Monday, November 28, 2016

A Science Guy's Almanac - Coaching Memories - Track & Field – Girl’s Track

Coaching Memories - Track & Field – Girl’s Track

I described a bit of my experience with the male distance runners on . Female distance runners proved to be as different from their male counterparts as the female shot putters were compared to their male counterparts.

An aside. 
  • When I was in Little League, I was slightly overweight and not fast. My dad told me I was big, but I should be fast, too. I ran laps around our 0.3-acre backyard for most of a year. I got faster. In 8th grade, I set the school record for the 100-yard dash.
  • There is scientific evidence that white muscle fibers—also known as “fast twitch fibers,” think chicken breast—contract quickly for speed applications. Evidence also indicates that a certain amount of red fibers— also known as “slow twitch fibers,” think chicken thigh—can be converted to white fibers if they are used for speed applications. The converted fast twitch fibers convert back to slow twitch if you don’t sprint.
  • I didn’t sprint much after I ruptured the disk in my back at age 18. By the time I was coaching most of my converted fibers had backslidden into their previous state.
  • In theory, I should have been a reasonable distance runner. 
  • I wasn’t.

The girls were after me to run with them during workouts. I put them off for a while. Finally, I asked where they wanted me to run with them. The ringleader pointed to a water tower in the distance.

While I didn’t know the exact distance from the school to the tower, I knew it was uphill over half the way. I told them I’d run the next time they were running a flat distance.

That day soon came.

We start “running.” 

I run at one pace. 


The girls rotated back to where I was for about fifteen minutes. By then, we were at a fork in the road. They started down the right fork.

“Hold it,” I called.

They stopped.

“How far down that road are you running?” I asked.

“All the way to Campo Road,” they answered.

What they were running was known at that time as “Olsen’s Block” after a very good cross-country runner from early in school history. The block was over six miles long.

“I’ll be turning here,” I said, pointing at the left fork that looped back to the school.

“Okay,” they called and headed off.

About twenty minutes later I made it back to the school’s track. Not all that much later, the lead runners from the right fork arrived. 

I shook my head in a combination of disbelief and admiration.

On the days of track meets, the first event was always the girls’ two-mile race. The goal was to finish that race before anything else began. Since track meets are l-o-n-g, every chance to cut some time was appreciated.

One of our meets was on a day when there were no school district busses available in time to get our girl 2-milers to the track in time to warm up and run before the meet began. I volunteered to take our three runners in my car.

I was driving a 1965 VW bug at the time. I’d painted it yellow and had red Naugahyde seat covers put on to match the Monte Vista Monarch’s crimson and gold.

We got to the track.
They ran.
We won. We probably swept or took 2 of the first 3 places. They were excellent runners.
Once all the distance events were completed, I offered to take them back to Monte Vista.
They accepted.
I dropped them off and drove home.
As I turned into my driveway, the right rear wheel fell off the axle.
It turned out that the cotter pin holding the wheel on was missing.
Clockwise from top left. Cotter pin--note the shape. A notched nut on an axle without cotter pin. Installing the cotter pin. All's right with the world.
  • In VW’s the axles have holes through them near the ends. Wheels slid onto the axles. A nut with notches in it is tightened until one set of notches aligns with the hole in the axle.
  • A cotter pin—upper left photo—is dropped into the hole and through the notched nut--photo below right of the cotter pin.
  • The cotter pin is a single piece of metal that is folded back on itself. It has a loop in the end so it won’t slide through the hole in the axle.
  • This step is CRITICAL. You have to bend one leg of the cotter pin once it’s through the hole in the axle—far right photo.
  • The correctly installed wheel looks like the blue rim shown in the lowest photo.
  • If you don’t bend the cotter pin—or don’t install one—the nut loosens over time.
  • When the nut is loose enough, it comes off the axle.
  • The wheel follows the nut soon thereafter.
  • I found the nut in my hubcap.
  • I never found a cotter pin.
  • I did use one when I put the wheel back on the next morning.

I thank God to this day that the wheel didn’t fall off while driving at 50 mph with the girls in the car.

Next Almanac: Coaching memories – Soccer, the first go-around

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Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Glimpses into Grammar #4 - Clauses, Conjunctions, and Closing Comments on Commas

Clauses, Conjunctions, and Closing Comments on Commas

Independent Clauses (IC)

  • An independent clause is a group of words that contains a subject and verb and expresses a complete thought.
  • They can live on their own. 
  • An independent clause is a sentence.

Jim studied in the Sweet Shop for his chemistry quiz.


Dependent Clauses (DC)

  • A dependent clause is a group of words that contains a subject and verb but does not express a complete thought.
  • They rely on the rest of the sentence for meaning.
  • A dependent clause cannot be a sentence.
  • They often depend on a dependent marker word for connection to the IC.
  • Another clue you have a DC is the presence of a subordinating conjunction (because, since) or relative pronoun (who, when)see below,

When Jim studied in the Sweet Shop for his chemistry quiz . . . (What happened when he studied? The thought is incomplete.)
Dependent Marker Word
A dependent marker word is a word added to the beginning of an independent clause that makes it into a dependent clause.
When Jim studied in the Sweet Shop for his chemistry quiz, it was very noisy.
Some common dependent markers are: afteralthoughasas ifbecausebeforeeven ifeven thoughifin order tosincethoughunlessuntilwhateverwhenwheneverwhether, and while.
Connecting dependent and independent clauses is commonly done with . . .


·      These join equivalent structures, including any part of speech, phrases, and clauses.

·      FANBOYS! is an acronym to help remember the most common conjunctions. Jot down your answers. The solution to this acronym is at the end of this section.


These also join equivalent structures, and they come in pairs: both… and, not only… but also


·      These introduce adverb clauses (dependent clauses) and signal the relationship between the adverb clause and (usually) an independent clause.

·      They include words like since, because, once, and although.

Subordinating conjunctions begin dependent clauses. Dependent clauses can tell us whether we need a comma.
·      Does it come before the independent clause in the sentence? If yes, you need a comma! (e.g. “Because Jess likes cats, we stopped to pet the kitten.”)
·      Does it come after the independent clause instead? If yes, you DON’T need a comma. (e.g. “We stopped to pet the kitten because Jess likes cats.”)

When one of these subordinating conjunctions is used right before an independent clause, it makes the clause DEPENDENT instead.
A dependent clause cannot stand along as its own sentence; it must be used with an independent clause.
·      If the DEPENDENT comes first, separate it from the independent with a comma.
·      If the INDEPENDENT clause comes first, no comma is needed before the dependent.
Think of the dependent clause as a child stepping into the street.
·      If the child (the dependent) is in the street first, you’d ask, “Where is that kid’s parent?” It would give you pause. So give it a comma.
·      If the parent steps out first and leads the child along, it doesn’t give you pause at all. You leave out the comma.

BONUS! Conjunctive adverbs

·      These connect independent clauses and frequently act as transitions. Think of them as coordinating conjunctions with super powers.

·      They include words like however, similarly, therefore, and finally.

My advice with conjunctive adverbs is to rewrite your sentence or paragraph and eliminate the need for these terms as often as you can.

For, and, nor, but, or, yet, so

Closing Comments on Commas

You need a comma in all the following situations. Thanks to OWL from Perdue University for some of this information. Here’s a link for a more detailed look at comma abuse.

IC, IC (remember the conjunction)

DC, IC (ONLY if the DC comes first)

After an Introductory Phrase: In the beginning, God created . . .

Between items in a Series of items: …lions, tigers, and bears…

Some examples need more than the above shorthand to clear up.
Coordinate adjectives: Can alternate positions without changing the meaning of the sentence. He was a difficult, stubborn child.

Non-restrictive clause:  A non-restrictive clause is a clause which is not needed to identify the word it modifies, i.e., it is just additional information. As a non-restrictive clause is not essential to the meaning of a sentence, it is offset with commas. For example: Peter Jones , who plays goalkeeper for our village football team, has worked at his father's greengrocers for twenty years. (

Appositive phrase:noun or noun phrase that renames another noun right beside it. The appositive can be a short or long combination of words. The insect, a cockroach, is crawling across the kitchen table. It renames insect.

Parenthetical phrase: Can use parentheses, commas, dashes or brackets to include nonessential information. "The three boys, Bob, James and Joey, went out to get some ice cream.

Participial phrase: Always function as adjectives, adding description to the sentence. The horse trotting up to the fence hopes that you have an apple or carrot. Trotting up to the fence modifies the noun horse.

Contrasting element: Sometimes you will want to emphasize two strongly contrasting ideas or points by inserting a comma between them: We should remember the lessons we've learnednot regret the time we spent on a pirate ship learning them.

Transitional phrase: These are very important. Important enough for a graphic.

Ultimately, use commas for

**CLARITY** (…within reason)

A good motto for commas is:

When it doubt, leave it out.

Next Day in the Life of a Science Fiction Writer: Sentence Structure Suggestions

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