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Scentless Apprentice: All About Anosmia

Sometimes in meetings we are asked to share a little-known fact about ourselves as an "icebreaker." (I hate icebreakers, by the way.) But my fact is always the same and I think it's pretty interesting: I can't smell. Now, if I stick my nose right up to an open bottle of ammonia or acetone and snort, I can smell that, but that's pretty much all I can ever smell. Which might explain why we have three dogs.

I'm not really sure how this happened; neither are doctors. If I ever had a sense of smell, I was too little to remember it, so it's not like I "remember" what oranges smell like or anything like that. I had surgery to remove some polyps (really gross) when I was in eighth grade, but all that resulted in was a completely random, gushing bloody nose that ruined my brand new Z-Cavaricci shirt in the middle of Mr. Zimmerman's science class. I had to go to the nurse and she gave me a replacement t-shirt from the lost and found. I still have that t-shirt actually; sometimes I wear it to bed. But anyway...

It wasn't until college that I found out that this problem actually has a name: anosmia. It's the absence of ability to smell. Most of my friends and family forget that I can't smell on a pretty regular basis; I suppose it's not a disability that you can really see. This happens all of the time:

Stacy's Mom: "Oooh, smell this candle!"
Stacy: "¦"¦"¦"¦"¦.
Stacy's Mom: ...Oh!! WHY do I always DO that?!

My friends aren't quite as nice about it:

Stacy's friend Lisa: "Don't you just love the smell of freshly-baked chocolate chip cookies? Oh, I forgot, YOU WOULDN'T KNOW. HAHAHAHAHAAAAA!!"

It was really awkward when I worked at Sephora. People would ask me about fragrances and I didn't want to launch into this whole history about how I am unable to smell, so at first I just lied to the customers.

Customer: "What does this smell like to you?"
Stacy: "Smells"¦ vanilla"¦ish"¦ with a hint of floral"¦ and musk"¦ and citrus"¦ maybe some sandalwood? Do I detect a top note of rose hips?"

But I felt really bad about doing that, so I would just say, "Oh, I'm really stuffed up right now," and leave it at that. I was recently doing a little research on my condition and came across a few interesting facts I thought were particularly _flossy.

"¢ You can be anosmic to just one smell "“ so maybe you can smell everything else under the sun, but you absolutely cannot smell brownies. Wouldn't that be strange? Or maybe a blessing.

"¢ When people find out I can't smell, 95 percent of the time the next question is, "Can you taste anything, then?" Yep. I like things that taste really strong -- really sour, sweet, bitter, etc. I love sauerkraut right out of the can, for example. I suspect maybe I'm a congenital anosmiac (had it since birth) because it is said that those people don't have a problem with lack of taste whereas people with sudden onset anosmia often find food completely unappetizing.

anos

"¢ Notable anosmiacs include Bill Pullman, Stevie Wonder and William Wordsworth. Rumor has it that Ben Cohen of Ben and Jerry's is an anosmiac, and that's why their ice cream is often so tactile. Mmm.

"¢ Some people go undiagnosed for a long time, because as children they just pretended to smell things because they thought that it was a sense you acquired as you got older. I don't know if mine was so much a case of this "“ it was more that I didn't realize how things should smell. Kind of like the first time you get glasses you're like, "Ohhh, that's what things are supposed to look like!"

"¢ Anosmia can be a sign of Parkinson's or Alzheimer's Disease.

"¢ On a somewhat-related note, phantosmia is smelling things that aren't there, kind of like having a phantom limb. It seems to often be an unpleasant smell "“ common ones are smoke, rotting flesh, vomit and poo.

"¢ On the other hand, parosmia is when you perceive an odor wrong. So maybe the scent in reality is mint, but for some reason whenever mint is in the air you smell fish.

Any other anosmiacs out there? Or Phantosmiacs or parosmiacs or any other type of "“iacs? I'd love to hear your stories.

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History
The Secret World War II History Hidden in London's Fences

In South London, the remains of the UK’s World War II history are visible in an unlikely place—one that you might pass by regularly and never take a second look at. In a significant number of housing estates, the fences around the perimeter are actually upcycled medical stretchers from the war, as the design podcast 99% Invisible reports.

During the Blitz of 1940 and 1941, the UK’s Air Raid Precautions department worked to protect civilians from the bombings. The organization built 60,000 steel stretchers to carry injured people during attacks. The metal structures were designed to be easy to disinfect in case of a gas attack, but that design ended up making them perfect for reuse after the war.

Many London housing developments at the time had to remove their fences so that the metal could be used in the war effort, and once the war was over, they were looking to replace them. The London County Council came up with a solution that would benefit everyone: They repurposed the excess stretchers that the city no longer needed into residential railings.

You can tell a stretcher railing from a regular fence because of the curves in the poles at the top and bottom of the fence. They’re hand-holds, designed to make it easier to carry it.

Unfortunately, decades of being exposed to the elements have left some of these historic artifacts in poor shape, and some housing estates have removed them due to high levels of degradation. The Stretcher Railing Society is currently working to preserve these heritage pieces of London infrastructure.

As of right now, though, there are plenty of stretchers you can still find on the streets. If you're in the London area, this handy Google map shows where you can find the historic fencing.

[h/t 99% Invisible]

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holidays
Custom-Design the Ugly Christmas Sweater of Your Dreams (or Nightmares)
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For those of you aspiring to be the worst dressed person at your family's holiday dinner, UglyChristmasSweater.com sells—you guessed it—ugly Christmas sweaters to seasonal revelers possessing a sense of irony. But the Michigan-based online retailer has elevated kitsch to new heights by offering a create-your-own-sweater tool on its website.

Simply visit the site's homepage, and click on the Sweater Customizer link. There, you'll be provided with a basic sweater template, which you can decorate with festive snowflakes, reindeer, and other designs in five different colors. If you're feeling really creative, you can even upload photos, logos, hand-drawn pictures, and/or text. After you approve and purchase a mock-up of the final design, you can purchase the final result (prices start at under $70). But you'd better act quickly: due to high demand, orders will take about two weeks plus shipping time to arrive.

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