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Somewhere Over Canada on American Airlines October 10, 2006

Posted by Bill Carroll in pre-NCW World Tour, Russia.

The hardest part of a blog is getting started.

Some of you will remember last year’s 10 day, 15 city, 13,000 mile Extreme National Chemistry Week Tour.  Heaven knows I do.  We documented what we did in pictures and blog, which you can still find on the ACS website.

About a month ago an Extreme Farewell Tour (XFT) team constituted itself and we decided to do it one more time.  What do I mean by “Farewell?” Well, NCW sure isn’t going anywhere–it gets better every year and probably always will.  On the other hand, my term as Immediate Past President ends on December 31, whereupon I drive my ACS Chevy to the levee.  I thought of a farewell tour in the style of Elton John…or Barbra Streisand…or perhaps more appropriately, Spinal Tap.

So, this team of volunteers, with no thought for their own welfare, got together and said, “Let’s do it again, but this time no more wussing out on the hard stuff like you guys did last year.”  A reprised blog became an inevitability, which is both fun and daunting.

AA Flight 70 to FrankfurtRight now I’m on AA flight 70 on my way to Frankfurt and then on to meetings in Moscow and St. Petersburg.  I can hear my college son Will saying, “Dude!  World X-Tour!  Rockin’!  Really sick!” For those of you who are not anchored in Millenial Generation patois, the words mean “It would be a good thing.”

The true XFT starts on the 21st.  Eight days at meetings in Russia is just practice and lets me warm up my blogging skills.

I’m actually a little nervous about this trip.  I’ve never been to Moscow, the arrangements have been made by a local travel agent there, I’m to be met by a driver I don’t know, who will take me to a Soviet-era hotel somewhere on the outskirts of the city. The whole trip feels like a Tom Clancy novel right now.  Fodor’s puts a rosy face on it and says don’t drink any vodka you buy on the street.  Could be worse than the water, which itself might kill you.  Be careful crossing the street, because stoplights are considered guidelines and you might get killed.  And don’t change any money on the street.  It might not be money and the guy changing it might kill you.  Note to self: stay out of the street.

Funny how those of us of a certain age—54 to be exact—have this Cold War view of a black, white and gray Russia.  About 18 years ago when I was involved in licensing our technology, we had a group of Soviet scientists come to hear our sales presentation.  All I remember was being called into a darkened room to make the presentation to a number of  refrigerator-shaped gray men in bad suits.  A light was shining on me in the dark room—probably the slide projector, but it seemed like an interrogation spotlight.  I vaguely remember a voice that sounded like Peter Lorre saying, “So.  Dr. Carroll.  Vat is zis hybrid plastisol technology ve hear so much about?  Take your time and tell us everyzing…..Doctor…Car…roll…..”

My youngest son doesn’t feel that way.  Quin is a Russophile, and all he wants is a Russian national team hockey jersey.  He thinks the red is cool.  OK, those of us who remember the 1980 Olympics and do believe in miracles might take a different view, but I’m going to grow through it and see what I can find him.

But I started this posting by musing about how you start a blog.  Probably the best way is to see how we ended the last one.  We finished the original Extreme Tour at the Texas State Fair, the home of the deep fried PB&J with bananas on a stick.  Then I put my handler and co-conspirator Dave Harwell on a plane back to DC.  I wrote:

“The Extreme Tour is over. What started as a silly idea in my head turned into a dynamite event that staff and members alike got into and enjoyed. We had people greet us with posters using the Tour logo; quoted the blog and podcasts to us, contributed to the internet radio and most importantly picked up the true spirit of NCW; that is, Chemistry is fun, Chemists know how to have it, and Chemistry means benefits for us all. 

“Maybe there’ll never be another week like this.  Maybe.”

Well, dude—no maybe, we’re back,  we’re rockin’ and we’re not even sick yet, although the Russian water and street vodka lurks ahead.  XFT is in the house.

I will keep you posted on the trip to Russia if you will participate in the blog, especially when we get back to the states.  We’re mostly in the car this year, and all over the Midwest.

We’re experimenting with new and different media and the goal is to learn how to use it in a way that will enhance the new ACS web presence you will see in 2007.

And there’s one other goal; to help lots of members and students have a great time during National Chemistry Week.  We’re still raising money for Project SEED.  As you know, SEED is a 40-year-old program to give economically disadvantaged high school students an opportunity to experience a real laboratory summer job.  Donate $25,000 and I’ll shave my head; add $25,000 more and write your personal message—within limits–in Sharpie across my bald pate.  And I won’t wash it off ALL WEEK LONG.  Even if you can’t donate that much, you’ll get a personal thanks from me, to say nothing of the gratitude of some great students.

McDonald’s is running its “Monopoly” game again this year and we’ll be collecting our own game pieces on the road to see if we can win the big money and donate it.  What’s a road trip without McDonald’s?  We hope you’ll save pieces—no fair checking for instant winners—and send them to us.  All proceeds go to Project SEED, except the food prizes which we will eat.

We have more stuff coming, and we’ll describe it here as we go.

So chemistry activists, your week is coming.  One week a year, we take it to the streets.  Get your extreme on and join us.



1. Nishant Magar (Office of Communications) - October 20, 2006

I’d love to join you, but we’re back at HQ, with you in spirit! Unfortunately, we’re the guys that have to put out the press releases!

And on the subject, may I suggest eating an apple once in a while?

Best of luck!

2. Bill Carroll - October 21, 2006

Apples? You mean you can actually eat those? They’re not just decoration?

Thanks, Communicators!

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