weeknotes #12: curious thoughts on boar taint, unsolved deaths, and respecting the dead

Oh yeah we’re back. 🤙🏻 This is the first “official” weeknote of the year, if you don’t count my Hey 2022! post. I really enjoyed doing these weeknotes last year and am looking forward to doing it regularly again. I was going to write this post yesterday but after doing a few hours of housework, I was just kind of pooped. I did some research for an upcoming trip to Tasmania (yes! I am excited to go again!) and honestly… just didn’t feel like emptying my mind, even though I was definitely keen on doing so.

As I write this, I’m just writing in the WordPress editor, which amuses me, because a while back, I used to use the Bear writing app quite religiously to maintain some kind of focus mode. And then, I don’t know, I stopped giving a shit? Or my focus improved? Or I didn’t need the same amount of “focus” for blog posts that I had been searching for? Especially since writing these weeknotes, which are a bit more free-flowing, and – well, just – free.

I spent some time looking for a plugin to have dark mode in WordPress, though, which was a pain and a waste of time, because I couldn’t find anything that worked with the visual editor. I’ve gone back to the raw text/HTML editor. Which I don’t mind, because I care more about having less eye strain than how pretty what I’m writing looks. We have been using the small lamp in the study room while we work, instead of the ceiling light, which has made for a slightly more pleasant experience due to less artificial light. Unfortunately, our study simply does not get any natural light, so we have to make do with what we’ve got. But due to only using the small lamp, it means that light backgrounds on a screen feel more straining on the eye due to less light being in the room.

First week back at work was fucking radical, in the sense that I only had one meeting with a new person in my team, and one group meeting. Limited Zoom-to-Zoom, screen-to-screen kinda interaction. I was working together on a task with the new person in my team for most of the week, but we communicated well over Slack, so everything went really smoothly. I did not dread going back to work, or feel like my break should have been longer, which means it was well spent, I’d hope. 🤞🏼

A couple of interesting things have entered my mind recently, the first one being something called “boar taint”. Content warning ahead: animal consumption by humans, and associated procedures.

Nick heard about it from a colleague, and he told me about it because it seemed to explain my repulsion towards the smell of pork (and some other meats), such that it makes me retch. I’ve heard similar experiences from other people, too. My mum has a similar repulsion, and I suspected it might be genetic – but she also later revealed that she was exposed to a pig farm in her childhood in Indonesia, and seeing raw meat for likely the first time in Australia as an adult might have also contributed to the reaction, since that was something that mostly maids of the household were exposed to. Boar taint refers to the unpleasant odour associated with pig meat, although the odour can exist in other creatures. It exists in the form of two compounds, one from male pigs (androstenone), and the other from both male and female pigs (skatone). The former smells like sweat, while the latter smells more like poop. For centuries, humans have castrated male pigs before they mature, as a way of removing the odour. The Wikipedia article gives a pretty good summary, which is where I got this information.

So why do I – and others – still experience this unpleasant odour? I wanted to look for some studies. A search on the internet will find you many studies that focus on the welfare of the animal and how we can better do this procedure, because unfortunately some of the animals are not even anaesthetised. It turns out that poor living conditions and environment for the animals can also contribute to the odour, so even if procedures are taken to remove boar taint, it might still exist. I wanted to know though, if it could be genetic?

Nick also suggested that once you are exposed to the smell of boar taint, such as from a young age, you might be affected by it for a long time to come. There seems to be an association with boar taint and low quality meat, so it felt possible that I had been exposed to that when I was younger, and perhaps my mum as well before she moved to Australia. But humans have been trying to remove it for centuries, so I still wanted to explore if there was a genetic link. I found an article summarising a study that deduced the possibility of a gene being connected to boar taint sensitivity. Researchers found that participants in the study who were more sensitive to boar taint had a common gene, OR7D4, which encodes a receptor for androstenone. It is, however, likely not the only contributing factor to that sensitivity. But that was interesting to know! 🧠

Another thing on my mind, which definitely tickles my desire for murder mysteries and cold cases for missing persons: I only just read into the death of Gabby Petito. She was engaged to a man whom she went on a “van life” trip with, and, amidst some signs of domestic violence, went missing and was later found dead. Brian, the man she was engaged to, returned home on his own. The whole thing is bizarre because the FBI is involved and Brian’s family aren’t saying a word, and before he returned home, some people picked him up while he was hitchhiking and his behaviour was suspicious, and Brian went camping with his family a short time after he returned home. Without his fiancée?! Surely…? 🙄 Anyway, the whole thing has apparently reeked of missing white woman syndrome (which I’m sure I have mentioned on this blog a while back), where there is a lot of media coverage for missing women who are White, young, usually upper-class or privileged, possibly even pertaining to higher Western beauty standards – compared to missing people who are not White, women who are of lower social classes, or even boys and men.

I totally, for some reason, found myself reading about the death of Elisa Lam yesterday, again, after first discovering that story in probably… 2016? I found out that the hotel she was staying in, Stay on Main (previously Cecil Hotel), was the host of a handful of suicides and deaths from falling, that date back to the 1920s, which is when the Cecil Hotel opened. Curious to know my thoughts, Nick asked if I’d ever stay there or if I’d be against it. This got me thinking about the guy who filmed in the Aokigahara Forest in Japan (known as the Suicide Forest) and copped a lot of shit for being disrespectful towards the nature of the forest and people who had died there. I don’t even remember the dude’s name, but it ain’t worth mentioning anyway. I realised that no matter how curious and fascinated I am about unexplainable murders and deaths, I’m not really superstitious and I have no desire to observe things that were associated with someone’s death. I don’t think that physical areas or objects around the death of a person should be subjected to the living’s voyeurism.

I don’t know if such a thing exists, but if there was a museum dedicated to some infamous murder or missing persons, I am not really that interested in it. They exist for circumstances of war, and museums dedicated to the lives of famous persons who might have died unexplainably, but those scenarios are different.

Hotel rooms are a public and shared space, as might other areas be. We might go about our travels and have no idea what took place in the hotel rooms we stayed in. But it’s just the nature of the space. Someone could have died there. But someone also used the toilet to take a shit. 🤷🏻‍♀️ I don’t know how I feel about places rumoured to be haunted (which, as you can guess, is precisely the internet rabbit hole I went down next 😆), but we might visit places that are rumoured to be haunted and have no fucking clue. I don’t even know if I believe in ghosts. Maybe because I’ve never seen one? I guess this is my roundabout way of saying that death is a thing that happens, and it shouldn’t affect the places we travel to, but we should also respect the circumstances around the death of others, whether we are curious or feel uneasy about it.

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