Week of 25 June 2007
Update: Sunday, 1 July 2007 09:23 -0400
News from Paul about the Blue Planet Run. His wife, Mary Chervenak, is
one of the 20 runners, and they're now in Belarus (which I still think
of as Byelorussia, just as I think of the Czech Republic as
From: Paul Jones
To: Paul Jones
CC: <many recipients>
Date: Yesterday 21:01:06
is 4am, Monday June 25th in Belarus as I write. I talked to Mary
during her afternoon and she was very excited due to a report of a
nearby internet cafe. She, Shiri and David were headed to check it out
and, indeed, I got a one-line email from her saying they'd successfully
bought half and hour of time between them. I believe it cost 14
million rubles. Okay, I'm making that up. But it cost some rubles. I
find it cool she's spending rubles.
run last night went well again. She may be running right now, for all
I know. Her shift started an hour ago. Well, not much news to tell
you. Belarus seems to be less lively than the Czech Republic. By the
way, some investigation reveals that brothels are, indeed, legal in the
Czech Republic. If you'll look at the map, they ran through that
country /twice/. I'm not sayin', I'm just sayin'.
that she had internet access, her next blog should be on its way. I'll
give it another couple of days and then fill in on their adventures in
Prague. They should be in Russia later tonight (their time) or early
tomorrow. Russia for a bit more than three weeks.
Have a good night all. -Paul
I had planned to use Jasmine as a model for the home chem lab book, but
that's not going to happen. She broke her leg during a gymnastics
session a couple of weeks ago, for the second time this year, and
she'll be on crutches for most or all of her summer vacation. For
safety reasons, I'm not comfortable having her in the lab while she's
Even if I were, Jasmine turned 14 years old last Thursday and, like
most 14-year-old girls, hates to have her picture taken. She's
convinced she's unattractive, and hides from cameras. In truth, Jasmine
is a very pretty girl. But try to convince Jasmine of that. She's going
to grow up to be a beautiful woman, and I don't use that word lightly.
But for the time being she has all the usual insecurities about her
body and appearance that are common to early teenage girls.
Kim, Jasmine's mom, came over to our place for take-out pizza Saturday
night. In an interesting role reversal, Jasmine called Kim on her cell
phone several times during the evening to check up on her and tell it
it was time to come home. As annoying as that may be right now, I told
Kim that it would be useful once Jasmine starts to date. Jasmine can't
very well object to Kim keeping tabs on her, since Jasmine already
keeps tabs on Kim. Well, Jas may not like it, but the kid is
intellectually honest, and she'll recognize that she can't very well
object. At least not with a straight face.
Not that Kim has much to worry about. Jasmine is very grounded, with
her own strong sense of what is and isn't acceptable behavior. In
fact, I expect Jas to be the terror of teenage boys. They'll behave, or
else. Jasmine will call the shots.
And speaking of the home chem lab book, I'm going to spend a couple of
days getting it organized. Right now, it's a disorganized mess, which
is the usual state for one of my books at this stage in the process.
I'm going to stop writing for a while and get the framework completely
organized before I resume writing.
I'm still working on organizing the home chem lab book. I got a lot
done yesterday, but there's much more to be done. As always, it's a
question of what to leave in and what to leave out. I'm trying to
strike a balance between covering everything that needs to be covered
while keeping the book interesting. This topic is really worth at least
two and possibly three books. I certainly won't run short of material.
And, although I'm focused on the chem lab book right now, my editor is
shipping me chapters from the astronomy book periodically, which I have
to review and correct. Then there's the PC stuff, which I need to block
out some time for. I really need to build a new reference system. I've
already been in contact with my guy at Intel, who's supposed to be
sending me samples of a current processor and motherboard that will
form the foundation of an updated reference system. I also want to
check out Seagate's new stuff, and it's been too long since I looked at
DVD burners. In short, I have more to do than time to do it. Which is
just the way I like things to be.
Is it just me, or is the Do Not Call law losing effect? We added our
phone numbers to the list the first day it was possible to do so, and
for a long time we received no annoying calls except those from
pollsters and politicians, which were explicitly excluded from the law.
In the last couple of months, though, we've been getting more and more
calls that are clearly in violation of the law.
The most frequent offender is "Michelle from Cardholder Services". I
report that call to the FTC every time I get one, which is several
times a week and sometimes more than once a day. The company, which
appears to be in Huntingdon Beach, California, has already been sent a
nasty lawyer's letter by the FTC, but I think it's time they did more.
Jail time for the principals would be a good start.
Lately, I've also been getting calls from some company who wants to
sell me a warranty extension on my vehicle. They call two or three
times a week. I actually picked up on one of the calls, trying to get
the name of the company. I didn't expect much success. Cardholder
Services reps hang up instantly if you try to find out any details
about the company. The warranty extension company rep actually
identified his company by name. I told him that we were on the DNC
list, expecting that they'd remove us from their list immediately. That
hasn't happened. Once again, the FTC needs to prosecute everyone
involved with these companies mercilessly. If I were running things,
I'd hang a couple of them to discourage the others. I'd hang two or
three of the worst spammers while I was at it.
The DNC law really needs to be revised to eliminate exceptions and to
make the penalties much more severe. First, they need to eliminate the
exceptions for pollsters and political calls. The pollsters claim they
need the exception to ensure their results are valid. Who cares? Their
business needs give them no right to annoy me. The same is true of
politicians. The original rationale, which was entirely bogus, was that
restricting politicians from making nuisance calls had First Amendment
implications. Bullshit. The politicians can talk all they want, but
nothing, including the First Amendment, gives them the right to force
themselves on me. Allowing politicians to make spam phone calls is
little different from allowing them to enter my house uninvited and
force me to listen to their spiels.
And then there are the charities, which succeeded in convincing
lawmakers that they should be granted an exception. I don't understand
the thinking here. Why should a charity have any more right to make
spam phone calls than any other business? Most of the time, it's not a
charity calling anyway. It's a for-profit company that uses the name of
the charity to solicit funds and then gives some small percentage of
those funds to the charity, keeping the rest for itself. Even actual
charities shouldn't be permitted to make spam phone calls, and
certainly not commercial companies sailing under the charity flag.
Lawmakers really need to stamp out this loophole.
Finally, they need to tighten up the exceptions for calls from
companies with whom the callee has a so-called existing business
relationship. They need to put in a transactional restriction. That is,
if I take my vehicle to be serviced, the mechanic is legally entitled
to call me to let me know it's ready, because that's part of a
transaction that I initiated. But, unless I have given permission, that
mechanic shouldn't be permitted to call me on an unrelated matter. The
same is true of banks and phone companies. If there's a problem with my
account, fine. Let them call me. But what they shouldn't be able to do
without my written permission (on a separate piece of paper, in large
print, and with nothing else mentioned. Notarized.) is call me to try
to sell me more services or whatever.
I don't hold out a lot of hope that lawmakers will fix the problems with DNC. I may have to take technological measures.
More than 15 years ago, I had a Panasonic KSU (a small-scale PBX). At
the time, my friend and co-worker John Mikol had a very similar system.
We both also had home networks, at a time when many businesses didn't
yet have networks. We speculated back then that we probably had the
only two residences on the planet that had PBXs, automated
attendants (with automatic dial-out text messaging to our pagers and
forwarding to our cell phones), voice mail, and data networks.
The CO lines rang in on BigMouth cards installed on a PC XT. The
BigMouth card could do supervised transfers, and I had it set up so
that a caller could press 1 for Barbara, 2 for me, and so on. Back when
that system was running, we never got any annoyance calls at all. Alas,
several years ago the KSU got fried during a bad lightning storm, and I
never got around to replacing it.
I don't know if there's even an equivalent of the BigMouth card
available any more. The last time I looked, the only thing I found was
expensive cards from Dialogic, which is fine if you're building a
business PBX around Asterisk or something, but a bit of overkill for a
home telephone system.
An update from Paul arrived a while ago. I emailed Paul to ask him if
it was okay to post this. He replied that it was fine to post it and
that he wondered why I asked. I told him that I didn't want Mary to end
up in the Lubyanka.
From: Paul Jones
To: Paul Jones
CC: <many recipients>
Date: Today 10:08:07
Re: Mother Russia
Sorry there was no update
yesterday. But there was no update because I got no update (tiny
violins). She hasn't had internet access since that 5 minute
burst near Minsk. I was incorrect in assuming she sent in her
blogs as the computer in the internet cafe had no port in which to plug
her jump drive. Her experience in Belarus was interesting.
She reports that it is a very poor country and, upon some
reflection and discussion with their guides, it makes sense.
Belarus took a lot of damage in WWII (draw a line from Berlin to
Moscow and see what countries you go through) and then immediately
became a Soviet republic afterwards. The Soviet economy, given
what it was, wasn't up to rebuilding Belarus, so much of the country
still shows the scars of the War. There are some modern
facilities in Minsk, but mostly buildings are very old and damaged and
there is little industry. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union,
their president has been a guy named Lukachenko (probably spelled that
wrong, but he's a jerk, so who cares) who - from my reading, not from
Mary - holds the basic political philosophy that giving up the Soviet
Union was a big mistake. He has been trying to reunify with
Russia in a new Union and has bragged of his authoritarian, Soviet
style leadership. Lovely. Anyhow, unlike in Russia, the
post-Soviet Belarussian economy hasn't exactly taken off. The
Blue Planet Run had a helpful police "escort" (i.e. tail) and their
passports were checked in every new location. In hotels, each
floor had a person who sat at the end of the hall making notes on the
comings and goings of the guests. Often, during runs, the police
would stop them to lecture them about taking wrong turns or having too
much contact with the locals or, seemingly, just to yell at them.
Mary reports that the whole experience was a little disturbing.
However, she says individually her hosts were great, the
Belarussian people very nice and that the countryside is beautiful,
which made the rest of it all the more distressing.
Entering Russia was remarkably
simple, especially compared to entering Belarus. They are now at
a small resort (sounding) village about an hour this side of Moscow.
Still no internet access but we spoke on the phone. It was
a good conversation but there was a consistent clicking on the line and
when we started talking about Belarus, Lukachenko and the old Soviet
Union the line went dead and her number was reported to be out of
service for ten minutes. I'm sure it was a coincidence. She
says the village is lovely and the hosts, again, are excellent.
According to Mary, Russia is obviously doing much better
economically than Belarus. She had a big lunch of fried eggs and
potato pancakes and has observed that being a vegetarian is clearly a
luxury of wealth.
Her run last night was the last
on their 3am-9am shift. They technically have the day off but
resume again tomorrow at 9am, for the 9am-3pm shift. This is the
"short" day off that she had back in Ireland, so they've now gone
through 5 shifts. She is feeling good. She says the running
is fine but the sitting and occasional crappy beds take a toll.
The main effect of that is that she is often a little tight or
sore but that after a few miles she loosens up. She has still not
fallen, for those of you keeping track. She came close last night
as she was running around a road construction site (in the dark, of
course), hugging a makeshift barrier when she tripped on some wires
coming out of the bottom of the barrier. She caught herself and
kept going. She is keeping 8 minute mile pace comfortably so, for
the moment, all appears to be well in that regard. The team now
has two alternate/fill-in runners tagging along. I'm a little
disappointed (as are they, so Mary says) that they don't have bios up
on the BPR site but they are set to stay with them at least through
Asia, which should relieve some pressure on the team.
She is now 8 hours ahead -
Belarus was its own timezone, apparently (appropriate). She'll be
running the 9am-3pm leg for the next four days, starting June 27.
That makes it 1am-7am EDT on the same date, so if you're up late
raise a glass. They will go through 5 time zones in Russia, so
she'll be 13 hours ahead when they make their next border crossing,
into Mongolia, scheduled for July 20.
Oh, and the stories. The
shower story will be making a blog appearance but the Prague story
won't apparently. So, I'm probably telling too much but I'll give
you the PG rated version (yes, I know an R (and, perhaps, even an X
rated version) but I'm far too decent to tell). It seems one
member of their support crew found himself in the company of three
self-employed ladies in Prague and, after conducting some business with
this group discovered that somehow, the money in his wallet was missing
, along with his cell phone and vehicle keys. Unashamed at his
lack of business acumen, he went to the Run organizers who took matters
to the police. The ladies were located and the gent was able to
identify them. No cash was recovered but his keys and phone were
found hidden on their persons, somewhat worse for wear (this is the
point where careful editing is required; suffice to say no one is
asking to borrow the young man's cell phone any longer). In the
end, all went home satisfied.
There was another story, but I forget just now what it was.
She'll most likely have internet
access tomorrow as she'll be spending the night in Moscow so hopefully
she'll be able to answer your messages, if you've written. If you
are awaiting a reply, she asked me to pass along her gratitude for your
writing and to be patient as she searches for the web.
Have a nice day, Paul
Many on-line news sources are reporting a blogging scandal. I haven't
taken the time to read all of the details, but apparently Microsoft has
paid some A-list bloggers to shill their new "People Ready" (whatever
that means) campaign.
The problem seems to be that sales of Microsoft Vista have been
catastrophically bad. Other than copies bundled with new PCs--and even
those numbers have been very disappointing--Microsoft apparently hasn't
convinced anyone to buy Vista. At this point, even those who are most
favorably disposed to Vista are waiting for Service Pack 1. That
probably won't be released until at least the end of this year, and may
well be delayed until mid-2008 or even later.
So, Microsoft is unhappy. Ballmer is unhappy. There probably aren't
many unbroken windows on the Microsoft campus, and I've heard a rumor
that the parking lots are full of chairs. Microsoft employees are
getting tired of ducking airborne furniture. Something had to be done.
So Microsoft decided to ramp up yet another Get the FUD campaign, this
one focused on convincing people to buy Vista now instead of waiting
Microsoft's marketing drones came up with the idiotic "People Ready"
idea, but the problem was to get some buzz going. That wasn't going to
happen on its own, so Microsoft decided to pay some bloggers to get the
word out. That lasted maybe a day before the paid bloggers were outed.
There's been lots of discussion about separation between sales and
editorial, the church-state issue, and so on, but what it really
amounts to is that some people can be bought.
Just so we're clear here, I'm one of those people. If Microsoft
pays me enough, I'll post anything they want on this page. I'll put
Microsoft's verbiage in a pretty box with a disclaimer something like
paid me $1,000 to post the text in this box. I don't use Microsoft
products and don't recommend that anyone else use them, either."
Alas, I've had no offers from Microsoft. (Full disclosure: some years
ago, Barbara did some research for Microsoft, for which she was paid.
As you can see, that money resulted in me treating Microsoft much more
gently than I otherwise might have.)
- Late start again this morning. I spent some time reviewing astronomy book chapter that Brian Jepson sent me last night.
Our friend Mary Chervenak and the rest of the Blue Planet Run team have
left the comfortable familiarity of Europe behind, and are now running
across Asia. Technically, I suppose they're still in Europe. Mary
emailed me from Moscow last night, and I think Moscow and the rest of
western Russia is considered to be part of Europe. I suppose Asia
begins at the Urals.
Nonetheless, Mary and the rest of the team must feel pretty isolated.
Throughout Europe, there was usually a team member or one of the
support staff that spoke the language of the country they were in, and
of course many Europeans speak English. Things changed when they
entered Belarus. None of the runners speak Russian, and the support
staff that had followed them across Europe was replaced after Poland
by support staffs provided by the countries they are running in.
The runners are now escorted by police, whose job seems to be minders
rather than helpers. The hotels the runners stay in are staffed by
someone on each floor whose job is to record the comings and goings of
the runners, and the runners are discouraged (via bullhorn) from
talking too much to the locals. All in all, I suspect the runners are
quite nervous about the degree of supervision.
The team will have to depend on translators until early August. They
have more than a month remaining in Russia, Mongolia, China, and Japan
before they return to the west coast of the United States. One of the
runner is Japanese, so they do have a native speaker for the Japan leg
of their run, for what good it does them. She speaks only Japanese.
I'll be relieved when Mary makes landfall in San Francisco. I'm sure
Paul will be an order of magnitude more relieved than I am, and Mary
still another order of magnitude.
- An update and correction from Paul.
From: Paul Jones
To: Robert Bruce Thompson
Date: Today 11:13:57
Hey, just saw the new post. For what it's worth, most of what you
describe was only occurring in Belarus. The minders in the
hotels, the guys with bullhorns, etc. They still have their
escort but things are much better in Russia than it was in Belarus.
Also, one member of the support crew in each van is a translator
and she reports her crew, at least, is outstanding.
Yeah, I'll be pretty relieved when she gets back to the US. On
the other hand, I'd really like to be with her. They're basically
retracing, in reverse, the Mongol invasion of the 13th century, a feat
I've always been fascinated by. I suspect Mary isn't getting a
lot of time to sightsee or contemplate the history of the area and
maybe I wouldn't either, if I was along for the ride, but that is a
part of the world that has seen a lot of history but isn't thought
about much anymore. It would be cool to go there, I think.
I'm hoping to talk to her in a bit. She'll be staying in Vladimir
tonight, which was for a time the capital of the Russian peoples.
Until Batu Khan came through. Anyway, I just wanted to
clarify the depth of feeling toward the "minders". They're
obvious in Russia but not pervasive as they were in Belarus. And
they've come in handy in a few places, so maybe they really are just
there to help. :)
News from Mary Chervenak. Here's my message to her from yesterday, with
her reply following, and my reply following that. (Mary's reference to
me being able to shower today refers to a private agreement I made with
her. Since she's been limited in her ability to shower and change
clothes, I offered to share her hardship by not showering or changing
clothes except when she was able to. She took me up on it.)
From: Robert Bruce Thompson
To: "mary chervenak"
CC: Barbara Thompson, Paul Jones
Date: Yesterday 14:11:31
Re: I hope things are going well
Even Russians know Bugs Bunny, so
the next time your minder gives you a hard time, just tell him, "You
realize, this means war." (And, yes, I'm sure you must be thinking by
now that you should have turned left at Albuquerque...)
Here, print this in a large font, and just hold it up to him:
Вы понимаем, что это означает войну.
Nah, better not. They probably already think you're a capitalist spy.
I'm sorry to hear things are
difficult for you right now. I guess you're discovering first-hand that
the world is full of people who aren't very nice. Or, more accurately,
I suppose, that the world is mostly run by people who aren't very nice.
I'm sure you're finding that the ordinary people are just like ordinary
people anywhere, assuming they're not afraid to talk to you. I suspect
that your minders are making a note of everyone you speak to, and that
all of them are required to report details about the contact. It's a
different world. And, of course, as a US citizen, you bear the brunt of
the hostility against America and Americans that Bush's policies and
actions have produced worldwide.
At least it's only a month or so
until you're back in the USA. I know. Using "only" and "month" in one
sentence seems unreasonable just about now, but this too shall pass.
I'm still having fun writing the
home chem lab book. What surprises me is that I actually remember most
of this stuff, so I'm able mostly to just write rather than having to
go look something up every other sentence. I guess I must have really
learned it lo these many years ago.
Illegitimi non carborundum.
From: "mary chervenak"
To: Robert Bruce Thompson
CC: Barbara Thompson, Paul Jones
Date: Today 14:22:21
Re: I hope things are going well
Hi Bob --
First the good news -- you can
shower today. I am shiny and clean (although the bathroom is now
a fetching shade of brown). The bad news is that all drivers in
Russia are certifiably crazy. Hard run today -- we ran along a
highway just outside of Moscow and the traffic was terrifying.
Russian drivers use the shoulder as a passing lane! Yikes!!
I think I spent the entire run yelling "aaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhh!!!"
No police today. Now that
we're outside Moscow, they seem less concerned about our
presence. Of course, today, a police escort would have been nice
to have -- protection from the crazy drivers!
Take care and I'll talk to you soon. Mary
From: Robert Bruce Thompson
To: "mary chervenak"
CC: Barbara Thompson, Paul Jones
Date: Today 15:33:23
Re: I hope things are going well
I'm glad to hear things are going better for you.
As to Russian drivers, perhaps I
have some Russian ancestry, because none of what you describe sounds
unusual to me. (Ask Barbara about my driving...) I have passed on the
shoulder many times. As a matter of fact, when I still had my Honda
750F superbike, I never got stuck in traffic jams. I just motored down
the shoulder at 70 MPH, secure in the knowledge that the cops could
never catch me. Of course, that was before police helicopters became
In 1979 I got stuck behind a
two-car wreck in Pittsburgh, with both lanes completely blocked and
traffic backed up behind me. There was no way to back up, and it looked
like we'd be sitting there a long time. Much to the delight of my
passenger, Terri Mistarz (my best friend's girlfriend), I spotted an
opportunity, pulled my VW Rabbit up onto the sidewalk, and drove most
of the length of the block on the sidewalk, until I could turn off onto
a side street. Although Terri thought it was a hoot, most of the
pedestrians (who were scattering like flies) didn't appreciate my
shortcut. And I was really surprised that none of the other stranded
motorists followed me.
I'm writing about decomposition reactions now...
Not much to report here. Barbara and I have been working all day and
then watching Netflix DVDs in the evenings. We're caught up now with The Last Detective. It stars Peter Davison, who is probably best known for playing Tristan in All Creatures Great and Small and the Doctor in Doctor Who.
TLD is a likeable program. It's set contemporaneously in Britain.
Davison plays Detective Constable Davies, a nice guy who's in his 50's
but still a constable because he lacks ambition and is disliked by his
co-workers, precisely because he is such a nice guy. Davies is
separated from his wife, who can't put up with him because he's too
good. There's not much violence. The plots are well crafted, although
sometimes a bit hard to credit, and the acting is up to the usual high
standards of British television programs.
One thing confused me at first. The character's name is spelled Davies,
but pronounced (usually) as though it were spelled Davis. I've always
pronounced the former spelling as day-veez and the latter as day-viss.
In the program, some characters use the day-veez pronunciation,
including his boss, Detective Inspector Aspinall, who sometimes
pronounces it one way and sometime the other.
The first three seasons, four episodes each, are available on DVD. The
show is currently in production, and we plan to watch the remaining
episodes once they're available from Netflix.
Speaking of DVDs, we recorded the final episode of Studio 60
last night, so Barbara will probably next want to watch the four or
five episodes that we recorded but haven't watched yet. And the last
two episodes of Drive air on 4 July. We have the first four episodes waiting so that we can watch all six in sequence.
- I noticed yesterday that the Bald Eagle is no longer on the threatened species list.
Its conservation status is now officially a "least concern" species,
along with others like the gray squirrel and its close relative, the
sewer rat. Hmmm. At the first legal opportunity, I think
I'll shoot one and have it stuffed.
- Even in today's paranoid environment, the authorities sometimes behave reasonably. CNN reports that a New York man was found to have large amounts of a potentially dangerous chemical stored in his home. FTA:
man who allegedly stored nearly 1,500 pounds of potassium nitrate and
other chemicals in his Staten Island home and a nearby storage facility
was charged with reckless endangerment Friday, according to the New
York City Police Department."
Imagine that. He might have been charged with terrorism-related crimes.
Instead, they charged him with reckless endangerment, which is the
correct thing to charge him with. The guy wasn't building bombs. He was
selling chemicals on the Internet. And the police responded with a
reasonable charge, which is unusual in this day and age.
Potassium nitrate isn't an explosive. It's a strong oxidizer that has
many legal uses, including as a fertilizer. Having a pound or two in
the basement, or even a 50-pound bag in the garden shed, is reasonable
and safe. Storing three quarters of a ton of potassium nitrate in a
residence is grossly irresponsible.
What's interesting is that the cops ignored the presence of small
quantities of several other chemicals. I have all of those mentioned in
the article (and many more) stored in my home lab, but they're in
quantities of only an ounce or two up to in some cases a pound or two.
In those quantities, there's no cause at all for concern. But if I
stored 1,500 pounds of potassium nitrate in our house, the cops would
be right to bust me for reckless endangerment. There's a big difference
between keeping hobbyist quantities and what amounts to industrial
storage in a residential area.
I haven't said anything about the iPhone hype, because I think the
whole thing is ridiculous. The phones themselves are grossly overpriced
and crippled, and the service plans are outrageously overpriced.
My friend Cali Lewis of GeekBrief.tv stood in line yesterday to buy two iPhones.
She's returning both of them, because she found out what it's actually
going to cost to use them. Cali thinks the advertising for the rate
plans was deceptive, to say the least, and I agree with her.
Despite all the hype, it looks like the iPhone is off to a deservedly
slow start. Essentially every supplier still has lots of them in stock.
There have been many fewer earlier adopters than Apple and AT&T
hoped for, and that doesn't bode well for Apple's goal of selling ten
million of the things by 2008. I saw one article that mentioned that
"hundreds" of iPhones had been sold yesterday. Hundreds? If Apple is to
meet its ambitious goal, it would have had to sell at least half a
million iPhones in the first day and a million or more in the first
week. If you think I'm exaggerating, look at the sales numbers for
Even if you accept the "hundreds" article as a gross understatement, it
points out the problem. No doubt Apple actually sold thousands of
iPhones yesterday, perhaps even tens of thousands. But thousands or
tens of thousands isn't nearly good enough. They would have had to sell
hundreds of thousands to make any kind of real impact. The iPhone
appears destined to be a very small niche product.
And I'll make another prediction. Just as early adopters of
high-definition DVD players felt raped when their shiny new early
models turned out to be missing functionality and not upgradeable,
early iPhone buyers will be very unhappy when Apple releases a new
version of the iPhone in six months or so. Their expensive early-model
iPhones will turn out to be missing one or more important features that
the new model provides, and the old models won't be upgradeable. So
much for their expensive new phones. I hope they enjoy them while they
- As of 10:30 EDT this morning, the Blue Planet Run
will have completed the first 30 days of the run. That's 4,800 miles,
or just under a third of the total 15,200 mile run. Each runner will
have, on average, completed 240 miles of their total 760 mile share.
Paul mentioned a couple of weeks ago that BPR would make some changes
to the teams at the end of the month. As of today, Paul's wife and our
friend, Mary Chervenak, moves from Team Silver to Team Green, trading places with Dot Helling.
Several other runners are also moving between teams. Although the
reshuffle itself was planned, I don't think the specific reassignments
were decided until very recently.
I suspect they're "rebalancing" the teams. As one might expect given
the grueling pace, all or nearly all of the runners have
had injuries or illnesses of some sort, some worse than others. In
particular, the youngest of the runners, Shiri Leventhal,
has a nagging hamstring injury, and has been hard-pressed to keep up
the pace. The fact that she's still running at all is a testament to
her toughness. My guess is that they're reassigning teams to split up
the "walking wounded" runners and relatively healthy runners evenly
amongst the teams.
Each team runs four days out of five, and has four ten-mile legs
assigned for each running day, one for each of the four team members.
If one of the team members is ill or injured and unable to run at all
or to run only part of his ten-mile leg, the three remaining team
members usually have to cover the extra distance. That means either
they split up the extra miles equally, or in some cases one team member
ends up running two ten-mile legs that day.
The runners are also experimenting with splitting their legs. For
example, the other day, Mary and Shiri divided their twenty miles into
four five-mile legs, and interleaved them, each running two file-mile
legs with a break in between. I suspect Mary did that more for Shiri's
benefit than her own, but it's an example of how the runners are
cooperating to make all of their jobs easier.
Although he doesn't (yet) appear on the team page, BPR has
added Will Dobbie as the 21st runner. Will has a very tough job,
because he's not running on a schedule like the rest of the runners.
Instead, he has to run fill-in, where and when he's needed. That has to
So, we're at 30 days complete and 65 days remaining. The next 30 days
will probably be the toughest for most or all of the runners. They'll
be in Russia, Mongolia, China, and Japan, truly strangers in strange
lands. By the first of August, when they arrive in San Francisco,
things will get easier for them. They'll have completed about two
thirds of the run, and will be back on what is, for most of them,
familiar ground. They'll again be surrounded by people they can
communicate with, eating familiar food again, and able to shop for
things they need. Most important to the runners, no doubt, is that
their cell phones will again work reliably and they'll again have
reliable Internet access.
But first they have to get through the next month. I'll be thinking about them every day.
1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 by Robert Bruce