mad anthony

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

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

This is family business....

I spent a chunk of Memorial Day at my aunt (on my father's side) house. She lives in the house that she and my dad grew up in, on main street in a small town in central new jersey. My grandfather was a tailor, he owned a small tailor shop on the front of the building.

There's a picture on the wall of her living room that my parents gave my gradfather back when he was alive, of he and his wife. The picture is from my parent's wedding. I've seen it a hundred times, and I never really noticed it. But for some reason we started talking about it.

I learned a few things I didn't know about my grandfather, who I'm named after and who died a few months after I was born.

- He was born in 1896
- He lived to the age of 84 (so maybe there are some "good genes" in my family after all)
- He was quite the snappy dresser (then again, he was a tailor, so I guess he kind of had to be....)
- He was an occasional smoker - one cigarette a night, and a cigar on Sunday (now I don't feel so bad about my occasional cigars)

Kind of makes me wish he had lived long enough for me to know him.

I've struggled a lot with religion in the last few years, and I find myself wondering about the whole afterlife thing. But the idea that there is something beyond this earth - a chance for us to meet those who have gone before us, who we never got to meet on the earth - is certainly appealing.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Thoughts on raiding the parent's liquor cabinet, part 1..

You know, Kahlua and Pepsi One taste surprisingly good mixed together...

(note to self - buy more Kahlua)

Nothing like feeling morally superior to others..

Everyone partakes in a guilty pleasure. No, I'm not talking about the porn stashed away on your hard drive in the folder named "backup data" or your habit of drinking a six of natty boh and passing out in front of the TV (oh wait, those are my habits. Sorry). I'm talking about looking at people who are worse off then you, and getting that feeling of moral superiority from them.

For me, one of those things that always makes me feel a little morally superior is when you hear about really fat people. Not just kinda chunky fat, but can't leave the house half-ton fat people. Like this guy (via OpinionJournal). He weighed over 1000 pounds before surgery that brought him down to 500. He's hoping to get down to 230 - which is a little less than what I started my diet at.

On one hand, it's hard for me to imagine getting that fat. After all, you've got to do a certain amount of moving around, and that makes it hard to gain too much weight. But I guess if I stopped leaving the house, and kept eating, I'd probably get pretty darn fat. But I'm not quite that fat, so I let myself feel good about that, even though I'm probably a few pounds of bacon away from the guy's fate.

Then again, the article also mentions the guy's wife. Yup, the guy at one point weighed over half a ton, but he still has more play with the ladies than Mad Anthony. Now I really feel like a loser...

Isn't life funny that way?

I just got a call from an old college roomate, who I haven't seen since just after Christmas. He's going to grad school in St. Louis, but he's originally from Maryland is going to be there for a few days - probably until Wednesday.

Which would be great, except Mad Anthony is currently visiting the family in NJ until, umm, Wednesday.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Why do they assume everyone with the same waist is the same height?

For the last couple months, I've been on a quest of sorts. I've been trying to buy a product that is difficult to find. It's not some complicated piece of electronics, or some exotic car. It's a pair of sweatpants that conform to my specifications.

See, there are two things I want in a pair of sweatpants. The first is pockets - preferably side and back, but I will settle for side. The second is elastic at the cuffs.

Why? Because I'm short and fat. I'm trying to get less fat (which is the main reason I want sweats - to exersize in). But right now, I'm fat. So I wear xxl sweatpants. Manufacturers seem to think that anyone who has a large waist is 8 feet tall, and the pants match. With jeans or khakis, it's worth getting hemmed, but I can't justify getting a pair of sweatpants hemmed. So I need elastic at the leg openings. The zipper-at-the-bottom windpants just don't cut it for me - they are fine if you need an inch or two less, but not so useful if you need them a foot or so shorter.

Until yesterday, I had only found one pair that fit my specs. But I was at Vanity Fair outlets in Reading yesterday, and I figured it would be different. After all, Lee makes a ton of sweatpants. I was even more psyched that they also sold Nautica stuff - I could get a high-end pair of sweatpants, suitable for wearing in public intead of just the gym.

But alas, it was not to be - while they had two nice types of Nautica sweats, one had a zipper bottom and the other had a flat bottom. I did get a cheap pair of Lee sweats, in a rather ugly gray color (the blue I wanted were not in my size).

I've even tried eBay looking for sweatpants that conform to my specs with no luck. I can't believe that I'm the only short, fat person in the world looking for comfortable elastic-waist pants for exersizing, lounging, and going places where I don't care what I look like. I mean, sweatpants were made for fat people - elastic is the fat man's best friend.

Can you hear me now?

I went to the Best Buy in Bridgewater, NJ near my parent's house because they had a free after rebate 5.8ghz phone advertised two days only. Got there about 10 minutes early. I was in Officemax earlier because they had a $9 after rebate HP CD-RW drive I wanted - especially since I had $4.70 in MaxPerks gift cards that I had to use before they expire. I can't use them online, and the nearest one to me in Baltimore is in York, PA.

At the Best Buy entrance, I saw a guy I had seen in Officemax and BS'ed for a while about computers. We both went in, headed to the phones, and saw that there were none on the shelf. He and a woman grabbed other phones, hoping for a substitute, and I followed suit. Another guy who had been waiting grabbed the display model.

We talked to a couple of guys who said it was there first day there, that they were hired for inventory, and had no idea what was going on. They got another guy, who fetched Dave, a guy who would look more at home as a club bouncer than at Best Buy. He kept telling us that there were 18 phones in the district warehouse and all he could give us was rainchecks - to which we pointed out that 1)the odds of a phone ever getting to the store were pretty slim, since there were only 18 for the whole region 2)there were none on the shelf - we were the first people there. It's one thing to run out, it's another to never have any in the first place 3)even with the raincheck, we would still have to send in the rebate, which would probably be expired by the time we got the phone.

Meanwhile, they were trying to get the guy who had grabbed the display model to give it up with no luck. He kept saying that he would take the display model, and burly Dave and the sales manager kept telling him they couldn't sell it to him because their policy was not to sell the diplay unless it was the last one - and the customer kept saying that if that was not the last one, then where are they, and if it was the last one then they could sell it to him.

Finally, the sales manger pointed to the three of us who were there at the begining and told us that they would give us the phones we had grabbed for free. This was after about 25 minutes of going around and around. So I ended up walking out the door with a GE 5.8GHZ phone for free.

On my way out, the guy with the display model asked me what they had done for me. They had apparently given him one of the phonemates, in box. I don't know if they found it in the back or what. We did notice two sitting at the customer service desk, which they said were for people who had ordered from - they might have taken one of them.

It was an interesting experience. When I can dig up a scanner that works (I don't think my parents have one, and the three I have are in Baltimore) I'll post a scan.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

New Jersey, new stuff, ect...

I'm actually in NJ right now - I've been here since Thursday. I had some vacation and personal time to use up, and I feel bad that I rarely see my parents anymore, so I took off Thursday, Tuesday, and Wednesday and drove up. I basically get a week off but only use 3 vacation days, so it works out.

I've been doing some bonding with the 'rents - we drove out to PA today and toured the Yeungling Brewery in Pottsville, and tomorrow we're going out to Reading to hit up the outlets. Beer and cheap shopping - two of Mad Anthony's favorite things.

In totally unrelated news, I've stumbled on another site similar to w00t and the late . It's called midnightBox. I just paid $5.86 for something. I don't know what. If you remeber, it's closer to that in that the price changes - but while dropped the price until it sold out, midnightBox raises the price - and tells you more about the product.

I love buying random crap that I don't know what I'm buying. I recently ordered 4 sets of mystery bags from Yak Pak and 3 random shirts from thinkgeek. I did the tupperware mystery box as well, but wasn't too thrilled with what I got. And of course, the w00t box of crap, which has given me more priority pucks than I could ever need.

MidnightBox does have kind of crappy shopping cart software though - I could not get it to change my default address. I had initially set it to use my billing address, but it uses the default address for shipping, and I use my work address for shipping since I live in the city and my neighbors will jack my shit if I get it delivered home. I ended up having to create another account, and luckily it will let you change your billing address, but oddly enough not your shipping address - which is the reverse of pretty much every other website I've every bought from - and I buy loads of shit online.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Hey Ralph, keep away from my SUV...

Via Engadget comes an interesting tale of business and regulation.

A group of American investors want to sell a Romanian SUV in the U.S. The vehicle is a military-type truck that they figure will sell for around $20,000 and target marketed at hunters and off-roaders as a "poor man's hummer" (there's probably a dirty joke in there, but this is a classy blog).

But they are having trouble getting the vehicle through the web of regulations that the government has up. They've finally got the thing emissions-certified, but now they have to deal with safety regs. Specifically, the National Highway Traffic Safety (NHTSB) requires air bags - and the cost of putting air bags in the truck would bankrupt the importer, which wants an exemption.

This isn't the first time that air bag regs have blocked an old-school SUV - Land Rover stopped selling the Defender 90 (the classic Land Rover) because they didn't want to have to deal with putting air bags in it.

Arguing against the exemption is every car maker and enthusist's worst enemy, Ralph "unsafe at any speed" Nader, or more specifically his group "Public Citizen".

The group says the truck will "put thousands of lives at risk". Never mind that the people buying the thing are hard core hunters and off-roaders, who don't exactly define "risk averse". More importantly, aren't these people smart enough to figure out if the risk is worth the cost savings? What Public Citizen is saying is that they are smarter than car buyers and should make choices for them about the cost and benefits of a vehicle. And that angers me.

The irony? There is a way out for Aro - make the thing heavier, since trucks over 5500lb don't need air bags. Of course, this makes everyone worse off - truck buyers get a heavier vehicle that probably handles worse and gets worse gas milage due to it's increased weight. And people who share the road with the truck run the risk of being hit by a heavier, and thus more dangerous in collision, vehicle.

Which brings the conclusion that many government regulations have perverse effects that make everyone worse off.

I actually kind of like the idea of a cheap rugged 4x4. I'm planning in the next couple years to buy an old Jeep Grand Wagoneer, because I've always had a soft spot for them, and want a truck for those occasional snowy or rainy days or times I need to haul stuff. That would let me eventually replace my current car, a PT Cruiser, with something sportier for everyday driving.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Why do I always hurt the ones I love?

I have a router I really can't stand - a D-Link. Every now and then it crashes, usually right when I really want to get online. The router is in my landlord's room, and it always seems to crap out when he's asleep...

It crapped out this morning, and now it's not giving me the static IP I need for my eMule settings to work - and no matter what I do, I can't get it to give me the right IP.

So I vented my frustration by repetedly hitting my poor keyboard, thinking "wow, I love this keyboard - it really takes abuse". It's a Microsoft Natural Multimedia Keyboard - solid, nice feel, nifty volume controls, and the MS Split keys. Plus, it's like a $40 keyboard, but I got it for $10 after rebate.

Then I went to type something - and noticed the tab key was missing. I looked all over the floor and can't find it. So now I'm using a logitch media keyboard - and hitting the wrong keys because I've gotten used to the split keys. Plus, it feels kinda cheap compared to MS Natural.

I need to learn to control my freakin' temper.

Monday, May 23, 2005

How not to design a website...

I've been running tickets at work, and one of them was for a coach who was having trouble getting his PDA to sync with his PC. I get there and the PDA is an old Handspring Visor. I'm not sure what model it was, but it had a greyscale screen and took disposable batteries.

I run Palm Desktop, and it promptly crashes. So i go to Palm (excuse me, PalmOne's) website to download a new copy of the Palm Desktop software. After running around in circles between "palmsource" and "palmone" websites, I finally find a link to download the software.

But there is a catch - you have to enter the serial number of the PDA to get to the software. The serial number is in a different place on each Handspring, and I'm not even sure what Handspring I was working on. I check all the places on the site (under the battery door, under the "Handspring slot" cover, ect) with no luck.

I gave up. I never found the damn number. I finally found a copy of the software on a network share.

But I don't understand the "enter your serial number" bullshit. There is only one reason that someone downloads Palm Desktop - to sync a PalmOS pda with their computer. (I guess you could use it aa a standalone calender, but it's not a very good one, and it's hard to imagine too many people doing that). The software is freakin' useless unless you have a Palm. Why make it so hard to download?

Sunday, May 22, 2005

The strangest hip-hop diss ever...

I was skimming the reviews at the back of Blender Magazine (I signed up for a free subscription a while ago) and one of them was of Will Smith's new album. It mentioned the song "Mr. Niceguy", saying that it was his attempt at dissing all his haters (and not doing too well at it).

So naturally I downloaded it off eMule, and was rather surprised to hear that he refers to libertarian black radio host and author Larry Elder as an "uncle tom".

It's been a while since I've read Larry's books (although oddly enough I just bought a copy of Showdown because it was 25¢ in the clearance section of Target). However, the only coverage I remember him was in the positive sense - that he was one of the few rappers who doesn't curse ect. Maybe this is an attempt at an inside joke, or maybe he's pissed because Elders has ruined his street cred by endorsing him (never mind that the Fresh Prince of Bel Air is probably more responsible for ruining his street cred than anything else).

I did a search of Larry Elder's website, and the only mention of Will is this article about the sucess of blacks in Hollywood. And it's not exactly recent, considering that it uses the words "recently" to refer to "Men in Black".

There doesn't seem to be much on the web about this conflict, except for this guy's blog and this message board discussion that is focused more on Eminem vs Will Smith than anything else.

So I guess I'll have to keep wondering if Will dissed Larry for ruining his street cred, or if there is more to this hip-hop battle. Will it be the next Jay-Z vs NAS? For some reason, I think not.

One more thought on the Loyola Guliani thing...

I stumbled on this post while doing a technorati search on "loyola Baltimore".

And yet, when it’s a Democrat who supports abortion rights, they forbid them from speaking. Interesting, yes?

Oh, the hypocracy. But here's where it gets interesting. The linked article only mentions one other politician:

Earlier this week, New York Rep. Sherwood Boehlert, also a Catholic, canceled his speech to graduates of St. Elizabeth's College of Nursing after learning a bishop opposed his appearance. Boehlert said he did not want to draw attention from the graduation ceremony.

So he wasn't barred from speaking there, but rather chose not to speak there. You could argue that this was because of pressure from the school or the outside, but he still made the choice himself.

And the other interesting thing about him? Sherwood Boehlert is a Republican himself.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

I wasn't going anyway, but now it's because of political reasons..

I've talked about the Loyola/ Guliani commencement speaker kerfuffle long before it was cool. Well, it's over, and there were all of 5 to 10 protesters there. Not exactly shocking - they were making a big deal about protesting at the college, basically in front of the building I work, and I saw exactly one protester during the two weeks that this was going on (and that was on a Saturday when I happened to be driving down Charles St to go home).

Cardinal Keeler made a big deal that he wasn't coming (via Andrew Sullivan, who probably reads way more into it than he should). Never mind that he never said he was coming in the first place, and never was formally invited.

So inspired by his huge display of not going to something he wasn't going to anyway, I'm going to protest against Cuba by not going there, and protest against Hummers by not driving one.

I hope the party is over when I get there...

I'm realizing what a loser I am. One of my housemates is having a party this afternoon. I'm at work, and have some errands and other stuff to do afterwords, so I won't be back until 6:30 or later. I'm hoping that the party is over when I get home.

I can't imagine thinking that a few years ago when I was in college. But while I enjoy hanging out with people I know, hanging out with people I don't know, like my roomate's friends, is something I dread. I hate meeting new people, and I suck at making conversation with people I don't know.

Plus the roomate who is having the party is an English grad student at Hopkins. That means that all his friends are way smarter and better looking than me. He had a party last year, and it was filled with people I couldn't relate to. By looking at most of the guys, you would assume they were gay, but after a while realized that they were in fact those metrosexuals that the press likes to talk about. You know how Maxim and other men's mags have those pictures in the back of guys modeling clothes that you would never in a million years wear, and aren't quite sure who would actually buy them? These are the people who actually buy those clothes. It also doesn't help that most of their politics are somewhere around Dean/Nader territory, which means standing around awkwardly while a bunch of people talk about how much they hate Bush.

By now, you might be thinking "but Mad Anthony, at least it's a party. That means free booze". And sadly, that doesn't even really excite me anymore. In the last couple months I've sharply cut back on my beer consumption. I think I've had maybe 2 beers in the last month. The reasons for this are twofold: first of all, I've been trying to lose weight, and beer is basically empty calories. Secondly, I've been crazy busy - even now that I don't have any classes, I've still got work, eBay, cleaning, and other stuff I should be doing. When I drink beer, I get tired, and when I get tired there is no way I get anything done. So I'm at the point where drinking one or two beers will probably knock me out, thus making me seem like even more of a loser.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Someday I will post something...

I know I haven't posted much. I've joined the gym at the college I work at, and so that's been eating into time. I've also been eBaying a ton of stuff in the hopes of someday finding my back door. Plus work has been crazy - I no longer know where I work. Several people have been moved around, and I'm now doing desktop support instead of helpdesk - which I like better - more flexibility and more interesting work. But this may only be for the next 30 days, so we'll see. I'm hoping it's permenant.

But the thing about doing desktop is it cuts into my blog reading and blogging time...

Sunday, May 15, 2005

How elastic are gas prices?

I wanted to write about this for a while, but am just getting around to it. A while ago, Virgina Postrel had a post about gas price elasticity. (for non-economists, here's Wiki's definition of elasticity of demand - in simple language, if something is price-elastic, a small change in price will produce a large change in quantity demanded, if it's inelastic, a large change in price will produce only a small change in demand).

Virginia's perspective is that demand is elastic for gas, because there are lots of room for changes in one's driving. I would tend to disagree. I for one have not changed any of my driving habits with higher gas prices. I already run my errands efficiently, going to stores after work or going to multiple stores that are near each other at the same time, or going to the gym straight from work. I would do these things even if gas went down to 50 cents a gallon. I don't do it to save gas - I do it to save time. I'm too busy to drive somewhere over and over again if I can do it in one trip. My guess is that for most time-strapped Americans, the same is true. Throw in commuting, which I have to do no matter how high gas prices get (sadly, I can't call out from work because gas prices are too high) and my grad classes (once again, profs expect me to be there no matter what the price of fuel) and there aren't many trips I can eliminate. I'm still going to make the drive up and back to NJ Memorial Day weekend to visit my family, because I care about them more than I do gas prices. So there aren't really too many trips I can eliminate.

As the passage Virginia quoted points out, a large chunk of gas prices is taxes, which stays the same. But I think another factor is that for many people, gas is one of the smallest parts of their car budget. Personally, my car payments and insurance (being under 25 in a city with full coverage sucks) come out to nearly $800. My gas bill (I use a credit card with a generous cashback bonus for gas purchases) usually hovers around $150. Gas would have to go way up to make a significant change in my spending.

This is not to say that gas prices haven't affected my gas purchasing - I've started going out of my to a rather ghetto gas station that has cheaper gas. But part of this is once again time rather than money - with no night classes for the next two months, I have more time to shop around. Once I'm busier, I will probably not have the luxury of shopping around.

I'm sure there are some people on the margin who do make changes - possibly large changes - based on gas prices. Someone planning on driving cross-country may reconsider. But for most people, I think there are limited short-term changes that can be made with higher gas prices. In the long term, people may make more changes - trade in their SUV for a smaller car or buy a house closer to work - but in the short term I think changes are small.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

More thoughts on the phone as MP3 player...

A reader had an interesting comment on my earlier post on why I don't think that cell phones with MP3 players will replace the iPod. He pointed out that Apple has been working with Motorola to develop an iTunes-compatible phone, and that an Apple-designed interface would combine the advantages of the iPod's easy to use interface with a cell phone.

It's an interesting thought, but I don't really agree. Why

here are my MP3 players - a 10 gig firewire iPod and a 1 gig shuffle.

here is my phone - a Motorola i95cl

So what do these pictures show, beyond the fact that I suck at taking close-ups of stationary objects, and that I'm so messy that I use empty cardboard boxes for furniture?

Well, the iPod Shuffle has 3 buttons/switches on it, counting the jog wheel as one button. The iPod has 7, if you count each of the four buttons as seperate (since they are actual physical buttons on this model) and the touch wheel as a button. The cell phone, on the other hand, has 23 (counting the volume up/down and the jog wheel as one button each).

See, cell phones have to have lots of numbers on them, because that's how people are used to dialing phones. MP3 players don't. All you really do is go forward/back, play/pause, and change the volume and mode. Adding an MP3 player to a phone either means adding extra menus to the current setup and using the current buttons to navigate, or adding even more buttons for the MP3 player. That is going to be a challange that I think any interface designer will have trouble overcoming.

The other I think makes it harder is the convergence between something and cell phones that is already happening- but not MP3 players or cameras. I'm talking email. It's one of the functions that Gates touted in his speech. It's also a big part of many people's buisness world, as Treos and RIM BlackBerries and other handheld messanging devices with phones built in become popular. Email and the cell go together, and are useful. But being able to send emails means being able to type, and that means having 26 keys for the alphabet, plus punctuation.

We have a BlackBerry where I work, and it's bulky, and the interface isn't real great. It's hard to imagine using it as an MP3 player. And while the bulk will go down and the interface will improve, nobody can get past the fact that MP3 players don't need a lot of buttons, while cell phones and wireless messanging devices do - and that creates a device that is going to be both physically imposing and with a very complex interface - the two things most people don't want in an MP3 player.

Scenes from work, workout edition...

Coworker: Are you ready to go to the gym now? When are you leaving?

Mad Anthony: I'm ready whenever you are. You're the only reason I'm still here.

(long awkward pause)

Mad Anthony: That sounded really gay, didn't it?

No, I don't want to read your email...

I had a call yesterday at work from a woman who claimed she wasn't getting all of her email, and that if she did certain things she would get an error message. I was pretty sure what she was doing was simply clicking on a hyperlink to an invalid email address, but I wanted to verify. So I said that I would remote control her machine and try to reproduce the problem and see what she was talking about.

She then started yelling at me that she didn't want me to read her email, that there must be some other way to troubleshoot it, and she would rather not have the problem fixed than have me read her email. So that's exactly what I did - nothing.

Here's something to remember when calling tech support - we have no desire to read your email. Despite what you may think, I didn't spend four years in college and 2 and half years working in tech support just so I could read your email. What I want to do is fix your problem as quickly as possible, so I can go back to reading my own email.

Two other things to remember: First of all, most organizations' policies state that email is property of the organization. So you don't really have any right or expectation of privacy. Second of all, if we really wanted to read your email or see what's on your network drive, we could, without you knowing. But we don't, because 1)we don't care and 2) we don't want to get fired.

So when IT asks to remote your machine or log into your account, it isn't some evil plot to read your email. We just want to fix your problem.

If we ban nuclear weapons, only criminals will have nuclear weapons...

Lilek's NewsHouse piece this week looks at nuclear proliferation.

I liked his conclusion:

Apparently it is better for North Korea and Iran to sell nukes to America's enemies than for us to use nukes to destroy these weapons before they're built. We nuke their bomb factories, they nuke our cities -- in the end they're both the same, no?

No. They're not. And even if they were, what would you rather lose -- credibility or New York?

It's interesting how weapons on any scale seem to produce the same reaction from those on the left - restrict the people who most easily can be restricted from having the weapon, despite the fact that another group that has the same weapon is the one whom causes damage with it. That's gun control in a nutshell - make it harder for anyone to own a gun. This means law-abiding people have a harder time getting guns, but doesn't affect criminals, who aren't buying their guns from their friendly neighborhood gun store, but from some guy on a street corner.

The same logic is applied to nuclear weapons. Iran and North Korea have them, and they pose a grave danger. So the reaction is for the United States to get rid of their nuclear weapons. Not because it will solve the problem of crazy dictators having nukes and not being afraid to use them, but it will make people feel like they are doing something.

That, and a sincere dislike and distrust of the United States by those who advocate nuclear disarming. Because these people don't see a difference between the government of the United States and North Korea. The probably figure that, after all, Bush and Kim Jung-Il are both kinda, you know, creepy.

But the US isn't North Korea, and whatever flaws we have both in the past and in the present, they are nothing compared to the flaws of Iran and NK. And us getting rid of our nuclear weapons will have a perverse effect - it puts us in more danger because it means that our enemies will have the weapons that we don't.

Friday, May 13, 2005


I noticed (thanks to my sitemeter logs) that my iPod post was mentioned in Slate's blog roundup. It's nice to get noticed...

Why you should carry a camera with you when you drive...

Sometimes you see a vehicle while driving in Baltimore City traffic that you just can't describe with words. I saw one of them yesterday, and I just happened to have one of my digital cameras with me (the Tosiba) so I was able to squeeze off two pics. And if a picture is a thousand words, this is a two-thousand something word post!

Big pimpin'

spendin' g's

And yes, those "spinners" are made of geniune plastic.

I'll miss you Dennis Miller...

I was really dissappointed to find out that the Dennis Miller Show goes off the air today. It's pretty much the only political show I watch. It's like the O'Reilly factor without the screaming or Bill's annoying self-richeousness, mixed with the Daily Show minus the annoying liberal slant, mixed with the Capital Gang with more interesting panalists.

Then there is this nasty post on Huffingonton's blog by Evan Smith, who I'm guessing has never watched the show. Ironically, he says that ot even proximity to John McEnroe could make him look good - which is funny since McEnroe's show debuted after, and was cancelled well before Miller's show - so maybe it's that proximity to Miller couldn't save McEnroe.

You hear a lot these days about "South Park Republicans", a catagory I probably fit in to some degree. They are people who are libertarian/small government types, but without the staunch antiwar aspect of the Libertarians, but without the "morality police" aspect of the Religious Right. Miller was pro-war and pro-Bush, but he didn't like every Bush policy or Republican action. He was, for example, pro gay marriage. He also did a really good job of finding people who disagreed with him to put on his "varsity panel" - people like Willie Brown, Sandra Sing Lo, and Al Franken (who was a guest a couple times, but not on the panel). He also had a good mix of conservatives from Cato, the Weekly Standard, the Jewish World Review, and other conservative think tanks and publications, plus various bloggers like Moxie, Mikey Kaus and Cathy Seipp. And he was respectful to his guests and didn't interupt them all the time like, say, Bill O'Reilly.

Guess now I'll just have to read more blogs to get my news and opinion.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Will the phone replace the iPod?

Via Slashdot comes news that Bill Gates thinks mp3 phones will kill the iPod. Of course, Gates expects those phones to be running Windows Mobile, so this is like GM announcing that in a few years all cars will be Chevrolets.

But running Windows or not, I can't imagine cell phones replacing the iPod or MP3 players in general. I think Apple will hold the MP3 player market for a while - they have become ubiquitous as the MP3 player, in the same way that one thinks "Kleenex" instead of "facial tissue". Even if Apple loses the MP3 player market, I think it will be to another MP3 player vendor, not to cell-phone MP3 players.

Sure, some people will use them, but I think most people won't. Why? For one thing, all in one devices tend to do lots of things, but do few things well. Cell phone cameras take lousy pictures, scanner/copier/printers do none of those things well, and the Subaru Baja (ie Brat) is kind of useless as a pickup.

Also, many people, myself included, use an MP3 player for exersizing, and don't want the bulk or complexity of a cell phone. The iPod Shuffle has been sucessful for that reason - because it's simple, not because it has lots of features. I can't imagine trying to jump to a song on a cell phone with anything near the ease of an iPod. People tend to buy devices because they have all kinds of complex features that sound great but aren't easy to use. I have a TV that I've owned for 6 years that has picture in picture. I've never figured out how to work it, and I have a degree in Information Systems. Want to try to figure out how to navigate a cell MP3 player while you are on the treadmill, and risk accidently calling your mom and panting?

So I think iPods, and single-function devices in general are going to be around for a while.

EDIT Welcome, Slate readers. Consider sticking around and reading some of my other entries, several of which actually are coherent and make sense. More importantly, I've written a second post on the subject that addresses some of the first commenter's comments - and includes 2 crappy, very blurry pictures!

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Commence with the speaking....

Well, college graduation time is approaching. This is one of my favorite times of the year, because I happen to work for a college located in a city, and I find it's way easier to find a parking space without all those students around.

But it's also the time of year for commencement speakers, and the usual debate over if some schools choices are innappropriate. Some, in my opinion, clearly are - like having a convicted cop killer as your speaker.

But moving beyond the obvious judgement calls - I believe colleges should be firmly against cop-killing - the debate becomes murkier, and I tend to side with academic freedom and letting people speak despite their political views.

For example, while I dislike Kofi Annan and the UN in general, and find Clifford May's column rather entertaining, I can't really fault UPenn for having him as their commencement speaker. He is the leader of a multinational agency that many respect, even if I firmly believe that that respect is misplaced and dangerous.

My own alma mater is also getting some controversy over it's choice of speaker, former NY mayor Rudy Guliani. Oddly enough, those complaints aren't coming from the left, but rather from the far right - the Cardninal Newman Society, a group that seeks to "renew the Catholic identity of Catholic colleges" is asking people to write letters and emails of protest because they feel he is too pro-choice and pro-gay.

The Cardinal Newman group has in the past complained about the Vagina Monologues being performed at colleges. Now I will agree that from what I've heard, the Monologues sound like total crap. But that doesn't mean I would advocate their censorship at a Catholic college. The group basically sounds like they want to make Catholic colleges more like other Christian colleges, where everyone who goes is of that religion and practices it daily. The atmosphere at most Catholic schools - where there is religious diversity, but students have church and religious activities available to them if they choose to participate - seems like a much better way of treating college students like adults and letting them choose how they practice their faith - as well as opening students up to opposing viewpoints, even silly ones involving the word "vagina".

Getting back to commencement - given a choice, I would rather have a well-known speaker who I disagreed with than an unmemorable one. I don't even remeber who my college graduation speaker was, despite it being only 3 years ago, and despite not even being all that hung over at graduation. I think many take commencement too seriously - I think commencement speakers are more about entertainment and less about an endorsement of that speaker's viewpoints.

And the fact is, graduation isn't really about the students. I didn't really see my graduation as a big deal, except for the fact that I got some money and a few good meals out of it. It was more for my family - a chance for my parents to see that all that money they spent on tuition hadn't been wasted, a chance for them to know that they had started me off on the right track education-wise, a chance for them to feel proud that their son had successfully moved up the educational ladder (neither of my parents are college grads). Getting up at 7am and wearing a silly gown, and listening to whoever the college has picked to speak, is the price that students pay for giving their parents this opportunity. Truth be told, few people really care about the commencement speaker. The parents who go to graduation are there for the students, and the students are there for their parents. The commencement speakers are there, if for any reason, to keep the faculty and administration entertained and generate some publicity for the school.

Gas Pains...

Maryland has been putting the smackdown on gas price competition. They have a law that it's illegal to sell gas below cost, and it appears they are starting to enforce it against some stations in Westminster, MD that are engaging in a price war.

I don't really have anything better to say that what Todd at Volokh stated, as well as the Walter Williams article he linked that asks the all important question Do you suppose that Maryland enacted its gasoline minimum-price law because irate customers complained to the state legislature that gasoline prices were too low?

I did, at one point, have a lot to say on this subject. When I was a senior in college, for a second-semester Business and Government economics class, we had to write a paper. One of the possible things we could do was critique a law. This was in 2001, when the minimum-gas price law was just passed. The paper is here (or here if you prefer the fancy formatting of MS Word).

I do love Todd's summary of Maryland politics:
Maryland, which appears to have never met an ill-considered anticompetitive regulation that it didn't like..

Friday, May 06, 2005

Do as I say, don't do as I do...

I stumbled on this article a couple months back on Newhouse while reading one of Lilek's columns.

I wish more people would do what the article suggests, and let management know when they get good service somewhere. I say for selfish reasons - I'm a helpdesk technician, someone who deals with customers on a regular basis. While most of the people I talk to are happier and better off when they get off the phone then when they started, it is fairly rare that people contact those above me to say thanks. On the other hand, when someone doesn't like the answer they get - even when it's technologically impossible, against policy, or the result of every possible thing going wrong that could have on a given day - they often let their dissatisfaction known. And frequently, by then managment has forgoten the details, like that the reason you couldn't restore their file was because the backup software restores files back to their home directory, and the server that stores their home directories is down, and just tells you not to tell people you won't restore their files. Not that I'm bitter or anything.

I can't say I practice what I preach, though - I don't think I've ever written a letter complementing good service - although I don't think I've complained about bad service either. I have found, however, that being nice to people in service professions, no matter if they are on the phone or in person, will often result in better service and a more pleasant experience for everyone. And being nice to the people who don't usually get noticed - the food service worker or the janitor - will often help you in the long run.

So the next time you get off the phone with tech support and think "wow, that person did a great job", consider shooting an email or phone call (I prefer email, since it gives a record) to their manager. And the next time they give you an answer you don't like, think about if it is something they really could have or should have done before you complain. And I'll try to do the same for the other service people I encounter.

And no, I'm not saying that there aren't people out their in service professions who aren't jerks - and there are many, myself included, who have been jerks at some point in time.

I've got to be at work in 5 and a half hours...

And yet I'm awake right now. I made the mistake of "laying down for a few minutes" when I came home last night, which turned into a 3.5 hour nap - meaning I got none of the things I expected to get done done.

And now I'm not all that tired. Plus, woot is having a woot-off (new item every time one sells out), and I don't want to miss it. Never mind that I am staying up to buy stuff that I don't need and don't even want. Damn, they know how to market...

I'm going to be regretting this in a few hours - especially since I'm working a 14 hour day tomorrow because there is a night final. This will bring me mad overtime, if I can stay awake...

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Hi, I'm Mad Anthony, and I'm a shopaholic....

I enjoy buying stuff. This time of the year seems popular for clearance sales in electronics, and I've snagged a bunch of stuff from various stores, mostly for eBay resale. In the last month or so, I've bought 5 external PC DVD burners, a set-top DVD burner, an MP3 player, a CD clock radio, 2 sets of binoculars with digital cameras, and the afformentioned digital camera.

But tonight's purchase is probably the oddest.


Yup, I am now the proud owner of 750 feet of Staples brand bubble wrap, for the oh-so-low price of $13.00. That's probably about $60 worth of wrap right there.

Someone had posted this on Fatwallet a couple days ago. I tried two Staples stores, but neither had it. I decided to swing by the Russel St Staples on my way back from class tonight, and they had 8 rolls in stock. They were pretty friendly too. They actually have a ton of clearance stuff, probably because most of their business is delivery and not retail - they are literally in an industrial park accross from Ravens Stadium, just outside Crackton.

So I guess I can control my spending - I could have bought all 8 rolls, which would have been 2800 feet of bubble wrap, which would have been nearly half a mile of bubble wrap. But instead I settled for a tenth of a mile worth. Not that I probably could have fit more than 4 rolls in my car, anyway.

These are truely the best of times....

Some people complain that things were better in the "good old days" when things were simpler, before technology made things more complicated, and made people lose touch with what really mattered.

But I disagree. I think technology has made our lives better. I mean, it's brought us this.

The individually wrapped, ready-for-the microwave potato. Truely a work of genius.

I enjoy the occasional baked potato - with some fat free margarine-like spread, it's as good a healthy subsitute as I can get for mashed potatoes. With some frozen peas and some refrigerated pre-cooked turkey with gravy it's like Thanksgiving, only from my microwave.

I tried the PotatOH and was impressed. The fact that it's prewrapped is nice, but what I really like is that it's prewashed - I hate washing veggies. The wrap does work well though - it came out somewhat crispy on the bottom, and the skin was practically falling off the potato.

And it was only 66¢. How can a man look at a microwavable prewashed potato for under 3 quarters and not agree that the world has never been better than it is now?

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Talking back to the TV, part 1...

Best Buy Ad: Imagine if you could control the Black Eyed Peas, right from your desktop..

Mad Anthony: Man, the things I would do with Fergie if I could control the Black Eyed Peas....

Grading, game theory, and group evaluations..

When I was an undergrad econ minor, second semester senior year I took a business and government class, primarily because it was one of the only econ classes that was offered on Tuesday/Thursday. The prof I had (who wrote this textbook) had a great grading policy. He said that he didn't want grading to be a "zero-sum game". His thought was that in a traditional grade-on-a-curve, students are angry at those who suceed because they throw off the curve. So instead he built about a 15-point curve into the grading, which was great, since by the end of the semester it worked out that I needed like a 68 on the final to get an A in the class.

One of the MBA classes I'm taking this semester is just the opposite. We had a group project that we had to work on, in self-selected groups of 2-5 people. At the end of the semester, our prof passed out the most evil group evaluation I had ever seen. We had to give our group members, including ourselves, points, which had to total 11. Points assigned could not be fractional. In other words, if your group has more than 1 but fewer than 11 members (which all did), someone had to get fewer points.

Our group of 4 was pretty happy with each other - none of us were perfect, but we all did our best and worked together pretty well. So we decided on some OPEC-style cartel collusion. We each gave ourselves 2 points and all the other group members 3 points. We figured this would average out as equal plus show that we felt our fellow members pitched in We all watched each other fill out and hand in our surveys, to ensure no cheating.

I don't know how effective this was so far - final grades haven't been turned in yet. While it is certainly creative, it also seems somewhat unfair to create a grading system where someone has to lose.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

People who tick me off...

There a couple things I've noticed of late that irk me. I was going to put them in seperate posts, but I figured I'd lump them into one, so if you don't like hearing me whine you can skip to another post...

1. People who don't tie their shit down in their pickups OK, you have a pickup and you have a bunch of stuff that you want to transport. Here's a novel idea - take the time to secure that stuff with some rope and/or bungee cords, especially if you plan on driving on a major Interstate highway with said stuff. I recently had the joy of watching a sofa cushion tumble off the back of a Ford Ranger a few weeks ago on 83. A few days later, I nearly rear-ended the car in front of me when it slowed down because of the trash can that was sitting in the middle of the road. And my car still bears a small dent above the right side wheel well thanks to a trip to class down I-95. I saw what I thought was a piece of cardboard chilling in the left lane, so I steered so it would be in the middle between my wheel wells. Except it turned out not to be a piece of cardboard, but a piece of wallboard, and it flew up at my car at the last mintute.

Seriously, large objects in the middle of the road create a massive road hazard, the kind that kills people. So tie your damn shit down.

2. People who don't flush the toilet in public restrooms. Ok, congrats. You just had a large bowel movement. I'm sure you are very proud of yourself. That doesn't mean I want to admire it, though. Please flush when you are done.

3. People who use cell phones in inappropriate places I don't have a problem with people driving while talking on their cells - I don't do it much, because I don't really talk to people, but I don't see it as any more distracting than listening to the radio, talking to your friends, or yelling at your kids while driving. But there are certain places where it isn't appropriate to talk on your cell. Case in point - I was at the college libary today finishing up a take-home final on my Powerbook when I notice some kid talking on his cell phone - in the library. What's worse, he got up from where he was sitting and started pacing while talking on the phone. Not cool. People go to libraries specifically because they are quiet (it certainly isn't for the decor, which at our library hasn't been updated since the 1970's - it actually made Princeton Reiview's top 10 for ugliest libary). Take your cell outside, or at least into the "lounge" with the door that closes.

One down...

Ethics final was completed a little over an hour ago and emailed.... Not sure how I did, but she's generally an easy essay grader, so I think I did OK.

One more presentation and I'm done with homework until Summer II!