mad anthony

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

Monday, February 28, 2005

Have one for the road...

When I saw this brief entry in WSJ's Taste Page about a group of bar owners complaining about GM's support of MADD, which in turn has supported the 0.8 BAC, I thought "go bar owners". I'm glad to see I'm not the only one with this thought - Andrew Stuttaford at NRO has similar thoughts

Drunk driving tends to be seen as a universal bad, so anyone who goes against drunk driving laws is seen as promoting a deadly behavior. Going against MADD is like being for running puppies through blenders.

But MADD isn't just against drunk driving anymore - they are against any drinking and driving. Their website like to say things like there is no "safe" amount of alcohol for drivers. Arguably, even one drink impairs you. But so does listening to the radio, talking on your cell phone, drinking a cup of coffee, yelling at your kids in the backseat, being tired, angry, upset, or happy, or a million other things that aren't, and shouldn't, be regulated.

I have no problem with going after very drunk drivers. But the dangerous drivers - the ones who cause lots of crashes - have much higher BAC's - the MADD at GM website says 0.19 is the average BAC for drunk drivers in fatal crashes.

I've never driven drunk. At least, I don't think I have. But with the ever-falling BAC, it's easy to to not be sure if you are over the limit. The fact that lots of drivers probably stop after one or two beers because they don't want to risk being over an arbitrary limit probably does hurt bar owners.

MADD has lots of stats on their website. Many of them are obvious statements presented as if they are stunning revelations, which makes me think MADD members don't get out much. They reveal, for example, that beer is the most popular alcoholic beverage, and that teenagers tend to drink at parties while older people tend to drink at bars. Gee, I wonder why. But other stats demand closer examination, like their frequent use of "alchohol-involved crash". Accidents will frequently have more than one cause, so if someone with a couple drinks in them driving a car with no brakes or headlights hits a deer at night in the rain, it's an alcohol-involved crash despite the other factors.

One other thought is that MADD will frequently profile an unusually tragic drunk-driving crash - the guy whose been drinking for 36 hours and hits a kid playing in the street kind of thing. But their own stats point out that most "drunk driving" takes place at nights, especially on weekends. If your kid is out at 2 in the morning on a Saturday night, they have bigger problems than drunk drivers.

Another problem with drunk-driving enforcement is that it gives cops an excuse to do things like set up drunk driving checkpoints - which is an inconvinience to motorists, an excuse to write lots of tickets for stupid things, and a chance to invade motorist's privacy. Autoblog has a short article and link to a longer one profiling one such checkpoint. Total drunk drivers caught? Zero, but they did get to write lots of other tickets.

I would like to see a reasonable debate over drunk driving, with some cost-benefit analysis, some proper perspective, and less attempts to make every person who has a drink and drives home out to be a mass-murderer. I'm not sure if the MADD AT GM campaign will do much - the site is long on pseudo-sensational exposes about GM and short on stats and good argument - but at least it starts a dialog.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

It's so hard. (drive)...

I bought a new hard drive and external case today. It was one of the most complicated transactions in a while.

Yesteday on fatwallet I saw a post that CompUSA was going to have a 160 gig Hitachi hard drive, plus a USB enclosure, for $60 after 3 rebates. I've been thinking about buying an external hard drive for a while. I'm tapped out of IDE controllers right now, but I download a lot of TV shows off the web - ones that aren't on anymore, like Fastlane and Homicide: Life on the Street. I have this GoVideo Network DVD player, which plays them off my computer via a client that runs on my PC and streams them over the network- which means burning them on DVD wouldn't be a very good solution, since I would have to copy them back to my hard drive to stream them.

So I show up at the Towson CompUSA promptly at 10am to make sure I would get one. Which would have been great, except CompUSA opens at 11. I ran another errand (which took me most of the way home) and then drove back to CompUSA at 11. Got hard drive. Discover case isn't firewire, as advertised in the ad, point this out to salesperson, he doesn't care. Decide to buy it anyway. Check out, start driving home. While I'm driving, I'm calculating the rebates and the price I paid, and it seems like I paid too much. Pull over to the side of Charles Street, look at my receipt and the CompUSA ad, and discover that a $15 discount on the hard drive case wasn't applied. Drive back, wait in line behind a guy with the exact same issue, return hard drive case and rebuy at the correct price.

This saga may still not be over - if the rebate center pulls the info from CompUSA's database, it may show the drive case as returned and reject me for the rebate, which means I'll have to fight for the rebate. Grr...

Fisking the Wal-Mart speech fisker...

Tim Noah of Slate is fisking a pro-Wal Mart speech that Wal-Mart sent him. I thought some of his comments had as much spin as the Wal-Mart spin he complains about, so I thought I'd take a look.

He starts off complaining about the fact that Wal-Mart says that the average wage is $10, saying that it is driven up by the pay of top execs. Now, I'm no math major, but I'm going to guess that the fact that Wal-Mart has millions of hourly employees is probably going to do more to balance it out than a handful of execs.

He also sees the figure as wrong because "the average pay of a sales clerk [italics mine] at Wal-Mart was $8.50 an hour, or about $14,000 a year, $1,000 below the government's definition of the poverty level for a family of three.

Now, I'm going to venture that the Century Foundation, where he got that stat from, did the same cherry-picking of stats that Wal-Mart did. I'm guessing that clerk is probably the lowest-paid position that Wal-Mart has, and that other positions, like cashier or stockroom, might pay more and bring up that average.

As far as the "working family of 3" complaint, I think that many Wal-Mart employees are not supporting families of three. They are providing their family with a second income, or they are retiries or students getting additional income. Raise wages too much, and Wal-Mart will eliminate these postions, and those people won't have this additional income.

Tim also looks at a comment that the Wal-Mart wages are comparable, except in urban areas.

Wal-Marts have traditionally targeted rural areas where unions are weak, so of course the pay would be lousy at comparable retailers nearby....

Rual areas may be less unionized, but they also have a lower cost of living than urban areas. Assuming that Wal-Mart's wages are fairly consistent nationally, this may be more of a function of location than unions.

The disparaging reference to "urban markets with unionized grocery workers" is a reminder that Wal-Mart has successfully resisted virtually all efforts to unionize its stores, even in labor-friendly blue states.

Umm, there a bunch of US Wal-Mart stores that have voted if they should unionize. And the employees have rejected it. This would seem to suggest that Wal-Mart employees are happy with working for Wal-Mart, or at least think they are better off without unions than with them.

And my anecdotal knowledge of the unionized grocery business is that grocery store workers are overpaid. A reletive I know works 2 days a week at a local grocery store just for the benefits - which include free legal services when he bought his house and a better health insurance than my full-time job has.

Yes, but what exactly is a "full-time worker"? Typically, full-time is defined as 40 hours a week or more. At Wal-Mart, it's defined as 34 hours a week. So of course Wal-Mart has more "full-time" workers.

Yup, that evil Wal-Mart, playing with the numbers. Nevermind that the context was that it means that more Wal-Mart employees qualify for insurance than in most other retailers. As far as the "40 hours or more is full-time", every job I've ever had has considered full-time to be 37.5 hours. I'm also guessing that Wal-Mart's definition would mean that employees who work over 34 hours a week would get overtime pay, which would be in their best interest.

According to Head, fewer than half of Wal-Mart's employees can afford even the company's least-expensive health plan.

I wonder how many of them are students, retirees, or covered under a spouse's plan?

Then Tim tries to say that the Scott, the Wal-Mart CEO should paid less, because he made comments that retail always pays poorly because it is more labor intensive than the auto industry:

But if Scott took this argument at all seriously, he'd have to concede that his own pay should be reduced drastically below its current level. In 2003, the most recent year for which I can find data, Scott sucked down $29 million (including stock-option grants). That same year, G.R. Wagoner, president and CEO of General Motors, hauled in about half that amount, $15 million. Following Scott's logic, I don't see how he can avoid knocking his own pay down to around $10 million...
And if Scott wants to argue that he works for the nation's biggest company? We all know how to answer, don't we? All together now: "Dude! It's only retail!"

Never mind that Wal-Mart is doing fairly well, while GM hasn't been. Or that the retail sector is incredibly competitive and requires quite a bit of managment savy. Can't pass up the chance to take another swipe at Wal-Mart.

It's electric!

GM, a couple years back, made an electric car called the EV1. The dumped hundreds of millions of dollars into it, and it still wasn't very good. A brief summary is here. GM never actually sold them, they leased them.

Now a bunch of EV1 fans are holding a rally to save the EV1's from the crusher.

GM's spokesperson isn't even bothering to be spokesperson-like about them:

God love these people, but it's time to move on to other technology," GM spokesman Dave Barthmuss said.

My guess is that part of the reason GM did the lease in the first place is because they didn't want to be responsible for parts/warrenty/safety issues for what was essentially an experimental vehicle - a beta, if you will.

It's kind of ironic that the lawsuits and consumer activism of the left is probably the reason they aren't allowed to buy these cars. But of course, they still make GM to be the bad guy.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Scenes from work, Saturday edition

(I work on Saturdays at a satellite campus that the college I work for operates. The facilities manager there has been picking my brain about buying a new computer. Favorite excerpts from today's conversations follow):

coworker: I just bought a computer.
Mad Anthony: What kind?
cw: a Gateway
MA: Ewww...

(I convince her that she could probably get a better deal on a Dell and that it's probably a better machine. She finds one on the site she likes and orders it. She then goes back to Compusa to return her Gateway)

CW: They refunded me $200 if I kept it. And they said it had a better warranty. The Dell only has a limited warranty
MA: But all warranties have some limits. What does the CompUSA warranty cover that Dell's doesn't?
CW: ummm... it's better
MA: but what specifically?
CW: I don't know. But their warranty is a "platinum" warranty
MA: You do realize that that is a made-up term?
CW: but the Gateway has a faster processor than the Dell.
MA: What processor does it have?
CW: I don't know.. but it's a 4
MA: Umm, they are both P4's. That's just a model number. Nobody makes a 4 gigahertz processor yet...
CW: but the salesman said it was faster..
MA: of course he did, it's his job
MA: Let me guess, you pay for undercoating and pinstripes when you buy cars, don't you?
CW: huh

cw: I think I'm going back to CompUSA and returning the Gateway
MA: be careful. At this rate you'll walk out with a plasma TV. Because, you know, the salesman said it was bigger..

Why I rebate....

Via scsu scholars comes this post on rebates, a subject near and dear to Mad Anthony's heart. (This, of course, assumes that Mad Anthony has a heart, as he has been called heartless on many occasions).

As a consumer, I love rebates. I've collected over $8,000 of them since I started keeping track a little over two years ago - you can view the spreadsheet here in MS Excel format. I've made money buying rebate items and reselling them on eBay, and gotten a ton of stuff for personal use thanks to them, including a $25 200 gig hard drive (back when they still cost a lot), a 15" Compaq CRT for free, and got Microsoft to pay me $45 to buy a copy of OneNote, which was $55 with a $100 rebate.

Lets face it, companies won't hand out free stuff on a regular basis (and if they did, you would have to camp out in line to get it before it runs out). They will, however, offer FAR (Free After Rebate) items.

Besides keeping away the hordes, rebates have a number of advantages for companies. As Ralph at DOL mentions, they let companies price discriminate - sell the item to different people for different prices (a lower price to those who send in the rebate). They also allow the company to gather data on their customers, and to limit purchases to one per household.

So why are rebates good for consumers? For shoppers, it can allow for good deals if you stack a rebate with a coupon with a mimimum purchase requirement. Use a coupon for $25 off a $100 purchase on a $100 item with a $50 rebate, and your $100 item is now $25. If it was just $50 straight-up, you wouldn't be able to use that coupon. If you are smart about filling out rebates, you can get items for prices - like free- that you would never be able to get right away.

Ralph also asks why there is no "seal of approval" for rebates. There may not be one, but there are forums like the rebate tracking forum on FatWallet (a deal site) where people share positive and negitive experiences with rebate companies as well as contact information and tips to getting rebates. Isn't the internet great?

I'm gonna die...

Someone recently posted this life test in the off-topic section of a forum I read regularly.

It came up with my life expectancy as 55 years.

Now, I'm not sure how accurate some of it's methodology is. But I really would like to make it to retirement age. So I'm thinking I should probably start to lay off the bacon-wrapped bacon and start getting some exersize beyond walking to the fridge to get another beer.

Of course, Mad Anthony has tried diets in the past, and even lost some weight, but eventually gone back to his same old fat self. But the whole "this is going to kill you" thing does provide a certain amount of incentive the next time I get a craving for a giant cup of pudding...

Defending the iPod..

Lileks has a good response to this "what's wrong with the iPod" article.

Lileks first defends the iPod based on aesthetics. Mad Anthony isn't going to do that, because he has no taste. My desk consists of one of those fake-wood folding tables you can buy at Staples for $30. My walls are covered with posters that beer companies sent me for free. At one point, my TV stand consisted of two of those plastic rubbermaid bins flipped upside down. I tend to favor practicallity over looks.

And the iPod is practical. I can reach in my pocket and advance a song without looking or raise the volume, because the scroll wheel is easy to use. I can switch songs while driving without much problem. And that's because it doesn't have to have 10,000 controls for features most people will never use, so instead it has easy-to-use controls for the couple features I do need.

So let's look at the "I hate iPod" guy's complaints:

order to put music on your iPod you must use Apple's iTunes software. If you need to put music onto your iPod using a computer that doesn't have iTunes on it (which is 9,999 PC's out of 10,000) well then, tough

Well, that depends on PC's - if you assume that it stands for personal computers, and not just Windows machines, his math is off, since Apple has like 3% of the personal computer market and has iTunes built into OSX. But if you are talking Windows machines, it seems silly to complain that a product is bad because to use it you need to install a (very good) program that is free to download. You don't have it on your PC? Then install it.

o if, for example, you owned a computer which you used to encode all of your CD's to MP3 format, and the hard drive on that computer died with all your music still in it, you could not then restore those music files from the copy on your iPod

Umm, if you own the CD's, then can't you just reencode them? And if backing up your MP3's is that important, burn them on a CD or DVD or external hard drive. The 'pod is an mp3 player, not a RAID. It's designed for playing music, not making backups.

By the way, if you wanted to encode your CD's in the quality that an audiophile demands by using the free, open source Ogg Vorbis audio compression software, you're out of luck again because the iPod doesn't support Ogg Vorbis either. Why not? Ogg Vorbis is free, so it isn't because it's too expensive. It's because Ogg Vorbis has no provision for copy control, unlike some variations of MP3 and Apple's own AAC formats

Umm, if the reason that Apple doesn't support Ogg is because of copywrite concerns, then why does it support non-DRM'ed MP3's, including all the ones MadAnthony has downloaded from Kaazza, eMule, and WinMX? I think the reason that the iPod doesn't support OGG is because it isn't a widely used format, and Apple felt that dumping a bunch of money into OGG support when few people use it wasn't worth it. A reasonable desision, and one that doesn't require a conspiracy theory. Same goes for his claims that the 'pod doesn't have a digital out because of piracy concerns. It's a portable MP3 player, it was designed for listening to through headphones. Digital out is just another feature that only a tiny percent of features have a use for.

The reason for Apple's blinders is that, in actual fact, Apple is no longer a technology company at all. With the creation of iTunes they've bought their way into the music industry. Now, like the rest of the music industry, they are caught in a tragically stupid and suicidal concept of copyright and ownership which cannot possibly be maintained with modern technology

Now, I dislike the RIAA as much as the next guy (unless the next guy loves or works for the RIAA, in which case I dislike them way more). But out of all the DRM schemes out there, Apple's is one of the most user-friendly, and is easily bypassed by simply burning the music to CD and then ripping it as an MP3. Compare that to other services like Napster, where you don't have ANY control over your music - once you stop subscribing, your music goes bye-bye. But is the author lashing out at Samsung and other companies that are building Napster-compliant players with crazy Windows DRM? Nope. Because it's always easier to pick on Apple.

Sure, if you have very specific, non-mainstream ways of using your MP3 player, it's possible that the iPod might not do those things. But for most people who just want to listen to music on the go, the iPod fullfils that need and is easy to use, without having a bunch of complex features that you don't need. And the reason that it doesn't have those features is because there isn't a whole lot of demand from it from iPod customers (as opposed to random bloggers), not because of an evil Apple conspiracy.

Friday, February 25, 2005

This post cracked by social engineering...

I realized what a big deal the T-Mobil/Paris Hilton hack was when I overheard the guy who is basically the equivilant of CIO in my organization discussing it. Now, of course, there is the stolen Fred Durst video (info here.

I'm wondering if this really was a hack or breach of T-Mobile's security in regards to the Hilton sidekick thing. After all, the bottom of the webpage that hosted it reads

The previous information was obtained using social engineering tactics.

Social engineering isn't usually straight-up codebreaking. It usually involves tricking someone into thinking you are someone who should have access to info - ie calling a helpdesk and pretending you need your password reset or those paypal and ebay phishing spoofs that pretend to be from legit organizations to get your info.

I will be very curious to see how this stuff was actually obtained - and I'm guessing it may not be from an actual technical hack.

BTW, for you pervs, the videos and corresponding webpages are here - NOT SAFE FOR WORK - or anywhere else, for that matter.

Wagglepop fizzles...

The first I heard of Wagglepop is this post on it's demise. They apparently launched this week as an ebay alternative but then quickly and oddly shut it down.

The founder, Ray Romeo, sounds a little unhinged:

Rest in Peace," read in part, "What started out as an interesting challenge has instead become the most painful, personal few months of my life, and my confidence in what I believed about faith and humanity are shaken and shattered... perhaps forever." The post indicated he would shut down the servers, reformat the drives, "destroying any and all personal data."

...he said the site was the victim of a DDOS attack.

"I closed Wagglepop as quickly as I could once the decision was made, in the way I found proper." Romeo added, "The site closed as soon as I realized my family, and myself, could be at risk. I'd like not to speak of this further.....I'm shaken and I'm done with it."

The shutting down the data thing seemed kind of creepy, as does the "faith in humanity" thing. But the "family at risk" thing in response to a Distributed Denial of Service attack on his web servers seems very strange. What, was he worried his kids would be injured by flying packets or crashing hard drives?

I guess you have to be a little crazy to challenge eBay. I'm an ethusiastic eBay seller, and while I feel their listing fees are a little high, they are still really the only game in town. They have way more customers than any other site. If it wasn't for them, there probaly wouldn't be an online marketplace. I have made a decent amount of money selling stuff on eBay, and I've gotten cash for stuff that otherwise would have been trash or would still be sitting in the back of a closet.

eBay has a huge advantage in terms of network effect. If you are a buyer, it's where the sellers are, and if you are a seller it's where the buyers are. Buyers won't jump to another auction site unless there is lots of stuff for sale, and seller's won't jump unless there are enough customers to bid their items higher. Just like a phone is useless if nobody else has one, an auction site is useless unless a lot of buyers and sellers use it.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Has the Baltimore Townhall Meetup been hijacked?

A while ago on I stumbled on their Meetup group and signed up. I don't usually read Townhall, except when someone else links to it. I've just never found any columnists there who really grabbed me, and their site design isn't exactly the greatest (not like I can talk). Still, the idea of meeting other conservatives in Baltimore seemed appealing. I signed up for the email list, but I never got around to going to any of the meetings - at first because they were at night when I worked the night shift, and after that because my time was being taken up doing homework and going to class.

I've gotten two emails from the list recently that have puzzled me. They show up under announcements on the Baltimore Townhall Meetup Group.

The firs was talking about a campaigning for paper ballots and audits of DIBOLD voting machines. That was traditionally a Democrat complaint - the idea that, because the Diebold CEO was a vocal Republican, he would rig all the machines. But while I don't think there is a conspiracy regarding voting machines, you could argue that fair voting benefits everyone.

But the second email was even stranger - it talked about a Democracy For America grassroots workshop. The word "grassroots" usually means "smelly hippie", so this seemed odd. It seemed even odder when I visited the Democracy for America website and learned the following:

Inspired by the presidential campaign of Howard Dean, Democracy for America (DFA) is a political action committee dedicated to supporting fiscally responsible, socially progressive candidates at all levels of government—from school board to the presidency. DFA fights against the influence of the far right-wing and their radical, divisive policies and the selfish special interests that for too long have dominated our politics. DFA has a long-term goal that looks past November 2004. This organization will rebuild the Democratic Party from the bottom up—it will take time, but we must start building a base now for the future.

Fight the far right and their radical policies? I thought the point of Townhall was to promote the "far right" and our "radical" policies.

I can't figure out what's going on. Did the group leader figure that if he infiltrated and moved leftward a conservative meetup that he would eliminate a means of conservatives to work together? Did he have no idea what Townhall was? Or does he consider himself a conservative while embracing far-left causes? Or is that what passes for a conservative in Baltimore?

I should have known that Baltimore wouldn't house a whole lot of Republicans, but it's pretty strange when the members of a right-wing's website's meetup group turns out to be, as far as I can gather, filled with Deaniacs.


I've expressed my displeasure with snow in the past, and it's demonstrated itself again. It snowed here in Baltimore. I got no time off from work out of it. I did have my grad class cancelled. While I'm glad I didn't have to make the 45 minute drive to the grad center, this creates more issues - we have a final next week, and I was going to do a presentation this week.

So once again, it's snowed, but it hasn't really benefited me. Grrrr...

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Scenes from work, part 1492....

Contractor: (hanging up the phone with a student caller) Did I handle that call OK?

Mad Anthony: Yup, it sounded good. The way I see it, if they didn't tell you that they are going to call their parents or your manager, or that they hope you die, I consider it a win...

Monday, February 21, 2005

Photoblogging, or is it booze-blogging...

Last week, I was screwing around with digital camera to get the picture for my RePlay post. I had a Yankee candle (Hazelnut coffee - the smell of it always makes me crave donuts) lit on the ledge of my fireplace. I also have a couple bottles of liquor on the ledge, and I thought it was kind of a cool effect, so I took a couple pics. Here's one:

Rum by candlelight

Hey, you forgot to cut that corner...

I was taking care of some money business on PayPal and noticed a rather oddly worded ad for one of their stores. I'm guessing that English isn't their native language, or else they are the most honest crappy computer store in the world:


Sunday, February 20, 2005

What? I don't get to keep this DVD forever?

EDIT: Welcome Overlawyerd readers. Hope you like this post, and I hope consider checking out the rest of my blog, with posts on everything from online shopping to donuts.


New Jersey, mad anthony's old home slice, is suing Blockbuster for fraud for their end of late fees ad campaign. Slashdot discussion here.

NJ has been very busy "protecting consumers" of late - I've posted before about them suing Circuit City, and suing Nissan for putting headlights on cars that thieves like.

All these cases are against national companies, but as far as I can tell NJ is the only state to move against them.

Blockbuster does tell you in their FAQ that seven days after the due date, they will convert the rental into a sale and charge you for it. Seems fair - and if you are planning on keeping the DVD a week past when it's due, maybe you should check into the policy. I mean, do people really think that they would never have any penalty for not returning their DVD? If there wasn't, WHY THE HECK WOULD ANYONE EVER RETURN A RENTAL IF THEY COULD KEEP IT FOREVER WITH NO COST?

I have to say that if this is the worst business practice that the state of NJ can find to complain about, capitalism has proven itself to be pretty effective and self-regulating. I don't see anything wrong with government going after business that are actually involved in defrauding customers, but the Blockbuster and Circuit City cases are ones where customers are failing to do their due diligence in reading the fine print and asking questions - and in the Blockbuster case, leaping to unreasonable conclusions. (The Nissan case makes even less sense, but it's a different kind of illogic).

What makes me most nervous about this kind of government involvement is it is punishing not only businesses, but the majority of consumers who are intelligent enough to read and understand the terms. Lawsuits like this put a chilling effect on companies coming up with innovative ideas - especially ones that benefit some people, but are complicated and not easily understood by all consumers. Most Blockbuster customers are smart enough to know that they will have to return their DVD at some point - but NJ feels the need to stick up for those who are too dumb to figure that out.

Yet another terrorist tape...

Ayman al-Zawahiri has released another tape about how he's going to destroy us all and the like. Do you notice that when actual terrorist attacks (ie 9/11) happened, they didn't announce them? And that every time a tape comes out, nothing happens? These tapes are almost a sign that the terrorists don't have anything planned or going on, so they need to talk. Think of it as a Microsoft press release.

Al-Z uses the tape to complain that the U.S will model Iraqi reforms on prisons for terrorists:

He said that reform proposed by Washington would be based on the US prison camps in Cuba and in Afghanistan (news - web sites), as well as the Iraqi prison of Abu Ghraib, where US troops' abuse of Iraqi prisoners shocked the world.

The funny thing is that is probably accurate - and a sign of how things in Iraq are improving. See, when Saddam was in power, prison was not just for criminals, it was for anyone that Saddam disagreed with. This included children of political dissidents. And prison was often followed by torture and death. And it was real torture - cutting off limbs, throwing off buildings, running through paper shredders - not putting panties on your head and laughing at you.

So if we have replaced Saddam's prisons, which imprisoned political prisoners and tortured them, with prisons that contain terrorists, and where treatment, if not perfect, is way more humane than Saddam's ever where, I think we are doing pretty good.

Don't jam my cell, jerk...

New Yorkers are having fun jamming each other's cell phones, thanks to stores selling jammers that cut off cell signals. The jammers are illegal under FCC regulations because they interfere with emergency communications.

As much as I dislike government regulation, this makes sense. It also seems to make a good case for the FCC enforcing this - think of what a great tool this is for would-be terrorists. Blow up a bomb, and then jam cell signals so nobody can call for help, and so rescue can't call each other.

But ignoring the national security implications, the people who are jamming cell phones are jerks. For the record, mad anthony isn't the kind of person who talks on his cell much in public, mostly because he doesn't have anyone to talk to. But I don't see a huge difference between talking on your cell and talking to the person next to you. Would you cover the mouth of someone talking to their friend on a train or in front of you in a line? If not, then what gives you the right to do it to someone on the phone? (If you answered yes, then you should plan on being arrested for assault in the near future). Throw in the fact that some people have very good reasons for cell phone conversations (checking up on their kids/parents, dealing with an emergency, letting a loved one know where they are so that they don't worry, ect).

From the article:
One local purchaser bought a portable jammer last year, and said he likes using it at Roosevelt Field mall on Long Island. "One time I followed this guy around for 20 minutes," he said. "I kept zapping him and zapping him, until finally he threw the phone on the floor. I couldn't stop laughing. It was so cool."

Thanks, "local purchaser". As pathetic as my life is, at least I have better things to do than harrass local cell phone users - like post on this blog.

Friday, February 18, 2005

A day off...

I took today off from work. My workplace doesn't let me acculmulate more than 2 weeks of vacation - 75 hours - at a time. When I looked at my pay stub, last week, I had 74.45 hours of vacation. Time for Mad Anthony to take a day off...

A day off - I haven't taken many, and most of them have been around holidays, so I'm driving to my parent's house anyway. I worked nights for my first year and a half, so I got in the habit of not taking vacation, because taking time off would mean making someone else cover my shift. At one point I actually was maxed out and lost vacation time. So the concept of a day off still seems strange - to not come to work, but still get paid as if I did. It's kind of wierd when you think about it - and having spent a couple summers in college as a temp, where a vacation day was a day without pay, it still strikes me as odd.

My first thought was that I would spend a day doing absolutly nothing - sleeping late, drinking beer, and watching TV. Then I realized that there were a ton of things I should do - errands, cleaning, homework, ect. Of course, I wound up somewhere in the middle- I got some errands done, a small amount of cleaning (I now have a 2x2 foot square of floor that doesn't have crap piled on it instead of a 1x1 square). I also slept late and watched a ton of TV

I'm taking off again in 2 weeks to drive up to NJ and visit the family, since I haven't seen them in around 2 months and since I figure while I will go up there for Easter, it will probably be too hectic to spend much time with them. It's the first weekend of spring break, so it seems like a good time (even though I have a take-home exam for one of my classes due that week).

Peer to peer and kiddie porn...

You got to like the fact that the National Review can disagree with themselves. I agree with Adler that Nance and crew are wrong that peer to peer file sharing (Kaazza, Grokster, et al) should be banned because they are used to facilitate child porn transfer. Their complaint is that peer to peer albums have a hands-off attitude to what files are traded on their networks so they don't get sued for coppered violations - and that means that child porn can be exchanged on them as well. They believe that P2P should be shut down for faciliating the transfer of child porn.

They are probably right that it is easier to transfer child porn thanks to p2p. But there are lots of technological advancements that make it easier to create and transfer child porn.

Some examples:
-digital video cameras
-vcr's and dvd players
-cd burners and dvd burners
-the internet
-IRC and newsgroups
-Windows XP
-flash drives
-digital cameras
-compact flash memory

... and a host of other things. If we crack down on peer-to-peer because it facilitates child porn transfers, then are we starting a slippery slope. Will we ban VCR's because they can be used to watch kiddie porn, or video cameras because they can tape it? Or Photoshop and iMovie because it can be used to edit it? Will people have to start showing ID before they buy a camcorders?

When we start banning technology for what it can do, or might do, or is sometimes used for, we are overstepping the bounds of what government should do, and setting a dangerous precedent.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Why would anyone move to Baltimore, anyway?

Russ Smith, who apparently is a fellow Baltimoron, asks Why would anyone want to move to Baltimore now? in today's WSJ OpinionJournal.

Most of the article deals with the Baltimore Sun suit against Governor Ehrlich for banning a couple Sun reporters who he felt represented him unfairly. They claimed First Ammendment violations, and lost. Of course, getting interview's with the governor's staff is a privildge, not a right. Claiming that losing those privlidges is a first ammendment violation would be like me accusing girls of gender discrimination for not going out with me.

He is right, though, that the Sun is a horrible paper. I do admit to buying it once a week (the early Sunday edition on Saturday nights), but only for the circulars, coupons, and real estate listings. The news part goes in the trash. I remeber a Sun headline a while ago, front page Sunday, comparing the war in Iraq to the Vietnam war. This was about 4 days after the fighting started. No jumping to conclusions there.

So why did Mad Anthony move to Baltimore, anyway? College first, and then a job at said college. But he is right that the city of Baltimore doesn't do a whole lot to attract intellegent, middle-class residents (something I plan to look at in a future post) and that Baltimore has a lot of political problems. While the city has been improving in a lot of places, it still has a lot of growth to do - and it would be nice if it had a more balanced government. When I voted for city councilperson for my district, my choices were between a Dem and a Green - no Republican even bothered running. (I voted for the green, figuring correctly that the Dem would win by a huge margin anyway). A single party in power leads to corruption and stagnation, and Baltimore has been going through a number of scandles of late - a school board president who was paying a chauffer $100,000 to drive her to work, a police chief who was using tax money to fund his mistress, and the like. I bet having a second party would balance that out, but that isn't going to happen anytime soon.

Listen to the pornographer, he's making sense..

The White House has decided to reinstate an appeal of an indictment of a pornographer.

I find myself agreeing with the porno guy:
You'd think our government has a lot more things to worry about with the war in Iraq

Now, mad anthony understands that some people find pr0n to be offensive, and from the article it sounds like the pr0n in question is probably among the most offensive. But any time you get beyond the obviously illegal (ie kiddie porn), you are getting into judgement calls about who finds what is obscene. And quite frankly, I think the government has a lot more important things to do then try to figure out what is offensive enough to be illegal and what isn't. If consenting adults want to buy videos of other consenting adults doing stuff with each other, should the government really be stepping in?

Protecting the U.S. from terrorism and fixing the clusterfarg that is social security are things that I think should be high priorities for the government. Deciding the difference between obscene pr0n and regular old pr0n shouldn't be.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

I hate when hot chicks turn out to be guys...

Last month, I was all psyched because a blogger named LibertarianGirl linked one of my posts. A hot chick, and one who lived in DC, an hour away from Mad Anthony (well, 4 hours if you're driving at rush hour), linking my posts. It was even better than the day I discovered I was on the blogroll of Moxie - especially since Moxie's blogroll is probably set to recipricate links automatically.

But alas, it turns out that libertariangirl is in fact a dude, and that the hot chick in the corner of her blog was ripped off of a russian mail-order bride site.

So alas, I can no longer brag about being linked by a hot chick. And bragging about being linked by a dude pretending to be a hot chick is kinda creepy.

Scenes from work, volume 42...

Mad Anthony (on phone): Control Alt Delete... yes, you hold down the control and alt keys and hit the delete key... yes there is a delete key... it's on the right side of the keyboard... it says delete on it...

Coworker (after mad a hangs up phone): Are you serious?

Mad Anthony: Yes. That's the same woman, btw, who once asked me if we offered classes that taught when to right click and when to left click.

Coworker: That's great...

Mad Anthony: I guess as long as there are people like her, I will always have a job. A job that makes me want to shoot myself in the head, but a job nonetheless...

Monday, February 14, 2005

Scenes from home, volume 1

Mad Anthony's roomate: What's that smell? Are you smoking a cigar?

mad anthony: (puffing on an Oro Cubano Aniversario) yup.

roomate: Good. I was worried there was an electrical fire or something....

mad anthony is not a gay hooker, but so what if he was?

Mad Anthony had a rough day of work, and came home to notice the blogosphere exploding over the Jeff Gannon gay porn story. Summaries at Instapundit and Protein Wisdom. The post that started this all is here (warning: contains nudity and unfounded speculation).

It's important to separate the three big "revelations" about Jeff - he may have at one point been a gay prostitute, he may have been a White House plant, and he may have leaked Valarie Plume's name. All of these are very unsubstatiated - the Plume claims have little basis, the gay-hooker things are based on claims from an anonymous source (just like the Rather memos!) and the plant story is unlikely, but not exactly a huge revelation even if it was true (the White House trying to look good at a press conference - oh, the humanity).

But lets say the gay hooker thing is true- why does the left feel the need to push this? Should the White House be vetting every reporter to make sure they weren't at some point a gay hooker? Should all journalists be investigated like that - isn't it an invasion of privacy?

It also should make anyone who runs a blog a little nervous about what might happen if they piss off the wrong people - to have things that they don't want to be public come out on the internet. This seems to have no goal except punishing a blogger/reporter for being too Bush-favorable. Jeff's resigned, and the Plume thing will stand or fall (probably fall) on it's own. The "gay hooker" story, real or fake, serves only to destroy this guy. And actions like that should make anyone, be they on the right or left, nervous.

Ever do anything you regret? An embarassing pic from years ago of you engaging in underaged drinking? A speeding ticket? Smoke some weed? Got some porn on your PC? Make the mistake of having the wrong opinion and the wrong people finding out about it, and it could be all over the internet.

The left has complained about bloggers for attacking Rather and Eason, even though those blog "attacks" were not personal. The Jeff Gannon attacks are personal, and they serve no purpose but personal destruction. That is a chilling effect on citizen journalists of any stripe.

My RePlay loves me.... does your DVR love you?

I often talk on this blog about my RePlay. I feel that it has had a ton of more innovative features than Tivo, and hasn't gotten one-tenth the attention. And it really has changed the way I watch TV.

It also has a ton of odd backdoor tricks that can be accessed via the Clawfoot Portal. Another nifty thing is that every Valentine's Day, the little red circles that show that a show is scheduled to record are replaced by hearts. I took a pic.

(and yes, I watch Veronica Mars - and you should too. It's quality television. And yes, my TV is a Proscan, RCA's short-lived "high end brand", which at one point was rated by Consumer Reports as twice as likely to break as any other TV. Yet I've never had a problem with it, and it's survived 5 years, half a dozen moves, and lots of college stupidity).

I (heart) city life - it makes for great blog posts...

I live in Resevoir Hill, an "emerging neighborhood" (ie ghetto) in Baltimore City. It makes for great stories. While my stories aren't as good as my ex-roomate BSOM, who while he lived here had a)someone try to sell him a 5 gallon bucket of paint and b)someone ask him for money so they could buy crack so a girl would have sex with them.

This week has been interesting so far. The building next to me has been abandoned for years, and they just started working on it a few months ago. I roll up from work/errands on Saturday night, and a guy who is working on the house asks me to call him and the police if I hear anyone trying to break in, because he's seen some guy walking around and he doesn't want anyone jacking his tools. Fine, although quite frankly my entire block could exlode and I probably wouldn't notice, given the size of my building and my propensity to listen to music and TV at top volume.

Today I roll up and park and am greeted by two Ann Arundle County police officers asking me questions about the building next door to me, such as if I'd noticed a certain vehicle. In typical Baltimore City fashion, while they are at it they notice an old Toyota Camry that hasn't moved in weeks (it's already sporting two parking tickets) which apparently is stolen but not connected to whatever they are looking into. They also ask mad anthony to try to find out "who is doing work on the house" if he sees anyone working on it. Hmm - pump people with possible criminal connections who know where I live for information to turn over to the po-po. I think I am more likely to stab hot skewers into my eyballs.

See, I bet you suburban dwellers, with your fancy driveways and backyards and your ability to ability to use multiple appliances at the same time without blowing a fuse never have this much drama. It's like a soap opera, except nobody has amnesia and there is the possibility you might get shot. This is why mad anthony is seriously thinking of buying a house, and if he does it will either be in Baltimore County or so far on the edges of Baltimore City that it might as well be in the County.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Will the subscription model beat out iTunes?

Slashdot has an article on Napster's buisiness model compared to iTunes. I decided to expand my +5 post into a blog post.

The "new" Napster - which shares nothing in common with the old Napster P2P service but the name - uses a subscription model. You get "all you can download" for $15 a month, but only as long as you continue your subscription. Once you cancel, all your music goes bye-bye. With iTunes, you pay 99 cents a song, but you get to keep it. Napster's DRM (Digital Rights Managment, the stuff that prevents you from "pirating" your music - which also prevents you from using it how you want) is also very restrictive compared to iTunes - and it doesn't work with the most popular MP3 player out their, a little music player called the iPod. The Napster CEO, in fact, called iPod owners "stupid" - probably not a good way to attract the early adopters your business needs.

The Napster CEO says that the Napster model is closer to the P2P experience than iTunes. True, you can download as much as you want in Napster - but you have to pay for it, and you can't do what you want with it. That, of course, is why people use P2P - because it's free and you can do what you want with the music. Take those two things away, and all you are left with is the Napster name and the cat-with-headphones logo.

I haven't tried out the new Napster, but I have tried out another service built around the same "all you can download, but you can't keep it" model - a service called CDigix. I got to use it because the college I work for has recently signed a deal with them that gives all our undergrad students free access to the subscription. It's OK, but I doubt I would use it if I had to pay for it. They do have a fair amount of music, the quality seems decent (at least from the crappy internal speakers in my office machine), and downloads are very fast. However, I've got my complaints. The interface design is pretty bad, it has a habit of kicking you out or not letting you in at random times, it only works in Internet Explorer on Windows, and like Napster, the music is DRM'ed WMA's (Windows Media Player format) and doesn't work with an iPod. Also, there is a lot of music they don't have. I can understand not having an entire album by an artist, but there are artists where they have every song except the hit one. For example, they have multiple Sir-Mix-a-Lot albums, including the one that Baby Got Back is on - but not Baby Got Back. They have the Lucas album Lucascentric, but not the one "hit" off the album, "Lucas With the Lid Off".

There is one thing that may allow CDigix to suceed where Napster might not. CDigix gets most of it's customers from colleges, who pay directly. That means they don't need to attract their actual end-users, the students, but rather colleges.

I think that the large installed base of the iPod/iTunes, combined with the fact that there are a ton of P2P services that still exist (eMule, WinMX, Bittorrent, Kaazza) will make it difficult for Napster to succeed. Those who want lots of music will continue stealing from P2P (including your truly) while the rest will use iTunes (as well as buying and ripping CD's). Napster may get a few users based on name, but most users aren't used to the idea of paying for music, but not getting to keep it or use it how they want.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

A tale of two journalists...

I haven't really been following the whole Eason Jordan thing - but InstaPundit has a huge roundup. I also haven't followed the Jeff Ganon/Talon News kerfuffle either. But it's interesting to contrast the two.

On Wednesday and Thursday, I take grad classes. Because of my schedule, I usually get to campus about an hour or so early, and hang out in a student lounge and drink a cup of coffee while checking email and websurfing on my PowerBook. The last two days, the huge plasma TV in the lounge has been tuned to CNN. And they have had lengthy segments both times on Jeff Gannon.

To me, the Jeff Gannon thing is a tempest in a teapot. A guy who is a "confessed Republican" asks a softball and not entirely accurate question at a presidential press conference. It turns out he also years ago registered some gay porn domain names. He gets accused of being a White House plant, despite the fact that he was on a day pass because the White House didn't think that he was enough of a journalist to get normal press credentials. Enough liberal bloggers start posting his information that he quits. And this is news for days on CNN.

Meanwhile, CNN's own chief news executive - a high level guy in an institution that is the mainstream media, accuses U.S. troops of intentionally killing journalists at a major conference. He stonewalls, refuses to admit anything or allow the tapes to be released, and eventually quits under the pressure from the blogosphere, despite minimal to nonexistent coverage by the mainstream media. Now, it's not shocking that CNN wouldn't air a 20 minute segment about their own chief news executive's stupid and baseless statement, but it's interesting that the ravings and conspiracy theories of the Daily Kos about a conservative blogger/reporter who I had never heard of until a couple days ago merits mutliple lengthy segments.

The campus I go to has CNN on a lot, and many of the segments - like a very lengthy segment about an anti-war mom whose son was killed in Iraq, and who has become basically a career protester - make me cringe. Those who think that there is no "liberal" media or media bias have become blind to how much there is on mainstream stations like CNN.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Ah, good old Baltimore politics...

I've had a certain amount of respect for Martin O'Malley, who is the mayor of Baltimore. He seems like a decent guy (for a Democrat), and there have been some improvements in the last couple years during his mayor-hood.

But his recent comments comparing Bush's budget cuts to Bin Laden make my blood boil:

"Back on September 11, terrorists attacked our metropolitan cores, two of America's great cities. They did that because they knew that was where they could do the most damage and weaken us the most," O'Malley said. "Years later, we are given a budget proposal by our commander in chief, the president of the United States. And with a budget ax, he is attacking America's cities. He is attacking our metropolitan core."

Well, first of all, I don't think Al-Quaeda attacked the Twin Towers and the Pentagon because they hate city life. They attacked them because the Twin Towers were a huge financial center, and because the Pentagon is the control center for the military. Granted, those kinds of things tend to be in cities, and if you want to kill as many people as possible you are going to aim for a place with lots of people, like a city, but I don't think that the AQ are attacking cities because they hate having lots of Thai places that deliver nearby.

I recognize that being the mayor of a city means trying to get as much money as possible from the federal government. City governments depend on this money since they don't have a whole lot of tax base (crack addicts don't own a lot of property). But comparing the President to terrorists, or saying that cuts in food stamps and heat subsidies is the equivilant of killing 3000 people in cold blood.

Maybe MadAnthony needs to get sent to GitMo...

Via Drudge, terroist detainees at Gitmo are griping about the horrible tourture that they've endured from Americans to get them to talk about who they going to try to kill next.

What horrific acts did they endure?

he prisoners have told their lawyers, who compiled the accounts, that female interrogators regularly violated Muslim taboos about sex and contact with women. The women rubbed their bodies against the men, wore skimpy clothes in front of them, made sexually explicit remarks and touched them provocatively, at least eight detainees said in documents or through their attorneys.

..confirmed one case in which an Army interrogator took off her uniform top and paraded around in a tight T-shirt to make a Guantanamo detainee uncomfortable, and other cases in which interrogators touched the detainees suggestively, the senior Pentagon official said.

Scantily clad women? Oh, the humanity! Mad Anthony thinks he's going to start growing a beard, wearing one of those head things, and talking about the streets running red with blood. It seems to get the attention of the ladies.

Seriously, though, if the worst torture that the U.S. has inflicted on enemy combatants in GitMo is chicks in tight shirts, I think we still have the moral high ground. Keep in mind that there are "insurgents" in Iraq cutting the heads off of civilians. Compared to that, a female interrogator touching the willy of someone who may have info about the next terrorist attack doesn't phase me.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

I've adopted endangered gizmos...

Via Virginia Postrel comes the Electronic Frontier Foundation's list of endangered and extinct gizmos.

I think it's funny that out of the 5 extinct products, I own or have used three of them. The features that got SonicBlue sued in the RePlay 4000 - internet sharing and commercial skip - are also present in my RePlay 5060. (I'm kind of surprised that they didn't mention DVArchive and the current 5500 series Show|Nav feature, which is similar to commercial skip - but maybe they didn't want RePlay to get sued again).

I have a copy of DVD XCopy, which I bought because it was $5 after rebate. It's the old, pre-lawsuit version. To be honest, I've never used it, since I've never really had a reason to copy an encrypted DVD.

I also was a big Napster user back in the day. It first came out when I was a sophmore in college, and I remember what a huge improvement it was in the previous ways of getting music - FTP and a website called that searched windows shares. I also remember getting kicked off a few months later for having 2 or 3 Metallica songs, which pissed me off because I had the username "madanthony", with no numbers after it. I used LimeWire for a while, then eventually reformated my hard drive, reinstalled windows, and re-signed up for Napster, and used it until the service got shut down. I then switched to Kazzaa (*shudder*), Kazzaa Lite, WinMX, and eMule.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Matt Groening, lawyers, and Futurama...

instapundit is linking this post on lawyers in The Simpsons, based on this Minnesota Bar post.

I'm not a big fan of some of the political views in the bar post, where they complain about the comoditization of legal services. But the Simpsons quotes are good.

I think it's also interesting that the same interest in the legal field show up in Matt Groening's other show, the short-lived but funny Futurama.

The best of this legal dialog comes from Insane in the Membrane. In it, the judge is a very rich guy who doesn't care about those up for trial. At one point, he says that he has been told that a bank "is a place where people keep money that has not been properly invested, and thus robbing a bank is tantamount to that most heinous of crimes, theft of money. Another great quote is this:

Fry: "You're right. You're right. It was ..." *phone rings*
Judge: "Yes? What? You say if I testify I'll be killed? Oh, it's for you."
Roberto: "And the other hamburger will also be made of your lungs. So long pal."
Fry: "I refuse to testify on the grounds that my organs will be chopped up into a patty."
Judge: "Ah, the 67th amendment"

In the below quote, the "Councellor" is a giant mutated chicken with a southern accent, known as the Hyperchicken. It's one of those things you have to watch to appreciate.

Judge: "Counsellor, what evidence do you offer to support this new plea of insanity?"
Counsellor: "Well, for one, they done hired me to represent them."
Judge: "Insanity plea is accepted!"

Another episodes that come to mind as involving trials are "A Tale of Two Santas, where Bender is cross-examines a witness:

Bender: "Isn't it true that you have been paid for your testimony?"
Girl: "Yes. You gave me a dollar and some candy."
Bender: "And yet you haven't said what I told you to say! How can any of us trust you?"

Brannigan Begin Again also contains a trial in front of DOOP (the Democratic Order Of Planets, an intergalatical UN).

What's the point of this post? I'm not sure, but it seems to suggest that a)Matt Groening has an interest in legal proceedings and b)Mad Anthony likes to make posts that involve the word "Hyperchicken".

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Why I hate Valentine's Day...

I like most holidays. Christmas, Thanksgiving, memorial day, 4th of July, Easter - food, family, time off, and gifts. What more could I want?

But there's one holiday that always kicks mad anthony in the nuts every year. It has none of the things above. Rather, it serves as a reminder of mad anthony's total inability to immersed with members of the opposite sex. I'm talking, of course, about Valentine's Day.

Now, I understand that those who are in relationships like it as a chance to show the person they care about that they, well, care about them. But for the perennially single, it's just a reminder that they are spending yet another year alone. It's like a day for those in relationships to remind those that aren't how much they suck.

It wouldn't be so bad if it was just one day. But Valentine's Day merchandise has been in stores since early January, while the last pieces of pine needles were being swept from the Christmas clearance isle. Every time I go to buy toilet paper and frozen pizza, it reminds me that I have nobody to share a giant heart-shaped box of chocolate with.

Even the Sunday sales circulars that I peruse in the hopes of finding stuff I can resell on eBay for a profit serves to mock me. The entire Target circular this week was done in a red Valentine's Day theme, complete with red coffeemakers and red Kitchenaid mixers. The back of the Best Buy circular featured a graphic of a box of chocolates, only the chocolates had been replaced with crappy romanantic movie DVD's, mostly starring Julia Roberts. (As a side note, how could a movie that starts out with a rich guy in a Lotus picking up a hooker turn into a romance? To me, it sounds like the start of a porno).

Of course, being single on Valentine's Day has it's advantages. No having to spend a ton of money on gifts, flowers, or dinner. And I do like one thing about Valentine's Day - those heart-shaped boxes of chocolate eventually go to 75% off after V-Day. Granted, it always makes me feel a little pathetic sitting alone in my underwear cramming my mouth full of 75% off candy from a heart-shaped box that I bought myself, but after the first couple boxes I'm too sick to my stomach to care....

Salad Days...

Convenience foods. The phrase normally brings to mind things that are bad for you, and usually don't taste very good - the kind of stuff you cook in a gas station convenience store microwave.

But technology has also made it possible to eat way better way easier. I pondered this yesterday while making a salad. Now, I'm usually not a salad kind of guy. I like my food deep fried and covered with bacon. However, I've been trying to eat better on occasion, so I've been trying to eat salad for dinner once or twice a week. There are two products that make this possible.

The first is salad-in-a-bag - you know, the shredded lettuce and stuff in a bag. Whoever got the idea of making this stuff gets mad props from mad anthony. There is no way I would buy two kinds of lettuce, carrots, radishes, and cabbage and wash and cut it. For one thing I'm lazy, and for another most of it would wind up going bad and getting thrown out before I get around to eating it.

Another somewhat healthy product I give props to is precooked chicken - you know, the ready to eat chunks or strips of chicken. Great to top a salad with. I can't imagine eating a salad without some kind of meat product on the top, and the chicken is fairly easy and convenient.

I also am impressed that it's possible to buy a decent "baguette" at grocery stores. As much as I dislike the French, they do have good ideas in the whole crusty bread category.

And now, I give you the "mad anthony" 5-minute bachelor salad recipe:

Take 1 largish bowl. Add half a bag of shredded prewashed salad of choice. Dump in half a package of ready-cooked chicken. Add some bacon bits (with half the fat of actual bacon!) and whatever cheese happens to be in the fridge. Top with low fat ranch dressing (I've been using Trader Joe's Parmesan ranch lately). Serve with a big chunk of French bread (or as I like to call it, Freedom Bread).

I usually have this two days in a row, using half the bread/chicken/salad one day and half the next).

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Why don't I ever get sexually harassed?

I've mentioned my MBA Ethics class before. Well, it just gets sillier. I was doing my homework (a rare occurrence, I know) in one of the books for the class. It discussed sexual harassment with a brief case study of "Marcia", the only woman who works for a department. Her male coworkers are frequently making comments and complements about "her apparel, her legs, her figure, and her manner of speaking" - which makes her feel uncomfortable.

The case is followed by this advice:

In cases like these, it's sometimes helpful to reverse the situation. Imagine that your department was predominately female and that the women continually said to the loan male "you're just a hunk" "we all get aroused when you bat your eyebrows" "That's a great suit you're wearing, those slacks really show off your gorgeous thighs". How ridiculous does that banter sound?

The first thought that went through this man's head was that would freakin Rock!. Which I'm guessing is not how I was supposed to react - but I'm sure I'm not the only guy who read that and reacted in that way.

Now, I'll agree that the initial case - in which "Marcia" complains about the comments but they continue - constitutes the legal definition of hostile-environment sexual harassment - and basic manners says if someone is pissed off enough at something you say to tell you that, you should probably stop. But the whole gender-switching exercise is dumb - guys and girls tend to react differently to flirting and sexually charged comments, and pretending that they both respond the same way - or should - seems pointless.

What? Are you saying killing people isn't fun?

A soldier is getting some grief for saying that
it's fun to shoot some people
. (first seen on NRO.

But it's interesting to read what he actually said:

"Actually, it's a lot of fun to fight. You know, it's a hell of a hoot. ... It's fun to shoot some people. I'll be right upfront with you, I like brawling."

He added, "You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn't wear a veil," Mattis continued. "You know, guys like that ain't got no manhood left anyway. So it's a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them."

So he's not saying that he enjoys killing people. He's saying that he enjoys killing evil people - people who abuse women, people who are oppressors. That's not a bad thing. That's what armies do - kill evildoers. I get the impression that the joy he gets from killing people isn't because he likes the act of killing in general, but because the people he is killing are evil.

Best. Backpack. Ever.

I bought a new backpack last week and I love it. I hate to be one of those people who brags about stuff I own, because it makes me think people will think I'm getting paid to blog about it or something - which couldn't be farther from the truth. If I was getting paid to blog, I could afford blog software that did trackbacks.

Anyway, it's out of stock, so you probably can't buy one anyway. It's a Rakgear
zero g
. I had thought about buying one for a while, and I guess I got lucky since it went OOS soon after. From what I understand, Rakgear sold out or licensed their stuff to Targus.

Anyway, this thing is phat. It multiple pockets, shoulder straps with shock absorbers built in, gel-filled pockets on the part that goes against your back, big mesh pockets on the side that will hold my travel mug, a very-well padded laptop sleeve, a plastic frame for holding books, and tons of space for everything. It is the most comfortable backpack I've ever had - it barely feels like it's on, even when it's full.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Yes, I have no ethics...

I'm taking two MBA-level classes this semester. One is Operations Managment, and the other is ethics. I hate the ethics class, because it keeps pointing out what a horribly evil person I am, at least by the standards of business ethics classes.

For example, we keep talking about the Ford Pinto case, and how Ford is evil for not recalling the Pinto and for using cost benefit analysis that assumed 180 fewer people would die with safer gas tanks, but that the cost of an $11 change applied to 13 million cars would be way more than the cost of 180 deaths.

From a business perspective, I'll agree that the Pinto decision was bad, since Ford lost a ton of money. I have trouble seeing their decision as horribly unethical, however. Cars can always be made safer, but that costs money and intrudes on things that people want. You could reduce accidents by putting a 55mph speed governor on a car, or a NASCAR style roll cage, or surrounding the whole thing with the stuff they make Nerf footballs out of - but I don't think it's unethical that companies don't do those things. And good luck selling your Nerf-car when other companies are selling better looking cars that are made out of steel.

One of our short cases in class yesterday was software piracy, where several students expressed how bad software piracy was. Mad Anthony, meanwhile, was sitting in front of his Powerbook, with it's pirated copy of Panther, not to mention the two pirated copies of Windows installed in Virtual PC, while his Windows XP machine in his apartment was at that moment downloading gigs of pirated movies and TV shows off of eMule and his iPod full of illegal MP3's sat in his bookbag, ready for the drive home.

I don't think I'm a bad person. After all, several women have told me what a nice guy I am - but of course, that was always followed with a "but your not my type".

Seriously, though, I don't really see the point of grad-level business ethics. Despite what they say,I doubt that ethics change much for 20 or 30 somethings, and I find it hard to believe that it's going to be 14 weeks of class that changes ones worldview after not responding to culture, enviroment, religion, and the like. I wonder if some of my clasmates are as ethical as they like to say they are in class, if their responses to questions are really identical to what they would do in that situations. Maybe everyone's a jerk, but I'm the only one who admits it.

(For another interesting look at "corporate social responsibility", which always seems to go hand in hand with business ethics, check out this OpinionJournal column- if only to see Angelina Jolie rendered as a Wall Street Journal line drawing.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Does every product have to be a world-beater?

via InstaPundit comes an article calling the iPod Shuffle a value-subtracted product.

No doubt they'll still sell millions, such is Apple's brand and momentum. But I don't think the Shuffle will have anything like the impact of the original iPod itself.

Well, keep in mind the original Apple iPod was hugely innovative. It invented a new product category, the easily portable large hard drive MP3 player. Before the iPod, there were hard drive based MP3 players, but they were huge - imagine a desktop hard drive in a case. There were also flash-based MP3 players with manual storage space. The iPod was the first to combine a sizeable hard drive with a compact device, and with a clean interface to boot.

The Shuffle is not a whole product category the way the original iPod was. But that doesn't mean that Apple shouldn't have made it. There are a ton of reasons for Apple to produce it:

- It gives Apple an entry in the market for people who want an MP3 player, but don't want to spend $250 or more. Without the Shuffle, these people would either buy another brand or no MP3 player at all.

- It fulfills a need for those who need a flash-based MP3 player - ie those who exercise or for other reasons don't want to carry a hard drive around with them.

- It gives Apple a low-end MP3 player that works with their iTunes music store. While iTunes isn't going to make Apple rich, it is profitable. Every iPod, be it shuffle or not, is another music device that can play iTunes, and the more people who can play iTunes, the more Apple will make from iTunes.

The author also sees the fact that the Shuffle doesn't have an LCD or lots of storage space. The fact is that flash memory is way more expensive than the micro hard drives in the iPod and iPod mini, so making a flash-based device with that much memory would be cost-prohibitive. But there are advantages to flash devices - smaller size and no hard drive to damage. The LCD screen is a personal decision. I tend to think an LCD on a device as tiny as the iPod shuffle would not be a very good LCD. It would add cost, bulk, and not a whole lot of functionality.

I really take issue with the idea that a product that is not a groundbreaker shouldn't be produced, which is the sense I get from the author's last couple paragraphs. But most products aren't groundbreakers, but that doesn't mean they don't fulfill very real needs for some people, as well as make their companies lots of money. In the early 90's, Ford introduced the Explorer. It wasn't all that innovative - other competitors like Jeep had been making mid-sized 4-door SUV's since 1984. But Ford sold millions of them a year - at one point they were the best-selling vehicle in America. The Explorer wasn't that innovative, but it made Ford buckets of money. And that's what making a product is all about.