Say, Brother, Can You Spare a Huge Windfall?

May 2, 2004
Outside Magazine
Dispatches, August 1997

Say, Brother, Can You Spare a Huge Windfall?

One woman's high-priced offer to save us from nature's wrath
By Sarah Horowitz

For The Record

M Is for Masochist
As the 3,000-mile Race Across America winds up this month, it's likely that Perry Stone will be pulling in dead last. Riding with friend Jeff Estes as a two-man relay team on mountain bikes — the first such attempt ever in RAAM — Stone knows his decision to make one of the world's hardest races even harder isn't easily understood. "I just never liked road bikes," says the 37-year-old commodities broker, who will be competing in his first organized race. "Doing it on a mountain bike, which I've been riding for years, seems natural." Certainly Stone is taking the challenge seriously. He's been clocking 5:20 century times in training, and in June he rode 560 miles through California in three days. But perhaps most surprising is the fact that Stone considers RAAM to be merely a prelude to his real "torturous objective": Next April he plans to begin an oceanic crossing between Vancouver, Canada, and Sydney, Australia, in a pedal-powered kayak. Says Stone, "I think RAAM should be a good little training run."

Planning an expedition to the North Pole? A sea-kayaking trip in Glacier Bay? Mary Ann Slaby can help — for a price. Slaby, who predicts natural phenomena on the World Wide Web (see html) and claims to have foretold the conditions that caused the freak tornado that hit Miami last May, charges $1,000 for specific meteorological "workups," which come with a money-back guarantee. So far no takers, but that hasn't shaken her confidence. The next step, she says, is to market her proprietary technique — the details of which, for obvious reasons, she keeps as closely guarded as the secret formula for Coke. Her asking price? A mere $37 million. Intrigued, we caught up with Slaby to find out more.

For a well-funded expedition, $1,000 for a reliable forecast might be reasonable. But $37 million? Who would buy your technique?

Oh, the World Bank, or maybe an insurance company. There's a lot of money to be made in long-range weather prediction.

Your method must be pretty accurate.

Well, the National Weather Service is 80 to 90 percent accurate seven days in advance. My technique gives you the same accuracy four to five weeks in advance.

Do you have any predictions for August?

A volcano will erupt in the Caribbean or Mexico before September. And there will be a level five hurricane on the East Coast that will rival Andrew. But I'm still working on it.

So tell us: What's the worst thing about being a meteorologist?

You wouldn't believe how strange some of the people are.

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