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June 2, 2020

Love Calls Us to the Things of This World — Richard Wilbur

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June 2, 2020 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Lazy Tuesday

June 2, 2020 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

QuarantineChat

From the New York Times:

QuarantineChat Brings Back Spontaneity (and Distraction)

Phone calls with strangers can reintroduce random connections into our locked-down lives

Like many people, my life in quarantine has included doses of grief, solitude, and unpredictability.

In early April, a friend recommended that I try QuarantineChat, an app that connects two people who don't know each other for a phone call.

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"You'll love it," she said.

I pocketed the suggestion, and remembered it when my grandmother’s health started to deteriorate.

If there was a time to connect with strangers — to startle my life out of its humdrum at-home routine, this was it.

I hoped, if only for a few minutes, to be reminded of life in other corners.

I wanted to remember what it felt like to be curious about someone else — to meet them for the first time.

My first match, on May 6, was with a man in Bangkok.

He told me about his haircut.

"My barber was wearing a mask and a face shield," he said. "It was really weird, but I felt so good."

He lost his job as a copywriter last month.

I exhaled and told him about cutting my own hair with the scissors on a Swiss Army knife, a habit I'd picked up years before while traveling on my bicycle.

It felt good to laugh and think about other places.

I didn’t have to make eye contact or worry about what I looked like.

When the man found out that this was my first QuarantineChat call, he was jubilant. "You can speak very freely and randomly," he said. (We never exchanged names.) "Everyone who is on here is very curious and interested in the world." Since March, he said, he had spoken with 20 people from 14 countries.

QuarantineChat was founded in March by Danielle Baskin and Max Hawkins, two artists with a mind for computer programming and a love of telephone calls.

Mr. Hawkins developed an early iteration of it in 2012: Call in the Night, a telephone network that woke up strangers in the same time zones between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m. for conversations about dreams.

"It was unexpectedly compelling," Mr. Hawkins said. The conversations were "really different than other sorts of telephone conversations."

In early 2019, Ms. Baskin and Mr. Hawkins founded DialUp, a voice-based network that connects strangers at different times of day.

As the world went into lockdown, the two realized that their app could help combat loneliness.

Since March, 15,000 new users, from 183 countries, have joined the app.

Most are from the United States, Britain, India, Canada, Japan, Italy and the Netherlands.

The interface offers a selection of 25 languages — only people who overlap are matched. (The text on the app is only in English.)

In addition to prompting spontaneous conversations, QuarantineChat has inspired art: An architect has been taking portraits of some of the people she meets (they connect again via video chat).

woman in Indonesia and another caller in the United States write blog posts about their calls — some of which include haikus.

Two people who met on QuarantineChat are working on a screenplay together.

When we spoke, the app's founders told me about an ice fisherman in Canada, a user who has an air of mystique.

Others on QuarantineChat tell each other about him, and he has become part of the lore.

Other voice-based apps exist: On Goodnight, someone will say good night to you; Wakie started as a service where a stranger could wake you up; the Toronto-based theater company Outside the March is offering phone-based plays, the Ministry of Mundane Mysteries, that connect people at random to an actor for one-on-one conversations over the course of a week.

But QuarantineChat is unique for the kinds of connections (fleeting, unvarnished, unhurried) that it fosters, while preserving elements of randomness.

The conversations are meant to "kindle unexpected friendships based on a shared interest," Ms. Baskin said. "I'm excited about creative storytelling that could happen through the phone."

On May 7, my phone rang again.

This time it was Emily, a high school student from a place I had to find on the map: Curaçao.

The next day would be her last of quarantine.

The first things on her list: Go to the beach, and go diving to see the coral reef.

Then she would try to find turtles.

The shortest of my six conversations was on May 11.

A woman from Ohio started telling me about a quarantine gift exchange in her community. A few minutes in, the call dropped.

Even that fluttering, the disconnect, felt essential.

This week, I spoke with Emily, a painter from Texas who makes custom jeans. "I love my life, but everything I do, I do alone," she said.

The coronavirus has taken the spontaneity out of her days.

Our call also ended unexpectedly, this time after 43 minutes — maybe an internet problem.

We were talking about showering, orthodontics and going to the grocery store in a mask.

I could hear her washing dishes.

I was folding laundry.

We had no way to call each other back.

Perhaps part of the magic of QuarantineChat, and a reason behind its popularity with such a broad swath of characters, is the reintroduction of randomness into our stymied lives.

After months of video, stripping down to just our voices is refreshing.

QuarantineChat "is not going to change the world," the man from Bangkok told me, "but it’s something in your day which is different." He added, "It's just one of those things where you can talk to somebody and forget about what you are doing for a minute."

Each conversation provided me with the illusion of floating, even briefly, into the slipstream of someone else’s life.

The conversations were, for the most part, effortless, inconsequential.

I didn't know when they were going to come, and I didn't know where they were going to go.

When I hung up, I felt transported.

June 2, 2020 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Experts' Expert: How line-dried laundry gets that fresh smell

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From the New York Times:

People have written poems about it.

It has been imitated by candles and air fresheners.

At least one person has even fought in court for the right to produce it naturally.

It's the smell of line-dried laundry.

Some atmospheric chemists like that scent, too.

In a paper published this year in Environmental Chemistry, researchers examined line-dried towels at the molecular level, to try to pinpoint the source of their specific fragrance.

Silvia Pugliese led the research while she was a masters student at the University of Copenhagen.

When Ms. Pugliese was a child, her mother line-dried laundry, and she still does it whenever she can.

"The fresh smell reminds me of home," she said.

So she was excited to rigorously pursue such an everyday research subject.

In between their more official thesis work, Ms. Pugliese and two labmates, with their adviser Matthew Stanley Johnson, commandeered two little-used areas of the university's chemistry building — a dark, empty office and a small, fifth-floor balcony — and obtained materials, including ultrapurified water and a set of cotton towels from Ikea.

Each towel got washed three times in the water, and then hung out: inside the office, on the balcony under a plastic shade or on the balcony in the sun.

When they came across the drying racks, "a lot of colleagues laughed," Ms. Pugliese said. "But we had a lot of support."

When a towel finished drying, the researchers sealed it in a bag for 15 hours.

As the towel sat in the bag, they sampled the chemical compounds it released into the air around it.

The researchers performed similar sampling on an empty bag, an unwashed towel and the air around the drying sites.

By comparing the experimental towels' chemical profiles to those controls and to each other, the researchers were able to tease out which compounds popped up only when they hung wet towels in the sun, Ms. Pugliese said.

Line-drying uniquely produced a number of aldehydes and ketones: organic molecules our noses might recognize from plants and perfumes.

For example, after sunbathing, the towels emitted pentanal, found in cardamom, octanal, which produces citrusy aromas, and nonanal, which smells roselike.

Why is that? It may have to do with exposure to ozone, an atmospheric chemical that can transform some common chemicals into those aldehydes and ketones.

A more fundamental contribution, she thinks, may come from the sun itself.

When exposed to ultraviolet light, certain molecules "get excited "and form highly reactive compounds called radicals, Ms. Pugliese said.

Those radicals then recombine with other nearby molecules, processes that often lead to the creation of aldehydes as well as ketones.

It's possible that the water on a wet towel gathers a lot of these excitable molecules together, and then works "like a magnifying glass," concentrating the sunlight and speeding up these reactions, Ms. Pugliese said.

Similar processes are likely occurring on any number of natural outdoor surfaces, including bare soil and individual blades of grass — perhaps part of the reason that sun after a rainstorm makes the world smell fresh. (Although the scent seems to last longer on clothes, potentially because aldehydes bond with cotton, said Ms. Pugliese.)

Ricardo López, a chemist at the Lab for Flavor Analysis and Enology at the University of Zaragoza in Spain who was not involved in the research, thinks the aldehydes and ketones may not tell the whole story.

"When testing for key flavor compounds, sometimes compounds in low concentrations are as important as those in high concentrations," he said. Additional forms of testing might be helpful to get the full bouquet.

Ms. Pugliese has, for now, moved onto headier things — her doctoral research involves artificial photosynthesis — but she hopes to dig into similar topics in the future.

"I thought it was a really nice way to do science," she said.

June 2, 2020 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)

FurZapper

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From websites:

Removes Pet Hair from Your Laundry Like Magic

Simply toss one of these squishy, sticky discs into your washing machine or dryer (or both) to effortlessly remove pet hair from clothing and bedding.

Soft, tacky, flexible material grabs hair, lint, dander, and other debris.

Designed to extract pet hair from your clothes so the washer and dryer can flush them away.

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Features and Details:

• Each disc is good for up to 200 uses

• Safe for all clothing

• Disc diameter: 3.5"

• Made in U.S.A.

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Set of two: $14.99 (fur not included).

June 2, 2020 at 08:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)

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