Amateur Spies (Like Us)

Photo courtesy of Don Whiteside
WLDC Stealth, courtesy of Don Whiteside

Unless this is your first time here you’re well aware that we’ve become a little obsessive over Jack Bauer’s tour through our city. We’ve got 15 17 hours worth of 24 recaps under our belt and fully intend to laugh (in order to fight off the tears) through the remaining 9 7 hours of Hollywood’s molestation of our geography. (Yes, Tiff, I suck at math.) So really, about the last thing we needed was to be further encouraged.

Enter the International Spy Museum.

The folks over at the museum’s retail store sent us some toys to play with, after having been entertained by our 24 recaps. So early in March, three items arrived in plain brown boxes by an unmarked panel truck. In the middle of the night.

After some email haggling, jovial threats and bickering, the WLDC staff managed to split up the loot gifts and proceeded to play with them: a micro-cam recorder, a ninja sword umbrella and night vision goggles. And now, we’re going to tell you all about it.

Photo courtesy of Ghost_Bear
Spy tools, courtesy of Ghost_Bear

The Micro Stick Video Cam – seen above, to the right of the USB flash drive – is pretty nifty. Though the documentation touts it more for ‘interviews,’ it’s pretty obvious you can use it for any general purpose. With the 2GB micro card (included), it can record up to two hours on a three hour charge. The stick connects directly to your PC via USB or you can use the micro to SD adapter card to read from your PC’s card port.

The camera’s tricky to use, though. If you don’t follow the directions to the letter, you’ll either not record what you wanted or lose the data afterward. Because there’s no way to check once you start recording (except for the little blinking yellow light, which gets lost in the sunlight), you need to make sure you understand the procedures. And while you’re practicing, get a good idea of the camera’s field of view. It has a bit of a wide angle to the lens, which is good, but the constant light adjustments can make video taken outdoors or with sunlight a bit distracting. And keep in mind the more noise, the bigger your vid file will get.

It’s quite compact and handy, however. Since I don’t have a cell phone capable of recording video, I plan on having this on me anytime I go into town now in case I feel the need to snap a video of me being confronted by less-than-knowledgeable security guards about my photo rights. The video is of higher resolution than ones I’ve seen from cell phones, too. Overall, this nifty little cam is spectacular to use, once you get the hang of it.

You can see a sample vid I shot during my photo walk along Hains Point last week; I had done another during the NCBF over the weekend but because I didn’t follow the exact procedure, I lost that video. Yes, I know, I’d make a horrible spy…

YouTube Preview Image

Tiff snagged the ninja umbrella. She giggled madly when I handed it over; I warned her to stay away from the capitol building, just in case.

Tiffany: The first thing you notice about the Ninja Umbrella is the distinctive handle. Molded in the shape of the hilt of a samurai sword, it’s a good 10 inches long, with a pretty fair level of detail for molded plastic, certainly enough to catch the eye of passerby who happen to glance over. It comes with a sheath, complete with strap suitable for carrying your umbrella cross-body, but I have to say… the sheath is made out of the same nylon as the umbrella. So once you get done wielding it, there’s no potential for calmly sliding the closed umbrella back into place behind your back. Oh no, instead you have to do the totally nerdy remove the strap over your head and apply the sheath like a condom maneuver. Bummer.

On the other hand, there’s something very Hiro Protagonist-esque about walking down the street with this thing strapped to your back. That is, if you can deal with the extra width you suddenly need every time you walk through a door. I never did get used to that. But all of that is instantly wiped away by the utter perfection of the actual name of the product, printed in plain block lettering on the tag clipped to the strap:


Finally, the Eyeclops Night Vision Goggles got fought over by Don and Katie (Katie won). They both had a bit to say on these:

Don: The night vision goggles are more toy than tool; I actually have a friend who – an apparent effort to prove he had more money than sense – bought some Russian surplus night vision gear about a decade ago. Military grade stuff is typically a “starlight scope,” meaning it picks up the tiny ambient amount of light and amplifies it so you can see. These rely on built-in infrared emitters so that the IR-sensitive camera can show you a picture on the little screen in the eyepiece.

I know, it’s tech gobbledygook to rival 24, right? [Well, mine’s actually true…] The only reason you should care is that this means you can’t decide to strap them on and make a 2am bicycle ride down Rock Creek Park. They just can’t put out enough illumination to let you see more than a few feet away when you’re outside. You’ll crack your fool head open even before someone sees you and alerts the Secret Service.

They’re great fun in an enclosed space, however, and light up a pitch black room like you wouldn’t believe. Strap em on and, in your best Kiefer growl, say “The Geneva what?”

Photo courtesy of Don Whiteside
Surprised spy, courtesy of Don Whiteside

Katie: After throwing on the night goggles and running around my apartment wearing my jammies and stalking the cat, I decided that there are a lot more ways to get killed wearing the goggles than for them to be actually useful.

First of all, the goggles provide no peripheral vision, and no vision of what is directly underneath you so the first way to get killed is by wearing them WHILE RIDING A BIKE. Instant death. You won’t be able to see a darn thing, not to mention that if you’re wearing them while riding, oh, anywhere, and someone is bound to point at you and laugh. Or worse, point at you and shoot. You certainly look really goofy, if not a bit like a transformer, so picture this: you, on a bike, wearing the goggles, running into things and looking like a robot. Isn’t that an equation for instant death? I think yes.

And that leads me to my next way to get killed in night goggles: GO IN PUBLIC. Nothing says scary like a person with a huge red light on their head, wandering around and stumbling over grass and rocks. I’m pretty sure if I saw me outside my apartment I’d *at least* call the police. On the other hand – your neighbors got you down? Are they having a backyard party at 2 a.m.? Throw on your night goggles and flip flops, and run outside screaming like a banshee about noise ordinances. That’ll shut them up. Side note: I do not speak from experience.

Another way to get killed is to try LOOKING OUT THE WINDOW while wearing them. This is an instant fail. First of all, the red light needs to hit whatever it is you’re trying to look at – this does not happen when looking out the window. So basically, if you’re trying to spy on said neighbors throwing a party, all they’ll see is a big red light shining out at them, and all you’ll see is white fuzz. Who wins here? You: 0 Neighbors: 1. Again, this is not firsthand experience.

Lastly, THROW A DANCE PARTY. This is also a great way to die. The already stated lack of peripheral vision allows you to bump into coffee tables, couches, the cat you were stalking, and lamps. Sharp corners abound out there, people. And if that doesn’t do you in, your roommate will. Especially if you’re wearing them, rocking out to Ok Go while she’s walking in the door with that hot boy she met at happy hour last week. Seriously, though, I have no personal experience with this, I just um, think it. Really. There were no night goggle parties to Ok Go. Well, maybe to Lady Ga Ga… but I digress…

So there you have it. Four WLDC authors attempting to…well, I’m not sure what we were trying to do, except entertain our readers. And despite our clear failure to be spies, I think we did better at it than Jack Bauer. And we actually did it here in DC, too!

Many thanks to the International Spy Museum for the cool toys! Visit the museum’s online store if you’re looking for specs and prices; next time you visit, let them know you read about our exploits here on WeLoveDC!

Having lived in the DC area for ten years, Ben still loves to wander the city with his wife, shooting lots of photos and exploring all the latest exhibits and galleries. A certified hockey fanatic, he spends some time debating the Washington Capitals club with friends – but everyone knows of his three decade love affair with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

A professional writer, gamer, photographer, and Lego enthusiast, Ben remains captivated by DC and doesn’t plan on leaving any time soon.

Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Flickr 

3 thoughts on “Amateur Spies (Like Us)

  1. Don’t frighten me like that, Rome. Two of the episodes we’ve blogged were two hours long, so we have 17 hours under our belts and only SEVEN hours left. Seven interminable hours… (In all seriousness, since the episodes have been so indoors-heavy lately, the best fun we’ve been having is with the readers who come hang out during the chats. They’re awesome.)

  2. Pingback: Operation: SNOW PEA » We Love DC