To-Don’t Lists

There are websites for one to use to make to-do lists, apps for shopping lists (I own a not-very-smart phone, so I am an outsider to the world of apps), websites on which you can compile top 10 lists with friends. After one creates an account and logs in, not a single one of these websites offers “get a notepad or a scrap of paper and a pen and start writing your list” as the first item listed, so I guess they are indeed serious.
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earth day

Earth Day Is Every Day

Petrichor,” a bit of nature writing, was first published January 26, 2015:

An article with the euphonious title, “Nature of argillaceous odour,” gave the world the not-as euphonious-sounding word, “petrichor.” In it, two researchers attempted to scientifically describe what it is we smell when we smell the world after a rain shower and to give it a name.

The two authors coined the word, “petrichor,” which I have been mispronouncing in my head since I first encountered it last week, when an article on the Huffington Post started making its social media rounds. It has a long “I,” so say it like this: “petra,” then “eye-core,” and not how I hear it in my head, with a short “i.”

It is one of the most familiar of smells, pungent, a little clayey, the essence of spring and summer, yet until 1964 and even more recent experiments, no one knew exactly what that smell is. In 1964 and ’65, the two researchers, one Australian and one British, wrote a pair of articles for the science journal Nature in which they outlined a theory about that post-rain odor. A hint is in their title, “argillaceous,” which simply means “things related to or having to do with clay.” (This will not stop me from saying the word the next time I eat something that I really enjoy.) Before 1964, the word “petrichor” did not exist, and writers who attempted to evoke the post-rain scent were stuck with “post-rain scent.”

Their theory, that it is a bunch of compounds that are not exposed to our olfactory equipment during any other weather condition, may strike one as being a little “Anne Elk (Miss)”-level obvious. It isn’t. In dry weather, the authors wrote, certain plants, certain trees, excrete oils that are absorbed by the more clayey soils around them. These oils help slow seed germination during dry seasons, when new plants might face a harsh start to life. During a rain shower, the soil yields up some of these oils, now no longer needed to protect seeds, along with another substance, geosmin, a waste product of certain bacteria in soil. This combination of molecules is what we smell, they wrote.

“Petro” means rock or stone (petrology). “Ichor” is the blood of the gods in Greek mythology. Thus, petrichor is quite a poetic term; if “the blood of the gods released from stone” is what Isabel Bear and Roderick Thomas were reaching for, well, that smell indeed is rare and fine to most human noses.

The results of an MIT study were released this month, further confirming some thoughts about petrichor along with some surprises. A high-speed camera was used to photograph simulated rain against different soils. The Huffington Post article has “Crazy Slo-Mo Video Explains Why Rain Has That Distinctive Smell” as its headline, which is a bit more eye-catching than the MIT news release about the study: “Rainfall can release aerosols, study finds.” The study’s authors set up 600 experiments on 28 different surfaces and discovered that raindrops “fizz” on impact. (My word, not theirs.) This was something that no one had even theorized.

The images they produced revealed a mechanism that had not previously been detected: As a raindrop hits a surface, it starts to flatten; simultaneously, tiny bubbles rise up from the surface, and through the droplet, before bursting out into the air.

This had not been seen until this year, but almost every human nose has registered it since our ancestors first encountered rain. The researchers further verified something that every human being who has stood outdoors in a light rain has noticed but never verified with “crazy slo-mo” tools of any kind: that a light rain striking clayey soils releases a lot more bubbles per raindrop. A heavy rain drowns each raindrop; a light rain, like the kind I saw in the woods out behind my house when I was a child, a light rain striking the leaves and branches of trees, further slowing their impact, that rain produces the strongest petrichor of all and is the one that renders me into an seven-year-old noticing the world for the first time.

The lightest of rain after the driest of spells leads to the most argillaceous petrichor, which is the kind that humans smell as relief, the thought that things will start growing again.

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The WordPress Daily Prompt for April 22 asks, “Write 500 words on any topic you like. Now remove 250 of them without changing the essence of your post.”

Visit “Occupy Daily Prompt,” the DP Alternative.



“The least controversial thing you can post is a photo of me? I’m dubious. The most controversial thing you do around me is brag about having opposable thumbs. If hate was a thing, I would do some hate. Is that how you say that?” I am glad I photographed Planet Kitty a couple years ago making her “dubious” face at me.

This blog (typed with my thumbs, because I can, Planet Kitty! I can) regularly publishes controversial posts. What follows is a lightly edited version of “A Conspiracy Theory of Conspiracy Theories,” a column that was published January 31, 2014.
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A Monday Moment with…The Gad About Town

Mark Aldrich:

For the first time ever (and it will probably remain this way for a long time), The Gad About Town has been profiled in another publication. Thank you for your kind words and deeds, Mr. Atheist and LRose, Mark.

Originally posted on The Daily Prompt Alternative:

There are many ways to get to know a blog. The most obvious: Read one. However the blogosphere has such a vast array of thousands of blogs, it’s hard to know where to start.

If you have a blog, you want to stand out so your blog gets read. So, bloggers try all sorts of schemes to gain readership. For example, Mr. Atheist and LRose started this prompt blog. Someone, somewhere created blog awards (for those of us old enough to remember, think chain letters). We even find ourselves publishing more posts like the ones that got lots of viewership and/or comments, though in doing so it might take our blog off in a direction we didn’t originally intend to go.

ODP would like to offer another scheme: A Monday Moment with an Occupier. Every so often on a Monday we’ll post excerpts from an interview with a fellow occupier…

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None of This Is True

Even upstate New York gets rainbows. Here (above) is a photo to establish this. There is no rumor afoot that no one has started that some say can be interpreted to claim claims that upstate New York does not get rainbows. Nope. This should quash that bit of business right here and now, even though the photo was taken a couple years ago and does not have a location stamped on it.

Any one with a bit of Google gumption can suss out from the details that are not in the photo that the picture was taken in a side parking lot of an Applebee’s at around dinner time (EST), when the lines are long enough to spend the wait inside one’s car holding a plastic disc that will buzz unpleasantly when a table is said to be available inside. (Darn rumor-mongering plastic disc.)
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good i do

The Bad I Do …

“I was standing there, minding my mind like it was no one’s business but mine to mind.”“Another Song I Haven’t Written,” by Me.

Doctor’s office, circa a few years ago. Sober for over a year, my life was still far from the “unicorns spitting Skittles everywhere on golden pathways to love” that some people would have one believe life is for them. I had asked to see a therapist, and bureaucracy provided me with a pretty good one.

(The office, part of my county’s Mental Health Department, has since been de-funded and the service sold to private business by the county. Public mental health services privatized. Everyone in Ulster County, New York, was suddenly declared to be balanced inside and completely well. My therapist and I spent our hours twice a week for a couple months sharing stories of the bureaucratic heck we were experiencing; he with not knowing whether or when he needed to start looking for work, and me with not knowing how to apply for Social Security. I know that he helped me at least.)
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meditation topper

A Morning Meditation

Cemeteries are cram-packed full with people who had other plans that day. Reservations for dinner, a movie ticket in the pocket. A refrigerator with new groceries. A sink with dirty dishes.

We all know this deep down, but the occasional reminders can nonetheless surprise. “Always wear clean underwear,” a clichéd cartoon version of a mother tells a clichéd cartoon version of us in a clichéd cartoon conversation that never really happens. But the end comes in a moment, and it is always dramatic, even when it is mundane.
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Snow: A Five Photos, Five Stories … uh, Story

The photo above was taken on November 26, 2014. The coordinates: 41°24′07″N 74°19′22″W, which if you have a globe, direct you to Goshen, New York. I live a 10-minute drive from this spot.

In “Connect the Colors,” I wrote, “Perception may be the most unique and personal portion of human experience—or it may be the most identical; either way, we do not have a means of testing it, except based on anecdotes from individuals. Perhaps strawberries taste the same for you as they do for me, or they do not.” Perhaps an exception can be made to this perception about perception: the weather. Maybe we all feel it the same.
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