The Whippet #128: Arbitrarily dangerous cargo

Hello hi!

So some meta:

Last week I launched a bonus supplement to The Whippet, called Whippet Cetera, a name I am inordinately pleased with.

It will be some occasional extra posts from me, for paying subscribers and patreon supporters.

The regular Whippet is completely unchanged, still every fortnight, still and always completely free for anyone who wants to read it.

Whippet Cetera is stuff I’ve found interesting or have been thinking about, but that isn’t a good fit for The Whippet — a little bit more personal, a lot more meandering, and covering topics that I can’t neatly encapsulate in a couple of paragraphs and a headline. Sometimes it’ll be stuff that I don’t have a clear conclusion on myself, but still want to talk about.

I’m not committing to any particular schedule, but it’s likely to be every 6 weeks-ish?(maybe??)(???)

The first Whippetc. is about how much of an artist’s real life and experiences end up in the art they make, and a framework for thinking about that, with reference to the tv show Fargo, a near-future scifi book set in Minnesota (which you don’t have to have read), Tolkien, Don McLean (*shakes fist*) and allegories. (I did say meandering!)

You can read it either here or on Patreon, or honestly if you really want to read it but don’t have much money, just email me and I’ll send it to you, I’m not gonna be that mercenary about it.


End of meta!

So for reasons discussed above, I was google-imaging the album cover of The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan (referenced in the song American Pie by Don McLean) and came across this quote from Suze Rotolo, who’s on the cover:

“He [Dylan] wore a very thin jacket, because image was all. Our apartment was always cold, so I had a sweater on, plus I borrowed one of his big, bulky sweaters. On top of that I put on a coat. So I felt like an Italian sausage. Every time I look at that picture, I think I look fat.”

I’m just struck by the fact that she is probably the only person on Earth who has ever looked at that album cover and thought, “she looks fat”. Or “she looks thin”. It’s just not relevant to the photo and not a lens you’d ever think to look at it through.

All the points I could make here about self-image are very obvious. I’ll still make them: No one thinks you look as bad in photos as you think you look, and even if you genuinely do look bad in a photo, no one’s dwelling on it except you.

Be sweet to yourselves; I’ll try to be sweet to myself as well.

Arbitrarily dangerous cargo: pistachios

Pistachios can suffocate you:

In fact there seem to be no end to the ways pistachios can kill. Just having them in an enclosed space can suffocate someone. They take in oxygen and excrete carbon dioxide, even after they’ve been harvested. Ships have to keep them in a well-ventilated place so they don't suck all the air out of a place and suffocate cabin boys.

or spontaneously catch fire:

They also have to be kept under the right temperature and pressure conditions. Pistachios have a low water content and a high fat content. Water doesn’t burn. Fat does. There may seem like a logical solution to this. Ships go over oceans, lakes, and rivers, so the humidity should bring up the water content and everything should be okay, right?

Not right.

When the water content in pistachios gets too large, fat-cleaving enzymes kick in. The fat-cleaving enzymes produce free fatty acids, and those fatty acids are broken down when the nut takes in oxygen and spits out carbon dioxide. During that process it also spits out water, which makes more fat-cleaving enzymes kick in. What’s more, that process of breaking down the fatty acid, taking in oxygen and putting out carbon dioxide has a more common name: burning. The process gives off a lot of heat, and that heat builds and builds until the entire bunch of nuts catches fire and sometimes explodes.

via Gizmodo


Cashews also a problem

Have you ever wondered why you never see cashews for sale in their shells, the way you do with peanuts and pistachios and even almonds although that’s annoying?

It’s cause they’re covered in toxic oil. Cashews are related to poison ivy, and their shells are coated in irushiol, the poison in poison ivy. (But imagine the reaction you’d get if you tried to eat poison ivy.)

It coats the inside as well, so cashews have to be boiled in oil to cool the irushiol off, then shelled and thoroughly washed and peeled. That’s so-called “raw” cashews. Then they’re roasted again for “roasted cashews”. [source]

Honestly seems like a lot of effort when you could just eat a non-poisonous food, but I’m starting to think all foods are secretly deadly. I mean, grain silos are incredibly dangerous because grain dust is so flammable and because of ‘grain engulfment’, which is when you sink into the grain like quicksand and suffocate. So maybe we’re just not meant to eat food.


This town ain’t big enough for the both of us

It occurred to me that I had no idea where that phrase originates, so maybe you don’t either? It’s a 1932 film called The Western Code. The original context is pretty slick:

Nick Grindell : I’m getting tired of your meddling. This town ain’t big enough for the both of us and I’m going to give you 24 hours to get out. If I see you in Carabinas by this time tomorrow, it’s you or me!

Tim Barrett : I’ll see you at this time... tomorrow.

This is the other quote IMDB has:

Nick Grindell : You came here looking for trouble, didn’t you?

Tim Barrett : Well, I’m here and I’m looking at you, if that’s what you mean.

It honestly sounds pretty awesome. I couldn’t find the whole film anywhere though.

Tim Barrett was played by Tim McCoy, who gets around:

Tag yourself; I’m Square Shooter


Hyena bone hoard

In the mid-2000s, researchers found a mile-long lava tube (cave formed by the passage of lava) filled with animal bones. They didn’t investigate it further because they heard growls coming from the tunnel.

Now they know why. Researchers found hundreds of thousands of bones from 40 different species, dating from 7000 years old to the Victorian era. The bones include cattle, camels, goats, antelopes, rodents and humans. It seems to be the stockpile of generations upon generations of hyena.

A telltale sign that hyenas were responsible for the huge pile of bones was the presence of human skull fragments. The mammals are notorious for rummaging through graves for grub.

“It’s always just the skullcap that survives,” Stewart says. “[Hyenas] seem to not really be interested in skull caps. We found maybe five or six skullcaps with gnaw marks on them at the site, but only the skullcaps. Nothing else.”

[Smithsonian for more on the scientific significance]


Recommended follow: Random Restaurant

It grabs random restaurants from google maps and shows you 4 photos, usually a mix of the building and the food served. Since it’s random, and everywhere has some place that serves food, it’s not at all Western-centric.

You do also see a lot of Subways and McDonalds in every country, and everywhere does pizza, but there’s still differences, e.g. this triple-layered wafer pizza from South Africa.


If you’re somewhere without a big Vietnamese population: a banh mi is a delicious sandwich. You know how there are certain iconic foods, the kind that everyone has a strong opinion on which place does the best version of it? Banh mi is like that.

Feel free to recommend your favourite banh mi place in the comments (and what city it’s in); I’m not entitled to an opinion since I pick all the coriander* out.

Leave a comment

* aka cilantro



I am showing incredible restraint by not posting more examples, it is the most addictive twitter account, especially when you’re hungry.

Random Restaurant

Unsolicited Advice: Instantly draw very slightly better

This tip comes from artist Meg Syv, I have no drawing capabilities whatsoever.

It is actually almost aggravating that I was nevertheless able to draw simple shapes better by doing this.

Today’s Art Tip is a little one for beginning inkers, or people who are struggling to get their lines looking steady and confident: look ahead of the line you’re drawing, not at the tip of your utensil where it meets the canvas!

Seriously, just try it, draw a stick figure or a heart-shape or something. It’s not a massive difference, but it as a noticeable one, and an absolute freebie in terms of effort.

I figure this works the same way as the high-five elbow trick. (If you want to ensure a perfect, squared up, satisfying high five every time, look at the other person’s elbow, not their hand.) It’s giving your brain the info it needs to do the spatial processing or whatever, no conscious plan needed.

Thanks for reading!

If you want to support The Whippet — or if you don’t want to support The Whippet, but you want to read Whippet Cetera so you have more things not to support — please consider becoming a patreon at this link, or becoming a paying subscriber on substack (button in footer, I think).