Monday, November 10, 1986

What, Definitions? What's a Definition?

I got pretty bored in my high school chemistry class (although not so bored as I was the next year when I repeated it, having gotten a D -- because I never did any homework, not because I didn't understand it). When we received an assignment to write a story (or an essay, or something, I don't remember now) using a bunch of chemistry vocabulary words, I jumped at the chance to do something interesting, and at that point I felt getting a low grade on this assignment was worth it for the jokes. (As it happens, he didn't take off much for words I misused, only words I didn't get right in the first place -- for example, the word was "base" not "basics," and freezing points are lowered, not elevated. But there was a big "Don't do this again!" written on the paper.) My silly teacher let me read this in front of the class -- not the way to encourage me to do good work, even if he did precede my reading with "this is an example of what not to do."

Still, I had changed my mind about this being a good idea by the next year.

What, Definitions? What's a Definition?

Alistair continued driving up the mountain road. It was winter, and he was on his way to his ski-cabin on Mount Dooright in the Sierras de Luz in northern Coloflornia, one of the Federated States of Vespucia. He saw a sign by the road. "Cation! Falling Rocs!" A gigantic bird fell from the sky and missed his Bristol convertible by two inches. Two more signs, pointing out two rock formations, read: "Boiling Point: Elevation 2426m" and "Freezing Point: Elevation 3101m." It was mid-November, and the posters for electroned officials and proton and conton various propositions were still up. A military truck went by and the people on it soluted him, ostensibly because he was wearing a doorman's uniform. He didn't think it was funny, but what was he to do? He was a doorman. It was cold, and he closed the solvent that let the air into the car.

He continued to his cabin. A homogeneous mixture of white fluffy aqueous precipitate had fallen on the ground around his cabin, in contrast to the heterogeneous pollution found near the road. He found some needles and other paraphenalia from the previous owner's addiction to acid, but Alistair was down to basics. He turned on the electrolytes so he could see better; it was a dark cloudy day. He went to the kitchen, where he saw some horribly green anion rings from a hamburger joint and a box of salted crackers. He went and unpacked his brand-neutron telescope -- he liked to look at stars when he wasn't in the city. Moons were good too, and he remembered the view he got of the Galilean satellite Ion once -- what a sight! He had a solubility telescope for sun-viewing at home, too.

As he put away his telescope, readying himself for bed, he looked out the window at a gopher, digging with high molarity. He smiled. Tomorrow would be a good day.