Thursday, August 28, 2008

I have Been Nuvi-ized...

Yep they got me at work today and they handed me a Garmin Nuvi 260, that is after I signed my life away for it on some government paperwork.

Right after I got it, I scanned the brief instruction manual (15 pages and a relief compared to the one for my government Nextel which loo like a novella), and I turned it on, went outside, walked over to a pier on the Hudson River, and there it was, that is my location, shown on the screen. It actually showed me out on the pier. I was pretty amazed at how accurate this thingamabob was at giving my location if only because that pier is very new. After my brief walk with it, I also used it to find my way home from the office. It did not go exactly the same way I would have gone, had me turning on different city streets, but had me going to the Midtown Tunnel, onto the Long Island Expressway, and off at the exit I probably would have chosen had I not usually taken another exit about midway home that put me on a road that parallels the LIE. The exit it did have me turn off on is the same one I would have exited on the parallel road to the LIE.

Simply an amazing little device, it not only shows a running map as you drive along, it gives written and verbal instructions. If you set the language to a specific type of American (sort of a computerized voice) it not only tells you something to the effect of: turn left in 1/4 mile, then repeats it in increments as you get closer to the turn, but also tells you turn left in 1/4 mile onto 3rd Avenue (thus actually mentioning the name of the street or road onto which you must turn). If you miss a turn it either tells you it is recalculating your route, or it tells you to turn around to get back to the route it first gave to you. It can be used in automobile, bicycle, and walking modes. It shows things like average speed, time moving, time stopped, mph, distance traveled and so on. You can save favorite places. You can locate points of interest, restaurants, and other such places. I think you can even use it as a GPS using longitude and latitude coordinates, but I'll have to do some checking on that one.

While I am impressed, I can say without a doubt, if I have a preplanned trip, I will look at a map first. This will be especially true when going out on an assignment from work, more so if a potentially dangerous assignment. I sort of like to know the lay of the land. I think this device can give that too, it had a 3-D, and 2-D map view mode, and you can zoom in and out on the maps, but it is so small a screen, that to view a good sized area it would be hard on the eyes. So I will not be discarding my maps any time soon; but I will admit I will readily use this thing.

Now that I have gotten my report on it, and my like for it, out of the way, let me address a concern some of you may have thought about while reading the above. As a tax paying citizen you maybe wondering if you should be concerned that an expenditure of money like this by the federal government is money well spent. A good road atlas of the entire USA costs about $6.00 at Walmart, and probably could be had less expensively in bulk direct from the publisher. A few local maps of the areas covered by my office most frequently cost about $15 apiece. That is 3 road atlases, one for New York City, one for Nassau County, NY, and one for Suffolk County, NY at a total cost of $45. Add $45 to $6 for a grand total of $51.00. You can use MapQuest, or a similar program, for the rest, and that comes bundled with the office computers. The Garmin Nuvi 260's cost my office a considerable sum above $51 apiece, and I think they bought one for most agents in the office if not for all agents in our office. I know the figures, but I will not mention them here as I do not want to unwittingly break any government regulation about ging up super seKrits.

You may also wonder if these GPS devices will or will not wind up costing more than their sale price. You may be wondering will the accident rate for our fleet rise due to agents looking at these things, or trying to recalibrate them, while they are driving. I can tell you the temptation is there, that is for a guy like me who has never before used one, although I am sure I have gotten it out of me using it on just one ride from my office to home. I plan to only punch in locations when I, and my vehicle, are stopped safely (unless of course I have a passenger who can do it for me). I am sure other agents will think likewise. You may also wonder if break-ins to our government vehicles will increase when thieves see one of these left in the car or when a crook sees the base of the GPS left inside the car (a sign that the car may have a GPS hidden in the console or glove compartment). I can tell you we have been forewarned; and I think an agent losing one like that will get hell for it. As for mine, I think I'll make a great effort to keep mine in a pocket when I leave the vehicle, and if I can find a pouch for it all the better as I do not want the screen getting all scratched up. When I use it in my car I'll find a place for it where it will be safe to use, and from where it will be easy to remove any trace of it when I leave my vehicle and take it with me. I think other agents will make similar efforts to use them safely and to safeguard the devices.

I also will make the best use of it that I can as a tool to help make my job easier; and I suppose it will be just that - a tool that will make my job, and the job of other agents assigned to my office, much easier. In that light they will help us save time in finding places. That will cut down on drive time. Since they give the most direct routes, they can help us save gas too - that has to be a good thing - right! In essence these GPSs will help make us more efficient in carrying out our duties that involve driving. I also suppose there is a chance that these could be a lifesaver. If use of one of these GPSs ever saves a single life by helping an agent find a hospital faster if they need one, or if it more quickly gets an agent on the scene to help out another agent in a tight spot, or if it helps an agent more quickly apprehend someone who is an imminent threat to the public and to Homeland Security, then the price of all of them combined will have been but a small one to pay. Of course, I beleive in smaller government; but yep when it comes right down to it under current circumstances, I suppose the expenditure on these was a good thing indeed. Sometimes you just have to look at government spending from all angles, and when you look at these GPS devices that way, and if you drink the Kool-Aid first really give it some intelligent thought, you come to the conclusion 'it was money well spent indeed'.

All the best,
Glenn B

What a Shame, Not Even a Word Mentioned...

... here about the possibility of Senator McCain choosing Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice as his running mate. It is his loss if he could not get her to agree to run, or if he did not consider her as his running mate.

I keep hearing about Lieberman, Ridge, and those choices scare me. Then I hear about Pawlenty and Romney and I am a little more at ease. Tomorrow if I hear Rice, I will jump for joy.

Who knows his choice, surely not me, but he reportedly has made it, and if so then he most certainly knows. I wonder how many others know, they are keeping pretty mum about it. (That by the way is a good thing, a staff that knows how to keep their mouths shut!) Time and the media will tell whom he has chosen. I guess we will know sometime tomorrow on Senator McCain's birthday. I am hoping almost against hope for the best running mate he could have, and I figure it is only one of the above by a long shot.

All the best,
Glenn B
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