Today’s eel: every edition of this newsletter is named after an eel. Today’s is the large Longfinned eel (Anguilla dieffenbachii).
I came across a fact about this eel when reading this story, about an eel named Åle that supposedly lived for 155 years in a backyard well in Sweden. Turns out, it’s unlikely that Åle (a European eel, Anguilla anguilla) was quite that old, but eels can live quite a long time. Apparently there was once an eel named Pute who lived in a Swedish aquarium for 85 years. I could find no record of Pute, so perhaps the following is also untrue, but then another expert in the story said that “in another eel species, the large long-fin eel in New Zealand, there are individuals more than 100 years in age in natural waters.” One hundred years!
The average life expectancy of a human in the United States (78.69 years) is less than Pute, and certainly less than these New Zealand eels. So of course I wanted to know more about these octogenarian New Zealand slimeybois.
The New Zealand longfin eel does indeed have a long fin — according to guidebooks the easiest way to identify this eels is to look for its lengthy dorsal fin that runs about two thirds of the way down its body. These eels live the majority of their lives in freshwater, and only head out to see to mate and then die. They’re hefty eels, too, weighing about thirty pounds as adults. Oh and they can climb things. Apparently, in their quest for the sea, they often wind up trapped in hydropower dams. But unlike fish, who just kind of die there, these eels can leave the water and climb up and down small ladders to get through the obstacle.
The Māori of course have a long relationship with this eel. They call the Anguilla dieffenbachii “tuna” and the eel is both an important food source as well as a whole bunch of mythology around the creatures. Because these eels get so big, and live so long, they can really feel like river monsters (also known as taniwha to the Māori). If you respect your local taniwha, you will be safe and protected. But if you do not, watch out.
I picked a super long lived eel for this newsletter because I’m thinking about the last ten years, and the next ten. Total, that’s 12% of Åle’s life, but it’s probably 23% of mine. What I’m saying is that I’m running out of time to find a river to haunt, so please excuse me, I have some real estate prospecting to do.
As if ends of years weren’t existentially exhausting enough, we’re now also now enduring the end of a decade. Every year around this time, people reflect back, and then reflect on the reflecting back, and now we’re all doing that but upped an order of magnitude. We were so naive in 2010, weren’t we? Or maybe we weren’t. I don’t know.
I’m not going to try and recap the decade, or predict the next one. But I do like to take time at the end of every December to combat my feelings of inadequacy by recapping what I actually did do each year. I’m a list maker. I’m the kind of list maker who adds things to the list that have already been done, so I can check them off and feel satisfied. This is that list, but for the whole year.
🖊️ I wrote some stuff.
Your Employer May Be Spying on You—and Wasting Its Time (Scientific American)
The No. 1 Ladies’ Defrauding Agency (Longform)
The Future of Forms (Slate) (FICTION)
Why are Journalism Contests So Expensive to Enter? (Nieman Reports)
The Best Menstrual Cup (2019 update) (Wirecutter)
Mothers Against Sinister Technology (VICE) (FICTION)
🏺 I got a hobby! I now make weird ceramics. You can see them mostly on Instagram. I’ve actively resisted turning this hobby into a side hustle this year. I refuse to make a separate Instagram account, or sell these things, or even take commissions from friends generally because the whole point of this is that it truly doesn’t matter if I’m good or if any of the stuff I try works. And it’s been SO good for my mental health. Bonus: when you’re working with clay your hands are dirty, so you can’t really touch your phone.
💉 I got zero new tattoos this year, but I will remedy that next year. On the list include a sketch I drew of the noodlebeasts I’ve been making in clay, and Leibniz’s unicorn. Possibly also David Bowie.
🐉 For next year, I’m working on some really exciting projects. I’m not sure how many of them will actually happen (I’m in the process of finding funding for all of them) but even if half of them pan out I’ll be busy and happy next year.
I hope you all have a tremendous rest of 2019, and enter the decade in whatever style you choose. Decades are arbitrary constructs if you want them to be. See you on the other side.