying.

Even if none of these examples are relevant,* I hope you will consider as a factor not just what is helpful in the moment, but what teaches your brain helpful patterns for the future.

* I personally find unstructured Morning Pages one of the most reliable ways to completely tank my mood, but they work wonders for a lot of people, and you don’t know until you try.

Thanks for reading! May you not have to waste any more time with corrupt idiots. (Look I’m not on #TeamMrBrownbill but it’s a good blessing, who amongst us would turn that down.)

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