mad anthony

Rants, politics, and thoughts on politics, technology, life,
and stuff from a generally politically conservative Baltimoron.

Monday, January 31, 2005

My backpack's got jets..

In about 20 mintues I'm going to be going to The OttoBar with bsom to see MC Chris. He does the music for Cartoon Network/Adult Swim shows Aqua Teen Hunger Force and Sealab 2021 as well as being the voice of Hesh on SeaLab.

You can actually download one of his albums from his site (click on "listen"). I recommend Fett's Vette, from which this post title comes from.

If you are for a rational environmental policy, you must be a crazy Christian..

Cliff May on NRO's The Corner is wondering how to respond to Bill Moyer's rant (reg required, BugMeNot for the paranoid). Moyers claims that the environment is in deep trouble because there are lots of Christians, and Christians don't care about the environment because they believe that the decline of the environment means the second coming of Christ, AKA the Rapture, is here.

Bill uses some specious reasoning here. He says "several million" Christians believe in the Rapture, and there are a bunch of Repubs who get high ratings from Christian groups, implying that all Repubs who get props from Christian groups must be pro-Rapture and thus against the environment.

Now, I'm not the person to debate far-Right Christianity - I'm a Catholic, and not a very devout one. The Rapture isn't something that, as far as I know, we believe in, and you can find lots of pro-environment Catholics.

But the misdirection that Bill uses - a few million Christians equals the whole Republican party - happens in other places in the article. The one that hit me is this quote:

I read the news just this week and learned how the Environmental Protection Agency had planned to spend $9 million -- $2 million of it from the administration's friends at the American Chemistry Council -- to pay poor families to continue to use pesticides in their homes. These pesticides have been linked to neurological damage in children, but instead of ordering an end to their use, the government and the industry were going to offer the families $970 each, as well as a camcorder and children's clothing, to serve as guinea pigs for the study.

I knew the whole EPA thing was blown out of proportion. Snopes has the facts on it. When the story first broke, it gave the impression that the EPA was paying $970 to poor families to expose them to chemicals, not to study people who are already exposed. By rehashing this, Bill brings back that false impression. But if you look at what he's really saying, it doesn't make much sense. He's complaining that the EPA is studying the effect of a chemical instead of banning it, and that those evil chemical companies are behind it all. Of course, what Bill wants is to ban the pesticide without studying it, which isn't very scientific. And if the chemical industry is backing the study, they must feel that there is a good chance that it isn't as dangerous as thought, or it wouldn't be banned. And even if a ban would save lives, it would have negative effects - on growers, on people who buy the produce made with the pesticides, and on those who work in the industry.

In college, I took Environmental Economics, taught by a priest who is pretty well cited in the field. Oddly enough, he never mentioned the Rapture. He did, however, talk a lot about cost-benefit analysis, and the fact that human existence will always put some pressure on the environment, and that actions will in some way cost lives. The point of environmental economics is to decide what improvements can save the most lives and still allow for profitable human activity.

What Moyers does reminds me of people who blame economic problems on some evil Jewish banking cartel - using people's dislike of a certain religion, ie Christian Fundamentalists, and using it to squelch debate on a subject, the environment, that should be addressed with rational debate. It's the worst kind of debate - playing to stereotypes rather than addressing very real issues, ascribing to blind faith views that for most people are based in rational thought.

How to ruin a perfectly good Mac Mini...

via SlashDot comes a jerk from techTV who ruins a perfectly good Mac Mini by turing it into a "PC". This is supposed to prove something, but nobody is quite sure what. That you can turn a good Mac into a crappy PC?

Yes, I think it's cool that the Mac Mini is, well, mini. But to me, what makes it cool is the fact that it's a cheap way for people who want to try OSX out but don't want to spend $800 on an eMac or $1000 on an iBook to experience OSX. The fact that it's small is just a bonus.

What makes this really funny is that the mini pc he makes isn't even very good. He doesn't have room for any optical drives, so if you want to play a DVD or install software off a CDROM on his machine, you are going to need a big clunky external drive. And the processor he uses, a VIA C3, is not exactly blazing. I say this from experience, having built an HTPC with a slightly slower VIA processor (I got the processor and motherboard for $5 after rebate). It would take use up 100% of processor resources just to run XP's background services. Granted, the new processor has a newer core, but it's hard to imagine it's that much better.

Of course, it also makes me sad that this guy has taken a cool new mac that many people can't get their hands on and basically trashed it. I have a Mac Mini on order from Amazon and it's not slated to ship until late March. I bought it with the intent of reselling it - I had "won" a 25% off coupon from Amex's Christmas promo. So my motives may not be squeaky, but the fact that this fool has trashed one while mine is qaiting to ship annoys me.

I haven't watched TechTV in years. When I was in college, I worked for two summers for an insurance company that had a DirecTV dish in our breakroom. It only got about half a dozen channels, one of which was TechTV. I watched it back then and liked it, but I haven't watched it recently, and I've heard a lot of buzz on Slashdot ect that it kind of sucks now. With guys like this fool working for them, that seems accurate. It's hard to imagine the old-school tech tv folks - Leo Laport or the lovely Kate Botello doing something like this.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

if you drive a car, I'll tax the streets...

OpinionJournal has an interesting tax proposal - swittching to a flat tax, but making it optional and then slowly phasing it in.

I like the idea of a flat tax. Having read Amnity Shale's The Greedy Hand years ago, I tend to see most deductions as handouts to special interest groups with the most power - ie Realtors(c), who love the home-interest deduction. I also like the idea of filling out my taxes on a postcard, instead of sending piles of paper to my Dad to do my taxes. I never really know how much I'm going to owe, but I always feel it's too much.

I know most people's reactions to flat taxes are that it's not fair because the rich will pay a lower percent than they do now. Of course, the rich don't pay as much as the percent they pay makes it sound, since they get a ton of deductions and can afford to pay the best preparers and financial advisors to take advantage of those aformentioned deductions and loopholes.

I like the idea of phasing it in and letting people decide. It seems like a good answer to the idea of how to phase in a flat tax and let people see it's advantages. Give the WSJ's article a read, and give it some thought.

Vote or Die...

Insty has the Iraqi voting roundup. One of the most interesting links there is Cigars in the Sand, which has intersting coverage. For the record, there were 9 homicide bombings that killed 31 people. Voter turnout 72%


Think about that. It's a statistic, which makes it cold and meaningless. But it means a lot. Think about it. 31 people died trying to vote in Iraq, yet turnout was 72%. In the US, voting doesn't involve the possiblity of death. There is nobody putting up billboards saying they will kill everyone with an "I voted" sticker the way that Iraqi "insurgents" were claiming that they would kill anyone with ink on their finger indicating that they voted. Yet in the U.S, where voting means a few minutes in a church basement or firehouse lobby, about 50% of people usually vote in presidental elections. In Iraq, where voting means the possibility that you will be killed, where voting means going through airport security type searches, 72% of people voted.

It's also interesting that there is no outrage from the left about the "insurgents" blowing up polling places. See, in the US, they tend to see every hickup in the voting process as a Rovian plan for disenfranchisement. If someone can't read a ballot, or there is a long wait at the polling place, or someone gets pulled over on the way to the polling place, it's an attempt at disenfranchisement at the highest levels of the Republican party. But when an Iraqi "insurgent" blows up a polling place, they are just resisting an occupying force. Am I the only person who finds this odd?

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Son, where did you learn to download music? I learned it from watching YOU...

Thanks to Volokh I now know that the MPAA has released a tool for parents to scan their kids machines to find illegally downloaded files and file-swapping programs.

This makes me wonder if their really any parents who are knowledgeable enough about peer to peer file sharing legalities but not smart enough to click start->programs to see if Kazzaa is installed or type *.mp3 into the windows search box to see what files are on the machine?

Volokh also worries that the program will report back to the MPAA what it finds. Normally I would dismiss this as paranoid, but I'm not so sure. The MPAA and RIAA have done some shady stuff. They have filed suits against college students who wrote search utilities for windows shares and try to paint them in the media as if they were hosting the files, not just writing a tool to search them, and at one point were trying to make it legal to launch denial-of-service attacks or reformat the hard drives of people found to be sharing files.

The tool itself seems pretty bad, too - it searches for It searches for and identifies virtually any audio or video file, including popular formats like MP3, Microsoft's Windows Media, the AAC files that Apple Computer's iTunes software often uses, or MPEG video. This almost makes it seem like the RIAA wants electronic music distribution, like iTunes, to fail. It's hard to imagine too many people having pirated AAC's, so why include them? There is a good chance that a non-tech-savy parent won't know the difference between a legal AAC or MP3 and a pirated one.

The biggest thing, though, is that many people don't consider file-sharing wrong, or at least not a serious wrong. And when you think about it, can you blame a parent for wanting to emphasize other things above file sharing. Chances are you have a limited amount of time to lecture your kids - wouldn't you rather use it to focus on staying away from drugs or sex than WinMX and eMule? File sharing is like speeding - it's illegal, but most people feel that it's acceptable. I doubt many parents stay awake at night worrying if Johnny is downloading pirated music.

Why do they want Iraq to fail?

OpinionJournal has an interesting excerpt from Ted Kennedy's speech at Hopkins two days ago (at the end of the first item). It features some interesting quotes like The war in Iraq has become a war against the American occupation and nations in the Middle East are independent, except for Iraq, which began the 20th century under Ottoman occupation and is now beginning the 21st century under American occupation.

There are so many things wrong with this - like the fact that many of the countries surrounding Iraq, such as Iran, are "independent" in that they don't have other countries militaries in them, but they aren't free - and freedom is much more important that independence. But I really take issue with the "war against American occupation" line. The terrorist acts being committed now are less dedicated to killing the American "occupiers" as they are to killing Iraqis and preventing elections and democracy. The terrorists have said that there goal is ending democracy. But to our boy Teddy, a democracy that comes up as a result of U.S. intervention is worse than a dictatorship that is independent.

It really seems like many on the left want the elections to fail so they can make the political case that Iraq was a quagmire. This is wrong. I can understand why people opposed the war - war does directly lead to the deaths of soldiers and civilians, and it is not something that should be entered lightly. It is reasonable to ask if these costs are justified. I personally think they are, but I can understand why some people don't think that they are, and I respect those who have carefully looked at both sides of the issue and come to a different conclusion than I have. But the question of if we should invade Iraq has been long settled, and now the question is what will happen to Iraq. A peaceful, democratic Iraq is certainly a boost for Bush and the Republican party, but it is also a win for America and a win for those who live in Iraq. For democracy to fail in Iraq is for terrorism, for theocracy, for any sort of freedom to fail. The "insurgents" in Iraq want a country where people can be killed for having different views on religion than the ruling party does. They are willing to kill innocent civilians to achieve their goals. If there was ever an antithesis for the idea of liberal thought - democracy, freedom, ect - it's the "insurgents" in Iraq, and it's strange that those who call themselves liberals are the ones who want them to succeed.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Mad Anthony - neither bought nor paid for...

There has been a big stink lately about conservative commentators who were also paid by the Bush administration for expressing their opinions. I think that this is much ado about little. Should they have disclosed the payments? Yes. But I don't think that someone who already has an opinion in line with a government agency doing work for that agency, and continuing to express that opinion, is shocking. The Armstrong Williams seemed like he was getting paid directly for expressing his opinion, so it might be a little shadier, but the other two don't seem like big deals at all. My guess is that paying Maggie Gallagher to be pro-marriage is like paying Mad Anthony to be pro-bacon. I'd be for it even without the money And considering I had never heard of any of these people involved in these scandels, the government seems to have thrown it's money away.

But in the interest of the full disclosure that other bloggers have been showing I want to disclose my own government ties. Not only do I have the ethical baggage of having recieved (and am still paying off) federal student laws, and recieving federal tax funds, I was very nearly paid much more by the government. After college, I was offered a position with a branch of the federal government that does economic analysis. I came very close to taking it, but decided against it because the job was in Washington DC and I realized I could not work in DC without having a nervous breakdown. Of course, this was several years before the launch of this blog, but, you know, I wanted to get this in the clear. In case anyone who cares starts reading this blog.

Nice threads, Dick...

OpinionJournal is rightly mocking a critique of Dick Cheney's wardrobe - to a ceremony commemorating the closing of Nazi death camps. You can find the picture and commentary here.

I have to admit that I didn't really have any strong feelings about Cheney during the first Bush term. However, I'm really starting to respect the guy. I thought his performance at the veep debate was very good. His acceptance of his daughter, (who by the way is a lesbian) is touching. And now I find out that he's also a big fan of casual dress.

Mad Anthony, like Cheney, has a tendancy to underdress. Right now I'm wearing what I wore to work - long sleeve shirt with a short sleeve polo over it, carpenter jeans, and a beat-up pair of Vans, and a day's worth of facial hair growth. Granted, it's Friday - yeah (even more) casual Fridays - but I tend to dislike dressing up for a number of reasons - I'm cheap and hate buying expensive clothes, I'm not exactly skinny, so it's not always easy for me to find clothes that look decent on me, and I like being comfortable. The fact that Cheney also has a tendency to put comfort over appearance makes him seem very down to earth, and I think that's good - much like the many voters who voted for Bush because he seems like a much more down to earth, personable guy than Kerry.

Thursday, January 27, 2005


I've mentioned Wal-Mart on this blog before. I haven't been to a Wal-Mart in about 2 years - until today. I had some time to kill before my night MBA class, and I had stopped at the nearby Target the day before. I wanted to see if WallyWorld had anything worthwhile on clearance, dig thru the giant bin of discounted DVD's, kill some time, and give me something to fill up some blog space.

The answer - time killed, nothing good on clearance. I did find two DVD's in the "2 for $11 bin" that I wanted. Go to check out and one of them rings up for $13 something. Tell the clerk, she calls someone, tells me that it's not. I saw at least one other copy of the movie in the bin, so either someone picked up two copies of Friday (which was the movie) and dumped them in the bin, or Walmart is either sloppy or lazy and dumps movies they don't know where to put in the bin.

I also thought the store was darker, dirtier, and less pleasent than the Targets I have been in. I didn't look at enough stuff to judge prices. But I guess enough people must like the prices to shop there - because they don't seem to shop their for the customer service or the experience.

Scenes from work, ethics edition...

coworker: You want to go to the Atmosphere concert at the OttoBar?

Mad Anthony: I'd love to... shit, I have class that day. And it's my Operations Management class. If it was my ethics class, I'd skip it. And then lie about it.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

How old can you be and still be a "young person"?

Via InstaPundit comes an article about the charging of 5 guys for slashing the tires of 25 cars being used by get-out-the vote efforts by Wisconsion Republicans.

Now, I'm going to give the Dems the benefit of the doubt and assume that, despite the fact that one of the guys was the son of a former mayor and another was the son of a member of the House of Representatives, that this wasn't a concerted effort by the Democrats to repress the vote - or should I use the phrase that the Dems love to use and say "disenfranchise" Republicans?

But I still take issue with this quote from the Dem spokesperson:

This isn’t anything that we tried to orchestrate. This is something that some young people who used some incredibly bad judgment did on their own.”

Here's the list of those charged:

Michael Pratt, 32, Sowande A. Omokunde, 25, Lewis G. Caldwell, 28, Lavelle Mohammad, 35, and Justin Howell, 20 .

Now, I think calling a 20 year old a "young person" is reasonable. Sure, you are legally an adult, but barely. Mad Anthony did many stupid things as a 20 year old, most of which came after consuming a large quantity of "popularly priced" beer and the kind of vodka that comes in a plastic bottle with a handle and a screw cap. In my defense, however, none of my drunken stupidity had the potential to throw a swing state to an opposing political party in a heavily contested election. And it's interesting that those who the Dems like to protect - the poor and the elderly - are those most likely to not have a car and need rides to the polling place.

But I have a major problem with calling a 35 year old or a 32 year old as a "young person" with the implication that they are too young to know better. That's not a "young person", it's practically middle age. Even 25 is old enough to know that slashing tires is not a legitimate way to win an election and figure out the consequences. Mad Anthony is a year shy of 25, but has still managed to make mature enough decisions as to not be brought up on felony charges.

And many more young people, some younger than 20, have given their lives for this country as soldiers, police officers, and other fields. So think of that before you start believing the "young person" spin.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Don't eat the blue snow...

James Tarantino at Opinionjournal is making fun of Baltimore residents (last item - scroll down) for their new "blue snow".

From his article:
In an effort to counter this stereotype, we're looking for examples of blue-state stupidity, and our first one comes from an Associated Press weather story: "Baltimore transportation crews are set to lay down blue salt--letting residents know their streets have been plowed."

John Kerry outpolled Bush 82.7% to 17.1%--a margin of 65.6%--in Baltimore, a city whose residents need saline assistance to figure out their streets have been plowed.

As one of those 17.1% of Baltimore Bush residents, I was curious about the blue snow thing. So I googled around and found this article from the Baltimore Sun (registration required):

In Baltimore, the snowfall also gave blue salt a chance to make its long-awaited debut. The city had stockpiled the colored salt to see whether it would convince angry residents that plows had been down their streets.

To me, it doesn't sound like the problem is that Baltimore residents are too dumb to know if their streets have been plowed, but rather that Baltimore City public works employees do such a bad job plowing the streets that residents can't tell if they have been plowed or not.

(for the record, I could tell my street had been plowed, and didn't notice any blue salt on it. I live on a very heavily traveled street, however, which is also an emergency route for fire trucks, ect, so it's usually kept pretty clean).

Sunday, January 23, 2005

You heard the man...

Read Mad Anthony

Seriously, it does make me feel warm and fuzzy to see that as someone's post title, as well as to have my post called "superb". It makes this whole blogging thing seem worthwhile.

Will this post get me locked up?

Charles Cooper at C|Net's has an article entitled When blogging can get you locked up?

The first part of the article is actually pretty interesting - it talks of the jailed bloggers in Iran, the so-called "Great FireWall of China" that blocks access to views that the commies don't like, and similar efforts by Kazakastan.

It's the kind of article that makes you realize how much freedom we have in the U.S. - until Cooper starts drawing parallels to the U.S.

in the good ol' United States, things haven't gotten that out of hand--at least not yet. But who knows? In this post-Patriot Act age, we're all walking on terra incognita.

The Patriot Act is always a popular whipping boy, but it's aimed more at gathering info that people want to keep hidden (wiretaps, library records, search warrants) rather than not letting people see things that bloggers want to post. And Cooper offers no analysis of what the Patriot Act has to do with blogging or information exchange.

Cooper does come up with one example of horrible blogger opression - the recent lawsuit by Apple against ThinkSecret, a Mac rumor site that published rumors that Apple would make a piece of hardware to connect MIDI equiptment to Macs (I think). Of course, this isn't government oppression, but a lawsuit between a corporation and a private individual. And the lawsuit isn't being enabled by the PATRIOT act, but rather by the Digital Millenium Copyright Act. There are legitimate complaints about the DMCA's effect on speech - it's resulted in things such as a deal site having to take down info on Black Friday sales - but Cooper doesn't raise these, or even mention the DMCA. And DMCA nusiance suits, while bad, probably shouldn't be mentioned in the same article as being thrown in jail for engaging in political dissent.

Cooper also has unsubstatiated complaints about Yahoo and Cisco doing buisness with the Chinese, but I don't really feel like discussing that. Let me just say that when Cooper promises not to buy anything that's been made in China, I'll start feeling bad about Cisco selling routers to the Chinese.

And when Democratic Underground posters and Baltimore City Paper editors start getting rounded up for Bush-bashing, I'll agree that there is something in common with the US and Iran. Until then, I'm going to keep things in their proper perspective.

Who turned off the lights?

A couple days ago, after returning from my night MBA class, I decided to make a snack - a hunk of bread and a chunk of provolone cheese. I then attempted to do something foolish - toast the bread.

Now, most of my readers, those who live in modern apartment complexes and split-level houses are wondering what is foolish about toasting bread, at least if you aren't on Atkins. Those few who have had the fun of living in a 115 year old building whose wiring seems to be made from bailing wire and 9-volt batteries, however, are saying "Mad Anthony, how could you be so foolish?".

See, my attempt to toast a piece of bread blew a fuse. This was in part due to another fun wiring mishap - the switch in our bathroom that turns on the light went out. In order to be able to find the toilet at night, we hooked up a halogen light. Unfortunatly, the only electrical outlet in our bathroom is hooked up to a timer, which also has a space heater hooked to it. So to turn on the light, you have to turn on the timer, which also turns on the heater. And I had left these running.

Treck down four flights of stairs to the basement, flip the fuse (which is labeled "third floor back?"). As I walk back to the stairs, it blows again. That is when it flips again. Go back upstairs, turn off heater, back down, flip switch, back up to resume toasting.

This isn't the last time this has happened. Yesterday morning, just as I was about to take my shower, it blew again (I had foolishly put on a pot of coffee before hopping in the shower). I had a choice of getting out of the shower, finding clothes, running down the stairs, flipping the switch, running back, and getting back in the shower, or just showering in the dark. I went with the latter.

I'm rich! Now I'm going to go steal bread from starving children!

I'm rich. At least according to this calculator that someone posted in the off-topic forum of a deal discussion message board I frequent. I don't know how trustworthy it is - it's dated 1999, and the "main page" and "how you can help" links give me 404 Apache error messages.

What it seems to tell me is even when I barely had any money, I was an evil repressive capitalist pig, or something. I started out by plugging in my current income (including overtime) and got that I earn more than 99.1% of the population. I then ran it with my base salary, and found out that even without overtime I was stealing bread out of the mouths of 98.5% of the population.

So I decided to run some other numbers. I plugged in my income from about 5 years ago, when I was a college student whose sole source of income was a summer temp job in the mailroom of an insurance company. Even with an annual income generated by 12 weeks of opening mail and pulling files, I was richer than 81% of the world populations. Even if I had only made $1000 a year, I would be richer than 60% of the world's population.

Which tells me that this calculator is pretty much useless. If you live in a first-world economy like the United States, then income is a pretty valid measure of your level of comfort. (Even then it's not perfect - what will buy you a comfy house on a couple of acres in the midwest will get you a burned out shell in DC). But if you live in a really poor country - one where there really isn't an economy - it doesn't mean as much. If you are living in a country with no property rights, then you don't have to pay rent for the land you live on, because nobody owns it. (As Hernando DeSoto demonstrated, it also means your economy will have trouble expanding since nobody can use their property as collateral). If you grow your own food and barter, income doesn't matter as much. And if you live in a country like Russia, where much of the economy happens off the books, the official income figure is useless.

This isn't to say that there aren't people in the world who are desperatly poor. But the goal of sites like this seems to be to make those who live in the US feel guilty about their income level, and they do it by distorting what those figures mean. They also tend to do it by making it seem that the financial sucess of the U.S. is due to some accident, or by oppressing the rest of the world or the poor of the U.S., when in reality it's sucess is from having a reasonably correct level of government - a strong legal system and a fairly free economy. Once again, it's not perfect, but it's better than most. At the same time, many poor countries are poor in part from bad policies, such as attempts to expand government socialization, or by not having enough government to have a court system, enforce property rights, ect.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Let it snow....

Well, I'm back home. I work Saturdays for overtime at a satelite campus that my college operates. We were open today, but the rentals/special events we had scheduled were cancelled. We did still have classes, but they let out early. I left our campus just north of the Beltway a few minutes before noon noon and got back home around 12:30 - I usually can make the trip in about 15 minutes without traffic. The roads weren't aweful, but they weren't great either, and exit ramps were a mess. I was lucky that there were a couple of open parking spaces on my street.

So now I'm home, with a freezer full of food, a case of Shaffer Light, a humidor full of cigars, a roaring (gas) fire, and no homework (I got the tiny amount I had done already). Snow is falling steadily outside. I might take some pics later...

Friday, January 21, 2005

Oh, snow you don't

Well, they are predicting lots of snow for tomorrow starting tomorrow morning, with possible accumulations of up to 13" over the course of the next two days.

This couldn't be at a worse time for me. I work overtime on Saturdays, so this could cause problems in a couple of ways - if they cancel work, I don't get paid, because it's overtime. If I go into work and it then starts snowing a ton, I then have to drive back home in the mess, plus have to deal with trying to find a place to park on my snow-covered city street. If it could wait to start snowing until early afternoon I would be happy - I don't need to be anywhere on Sunday, and maybe I would get a day or two off from work on Monday/Tuesday - paid days since they are normal days.

I'm ready on the off chance that I don't go into work tomorrow. I usually run errands Saturday after work, but I ran them after work tonight instead. Picked up some prescriptions, stopped at Well's for a 30 pack of Shaffer Light (which brings back memories of college), stopped at the grocery store (yes, I did get bread (acttually bagels) and milk) - I was pretty impressed that despite the parking lot at the York Road Giant being fuller than I ever remember seeing it, they had a ton of checkout lines opened and they were only slightly longer than normal - although there was a bit of a cart shortage. Also got Chinese food (General Tso's chicken) and I still have half of it as leftovers.

Probably should try to find my boots just in case for tomorrow....

Thursday, January 20, 2005

What a week...

It's been a pretty crazy week so far. I started MBA classes (I'm taking 6 credits this semester, plus working 6 days a week, so sleeping is going to be something I'm not going to be doing anytime soon.

On Tuesday, one of the women who works in our department was hit by a car crossing the street to work. (This is the same street where my car was hit by a hit-and-run driver last month). On Wednesday, we found out that the president of the college that I graduated from and work at had died suddenly. He was a really nice guy - he'd called our helpdesk a few times with computer issues, and was always friendly and patient. So that was a surprise and a shock.

And then there was the snow yesterday, which was enough to make a mess out of driving but not enough to cancel class or work.

So posting will probably be sporatic for the next, oh, 6 months or so...

Scenes from work, snow edition

Coworker(looking out the window at snow): wow, there's more than they forcast. That's at least two inches.

Mad Anthony: That's what I tell the ladies - it's at least two inches.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

I will not condone a course of action that will lead to sleeping on the street...

Via Dave Barry (24 fans should check out this post) comes the story of a guy who is camping out for the opening of Star Wars - which is in May.

Reading the article, I can't help but admire this guy. He shows a dedication to his craft and a degree of well-adjustment. He's willing to do something unusual to say that he can. He seems very happy with himself - happier than most people I know.

On the other hand, he's also sleeping in the street and has to depend on local business owners for a place to poop. So being gainfully employed instead of following your dreams has it's advantages.

and of course, he has a blog

Throwing the book at custom textbooks...

As a part-time MBA student, I now have a new enemy. It was one I encountered once in my undergrad years, but it is a scourge that seems to be spreading. Out of the four classes I've encountered so far (two under my rather large belt, two starting this week), two of the four classes have this dreaded enemy.

What is this that makes MadAnthony's blood boil? "Custom" textbooks. These are textbooks that publishers print to order for a professor with exactly the chapters that they are going to use. Publishers sell them to professors with the idea that they benefit students - why should students pay for the whole textbook when the prof is only going to cover a couple of the chapters in class?

Of course, the appeal to publishers is that these books have absolutly no resale value, since they are custom made for a specific class. This is opposed to traditional textbooks, which are common to many classes, and thus can be sold back to bookstores at the end of the year, or resold on places like or Amazon's marketplace. Students lose twice - they can't purchase the book used, and when they are done with it they can't resell it. Any decrease in price by not buying the whole book is offset by the lack of a used market and the lack of resale value.

I listed my old Managerial Accounting textbook on after I got back from Christmas break. It sold for $60 a day after I listed it, mostly because I still had the study guide and CD. The textbook for my other class still sits around somewhere, worthless.

Textbook publishers have been seeing their fat margins cut into by the ease of used textbook sales, and custom texts are a way to get it back. I suppose it's their right - they are profit-making businesses, and this is a way for them to make money. I think that professors, however, should seriously consider the benefits to students of using textbooks that can be bought used and resold rather than "custom" textbooks. Of course, since many professors are also textbook authors, there may be some divided loyalties there.

Our house, in the middle of the street...

Yet another interesting article from instapundit - the Wall Street Journal looks at if there is a housing bubble, and if so, will it pop? David Bernstein at Volokh had a post a while ago on this that I meant to write about, but never did.

Mad Anthony is very concerned about the housing bubble (so concerned he's writing in the third person). I've been debating the whole house-buying thing myself - after about 2 years of renting and lots of overtime that's helped me save up towards a down payment, I'm thinking it may be time to take the plunge into home ownership. Two things are holding me back - I'm not sure if I want to stay in Maryland long-term once I get my MBA, and of course the general high price of housing.

Of course, the housing market is a catch-22. If I buy and it goes down, I'm screwed, but at the same time if I don't buy and housing prices continue to buy it will be harder to eventually buy, and I will have lost the increase in value gained by buying earlier.

I have mixed feelings on the likelyhood of the bubble popping. On one hand, prices here in Baltimore seem insanely high. At the same time, there is a limited amount of space convinient to the areas people work - ie the downtown - so as long as there isn't a massive downturn in the economy, people will have to work, and they have to live somewhere, and they probably want to live somewhere reasonably near where they work. Considering that even houses in PA along the 83 corridor are going for Baltimore prices despite being an hour away, I don't see Baltimore city/county prices dropping anytime soon. Supply and demand dictates that housing prices won't be coming down anytime soon. Instipundit comments that Tennasee housing prices haven't been very high, but that is probably related to the fact that there is a whole lot more land in Tenn. than in east coast cities like Baltimore, or the suburban areas of NJ where my parents live, where prices seem equally inflated.

The one thing that makes me wonder if things might drop is the amount of debt that people are taking on - the mortgage market has gone for 20% down to 10% down to interest-only loans. If these loans aren't sustainable - if people find they can't pay for them- there may be a lot of siezed property coming on the market in the next few years.

Monday, January 17, 2005

I'm a citizen journalist..

see UPDATE 9.

Maybe I need to get out the hood...

Pulling up to my apartment after work today, I noticed a Chevy Trailblazer with lettering on it parked directly in front of my apartment. As a I walked in, I noticed the lettering:


Maybe I should start looking for a new place to live...

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Writing until you are red in the state...

Via Insti comes yet another look at those crazy red staters.

Many have pointed out that the article is fairer than others, it's hard to consider an article with a line like I couldn't help noticing that among the people Paul Kern won't likely hit with a far-flung snowball are black people, openly gay people and people born in foreign countries as terribly sympathetic. It implies that anyone who wants to live in the country is a racist homophobe.

But what I find most puzzling about articles of this type is that they seem to assume that if any given state went red or blue, everyone in that place confirms to that political idea - which is not true. Newark and Far Hills are both in New Jersey, but are economically and politcally worlds apart, and I would guess that there are many places in the U.S. that fit that idea...

Instead of focusing on how divisive the red state/blue state thing is, I would love to see a reporter look at those that don't fit the sterotypes - conservatives in big cities, liberals in small midwestern towns, maybe even gay Republicans or Nascar fans who voted for Kerry.

I say this because I'm an odd duck myself - I vote, and in many ways think, red state, but I live in the middle of Baltimore (83% Kerry voters). How liberal is my section of Baltimore? My city council choices were between a Dem and a Green. No Republican. And I might not be a great example - I'm a transplant (although from NJ, another blue state, although Somerset county where I'm from is fairly red), and I will probably move out of the inner city at some point in the near future.

But part of what is great about America is that we aren't all red states and blue states. We are individuals, with our own individual ways of thinking. Many of us, by choice or by happenstance, may live around people with similar views, but some of us don't and are OK with that. Not every Bush voter is someone who has never seen a gay or a minority or lived in a rowhouse. And I'm guessing there are probably some Kerry voters somewhere who run a cattle ranch and live in Texas.

And then the unviverse exploded...

I was driving up Northern Parkway yesterday and saw an interesting bumper stickers, the kind that makes me wish it I had a digital camera with me. It read:

Minivans are tangible evidence of the existance of evil

What was odd about it was that it was affixed to the back of a green mid-90's Plymouth Grand Voyager.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

New eBay spoof...

I'm used to getting emails for Phishing scams - fake emails that pretend to be from a legitimate company asking personal information. I've gotten them pretending to be from eBay, PayPal, and several banks that I've never had accounts with. I've always recognized them as scams, usually before even opening the email. But today I almost fell for one.

I got an email labeled as "question from an eBay member" and opened it. It said "I paid for this item, when are you going to ship it" and had an eBay link. I clicked on it. Luckily, I was using Netscape 7.2 on the machine at work I was on, and it gave me a box saying that it appeared that the site was pretending to be eBay but was actually not.

I looked at the message again and realized I had missed a ton of clues. eBay emails usually come from the auction page and have the auction number and title. The user never stated what the item was. I checked recently sold items and I hadn't sold any to the username at the bottom of the email. I checked the full headers and it did not originate from eBay's servers but rather from a domain. I also forwarded it to, and got a reply a few minutes later that the email was not only a spoof but that the link also tries to install a keylogger virus.

I feel pretty stupid, as I'm usually good about spotting phishing emails, and I work in IT and should have thought to check the technical aspects before clicking. But it was some brilliant social engineering - I've sold about 20 items in the last 2 weeks, and I'm used to having a small percent of buyers who ask dumb questions or want to know the status of their item every hour. So I figured I'd post this as a heads-up. I also have to give mad props to the Netscape/FirFox team for adding the anti-spoofing feature to their browser.

Drop the keyboard and step away from the blog...

Via insty comes a transcript of Bill O'Reilly's interview with blogger/radiohost/ author
Hugh Hewitt.

Bill spends a lot of time complaining that blogs "don't have to follow rules" and are "pipelines of defamation", among other things. He also complains that that Air America exists to promote a political agenda rather than make a profit.

Bill, welcome to a little thing called free speech. That's the beauty of the internet in general and blogs in particular - anyone who has something to say and access to a computer with a network connection can say something. Sure, you can spend a lot of money, but you can also get a free blogspot blog and say whatever you want. That's free speech in action. That's a form of democracy and communication that wasn't available 10 years ago. It's the modern equivilant of nailing the treatises to the church door, except everyone can have their own door.

The thing about blogs and the internet is that nobody has to read your site, or trust it. Sites that people trust or enjoy will be successfull, sites that won't will find themselves talking to themselves.

Sure, Air America is a radio station that exists purely for political purposes, but so what? If the lefties want to spend millions to preach to themselves how Bush stole the election, that's their right. Air America is worthless politically because the only people who listen to it are people who already agree with their message.

I don't really understand Bill's point. Even if he hates blogs, how does he expect to make them follow "rules"? Make free speach illegal?

I sense that Bill's getting a little nervous with the competition. I used to watch The O'Reilly Factor, but once I got into reading blogs, I decided I prefered in-depth analyisis to 30-second sound bites. The only tv news show I watch regularly is The Dennis Miller Show. Dennis Miller is a guy who gets blogs - and his varsity panel has included a host of bloggers, including Cathy Seipp, Moxie, and Michelle Malkin. Sure, the show suffers the same sound-bite over issues problems that all TV talk shows suffer from, but unlike O'Reilly, Miller doesn't go out of his way to browbeat guests who disagree with him. And he seems to welcome bloggers as a way to augment current media rather than fear them as competition.

Friday, January 14, 2005

The iMac.. the new fashion accessory...

Drudge has a hot item about the latest Versace ad campaign featuring Madonna. But what the geek in me noticed is that the machine to the right of her in the second pictures appears to be the iMac G5.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Do people really shop based on employee pay?

Via The Corner comes a Bloomberg article Wal-Mart responding to the chronic anti-Walmart complaints. The second half of the article talks about it's slow Christmas sales, and includes this quote:

Consumers may also have turned to other retailers after reading criticism of Wal-Mart's labor issues, said David Keuler, who helps manage about $60 billion at Mason Street Advisors including Wal-Mart shares. `People aren't overlooking the image that Wal-Mart has just to get a bargain,'' with the economy getting stronger

I tend to doubt this. I have no real proof, but then again, neither does David (is it OK if I call him Dave?). I know very few people who shop at Wal-Mart, but I don't think any of them don't shop their because of it's wage structure.

Here is how I usually decide what stores to shop at:

1. Price - my paramount concern
2. Selection - do they have what I want?
3. Location - are they near me? Or are they near somewhere I frequently am (work, other places I run errands, on the way home, ect)
4. Previous experiences - if I've had really good service at a store, I'll make a point to go back there. If I've had a really bad experience, I'll try to avoid them.
5. Shopping experience - if the item is around the same price, I would rather shop at a clean well lit store with lots of parking than one that lacks those things.

When it comes to discounter shopping, I usually shop at Target - not because I have anything against the business policies of Wal-Mart, but there are 2 Targets in between my apartment and the nearest Wal-Mart, and because I've gotten some very good clearance deals at Target, some of which I've resold for a profit. Based on the few times I've gone to Wal-Mart, Target seems to be more pleasant (faster checkout, wider isles, even cuter female employees, although that's not a criteria I use in picking a store).

Dave at Mason Street feels that the reason people may have avoided Wal-Mart at Christmas is because they have more money as the economy picks up, so they have the luxury of picking a store based on the perceived treatment of their employees. This seems very roundabout compared to the more obvious conclusion - they have more money, so they can buy nicer/more expensive stuff than they would buy at Wal-Mart. I would guess they are picking Amazon or Target over Wal-Mart not because they think they treat their employees better, but because they have a more pleasant shopping experience and better quality items.

I think part of the slow Black Friday sales at Wal-Mart is because Wal-Mart doesn't really play the Black Friday game the way some other retailers (especially specialty and electronic retailers like Best Buy, Officemax, and Circuit City) do. As some of you may know, I'm a pretty hard core Black Friday shopper. This year I spent around $500 on Black Friday, most of which I will get back eventually as rebates. Most of this is the early-morning, doorbuster, free-after-rebate, limited quantity, get-to-the-store-an-hour-before-they-open deals. Wal-Mart doesn't do this. Since Black Friday shoppers can only hit a limited number of stores, they are going to hit the stores with the crazy-cheap deals, and that usually isn't WallyWorld. But it's debatable if stores make much money off these below-cost promos, so it might not be in Walmart's best interest to join the fray.

The other question is if Wal-Mart really treats their employees any worse than other comparable retailers. Does Target and Kohls pay all their employees $30 an hour with full benefits? I doubt it. So it seems unlikely that customers are going to pass up Walmart to shop at Target for moral reasons. I think the impact that Wal-Mart felt is a reaction against Wal-Mart's quality and shopping experience, not against their employee benefits, and that people like Dave at Mason Street are just engaging in wishful thinking.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Is John Dvorak a moron?

I don't normally read PC Magazine, but every now and then a John Dvorak article comes to my attention. They always seem to suck.

The first one that I saw was when Office 2003 came out and John wrote a rambling column complaining about it. What's funny is John's main complaint is one I agree with - Office 2003 doesn't include Microsoft Photo Editor, a decent basic photo editing program that came with earlier versions of Office. I use it, because my photo editing needs, mostly for eBay, are pretty basic - rotate, crop, resize. However, fixing this is easy - just install it off your old copy of Office, which is what I did. Also, John spends a bunch of time complaining about some Adobe program that became the default photo handling program when Photo Editor was uninstalled - even though the program has nothing to do with MS Office.

Then there was his ringing endoursement of the Concord Digital Camera - a pick so bad that other PC Mag editors berated him for it. Concord cameras exist for one reason - so that stores like CompUSA can advertise in big letters on the front of their circular 5.0 MEGAPIXEL CAMERA $99 AFTER REBATE. The cameras suck, but they are 5mp, so they sound good. Oddly enough, the compUSA ads never even list the brand.

The most recent example was posted by an anti-Mac person on a discussion board I read, where he berates Mac fans.

The company figures it has certain market niches locked down. This includes computer users in advertising agencies, news bureaus, and various professional organizations as well as creative artists and writers. I also count an odd, die-hard faction of true believers, but these people are inconsequential except in online forums, where they make a fuss whenever anyone discusses the Mac. They probably hurt the Mac community more than anyone by creating an unfair crackpot image that gets associated with the machine.

When I go to the local Apple store, it always seems to have a fair number of faithful Mac users. These people aren't companies - they are individuals who like Mac. I think there are a lot of individual Mac users, and they aren't crackpots or "odd" people. (He also skips the huge education market, but that's another issue).

The other thing that's interesting about the crackpot online forum line is that every Mac fan "crackpot" in online forums seems matched by anti-apple people who find the need to call Apple users morons, question their sexuality, and make all kinds of claims. I understand why Mac users defend their machines, but I'm not sure why PC users feel the need to complain about Mac users. Even if you hate Apple, it's good to have another company innovating in the hardware and desktop operating system fields.

(For the record, I swing both ways - I own a homebuilt XP desktop as well as an Apple G4 Powerbook 12")

Thoughts on the new Mac stuff...

I heard all the rumors about the flash based iPod and the headless mac before Macworld - and I didn't believe any of them. So of course they were both released...

The iPod Shuffle will probably do well. I say that because I would never buy one and am not really sure why someone would - which is exactly what I said about the iPod Mini, and it was a smash hit. That actually isn't totally true - it's probably pretty price-competive with other flash drives, with the advantage of Apple quality and iTunes integration. If you work out alot or just want a very basic MP3 player, it's probably a great device.

The Mac Mini is the kind of device Mac people have wanted for years, ever since Apple started making iMacs (and then eMacs) as their low-end computer, thus ensuring that anyone who wanted a cheap Mac would also have to pay for a monitor. It's perfect for a bunch of uses - for someone who wants a Mac as a second computer, for a home theater PC, for kids or old people, even to mount in a car install. Sure, you can get a basic eMachine or Dell for a hundred or two cheaper, but not with Apple quality or OSX stability. This may be a great way for Apple to expand it's fan base.

Monday, January 10, 2005

thirty-six inches of pure joy...

I now have 36" of screen space on my main desktop PC.

Last month, Dell was having a sale on flat panels. There were two coupons that stacked with it, one of which was a 25% off coupon I won from their Delf game. I had wanted dual monitors for a while, so I jumped, getting a 17" LCD for around $200.

The sad thing is that the $200 Dell is a nicer monitor - although smaller- than my primary monitor that I payed about 2x as much for about a year ago - a 19" Kogi. I guess part of it is that the Kogi is a year old, and covered with a year's worth of dust (and a tinge of cigar smoke). Part of it, of course, is that the Dell is a better monitor.

In a nod of cost-savings, the DVI-to-VGA adapter that's hooking up the Dell to my ATI card is a refurb (excuse me, "refresh") I found on a clearance table at an Apple store a while ago.

Anyway, here is a pic of the new setup. The 19" Kogi is on the left, the 17" Dell is on the right. And yes, my room and desk are a mess. But not as messy as they were a week ago.

Everybody loves Ramen...

Because I'm fat, lazy, and cheap, I tend to keep food in my cubical at work - candy, granola bars, and those Ramen noodles in a cup. They are cheap - Rite Aid frequently has them for 4 for $1 - and don't taste too bad. Plus they are shelf stable.

I had about 5 of them. We apparently have a mouse at the helpdesk - which managed to chew through all of them. A couple just had a few teethmarks, but several had holes all the way through the cup and all the noodles inside were gone. So somewhere around here is a mouse that must be very very thirsty. It took me a while to clean the styrofoam/mouse poop/noodles out of my cube, and my hands still smell like chicken broth despite repeated washing.

Not much of a post, but it did give me an excuse to use that title...

Sunday, January 09, 2005

A big day of nothing, or something...

Today was a rare event - a day where I didn't have anywhere to be (ie work) or any homework that I had to do (not that I always do it promptly when I have it, but it always hangs over my head and makes me feel bad when I'm doing whatever I'm doing). My MBA classes don't start until the 19th. This is probably the only day like this I will have until May - I'll probably have to go into work next Sunday and Monday (which is a day off at the college I work at) to deal with students moving back in.

I did do stuff today - I had a $10 coupon card that could only be used at the South Baltimore Staples, so I took a trip down there. It's the creepiest Staples ever - it's literally at the end of an industrial park across from Raven's stadium. It's the only retailer in a sea of light industrial. But I now have notebooks for this semester's classes, along with Christmas packing tape (clearance, my eBay customer's won't care) and a couple old Handspring Visor cradles for resale.

I also did some cleaning and got rid of a bunch of trash. Finally cleaned the bathroom, which is something that needed to be done for a while. Cleaning always seems like too generous for what I did - it's more like less dirty than clean. If I didn't share the bathroom with a housemate, I would never clean it, but he's way neater than I am, and I feel bad about that.

Ate some dinner, typed up some eBay descriptions, and started rereading dot.bomb - for some reason I got an urge to re-read about Value America's struggle and failure.

You know, I'm not even real sure why I wrote this post.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Thirty pack of Stroh's, thirty pack of ho's

Thanks to Protein Wisom, I've become alerted to the The Kid Rock controversy. The summary: Rocker/rapper Kid Rock was slated to play at an inaguration party. Bunch of conservatives complained on the basis of some of his lyrics. Now there is some doubt if Kid will in fact Play.

The best defense I've seen of Kid is at Right Thoughts. Like JimK at Right Thoughts, I generally like Michelle. I often don't agree with her, even though according to one political survey, I'm to the right of her. But I think she's wrong.

First of all, it's important to seperate the man and the image. Rock and rap are part image. Just as an author writing a book doesn't mean that that person lives the lifestyle of their characters, a musician is not always identical to their lyrics. So how do you judge a person? One way might be their willingness to put themselves in harm's way to entertain the troops.

I listen to lots of rap. This tends to surprise people because I in pretty much every other aspect of life, I'm a quiet, toe-the-line kind of guy. Aside from living in the ghetto, there isn't much in my life that has anything in common with the average rapper's lyrics. So why do I like rap? Exaclty for that reason - it's a release, a fantasy, a glipse of a lifestyle much different than my own.

Michelle talks a lot of about the fact that the Republican party shouldn't bow to "South Park Republicans" - ie libertarian on social issue types, a catagory I probably fit. But there are a lot of people who aren't super-religious, and alienating everyone who feels that their faith can withstand the occasional rap song doesn't help the Republican party - it marginalizes it.

Michelle posted pretty much every time Kid has said "bitch" or "fuck", and JeffK looked at the lyrics to "You never met a motherfucker quite like me". But I think Only God Knows Why seems appropriate:

People don't know about the things
i say and do they don't understand
about the shit that i've
been through, it's been so long
since i've been home i've been gone,
i've been gone for way too long
maybe i forgot all the things I miss
Oh somehow I know there's more to life
than this, I said it too many times
and i still stand firm you get what
you put in and people get what they
deserve, still i ain't seen mine
No I ain't seen mine
I've been giving just ain't been gettin'
I've been walking down that line
So I think I'll keep walking
with my head held high
i'll keep moving on and only God
knows why

Is it morning already?

King at SCSUScholars is interested in a new study on sleep patterns and how it ties into college students in his econ class. The study claims that it's hardwired into young people to stay up late and sleep in but once they hit the age of around 20, they start to get up earlier.

From the article:

To investigate how this "chronotype" varies throughout life, Till Roenneberg from the University of Munich, Germany, and his colleagues asked 25,000 people, aged between 8 and 90, a series of questions about what time they go to sleep and wake up
From this, the researchers calculated the average "mid-point" of each person's sleep - in other words, the time half way between when they go to sleep and when they wake up - on days when they had no work obligations.

The study figures that the time you go to bed and wake up when you don't have "work obligations" is the real time you would like to sleep/wake up. But I'm not so sure about that. I work 6 days a week right now, so Sunday is the only day I don't have "work obligations". I still usually get up pretty early on Sundays - sometimes around 8am. This isn't because I consider myself a morning person - it's because I've had "work obligations" the night before (and I usually run errands on Saturday after work as well) and I'm usually dog tired on Saturday night, so I get to bed early, thus meaning I get up early the next day. Secondly, even without "work obligations", I still have other obligations - Sunday is the first day of sales, so I usually do some shopping, and it's my one day to get homework done when I have night MBA classes going on. People around 22 not only tend to have jobs, which get in the way of sleeping, they also tend to move out on their own, which means additional responsiblities, more errands to run, and thus less ability to sleep until noon.

I have a unique perspective on the night/morning thing, because I used to work the second shift at my job - 1pm to 10pm most days. I loved those hours - sleep until 10 or 11am, go to sleep around 2 or 3 in the morning. Alas, the MBA program I'm taking only has night classes available, so I changed - and now I'm tired pretty much all the time.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Ad Sense or nonsense?

Via Instapundit comes a bt post by awesome videographer Evan Coyne Maloney about why he quit Adsense - the poorly aimed ads, mostly for anti-Bush causes.

I use Google ads. From July to now, I've made a wopping $5.69 from AdWords. Only another $94.31 and I can request a check! and they don't seem very well targeted - I get a ton of anti-Bush ads as well. Sometimes they are poor choices - I had a couple posts complaining about being stuck with a Toyota Corolla as a rental, and suddenly I was getting google ads to buy a Toyota Corolla - something most readers probably would not be interested in.

Sometimes they are farther off - I had a post a while ago about one that was in French. I also recently got one advertising hot gay and lesbian dates (screenshot here).

The reasoning isn't some complicated anti-Bush scheme or poor targeting. Google adword buyers simply buy keywords - like "gay" or "Bush" or "Toyota Corolla" and Google places ads on pages where it sees that text. The Google AdSense computer doesn't know if the Bush mentions are applauding him or comparing him to Hitler.

I think the main lesson is that blogs are not the best text for AdWords, simply because blogs tend to be random thoughts. A webpage dedicated to Toyotas or car buying is probably a great place for a car ad. A mention in a blog is probably much more random.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

The Govenator takes on CALPERS...

Arnold Swartzenegger is trying to get rid of CALPERS - the California pension fund - and replace it with a traditional 401(K) plan. This would make California public employees have the same kind of benefits that most Americans have. Even Federal employees, as I understand, have had such a system since the mid-eighties, when the feds got rid of their pension system.

It's a great idea, but I think that Arnie is in for a fight - coming between government employees and money is a dangerous idea. But the other thing about CALPERS is that their size makes them the 600lb gorilla of corporate government - they own so many shares in some companies that their decision on a proxy vote can decide the vote - so you have a quasi-govermental agency controlling companies. From what I understand, they also tend to engage in some "shareholder activism" - using the voting rights that come with being a shareholder to forward social goals.

I feel that social security reform is important, and I support the idea of private accounts. But sometimes people will suggest the government itself investing in the stock market as a sort of middle ground between private investment and social security. But CALPERS is an example of why that is a bad idea - when the government owns companies, that's called socialism. And if one state's pension fund has the power that CALPERS does, imagine what the Federal government would have.

Security through obscurity, or annoyance, or something...

A couple years ago I signed up to sell on . I listed a couple items, realized that I couldn't make any money on them, and pulled them. I then didn't sell anything on for about 2 years. In that time, I moved and changed bank accounts - and left all my old bank account info at my parent's house in NJ.

Fast-forward to present. Started taking grad classes and figured I could make some money selling my barely-used accounting book. Listed in on half, and by virtue of the fact that I still had the CD and study guide, I sold it in a couple days.

So now I need to get paid. When I set up my half account, I signed up for direct deposit - to my old bank account. So I need to change my payment options, either to my current bank account or check. Should be a couple clicks, right? Nope. Because in order to change my bank account info, I need to enter my old bank account number, which I don't have. This is after I'm already signed into their system.

I wrote an email to half (have not heard back yet), and if worse comes to worse I can probably have my parents see if they can dig up my old bank account info. But this doesn't seem like it should be so complicated. I'm already signed into the account, they already have my address for them to send a check, and PayPal (which, like half, is an ebay company) has my current bank account info.

I understand the importance of security - part of my job includes basic system admin tasks, so I have to make sure that nobody can log in as me. But while I'm concerned about people logging in as me at work and deleting large chunks of the network, I'm less concerned about someone signing into, say, my NY Times account and, god forbid, reading news with a liberal slant as me.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

cars by the hour...

A while ago, I wrote a post complaining about a fawning segment on PBS's show Motorweek about hourly car rental services. The Motorweek article seemed convinced that the idea would reduce pollution, amoung other things.

Now (via NewsFeed comes a review on a car sharing service. The Yahoo article is a little more balanced than the PBS show, but it still seems a little gushy in places - like this:

To make a reservation, I simply visit Zipcar's Web site and am immediately directed to my personal Zipcar page — my computer retains my logon information

Wow, they retain login information! They must use some fancy computer technology - like cookies! Maybe someday some other website will use this technology.

Seriously, though, I think hourly car borrowing services are probably a great idea for a very small number people - people who live in very dense cities, who can walk or take public transportation most of the time. This isn't most people, though. I live in central Baltimore - the Reservoir Hill neighborhood - and still use my car all the time. Judging by the trouble I have finding a parking space in my 'hood- especially late at night - I'm clearly not the only person who finds it necessary to have a car in the city.

Scenes from work, parasite edition...

Coworker: My girlfriend has worms.

Mad Anthony: You mean your girlfriend's cat has worms? Or does your girlfriend actually have worms?

Coworker: No, she does. She caught it from the cat.

Mad Anthony: Well, what you, she, and your cat do in your spare time is your own business.

(note I even passed up the chance to make a joke involving the word pussy.)

Monday, January 03, 2005

The rich get richer and the poor get something or other...

Via wizbang comes this Economist story on the upward mobility and a claim that it's dying, or something.

The article starts with the headline Whatever happened to the belief that any American could get to the top?. Which is a belief I've never heard of, and if you set your standard that everyone can get to the top, not just a few, of course the current situation will not meet your standards. Upward mobility doesn't say that everyone will get rich, just that people have the opportunity to get wealthier if they are smart, clever, and/or lucky.

One of their complaints is that those in politics tend to be dynasties - ie Gore, Bush, ect. But the idea of upward mobility has been aimed more at business than politics. And there is much more upward mobility in business than in politics, because you are judged by the market for what you can produce rather than by people who vote based on reasons like whoever is taller.

Another problem is that the article focuses on quintiles - fifth - which ignores two things. First of all, people can move within a quintile. They can go from the bottom 2% to the bottom 18% - which is probably a decent jump in standard of living - but are still in the quintile. Furthermore, it doesn't count if things get better for everyone. Chances are that someone in the bottom 20% is better off now than they were years ago in terms of standard of living - but they are still in the quintile.

The article focuses alot on the top 1% and the top .01%, and finds the US a failure because poor people aren't getting there much. But few get that high - and moving up is good even if you don't move into the top 1%, and you can have a very comfortable life well below that top 1%. The same goes for their complaints that many poor don't get into ivy league schools - but few people get into Ivy league schools, and once again you can have a very nice life going to a good, but not Ivy League school.

They look at education as a point of failure - and yes, it can be improved but the government can only do so much. Part of the reason that people don't move quintiles is that they make poor decisions - using drugs, dropping out of high school, or getting pregenant at 15. These are things that are going to happen no matter how good education is.

I think that higher education - and the upward mobility that comes with it - is also something they underestimate. Yes, not everyone gets into Harvard - but lots of students are going to some very good schools. Neither of my parents went to college - my dad went to a 2 year technical school - but both my older brother and I graduated from fairly good colleges, and both of us are currently in Master's programs - my brother in Math Education, myself in an MBA program. I'm sure I'm not the only person in a similar situation.

I think there are lots of opportunities for upward mobility - but it's not easy, and that seems to be the main complaint of this article.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

On getting website hits..

I discovered something sad recently - my website is getting a ton of hits. Why is that sad? Because the website getting the hits isn't this one - the blog that I've put a fair amount of time into posting what I think is insightful and relevant commentary, the site that I've promoted by submitting it to carnivals, by blogroll, by alliance, by blogsnob, and a ton of other ways.

No, the site that is getting a ton of hits is, a site I crapped out in about 10 minutes as a joke. A site that I haven't promoted except in my signiture on a couple sites I post on (like w00t and daily deal), along with a slashdot post that got modded +5.

To put in perspective, my sitemeter on has gotten around 4500 hits since I started it about 6 months ago. FreeDryerLint, which I started about 2 weeks ago, has gotten around 1700 hits.

So the moral of this story, I guess, is if you want lots of hits, start a cheesy site as a joke instead of starting a blog.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

of wine and salvation...

While looking to see if Lileks' newest column was on newhouse yet, I stumbled on this article on the role of alcohol in religion. An interesting read, although not exactly earthshaking.

There were two things I noticed, though. First of all was this:

Americans -- like religions -- have long been divided on the subject, with more than six out of 10 taking a drink at least occasionally. Gallup Polls find another third of the citizenry eschews the buzz from booze altogether.

So that's 60% who drink occasionally or more and 33% who never drink. Where does that leave the other 7%? People who drink but lie about it? People who drink less than occasionally but more than never? And why does this remind me of the Office of Drug and Alchol Support signs the college I work for loves so much.

The second thing that I reacted to was this:

"Christianity is here constructing a ritual around the use of a mind-acting drug, and that is familiar territory for the anthropologist," said University of London professor Griffith Edwards. "The Aztecs called their hallucinogenic mushrooms `teonanactl' or `flesh of the gods."'

Tobacco filled a similar role in some American Indian societies, and Rastafarians put cannabis to like-minded ritual use, Edwards writes in his book "Alcohol, the World's Favorite Drug."

When I first read this, the Catholic in me cringed - comparing the Catholic sacrament of communion to Aztecs using 'shrooms seemed somehow disrespectful. Then I wondered if I was being a culturist - promoting evil western culture above that of other civilizations. After all, Griffith Edwards has a PHD in something or other, plus a cool first name like Griffith, while Mad Anthony has a cheesy nickname and career in tech support.

Then I thought about it some more, and decided that I think I'm correct to think that Griffin (can I call him Grif?) is wrong. The 'shrooms that the Aztecs enjoyed, and the weed that Rastas love so much, are inherently mind-altering, and their religious significance comes from those properties. Wine in the Catholic church is not sacred because it's alcoholic - after all, the other portion of communion is bread, which isn't known for it's mind-altering properties, unless you are on the Atkins diet. Rather, it's considered sacred because Catholics believe that, through the sacrament of the mass, it turns into the blood of Christ. The quantities of wine consumed in the Eucharist aren't going to provide any level of alcoholic buzz, which I'm guessing isn't accurate about Peyote, weed, or shrooms.

Scenes from Philly, part one and two...

(note: on Thursday, Mad Anthony went to Philly to hang out with an old college roomate, drink a couple beers, and eat one Pat's cheesesteak (with wiz and peppers). My jacket now smells like fried beef).

Old roomate: I'm pretty happy with the dorks who work for my University's tech services department. And when I use the term dork to describe a person who does tech support, I do it in a positive way.

Mad Anthony: Really, we prefer geek or nerd to dork.


Old roomate: There aren't a lot of people doing research into corn DNA in the US, and my university is one of the best known in the field.

Mad Anthony: Does that make you a corn star?

Boston wants to take away your parking spot...

Via Mark Krikorian at NRO- who has an interesting political take on it - comes an article about how Boston wants to encourage the stealing of freshly-shoveled-out parking spots.

In Boston - and other cities, including MadAnthony's adopted home in Baltimore - it's common to "reseve" the street parking space that you shoveled out by placing an old chair, a bench, or other piece of furniture in it to show that it's reserved. This is fair, since you spent hours shoveling that spot out - and since you don't really have a place to leave your car once you've left if you come back and have to shovel out a new spot.

Boston is banning this, however - and going as far as removing the items that are reserving the spots. The NRO post I linked above sees this as taking away private property - and in a way it is, since despite the spaces being on public streets, they are cleared by private citizens. The need to save spots in cities comes from two things - the fact that many in city government see cars as an evil that should not exist in cities, and thus do whatever they can to discourage people from having places to park them - and plowing that adds to the amount of shoveling that people have to do to get their cars in or out of a parking space - since you have to shovel not only the snow that fell, but also the snow that was plowed around your car.

In Baltimore, where we only get a few big snowstorms, this isn't a big deal - but in a city like Boston, that gets more, people spend a ton of time shoveling - and should be able to park their car in the spot they shoveled out, even if it means sticking a chair in it.

One also wonders if Boston has anything better that they could devote taxpayer-funded public works employees to do other than removing chairs from parking spots - like, I don't know, shoveling or plowing snow?