Monday, June 23, 2008

Another Double Rainbow Over DC

A second double rainbow within a week. Was it another Russert miracle? Or was someone else behind this one? I report live from our nation's capital.

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Friday, June 20, 2008

Rudy the Fighter Pilot

I want to take a moment to describe an episode tonight that proves Rudy the parrot is actually a fighter pilot.

Rudy was in the bathroom with me but I wanted my privacy. So I stood up and grabbed Rudy off the window sill (BRAK!) and tossed him out the door. Rudy starts flapping, hovers in mid-air, turns around, and heads back toward my head. I hold both my hands out in front of me to block his path. He instantaneously stops flapping his wings and drops about five feet straight down, then starts flapping again when he is about six inches above the floor, flies past me into the bathroom about a foot off the ground, then once he's clear flies upward about four feet and lands back on the window sill.


Monday, June 16, 2008

Segway vs. Other Forms of Transportation

With gas way over $4/gallon, many people have begun considering alternate forms of transportation. As someone who actually owns a car, bicycle, and a Segway, let me briefly recount my experiences using each method (as well as public transportation and walking) commuting 3 miles to work in Washington DC:
  • Car: Driving 3 miles to work takes about 8 minutes. Oh, I'm sorry, are you looking for a time quote DURING rush hour? Oh. Well in that case, it takes 20-30 minutes. During the summer, it's also 90+ degrees here, which means I have the A/C blasting and am burning through the $4.15 gallon of gas far more quickly than the 25 mpg I'm supposed to get. When I finally get to work, I can park in a garage for around $10 (a good price for this city), or drive around for a while, find a meter somewhere, and keep pumping $1/hour in quarters into it all day (thus ruining my productivity at work as I constantly have to break my train of thought to go downstairs and feed the meter). Or I could just pay the $235/month for a monthly garage pass. Either way, we're talking lots of time, lots of gas, and lots of money for parking.
SUMMARY: ~25 minutes, $10+ in parking and gas, NOT stinky when I get there.
Initial cost: $12,000-40,000+, depending on how fancy you want to get.
  • Bicycle: The most common response when people find out I have a Segway is, "Why didn't you get a bike?" Well, I have a bike. Thing is, biking up and down hills for a few miles in 90 degree weather with swamp-like humidity tends to cause incredible levels of perspiration and general stinkiness. What a great way to start the day, huh? Sure, I could shower in the little locker room at work, but I don't always want to deal the logistical questions of bringing clothes to work, showering there, etc. That said, when I do take the bike, I go down hills at about 20 mph and up hills at about 8 mph. On average it takes about 15 minutes to go three miles.
SUMMARY: ~15 minutes, no transportation cost, STINKY when I get there.
Initial cost: $200-2,500+, depending on how fancy you want to get.
  • Public transportation: I don't live near the Metro, so my only option is to take the bus. Some people might like waiting 20 minutes in the heat for three city buses to arrive in a clump, and then standing crammed in there like sardines for the next 25 minutes while drunken homeless men breath on you. I don't.
SUMMARY: ~45 minutes, $1.35 in fare (one way), not TOO stinky when I get there (but have to deal with a lot of stink on the way).
Initial cost: NONE.
  • Walking: I always love how health-minded people get when confronted with the prospect of riding a Segway around. "What ever happened to WALKING?" ask Comic Book Guy lookalikes who rarely venture out of their basement. But let's be fair and examine walking as an alternative. Sometimes, when it's a really beautiful day, say 65-70 degrees and sunny with a light breeze, I'll walk home from work. It only takes about 50 minutes and sometimes I stop off at the bookstore. How pleasant. Problem is, I don't generally like to take my sweet time walking TO work in the morning. Also, the weather is not usually as cooperative. DC humidity will make dress clothes stick to your body in about 10 minutes.
SUMMARY: ~50 minutes, no transportation cost, KINDA stinky when I get there.
Initial cost: NONE.
  • Segway: At its top speed of 12.5 mph, you can glide a mile (silly as it may be, that's the verb we use) in about five minutes. When you throw in waiting at crosswalks, it takes about 17 minutes to go 3 miles. Going downhill, I am passed by bicycles. Going uphill, I pass every bicycle. Either way, I never break a sweat. Riding the thing is incredibly fun, and after a while you tend to not notice the fact that people are staring. (Note: Most stares/shout-outs are of the "Holy crap it's a Segway!" variety, as opposed to "Holy crap it's a Nerd!" variety.) I lock the Segway up against a pole outside and set the alarm. Don't have to worry about changing clothes.
SUMMARY: ~17 minutes, a few cents in electricity to charge it (takes about 10 cents to fully charge and gets 20 miles on a charge), NOT stinky when I get there.
Initial cost: $4,500-5,500, depending on how fancy you want to get.

[I cannot compare driving a scooter (Vespa, etc.) because I haven't done that. Scooters get very good mpg so that saves you money, but you also have to buy insurance so that more than cancels out any savings. You also have to deal with traffic, and the fact that some people wouldn't really feel safe driving a light motorcycle around the city -- I know I wouldn't.]

Anyway, that's the breakdown. I've absolutely loved my Segway and put on about 600 miles in the year I've had it. It's not a perfect solution (not as fun to ride in the rain or cold), but it's better than most I've found! If anyone in the area would like to take a test glide, feel free to contact me.

Friday, June 13, 2008

SEGWAY CRASH (or: I need a new pair of pants, AGAIN)

I had my second major crash today. Both of them were caused by Glider Error and had to do with inappropriate interactions with curbs.

Just about one year ago, at mile 0085, I went up a curb cutout too fast while shifting my weight to the wrong foot while turning. The Segway platform oscillated, I couldn't keep steady on it, and I wiped out. The Segway went in one direction, I went in another, and my InfoKey and Blackberry were ejected 50 feet away from me in opposite directions. I skinned my knee, elbow and wrist, and ruined a pair of pants.

Just about an hour ago, at mile 0585, I had nearly completed my daily 2.5 mile glide to work. I was across the street from my building, and since there was no traffic heading toward me on the one-way road (23rd St. near N St. NW for those of you who know the area), I decided to jump down the 6-inch curb and cross the street, as I have done literally hundreds of times over the past year.

But today, for some reason, i got cocky. Instead of jumping off the curb at 2-4 mph as usual, I guess I took it a little too fast. I'm not sure how fast exactly, but it might have been somewhere between 4-8 mph. That, my friends, was a major mistake.

I'm still not really sure what happened exactly, but I think that when the wheels hit the ground, they couldn't handle the forward momentum of my body. Seggie tried to get under me, while I instinctually tried to lean back to get over Seggie. I also tried to pull the Lean Steer Frame toward me, but as I was not directly over the platform anymore but slightly to its side, this had the effect of spinning the inner wheel faster than the outer wheel. This clumsy ballet lasted no more than a second. Together, we spiraled down to the street and collapsed with a loud thud.

I was splayed out in the street, clutching onto Seggie so that he wouldn't roll away. As is often the case after a crash, my immediate thought was, "OH MY GOD I LOOK LIKE AN IDIOT, HOW MANY PEOPLE ARE STARING?" I sat up and looked around. Miraculously, nobody saw. I was basically alone and there was still no traffic heading my way. Seggie had shut down. I stood up and rolled him to the other side of the street, where I surveyed the damage to myself and to my ride. He had a few extra scratches on the LSF but otherwise seemed to be no worse for wear. I turned him on and he started up as normal. I also had a few extra scratches, but unlike Seggie, when the road scratches me I tend to leak. I had a major cut on my left thumb, with a deep reddish-crimson oozing out. That said, it looked worse than it was and it didn't hurt.

Fortunately, I had taken the brunt of the fall with my well-padded derrier. Unfortunately, I had ruined another pair of pants. (If anyone would like a free pair of olive-colored khakis with a ripped seat, send me an e-mail!)

When writing this post, I briefly hesitated on whether to categorize the crash as "major," but I have decided that when one of my first actions after a crash is to look around for the first aid kit to dress my wounds, that counts as "major."

So, what have we learned today? A) Don't take curbs too fast. If you want to be real careful about it, go find the nearest cutout and glide down with ease. (You will also arguably save your steed the cumulative damage caused by lots of small drops.) B) Major crashes tend to happen when you get cocky. I don't care if you've ridden for 5 miles, 500 or 5000; the moment you start to act like a Segway God, the real Segway God will step in to put you in your place. C) I have a major crash about once every 500 miles. Good to know. (When I approach mile 1085, I'll be sure to wear pants I don't care about.)

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

With gas over $4/gal, Seggie is looking mighty attractive

I've been using my Segway to commute to work again and I love it as usual. Thinking of keeping it. Not sure. Right now the commute is 2.5 miles but my new residence is going to be in Ballston and it will be a 6.5 mile commute to work near Georgetown... I was thinking that I couldn't commute with the Segway because the Custis trail doesn't allow motorized things, but Google Maps showed me a nice residential-streets-with-sidewalks map that looks quite doable.

I'm not too concerned about the ability of the Segway to handle 13 miles in a day; one full charge nets me 18-20 miles depending on how taxing I am on the machine (i.e. do I constantly push up against the speed limiter? am I going up a lot of hills? am I transporting a lot of crap? etc.)... It's just that I generally don't like going more than 5 miles or so at a time because my legs get a little tired. But with the cost of gas (and parking) what it is...