Sunday, October 24, 2010

A mole of moles

Yesterday was Mole Day.  This is actually an official, well-known holiday.  It is celebrated across the country, mostly by young people between the ages of 14 and 24, but some adults observe this holiday too. 

You’ve never heard of it?

How odd.

You must not be a chemist, then.

Mole Plushie, $6.75 from the ACS!
National Mole Day occurs each year on October 23rd. The observance begins at 6:02 a.m. and ends at 6:02 p.m.    Most Mole Day parties occur in high school and college classrooms and while traditions vary, celebrations frequently involve lab coats, safety goggles and cute little stuffed animals. The celebration commemorates the basic unit of measurement for chemical compounds, the mole.  A mole is like a dozen only a lot bigger.  There are 12 eggs in a dozen eggs,  right?  Well, a mole is defined as the number of atoms in exactly twelve grams of carbon (To be very precise, it is the number of atoms in exactly twelve grams of the 12C isotope, but that is getting a little too technical, no?)  That, by the way, is a lot of atoms.  How many?  
602,000,000,000,000,000,000,000. Since we don’t like writing all those zeros, chemists use scientific notation and abbreviate it as 6.02 x 1023.  Now do you get it?  At 6:02 on 10/23, we begin the Mole Day celebrations.

It was probably on Mole Day in 1973 that Mr. Perry, my high school chemistry teacher posed this question to my class:  “If a mole can dig a mole of holes, how many holes can a mole of moles dig?” 

And you thought IT guys were geeky!

Our orange cat, Buddy, has been celebrating Mole Day too.  He started a little early, delivering a plump little mole on Friday, October 22.  He never was very good with dates.  We didn’t get around to removing it from our back porch on Friday and on Saturday morning there were two more.   For a long time, we attributed the recent rodent murder rampages to 2-kee the Warrior Cat, but she has been sleeping inside with us lately, or more precisely, walking on our faces at all hours of the night, but that is another story.   It has been Buddy,  long associated with the qualities of sloth and gluttony, who has been bringing home the bacon, so to speak.

What is he thinking?  If cats think, which I seriously doubt, maybe it is something like this:

Oh boy!  A mole!

 I’m gonna catch it!


 Sneak up behind.

Good. Close enough.  

 Crouch down.  Very still.

 Don’t move.

 Silent and still...

 Wait for it...

Wait for it...



Got it.   Who’s good?!  My people will be so proud.  I bet they’d like to eat this tasty morsel.   I’ll leave it by the back door and they’ll see it in the morning and they will love me best.

(next morning)

Hey!  What’s going on here!  They saw it but didn’t take it.  The female person seemed disgusted and the male person ignored it.  Must not have tasted good enough for them.  I’d better try again and see if I can find one that my people would like to eat.   Then they’ll love me best.

I’d like to tell Buddy that we are just not fans of mole meat.  Of course, we’ve never actually tried mole meat, but it seems that it would be sort of like eating Cornish game hens or quail- way too much work and not worth the effort.  Not to mention disgusting!

One morning last week there were eight mice on our porch!  Maybe Buddy enjoys rodent tasting the way people enjoy wine tasting.  I can  imagine him catching one and saying, “This mouse has a wonderful nose, light on the finish with a lingering acidity” or maybe, “This mouse has overtones of black cherry, chocolate and a pleasant oakiness. It must have aged in the woodpile.”    Just as a wine taster tastes but does not drink, he seems to taste but not eat.  He must be watching his weight.  Buddy does tend to get a little plump in the winter months.

I have lost track of the number of mice and moles that Buddy has given us in the last few months, but it must be 2-3 dozen by now.  I wonder how far he roams each night to find his quarry.  Maybe we should look in the woodpile and see if there is a mouse nest there.  We’ve tried to keep him in at night, but he meows and scratches at the back door until we give up and let him out.  For the good of the rodents,  I am eager for winter to come because he, a generally pampered and spoiled cat, hates being out in the cold. 

At least Buddy has not captured a mole of moles.  

And speaking of pampered and spoiled, today I am grateful for laptop computers.  As I write this, I am sitting in my favorite comfy chair next to a wonderful warm fire.  I can write the text, edit the text, add the images, and  post the entry while snuggling under my blanket, sipping tea, and warming my tootsies.  Now THAT is multitasking!

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