Tag Archives: fun

Exploring Mexico City by Bike

As part of a family vacation I brought my Brompton SL-3 to Mexico City.

At just over 8.91 million people, It’s one of the most densely populated cities in the world, and it sprawls covering 571 square miles. It’s a great city for getting around by bike. I found dedicated bike lanes, a high tolerance for sharing the road, and cyclists of all stripes–from parents taking teenagers to school, to fixie riders and just about everything in between. The official, EcoBici bikes and docks are the ubiquitous with 452 stations offering 6,000+ bikes across the city. Dockless bikes, like Jump also dot the urban landscape.

Pedaling Mexico City

What about the experience of riding?

Mexico City consists of major thoroughfares–like Avenida de les Insurgentes–where there are several lanes of traffic going in each direction it’s a small island in the middle. These roads often feature a dedicated bus lane, which also doubles for a bike lane. These lanes are separated by very low rise dividers and unlike New York City, where bike lanes are often used for parking, in CD MX, bike lanes live up to their names.

Such lanes may sound like a luxury but they are essential given how heavy the traffic is. Mexico City ranks at 13th world wide for traffic congestion. In my experience, finding a bike lane was a pleasant, if somewhat unexpected surprise. Most of the time I rode amidst the heavy traffic along side, between and close to cars, weaving to move at a faster clip.

When traveling with family (who are yet to be persuaded about the merits of riding bikes in city traffic) I found myself in Ubers or taxis. Unlike my experience on the bike, we were always in traffic, which I then commandeered to practice my limited Spanish .The conversations went something like this.

“There is a lot of traffic.”

“Yes, always.”


“Yes, always.”

There is not only car traffic but many people making their way. While in the taxi when I looked across at the Durango metro bus stop and saw passengers waiting to board. There seem to be as many people on the bus as there are cars on the streets.

That said, the side streets are luxurious, peaceful and not congested. There is a mix of grand, classical buildings, decaying facades, green parks with flowers, and of course, dogs, every where dogs.

One other thing I did notice was that the air seemed a bit thick with fumes from cars, trucks and buses at times. Indeed, my phone reminded me that the air quality was at risk for sensitive populations. That didn’t stop me, or the cyclists of this fine city.

Note: I have had some luck stowing the Brompton the overhead but after one stern Australian bureaucrat made me run a security gauntlet a second time I opted for a bike case, thinking that now whenever I travel the bike comes with me as a checked bag. I know, it’s kind of boring but it takes the stress out of wondering if I am going to get through security.

iPhone 3G Experience: Line Me Up, I’ll Take It

It is a truth, universally acknowledged, that a geek, in possession of good fortune, must be in want of an iPhone.

That’s me.  

I work in SoHo, just off Lafayette Street, and young kids regularly line up for product launches at the skate stores.   When I see this happening, I wonder, who lines up and waits a day to SPEND money.  I mean, what’s the sense of that?  What’s the opportunity cost?  This is conspicuous consumption at its worst.  Is this how we form communities?  Around products?  What’s America coming to?

Right.  And so, on Friday, July 11, iPhone 3g day, at 8:40 AM, excited, hungry, and eager I took my place at the back of the line outside the Short Hills Mall,  and I was not alone–at least 500 others had the same idea.  And then I was flooded with a new sensation:  worry.  What if I didn’t get one?  (Yes, I admit it’s ridiculous, but if reason carried the day I never would have been in line in the first place.)   Should I go to the AT&T store?  My twitterpack urged me to stay put.  Apple has deep stock.  “New shipments are coming all day,” said Katie, the bubbly but tight-lipped, orange t-shirt wearing Apple Concierge working the line.  And so, with my line mates, Randy (who got a phone call about every 3 minutes) and Ravi, I settled in for the long wait. 

9:49 AM.  The security guards, with backup from the Millburn police, usher us into the mall, where we see, the heavenly glow of the Apple logo against brushed metal, and a line that’s 4 rows deep and about 100 feet long.   One of my fellow line-mates, Randy, earned his PhD in math or finance–he develops a model that predicts when we’ll arrive at the store’s entrance.  Like any good model, it undergoes revisions to reflect change–like that AT&T’s activation servers are overwhelmed by demand.  The line stops moving for 45 minutes and I lost my ability to tweet because my Blackberry battery dies.  Fortunately, I was still able to rely upon a much older technology, speech to learn more about the people around me in line.

Ravi had a passion for yoga.  Brandi had three kids and worked for the State of New Jersey cracking down on fraud, which apparently there’s quite a bit of.  We nursed our free frozen, chocolate-mint lattes from Starbucks and passed the time.  I felt like I was playing hooky, which probably added to the fun.  We parted when Apple reps finally admitted to the store.  I was surprised to learn that 2 of the store staff that I spoke with had been there since its opening 6 years ago–and they seemed happy to be there–I dare say, proud, that they helped create the store.

And though this was a product launch and Apple commodities like computers and music players what they really create are experiences.  The line was absurd, but they had folks out there working it, water, free coffee, and there was a positive buzz that only got more intense as we neared the story.  I think part of the reason that I’m so keen on Apple products is that my associations are overwhelmingly positive.  I am consistently, pleasantly surprised and pleased by what they’ve built.  They create technology that lets us be ourselves–that celebrates our humanity.  And though they’ve gained in popularity, I still think most technology forces us to think like a machine.  I am an Apple fan boy, have been for years, but no one does it better.  

I got into the store at 2pm and am introduced to Tom, who gets me my first iPhone.  I think I’m going to be out of there in 15 minutes, but that wasn’t the case.   I hit some sort of snag when they tried to transfer my number.  This gives me an excuse to spend more time in the store soaking up the vibe, and now I’m seated, in front of a 24″ iMac tweeting like a madman and emailing.  There are worse places to wait.  Henley’s negotiating with AT&T assuring me that it’s going to get done, but he’s got to leave at three, so he turns me over to Frances, who just started 2 weeks ago.  While she waits on hold for AT&T I learn that she’s an art history major at Rutgers, that she was recruited to work in the store by her friend Johanna, (a former nursing, now Pharmacology major, also at Rutgers.)   I also learn that the shirts are color-coded.  Orange: Concierge–it’s their job to connect you with people who know the technology–so they learn the people, and Blue:  the people who know the technology.  At least 2 other folks help troubleshoot the problem.  At one point I’m like, is this really worth it?  I should leave, but the truth is that I was having a blast.  I got to ask  Johanna a few dozen questions about Leopard, and just enjoyed hanging out in the store.  By the third phone activation, I had switch from black to white–thinking it might be good luck but Frances’ persistence is really what did it.  

I never worked so hard to spend so much money, but it was a ton of fun.  Special thanks to my twitter posse, debwaldman, snark12, psyker390, clemtastic, nybble73, robmaruzi and the gang at Apple Short Hills.

What’s your iPhone story?  Holding out?  Updating?  Blackberry Curve Forever?  And yes, almost 1 week later, I’d say it was worth the wait.

Scrabulous is Fabulous

I am a mediocre Scrabble player at best, but recently I’ve discovered Scrabulous, an online knockoff of Scrabble offered through Facebook and I found my inner bionic Scrabble superhero.  Full disclosure: I don’t play the game online the same way I play sit-down, face-to-face Scrabble games, where, according to the rules that you have to keep all of the words in your head and have the pressure of the person sitting across from you to move.  Online, I approach the game differently.

I take advantage of every tool at my disposal, which is to say things like the 2 letter word list and dictionary built right into the application.  Someone also went and whipped up a nifty little webpage that even looks for patterns from your letters and suggest words.  I know, it’s cheating you might say, but here’s what I say, it’s learning.  I learned more about how to play the game by 1) playing with players who were much better than me, and seeing what they do, 2) trying to emulate their play – I never realized just how quickly multiple little words add up and 3) by using the resources at my disposal to discover patterns that I didn’t know existed, and I think, making me a better player for the next time I sit down to a real board.  Though I wonder if I would enjoy the game as much if I didn’t have my bionic abilities. 

As Csikszentmihalyi writes in “Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience,” [learners should have] "a sense that one’s skills are adequate to cope with the challenges at hand, in a goal-directed, rule-bound action system that provides clear clues as to how well one is performing." 

Scrabulous meets these conditions.  Go on, play a game.  Not on Facebook? Head on over to http://www.scrabulous.com/   With the power of the internet, you too can go from drab to fab!