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The Whippet #140: Seasonless, herbless, treeless, manless

McKinley Valentine — 7 min read

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No opinions today, head empty.

(I’m in the process of leaving Substack for Ghost, and I kept convincing myself I’d be able to get it everything migrated and set up in time for this issue to go out, which I a) failed to do and b) spent so much time on that I didn’t leave enough time to write anything here.) (Don’t worry, the switch should be seamless on your end, although do check your spam/promotions folder if you don’t see it next fortnight.)

Lastly, if you wrote to me after the previous issue, I did read your emails. I didn’t reply because many of them were about the death of a loved one, and deserved more than a “cool, thanks!” but then I was a bit of a mess this week and couldn’t manage more than that.

Thank you very much for writing to me about the people you care about.

Why they shout “Clear!” when they defibrillate people

Maybe this is obvious, but I didn’t know it. They’re about to run an electrical current through someone, so obviously, if you’re touching the person when that happens, the current will pass through you as well. “Clear!” means “stop touching the person who is about to become a live electrical conduit.”

They also remove any metal/jewellery off the patient’s chest first.

Racoons = wash-bear

Twitter avatar for @nemerevermore

Micah Nemerever @nemerevermorea delightful thing I learned a while ago is that basically every language's name for "raccoon" refers to the fact that they wash their lil hands

November 26th 20217,295 Retweets82,373 Likes

Twitter avatar for @nemerevermore

Micah Nemerever @nemerevermorewashie washie


November 26th 2021857 Retweets10,751 Likes

Never forget

(In looking for this gif, I found out that the reason raccoons touch everything so much and are always press-press-pressing with their hands, is that they have almost as strong a tactile sense as sight. They touch everything for the same reason you look at everything.)

The fierce triumph of loneliness

I really enjoyed this piece (written in 2016 — our feelings about isolation have all been scrambled in various directions by the pandemic).

I relate to this so intensely:

In middle school, my parents would go out for date night and leave me in the house by myself with instructions to order a pizza for dinner. The sound of the door closing when they left was a small and giddy freedom; I was entirely alone, rendered invisible, and belonging to no one but myself. My unmitigated joy at the simple fact of being left alone was perfect in a way that very few larger, adult joys have ever been able to recreate since.

I never did anything transgressive or even interesting on those nights—I’d watch a movie and probably fall asleep on the couch. It was about the solitude: the lack of obligation to arrange my face in a way that someone else would understand. Even at age twelve, I understood the weight of that burden, and the relief of its absence.

She talks about how, in relationships, you give up a lot of that. My husband and I don’t live together (I don’t know how an introvert/introvert marriage would survive otherwise) but we’ve still given up a fair bit of it for each other. But you’re not sposed to admit it’s a “giving up”. In a lot of friendships, people say “I’m busy” rather than “I have no plans and I want to keep it that way” because some people find the latter offensive — like “choosing somebody else over me, I understand, but choosing nothing over me? Am I worse than nothing?” Yes, cause “nothing” is a drink of cool water.

The idea that we progress in a clear trajectory from single unit to couple form, and achieve a sort of emotional success by doing so, seems wrong to me. […] A paired life is not an aspirational state, but a compromised one. Loneliness is not the terror we escape; it is instead the reward we give up when we believe something else to be worth the sacrifice.

One of my partner and I’s wedding vows was “I promise to respect your need for solitude, without projecting my insecurity onto it.”

There is so much more that is excellent in this piece, I really recommend it:

The Fierce Triumph of Loneliness

An apocalyptic poem by Lord Byron

I know so much about Lord Byron as a character and historical figure (“Mad, bad, and dangerous to know”) but I’ve never actually read any of his poems.

Until now! It’s called Darkness and it is goth. It is about the end of the world, an end of the world brought on by Darkness, the stars going out and everything getting black and cold and people burning everything they once valued for warmth, until there’s nothing left to burn.

The palaces of crowned kings – the huts,
The habitations of all things which dwell,
Were burnt for beacons; cities were consum’d,
And men were gather’d round their blazing homes


Forests were set on fire – but hour by hour
They fell and faded – and the crackling trunks
Extinguish’d with a crash – and all was black.

Byron’s apocalypse sounds strikingly like nuclear winter, and you’d think he was eerily prescient, except he had actually experienced something very like nuclear winter. In 1815, Mt Tambora in Indonesia erupted (still the most powerful volcanic eruption in recorded history). Volcanic ash from the eruption blocked the sun throughout 1816 — crops withered and there was mass famine. (It’s referred to as “the year without a Summer”.)

The poem is bleak, and the language is very ye olde, but I enjoyed it a lot:

Darkness, by Lord Byron

Recommendation: Theme Time Radio Hour

Theme Time Radio Hour was an hour-long radio show, with the music being, roughly, what you might expect to hear on the soundtrack to O Brother Where Art Thou and/or the Fallout games, with the occasional contemporary curveball thrown in. The music for each episode is all chosen to fit a theme (e.g. Coffee, the Devil, the moon).

It’s hosted by Bob Dylan, but you don’t have to like his music to enjoy it (you probably do have to like his influences — a lot of old blues, etc). He’s an incredible host, you feel like you’re in a noir novel. He plays jingles from old radio stations from the 40s, tells you a bit about the history of the song or the songwriter, or gives random thoughts, reads out bits of lyrics, etc.

Terry Teachout wrote, for The Wall Street Journal, that "[to] listen to Theme Time Radio Hour is to rediscover the sense of musical adventure that old-fashioned disc jockeys with strongly individual personalities offered in the days before big-money stations pinned their fiscal hopes to the rigid Top 40-style playlists that took the fun out of radio" [wikipedia].

All the episodes have been saved in an internet archive here. You can also search your podcast app for it. I’ve been listening to it in the mornings the way you would breakfast radio, if real breakfast radio wasn’t egregiously unpleasant.*

* maybe you have good breakfast radio where you are, no insult intended if so

Unsolicited Advice: Learn from my mistakes! Maybe by writing this down, I will learn from my own mistakes as well!

Here is what happened:

Ghost requires more technical expertise than Substack, and I have very little technical expertise, but I can often kind of trial-and-error my way through. I hit a huge obstacle, well beyond my capabilities, and I emailed my new host/provider to help.

And when he didn’t reply within 2 hours (it was probably the middle of the night there), I kept trying to solve it myself — some of this is ADHD (impatience + hyperfixation) but it’s also just human.

But I spent like… probably a good 9 hours or something? Researching the problem and digging through forums and trying various things out and asking friends for help (thanks, friends, and sorry for wasting your time).

And then the host got back to me and said “I just have to change an admin setting and then you should be good to go” and I was indeed good to go. I spent so long on all this complex elements, which were all red herrings. I just needed one simple switch flipped, and the patience to wait for the responsible person to flip it.

Folks, I do this a lot. I put vast amounts of time and effort into pre-solving a problem, either out of impatience or anxiety (it’s hard to do nothing and just wait when you’re anxious) and then the problem resolves itself through other means. And as in this situation, it’s not just luck that the problem resolved itself — I’d already put the wheels in motion to fix it, but I couldn’t handle waiting so I kept trying to fix it anyway.

Maybe writing this down will help me notice better next time. If you do the same thing, maybe you will notice better too.

Thanks for reading!

Hey so when I switch to Ghost next issue, Substack will stop taking a 10% cut of the subscription fees! Not that I’m mad, you’re allowed to charge for a service (that is, I’m not mad about the 10% — I’m mad at substack for other things).

Nevertheless, what better time to become a paying subscriber! Substack really don’t need that extra 10% from me, I’m small fry, but it will make a difference to me.

(It’s all processed through an independent payment platform that travels with me, so existing financial supporters won’t notice the change and don’t need to do anything).

Thanks again,



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