Friday, July 29, 2016

Worst Retirement Plan Possible


In May of 1984, I had a total of eleven years and two months of active and reserve service.  At the time I was a staff sergeant, a tank section leader and had just filled out the application for Officer Candidate School (OCS).  

At that critical point, I had to decide whether to stay and finish 20 years or more of service, or get out, grow a beard and be a real civilian.

SPOILER ALERT!  I grew the beard.  

How did I make this momentous decision to leave the military with nine years till retirement? 

Because of advice from my uncle Jack, the only other recent veteran in my family.  Jack retired in 1978 from the Air Force after 20 years of service.  He had three full tours in the Vietnam War and three temporary duty (TDY) assignments to that war that stopped short of the 180-day line of counting as a full tour.  He flew back seat in an F4 Phantom fighter and was also a navigator in a refueling plane.  When he was not in Southeast Asia, he was often assigned to Thule, Greenland.

Jack said that if I stayed in I should go to OCS.  But if I stayed in I would be in a desert war before I got out.  More importantly, he reminded me that with a reserve retirement I get no money till age 60 and I would be subject to recall to duty any time until age 60 if I was enlisted, age 63 if I was an officer.

He went on to describe the most unhappy people in the Vietnam War as retired aircraft mechanics reactivated in their 50s and taking incoming mortar fire while trying to fix aircraft.

Jack said, "If you take the retirement, here's the choice.  You either go to war or forfeit all pay and benefits for life."  

Wow!!

With all that clarified, I left the military, grew a beard and got a job with an ad agency.  You may think I could have gotten the job anyway, but not really.  During the three years I was in the 6th Battalion, 68th Armor in Reading, Pa., I worked on the loading dock at Yellow Freight near Lancaster, Pa.  I was a Teamster.  With a union job, I could simply sign out for reserve duty any time I needed to.  As a section leader, I had monthly meetings on Wednesday nights, drill set up on Friday, and other additional duties beyond reserve weekends.  In a union job, the extra Army time was no problem.  In a white-collar job, that meant choosing between work and Army.

Most reserve and National Guard leaders are government or union workers.  

My decision was rational, but the irony is sadly funny.  At 54 I re-enlisted.  At 56 I go to the desert war Jack predicted and at 63 I get out one year short of a retirement and three years past the date I would have started receiving my Army reserve retirement pay.  

The 68th Armor did not mobilize for the Gulf War, and not many tankers were activated for Iraq and Afghanistan.  As a reserve tank officer, I would almost certainly have missed the Gulf War, and most likely would not have gone to Iraq or Afghanistan since I would have had almost 30 years service by then.  

As a military career move, I should have stayed in my reserve unit.  But if I did stay in the reserves, I would have had a lot of reasons to either stay in the Teamsters union or try to get a government job. I could not have had the world-traveling civilian career I had during the 90s and first decade of the 2000s.  

Jack and I talked in 2005 about all the places I had been in the world, versus all the places he had been with the military. My job took me to the capitals of every thriving economy in the world.  The places I went most were Paris, London, Hong Kong, Singapore and Sao Paulo.  Jack's big destinations were war-torn Asian airfields with winters in Thule, Greenland.  

I would have liked a military retirement, but the travel with my civilian job really was amazing--and incompatible with reserve service.




Thursday, July 28, 2016

Soviet Armor vs. American Armor, Israel 1973


In July and August 1975, I went to the U.S. Army Armor School in Fort Knox, Kentucky, after three years in missile weapons testing.

We learned the basics of armor and about our tank, the M60A1.  We also learned about a serious flaw in our tanks that was fixed at great cost by the Israeli Army.  The Israelis fought and defeated the armies of Egypt, Syria and Jordan using the M60A1 among other tanks.  It turns out the hydraulic fluid in our tanks was prone to catch fire.  After the Israelis lost crewmen to these fires, the hydraulic fluid was changed.

We also learned how important mechanical reliability is to combat tank crews.  The Arab countries used Soviet tanks, primarily the T-55 and T-62 main battle tanks.  We learned the difference between "live" and "dead" track.  Soviet tanks used dead track, like bulldozers that does not use rubber bushings.  In hard use, especially at high speeds, dead track is more prone to break.  According to one report, the Syrian Army lost one-fourth of its tanks before they reached the battle in the Golan Heights due to automotive failure.

After the 1973 War, the Israelis installed American-made drive lines in captured Soviet tanks to make the Soviet armor more reliable.

To people who have never trained and lived in a tank, they can seem like the indestructible behemoths of movies.  But real life in a tank is a life of wrenches and rags.  As a tank commander of one of the most reliable tanks of its time, my crew and I spent five hours or more maintaining our 54-ton tank for every hour of operation.  Each of the 80 track blocks on each track were held together with a center guide and two end connectors.  Each of the 160 center guides and 320 end connectors could work loose and had to be checked, often.  The center guides ran between six pairs of road wheels, three pairs of return rollers, the drive sprocket and front idler wheel for adjusting track tension.  Each of the wheels had inner steel plates bolted to the aluminum wheels.  The road wheels were attached to torsion bars.

We tightened bolts all the time.  Our tanks would received major service at 6,000 miles of operation, usually including a refurbished V12 diesel powerplant and transmission.

And our tanks were so much more reliable than the Soviet counterparts that the Israelis ditched their drivelines and installed American-made drivelines to make the Soviet tanks more reliable.

War shows strengths and weaknesses.  Reliable, effective armor is definitely an American strength.



Monday, July 25, 2016

Laurus, Book 19 of 2016: A Tale of Old Russia that Stretches to Florence and Jerusalem



Eleven of the books I have read so far this year are by Russian authors writing about life in Russia from the present back through the last two centuries.  This book goes several centuries further back into Russian history.

Laurus by Eugene Vodolazkin showed me a Russia that I have seen only in fleeting glimpses. We follow the title character, Laurus, from when he loses his parents as a child until the end of his long life as a healer and a holy man between the mid 1400s to the 1520s. 

This is a medieval book by setting and by the parade of wretched, reverent, hopeful, fearful and foul characters that people the pages of this wonderful book.  After Laurus (Arseny in his early life) loses his parents he moves in with his grandfather, a healer named Christopher.  Arseny follows his grandfather and becomes a healer, but as his life progresses, Arseny relies less on the herbs and lore of Christopher and more on the healing gift he has from God.

Arseny becomes adept at healing plague victims.  He heals a young woman from far away named Ustina.  They fall in love and live together.  Ustina gets pregnant then she and their son die in childbirth. 



At that point, Arseny becomes an itinerant “Holy Fool” in the city of Pskov. (Pskov is the northwest corner of modern Russia.)  He shares Pskov with two other Holy Fools.  One is Holy Fool Foma, who is very territorial.  Foma is one of the many brilliant bits of comic relief we get on the long life of suffering of our very Russian hero Arseny/Laurus (also at various times Ustin and Ambrosius). 

In the middle of the book, we meet Ambrogio, an Italian from Florence with a gift of Prophecy as strong as Arseny’s gift of healing.  Ambrogio is convinced the world is ending soon and the only place he can get exact knowledge of the coming Apocalypse is in Pskov.  In 15th Century Florence, Ambrogio finds a trader willing to teach him Russian.  Ambrogio learns Russian with an accent perfect for Pskov in short order and sets out for Pskov.

In Pskov, Ambrogio meets the mayor.  The mayor introduces the Italian to Arseny and bankrolls their trip to Jerusalem.  All the horrors of the road befall them.  Ambrogio is killed near Jerusalem; a sword but lives and return to Pskov slash Arseny. 

Late in life Arseny goes to a monastery and finally lives in a cave.  He takes the blame for a sin he did not commit and dies rejected by thousands who he healed.  But when he finally dies, more than 100,000 people mourn his passing. 

Laurus shows from beginning to end that the life of true faith, the life truly given to others, means poverty, rejection and suffering.  Arseny, like the Bishop in Les Miserable rejects this world out of habit and choice.  Arseny, like the Bishop, illustrates the passage called the Beatitudes in the Gospel of Matthew.  I am adding that passage at the end of this review. 

Laurus is the Book of Acts set in Russia with the unrelenting suffering of the Apostle Paul set in a colder climate.  Any televangelist who read and understood Laurus would burn his mansion, his private jet and his TV studio to the ground. 

This book shows what the Christian life looks like and it is a good story well told.

Matthew Chapter 5
Seeing the crowds, ohe went up on the mountain, and when he psat down, his disciples came to him.
The Beatitudes
And qhe opened his mouth and taught them, saying:
r“Blessed are sthe poor in spirit, for utheirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are vthose who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
“Blessed are the wmeek, for they wshall inherit the earth.
“Blessed are those who hunger and xthirst yfor righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
“Blessed are zthe merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
“Blessed are athe pure in heart, for bthey shall see God.
“Blessed are cthe peacemakers, for dthey shall be called esons1 of God.
10 f“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, forutheirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 g“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely hon my account. 12 iRejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for jso they persecuted the prophets who were before you.







Thursday, July 21, 2016

"Wrong War" Conservatives: “Patriots” Who Dodged the Draft

Just 99 years ago, this was America's view of draft dodgers. 

Many strange things make America unique in the history of the world.  One of the strangest to me is that Draft Dodgers can let another man serve and maybe die in his place, and yet they can be “Patriots” later in life.  And more ironic than that, they can be patriots in the conservative party.

I know a guy who is a life-long conservative, is three years older than I am, and never served in the military.  He said the Vietnam War was the “Wrong War.”  (Really?  Who decides what is the "Right War?" You?) In his mind, those who have the means to avoid the war are free to do that.  So he went to college and got four deferments that got him through the effective end of the draft in 1973.  He considers himself a true conservative and a patriot and has no lingering guilt about avoiding the Vietnam War.

More importantly, he believes if it was the "Right War" he would have served.  Usually with this kind of assertion, there is no way to test if it is true.  But in America, we have so many wars we can  validate the experiment. America was attacked on September 11, 2001.  America invaded Afghanistan within a month and was making plans to invade Iraq within a year.  In the USA where  upwards of 100 million people claim to be conservative, the government had trouble maintaining a force of just two million.  By 2007, the Army National Guard let me re-enlist at 54 years old.  The Army, in a failed three-year experiment, raised the enlistment age to 42.  I got in with 11 years of prior service and a waiver. Where were all those conservatives?  Was Iraq another "Wrong War?"

In most any country in the world through most of history, dodging the draft was treated as treason. The draft dodger went through life known as a coward. 

Yet in modern America, the party that wants to “Make America Great Again” does not want any part of the real path to greatness, which involves suffering and sacrifice. 

With the glaring exception of John McCain, every nominee of the Republican Party in this century has avoided combat service while blaming the Democrats for the ills of the nation.  A nation that is looking back to the what they consider the best days of America, would not nominate, let alone elect, a draft dodger to be commander in chief.  There is a moral dimension to greatness.  The sort of man who will let another serve in his place as a young man will not suddenly become a brave leader as an old man. 

When Donald Trump addresses the Republic Convention tonight he will stand in front of the largest gathering of rich draft dodgers in America: the coward in chief telling thousands of other cowards how he is going to “Make America Great Again.” 

I wish I was making this up.




Sunday, July 17, 2016

Army Times Reports Army is Downsizing Public Affairs



I had a good laugh this morning reading an editorial by a career public affairs sergeant bemoaning the fact that the Army is downsizing Public Affairs.

When I spent a year in Public Affairs on my first enlistment in the late 70s, most PA soldiers wanted to be journalists.  We wanted to be writers, photographers, broadcasters and film makers.  We wanted to be journalists or artists.  Our heroes were the best journalists.  We saw ourselves as storytellers who were sharpening our skills in the Army to go out and use out skills in the big, wide world.

The current Public Affairs soldier, as I noted recently, hates the media as a rule.

This is partly a matter of who is in the career field.  During the draft era and immediately after, the military was a place to learn a skill before moving on to "real life."  Career soldiers were much more rare than the current force.  So the PA soldiers I knew on my first enlistment were in their early 20s.  And they planned to get out.

Everyone I know in Public Affairs on my current enlistment is a career soldier.  They never plan to be journalists.  They don't pretend to be journalists as we used to do, and they don't even pretend to like journalists.

So now the Army is finding that Public Affairs can be downsized.  Of course it can.  It should have been done long ago.  It is the curse of public affairs in civilian life that if you really succeed, you lose the client.  When I worked at an agency, I got one of our clients on the cover of the biggest magazine in their industry.  We lost the client the next month.  I was stunned.  My boss was not.  He told me about the other times it happened.  In the mind of the client, once they were on the cover, they were set.  Why pay us?

The public trusts the military more than almost any other institution in America.  A civilian client with an eye on their budget would cut back public affairs.


Friday, July 15, 2016

Military Privilege: The Camouflage Exception to Rules





Privilege of any kind is when you get to bend and break rules others don’t.  I have enjoyed many aspects of Military Privilege since I re-enlisted in 2007.  But I got the best part of this type of privilege when I returned from Iraq in 2010. I went a title and tag company with proof of my deployment and paid $20 for an Iraq Veteran license plate.  Since then, the Return on Investment of this $20 has been like owning the first shares of Berkshire-Hathaway or Apple. 

Until last year I worked in Philadelphia.  I only occasionally drove to work, but also I regularly made trips to DC and New York in my car for business.  I drive fast.  In addition, rolling through thousands of stop signs and traffic lights on a bicycle leaks over into car driving some times.  Did I mention that I occasionally park in the wrong place?

I am not justifying any of this.  But given my inclination to make up for lateness by speeding, the Iraq Plate is like an enabler in a bad relationship.  Since getting the plate I have seen a patrol car speeding up behind me on the turnpike with its lights on, get close enough to see the Iraq plate, then pull off.  I have been stopped and then let go by a fellow Iraq veteran.  And in Center City Philadelphia, I parked my car to run an errand and came back to watch cars on both sides of me get tickets, but not mine. 

Today one of my former commanders posted on Facebook a perfect example of Military Privilege.  In his words: 
Pulled over last night on my way home from the airport...I was doing 70ish in a 55...pulled over right away when I saw his lights, turned on my dome light put my hands on my steering wheel where they could be seen...the trooper asked if I knew why he was pulling me over and I told him "yes sir I was speeding"...he said it was 55 up until Hamburg and to keep it down and be safe...that was it...ok maybe my ACU cover with Lieutenant Colonel on the back seat helped....or maybe just maybe it was also that I was respectful and admitted I was wrong...
Polite, respectful and Army is a whole bunch better than polite and respectful without Army.

Military Privilege, like every kind of privilege leads to guilt on the part of the privileged (sometimes) and envy on the part of those without the privilege (always). 

Military Privilege unlike White Privilege is available to anyone in the military and more so for veterans.  Soldiers of all races and religions can bolt a Veteran Plate on their car and feel like they have a bit of societal body armor.  In fact, the plate would seem a particularly good idea for dark-skinned veterans to mark themselves out as defenders of our nation.

Because most of our nation does not serve, Military Privilege does not generate the kind of Envy that White Privilege does.  Anyone can get Military Privilege by joining the military and get even more privilege by serving in one of our current wars.   

In general, if you ever wonder if privilege exists, use the Envy Test.

Envy is wanting what someone else has AND wanting to deny them of the same thing.  Jealousy, by contrast, wants what someone else has, but does not need to take it from them. 

I am jealous of anyone who owns a Ferrari.  I want one.  I am not envious.  They can have theirs too!  If I wanted their Ferrari to be stolen or wrecked, that would be envy.

Envy always destroys community.  Envy is always bad.  Envy is the second worst of the Seven Deadly Sins.  Only Pride is worse. 

Really, if you want to go to Hell and feel like greed, lust and gluttony aren’t enough, stick with Envy.  Accuse someone else of having something you are entitled to then insist you get yours and also insist that what they have is taken away.  You should be able to smell sulfur soon.









Thursday, July 14, 2016

My Next Adventure: Ride South to North Across Russia and Former Soviet and Warsaw Pact Countries


In mid-August of next year I am planning to ride north from Odessa, Ukraine, to Helsinki, Finland, by way of several former Soviet and Warsaw Pact states.

The trip is in honor of my paternal grandfather.  He escaped the Cossack slaughter of Jews under the Tsar at the end of the 19th Century, got to America, then returned to Odessa in August of 1914.  The biggest mistake of his life.  He was going to drafted into the Army and only escaped by walking from Odessa to Finland.  It took six months and he barely got out of Russia alive.  The story is here.

I am hoping for an easier trip, which is why I am not traveling by the shortest route north through eastern Ukraine and western Russia. Currently, my route has no active conflicts.  But I am going to write to every U.S. Embassy along the route to let them know an American tourist will be riding through these countries in August of next year.

Here is the route:  From Odessa, I will ride northwest through Moldova and eastern Romania.  Then I will ride north through western Ukraine and eastern Poland.  From there I ride northeast through Belarus, then into the three Baltic States: Lithuania, Lativia and Estonia.

From Estonia I will take a ferry to Helsinki, Finland, then another ferry to St. Petersburg, Russia.

I plan to ride a single-speed road bike about 100 miles per day and complete the trip to the Baltic Sea in two weeks.  Then Helsinki and three days in St. Petersburg and back to Finland.

From Finland I will take a ferry to Sweden then ride into Norway and take another Ferry to Denmark.  From Denmark I will go to Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg and France to see friends then fly back home.  The entire trip should take a month.

If you have advice, besides stay home, I am listening.  


Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Book 18 of 2016, "SIN" by Zakhar Prelepin

Zakhar Prelepin

Among the many praises of Leo Tolstoy is that he was a real combat soldier who maintained the sensitivity to write about both war and peace.  Which he did most grandly in a famous novel with that very title:  War and Peace.  Tolstoy fought in the bloody Crimean War in the 1850s.

One hundred and fifty years later Zakhar Prelepin fought in the War in Chechnya in a Russian Special Forces unit.  In 2007, barely three years after returning from the war, Prelepin published the Novel in short stories, "Sin."

Amazon has a excellent summary:

In the episodes of Zakharka’s life, presented here in non-chronological order, we see him as a little boy, a lovelorn teenager, a hard-drinking grave-digger, a nightclub bouncer, a father, and a soldier in Chechnya. Sin offers a fascinating glimpse into the recent Russian past, as well as its present, with its unemployment, poverty, violence, and local wars – social problems that may be found in many corners of the world. Zakhar Prilepin presents these realities through the eyes of Zakharka, taking us along on the life-affirming journey of his unforgettable protagonist.

At the end of the series of stories that make up most of the book are several poems and one final story about several soldiers in a lonely outpost.  Although the entire book was vivid to the point I could almost smell some of the scenes, this final story puts the reader right in the middle of a group of soldiers who are cut off from their unit, have no orders and no information.  They don't know whether to stay in the outpost or return to the base that is clearly under attack.  Their relief unit is hours overdue.  The sound of fighting gets more intense.

Do they have a unit to return to?  They are running out of food, running out of options.  The sergeant in charge of the detachments leads his men back to the base.  They confront and kill a group of Chechens on their way back.  They now have a truck.  They return to the base and the story ends with a twist that I did not expect, but after I read it seemed like the perfect ending to a Russian war story.

The poetry that preceded the final story also gave me a sense of Prelepin's control of language.  I am sure the final story was even better with the images from the poems in my head.

So I recommend this book highly, especially to soldiers, especially those who have had trouble returning to civilian life after war service.  I also recommend reading the poetry and the last story first.  The view of war we get at the end makes the stories of peace more intense, and more sad.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

"Obama's Going to Take Our Guns" In the Army Paranoia is Normal

At the end of January 2009, my unit mobilized for deployment to Iraq.  We trained for two months at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, before flying to Kuwait then Iraq.

From the day we landed in Oklahoma, I heard "Obama is going to take our guns."  I heard it in the barracks, I heard in the mess hall, I heard it in the motor pool and especially in the lines we stood in to draw equipment and gear.

The majority of the soldiers I deployed with either fully believed or had some inclination to believe that President Barack Obama was going to begin confiscating guns while we were deployed to Iraq.

At first I thought they had to be kidding, but it quickly became clear that between what they heard from the NRA, Fox News, and Conservative Radio, many of my fellow soldiers sincerely believed Obama was coming for their guns.

Now more than 2,700 days later, I just heard a Conservative saying that Obama will be "coming after our guns" before he leaves office.  In the Army paranoia is normal, and that makes sense.  Security requires that as few people as possible know sensitive information.

To put it another way:  Ignorance saves lives.

But ignorance is the breeding ground of rumors and rumors are the fetid soil that grows paranoia.  So it made some terrible sense that so many people would believe something as crazy as "Obama is coming for your guns."  But they did.  And now that Obama has been in office 2,700+ days, some of those soldiers still believe Obama is coming for their guns.



Friday, July 8, 2016

Soldiers Hate the Media, Even When They Work in Public Affairs

Almost every soldier I have ever worked with, even soldiers in Military Public Affairs, hate the media.  I could understand it when I first worked in Army Public Affairs in Germany in the late 70s.  Most of the public hated the military and many reporters made careers pointing out every flaw in the military during and after the Vietnam War.

But when I returned to the Army in 2007, I joined an Army that was loved by the public and covered by reporters who reported good news at a rate I found incredible as a Vietnam-era soldier.

And yet just as during the Vietnam era, every soldier I spoke to at any length about the media, hated the media.  In fact, once I picked up a camera in Iraq and started writing a newsletter within our own brigade, half the soldiers in the unit regarded me as part of the media.  Everything I wrote for that newsletter was reviewed by battalion or brigade headquarters.  But I was the media.

In 2013 in one of the many ironies of my career, I actually went to the Defense Information School (DINFOS) at Fort Meade, Maryland.  For three months I learned how to take pictures and write to military standards.  Since I worked in public affairs as a civilian for nearly 30 years, a lot we were taught was not new to me.  My biggest surprise at school was my classmates and teachers.  Most of them liked the media no better than pilots, door gunners, grunts and mechanics. One major I worked with regularly was as suspicious of the media as anyone I ever met.  Some of my DINFOS classmates were openly hostile to the media.



Many civilians in public affairs, particularly those in media relations, are like me.  They wanted to be reporters, but decided the pay and future were so bad that they went into public affairs.  Also, one important thing I lacked that is necessary for a good reporter is an internal Bullshit detector.  My default setting is optimism.  My Army stories in the 70s and in Iraq were all about soldiers doing their job.  I could not investigate anyone.  So serious journalism was never possible for me.  After college, I found a job that kept me in contact with serious journalists.

My civilian job was mainly media relations in business media. I was in regular contact with very smart reporters who were paid a lot less than me.  I even helped a few find jobs on the "dark side" as public affairs is known among reporters.  I like reporters as a group and had good relationships with reporters throughout my career, some that lasted two decades or more.  Several reporters are still my friends even now that I am retired.

In civilian life, there is no question who is a reporter and who is in public affairs.  Nobody confuses the White House spokesperson with a White House reporter.  But in the Army, most soldiers of every rank from private to general think their own public affairs people are reporters.  Some of the military public affairs people I have known get into that career because the path they actually wanted was blocked.  Some are simply assigned to do something they really don't want to do.  Both in Germany in the late 70s and since returning to Army Public Affairs in Iraq, I have met very few soldiers who know the difference between Army Public Affairs and reporters, and very few soldiers in public affairs who actually like the media.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Every Thursday, I Shave My Legs--Even in Iraq


Since one of my first big bike crashes in 1994, I have shaved my legs every week, usually on Thursday before racing on the weekend.  I started riding seriously in 1989, but resisted shaving my legs until the crash at the Tuesday Night Training Race. I continued to shave my legs throughout my deployment to Iraq in 2009.  I rode 5,100 miles on Camp Adder, Iraq, so it made sense to keep removing my leg hair.

So why do bicycle racers and most serious cyclists shave their legs?

Crashes.

In 1994 I crashed at 25mph on a rough road surface. I had deep cuts on my right side from my shoulder to my ankle.  The worst was almost two square feet of shredded skin on my right thigh.  Inside all of those cuts was the shaggy hair from my hirsute legs.  I cleaned and disinfected my injuries, but within a few days, the big red mess on my right thigh was oozing green.

My doctor, General Internal Medicine, rotates many residence through the practice.  That day I had a young, fit doctor doing a month-long family practice residency.  He took a lot of care cleaning my many injuries.  He prescribed antibiotics, then he leaned back, folded his arms and said, "You're the first healthy person I treated in three weeks."

I thought this was funny.  I was bandages from ankle to shoulder.  This fit young doctor, like others I had met and have met since, got into family practice to care for communities.  But a quick scan of the waiting room anytime I am in the office says most of the practice is geriatric, bad lifestyle, or both.  He seemed ready to switch his specialty to sports medicine or surgery.

And speaking of treating injuries, my oldest daughter, Lauren, was 5 years old at the time and very happy to help me change bandages every day.  She was clearly disappointed when I finally healed up.  Lauren did her first race that year and from age 8 to 10 was part of a kids race series.  She was around so many bicycle racers as a kid she thought men with leg hair looked weird when she played sports in middle and high school.

After 22 years, I can't quite imagine having leg hair again.  I still race, so I still shave.