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Week of 25 June 2007

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Monday, 25 June 2007
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09:59 - 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 Czechoslovakia).

From: Paul Jones
  To: Paul Jones
  CC: <many recipients>
Date: Yesterday 21:01:06
  Re: Poland

Hey again,

It 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.

Her 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'.

Given 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 on crutches.

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.


Tuesday, 26 June 2007
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09:00 - 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.

11:52 - 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


Wednesday, 27 June 2007
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10:40 - 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 for SP1.

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 the following:

"Microsoft 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.)


Thursday, 28 June 2007
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10:46 - 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.

11:46 - An update and correction from Paul.

From: Paul Jones
  To: Robert Bruce Thompson
Date: Today 11:13:57
  Re: moscow

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.  :)  

15:42 - 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 common.

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...


Friday, 29 June 2007
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10:30 - 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.

12:23 - 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.


Saturday, 30 June 2007
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09:17 - 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:

"A 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.

09:47 - 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 gaming consoles.

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 can.


Sunday, 1 July 2007
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09:23 - 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 be hard.

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. 


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