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The Whippet #97: An impressionistic painting by a dim third-grader

McKinley Valentine — 7 min read

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You might notice The Whippet is coming from a different email address today: I’ve switched from MailChimp to Substack and declared MailChimp my enemy.

That last part wasn’t strictly necessary, but it’s fun to hold grudges and people are mostly pretty nice to me, leaving me without many healthy outlets for grudge-holding.

(A MailChimp-bot flagged the last issue of The Whippet as a violation of their Terms of Service, and they froze my account and wouldn’t reply to messages. The ToS are meant to stop you shilling cryptocurrency, shady supplements, and so on –  I suspect my description of the Superb Fairy-Wren as “the least faithful bird in the world” registered as a catfishing scam or something.)

But I’m actually excited about the change:

  1. Decent, searchable archives! You can find and share old issues if you want. Formatting is a bit janky because they were mass-imported from MailChimp, but content is the same.
  2. I like that Substack is designed for writers who see their newsletter as an end in itself, not as a sales funnel. Mailchimp is primarily a marketing/advertising platform. They call newsletters ‘campaigns’ and are constantly reminding you that your last campaign led to $0 in sales, which made me feel a bit slimy.
  3. If I accidentally get a URL wrong (this would never happen) I can fix it in the web version instead of sending out a correction.

Comments section! Everyone’s favourite part of the internet!
Nah but I’m genuinely keen for this. Only subscribers can comment, so it’s not the internet at large, which I think solves like 95% of the problem with comments sections.

It’s a bit of an experiment, but I think it could be good! Like, if you wanted to discuss things with random strangers, you could do worse than Whippet readers I reckon.

Please feel free to share things you think, things you politely disagree with, things it reminds you of. I’ll be there.

Discuss this issue

Don’t talk to the cops even if you’ve done nothing wrong: A lawyer explains every reason why it’s a terrible idea

2: You don't even know if you're lying or not. When an FBI agent is interviewing you, assume that that agent is exquisitely prepared. They probably already have proof about the answer of half the questions they're going to ask you. They have the receipts. They've listened to the tapes. They've read the emails. Recently. You, on the other hand, haven't thought about Oh Yeah That Thing for months or years, and you routinely forget birthdays and names and whether you had a doctor's appointment today and so forth. So, if you go in with "I'll just tell the truth," you're going to start answering questions based on your cold-memory unrefreshed holistic general concept of the subject, like an impressionistic painting by a dim third-grader. (Ken White at Popehat)

He has like 7 different points including “You don’t know if you’re in trouble” and “You can't even talk properly”. This is correct - I was interviewed for a podcast the other day and I was like “this will be fine, I know how to have a normal human conversation about topics I’m well-informed on” but something about knowing it’s being recorded completely jangled me up, and that was talking to nice people who weren’t actively trying to catch me in a contradiction. I would be a useless mess under police interrogation.

Read the whole article, it’s a delight.

Don’t talk to the cops: Video edition

Similar topic, also a lawyer, but covers a different set of reasons, so you wouldn’t be wasting your time by reading/watching both. Also just an absolutely charming and engaging speaker with a great accent. I’ve watched this video three times, he’s that charming.

I’m not suggesting either of these because I think it’s info you need. They’re just interesting and entertaining! And maybe you’ll need it. Learning stuff like this is all the fun of being a prepper with none of the floorspace requirements.

Note: This and the article above are both about the US but the principles are similarish in the UK and Australia, not sure about elsewhere. A certain segment of conspiracy-theorist Australians have a habit of citing the US Bill of Rights or First Amendment in their defence because they’ve watched too many fringe youtube videos, which is pretty funny.

Small dogs standing on mushrooms

Left: can’t find original source sorry! Right: Roberta Dell’Anno

Australian names for bank notes

You know how US bank notes are nicknamed after the dead presidents? Benjamins and that? Australian bank notes are bright colours so they’re nicknamed after brightly coloured things.

  • The yellow $50 is called a pineapple.
  • The orangey-red $20 is called a lobster.

The other ones don’t have nicknames that I’ve ever heard anyone actually say out loud in real life (other than like, “tenner”), but Australians keep trolling the Wikipedia page for Slang Terms for Money and adding hundreds of fakes:

Daughter of a serial killer speaks about what it’s like to find out your dad’s a serial killer

(Courtesy Warning: Discusses serial killers but nothing graphic)

Interesting interview, she’s thoughtful and articulate and honest. And I think lots of people wonder - what would I do if I found out something like that about someone I thought I knew? How would that change you? And a lot of people also have (a much milder version of) the experience of trying to reconcile your true positive experiences with someone you care about with the also-true awful ways they’ve behaved.

Article is here.

The reality is that you would almost certainly know. She genuinely didn’t, but I’ve read about most of the big name serial killers, and nearly every one, as soon as the murder is reported, family, neighbours and co-workers immediately call up and say “I’m pretty sure it’s that guy.” Despite media representation, psychopaths are usually below average intelligence and tend to do things like hire neighbours to dig 6-foot deep rectangular holes in their crawlspace and give implausible explanations for why they need it (that’s a real example, John Wayne Gacy). It’s not really genius cat-and-mouse stuff. The serial killer BTK got caught because he asked the cops, “If I send you my manifesto on a floppy disk, can you use it to trace me?” The cops told him it wouldn’t be possible to trace him, he sent the floppy disk, and they identified him from the metadata.

Like narcissists, they lie badly because they tell wildly different lies to different people and are then shocked when those people compare notes. (This is a really common one - I think it might be to do with them not being able to imagine another person’s inner life, so they don’t understand that people continue to have independent existestences when they’re out of the serial killer’s sight, and relationships with each other that are separate from their relationship with the serial killer. It’s almost like a lack of object permanence.)

There are a million other examples but they all involve murder so I’ll leave it there. (Importantly, this is only about serial killers, not about abusers in general. Sadly that is much much harder to detect. Sorry to be a downer but I didn’t want to pass on dangerous ideas that “you can just tell”. You can’t.)

Current favourite Twitter account

You’ll want to turn off retweets though, their RTs are some spammy nonsense.

Unsolicited Advice: How to start a conversation with a stranger, aka real icebreakers

I quite like icebreakers, by which I mean fun questions that spark a conversation that’s more interesting than small talk. But they’re a terrible way to start a conversation with a stranger or new-ish acquaintance. They’re unnatural questions and it’s very obvious you’re doing a Thing.

  • If you did not have to sleep, how would you spend the extra 8 hours?
  • What is your oldest or most cherished grudge?

If you had unlimited resources, what frivolous thing would you collect? Not books. It has to be frivolous.

(These are all from Rob Walker’s Art of Noticing newsletter, which has an Icebreaker each week, and there’s a masterlist of all of them here. Mine is on page 17.)

These are good questions to ask someone you already know, during a conversation lull. It’s more like a party game, or a “I’m doing a Thing but bear with me while rolling your eyes because you’re my friend and you have to”.

If you actually just want to start a conversation with someone new, you can do it by complimenting them.

But you’re worried about the compliment being inappropriate!

Here’s the rule: compliment something they have or something they’ve done.

“I love your shoes.” “Your twitter is hilarious.” “I read your advice on icebreakers, it was super useful.” Something they have or something they’ve done.

(This advice comes from a recent episode of Dimension 20 and is genius. Before I’d been framing it much less helpfully as like, “don’t compliment what someone looks like unless it’s something they’ve bought” which is clunkier and more confusing.)

Anyway that’s how you actually break the ice with someone.

Comments section! Talk about this issue in the comments! Tell me what your country calls various banknotes! Answer the icebreakers! Don’t get graphic if you want to talk about the serial killer bit please!

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