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Back to the USA October 22, 2006

Posted by Bill Carroll in Russia.
19 comments

Thursday, October 19, 2006
American Airlines Flight 71
Frankfurt Main Airport

The past three days have been taken up with industry meetings; wonderful things in themselves, but they don’t make much of a story.  Still, I suppose, after 27 years in this part of the chemical industry, this is my tribe, and it’s nice to see all those tribe-mates from all over the world.

I visited the Russian State Museum on Sunday.  It’s mostly artists you never heard of, but incredibly, the art you see follows the same timeline of development of techniques followed by artists you have heard of.  Very interesting, but time ran out on me and I didn’t get to see the exhibit of Soviet Cold War poster art, which would have been dynamite.

We had one other Fodor’s moment, when walking back to the hotel we were impeded by aggressive sellers of postcards.  The situation developed quickly, but in retrospect, when the price for 24 cards dropped to a dollar, it was clear the goal was simply to get you to show them your wallet so terrible things could happen.  Thank heavens I didn’t have my money stored close to my kidney.  They did look like nice postcards, though.

stpetersburg.jpgThe Hotel Grand Europa was pretty nice, which explains the $37 breakfast.  Geez Louise—my suits don’t cost that much.  Needless to say, I hiked down to the MAKДОНАЛДС for an ЭГГ МАКМУФФИН.  In Russia the standard McMuffin comes with sausage, which was pretty good.  The eggs are different here too, and it takes a while to get used to them.  The yolks are much more orange than yellow—but they taste the same–which I think reflects what the chickens are being fed.  By the look of it, they’ve been eating either carrots or traffic cones.

And I dare you to find a 20-ounce cup of coffee to go.  There are no Starbucks in Russia,  and they desperately need a 7-11.

Statue of Aleksandr PushkinIt rained most of the week, but wasn’t terribly cold, so I walked around the city quite a bit.   It really is a pretty place, and I remain struck by the pastel colors of the buildings, the incredible mosaics, especially in St. Isaac’s, and my favorite—the statue of Alexander Pushkin.  If you come at just the right time, you can see eighteen pigeons lined up on his arm.  Overflow seating is on his head.

We had a wonderful banquet last night,  but to be honest, I’m not going to miss four-hour dinners where the vodka comes in tumblers and the water in shot glasses, especially when they end at midnight and you have a 3AM wakeup call.  I never did get sleep-acclimated this trip, so once the fog in my head cleared it was pretty easy getting up.

Jeff Sloan and I dutifully showed up at Pulkovo Airport in St. Petersburg two hours before our 6:15 flight, and were in the waiting room with about an hour and 50 minutes to spare, trying to swallow a Power Bar with nothing to wash it down.  I love a small airport when everything is closed.

The Lufthansa flight was pretty uneventful, but they did serve us a hot breakfast.  It was kind of like eggs, only different.  And they had the smallest cans of Diet Coke I’ve ever seen—150 ml.  The can nearly weighed more than the soda.  It would take about 7 of them to make a Big Gulp.

So now here I sit on AA 71 back to Dallas, finally able to exhale.  This is always the best part: the last leg of an overseas trip when you’re finally on the plane and you can reflect on the good stuff and no more adventures are possible, or at least likely.  Yeah, I’d come back here.

When we get back to Dallas the preparations for the tour start in earnest.  I can’t wait.  Two meals a day at the Dashboard Diner; windows down, music blaring so as to annoy old people in the other lane.  Ain’t nothin’ better than a road trip, and we’ll document it all the way.

Now three requests.  First, I hope you’ll stay with us as we cover the Midwest next week, especially by using the RSS to automatically have the blog fed to you as new posts appear.  You can subscribe to RSS feeds by clicking on either “full” or “comments” and then copying the URL into your favorite RSS aggregator.

The links are the following:
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Second, I hope you’ll take the time to comment on what we say and do.  I expect the ACS crew that’s keeping me out of the ditches may file a minority report, and you can too.  Finally, if you write a blog and you like what you see, link to us so we can turn more people on to National Chemistry Week.

St. Petersburg: The Great One’s Window on Europe October 20, 2006

Posted by Bill Carroll in Russia, Uncategorized.
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Saturday, October 14, 2006
Grand Hotel Europe 11 PM

Today was kind of a deadhead day between meetings so the five of us toured St. Petersburg.  After saying good-bye to Aleksei, we started the city tour while it was still dark.  Couldn’t see much, but the traffic wasn’t bad.

stnicholas.jpgTwo cities could not be more different.  Moscow seems gray and dominated by high-rise 1950s architecture that is at best, antiseptic and at worst, threatening.  St. Petersburg is all low-rise, classic architecture, dominated by near-pastel yellow-orange, green and blue.  St. Petersburg looks like Venice or Amsterdam, cities that inspired its design.  Moscow is nearhermitage.jpgMetropolis.

Or maybe Beijing–the capital, more politically idealistic and uptight.  St. Petersburg is more like Shanghai; further away, more relaxed.  In St. Petersburg as in China, much of the beautiful art and artisan work done in the pre-Communist period in the name of royalty or religion was neglected or destroyed in the early and mid-part of the last century; it has since been restored and is incredible.

Anna, our tour guide made sure we bought souvenirs at a reputable place.  This is not trivial.  Russia seems to be one big negotiation.  You can stand on the street and flag any car as if it were a taxi and negotiate a price for a ride.  The taxis aren’t much different.  In this system, buying stuff on the street seems like guaranteed disaster.

band.jpgWe had lunch, at a very nice restaurant that tested my still touchy digestive system, but came complete with entertainment.  A band showed up and played a Russian song—Moscow Nights.  I recognized it because it had been remade by Kenny Ball as Dixieland jazz in 1962 and renamed “Midnight in Moscow“. I bought that single when I was in fourth grade.bird.jpg

I was sort of hoping they’d play the Beatles’ “Back in the USSR,” which might have been tasty with the accordion.  Instead to our surprise, they put down the instruments and took up the group’s “Yesterday” on ocarinas.

The ocarinas are designed so you blow air in a bird’s tail and music comes out.  I’ll pause here for you to insert your own metaphor.fivetourists.jpg

I was utterly not surprised when we were offered the “opportunity” to buy their cd’s and the ocarinas.  Yes, the theme from Dr. Zhivago is on there.  What, no 2006 World Tour t-shirts?

More sightseeing.  At the Fortress of St. Peter and Paul, we saw the tombs of all the Romanovs, and this interesting bronze statue of Peter the Great, advertised as being to scale.  Peter was over 2 meters tall, but had small feet, and apparently a very small head.  The head for this statue was taken from his death mask.  The real thing, by the way, is in the Hermitage, and a facial replica is also there, fitted with his actual hair.  His mustache as recreated in the replica looks a little cheesy though.  Presumably, it was not his original mustache.

peter.jpgYou’ll notice that his right forefinger is pretty shiny and rubbed smooth.  Local legend has it that if you rub his finger, your wish will come true.  I said, rub his finger, not pull it.  Be careful what you wish for.

Eventually I wound up at the Grand Hotel Europe, site of my next meeting.  It’s nice.  Most importantly, it has a fully functioning, understandable bathroom.  I cracked off the clothes I wore all day and all night and took what seemed like my first shower of the year.  Just to show St. Petersburg my technical savvy, however, I missed that the sleeping room curtains were on a rod with a drawstring and managed to pull them down instead of pulling them closed.  Sigh.

The five of us eventually regrouped for dinner at a restaurant called Demidov.  The concierge at the hotel said, “Oh. You mean the one with the Gypsy show.”  Note to self: One ocarina per trip is enough.

The specialty of the Demidov is bear filet.  I thought I misheard the waitress and asked if it was difficult to filet a pear.  No, she said, not Pear as in Bosc, Bear as in Yogi.  The filet was tempting, but at $90, a little pricey, so I went for second best–what amounted to bear sausage with fruit sauce.

Having bear for dinner is another pretty good metaphor opportunity so go ahead and take your best, ahem, shot.  My Cold War self thought, “Eating the Russian Bear…priceless.”  One grad school friend used to say, “Some days you eat the bear, and some days the bear eats you.”  Tonight we evened the score a little.

The standard culinary wisdom might be that everything tastes more or less like chicken; to my palate, everything wilder than, say, chicken, tastes pretty much like liver.  Don’t look for a McBear anytime soon.

I’ve been here three days and I’m still sleeping at odd times.  The good news is, at 4 in the morning I’m really productive.  The bad news is, 2 PM comes awfully early.

Leaving Moscow October 19, 2006

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

October 13, 2006
Izmailovsky Alpha hotel, 7 AM

All I can tell you is, if it was veal it was one talkative calf because it kept me up all night.  Tums seemed to only make it angry.

I don’t do well with international travel.  Under the best of circumstances, I have a very rigid biological clock that really likes Central Time.  As a result, sleep comes in spurts of about three hours tops, and usually not at night.  Being awake in the middle of the night away from home is not fun.

What frosted me is I had planned for illness.  Based on previous experience, I brought enough Imodium to plug the Alaska pipeline.  I had enough antibiotic to disable a yogurt factory.  None of that was to the point.

The 13 inch TV in the Alpha had about 20 channels with cartoons, movies, infomercials and propaganda—all in Russian.  There was one English channel, the BBC News, but that carries 24 hours of information about people and places that were, frankly, irrelevant to a guy with alimentary war breaking out.  It doesn’t matter to me that Madonna is trying to adopt an African child, and there wasn’t even a cricket match.  To be fair, CNN International is no better, and when I get home from abroad usually the first thing I want is ESPN or maybe Spike.  Geez, I’d even sit and watch HGTV with Mary. 

Naturally, my ACS report would have to be that morning.  Nothing I like better than having to give a presentation while fighting dietary distress.  Breakfast was out of the question: not pizza, not weenies, not even Cocoa Puffs.  I dunked my face in the sink to avoid further enraging the shower gods.  Fortunately, washing what little hair I have left requires only a heavy fog.10-13-b.jpg

The EuCheMS meeting itself was very good, and I enjoyed meeting the Presidents of the European societies.  We have many of the same problems: public perception of chemistry, research funding, concern for the future of local industry, hope and optimism for chemistry as the source of the next generation of innovation, particularly in energy.  I felt welcomed by all.

I did manage to get through my report.  Being nearly last on the agenda helped, as did copious amounts of carbonated water.

Moscow Train Station, 11 PM

leninhead.jpgMy next meeting is in St. Petersburg, and given the traffic and the state of the airports, everyone recommends taking the eight-hour overnight train.  The station was not deluxe, and was once again a reminder of Soviet times.  A bust of Lenin dominates the main waiting area.  Given his presence in the subway as well, he must be the patron saint of train travel.  Seats have been deemed irrelevant and do not clutter the waiting area.

On the other hand the accommodations once inside the train were quite clean and nice by Amtrak standards.  The seats flip down to make beds, and there’s space underneath them for your luggage.  The Russian train system provided a box lunch: couple of dinner rolls and butter, small bottle of salmon roe, slices of dried salami, yogurt, and chocolate squares.  Oh.  And a half pint of “cognac.”  Given what I ate all day everything but the salmon roe looked reasonably good.

First class in Russian overnight trains includes two berths in each sleeper car.  Five of us—Dave Garner from the Royal Society of Chemistry and his wife Pam; Evelyn MacEwen, EuCheMS Secretary, Reto Battaglia of the Swiss Chemical Society and I–made our way to the station for the Midnight Special.

The perceptive reader has already done the math and noticed that one of us will be rooming with a new friend tonight.  I drew the short straw.  His name was Aleksei.

Aleksei spoke a little English, and apparently is in the publishing business. He licenses, translates, augments for Russian audiences and reproduces a couple of popular American magazines.  He wasn’t a bad guy—makes this trip every week.sleeper.jpg
But here we were.  I was sweating like a pig because I have no idea of the etiquette associated with sharing a sleeper car with someone you don’t know.  Do you say, “Should we go to sleep now?” and does that mean something else when translated into Russian?  I pulled out my computer and worked for a while to see if the situation resolved itself naturally.

Eventually, when he polished off his “cognac” and went out for a cigarette, I put my bed down, crawled under the covers fully clothed, buried my head and went to sleep.

In the end it all worked out.  I woke up a couple of times because we were near the rest rooms, and the toilet flush sounded like a rocket launcher.  Since there was no getting up to read or work, I had no choice but to will myself back to sleep, which kind of worked.  I was glad to see dawn, and the station.  Touring St. Petersburg is next.

Daytime in Red Square October 18, 2006

Posted by Bill Carroll in Russia.
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October 12, 2006

Izmailovsky Alpha Hotel

We’ve been very lucky with the weather and today is no exception.   Chilly, but bright.  I was hoping for a fast shower, some breakfast and maybe another trip downtown.

Telephone Shower The shower is one of those European telephone-shaped devices, and it wasn’t immediately obvious to me how you got the water from the faucet up into the telephone part.  I tried turning the knob—that didn’t work.  I tried pushing it down, and that went nowhere.  When I tried to pull it up, it wouldn’t move so I pulled a little HARDER.  Whereupon the plug came out in my hand and water shot ten feet high out of the hole in the top of the faucet and all over the bathroom.

I shut the water off, replaced the plug and decided a shower was out of the question.  An ad hoc bath was organized—I had to think how to do it, it’s been so long–and next came breakfast.

The Alpha has a buffet for breakfast that reflects the breakfast habits of people around the world who stay there—and they differ markedly.  They had kippers and other fish like the British eat; cold cuts, cheese and hard rolls for the Germans.  They’d fry you an egg if you wanted.  I looked around and settled for pizza and weenies, because I didn’t like the look of the kim-chi and ratatouille.  If the pizza were colder, a case could have been made that was an American breakfast.  It was only much later that I found the Cocoa Puffs.  I have no explanation for the weenies.

The big guy sitting across from me, roughly half contained in his suit, had the farm boy breakfast: fish, weenies, boiled potatoes, rolls, cole slaw, meat and cheese all doused with ketchup.  And he washed it down with a beer.  Sheryl Crow once sang “I like a good beer buzz early in the morning.”  She didn’t mention boiled potatoes.

Jim Feast of the Royal Society of Chemistry and Bryan Henry of IUPAC wandered in, and I volunteered to show them how to use the subway to go down to Red Square, being as I was a seasoned veteran by now.  Off we went, but when we got to the subway station, we got to experience a good old fashioned Soviet-style line for tickets.

St Basil DayOf course, St. Basil’s is pretty neat in the daylight as well.  Lenin’s Mausoleum is also in Red Square, in the shadow of the Kremlin walls.  He is actually there to greet you, as he has been mummified and lies on top of his casket.  The experience is to be treated with reverence; the mausoleum is dark and deep, there are lots of soldiers to move you along and the whole presentation is quite striking.  As I was standing there, somber as the situation was, I felt I should do something, but didn’t know what.  A prayer didn’t seem quite right somehow.

There are other graves there, in what is known as the Kremlin Wall Necropolis including nice big markers for Leonid Brezhnev and Josef Stalin, somewhat to my surprise.  Their bodies are buried below the markers.  Then on the Kremlin wall are black markers for other Communist dignitaries including the first Cosmonaut, Yuri History MuseumGagarin.  Journalist John Reed, about whom the movie “Reds” was made, is there.  You may remember that he bore a striking resemblance to Warren Beatty.  Their ashes are interred behind the markers.  I saw a couple of names scrawled in chalk on the sidewalk.  Heaven only knows what that means.

On Red Square is the beautiful History Museum, which is red,  but that’s not why the Square is called that.  Turns out that the Russian word for “red” also has an archaic meaning “beautiful.”

There is also a mall, known as the GUM.  GUM is an acronym in Russian for “big flippin’ mall” and there are hundreds of stylish stores on three levels.  I found Quin’s shirt there.  Did I also mention that one of the less archaic meanings of the Russian word for “red” is “bloody expensive?”GUM-long

After finding our way back, we went to the EuCheMS meeting.  EuCheMS—the European Association for Chemical and Molecular Sciences–is a federation of the 50-some chemical societies in Europe, all but three of which are members.  They are building infrastructure gradually, including both programs and funding.  Ann Nalley attended their first Chemical Congress this summer, as did nearly 3,000 other scientists.  Combined, the societies have about 150,000 members.

EuCheMS is growing in programming quickly, and has a clear focus on advocacy in Brussels, recognizing that there will be pan-European science funding agenda, that so far is not generous to chemistry.

There was a long discussion of current issues, including alternative energy, government relations and communications both with other chemists and the public.  After that, we prepared for the banquet by watching the car fire out in front of the hotel.

carfire.jpgThe banquet, held at the Pineapple restaurant, was quite an affair—not unlike an endless Chinese banquet, with ten or twelve courses.  Oh.  And vodka for toasts.  These are shooters–no sipping, please.

Our hosts also had entertainment—three opera singers who were really accomplished.  The crowd listened to them attentively at the beginning, but after about four hours were more difficult to bring to attention.  Except for a few people who wanted to sing with them.  Could have been the toasts.

There was every kind of food imaginable, most of it either pickled, mayonnaised, or in a heavy butter sauce.  Some I had never imagined, frankly.  There’s no point in asking what something is—even if you find out the name, it will be Russian, and it’s no help anyway.  If it’s good, eat it; if not, don’t.

The last course was some kind of stewed meat-like thingies in a grayish-brown sauce, cooked with small fruit that was mostly pit.  Reminded me of apricots.  It tasted pretty funny, and I asked others what they thought it was.  The best guess was veal.  We’ll never know.  After I ate it I got that same sort of sinking feeling I had when it dawned on me that they weren’t kidding when they named Steak and Kidney Pie.  That the sinking feeling was still there when I got back to the hotel tells me that this story is clearly not over.

Izmailovsky Alpha Hotel—Over Something Like Pizza and Beer October 11, 2006

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

Maybe if I apply a bit of imagination to it, this melted string cheese and ketchup on corrugated board under fluorescent lighting could be a candle-lit Italian dinner.

Nope. Not working.

There were a few moments of excitement when I landed in Moscow. I couldn’t find my driver after passing customs. Now, this probably doesn’t sound like a big deal to you as you sit comfortably wherever you are, but after the horror stories I’d been told about Russian taxicabs, I was pretty, well, concerned.  I heard campfire stories from other delegates who saw on the internet about how the cab drivers kidnap you, remove a kidney, roughly sew you up and leave you along the side of the road to hitchhike to the nearest hospital. Hyperventilation and tachycardia really inhibit your ability to use a cell phone, especially when it slips out of your sweating hand, so it took me a minute to figure out the Russian system.

Fortunately, there were only about three permutations of country code, area code and number necessary until I got through to the travel agent. Three dropped calls later, my driver ambled up—20 minutes past the time he was supposed to be there, and a bit indignant that my plane was 10 minutes early.  Moments later I got connected to the person who could make sense of it all, who was superfluous at that point.  Timing is everything in this business.

We started driving.  I was hoping it was toward the Izmailovsky Alfa but I was a bit concerned as Moscow faded into the rear view mirror.  The driver pointed out it was to avoid rush hour traffic.  I quickly looked for “kidnapping” and “hospital” in the Fodor’s guide.

But he seemed harmless enough, and he was driving a relatively new Ford.  The trip eventually became interesting as I saw nascent gated communities under construction—small houses, but recognizable new subdivisions nonetheless.  After about an hour we pulled up at the hotel.

Izmailovskovo Alfa

The Alfa has been updated a little since the Soviet era, but only a little. After a stringent passport check at the desk, I went upstairs to obtain the room key from the floor monitor. In olden days here, a dumpy old lady with facial hair and a lot of attitude passed out the keys and recorded the comings and goings of guests. I remember similar treatment in China twenty years ago.  Now the monitors are attractive and dressed in nice uniforms.

I’m pretty sure the fixture on the wall of my room is a sprinkler and not a microphone. Pretty sure.  As Elmer Fudd put it, I’m going to be vewwy, vewwy qwiet just in case.

The hotel is also a casino, which is kind of a surprise.  It’s not quite Las Vegas. Not quite even the WinStar quonset hut on the Texas-Oklahoma border, but occupied at all hours of the day and night. Roulette, beer and cigarettes at 8 AM: Breakfast of Champions. Some nights they have live entertainment: two guys singing to prerecorded tapes. The action is non-stop, if a bit slow. The workers look a little bored.

Tonight I decided to use the free evening to explore. I took a shot on figuring out the Metro in order to go down to the center of the city. But to get that done, I first had to develop confidence in reading the signage. The Cyrillic alphabet is a bit off-putting, but is so similar to Greek that if you were in a fraternity you can kind of dope it out. Once you do, there are a lot of similarities in the language.

There are a lot of similarities between the Cyrillic and Greek alphabets. The letter Д is like Δ (delta) and is a D. Once you also know that П is like the Greek pi and is a “P;” “P” is like the Greek rho and is an “R.” Then, “И” is sort of like “ee;” and “H” which looks like a Greek eta, is really “N” and of course “Г” is a gamma or “G.” Thus, the totally unintelligible ЛАРКИНГ becomes “PARKEENG”. It’s a straight lift. And it’s a good thing it is, because there is very little written in English as a second language.

I stumbled around downtown for a while, first going to the ЦУМ that is, “TSUM,” which is an acronym and translates roughly to “You Can’t Afford This.” Around the corner from the ЦУМ are the Bentley and Ferrari dealerships, which are located on a six-lane boulevard.  Moscow harbors some serious money.

I eventually found Red Square, alongside the Kremlin, or “fortress” which has guarded Moscow for hundreds of years. The recognizable, brightly colored St. Basil’s is beautiful, especially as it is lit at night.

As a Cold War child, to have had the chance to visit the three most recognizable Communist places—the Berlin Wall, Red Square in Moscow and Tien An Men square in Beijing, seems a bit surreal. Red Square isn’t as large as Tien An Men, but the Lenin Mausoleum occupies a similar place there as Mao’s tomb does at Tien An Men.

McDonalds in Moscow

A propos of the Extreme Tour, there is a McDonalds—or, rather MAKДОНАЛДС–that is not 100 meters from the huge statue of World War II hero Marshal Zhukov that guards the entrance to the Square. And that Mickey D’s is dead full at nine at night as well. No Monopoly promotion, though. I doubt it would translate in language or spirit.There is a mall next to Red Square—which has been there since Soviet times—called “ГУМ” or “GUM.” Judging by Red Square and the GUM mall adjacent to it, Moscow has a lot of hip, young, good-looking citizens. Of course, this means I blended right in. With the 400-year-old buildings.

V.I. Lenin

The subway is quite a monument as well. It was built in 1938 and is very ornate with statues of Lenin and dozens of other imposing bronze statues representing all walks of the Russian proletariat. In keeping with the utilitarian theme there is liberal use of granite and marble.  The escalator moves at about 30 mph.

A Moscow Metro Station
Now I’ll take my last bite of veal scaloppini, blow out the candle, and it’s time for the rack.

Nope.  Still not working.

Tomorrow we’ll see what things look like during the day.

Somewhere Over Canada on American Airlines October 10, 2006

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

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.

Welcome to the NCW Blog October 6, 2006

Posted by Dennis in Uncategorized.
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Welcome to the National Chemistry Week blog!  Once again, Bill Carroll will be criss-crossing the nation (at least the Midwest) and promoting the wonders of chemistry to America’s youth and prosletyzing to adults how they can help shape the future of the central science.

Bill, along with his trusty companions, will be posting their adventures on this blog as well as airing podcasts. Their journey begins in St. Louis on October 21 and ends in River Falls, Wisconsin, on October 28.