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Warm-up in Houston; Day 1 in St. Louis October 23, 2006

Posted by Bill Carroll in Extreme Farewell Tour, St. Louis.
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Friday, October 20, 2006
11 PM
Dallas, Texas

The Chemistry equivalent of football’s Bowl Week started tonight at the Southwest Regional Meeting.  I had told the organizers that because of the Russia trip I might not make it, but a couple of weeks ago I switched reservations to make it possible to do a fly-by.  Literally.  Extreme Farewell Tour Day 0 is on.

Travel doesn’t get much easier than this unless it’s taking the bus to work.  Come to think of it, a flight on Southwest IS taking the bus to work.  I drove 20 minutes to Love Field, and parked,  carrying only two weeks of neglected periodical reading.

Why I needed to be scanned, wanded, searched and patted down when I had neither laptop, video camera or any recognizable liquids or gels is a question for the statisticians, but getting past security was the hardest part of the trip.  They gave me enough radiation to do my crystal structure.  They didn’t bring out the dogs to sniff me, but I heard barking as a warning.  I thought about asking the guy patting me down to scratch my back since he was already giving me a massage.  There was one of those intriguing “what if” moments when the inspector saw my ACS pin and asked if I was a member of Congress.  What if I’d said yes….

Once through, it took only 25 minutes from load-out to wheels-up.  Houston Hobby was 45 minutes down the road—or rather, air.

In Houston, I met Rodney.  Rodney drives a cab and likes to talk.  I’ve discovered by traveling a lot that even if you don’t like sports, a knowledge of professional football and basketball is critical to getting the best service in a taxicab.  To be blunt, Rodney did not want to discuss the pointillist art at the Russian State Museum, but a deep drill on his true passion, the Denver Broncos guaranteed that we got to the Marriott Westchase expeditiously.

SWRM organizers Joe Hightower, Mamie Moy, Dave Singleton, Monte Pettitt and a number of others did a great job.  They took a risk and invited high school students to come for a special smokin’ price, and as far as I’m concerned, it paid off.  I met a number of girls from St. Agnes who were taking AP Chemistry.  They were self-assured, interested and fun—they have great futures ahead of them.  I pity the grad students in the poster session who got the third degree from them.

At 7:30 Rodney picked me up and we were on the way back to Hobby where we debated the relative merits of the Houston Rockets and Dallas Mavericks, and I was back in Dallas before 10.  The cab ride was longer than the flight.

So, to paraphrase Peter, Paul and Mary, the tour shirts are packed and we’re ready to go.  The next cab arrives at 6:15 AM.

**********
Saturday, October 21, 2006
11 PM
St. Louis

First off, I need to explain the XFT staffing acronyms.

Um, eXtreme Farewell Tour for those of you who are new.

It’s a rotating three-person crew so as to assure that we 1) capture good content for the web and 2) keep me from wandering off.  For this leg, Judith Jankowski is the Handler of the Team or HOT because of her superior organizational talents.  Dennis Loney is the Techie on Tour or TOT, but is also the WP, which is Web Presence or Wing Person.  I think the latter means if we need an order of wings, Dennis gets to go pick them up.  I am known as the WHAT NOT—While Holding A Title, No Obvious Talent.

I cruised into the St. Louis airport with no problem, and Lisa Balbes met us there.  Every airport has distinguishing features, and Lambert Field is no exception.  Of course you can get Budweiser, the hometown brew on tap but there is also a place in Concourse C called the “Tequileria” where it seems you can get lots of different tequilas, also presumably on tap.  Must make 9 in the morning almost bearable.

T-Rex Slaying Triceratops at St. Louis Science CenterThe St. Louis section had its annual event at the marvelous Science Center.  You are first greeted by a T-Rex that has just TKO-ed a Triceratops.  Reminded me of what Monday Morning Staff meetings were like in a previous incarnation.

There were nearly twenty demonstration stations, manned by Southern Illinois U at Edwardsville, St. Louis U., U of Missouri, St. Louis and St. Louis Community College–as well as companies, Monsanto, Sigma-Aldrich and individual members.  SIUE was a big hit making polyurethane “buns” on the spot, which only one kid ate.  They had hundreds of kids and parents come through—a big success.  Greg Wall was the general chair. .Plastic Bill

Somebody did a super shrinky of me and prepared it so I could wear it like a medallion.  Nice, but that’s somebody else’s hair.
“Second” Career Teacher at St. Louis Science CenterI met lots of teachers in preparation, including a woman with one career completed already.  It warmed my heart to see another “second career” teacher—we pushed that program pretty hard last year.  She’ll be great.  The other common major was Pharmacy, and most of those kids said they picked it because they had worked in a pharmacy at some time and liked it.  I continue to believe that we lose kids from chemistry to Pharmacy and Forensics because they don’t know what chemistry “work” looks like.  I wish we could show them.

Bill Discussing the Wonders of NanotubesI’m keeping count of the number of “slime” recipes we have this week.  Today there were two, and the champion was Sigma Aldrich with its glow-in-the-dark clear slime.  Honorable Mention to Monsanto.

The World Series is on.  Tonight we’re in St. Louis, tomorrow in Detroit.  The Gateway to the West - Looking East This town is truly rockin’ for their Cardinals.  We sat in the nearly empty bar of the Adam’s Mark and watched the end of the game that St. Louis won 7-2.  The bar sound system broke into “Celebration” by Kool and the Gang, and a few ecstatic patrons decided to dance.  What followed was a late ‘70’s trash disco music/dirty dancing review, executed by people who were old enough to remember it well from the first time, as do I.  My heavens.

I’ve seen it all before.  I thought I didn’t need to see it again.  I was right.

So tonight we stay downtown, Day 1 in the books, hard by the Gateway Arch.  Makes me think of Egg McMuffins.  Wheels up tomorrow at 8:15 AM.

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