Party small talk tip: ask a scientist a question

Much of my commute takes me through a woods near the river, so that I spend about 90 minutes a day watching the sky through treetops. Summer evenings, the sun shines low through the trees and flashes strobe-like into your eyes and makes me wonder whether it would be possible, knowing the average speed at which cars will travel along a certain segment of the road, and the angle of the sun being calculable etc, to plant the right type of trees at the right spacing in order to trigger, once the trees grow to a certain size, seizures in epileptic drivers at a certain time of day in a certain season, like they built Newgrange so the passage and chamber would be illuminated by the sunrise on the winter solstice.
But this time of year the days are short and the sky is dark in both directions, or just getting color, and I never get tired of looking.
My youngest daughter, Gamma, was sleeping in the big bed last night because mom’s away on a business trip. I was over in Gamma’s room reading, and heard Gamma over in the big bed talking. In her sleep, I assumed. A minute later she came over and looked in at me and rummaged around and said something in tongues. She was in a trance I guess. She went to the bathroom and I gave up reading and went to bed. She said various things in no language I understand. We had a nonsensical conversation. She finally fell asleep.

I am trying to be more social. I think, maybe I am not so shy, I am just out of practice and lazy. Also, I get so tired after 8 pm that most of whatever conversation I make consists of non sequiturs at least on my side. I cope with this by getting people to tell stories. They get to tell a story, I don’t have to say anything and look like a good listener.

I went to a party on the weekend. For example. One of many recent activities on my social calendar. The hostess finally grabbed me by the arm, pulled me out of the corner where I had thought I was blending in well and ordered me to go talk to someone. Luckily there was a nuculer scientist at the party so I was able to stand there and listen while he explained to me why depleted uranium makes such good projectiles (it is hard, denser than tungsten, and burns when it passes through a target meaning that 1) the projectile self-sharpens, since the outer layer burns, 2) the resulting gasses lubricate its passage through the target and 3) it is burning, meaning it says, as it passes through a target, “anything else combustible here? any oil? any fuel?”

He was entertaining. I felt at ease. I had fun. When I got tired, all I had to do was ask, “so, uranium, what’s that look like, exactly?” and the 15 minutes of conversation was assured (uranium is a grey metal. A fuel rod is grey metal, 3 meters long, clad in stainless steel. Before it’s used in a power plant, it’s not that radioactive).

Also, a woman gave me the eyeball so unabashedly that I actually noticed. I was standing there, learning that uranium is indeed yellow at times (I had always associated uranium with the color yellow for some reason), namely when it is in liquid form, because then it is usually liquified by mixing it with nitric acid, which changes it to uranium nitrate or something, which is yellow, when all of a sudden, hey, what’s this? An eyeball? Who gave me the eyeball?

It happened again later. Then I switched to orange juice and left as quickly as I could, because I had a long drive home, and I have noticed that if I don’t leave parties early then I stay late, and am usually the last to leave, and they were planning on singing karaoke later.

Yesterday we cleaned house. The kids straightened up their rooms and I vaccuumed everything, and put out fresh towels everywhere. Then when Alpha called home to say hi, I proudly told her we had cleaned house, and she said, gee, I cleaned everything before I left. Which would explain why it was so hard to tell I had done anything.

And I baked a pizza and Beta made some Indian lentil dish, to which I tried to make some roti, but they weren’t cooked all the way through, despite being rather black on the outside, which leads me to believe that maybe my pan was too hot. But the kids were nice about it.

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