Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Deployment Date

It's now official. I'll be going to Iraq in 2009 sometime in the spring, although we will leave for pre-deployment training in the US in mid-winter. On Friday we begin a three weeks of pre-deployment training that will be our "Summer Camp." We will be doing some cool stuff, so I plan to write every day if possible.

Final Results

The spreadsheet reporting the results is a little screwed up at the back end of the pack, but I finished 34th in the Road Race, 30th in the Time Trial, 26th in the Criterium--which was last man riding in each event. But if the attrition kept up, I would be in the top ten if there four more events!!

Monday, April 28, 2008

Stage 3--Criterium

A Criterium is a race with a very short lap, usually less than a mile, often less than a half mile. It is my favorite kind of race because you make four 90-degree corners (or more) per lap and you can go fast. The road is closed. It's great fun. But accelerating out of those four corners every 1 minute 10 second lap means it is a lot of work to stay with the pack. It is easy to be lapped if you screw up in one corner, so my comeback goal of finishing on the lead lap was going to be hardest here.
And eight laps into the race I was sure I would not make it the 20-lap full distance. I wasn't sure I would make it to half way. Two or three times in the opening laps the pack surged and I barely caught back on going up one of the two short hills. But I made it. I remembered to do what I used to do when I was wanted to rest--I hang about ten meters of the back of the pack going into the turn then when they are braking, I coast into the pack and come out of the corner at pack speed with less effort. this works great until there is an attack between turns, then I am 10 meters back of a pack that just upped its cornering speed by 5 mph. that happened on lap 17--I rode the last three laps alone. but the pace car never caught me and I finished on the lead lap. Since at least one other guy dropped out, I was not last.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Stage 2--Mt. Pain Time Trail

This second stage is an individual time trail--a race against the clock. In Europe they call it the race of truth--and the truth is I have a long way to go to come back as a racer. The course is five miles rolling then three miles up. The riders go off every 30 seconds so the best people are catching the riders in front, and I was being caught. By the half-way point five riders caught up to me. On the way up the hill four more caught me. Then with less than one km. to go, a rider caught me, rode beside me, then dropped back. Then another rider with way to difficult a gear caught and passed me then dropped back. I stayed ahead of them to the finish. They both had better times than me because they started after me, but it was still fun to hold them off at the end.

Stage Race

Today was the first of three events in a two-day stage race around and in Ephrata PA:
Road Race today
Time Trail tomorrow morning
Downtown Race Sunday afternoon.
Today's race like last week, I was the last guy riding at the finish. Again, I stayed on the lead lap--mostly because the laps are 5 miles long. I was with the leaders until half-way round the 2nd lap, then riding with stragglers and people who had flats until the end. I was 34th which is enough to be able to start tomrrow morning's time trial.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Science Cheerleader

I have not added a blog roll to my blog yet. I should. High on the list will be Darlene Cavalier's Science Cheerleader site. She is a former Philadelphia 76ers cheerleader who studied the role of citizens in science and science policy in graduate school at the University of Pennsylvania and created her site to get involved. She organizes science events for Discover magazine and has a big family.

Summer Camp Starts on my Birthday!

Next Friday, May 2, I will be 55 and celebrating with a morning formation to begin a three-week summer camp. I don't have the schedule yet, but it is supposed to be three weeks of individual skills to get ready for deployment--things like throwing grenades, convoy training, and combat lifesaving. As with the two-week school I will try to post every day, mostly so I don't forget all the things that happen.

Comeback Athlete of the Year

Masters Athlete magazine put me in their nominations for Comeback Athlete of the Year. As you could see from my post two weeks ago, the nomination mostly depended on me getting back on the bike and into racing--my results didn't matter. I will be in a stage race this weekend: a road race, time trial and criterium--three events in two days. As with the last one, my big goal is to finish.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Gen. Petraeus and Poetry in my In Box

A couple of days ago I got two books in my In Box at work--a counterinsurgency manual by Gen. David Petraeus and a new book of poetry by guy who writes about the business of chemistry in his day job. I ordered only one--the poetry book. The counterinsurgency manual is a gift from a friend in Belgium (a mother of three and recently a grandmother) who is rather mystified by the whole Army thing and thought this book might be helpful for me. I haven't read the Petraeus book yet, but I read on the poetry book on my commute this morning--AMTRAK and SEPTA.
The other book, Aquinas Flinched by Rick Mullin, is bright, sharp, angular, and more than a little weird. Rick is also a painter and his the same description would work for his painting. To tell you the truth, it describes him pretty well also. I am guessing the manual won't be as much fun to read.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

New Weapons

Formation this morning was in "full battle rattle," that is helmets, bullet-proof vest, load-bearing equipment, pack, etc. After formation we drew our new weapons and gas masks. We now have M16A4, an improved weapon with additional cooling which makes it heavier than the previous versions. We were also issued scopes. Body armor and equipment are fine on a 50-degree morning, the extra weight keeps you warm. I imagine it will be less comfortable in the summer.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

New Review on Books and Culture

My review of the book Atoms and Alchemy in the latest issue of Books and Culture is now available on line. I have worked with Mary Ellen on other projects in the history of chemistry. In our last article we wrote about the history of isooctane and tetra-ethyl lead. She did the early history, I tied in Dale Earnhardt Junior's blown engine in the 2nd NASCAR race of 2007, World War 2 aircraft, and 60s Muscle Cars. We each have our own expertise. That article is part of an exhibit catalogue that has not yet been published.
My next article for B&C (assuming it is accepted) is a review of a book called Nylon and Bombs a book about the DuPont Company. The book was originally published in French and my co-author is Brigitte Van Tiggelen, a visiting scholar at CHF and presidente of the Memoscience, a history of science organization in Belgium. A lot changed when the book we reviewed was translated into English. Brigitte talked to the author so we could write about the many pitfalls of translation, even when the author speaks both languages.

Monday, April 14, 2008


I signed up for a year last August. I had planned to sign up for three but the recruiter said if I sign up for one, I can re-enlist for three then get a bonus. I could not get a bonus for enlisting because I had prior service and needed job training. So I wrote a note to the retention specialist (the person in charge of re-enlistment) in our brigade.
Here is her answer to my email:
Your entire email sounds like a test question! I love it...I will do some
research for you and then I will get back to you with an answer.
Have a great day!

And here's the test question:
I was at Aberdeen for training during the last drill, but wanted to contact
you before the next one April 18-20.
I am now an MOSQ 63J10. [Meaning I completed the training.]
My enlistment ends August 15, 2008.
I will be 55 years old on May 2.
At the time of my enlistment on August 16, 2007, I had 11 years, 2 months,
2 days of service including 6 years and 7 months active, three years active
reserve and the rest inactive.
Can I re-enlist for six years just after June 15 getting me over 18 years at
the end of that enlistment at age 61 allowing me to retire because I will
be both over 60 and over 18 years?

Will I have to enlist in an active duty unit to get the retirement?
Let me know.

It does sort of sound like a word problem on a test.
I'll let you know what she says.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

First Race. . .I Finished on the Lead Lap

One minute into this race I remembered why I love racing so much. I was at the back of the 40-rider pack hoping just to stay on. Several guys came up and welcomed me back on the start line. It felt strange to be there. But then the whistle blew and the pack rolled out slowly. As we picked up speed I stayed at the back, but I knew where to ride to stay on and as we turned into the wind I was looking for the best place to be, looking up the road to see who was at the front and feeling like I never took a year off. Halfway around the 5.7-mile lap is "The Hill." Halfway up I found myself in a group of guys who were getting dropped. I closed up to the back of the pack and managed to stay with the main pack all the way around the course the "The Hill" on the next lap. At that point I was off the main pack. I rode for a couple of laps with a guy who just turned 50 years old. I stayed ahead of the pack and rode the whole distance without getting lapped. As it turns out my result was no worse than the last two times I did this race. In 2006, I dropped out at the same point. In 2005 I did 32 races and was dropped in only two--Mt. Joy and the Road stage of the Fitchburg MA stage race. I have a Guard weekend next weekend, but the following weekend is the Ephrata Stage Race. The road race and the criterium are flat, so I may be able to hang in until the end. But I will be crawling up the hill in the Sunday morning time trial. It is four miles flat then four miles up--I should finish at the back of that one,

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Eleven-Month Crash Anniversary

Today was eleven months exactly since I crashed. On Wednesday, May 9, 2007, I flipped to the road at 51 mph. Today, Wednesday, April 9, 2008, I rode down the hill I crashed on for maybe the 20th time since I got back on the bike and then rode over to the Wednesday night training race for the first time since the accident. I only did two of the seven 3-mile laps then rode toward home. Lisa picked me up about four miles from the training race course. By the time she picked me up I had ridden 44 miles so I was ready to stop.

First Race on Saturday

I just signed up for my first bicycle race since the crash last year--11 months ago today. I don't expect to do very well--my training miles are down by half from previous years--usually I would have close to 2000 miles by now, currently I am just short of 1,000. But it should be fun just to ride in a race pack again and see my teammates. This race is 29 miles on a hard, hilly course so I don't expect to finish in the same zip code as the leaders.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Radiation Training

Over the weekend I completed a long Army course on line about testing and maintaining equipment that uses radiation in its illumimation or operation. In the Army way, each instrument was covered in detail, but the bottom line on every one was: if anything is wrong, double bag the entire instrument, put it in a new box and ship it back to the people who are actually authorized to work on it. The introductory material on sources of radiation was very clear and easy to follow.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Good and Bad Press

The AP article about my wife being frugal is on more than 200 web sites so far. She got many emails from friends and strangers, most with congratulations, some with advice on how to be more frugal. One was nasty. It was also anonymous. The message ended with him saying the message had been routed through seven ISPs so don't try to trace it. So this coward went to all that trouble to say something ugly to a mother of four . CS Lewis said (following all the great Church leaders of the last 2000 years) that Pride is the worst sin. It is the sin that separates us from God, because a proud person is (in his or her own mind) God's equal. But in this life cowardice is the worst sin "horrible to anticipate, horrible in the act, horrible to remember" is how CS Lewis describes cowardice. And this particular coward uses the email address Jack_Ryan@lycos.com. Jack Ryan is the hero of the Tom Clancy novels. So this actual coward uses the name of a fictional hero to hide behind when threatening a woman who is a live organ donor (a kidney, 2002) and for several years a hospice volunteer. An illustrated dictionary could use a picture of this guy as the definition of a coward.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

My Frugal Wife

Last week I got a message from an Associated Press reporter writing about frugal lifestyles. My wife Annalisa is in the lead of the article.

No Pass to San Antonio During Basic Training

While I was in San Antonio, I saw dozens of Air Force basic trainees walking around in their new, rather ill-fitting uniforms, some with family, some in groups taking pictures of each other at the Alamo and tourist traps. Seeing them reminded me I never got the one-day pass to San Antonio while I was in Basic training in 1972. Our flight (the Air Force equivalent of a platoon) got 7 days of KP--kitchen clean-up duty--during our six weeks of basic training. Most flights got one or two. The other three flights training with us got none. The reason was Ivan--a tiny little guy in our flight who refused to throw away his electric razor and shave with a blade like the rest of us. Why did this matter? When the inspectors from headquarters went through our barracks, ten demerits among 45 guys meant we were on KP. Ivan got 15 by himself because they counted hairs inside his electric razor. We got 2 days of KP for that in addition to the one we had just for being in the duty rotation. Two weeks later, Ivan flunked again and we got four days of KP--including the weekend we were scheduled for a day in San Antonio. Our drill sergeant let us know that if any harm came to Ivan we would all be serving our enlistments in Leavenworth Federal Prison. We did get Ivan back, but that's for a later post.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Randy's Parents Will Go Home Soon

Continuing from the last post, Randy's Mom and Dad, Debbie and Neil, will be returning home to West Virginia soon. Debbie said Randy is healing so well that he will be able to live on his own soon as he goes through Rehab for the next year or so. Debbie said she would like to stay with her son, but she will also be happy to be home. Debbie works for Coldwater Creek and said they have been "really great through all of this." They said they will hold her job as long as it takes. I will keep in touch with Debbie and Neil and post something when I hear news.

Who Fights Our Wars? CSM Donald C. Cubbison, 4th Brigade, 4th Infantry Division

In the fall of 1977, 4th Brigade, 4th Infantry Division got a new Command Sergeant's Major.  Donald C. Cubbison, veteran of the Vietna...