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The People that You Meet

Some of you may know, but this weekend I'm in Las Vegas attending TAM 2012. Follow that logo up/over there to find out more.

Last night (Thursday) was opening night, and there was a welcome party / reception. Last year, I didn't go because I wasn't feeling particularly social and the prospect of having to navigate a room full of people I don't know was . . . daunting.

This year, I said to myself, "Self,"—for I always address myself in that manner—"Self, this is ridiculous. Just go! Talk to someone random. What's the worst that can happen?" (Answer: They walk away in the middle of a conversation while I'm talking.)

So . . . I did just that. I was chatting with two very random guys who were both waiting in line at the cash bar with me.1 After obtaining our imbibements, we exchanged names and pleasantries and were attempting to hear each other over the awful din of everyone else doing the same thing. And then the questions of what we each do for a living came up.

One guy works in a lab doing research where he does genetic studies on plants, and they're working on getting full genomes of plants like we've done with many animal species. I asked if there had been any surprises, and he said, "Not yet," but that plant genomes are surprisingly "strange." He studied in Switzerland for several years and is apparently employed at a research lab in California. We talked about that for a while.

The other guy works with a team in Texas designing and simulating semi-conductors to help design faster, smaller computer chips for the computers of the future. He told us that the software they use—some of which he helped write—can actually simulate running software on the chips they design virtually, so if he wanted to, he could simulate running Unix on a simulated chip design, one instruction at a time. We talked about that for a while.

And then Randi walked by and we all dispersed, trying to get a picture with him. So I didn't have to find a way to make "I program computers for a Big Healthcare company" interesting. I was fine with that. :)

I next encountered a woman who turned out to be president of a skeptics and free-thinkers group in Arkansas. In just the 15 minutes or so that we talked, she made me realize that I could be participating in our local Atlanta group a lot more. As in, at all. Some of the stuff her group has done sounds really interesting, and made me think quite a bit. She then toddled off to find the people she'd come with.

I also talked briefly with Richard Saunders, host of the Australian podcast The Skeptic Zone and president of the Australian skeptics; and George Hrab, host of the Geologic podcast, who remembered me from when we met in Atlanta last year during Dragon*Con. I tried unsuccessfully to meet Jay Novella of the Skeptics Guide to the Universe podcast (he was regaling a small group with a story) and James Randi, the reason TAM exists at all. Randi was understandably popular. :)

Earlier in the day, I met and briefly talked with Ross and Carrie of the podcast "Oh No, It's Ross and Carrie."

What I've learned about myself is this: I suck at small talk. I have to work really hard at it because I simply do not have the gift of gab. I'd like to remedy this, but I honestly don't know how to go about it.

I'm currently awake at almost 6 AM because I've been up all night with acid reflux, the bane of my existence, at least for today. You'd think the Prilosec I'm taking would help with that, but apparently not. I blame the flat, non-foam bed (my bed at home is a foam mattress and the head is raised 6 inches) and the tasty, tasty canapés at the reception. And maybe the nasty Pepsi product that was the only soft drink they had, and/or the lime wedge I added to kill the nasty Pepsi taste. Luckily, the Coronado Café sold me four pieces of dry, white toast at 4 AM to help me past the worst of the acid.

  1. As a side note, these people at the cash bar had every beer, wine, and hard liquor known to man, yet only had Pepsi products if one wanted a soft drink! What . . . heathens! I mean . . . really? Pepsi?

Atheists Are People, Too  Antispam  


( 3 hisses — Hiss at me! )
Jul. 13th, 2012 03:07 pm (UTC)
Asking people to talk about themselves is a great way to get a conversation started, because, hey, most people will gladly talk about themselves for at least long enough for you to hear something that makes you say, "Oh, that's interesting, tell me more" or "Oh, I did that once, too!"

The skill comes in at keeping it from becoming a monologue or nerd drone.
Jul. 13th, 2012 08:37 pm (UTC)
Maybe you don't have that small talk skill (I don't have it either so I couldn't make a judgment) but I think you are a great conversationlist.
Jul. 13th, 2012 10:56 pm (UTC)
Sandy, once I know you, it's not getting me to talk that's the problem: it's getting me to shut up. I admit this. :)

What I have a hard time doing is meeting people when there's not a "catalyst" around. I have a number of friends who commonly act as catalysts, and they're why I know most everyone I know.

The exception is writing groups. Maybe because writers are my peepz. :)
( 3 hisses — Hiss at me! )

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