mad anthony

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

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Scenes from work, people-have-eyes edition

Coworker1: Hey, someone left a DVD in this laptop. It's Blue Crush.

Coworker2: Hey, that's the movie with that chick with the two colored eyes in it. That's hot.


Coworker1(talking to laptopP: No, I don't want to watch Blue Crush. I want to use Windows.

Mad Anthony: But that's the movie with the chick with two eyes.

Coworker3: You do realize most girls have two eyes?

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Scenes from work, slashdot edition...

Coworker: Did you see the Slashdot article on people's reaction to data loss? People will do all kinds of things to their computers when they crash, including yell at them and sweet-talk them. One resturant manager even got pissed and threw his laptop into a deep fryer.

Mad Anthony: I've long thought that there were few things that couldn't be improved by deep frying... it's my answer to everything, too.

Monday, March 28, 2005

I guess eMule users are smarter...

Via Instapundit comes a Michelle Malkin article on people who are sharing their tax returns on peer-to-peer file sharing services. Michelle tried typing stuff in LimeWire and found a bunch of tax returns.

I'm always running eMule, so I decided to try a couple searches and see what came up:



I didn't see anything in either that clearly looked like a tax return. "tax" as a search word brought mostly pirated copies of TurboTax, along with some MP3's and other stuff. "1040" as a search brought up everything from animal porn to mp3's to pirated copies of RealPlayer, but nothing that looked like a tax form.

So this makes me suspect one of two things 1)eMule users are smarter about what they share or 2)LimeWire shares a lot more stuff by default than eMule does

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Happy Easter... Achoo!...

It's Easter, and I'm at the parent's house in NJ. Unfortunatly, I can't stop sneezing and wiping my nose. I'm thinking it's allergies (clear mucus, yo), but it could be a bit of a cold. My nose is redder than Ted Kennedy's after a party, and I've gone through several boxes of tissues already

Damn it. I don't get to spend a whole lot of time with my family, and it sucks that one those times has me feeling like crap.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

More shuffle-ing...

Two interesting iPod Shuffle related pieces from Engadget..

The first is Microsoft's thinly-veiled shuffle attack ad detailing why you should buy an MS/Janus DRM'ed MP3 player instead of an iPod shuffle. Crazy Apple Rumors did a great parody of it.

Yup, you shouldn't buy an MP3 device that only works with one music store (even though it's the most popular one). Nor should you buy one without a stopwatch or an FM transmitter, or a display, or a voice recorder. Because you need MS to tell you what features you need on your MP3 player, the answer being "whichever ones the iPod Shuffle doesn't have".

I want my MP3 player to play MP3's. I don't need to listen to crappy FM radio when I've got a gig of my favorite songs. I don't need a stopwatch - I have a watch on my wrist, and I don't need to dig my MP3 player out of my pocket to look at it. I have songs I like on it, so I don't need a display.

I also think it's great that the MS ad also points out that you should make sure your MP3 player has a headphone jack and controls. Because I hate those ones that don't. They also list "free arm band" as an option you should look for. Because you can't, you know, pick an MP3 player that lets you decide if you want to pay extra for the arm band or not.

The other interesting iPod related thing is a review of Napster To Go Engadget's reaction - like the service, but had a ton of trouble getting it to work on their MP3 players. I've looked at the subscription model compared to the iTunes model in the past. I don't like the subscription model, and if it's as clunky as Engadget's experience, it is another reason not to like Napster.

Friday, March 25, 2005

You don't eff with the po-leece..

I tend to be sympathetic to the police. I mean, I complain about my helpdesk job, but I don't have to deal with anyone shooting at me, and very few of my callers are drunk or on drugs, at least when they are on the phone with me. Maybe it comes from reading David Simon's book Homicide, or watching too many episodes of The Wire, but I tend to side with the cops when I hear about a police involved shooting. It kind of brings to mind the line from A Few Good Men, where one of the Navy JAG attorneys is asked why she likes the navy guys who are being court-marshalled so much, and she says that it's because they stand on a line and tell us that everything is going to be allright.

But there is one thing about seeing a cop that always makes me want to start humming some of Ice Cube's "F*** the Police" - speed traps. I drove up to New Jersey today from Baltimore by way of Pennsylvania, and there were a ton of speed traps. Considering that it's getting towards the end of the month, that makes me wonder if rumors that cops give out tickets at the end of the month to make a quota are true. None of the areas that the cops were set up were dangerous - they were mostly straight stretches of road in a clear area.

To me, speed traps don't exist to make driving safer - they, like red light cameras, are designed as a tax on people unlucky enough to be caught. Pretty much everyone speeds, and everyone is a potential criminal. This is a wide-open opportunity for police to profile by race or age or gender or car type, and even if they don't, it makes people wonder if they do.

Mad Anthony has only gotten stopped for speeding once so far, back in his wild college days. I was on the debate team, and was piloting a college-owned 15 passenger Ford Econoline down 29 South to a tournament at UVA. I got stopped for doing 73 in a 55. Almost everyone on the way to the debate got snagged. You also could pay your fine by credit card. While a 2-point ticket isn't supposed to affect insurance, I did get turned down for a "safe driver discount" last year when I changed insurance companies because of that ticket. Now, if one of my fellow debaters had been driving, I wouldn't have gotten that ticket and would be considered a safe driver - although I wouldn't be any better a driver, just luckier.

For many people, the only time they deal with the police besides having an accident or being a crime victim is when they get pulled over. I don't think speed is as dangerous as the safety nazis like to say it is, and I don't think speed traps have an impact on making the roads safer. What they do is make citizens not like cops so much, and to me that does more damage than any potential benefit.

My dad is the very model of a law-abiding citizen. He is one of the few people I know who regularly drives below the speed limit. For the most part he has usually figured that people who get pulled over deserve it. That changed a few years ago when he got pulled over at a NJ inspection checkpoint and fined $41 because his left high beam was burned out. He now has a much more negitive view of the police and traffic enforcement.

I do have to say that the MD, PA, and even NJ state troopers I've passed in the 5 or so years I've been driving back and forth between NJ and MD seem to be more reasonable than the VA sheriff I was unlucky enough to encounter. I've regularly driven by them at 15 or 20 mph above the limit without being pulled over, so it seems like they for the most part just pull over the very fast drivers. I do keep wondering if I should buy a radar detector before my luck runs out. I had one, but it stopped sticking to my windsheild, and I never bothered to replace or fix it.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

All wet...

You've probably seen a movie like this. Our hero has had a horrible day - gotten fired, dumped, had his nuts cut off, whatever - it just sucks for him. And to top it off, it's pouring outside. So he's walking down the street, and a bus comes by and drenches him with water, and his day is even shittier. Poor guy.

That was me yesterday. Except for the end of the day thing, and the bad day thing, and the part about getting fired or de-nutted. It poured in Baltimore yesterday. I drove to work and saw a parking spot. Unfortunatly, I had already driven past it. There was nobody behind me, so I did the asshole thing and backed up and parked. Got out, scampered across the street in front of an MTA bus, and started walking towards my office - when said MTA bus decided to move into the right lane and drench me with water. The whole left side of my body was covered - I had water all over my glasses and in my ear, and 12 hours later my notebook sitting in my backpack was still wet.

Have I mentioned how much I hate rain?

What do I think of the Terri thing?

I kind of feel like I should post something on the Terri Schiavo thing - after all, every blog seems to have tons of posts.

The problem is I don't really feel strongly about it. My instinct is to side with the parents, for a couple reasons. First of all, continuing to feed her seems the most reversable and path - they can always stop feeding her later, but once she starves to death, she's dead for good. (I read that sentance and it sounds incredibly stupid, and I hope you get what I'm saying). Of course, that view might also be influended by those 17 years of Catholic school, and maybe my own fears of death. The fact the Mr. Schiavio comes across as a bit of a jerk doesn't really help things.

But the fact is that this isn't an easy decision, mostly because we don't know the truth. We don't know what Terri is feeling, what it feels like to starve to death, what she would have wanted, and if there really is any chance of her recovering. Trying to come up with an answer to when life truly ends and what man's roll in it should be are deep questions, and trying to apply it to this case with so many unknows is like trying to perform surgery blindfolded with a chainsaw.

Even though I side with the family, the idea of federal legislation or of the supreme court getting involved (both attempted, neither successful) makes me nervous. This to me is sad and maybe even tragic, but it's not really the role of the Federal Government.

Is eating bacon insensitive? (I hope not)

Via Lileks comes an interesting article about a Scotland making a bar remove a "no porking" sign in their parking lot because it's offensive to Muslims. The bar is next to a mosque, and the Muslims there are convinced that it was put up to offend them.

Mad Anthony considers himself a tolerant person, but thinks tolerance goes both ways. If you don't want people to critique your belief system, then you have to be willing to put up with people behaving in ways that you don't necesarily agree with.

And eating pork, depicting pigs, or otherwise referencing the word "pork", is hardly racist or anti-religious behavior for most people. In fact, for many people, it's lunch. mad anthony is driving up to NJ for Easter, and he's probably going to eat some ham. Not because, you know, he hates Muslims, but because he likes him some ham.

Mad Anthony is a Catholic, although not a very good one. Catholics aren't supposed to eat meat on Fridays during Lent, the 6-week preperation period before Easter. Should I be able to complain that McDonalds advertising 2 for $2.22 Big Macs on a Friday during lent is offensive and worthy of an "anti-social behavior order" or whatever the U.S. equivilant is?

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Shuffle off to Buffalo, or somewhere...

Well, I did it. I went and bought one.


Yup, I bought an iPod Shuffle. It's a one gig. I actually got it about 2 weeks ago.

When the Shuffle first came out, I didn't think a whole lot of it. It seemed like a niche product targeted to a niche that I didn't need. After all, I owned a 10 gig iPod - one of the original firewire only models - so why would I want one that was 1/10th the size?

Then I started walking in hopes of losing some weight. Not a whole lot of walking - around 45 minutes a day- but I didn't want to lug my fragile and bulky iPod with me, so I bought a Shuffle. It's tiny - I can barely feel it in my pocket, not like the larger iPod, and it fits easily into a gym bag, bookbag, pocket, ect.

I've found myself using it in all the places that I normally used the bigger iPod - car, around the house while I'm doing laundry or washing dishes, ect. The fact is, I usually listen to the same songs - new ones or old favorites- so I put them on the Shuffle. And contrary to what some people who don't bother reading think, you can play your playlists on the Shuffle - you don't have to put it on Shuffle mode, and don't. Nor have I really felt the need for a screen - I'm putting songs I like on there, so they are ones I know and don't need to know the name of. And I'm not scrolling through 4000 songs like I am with my bigger 'pod.

In fact, I haven't used my original pod since I got the shuffle, and I'm considering eBaying it - although I may pull it out on my 4 hour drive to NJ this weekend for Easter.

The Shuffle has been everything I want. I can't say the same for the newest version of iTunes, 4.7.1, which I had to install on my Windows machine (which is my primary machine and the machine I sync my iPods with, since it has all my illicit MP3's on it's 360gb of hard drives. When I upgraded to 4.7.1, it destroyed my iTunes playlist. It rebuilt it, but I usually sort by date, and since all the songs were "added" to the rebuilt playlist on the same day, I can't do that anymore. I also usually drag songs to the iPod to iTunes from a My Computer window (I have dual monitors, so I keep iTunes on one monitor and an Explorer window open on the other). The Shuffle won't let me, even though my 2 year old iPod did. Apple's help tells me to go into the preferences dialog and make sure that manual mode is checked. When I go there, I don't see that option. I can add songs by dragging them from the playlist to the Shuffle, but I like doing it the way I've done it in the past better. Also, transfers have been super-slow, although that may be my crappy $3-after-rebate aLi/IOGear USB 2.0 card. I bought a better, NEC-chipset card, but I haven't felt like disassembling my PC to install it of late.

So the verdict? Love the shuffle. iTunes needs work.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Haves and have-nots in the dorms...

A Harvard Crimison editorial on a dorm cleaning service has gotten lots of publicity on the web, ie from OpinionJournal (scroll down to "underclassmen"). A dorm-cleaning service has been started at Harvard, and some Harvard students think it increases the class divide at Harvard.

The college I work at, and graduated from, has quite a few students with money. A recent walk through a student parking lot revealed cars that included a late-model Jaguar XJ-6 and a new BMW 3-series. My sophmore and junior years in college were spent driving a 15-year old K-car. So I don't think that any class divide at schools is hidden.

Nor is hiring help to clean dorms a new thing - a couple years ago on move-in day I overheard the parents of a student whose computer I was working on talking about hiring cleaning people for their kid's dorm room.

But dorm-room, or roomate conflicts in general, aren't restricted to class. Cleaning can be a big issue even if you aren't paying someone to do it, if one roomate is neat and the other doesn't really care (like myself). But I think things like sleeping schedules, friends, girlfriends/boyfriends, study schedules, different attitudes towards studying with music and TV on, and a host of other things cause way more roomate conflicts than money.

The U.S didn't protect the weapons that weren't there...

A few days late, but Slate has a great Christopher Hitchens article about the looting of Iraq. There is a huge disconnect on the left that a)there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and that b)the US invading Iraq put lots of equiptment designed for constructing weapons of mass destruction in the hands of terrorists by not protecting against "looters".

The first thing that one wonders is what Iraq was doing with a complete potential nuclear weapons laboratory if he wasn't using it, had used it, or was thinking of using it. Now, I suppose it's possible that Saddam was just a compulsive shopper who likes to buy things and not use them, much like mad anthony does with small kitchen appliances (if you know anyone who needs an electric cheese grater, waffle maker, or rice cooker all new in the box, let me know). But I'm going to guess that Saddam had them to use them.

But Hitchens raises an even more important point. When most people think looting, they think LA Riots, rocks-through-the-liquor-store-window kind of rioting. Not this:

four weeks from mid-April to mid-May of 2003 … teams with flatbed trucks and other heavy equipment moved systematically from site to site. … 'The first wave came for the machines,

This wasn't looting - it was an orgainized removal by people who already knew it was there and knew what it was. Feel free to draw your own conclusions.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

You know your car is a piece of shit when...

Iran may stop producing it's national car, the Paykan (h/t Tim Blair.

Killer quote from the article:

Iranians discuss the production years of their Paykans like vintage wines, the owners of earlier models proudly boasting that the engines were English-made back in the 1970s.

How shitty does a car have to be for the ones with English engines to be the best ones? The English are not known for building fine cars, which is why Ford ended up selling Rover a couple years ago for $1 to a private company.

The Paykan may be replaced by another fine automobile:

Iran Khodro, which makes more than 400,000 cars each year, is hoping a production line of Renault's Logan L-90s will inherit Paykan's place as Iran's economy car of choice.

Yup, the Renault. (I've had a negative view of Renaults since my dad owned an '86 Alliance that broke down weekly. Then again, his was built in Wisconsion by AMC, so maybe the French-built ones are better)

Do you notice that companies where the government controls the means of production make the worst cars, if they make cars at all? Iran has the Peykan, East Germany had the Trabant and Cuba is famous for the fact that most of the cars on it's streets are '50's American cars held together with bailing wire and converted to run on kerosene because it's cheaper than gas.

Guess there is something about, you know, a free market and competition that produces cars that people actually want.

Making a killing in the funeral business...

OpinionJournal has an interesting article about a possible Supreme Court challange to an Oklahoma law restricting who can sell caskets. Oklahoma requires that anyone selling caskets be a licensed mortician, with enbalming experience - even if they are just selling the casket and not doing the dead-body-prep related stuff.

So far the two courts that have heard it have sided with the OK Casket Cartel. But overturning it would be a major victory for captitalism and for consumers. This law is a perfect example of what economists like to call "rent-seeking" - basically, where business owners lobby for a law to be passed that increases their profit. They can't compete through traditional routes, so they make it illegal to compete with them. This makes them richer - and their customers poorer.

True capitalism means no barriers on trade. That is probably unrealistic in our political climate. But most laws are designed to protect consumers (although how well they do that is debateable). This kind of law protects businesses at the expense of consumers, who are forced to pay more for their caskets.

Then again, there are even stranger bedfellows in the rent-seeking world, like when the government transfers money from consumers to businesses in the form of, say, crop subsidies or price floors that drive up the cost of food for consumers and make farmers wealthier. So I'm not holding my breath that this will be overturned.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Do they want us to put Saddam back in power?

The college I work at has had lots of posters up about a protest against the war on Saturday, to coincide with the 2nd anniversary of the war in Iraq.

How do you protest something that is pretty much over? I understand that lots of people did not support the war. I don't agree with them, but they are entitled to their opinions, and I think it is good to have debate over such important issues, and that there were legitimate arguments against the war. How standing around downtown Baltimore screaming that BUSH=HITLEER accomplishes this I'm not so sure, but whatever.

So I can see protesting it two years ago. I don't see the point of protesting it now. We defeated Saddam and had elections. We're winding up. You can argue that the benefits of the war were not worth the cost, but how do you protest something that already happened? Do you think that your protest will cause the US to leave Iraq post haste and put Saddam back in power? Do you really think Iraq, the US, and the world would be better off for that?

I thought about seeing if Protest Warrior was going to be there, maybe bring the digital camera and get some nice pictures of hippies with signs for this blog. Except (and aside from mad anthony's concerns about his physical safety) the protest is on a Saturday, and mad anthony works overtime on Saturday. See, I'm trying to get my little piece of the American Dream - a house and a nice car or two - and that means working whenever I can.

I think that protesters like the kind that will probably be in downtown Baltimore tonight probably do more harm to their cause than FOX, Rush, and NRO combined. People who are pro-Iraq, on the fence, or slightly anti-war have better things to do on a Saturday than go to a protest - things like work, sleeping in, going to the kid's soccer gam, fixing up the house, or reading a book. They look at protesters and don't see themselves - they see some college student or aging hippie who looks nothing like them, and they start to see that person's view as out of the mainstream.

Maybe I should have been born a chick...

I did something today that makes me feel really embarassed as a guy. I walked into a shoe store with the intent of buying a pair of sneakers for a specific purpose. I ended up buying a second pair of shoes that I didn't really need.

I stopped by a DSW Shoe Warehouse today before class on a mission. I've started walking in the hopes of losing some weight, and I wanted a cheap pair of walking shoes so I wouldn't have to keep beating up the casual sneakers that I've been wearing.

I found a pair of Addidas walking shoes on clearance for $25 - and they only looked somewhat old man. Bu perusing the clearance section, I found another pair of shoes I liked - a pair of brown Nice skate shoes, which happened to also be clearanced.

I don't need them. I have a perfectly good pair of dress shoes/boots and a couple pairs of sneakers. But they had an interesting combination of sneaker comfort and dress shoe proprietary. Plus, I figured I had already done a lot of damage to my other sneakers by using them for my walking. So I bought them...

I will probably get some use out of them, and they were only $25. I figure if I had bought walking shoes retail, I would have paid as much for them as I did for both. Plus, you know, buying shoes is cheaper than other things I could be splurging on... like heroin.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

So why does it matter if there is a skeleton in Greenspan's closet?

Jeff at Protein Wisdom has been reminding the blogosphere of lefty bloggers attempt to discredit Greenspan because he's supported social security reforms and privitization.

They are looking for ...anything Greenspan has ever written, said or done that reflects poorly on him. This would include erroneous predictions, older statements which contradict things he's said recently, and anything that's just plain wrong, venal or stupid

I'm not sure what Greenspan having wrongly called something 20 or 30 years ago (assuming he did) matters. He's an economist, and economics is not a perfect science. Economists use models to predict how the market will behave, but they are just predictions and they aren't perfect. Economists frequently disagree on what models to use and what things mean. They also frequently cage their predictions - which is why Harry Truman once said that he'd love to see a one-handed economist since economists always say "on the other hand".

But even if Greenspan had a very different view in the past, so what? People aren't allowed to change their opinion as they get older, learn more, and have more time to reflect? I can think of people on both sides who have switched over - like David Brock, who went from Republican to far left, and David Horowitz, who went from Black Panther to far-right. Shit, even mad anthony was convinced that Communism was a workable system - back when I was in high school.

What the left isn't realizing is that the success of right wing bloggers in, say, Rathergate, wasn't based on them sitting down and deciding they wanted to "get" someone, but rather multiple seperate people seeing things that looked wrong, researching them, and getting those facts out. Nobody sat down and said "what skeletons can we find in Rather's closet". Instead, he did something and people responded - from the present, not from something he said years ago.

Monday, March 14, 2005

This newfangled technolgy doesn't have anything over the 100 year old stuff..

CNET is carrying a story that camera phones are overrated. Which might carry some weight, except that the person saying this happens to be the CEO of Kodak. Yup, Kodak, which happens to, as far as I know, not make camera phones. And some of those people taking pics with camera phones probably would be taking pics with Kodak film cameras or Kodak digital cameras otherwise. Gee, I wonder why the Kodak CEO doesn't like them.

Now, mad anthony doesn't own a camera phone. I need one about as badly as a fish needs a bicycle. Sure, if I had one, I would probably take pics with it occasionally when I saw something I wanted a pic of but didn't have a camera on me. I could imagine that I would have used it more back in the day when I was in college.

But it seems that they are popular, despite taking rather crappy pics. But I don't think Kodak's stratagy is going to play out too well:

Kodak is now working to let cell phones use the EasyShare printer for digital cameras, which eliminates the need to upload digital photos first onto a personal computer.

I don't think most camera-phone users want to print out their pics. First of all, camera pics are low-res and are going to look like poop printed out. Secondly, you don't use a camera phone to take pictures of important stuff - you use it for spontaneous kind of stuff. Sharing those pics online makes sense. Printing them out doesn't.

The other great Kodak quote:

Carp, however, called cell phone video a mistake, saying "shifting attention to video could result in lost opportunity for all of us."

Well, I see how video would suck for Kodak - nobody prints video. I'm not sure why it's bad for the phone companies, though, even though I don't know how many customers want the ability to take very-low-qualtity videos with their phones, with the possible exception of Paris Hilton.

I own something by a well-known designer...

I bought something by someone who is apparently a well-known designer. I probably paid more than an equivilant item would have cost without the designer label. And no, it's not a suit.

check it.

Yup, it's the Michael Graves electric can opener by Black and Decker, from Target. (It's here on their website, although it's two dollars cheaper instore right now.. My old can opener, a $7 Toastmaster that I bought when I first moved out on my own, was at the point where it would only cut about an inch and stop. Despite being able to build a computer from a bag of parts, using a manual can opener eludes me. So I had to buy a new electric.

Target only had a couple, and I had picked out a different one when I saw this in the Michael Graves kitchenware. Reasonably priced and decent looking, so I bit. I'm not much of an interior-decorator type (the piece of furniture that the can opener is sitting on is actually my old stereo cabinet, recast as a kitchen storage thing), but it looked kind of cool.

If I were Virginia Postrel, I could probably make some point about how aesthetics have found a role in modern life. After all, they have added a designer touch to one of the most ordinary of kitchen appliances, and they have made it available at a mass retailer at a price within a few dollars of a less fancy one. Plus, it's made by Black and Decker, a company that most would otherwise associate with utility, not design.

But I'm not Virginia. (If I was, I'd be better looking. And a chick.) But I think it also reveals something about Target. They've found aesthetics and designer names as a good way to draw customers, and get them to spend a little more than they otherwise would. It's things like that make me think that Target is going to become an even larger force in retailing, and that if Wal-Mart does not start to change their lowest-price-and-damn-the-atmosphere retailing strategy, they might not always be on top.

Scenes from work, sexuality edition...

Coworker: I wonder what that table is for?

Mad Anthony: Apparently, this is Sexual Diversity Tolerance Week here on campus.

Coworker: That's kinda gay.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Yes, I have a penis, but you should still read my blog..

Instapundit is looking at a Newsweek column that complains that blogging isn't diverse enough - because there aren't a lot of women or miniorities among the "top bloggers". It includes quotes like this from an African American female blogger:

"My fear is that the overwhelmingly white and male American blogosphere ... will return us to a day where the dialogue about issues was a predominantly white-only one.

This kind of thinking makes a big assumption - that all whites, and all males, think alike (or at least never think about things the same way a black/female does).

To me, this is a typical example of the way the left thinks. Diversity comes only from gender and race, and not from a thousand other things that seperate you from the next guy.

Take a look at the TTLB Ecosystem which ranks the popularity of bloggers by inbound links (as you can tell, I'm not very popular). There are some women and minorities on there, including Michelle Malkin, who is both, at #6. But there is also quite a mix of white males. Just because Andrew Sullivan, James Lileks, and Glenn Reynolds are all white males, they don't think identically. They have independant political views, live in different regions, have different day jobs, and write about different things.

I think the blogosphere is incredibly diverse. It means that if you are, say, a 24 year old helpdesk technician in Baltimore, you can have people all over who otherwise would never hear what you think reading your writings. But if you can't see past gender and race, you miss out on the differences among those in blogosphere.

EDIT: Welcome, Instapundit readers! Aww, my first Instalanche. I guess LaShawn was right about that whole "power of email" thing. I hope you stay and take a look at the rest of my blog, with posts discussing everything from pants to donuts.

Safety nazis making it harder for me to set stuff on fire...

My apartment has a gas fireplace - not just for decoration, but to heat it. It works pretty well, and it looks neat as well.

However, the lighter function on it is broken. So what I do is hold down the dial that turns on the gas, use one of those long handled aim-n-flame type lighers to light it, and then hold down and turn the dial so it turns on.

For about 2 years, I've used a "Weber" lighter from Target. It finally ran out of fuel (probably because the on button kept sticking and it would take me a while to get the flame to go out), so I pulled out the "coleman" lighter I had purchased to replace it.

Most lighters have a slider on the top and "trigger" on the bottom, so you can't accidently turn it on. It's still pretty easy to do one handed.

Not the Coleman, though. It's got a side switch that you have to press down and hold, while pulling the trigger. It's pretty hard to do one handed, especially since I usually use my left hand to do it while holding the gas dial down with my right hand.

I know they are probably doing this to prevent lawsuits, but it goes a bit far - the safety measures make it hard to use it for what I need it for. I can't imagine I'm the only person who has this problem.

What next, a fireproof lighter that doesn't produce a flame at all?

Should mad anthony buy a house?

mad anthony has been thinking a lot lately, and now his head hurts. I've been debating if I should buy a house. For the last two years, I've been a renter, and my current lease ends in 4 months. My original plan was to buy this year, but now I'm starting to think I should wait another year.

I've been working a ton of overtime, plus I'm cheap and don't spend much money, so I have a decent amount saved up for a down payment. But the bigger the down payment the better.

But the major thing that's keeping me waiting is the housing market. Prices in the Baltimore area have been freakin' crazy. For example, there's a house right across the street from where I work. It's on the edge of a good neighborhood, but it's on a busy street, is smaller than most of the houses, and is basic 4-bedroom cape cod. I drove past it and noticed it was for sale, so I was curious how much it was listed for. To me, it looked like a $200,000 house. Nope - it's actually a four hundred thousand dollar house.

So the question is, is there a housing bubble? King at SCSU Scholars does (and he's an econ professor, so he knows stuff), and says that Allen Greenspan has said the same (and he predicted the bust with his irrational exuberance comments).

On the other hand, there is only a limited amount of space in an urban area like Baltimore to build houses, and there isn't much left. Many people don't want an hour or two commute. To me, it seems that unless there is a massive recession where people can't afford to buy houses, or a massive move by employers out of that area, that people will still have to live somewhere. So I don't really see them coming down sharply or bursting.

Still, it does also seem that, unless demand continues to increase, or massive amounts of people and employers move in, that prices will eventually stop climbing. I would be happy if prices at least stabilized, where houses remained on the market for longer than a day or two, and only good houses in good neighborhoods commanded premium prices, rather than piles of junk in good neighborhoods or nice houses in bad neighborhoods.

So I think I'm probably going to wait a year. If mad anthony's past decisions are an indicator of markets, that probably means it's a good time to buy, because I make horrible decisions. Of course, it's a hard place to be in- if I buy and the bubble bursts, I'll lose a bunch of money, but if prices keep climbing I'll never be able to afford to buy a house. And this is basically my life savings we're talking about, so it behooves me to be prudent. But when even economists and real estate pros disagree, it's hard for a helpdesk tech to beat the market.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Scenes from work, tastes like lime edition...

Coworker: You know, I tried Coke with Lime for the first time this week. It tasted entirely like fake lime. I couldn't even taste the Coke.

Mad Anthony: You know what it reminds me of? Tequiza. It's got that same overpowering fake-lime taste.

Coworker: You drink too much. You relate everything to beer...

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Murder was the case that they gave me..

I work at a college, and it hasn't been a great year for us so far - early in the year, our college president and the director of campus ministry both died unexpectedly in the same week.

And now there is this - the first murder in Howard County in a year. One women fatally strangled another and dumped her body in a park. What the article doesn't mention is both women were students at our college.

Bankrupcy and the bloggosphere...

An unlikely alliance has tried to - and failed - to fight the new bankrupcy bill that makes it harder to declare bankrupcy.

Most people - including Jane Galt's excellent summary - cast the debate into two sides - customers who declare bankrupcy and and credit card companies who tend to encourage it.

There is a third party that I think tends to get lost in the debate - the majority of credit card users, who bear the costs of bankrupcy. See, the way I look at it, when Big Evil Credit Card Company has to write off bad loans, they don't take it out of the CEO's salary. They increase their fees, interest rates, and decrease rewards programs so that they can pay for that bad debt. Making it harder to file for bankrupcy may hurt the poor, or those who have been unlucky and run up medical bills or been jobless, or those who don't bother reading the fine print on credit card applications. However, it also helps people who use credit responsibly.

Mad Anthony says this as someone who loves credit cards. I use the float on them as an interest free loan - it lets me buy stuff and not have to pay for it for a month. I also try to primarily use rewards cards - Discover Gas for gas and Amex for everything else. More bankrupcy costs may well lead banks to cut payment time and decrease reward programs, hurting credit users like myself.

Finally, a killer app for online shopping...

One of my friends introduced me to something really cool - totally customizable clothing from Target.

Right now, they only offer three products - Khaki pants and shirts for men, and jeans for the ladies.

This seems like the perfect application for e-commerce. You can customize the clothing in infinite ways - for example, the men's khakis can be made with or without pleats, regular or relaxed, with or without buttons on the back pockets, and a number of other changes. You can also change the inseam, waist size (including half sizes), and your body type.

This is truly one-degree-of-seperation, just in time manufacturing (JIT) - all the buzzwords that business people like. This takes JIT to the ultimate level - the customer places the order directly.

I'm kind of disappointed that the khaki sizes only go up to 46". This is a killer app for fat people - and I say that as a fat person. Because I'm as wide as I am tall, I have to have all my pants hemmed. It's perfect for anyone with odd measurments or who wants specific things.

I think we are truly living in the greatest era ever in terms of technology.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Scenes from work, eat-my-blog edition...

Coworker1: I think their browser makes all web pages edible.

Coworker2: What, you mean you can eat them?

Coworker1: No, you can make changes to them.

MadAnthony: Oh, edit-able. As in "able to be edited". Not "able to be eaten

Cowerker1: yup.

MadAnthony: Good. Because if webpages could be made edible, I think my blog would taste very, very bitter....

Let's make our city better by making it harder to get to...

I consider myself a Baltimore blogger, but I rarely blog about Baltimore. I'm not real knowledgable about B-more politics, and when you have a one-party town like B-more, there aren't really any big political debates.

But I happened to be at the Baltimore Sun's website looking for an article a coworker had mentioned, and I stumbled on this bit of stupidity. Walter Sondheim, an outside developer, wants to tear down I-83 south of around exit 5 or so. I-83, AKA the Jones Falls Expressway, is a 6-lane overhead highway that goes thru the center of Baltimore, ending near the Downtown/Inner Harbor. It's the way that the many people who work in Downtown Baltimore City get there, as well as tourists who go to the Inner Harbor.

Urbanists have this dislike of cars, and love the idea of tearing down highways and discouraging cars. What they don't seem to realize is that there are a lot of people who don't live in the city, but work in it, shop in it, drink in it, ect. Getting rid of a highway may be good for a few neighborhoods that it runs through, but it would suck for a large chunk of the city. I'm not even sure it would help the neighborhoods out - one of the things I like about living in Resevoir Hill is that I'm literally a few blocks away from I-83, making it an easy trip into downtown or out of the city.

As much as the New Urbanist types hate cars and roads, they are a fact of life. Most people don't like being stacked on top of each other. They like having a backyard and some space, and cars let that happen.

One other fact from the article I didn't know:

[I-83] was designed to speed motorists on a seven-mile stretch through town and then onto Interstate 95 south of the city. The I-95 connector scheme crashed and burned in the 1980s, however, when preservationists argued that extending the highway would destroy Fells Point.

I work in the Roland Park/Guilford area, and I'm taking some night MBA classes in a graduate center in Columbia, MD. My commute involves hopping on 83 to the end, the driving 2 blocks, making a left, driving 3 blocks, making another left, driving two more blocks, right, then three blocks more and a left - with traffic lights and city rush-hour traffic - just to get to 95 to go to Columbia. That makes up a large chunk of my commute, and it's a pain. The fact that it could be so much easier annoys me. I mean, I like Fells and all, but I also like getting to my destination quickly, and the fact that it's been blocked by "preservationists" irks me.

I'm about to emit something...

A couple days ago, I got a notice in the mail from the Maryland DMV that I had to have my emissions checked.

As a Maryland transplant from NJ, I'm new at this whole emissions testing thing. NJ has inspections - they used to be annual, now they are every two years. The NJ ones include both emissions and safety testing. The Maryland test is just emissions. So if your car is emitting a little to much carbon dioxide, the state wants to catch that. If you have no functioning headlights and your brakepads are tissue-paper thin, that's OK.

This week is spring break, so it's one of the few that I didn't have class at night. I drove to the Erdam Avenue inspection station.

You know how some neighborhoods are really crappy, but you can tell that at one time they were a nice neighborhood? Not the area where the MVA inspection station is. It's a collection of warehouses, adult bookstores, bars I would be scared to walk into, and used-car dealers surrounded by barbed wire, in case anyone wants to jack an '85 Dodge Aries with no paint on it.

It's kind of a wierd inspection for a first-timer. You wait in line with a bunch of other cars that all have their engines on (since you are supposed to keep your engine on for best results). I wonder how much C02 is released by cars waiting for the test. The fact that only emissions and not safety are tested also gets me - the 10 year old Dodge Shadow in front of me had a broken taillight.

I pulled into one isle, then noticed that the sign on another isle said "4wd/awd/traction control vehicles use this lane". My car has traction control, so I move over.

It ended up not mattering, as they didn't put my car on the dynomometer (or as they call it, the "treadmill") - just plugged it into a machine to check for ODBII codes.

So now I'm legal, and $14 poorer. I have to wonder how efficient this whole process is - my guess is most cars pass. Even if you fail, you can still get a waiver if you are old, disabled, or spent $450 but still didn't fix it.

But it does keep lots of MVA employees employed...

Monday, March 07, 2005

Mmmm, forbidden donut (and Slate pretension)

I didn't realize this, but while reading kausfiles, I discovered that Slate has a column called "middlebrow". From what I can gather, it looks at all those mainstream things and businesses that Slate readers are too good for.

Today's is on Dunkin' Donuts. As a fat guy, mad anthony is very familiar with Dunkin Donuts. Slate views DD as some sort of place that only blue-collar workers go to - talking about The store's loyal constituents—cops, firemen, construction workers.

I think Dunkin' Donuts appeal is much broader. I know quite a few white-collar workers who make daily stops at Dunkin' Donuts. My older brother, a high-school teacher, makes daily stops at the DD, and has worn out several travel mugs in the process. Yes, it's anecdotal, but quite a few of my own coworkers and reletives also make regular stops at Dunkin' Donuts - and they are college-educated white collar workers, not construction workers.

Their elitist view of Dunkin' Donuts also extends to the coffee. Sure, DD is introducing some fancy new beverages, but that doesn't hide the fact that DD has always sold very good coffee. There is a reason that they sell coffee in bags to brew at home - their coffee is that good. (Their take-away coffee is helped by the fact that they actually serve it in styrofoam cups, making it actually stay warm, unlike the enviromentally sound but poorly insulated paper cups that Starbucks uses).

Slate also busts on DD for it's atmosphere. But I'm not quite sure that matters - most of my dunkin' donuts trips are solitary - I go in, grab food, leave. The only times I can recall sitting in a dunkin' donuts was when I was in high school, it was late, and they were one of the few places open.

Slate drips with pretension - they like to see themselves as a sort of online version of The Nation or The Atlantic. But sometimes they go a little too far to show how out of touch they are with a very large portion of America.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Some countries are screwed up...

Via Insty comes an article abot Niger. Like the U.S., Niger had a problem with slavery, but passed a law making keeping or owning slaves illegal. Unlike the U.S., Niger's antislavery law was passed in May 2003.

And there are still slaves in Niger - estimated to be 43,000 - yet Niger cancelled a slavery-release ceremony that the government had planned because they decided that "there are no slaves in Niger". (Did Bagdad Bob move to Africa?)

So the next time you hear someone on the left complaining that the U.S. is a horrible, evil, corrupt, imperialist nation owned by business, or someone on the far-right complaining that the U.S. is a den of sin and evil, realize that there are some countries out there that have WAY more serious problems.

Why are public restrooms free? (an econoblog)

You know, I like to read econ blogs like Marginal Revolution that always ask broad economics questions and then pose hypothises to answer them. So I thought I would take a try at it, even though my entire econ experience consists of 6 undergrad classes.

(note - I'm trying to keep this post clean, but it does mention bodily functions, so if you don't like that kind of thing, grow up.)

I was driving back to Baltimore today. Somewhere west of Allentown, my stomach started feeling not-too-good. There isn't a whole lot around that area, so I figured I'd keep driving until I hit a gas station about 20 miles down where I usually stop. By the time I got there I felt my stomach was about to explode.

At this point, I would have probably paid any amount to use a toilet. After all, I was in major discomfort. Yet I was able to stop at the Hamburg Mobil and use a toilet free of charge.

It's kind of like the water/diamond paradox. Diamonds are unnecessary, yet expensive, while water is essential to life and practically free (except when it comes in fancy green glass bottles). But water is easily available, and diamonds are not (thanks in part to DeBeers), so water costs next to nothing.

So why are public bathrooms free?

1)laws - I'm guessing at least some places have public health laws that require public restrooms in certain businesses. If that's the case, end of discussion.

2)large variability of willingness to pay Sure, mad anthony might have been about to explode today, but most people at most times can hold it. The fact that most people are unwilling to pay much makes it too difficult to price discriminate and easier just to make bathrooms free.

3)short-term sales - companies are hoping customers will stop to use the bathroom, and stay to purchase gas/drinks/ect.

4)goodwill - even if a customer doesn't buy anything on the day they use the bathroom, they may think well of the company in the future. They also may hold against a company it's not offering, or charging for, bathrooms when they needed them most.

If you have any further thoughts, or just want to call me disgusting for making a post out of a stomachache, feel free to post in the comments.

Things that make you go hmmm, part 1...

Yesterday, I went to pay for a purchase with my Amex card - and discovered it wasn't in my wallet. I figured it was probably sitting on my desk in Baltimore, but when I got back tonight it was nowhere to be found.

So I called Amex's lost/stolen card line, on the off chance that it's lying on the ground somewhere as opposed to being buried in my mess of an apartment.

First question from Amex's automated answering system:

What is your card number?

Which would be a whole lot easier to find if I HADN'T LOST MY FREAKIN' CARD IN THE FIRST PLACE.

(sorry, long day)

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Uncle Sam wants to give me money I don't need...

In September of 2004, I started the part-time MBA program at the college I work for full-time as a Helpdesk Technician. Getting several thousands of dollars of tuition for free seemed like a good deal. All I pay for is books and registration fees, so the cost is the least difficult part of it for me.

Yet the government still wants to help me pay for my practically free education.

Like most 24-year-olds, I have student loans to pay off. My student loan is through the William D. Ford Federal student loan program - ie, the government.

A couple days ago, I got an envelope in the mail that looked just like my student loan bill - which was odd, since I thought I had just paid it. I opened it up and found out that the Feds had granted me a deferment based on the fact that my school reported that I was a "half-time student" (personally, I think I'm more of a half-assed student). The deferment is automatic, and good until May of 2006. During that time, I can either continue to pay interest, or roll it into the loan at the end of the deferment.

Gotta love the government, which by defering my loan is basically giving me money. Never mind that my student loan is one of my smallest monthly bills. It's one of those bills where I can write out the check without having to check my balance.

See, Mad Anthony has some much larger bills - car loan, insurance, rent. Oddly enough, none of these let me defer my payments. Chrysler won't let me stop paying my car bill because I want to buy another car. And thus we have a prime example of how the government differs from private companies.

I know that one could argue that the point of the Department of Education is to encourage people to get as much education as possible, and defering student loans is one way of encouraging that. (I personally think that federal subsidies for higher ed have mostly just made college more expensive, but that's a topic for another post). There are probably people that it does help, and if I was going to, say, law school full-time, and paying for it, it would be great. But many people in part-time MBA programs are going on their companies' dime, so defering loans - and basically giving a handout to those people - doesn't make a whole lot of sense.

I'm thinking that making deferments by request instead of automatic would save the goverment some money while still allowing it to help those who need it. But that would make sense, so this will never be done.

Jersey, fool...

I've been in NJ since yesterday, and will be until tomorrow. I haven't seen the family since Christmas, so I figured it would be nice to see them, as well as to relax a bit. It's been nice so far.

I did take today off- got one of the other techs to fill in for me on my usual Saturday overtime. I hate leaving money on the table, but I kind of needed a break, and my parents had been guilt-tripping me a bit about not seeing them. Getting some sleep and some home cooking is good. It was a pretty smooth drive up as well, which was nice.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Scenes from work, dumbest answer edition..

I work at a helpdesk at a college. Yesterday, I recieved a call from a student. While many of the people who call aren't the brightest lights on the Christmas tree, sometimes you get one who exceeds the bounds of your expectations...

Student: I can't connect to the internet

Mad Anthony: What version of Windows are you running? (Note: I ask this because there are different ways to get the IP address on different versions of Windows)

Student: Well, I see (student then starts listing various dorms on campus)

Mad Anthony: Huh? (sense of understanding)... Umm, I need to know what version of Windows is on your computer, not what dorms you see out of your window....

Signs it's going to be a long day, part 1...

I have one of those "brew-in-the-mug" coffeemakers, which I used this morning. Get it brewing, take a shower, get dressed, then go to the kitchen without bothering to put the lights on. Grab Equal and Silk Soy creamer, start pouring the Equal in - and realize that I had left the top on the travel mug.