Week of 3 September 2007
Update: Sunday, 9 September 2007 09:10 -0400
Tuesday, 4 September 2007
The Blue Planet Run finishes at noon eastern time today at the UN
Building in New York City. It's been an eventful 95 days. Here's Paul's
latest update, and presumably one of the last ones.
From: Paul Jones
To: Robert Bruce Thompson
Date: Yesterday 16:22:24
Mary has completed her last run
of a full shift. She and Team Silver are headed to the Helmsley (42nd
St.) as I type. The runs went okay for city runs (Mary hates them,
Shiri loves them). Mary had to be driven around a raised drawbridge,
though her team said that a girl on powerdrinks should be able to leap
They are on their way to the
Helmsley despite Ignition's best efforts (read, effort of a distracted
two year old - no offense to two year olds who may be reading). Team
Silver, alone of all the teams, was given hotel reservations 40 miles
east of Queens on Long Island. Never mind that they run in Queens
tomorrow and would have to get to their start point amidst the morning
commute from Long Island. Never mind that there are two teams who will,
tonight, actually run on Long Island. When informed of the error,
Ignition staff responded that they had misread which shift Team Silver
was running but that the solution was that Team Silver needed to suck
it up. If there is one thing Ignition staff knows, it is that. Will
devised a scheme that puts them in the main hotel where everyone else
is tonight and where they'll be tomorrow. It seems to involve using
rooms that are vacated by teams that are running (and, I think, my room
- anyway, I hear that Will wants to cuddle). The runners have finally
banded together and are devising hotel plans and running schemes behind
Ignition's back. I suspect any one of us with an Excel spreadsheet and
a tenth of our available IQ could do a better job than Ignition has
done with the eastern US logistics. And that was a marked improvement
over the rest of the trip (geez, I just reread all that and I sound
irritated). I was disappointed that Will worked out a solution because
I had planned to spend the evening in the hotel bar (where the crack
Ignition staff will most surely be) throwing insults and wasabi peas
(the Helmsley has great supply) at the staff.
Speaking of, I'm off. More
tomorrow on the finale. Tomorrow at noon EDT, Mary will carry the baton
across and imaginary finish line (hopefully with many teammates running
with her) and the Blue Planet Run will be over.
Paul arrived home Sunday on a flying visit. Well, actually, he drove
home, but "driving visit" doesn't sound right. At any rate, he took
care of some things at home, including cleaning out the freezer, which
had lost power and allowed all the food in it to rot, and then took off
Monday morning to fly back to New York for the finale.
Meanwhile, with Paul gone since mid-July, there was apparently a
problem with Duke Power thinking Paul and Mary hadn't paid their
electric bill. Paul wasn't there to get the warning notices, and
apparently Duke Power is/was supposed to turn off their power today.
Paul thinks he got the problem resolved, but asked me to drive over
there today to see if they still have power.
Barbara and I took a long weekend off. I didn't even download my mail.
Yesterday, we went over to Barbara's sister's house for a Labor Day
cookout. Just after 11:00 last night, we got a call from Al, Frances's
husband. He and Frances were on their way to Barbara's parents' house.
Apparently, Barbara's dad's car caught fire late yesterday evening and
pretty much burned to the ground. Fortunately, no one was hurt, and
there was only minor property damage other than to the car.
Barbara was getting ready to head over to her parents' house, but Al
said they had things under control. It must have been a real circus. In
addition to fire trucks, there were ambulances and two police cars,
which somehow collided with each other at the scene.
Frances and Al finally convinced Barbara's parents to come home with
them. Frances works not far from where we live, so she brought their
parents along with her to work this morning. Barbara picked up her
parents there, and will do whatever running around is needed to rent a
car and so on.
I'm very curious about what caused the fire. The car had been parked
for several hours before it caught fire, so even if the fuel line broke
and leaked gasoline all over the place, I can't figure out what sparked
the fire. Investigators from the fire department and insurance company
will be examining what's left of the car, so presumably they'll figure
out what happened.
The Blue Planet Run is complete. As Barbara says, now I'll need a new hobby.
As it turns out, there was a miscommunication. It wasn't Duke Power
that was about to shut off Paul and Mary's electricity. It was the
Winston-Salem Utilities Commission, which was about to turn off their
water. I just got back from their house. The water (as well as the
other utilities) was still working. I called Paul to let him know, and
mentioned the thought that crossed my mind as I drove over to their
house to check. Given what Mary has been doing for the last three
months, it would have been an incredible irony for her to return home
and find she had no water.
Here's Paul's penultimate report.
From: Paul Jones
To: Paul Jones
CC: <many recipients>
Date: Today 14:24:12
The Blue Planet Run has
concluded. They crossed the finish line, Mary carrying the baton
(film at 11), promptly at noon. A somewhat drawn out ceremony
followed and they're all now off for a photoshoot for Runner's World.
I'll have more details in a bit, right now I have some errands to
run, and I'll include either photos or video of Mary's part in the
For now, some data:
22 runners ran official legs
22 runners ran across the finish
line - a few limped across and a few ran for the first time in weeks,
but they did all make it back to NY
160 miles per day for 95 days - 15,200 miles total, an average of just at 750 miles per runner
89 hotel rooms (for Mary)
She is happy to be done. My last report will follow this evening or tomorrow. Cheers, Paul
Oh, yeah. Brian and Marcia Bilbrey should be arriving home in Bowie,
Maryland right about now. They spent the weekend with us, and we all
enjoyed ourselves immensely. It's nice to have some down time.
I've been a bit slow getting started this week. One of my readers
pointed out that I'd been posting as though it were Monday. Duh.
- Update from Paul.
From: Paul Jones
To: Paul Jones
CC: <many recipients>
Date: Today 16:10:41
Re: concluding remarks
I couldn't attach the video of Mary speaking. Each runner was allowed
given a trophy and wreath and a few moments to make some comments. Mary
and Richard Johnson were selected to make somewhat longer speeches.
They went according to personality, the jazz musician speaking off the
cuff and the scientist preparing remarks and editing for a few days.
Both went really well, I thought. Anyway, I have attached, instead, a
transcript of Mary's remarks. I'll see what can be done about getting
the video up on the net.
Mary is beautifying herself in preparation for a reception and dinner
tonight (business casual includes tevas, right?). I doubt there will be
much to report from there, so this is probably me signing off. Look for
the final videos and whatnot at blueplanetrun.org over the next few
weeks (yes, it'll probably be weeks). And I'll let you know when and if
that video is on my site.
Thanks for reading and supporting Mary. -Paul
Here's the transcript of Mary's remarks:
been on foot and on the move for 95 days. We've been talking to people
about the worldwide water crisis. I think, at this point, we all
agree on the purpose of the run. We have, however, put our own
spin on how we talk about it. A few examples:
If you were talking to Lansing
Brewer, he might say: “Water is life. But you know what
would taste really good right now? A Diet Coke from McDonald's with
lots of ice.”
Leventhal: “Water is life. Could I have that water with
some mixed field greens? And could you add extra tomatoes? No
cheese. And could you sprinkle some nuts on top?”
Paul Rogan: “Beer is life. Hands off – that one's mine!”
Me: “Water is
life. What day is it? Has anyone seen my shorts? Are we
in France? No? Why not?”
This team left New York City on
the morning of June 1st. We were hoping for the picturesque, expecting
misery, braced for the appalling. We got our share of all three.
I've run across a Dutch plain
dotted with windmills, through a cool, green Russian forest, into an
empty Mongolian desert at dawn, over a Colorado mountain pass in the
middle of a meteor shower.
I've run through blinding rain
storms, through clouds of stinging insects, through terrifying traffic,
through sticky mud and horrible, dust-filled air.
I've run while...well, anyone
who's read my Russia blog knows about the appalling part of my
trip. I won't bore you with the details.
I am pretty ordinary. I am
not the youngest or the oldest on this team. I'm not the fastest
runner, nor the strongest, nor the most elegant. I don't have the
best hair. I'm not the most cheerful. I'm not the most
eloquent, the most persuasive, the best informed. I'm not the
smartest...well, wait. I just might be the smartest.
I am, however, the most grateful.
The members of this team have
been my coaches, my counselors, my confidantes. Each one of them, at
one time or another, has cheered me when I finished a run, encouraged
me when I was down, taken care of me when I was ill, lent clothes,
shared snacks, found water. The members of this team are my
heroes. And to them I say: I am glad you are with me, here at
the end of all things.
Of you, I have one
request. Remember. Remember what we have tried to accomplish
with this run. Remember that we chose to spread our message step by
step, individual by individual, instead of using a glossy advertising
campaign. Remember our sorrows, our successes, our
stories. Remember the point of all this running. Remember us.
Water is life. Pass it on.
Wednesday, 5 September 2007
Paul and Mary are flying back from New York City today. It'll be the
first time Mary has seen home since she left in May. I'm sure Mary will
be delighted to sleep in her own bed after about 100 days on the road.
I hope Paul remembered to bring in the guys in moon suits to sterilize
the house before Mary sees it.
After several days off, it's back to work on the home chem lab book for
me. Barbara is having dinner out with some friends tonight, so it's
cold left-over pizza for me and the dogs.
Thursday, 6 September
- It looks like I was right about the iPhone.
I said that Apple's goal of selling 10 million of the things by 2008
was ridiculously optimistic. And so it has turned out. Apple announced
that they've sold only a million of them so far, or soon will, but that
refers to shipments to stores rather than sales to actual retail
buyers. (I knew they were in big trouble when I learned that a few days
after the iPhone became available every store had lots of them still in
As it turns out, iSupply estimates that actual sales for the entire
month of July, the first full month, were only about 220,000 units. For
Apple to meet its goal of selling 10 million units in the first six
months, they'd have had to average about 1.7 million units per month
for the final six months of 2007. And, because sales of such new
products are always heavily skewed toward very high volume early in the
cycle, they'd have had to sell more like 3.5 to 4 million units in July
to have any hope of having 10 million total sales during 2007. If the
iSupply estimate is correct, which seems likely, Apple is actually
selling iPhones at about 6% of the projected rate. Even adding in the
initial rush of sales at the end of June leaves them at around 10% of
So Apple did what any company would do when sales are catastrophically
bad. They took a meat-ax to the price, chopping it from $600 to $400,
and in the process screwing the early adopters. This price cut will
probably have some effect on sales, but I suspect it'll be a lot
smaller than Apple hopes. The fundamental problem is that the real cost
of the iPhone is something like $3,000 because of the required service
contract with AT&T, and there simply aren't 10 million people who
are willing to buy a $3,000 cell phone.
Paul and Mary were to arrive home yesterday on a 5:00 p.m. flight. I
haven't heard from them, and don't expect to for a while. Mary probably
needs at least a few days to decompress and get used to being in her
own home again. I would imagine that when she woke up in her own
bed this morning she probably leapt up expecting to grab the baton and
The Netflix fairy finally granted my wish yesterday. I'd had Rome
Season 2 in my queue since before it was actually available. It was
always listed as "Very Long Wait". Yesterday, Netflix sent email to let
me know that Rome Season 2 Disc 1 was shipping and would arrive today.
I don't mind waiting. I'm a very heavy Netflix user, and it's not
unreasonable for them to give preferential treatment to light users.
Since I rejoined Netflix back in late May, they've engaged in only
minor throttling. For the month of August, for example, they sent me 26
discs, which is probably an all-time monthly world record for the
Back to work for me.
I had an unusual experience yesterday. I was burning a Taiyo-Yuden
DVD+R, with K3b minimized as I worked on a chapter in OpenOffice.org
Writer. I happened to glance at the minimized icon and saw that it was
at 80% complete, which was where it had been several minutes earlier.
Sure enough, I maximized K3b, and found it had died part way through
the verify pass, showing a verify error. I was surprised. That's the
first coaster I've made in at least 500 discs, and probably 1,000. And
on a T-Y blank, yet.
I thought I'd better do some detailed surface scans on some other discs I'd made recently, so I fired up qpxtool,
an open-source clone of Plextor's Plextools. Unfortunately, qpxtool
won't do detailed surface scans with my Plextor PX-740, which is
actually a BenQ drive rather than a Plextor. No surprise there, as Nero
CD-DVD Speed also won't do detailed surface scans with that drive.
There are several drive options with qpxtool, including generic,
Plextor, Pioneer, NEC, BenQ, and BenQ ROM. I tried all of those, and
all but one simply refused to do a scan. One of them, I think NEC or
Pioneer, actually did a scan, but it was worthless, showing an error in
every sector it scanned.
Oh, well. I'm not going to worry about it. I always do a verify pass,
which is sufficient to catch really bad discs. I suspect the one that
failed yesterday had a physical flaw. I've done enough detailed scans
of Verbatim and Taiyo-Yuden discs that I trust them to be nearly
perfect. Except when they're not.
Saturday, 8 September
- Blue Planet Run has posted a 15-minute roll-up video of the run from start to finish.
It contains a lot of footage that had already been posted in earlier
videos, but there's also a lot of new footage. Mary appears prominently
in this video.
Barbara just left to help her dad pick out a replacement for his car,
which caught fire and burned down on Monday night. They decided to look
at used cars. Her dad is 85 years old, and doesn't drive much any more
other than running errands around town, but they do need to have a car
available. I told Barbara last night that I was a bit concerned about
her dad driving at all, given his age, but mine seems to be a minority
view. Barbara, her sister Frances, and Frances's husband Al don't seem
too concerned about her dad continuing to drive.
They're going to the credit-union used car lot, which was news to me.
Apparently, it's common nowadays for credit unions to maintain their
own used-car lots. Barbara said it'd be a low-stress way for her dad to
pick out a used car. There's no haggling over price. They have the
prices posted, and from what Barbara said the prices are fair. She and
her dad will test-drive any of the cars that interest him. If they
decide on one, they just park it in the "bought" part of the lot, where
it remains until they get the paperwork done.
Dutch is a WWII veteran who served with the USMC in the Pacific in
WWII. Until now, he's always bought American cars. Like many WWII
veterans, including my dad, Dutch hasn't forgiven what the Japanese and
Germans did during the war, and for decades he refused to buy anything
made by them. I guess he's mellowed, as my dad eventually did. (I was
surprised when my dad bought a German-made car in 1975.) Dutch
mentioned to Barbara the other day that he'd consider buying a Japanese
car, so I suspect Barbara will be nudging him towards Toyotas and
- Miles Teg over on the message board includes a link to this image, with the note "My kind of girl."
Dinner last night with Paul and Mary. Mary looks tired but happy to be
home. I think Paul is just relieved that it's over and Mary is back.
Mary took a few days off from work to recover, but plans to go back to
work on Tuesday. As she said, her first task will be to take on the
Augean Stable that is her email inbox. After being gone for 100 days,
she'll have thousands of new messages. I suggested that she hold down
Shift-Del, say "oops", and then send an email to her entire address
book to tell them that she accidentally deleted all her email and if
they'd sent her something important in the last 3.5 months they should
I'm very proud to know Mary. As I told her yesterday, she's done things
I'll never do, been places I'll never be, seen things I'll never see,
and had diseases I'll never have. She and the other runners have
completed a relay run around the world, 24 hour a day, seven days a
week. That's something that's never been done before and, I suspect,
something that will never be done again.
I told Mary that throughout the run I kept thinking of a line that I
originally thought was from Kipling. It's not, but I can't find the
source. But it remains apropos. "The cowards never started, and the
weaklings died along the way." There were obviously no cowards or
weaklings in that group.
1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 by Robert Bruce