Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The Jesus Magic Finger Trick

As seen on Family Guy. Recreated by Gweepay.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Segregation Now, Segregation Tomorrow -- But Not Forever? A Discussion.

From: Gweepay
Subject: Re: friends in Richmond
Date: August 28, 2007 9:06:18 PM GMT-04:00

As Matt pointed out in a recent email to me, now that Sweetie, Gweepay, and Matt the Red are all in different States(!), we are likely all experiencing a dearth of friendships. When I first arrived, I was given false hope when, on my first Friday at work, lo and behold, one of my coworkers suggested we go grab some beers for happy hour. Little did I know this would be a two-time occurrence, and would cease and desist just as soon as his fiance moved in and took over his life. Since then, I've been doing lots of staring at stationary objects, just like Matt, who reportedly stares at the wall. For me, it's the ceiling, as I prefer to lay. So I figure I should try and find a girlfriend, because that way I won't need friends AND I get sex AND...well, there has to be some other benefit to all of that.

One possibility is Stacy, this girl at work that I was originally sitting next to on my first project. At first she didn't like me. I could tell because she looked annoyed whenever I asked questions. In fact, I think she was generally annoyed to be sitting next to me. But eventually, Stockholm Syndrome set in and she began to actually smile and converse and all the other things people do when they cease to dislike someone. I often suggested that we go grab a bite when the clock struck twelve and that bird-thing from the Flintstones squawked, indicating that it was lunch time. T'wasn't much longer until Stacy gave me her number, and by "gave me," I mean that SHE offered it to me. As in, I never even asked. I was just sitting there, minding my own business, coding documents, not really bothering anybody, when Stacy, who was feeling quite ill that day, began to pack up to leave early. At that point, she asked me for a pen. I obliged, expecting her to jot down a recipe or some other domestic communique to herself. To my astonishment, she returned the pen with a piece of paper donning her cell number. She informed me that this was in case she was dying and never came back to work. Mission accomplished, she left for the day.

Here's the thing, though. There are two potential downsides to Stacy, or at least to a Gweepay/Stacy dating situation. And no, it has nothing to do with looks. She's cute. Very nice hips and all that. But there may be some cultural differences. And that, of course, is code for the fact that Stacy's lineage began far from the region where the Anglos met the Saxons. She is, in fact, black. This means that my Racist Grandparents, all four of them, would have not one, but two grandsons dating, oh, how do they put it, outside "the race," and that may just be too much for the lot of them. And that's not the half of it. As Chris Rock so aptly points out, the most racist people in the world are old black people, because they were the ones who bore the brunt of all the racism in their day. I can just imagine what HER family would think. Holidays would be horrible. I can envision her grandmother, staring me down across the table, making jokes about white meat and dark meat, and forgetting that she had made the same joke for the past five years. And everyone would laugh, because everyone always laughs.

The other issue is temperamental. Stacy is best described as a good listener. She's not the sort of person who carries the conversation. This is problematic, because I, also a good listener, never can think of anything to talk about. I still don't know what people are always talking about as I pass them in public. What could possibly be so interesting to so many people at all times? As such, I often find myself bringing up inane topics with her such as my various theories as to why I get headaches on the weekends but not on weekdays.

In any case, if any confirmation was needed that she is "interested," it came two weekends ago when I asked her to see the Bourne movie with me, and she showed up with her hair done and dressed as if she was going to a fancy restaurant, while I had on khakis and my "popcorn eating" shirt, i.e., one that I care little about, as there is a 100 percent chance that buttery popcorn will make contact with it several times throughout the night.

So the question is, now what?

NOW WHAT, dear Gweepay? Now what, indeed. I invite my readers to weigh in. (Ha! Get it? Weigh! Because we're all so fat.) By the way, in the absence of companionship, I don't just spend my time staring at the wall (preferring to sit). I also spend my time surfing over to, which has Gweepay's credit card number saved! So not only am I getting lonely, I'm getting fat. As the following video portends:

Monday, August 27, 2007

Teaching Mom How to Ride a Segway

Last week I spent several days back home in Michigan. Because I am a masochist, I decided to shove the Segway into the backseat of my 2-door Honda Accord. Without removing the LeanSteer column first. This was a bad idea. The base weighs 105 pounds and is incredibly awkward to try to lift and shove into a car, and I was doing this all by myself. Luckily, I managed to squeeze it in there without doing (much) damage to either the interior of the car or the Segway itself (a few scratches, but nothing major).

Why did I take the Segway with me, considering my Michigan residence is out in the 'burbs where a Segway would be relatively useless? Why, to teach my family how to ride, of course! Everyone learned how to ride except my dad, who was understandably terrified of losing his balance. They say that a lot of men have trouble "giving up control" to the Segway and letting IT do the balancing for them -- and after my dad had a particularly jittery first step onto the platform, he had no desire to stick around and get used to it.

That's okay; everyone else in the family loved it, zooming around the block to their heart's content. I have put together a little video showing my mom and sister Elizabeth learning how to glide gleefully on a Segway. Unfortunately, they both attempted to commit Grand Theft Segway. Bastards. Fortunately, I quickly recovered the machine, due to its nifty theft deterrent system.

Interestingly, the Segway is good for more than just tooling around the neighborhood. My parents had just gotten new carpeting put in, and hundreds of pounds of old carpeting were sitting in the garage, just waiting for me and my sisters to move them to the curb. Well, I figured, Why laboriously carry all those rolls of carpet 50 feet to the curb when I could use the Segway? So we arranged a makeshift assembly line, where I would stand on the Segway next to the garage, my dad and sister Katherine would hand me a ream of carpet, and I would lift it up with one arm while guiding the Segway with my free hand, traversing the front lawn in mere seconds! The whole process went VERY smoothly, and took about 20 minutes total. Everyone agrees that we saved at least an hour by using the Segway. Alas, I didn't get any video of the actual assembly line, but I did get a photo of the finished work. Awesome!

Segways as Tools: Moving Carpet to the Curb

Thursday, August 23, 2007

I am the Student Prince

For ages, friends have been asking me to post some more of my musical performances online. Well, I have no performances scheduled for a while. BUT I did have a rehearsal tonight at the Potomac United Methodist Church, and we went over one of the pieces I am singing at our Musical Theatre Extravaganza in November.

Without further ado, I present the finale from "The Student Prince," a beautiful operetta from the 1920s. The tenor soloist is me. My impromptu duet partner, who is also playing the piano, is Rosie (also my voice coach). The choir was somewhat sparse tonight, and our resident opera singer was not there, but they did a good job too.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Man has 20 pound tumor removed from face, and yet.

I wish I had something profound to say about this. I wish I could come up with some inspiring words about the bravery of this 31-year-old Chinese man, or some aphorism about the importance of looking past the physical, to one's soul. But OH MY GOD. I can't. I simply can't. This is what the man looks like AFTER his biggest tumor was removed. He makes the Elephant Man look like a cover model for GQ. It reminds me of those shows on the Discovery Channel where a 1,400 pound man loses 200 pounds. I wish I could feel happy for you, man, but I'm sorry, you still weigh 1,200 pounds.

Of course, looking like this is not the Chinese man's fault. It is just a tragic accident of nature. I suppose all I can say honestly is that this man probably would have been spared tremendous pain had he simply never been born. I hate to be so cruel, and you have every right to criticize me -- but not until you watch the video.

Several close friends of mine pride themselves on looking past these sorts of things. I ask you to look again.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

A Mysterious dream indeed...

I had a dream last night that Mystery was sitting with me in my living room back in Michigan. I had just watched the latest episode of The Pick-Up Artist and apparently a movie that had come out, and of course i was familiar with his books. In person, Mystery truly is like a Jesus-like figure. He radiates confidence and caring. Even if you disagree with His method, you still want to listen to the things he says, because he is so charismatic - and ultimately successful.

I told him that I wanted to meet somebody. He said, No you don't.

What do you mean?
No. Look at yourself. Why aren't you wearing contacts?
I haven't worn contacts in years.
Well, you would look much better in contacts.

I walked into the bathroom, and looked at myself in the mirror. I took off my glasses, and looked at myself as though I was wearing contact lenses. I did look good... Mystery was right. Time to ditch the glasses.

I am not certain what Mystery's appearance in my dream means. All I know for certain is that I did watch "The Pick Up Artist" last night on television, and was very good. The eight misfits were starting to apply some of the techniques they have learned that, and they were surprisingly effective. No one got any girls' phone number, but they were getting close. And they were starting to learn to have some charm.

They showed a preview of next week. One of the trainees was actually successful in making out with a girl at a club. They had hidden camera video of it. It was amazingly impressive.

Why did Mystery appear to me in a dream? Is he the Messiah? Does my subconscious mind want me to learn something from Mystery's teachings? Or was his appearance just a product of some random neurons firing, coupled with some bad pizza?

When I originally read "The Game," I was extremely impressed. I thought, here is a group of guys that has actually figured out the key to unlocking women's desires. And yet a small voice inside me had its doubts. But now, after seeing Mystery's teachings in person (well, on television), I dare say, I may be a believer.

Here is a great 3-minute snippet from Episode 2, in which our protagonists, after having practiced their openers at home, go "in field" to see what they can do... (To see the entire show - minus commercials and filler - go to the web site. )

Monday, August 20, 2007

Thunder kills local attorney; coal miners rejoice! News at eleven.

(Don't worry about the coal miner thing -- inside joke.)

So, a little story about stupid I am: there was a big bolt of lightning, and I, not wanting to be electrocuted, got up and stood in the middle of the room, away from the window and wires. It was only after a minute, when I heard the resultant thunder, that I realized the lightning had already struck. I was now hiding from thunder.

I am the intellectual equivalent of a frightened puppy.

Speaking of puppies, here is a video of Mickey, my 8-year-old bichon, super-excited to see me when I returned home to Michigan for a vacation. Please excuse the mess. Enjoy! :-)

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Some animals deserve to die. Especially DemonSpiders (TM).

I am normally a big fan of all furry creatures. One might go so far as to say I love them. However, my love does not extend to furry creatures who are also spiders.

So you can imagine my shock when I read a newspaper article relating the heartwarming tale of a man and his beloved pet spider, for whom he could no longer care appropriately. It seems that this spider is what is known as an "ornate golden baboon spider" -- or, affectionately, "Mr. Fuzzy." According to animal control "this is the kind of spider that nightmares are made of. " What a wonderful pet!

But wait, it gets better: Not only is this spider big and hairy (reason enough to hate it), but according to the article, the spider is moody, aggressive, jumps three feet at a time, has venomous fangs, and bites without warning. According to the animal control guy, who clearly does not get paid enough for his job,
"This spider is so aggressive, it will bite you just to bite you." Bite you just to bite you, huh? Sounds like a woman I once met at speed dating.

Now, up until this point, I can at least understand the mentality of everyone involved. Johnny Owner, an adventurous soul, purchased the DemonSpider when it was young and cute and adorable. When it got too big and scary, he wanted to get rid of it. This, I understand. What I don't understand is what happened next:

The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals saved the spider. It was taken to a "sanctuary" for reptiles and "other animals." Apparently, in this context, "other animals" encompasses Hell creatures who have somehow escaped the bowels of the earth, making it onto our plane of existence, where they are now free to leap from person to person, shrieking and hissing and biting at will and without provocation. Now -- thank God -- Mr. Fuzzy will be free to laugh and jump and play and shriek and bite on a resort somewhere. Some luxurious paradise. Probably with a piña colada in his hand. One of his many hands.

I'm sorry, but this spider deserves to be shot. Even if it hasn't bitten anyone yet, it is going to someday, and what will you get then for all your mercy, Mr. Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and Demon Spiders? Would you get a thank you? No! You would get a fatal spider bite. And it would serve you right.

Let it be known throughout the land: I, Matthew S. [last name removed for Google purposes], hereby offer to kill, maim, destroy, and otherwise dispose of any further giant DemonSpiders that may exist in the household of any Before I Sleep visitor! (Provided, of course, I am supplied with the appropriate equipment and protective gear, including but not limited to a gun, a knife, a big can of Raid, a protective suit not unlike those worn by the virus guys at the Center for Disease Control, a gas mask, and an unlimited supply of hard liquor for soothing my nerves afterward.)

Saturday, August 18, 2007

How many pizzas does it take to fill my existential void?

Every now and then something I do reminds me that I am, without a doubt, the biggest fatty on the planet. That "something I do "is almost always binge eating. It happens when I don't have a lot of structure, and I wander through the day, with no routine to guide me, and I am bored, and my friends are out of town, and I have nothing to do, and before I know it, I have eaten an entire medium meat lovers pizza.

The extremely bad part is that yesterday I did essentially the same thing. It wasn't meat lovers, but it was half ground beef and have pepperoni, and that makes me a whole pig.

Today wasn't entirely lost. I did go to the gym earlier today, and work my muscles almost to failure... and I hardly ate anything else the rest of the day. Ultimately, though, that is the problem. When I go the entire day with out eating every two or three hours, like I am supposed to, like body for life tells me to, then I have pretty much guaranteed that I will lose the eating war for the day. My body, not having received nourishment for eight or 10 hours, will rebel. "I need a pizza! " It will tell me. Why do you needed ate pizza, I will ask. "Because I am bored and I want a pizza!" Okay, body, you win.

The really you really bad part is that I was not even hungry. That's right to, I ate an entire meat lovers pizza with out any appetite. My appetite was in a state of non existence. And when I started eating the pizza, I wasn't hungry, but I wasn't full; when I finished eating the pizza, I wasn't hungry, but I wasn't full either. I consumed at least 2000 calories of fat-laden goodness, and my appetite level did not change: it was simply there, ever present, like the wind.

The only way to prevent myself from going on destructive rampages like this is to have a plan. And not just have a plan, but stick to it too. It would not have been hard today. Had I planned things out before hand, I would have known that I would have several free hours, and I would have planned my meals accordingly. Instead, though, I simply woke up around 10:00a.m., spent a couple of hours in front of the computer, had a few diet pink lemonades, headed off to Starbucks, where I had an iced chai tea... and then ate nothing for the next several hours. And had no plans, for friends or for meals. I had nothing to do. I wasn't even hungry. And yet, I decided to call pizza hut. Why? For the love God, why?!

My sister, Katherine, says that she also goes on these kinds of destructive binges. I think it probably runs in our family. It probably runs in a lot of families. Katherine says it means that I am missing something. I am eating to fill a void. Now, I don't want to give a lot of credence to Dr. Phil, but I think Katherine might be onto something. My best friends are all out of town, it seems indefinitely. I am currently between full-time jobs. I have nothing to do. I am wandering. There is a void. There is a void and I am filling it with pizza. admittedly, it is very tasty pizza, don't get me wrong. But I wonder, how much pizza it does it take to fill a big, giant hole? A big giant existential hole.

Hmmm...... I really don't know why I bare my soul like this on the Internet. It has gotten me into trouble before. It is this damn voice recognition software. I spent a billion dollars on it, and I am determined to get my money's worth. so you, dear reader, get to read three exciting blog entries in one day. And I, dear blogger, get to reveal my innermost thoughts, all because I am in love with the sound of my own voice and can't stop speaking.

Well, enjoy it while it lasts!

The Pick-Up Artist, or the Biggest Loser?

I have always had a soft spot in my heart for people who were unable to pick up girls at clubs. Why? Because I am one of those people. I feel so completely out of my element in clubs, that simply for me to get out of the house and go to one is a miracle in itself. To ask me, then, to approach an attractive babe, and start talking to her, and get her phone number? Well, I am sure there is some clever saying about miracles not striking twice, or lightning, or something like that.

So I am not quite sure what to make of a new television show, based on the best-selling book The Game, which details the secret world of the pick up artist. Now, full disclaimer, I read the book in question. It was a fantastic book. It taught me is lots of things: be yourself, but not too much of yourself, be flirty, playful, and so on. The point is to take these first encounters lightly. You don't want to open yourself up too quickly, or else you will scare the girl away, and all will be lost.

(Not that I am too impressed with the caliber of girl at these clubs, anyway. Seriously, who goes to these things? Who honestly thinks it would be a worthwhile way to spend a Friday or Saturday night - dressing up like a prostitute and dancing with random strangers at an overcrowded and smoky nightclub? I want a girl who is far more content to stay home, and read, play board games, and sing. Yes, I am very serious.)

That said, I can understand the mentality of a guy who simply wants help learning how to walk go to random people and talk to them. It is a skill valuable in every facet of life. "Mystery" is a man who was once every bit as nerdy and socially awkward as the motley crew who star in the pick up artist. But, through experience, and studying the social interactions of successful pickup artists, mystery learned the secrets. After years of practice, he was able to apply them "in the field ", and before this television show he made a very substantial income selling his services as mentor and guide to the tune of three thousand dollars a pop.

On the show, mystery and his wing men first watch the bunch as they walk into the clubs and attempts to pick up girls. There are microphones and hidden cameras everywhere. Meanwhile, in the surveillance van, mystery and his friends make comments and talk about how they would do things differently. Then, after the group has suitably embarrassed themselves in front of national television, we get to see mystery and his friends at work.

It is truly miraculous to witness what the master pick up artist can do. We’re talking Jesus level miracles. It is amazing. It makes me want to try my hand at the clubs myself. Even knowing know that I would not be compatible with any of the women who go there. Mystery and his friends make it look fun!

So, all in all, it is a very interesting show, but I am not sure if I find it acceptable to laugh at the pathetic “contestants” on the show. (Oh yes, it is a game show, and somebody has to get voted off every week. Further adding to their humiliation.) Obviously, there has to be something wrong with them the first place if they would be willing to get onto national television make a fool of themselves. But that doesn't give me a right to laugh at them.

I will continue to watch. But I will not guffaw as much as I would have otherwise, because I know that the only difference between me and the losers on the show is that I did not take the time to audition.

Turning Down the Virgin Islands

Tell your standard work-a-day drone that you just got offered a yearlong job in the Virgin Islands, and the response is immediate.

"Awesome! A year in paradise! Congratulations!"

Tell him that you are not sure whether or not to take it, and he will look at you with a mixture of shock and confusion.

"Are you kidding me? You even have to think about this? It's the Virgin Islands, man! Have you ever seen the place? It's heaven! What do you have to think about? You don't have a full time gig lined up here... this would be a full-time job, partying on the beach every night... Why are you even hesitating? TAKE IT!"

Tell him that you've decided to turn it down, and his look of shock and confusion becomes tinged with resentment.

"I can't believe you're going to turn it down. If someone offered me a job in the Virgin Islands, I'd take it in a heartbeat! The average temperature in the winter there is 73 degrees. In the summer the average is 84! Beaches and deep blue water and glorious sunshine! How DARE you turn that down? What is wrong with you? Are you mad???!"

The answer, of course, is no. I am not mad. Perhaps you would be mad if you turned down this offer. The Virgin Islands, to many, are paradise. But for me, the idea of going to the Virgin Islands for an entire year - possibly two - is simply not paradise. I have been to the islands twice. Each time, for no more than a week. It was great! I had people waiting on me hand and foot, I had fresh water delivered to my doorstep daily, and don't forget the rum that was placed in my hotel room every day. Yes, living in a luxury resort on the fabulous island of St. Thomas was an amazing experience.

That is not what I would be doing.

Contrary to popular belief, the Virgin Islands are not as heavenly as they first appear. The crime rate is unbelievable. People are poorly educated. Customer service is an absolute joke. It's basically a third-world country with a nice view: the only thing that's really nice about the Virgin Islands are the beaches. And I sunburn! Seriously, I am not the kind of person who takes pleasure in spending every night, beach with a beer in my hand I am sure many of you are. There is nothing wrong with that. It is not for me.

Oh, sure, the work would be interesting. With such a high crime rate, the criminal cases alone would be worth the experience. Further, due to the general lackadaisical nature of the workers in the Virgin Islands, there is a tremendous backlog of cases - almost 300 civil cases have not yet been decided. People have been waiting for years. The current judge told me that he works every day from approximately 8a.m. to 7p.m. He is in desperate need of a clerk - someone to give all of the work to. I am sure he would love to have me. And I would learn a lot too.

But a working environment in which I would be doing something interesting and helpful to my future career is not the only consideration when taking a new job. The fact is, I love Washington DC. I love it because of the vibrant culture. I love it because of all the singing opportunities. I love it because of all the educated young people here. I love it because of all the Starbucks.

Yes, I said it. I have learned from experience that my general level of contentment with a place will be directly proportional to the number of Starbucks. Starbucks and big bookstores with coffee shops. No, I am not insane. I just recognize that these kinds of establishments are emblematic of the level of civilization that a society has developed. No Starbucks means no higher civilization, to which I am so accustomed. St. Thomas has no Starbucks. The Virgin Islands have no Starbucks. I would not be happy.

I have built the last several months around the idea of returning to Washington DC to pursue a career in telecommunications law. A trip to the Virgin Islands would be, at best, an interesting experience that would not help with my chosen career path, or at worst, an unnecessary detour that leaves me sunburned and bug-bitten. I don't need to be in the islands trying to stem the tide of crime. I need to be here in D.C., where my life is. I need to be making professional contacts. I need to be attending communications bar events. I need to be publicizing my indecency article. I can do none of that from the Virgin Islands.

And, more than that, there is the fact that my primary form of leisure here is singing with various choirs. From September through May, the Choral Arts Society of Washington is my main form of release. I get paid to sing tenor at a church in Maryland. I am in the process of auditioning for the holy day services at various synagogues around the area. And my voice coach recently told me that she thinks I'm ready to audition for the Washington National Opera. How could I leave now? What would I do in the Virgin Islands? Join a steel drum band?

Relaxing on the beach with an alcoholic beverage in my hand is a fantastic way to spend a week or two. It may be a fantastic way for many - if not most - readers of this blog to spend not just a week, but a year. Or two. Or the rest of their lives. But it's not for me. I am a Washingtonian, through and through. I love it here, and I would not give it up. Even for a year in the Virgin Islands.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Video Explosion!

And so I return from another eventful week in Michigan, where I spent the days hanging out with family and friends, and teaching everyone how to use a Segway (except my dad, who was positive he would break his neck on the thing). Needless to say, Much Video Was Taken. But it's not edited together yet.

SO, while I am editing it, I would like to amuse you all by showing you BEFOREISLEEP.NET: THE LOST VIDEOS! Yes, my dear viewer, over the years, some highly entertaining videos have been left off the site, due mostly to my own laziness, or more likely my lack of a high-speed Internet connection at the time. Luckily, my laziness quotient is currently somewhat low, and my Internet connection is smoking. That adds up to: lots of videos! And remember: If you haven't seen it, it's New to You.

Please enjoy.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Look, ma! I’m a real lawyer!

Years of intense studying and grueling tests paid off today, as I represented my first client in court! Well, almost. Let me rephrase: Years of intense studying and grueling tests paid off today, as I went down to the local clerk’s office with one task in mind: try to get my mom out of a traffic ticket! Here’s how it all went down.

Apparently, back in June, my mom got a traffic ticket for turning in the wrong direction at the wrong time. My first knowledge of this occurred yesterday morning, when my dad told me I would be representing my mom. My reaction? SHOCK AND PANIC. I know I graduated from a Big Ticket law school, and I know I passed the bar, and I know I took a little oath and was sworn in, but I’m not a real lawyer… I mean, I know there’s a bar card in my pocket with an official P-number and everything, but, come on, me? Defending a traffic ticket? They never taught us how to do that at Georgetown! I learned about due process and equal protection and theories of punishment and the legal frontier that is Cyberspace! I never learned how to drive down to the courthouse and file an appearance – I don’t even know what an “appearance” is, let alone how to file one, or what filing one actually signifies! I don’t know how to argue a traffic ticket!

But my dad told me I had to file an appearance – and not knowing anything about a subject has never stopped me before. I was worried that the clerks would be surly and gruff like the ones at the D.C. court, but these two clerks were actually quite pleasant. They looked to be in their 50s and 60s, and had a very motherly air about them. So I did what I always do when I don’t know how to do something: I played the Naiveté Card.

“Can I help you?” a clerk asked when she saw me wandering around aimlessly.
“Uh, yes. I am here to” – I paused to recall the exact words my father told me – “file an appearance for my client.” I smiled, pleased with myself for remembering all those words.
“Oh, okay.”
At this point, I realized that I had no idea what came next. I decided it was time to come clean.
“Listen,” I said, “I’m not really sure what to do. This is my first case ever since I passed the bar.”
The two women smiled. The bailiff, hanging around near the filing cabinets, applauded. “Congratulations!” they all said.
“Yes, yes, thank you,” I said. I decided to come even more clean. “And, actually, the client… is my mother.”
They laughed, and the bailiff said, “I hope you got paid up front!”
“Actually, she’s taking me to Panera.” I am in love with Panera iced chai teas. It’s a good deal.
So the clerks, seeing that I was new, led me through the whole process. They gave me the right forms and walked me through everything and that was that. I didn’t even need to show them my license or bar card. And there’s more:
“Are you interested in doing some criminal defense work?”
I nodded. “Sure.”
“Would you like to be added to the court-appointed attorneys list?”
She handed me a notepad. “Just write a love letter to the judge, and I’ll make sure he puts you on the list.”
Wow! Visions of me arguing forcefully before a jury danced in my head. For the first time, it sunk in that maybe I really am a real lawyer – or at least, I could be if I wanted to. (I decided to hold off on the “love letter” because I’m not sure when I’ll be in Michigan again, and I would hate to get a letter telling me to appear in court two weeks from now on Tuesday, when two weeks from now on Tuesday I’ll be rehearsing with the Choral Arts Society of Washington at the church by my apartment in DC!)
I finished filling out the form letting me “file” the “appearance,” thanked them for their help, and walked out the door to my mommy’s waiting car. I still didn’t know what an appearance was, but I had just filed one! I am a real attorney! Time to buy a new suit.

Epilogue: According to my dad, “filing an appearance” means just what it sounds like. If someone wants to hire a lawyer to contest a traffic ticket, the lawyer goes down to the court and signs a form stating that he is representing his client in the matter. As I understand it, this simple act of showing up at the clerk’s office is the appearance, and filling out the form is “filing” part. Thus, “filing an appearance.” Now, the clerk gives me whatever paperwork there is on the ticket, and a pre-hearing date will be scheduled for sometime next month where I can meet with a city attorney to discuss this little matter of turning left during rush hour. Come on, 3 points? Really? For my mom, who is so nice and sweet and has a perfectly clean driving record? Surely we can work out a deal. Maybe instead of “improper turn” for 3 points, we can knock it down to “impeding traffic” for 1 point. Eh? Eh? Sound good? Whaddya say?

(Oh, also according to my dad, if you tell the clerks you are representing a family member, they always say they hope you got paid up front!)

This lawyering stuff ain’t so hard once you get the hang of it. But I still don’t see why they didn’t teach me any of this in school. Sure, studying constitutional history is fun and all, but it doesn't actually lead to many practical skills.....

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Matt's 300-Mile Segway Report

(Posted on and on my personal web site,

As of today, August 1, I will have hit the 300-mile marker on my Segway. This is after a total of just under two months (I got it on June 5th) -- and keep in mind that I lost my InfoKey for a week. (Thank goodness for the free spare, which arrived just before I went mad from Segway-withdrawal.) I want to take this opportunity to share my thoughts, experiences, and suggestions. Hopefully my write-up will convince others to take the plunge and buy a Segway. Believe me, you will be very happy with your decision!

I had dismissed the Segway as a nutty fad when I first heard about it several years ago. But when I was sitting in a Dupont Starbucks in May, I saw a DC police officer gliding past the window, and I realized the Segway might be the answer to my transportation woes. You see, I live in Washington, DC, and I had been spending a LOT of time waiting for the bus, sitting on the bus, walking from the bus -- it seemed like public transportation was sucking up hours of my day! I knew there had to be a better way.

So when the cop zoomed by, I thought, "Oh yeah, Segways! I wonder what ever happened to those?" After some cursory research, I learned that, while still not "popular," Segways had come far in recent years, and now had a nifty new "LeanSteer" feature that let me control my turns simply by leaning. I remembered missing that feature when I had looked into Segways originally, and I was glad to see it had finally arrived. After some more Googling, I learned of the existence of the DC Segway Users Group, and e-mailed for permission to join the Yahoo group. Will Hopper, a Segway dealer out of Annapolis, wrote back and told me about a group glide that was taking place the next day in DC. It just so happened he had an extra Segway, and wanted to know if I would like to join them? Hell yeah!

The group glide was a milestone. Six or seven of us zoomed through DC and up Embassy Row on Massachusetts Avenue. It was SO much fun, and I made a slick 9-minute video of my adventure and sent it around to friends and family. For the next several days, I could think of little else but getting my very own Segway. I even had dreams about it! Finally, after learning that I could get a very good financing deal from my bank, I decided to take the plunge.

This is what I have learned:

Efficiency and Cost

Before I got the Segway, I had three options for getting to work: drive, walk, or take the bus. Driving eats up gas, but more importantly, it eats up quite a bit of parking meter change -- something like $8 a day -- so that's out. Walking the 2.7 miles takes almost an hour each way, and humid DC summers would leave me drenched by the time I got to work, so that's out. The only other option was the bus. The bus costs $1.25 each way. It takes, on average, about 15 minutes to wait for the bus, another 20 to get to the nearest stop, and another 7 to walk the 1/3 mile to work: that's almost 45 minutes. So, each weekday, I was spending $2.50 and wasting an hour and a half in commute time. For the 25 work days of August, I'd be paying $62.50 in fares and spending 37.5 hours walking to or from the bus, waiting for the bus, and riding the bus.

IMG_1260 Enter the Segway. In the time it used to take simply to wait for the bus, I make the full journey to work. Door-to-door, it takes around 17 minutes. That's less than 35 minutes a day. It doesn't cost me a thing, because I plug it in downstairs, using the apartment building's electricity. (Even if I had to pay for it myself, it only costs about 10 cents to charge it fully -- and I only use about 1/4 of the battery on my daily commute -- so let's say maybe 3 cents a night, or less than a dollar a month.) For the 25 work days of August, I will be paying essentially nothing, and spending a measly 14 hours commuting. This gives me almost an extra hour a day -- or 23.5 hours a month. This is a LOT of extra time. I use it to spend more time with friends, read more, go to the gym more. What would you do with an extra hour every day?

I've also found that, because I use the Segway more for little trips around the neighborhood that I would usually use my car for, I am saving at least $50 per month on gas, and more likely $100. And I keep finding more uses for it: A couple weeks ago, I was determined to prove wrong the common misconception that you can't carry home a week's worth of groceries on the handlebars. Well guess what -- I must have hung 60 pounds worth of groceries from the bars! I just had to make sure to lean back enough to compensate for the added weight up front. Admittedly, this is probably not recommended -- and I plan to get the cargo plate add-on soon -- but it was amusing.

In terms of cost, five grand is a lot of money to shell out. But with the good rate I got on my personal loan from the bank, I'm only paying $112 a month for the privilege of riding a Segway. With conservative estimates of $62.50 saved per month on bus fare and $50 saved per month on gas, the Segway is quite literally paying for itself.

Bystander Reaction

I will admit that when I am riding my Segway, All Eyes Are On Me. When I first got it, I was fairly uncomfortable with all the attention, but I think that's because I was nervous about what others would think. I was concerned that I would get a lot of negative comments, but in reality, the reaction has been almost entirely positive. At best, people are really excited about it and want to ask me questions about it. Most just look at the Segway with a look of bemused curiosity. The drunk ones almost always point, laugh, hoot and holler, but that is to be expected from drunkards. Very rarely, someone will glare at me for daring to share the sidewalk with them. The nerve!

Now, all eyes are Still on me, but I no longer pay much attention to it. I ride with headphones in, generally listening to NPR, and by the time people notice they have just been passed by a guy on a Segway, I am long gone. My newfound nonchalance about being looked at all the time is probably akin to
what new celebrities go through. It sometimes can be annoying, losing your anonymity, but you learn to live with it.

People love to ask questions, and a good rule of thumb is that the later you are for an appointment, the more often you will be stopped by curious bystanders. The three most common questions, by far, are:

1. How fast?
2. How far?
3. How much?

Usually in that order.

My answers to questions 1 and 2 are usually met by an appreciative nod; Answer 3 often doesn't sit well. But the good part about getting the same questions all the time is that I can try out different responses to see which elicit the best reaction! (My new answer to question 3 is, "It's free!" I then explain that the savings balance out the cost.) I have kept a log of the most interesting reactions on my Web site, where I have a feature entitled,
"Segway Reaction of the Day!" (SRD.) It is a fairly popular feature. Highly recommended. I also map out all the SRDs on a Google Map.

I was fully prepared for people to taunt me as I rode past. I expected them to shout out, "Dork!" or "Fa**ot!" or some other such nonsense. That hasn't happened. People still shout, but in a totally positive way. It usually happens on Friday or Saturday night in some trendy area like Dupont or Georgetown. Drunken people will see me and excitedly blurt out, "Segway!", for they have never seen one in person before. To which I sometimes respond, as I zoom past, "Seeeeeggggwaaaaaay!!!" We are like Daniel Laruso and Mr. Miyagi, crying "Banzai!!!" to each other. It is a battle cry, a call between warriors. In that moment, glider and bystander are one.


Of the thousands of people have seen me on my Segway in the last 300 miles, only a few have been openly hostile. In response to the few people who are jerks, I have learned to develop several good comebacks. One person told me that I was really annoying, zooming around on my Segway. I responded, saucily, "I step off the Segway and I won't be annoying anymore. You don't have that solution."

And every so often, someone will stop you and practically beg to use it. A few days after I got it, a woman's jaw dropped as she saw me coming. She stopped me, and said, "It has always been a personal dream of mine to ride a Segway." How could I say no to that?

Ride Safety

Before I bought my i2, I had wondered if I would have to be more careful gliding down the sidewalk than I would be riding a bike down the sidewalk. After 300 miles, I can say that the answer is "yes" -- but just because it is very easy to push the Segway to its limits, traveling 12.5 mph with the power of thought, and "forget" to pay attention to all the divots and bumps in the sidewalk. Pay attention, keep your knees slightly bent, and lean into curves and turns, and the Segway is harmless. Well... mostly harmless.

Dilapidated sidewalks in Georgetown Over the past 300 miles, I have fallen off the i2 just a few times. All of those falls occurred during the first 100 miles, when I was still getting used to the ride. However, the phrase "fallen off" is misleading. On a bike, when you crash and/or get tripped up and/or fall, you FALL. You are sitting four feet off the ground and traveling somewhere between 10-30 mph. When your tire hits really rough pavement and you lose your balance, you go flying, and it is almost impossible to land on your feet. In contrast, on the Segway, I have hit rough patches going a bit faster than I should be. The residential sidewalks in Georgetown are paved with bricks, and in several instances, roots from nearby trees have grown under the bricks, causing a pronounced washboard effect at a diagonal angle to the path of the sidewalk. A couple times, the Segway has come to a controlled standstill when I have gone too fast over those ridges, and I learn my lesson, and continue slowly on my way. A couple times, the Segway has not shut down, but rather handled the bumps just fine. I, on the other hand, did not have my knees bent far enough and was not able to maintain my balance on the now earthquaking Segway platform.

What happened? I jumped off. Once, the Segway kept going a few feet before falling over. Once, I was able to keep my grip on the handlebars, running behind the Segway as I tried to slow it down. Key point: I have (so far) always been able to land on my feet, run forward a bit (to keep my feet under the center of gravity of my free-flying torso!), and stay upright. Had I been riding a bike, I would have almost certainly fallen off a couple times over the course of 300 miles through Washington, DC, and odds are I would not have laughed it off so easily.

Owwww The Big Fall came around mile 85. I had ridden for about 10 hours, so I felt pretty comfortable on it -- perhaps too comfortable. I was going too fast over unfamiliar terrain, and before I knew it, I was heading toward a faceplant. It seriously happens FAST, like within a quarter second. As far as I can tell, I think I went up on one wheel, the platform tried to stabilize itself but was bouncing around a LOT, I couldn't keep on it and had to jump off... now my torso was going at 12 mph and my legs were on the ground, probably running at around 8 mph. I'm no expert in physics, but even I could predict what was going to happen next. My left arm shot out to break my fall, and the next thing I knew, I felt my arm scraping against the pavement as my body slid several feet forward. I had skinned my palm, elbow and knee. Luckily, nothing was broken or sprained, but MAN did it hurt. I was wearing my helmet, but my head never touched the ground. Had I been wearing mountain biking gloves, my palms would have been protected and I would have been spared a fair bit of pain. Lesson learned.

When you fall, everything goes everywhere. I was sprawled out face down on the ground. My Blackberry had shot off my hip about 30 feet. My InfoKey had also fallen out of my pocket, and was 20 feet behind me. My trusty Steed, which I thought would be just to my right, had actually continued about 15 feet forward and to my left, and was now face down in the right lane of traffic. Luckily, he's fine -- I've learned the Segways are a lot more sturdy than people!

For a while, I had no idea why I went down. After much deliberation, I have determined that the loss of balance was due to my placing too much weight on one foot while turning in the same direction. Apparently I had gotten into the bad habit of "roller skating" on my Segway -- placing all my weight on one foot, and then shifting to the other, and making wide arcs along the sidewalk as I went. Although that kind of gliding might be fun and look neat, it is neither necessary nor wise. I have since corrected my gliding style -- feet firmly planted, center of gravity spread out evenly across both feet -- and I have not fallen off since.


Anyone who says riding a Segway is the easiest, laziest, most effortless mode of transportation... has obviously never ridden a Segway. For several months, I had walked one block to the bus stop, sat on my ass for twenty minutes reading the Wall Street Journal and waiting for the bus to arrive, lazily took it three miles, and then walked three blocks to my building. I was never sore, never tired, never excited -- I just existed. At the end of the day, I did the same thing in reverse. At home, when I wanted to go to the store, I wouldn't walk; I would get in my car and sit on my ass for a mile. Repeat the process to come home.

After the first few days (about 30 miles), I FELT it! My quads and glutes were sore, my shoulders were sore, my obliques were sore... I guess that's what comes from trying to keep one's balance at 12 miles an hour on a quaking Segway platform. (Segway virgins, don't misunderstand: The Segway is still "balancing" me; but when I push it hard, I have to work to keep my knees bent to keep my feet firmly planted on the platform and avoid being thrown around.) Now that I've hit the 300 mile mark, my muscles have adjusted, and I no longer have any soreness... but I am definitely using muscles I didn't use waiting for the bus.

I'm not saying I'm going to lose much weight gliding to and from work, and doing errands and seeing friends; but I can say for sure that I won't GAIN any weight by gliding instead of driving or riding the bus. Yeah, of course jogging or biking would be preferable from an exercise standpoint, but I didn't buy the Segway to get exercise, I bought it for transportation. I didn't buy it to replace walking; I bought it to replace driving and busing. That my muscles became sore (in a good way), and I felt it at the end of the week, was just an unexpected bonus.


I must admit, there's not a lot to be critical of. Overall, it's a wonderful little machine which has greatly enhanced my life. That said, I do have a few complaints. In reverse order:

3. The piece of plastic on the center console of my i2 sometimes pops off, as though it's not seated properly. It's annoying, but not a big deal.
2. Someone, please invent a spiffy kickstand for the thing. It's unseemly to have to lean my Segway up against a tree, or worse, set it face down on the ground when I just need to leave it for a minute.
1. My number one complaint is that the speed-limiter in Riderless Balance Mode is set WAY TOO LOW. Let me explain: Sometimes I like to walk my Segway next to me. Sometimes it's not appropriate to ride on it. For instance, when walking through the city with a Sweetie and a Segway, I would much prefer to walk alongside the other person while gently guiding the Segway next to us. But I can't do this, because if you try to push the Segway too fast in Riderless Balance Mode when you're not on it, it starts warning you with lots of shakes, and then shuts down! And when I say "too fast," I mean 2.5 mph. Seriously, I have to slow my walk down to a snail's pace in order to keep the Segway from going into conniptions.

But overall, the good far outweighs the bad. To anyone living in a densely packed city like Washington, D.C., I heartily recommended purchasing a Segway. Not only is it convenient and relatively inexpensive, it's a BLAST to ride! Again, if you haven't seen it, take a look at the video I made of my first Segway ride, "Gliding."

I hope you'll keep up with my Segway adventures at Glide on!

Cool Segway Man

Sick Day

I wasn't going to make this public, but... due to critical acclaim by the few I forwarded the link to, I have changed my mind.

May I present: "Sick Day." (Music provided courtesy of XM 82.)

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