mad anthony

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

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Scenes from the bar, DP edition...

Coworker: You know, if you want a picture for okcupid, you should have me take one of you in front of the giant bank of monitors. It will look like you're important

bsom: You could put something up on the monitors..

bsom's gf: like donkey porn.

dude at the table next to us: Yo, did she just say donkey porn?

Ride. Pimped.

Well, I finally got the cover installed yesterday on the Ranger. It actually looks better than I thought it would. I have two hamfests next week, so it will come in handy - and it will be a good test for it.

3/4 view

It took about 45 minutes for it to be installed. Evidently, they normally forklift them on, but the woman who runs the place was worried it would blow away in the wind, so I helped her lift it on the back - which made me realize how little upper body strength I have. I really need to start lifting. Maybe this summer.

Anyway, I spent most of the time throwing a ball with the owner's collie. I'm not usually comfortable around dogs - my brother was allergic, so I never had them around growing up, so I'm never quite sure how to act around them- but she was friendly and dropped the ball at my feet, so it was cool.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

eCommerce is everywhere...

Pulaski Highway through Baltimore County sometimes seems like it's hardly been touched by time. It's and old truck route, and most of the businesses have that white trash/ truck driver kind of vibe - junkyards, used pipe dealers, motels that lazy novelists would describe as sleazy, truck dealers.

Skippy's Truck Caps fits in - a collection of small sheds, racks made of 2x4's used to hold truck caps, and a mobile home used as an office. It doesn't look like the poster child for how the internet has changed commerce - it's pretty hard to mail a truck cap.

But Skippy's is where I got the hard tonneau cover for my Ranger installed today, and I was surprised how automated the ordering process is. I first found out about them when, just after buying the truck, I filled out an info form on ARE's website and got an email back from them outlining options and pricing. I wasn't ready to buy then - a little short on funds, plus not sure if I wanted a tonneau or a full cap.

I decided to go with the tonneau, and went to order two weeks ago. While I was there, the owner checked pricing on ARE's dealer intranet, and placed the order for my cap.

See, truck caps are a great example of "mass customization" that futurists like to talk about. It's kind of like Build-A-Bear (an example that Instapundit's Glenn Reynolds uses in his book Army of Davids to show how personalization has become popular) only for trucks. Caps and covers need to be sized not only for a specific year and make and model of truck, but are also matched to bed size, styled to match certain option packages, and painted to match the OEM color of the truck. They are custom made to order. It's a huge industry (next time you are driving, look at every pickup truck you see - chances are many of them will have a cap or cover), but not one that gets much press (probably because few business journalists drive pickups).

Truck cap dealers don't seem like they would be a very plugged in operation. But from what I saw when I researched, ordered, and recived my cover, their suppliers have created a pretty robust b2b system, using the web for marketing as well as for ordering.

I don't know what the truck cap process was like 10 or 15 years ago, before the internet. I'm guessing that it probably involved a lot of paper and faxing. It also might have something to do with why when you see old truck caps, they were usually white instead of body colored.

People still sometimes like to talk about how the dot-com bubble exploded, how it was all hype, how stupid it was to think we would all buy pet food and ice cream online. But eCommerce has affected lots of industries where it isn't really apparent, and totally changed the way that they operate.

(BTW, I'll try to post pics of the cap tomorrow)

Thoughts on that whole new year's resolution thing...

So, in an effort to try to make some progress on that whole stop being single thing, I put up an ad on OKCupid, a free site recommended by a forum I read. It has a nifty matching algorithm thing, plus it's free (my favorite price).

No nibbles so far. I haven't worked up the nerve to actually email anyone either - most of the girls who come up as matches are either 1)way out of my leauge or don't seem to have a whole lot in common with me. Usually both.

I'll probably throw up an ad on PlentyOfFish as well, since it's free. I can't really bring myself to spend money on match or one of it's competitors, and Craigslist is too freaky for me (one poster on a forum I regularly read described the dating section of Craigslist as "Adult Friend Finder for poor people", which seems pretty approrpiate.

I'm starting to think this whole dating thing isn't for me though. Online dating really doesn't have that much of an advantage over dating in the meatspace - it might make it easier if you are on the margins, but it still doesn't overcome the real issues.

And the truth is, I don't really like myself all that much. I look in the mirror and see a hairy guy with a beer gut and bad posture. If I was a chick, I wouldn't want to date me. (of course, if I was a chick, I'd probably spend all day playing with my boobs.) Writing the OKCupid ad was tough, because I couldn't really come up with anything interesting about myself. I go to work, the gym, home, sometimes class. I buy shit to sell on eBay. That's madanthony in a nutshell (help, I'm trapped in this nutshell. let me out). I don't play in a band or paint or climb mountains (shit, I have trouble climbing stairs) or fight to save orphaned kittens.

I'm starting to think that I just need to start learning to accept the fact that I'm probably going to be single for a long time, possibly forever, and learn how to enjoy it. I'm not sure how, though - when I'm by myself and not busy, it only reminds me that I'm alone with myself.

But I guess that's reality, and I might as well try to learn to accept it, because I don't really seem to have the confidence to change it.

Friday, January 12, 2007

I don't really follow ice hockey...

Evidently, there is football game tomorrow that has a bunch of people in Baltimore excited. Me, to borrow a phrase from my old landlord, I don't really follow ice hockey.

Baltimore has been going crazy - people wearing purple, banners and purple lights all over town, cars with Raven slogans written in shoe polish.

Me, I'll probably either be doing stuff around the house or running errands at game time. I don't begrudge people who are into this kind of thing - I'm not one of those elitist intellectual types who looks at organized sports as a kind of bread and circus. I just don't find it interesting. I have other things to do on a Sunday or Monday night than watch games. While I admire athletes who have the willpower to keep in shape, and my recent attempts at weight loss have made me realize how hard that is, I don't really have any desire to watch them.

I guess it would be nice if the Ravens win - it would be nice for Baltimore to briefly be known for something other than it's high homicide rate. But I won't be camped out in front of TV anytime soon, at least not to watch the game.

iWant an iPhone and iDon't know why...

I spent my lunch break on Wednesday with a coworker, huddled around the 30" display that's hooked up to a quad-core Mac Pro in our High End Lab (aka HEL) watching the macrumors coverage of the Macworld conference and the release of the AppleTV and iPhone.

I'm not terribly excited about AppleTV. I was surprised by the numbers cited in the presentation of how many people there were using iTunes, especially for TV shows and movies. While I use iTunes the software to play music on my two main machines at home and to manage my Nano, I've never bought anything from the store - most of my music is aquired from, umm, other means. I also already have a device that does what the AppleTV does - a GoVideo streaming DVD player that I bought a few years back for <$100 and upgraded the firmware on so it can play DivX. I haven't used it since I moved, because I haven't gotten it to work wirelessly (not that I've put much time into it) and I don't feel like running cable from my router upstairs to my living room downstairs. But if you are a hardcore iTunes user, it's not a bad product.

The iPhone is a different story. I really want one, which is odd, because I hate all-in-one phones. Right now I have two phones - my work phone is a Nextel Blackberry 7250 and my "home" personal cell is a Verizon LG VX8100. I use the blackberry primarily for email and work-related chirps, and the LG for personal calls - I haven't even bothered to flash it to make use of it's MP3 capabilities, and I almost never use the camera on it. I pretty much want a phone to be a phone.

But the iPhone looks cool - it has a hell of a display, and the multitouch screen is awesome - you can "pinch" stuff onscreen to resize. The fact that it has Safari - a real web browser, even though I don't think it's as good as Firefox or Camino - is a huge plus, as is being able to connect to wifi. The fact that it works with any POP email account is great, and the "visual voicemail" where you can skip voicemails onscreen is awesome - I get a lot of vm's from automated dialing things that I would love to easily delete. The MP3 capability doesn't mean much to me - I use my Nano mostly at the gym, and I can't imagine taking a fragile $600 device with me to the gym and risking crushing it.

Which brings me to the disadvantages - the high price (although not hugely out of line for a smartphone, but still way higher than many after promotions) and the fact that it's only available on Cingular for the next couple years (I was briefly a Cingular customer when Cellular One got bought out back around 2001, and I was less than impressed). Plus, I'd be kind of scared I'd break or scratch the thing (while I might complain about my blackberry, it has an uncanny ability to survive being thrown against a concrete wall multiple times, or so I've heard...)

I'm already trying to convince my boss that I need one of these so I can support them in case any of our Mac users get them. We'll see. If I can get work to pay for one I'd be all over it, but I wouldn't buy one myself. I'm wondering if that's going to be fairly typical, and it might be the stumbling block for Apple/Cingular. Blackberry and Treo devices were sucessful because businesses bought them because they are great at email and as PDA's - the camera/web browser/music features were secondary. The iPhone is a phone/entertainment device, so busineses are probably going to be more reluctant to spend that much money on their employees when a big chunk of the cost is for features, like 4gb of MP3 storage on flash memory, that don't have a business purpose. I'm guessing a lot of those fancy phones were paid for by businesses, and that they won't be buying iPhones for their employees. Just the fact that it's an Apple product may be a disadvantage for some corporate IT departments, who often run scared from Apple products (except for those wierdos in PR or Advertising).

So I think it's an awesome product, but I don't know if it will quite be the sales success that Apple is hoping for.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

I won fidy dollar...

I evidently won first place in the Stootsi new year's resolution contest.

But unlike corbo's suggestion, I have a blog already, and it doesn't seem to get girls...

I'm Bob Dole...

Well, MadAnthony is known to sometimes refer to MadAnthony in the thrid person. MadAnthony now knows why - evidently, he is Bob Dole. Or, more specifically, according to this political quiz, I'm a 34, which puts me closest to Bob Dole politically. (Poll found via instundit

Now I like Bob Dole, if only because it takes balls to get on TV and talk about your erectile disfunction. But as many people, most elequently Eugene Volokh, have pointed out, the quiz has a lot of issues.

My biggest problem was with:

10. Which would curb violent crime most?

Stricter controls on the sale of guns
Mandatory sentences for those who use guns in the commission of a crime

Umm, how about neither? Violent crime is bad - but it doesn't necessarily mean guns. I don't think someone who stabs, burns, runs over with a car or strangles someone should be punished less than someone who shoots someone, so I think stronger sentances on violent crime in general, not just on those who use guns, is the best answer. I picked the second option, because it's slightly less useless than the first (the people who use guns in crimes don't generally buy them legally) but I don't like either answer.

And then there is:

3. What about private institutions and people? Which do you trust more?

Professional athletes or
Team owners?

Ehh, I don't think I trust either. Actually, that's more on an individual basis than as a group.


Which would do more to guarantee competitive elections?

Term limits
Public Financing

Umm, how about neither? Public financing is a bad idea - money is speech, or at least is used to buy speech, so I'm against it (as well as McCain-Feingold. But I think term limits are silly - if you don't want a person to keep getting elected, vote for someone else, either in the primary or in the general election. Since people keep voting for the same person again, term limits strikes me as going against the will of the people. It also seems to me that there are advantages to having someone whose had experience in office, knows the way things work, and has a proven track record.

One more:

15. Gays and lesbians should be able to marry or at least be treated as married under law if they so desire.

Agree Disagree

I have no problem with gay marriage, but I think the question is more complicated than that - I think if it's going to happen, it should be a vote by people in a given state, not something passed by a judge. And I don't see the lack of gay marriage as the equivilant of segregation, as some have tried to paint it.

Feel free to take the quiz, however flawed, and post your results (and thoughts) in the comments...

Monday, January 08, 2007

Up is down, black is white, Robert Byrd is a fiscal conservative...

I don't watch much political/news TV now that the Dennis Miller show is off the air. But I do have my RePlayTV set to record the Wall Street Journal Editiorial Report off of FoxNews on Sunday mornings. It's good to watch while I eat my Sunday morning bagel with Nutella and drink about 8 cups of coffee.

So I was watching it yesterday and something made me do a double-take. They were interviewing Jim Cooper about the new congress and he was talking about how more fiscally responsible the Dems were by cutting spending, thanks to the hard work of David Obey and Robert Byrd. (The transcript is here.

Yes, that pargagon of Fiscal Responsibility, Roberty Byrd - who as Dave Barry best desribed, spent more than one billion taxpayer dollars in his relentless ongoing effort to improve West Virginia by covering the entire surface of the state with a gigantic slab of federal concrete (which will be named "The Robert Byrd Concrete Slab").

Now, my guess is that Robert Byrd's veto of the spending bill had much more to do with a desire to kick the Republicans in the balls than any newly aquired desire for fiscal disipline on his part. But the fact that a moderate Democrat can command Robert Byrd for his fiscal prudence without breaking out into laughter shows that the Republicans probably should have been a little more careful about their spending the last few years....

Saturday, January 06, 2007

So where are all these fit but fat people...

Via Jane Galt comes this new republic article about how being fat isn't an issue if you are fit (bugmenot - that there is a lot of research that people who are overwieght but physically active do better than people who are thin but not physically active. Jane's take is that the difference is that it's hard for someone who isn't in shape to exersize, so they are less likely to be active.

I think that's true. But I think it goes further than that. Weight is a pretty good proxy for fitness level. I go to the gym pretty regularly (although not as often as I would like to). Almost everyone there (except me) is in really good physical condition. While I know plenty of people who are skinny/normal body types who don't work out regularly, I know of few grossly overweight people who do. So while it may be true that being fat isn't necessarily bad for you if you are physically active, it seems to me like it's difficult to be physically active and fat. In fact, I've noticed that, in my own struggle with the gut, there have been times where I've pretty much gone crazy eating but kept exersizing, and my weight pretty much stayed the same.

The same applies to BMI. It's not perfect, but it's still a pretty good indicator of weight. Sure, you can throw some unusually muscular people into it and come up that they are obese, but for the vast majority of people - people whose extra weight comes from eating a box of pizza rolls for dinner chased down by a pint of Chubby Hubby (my regular dinner in my pre-diet days) rather than from spending hours lifting weights - it can provide a reasonable guide for where you are and where you need to be closer to. (For the record, my bmi is 25.8, so I'm still overweight, but not by as much as my gut would suggest...)

The TNR article also points out that there are studies showing that mice put on low calorie diets gain it back once they go off the diets and resume eating an amount that they were eating before, and that the same thing happens in humans. That means that crash diets are a bad idea, but it doesn't mean that changing your eating habits is a bad idea. My guess is most people who are overweight/obese are eating way more calories than they expend. Increasing physical activity is one way to eliminate those calories, but so is decreasing the amount consumed - not bringing it down to a crash diet amount, but instead by cutting out enough calories to bring it below the amount expended. That doesn't mean getting rid of the occasional treat, but it does mean not eating a gallon of pudding as a midmorning snack. Part of the trick to losing weight and keeping it off is to not go on a crash diet, but instead to develop healty eating habits - habits that are healthy enough for you to lose/maintain weight, but that are palatable enough that you can keep them for life.

So while I think there is some merit in the "fat but fit" argument - especially in the importance of regular exersize - I think that there are few people that are truly fit but are still fat - that fat is a good indicator/signaling mechanisim of fitness.

Pimpin' my ride....

So I took Thursday off, and spent the day spending money.

One may ask why I would take a day off 2 days after coming back from a week-long holiday vacation (the joys of working for a college). The reason is simple - I was maxed out on vacation days. Once I hit 75 hours, I stop accumulating vacation time. Since I like to save my vacation time in case I need it for something, I rarely take days off - so I needed to use it or lose it.

I'd been wanting to get a bedliner installed in the Ranger for a while, so I finally did that on Thursday. I got a line-x liner installed. It wasn't cheap, but I won't have to worry about the bed getting scratched.

While I was there, another guy came in to get a bedliner installed on a Chevy Silverado 3500 dually. He bought it used, and it had a drop-in bedliner on it. When they took the liner off, they found that the previous owner had cut a hole in the bed to mount a fifth-wheel gooseneck trailer. Dude was not happy.

I also ordered a Tonneau cover - an ARE LSII. It should be in within two weeks, which will mean I'll have protection for the next two Hamfests I'm going to at the end of the month. And it even has a rebate!

Spent another chunk of the day driving around - I hit two targets (including one I hadn't been to before) to root thru Christmas merchandise - I now have a lifetime supply of air freshners and dishwasher detergent, thanks to hidden "Christmas" scents. Ran a few errands, missed my exit and ended up near the Eastpoint mall, so I ended up stopping at the Goodwill accross the street - although all I bought was a $2 Victorinox swiss army knife (target return) and a bottle of goo gone (the crap collector's best friend.

I have to say it was nice not going into work... I wish I could do it every day.

Monday, January 01, 2007

New Year's Resolutions, 2k7 edition...

In the past, I was never big on making New Year's resolutions. I didn't really look at New Year's Day as the start of a new year - sure it is from a calendar perspective, but it doesn't usually hail large changes in life. For a student, those changes are measured by semesters, by school years, not by calendar years. Now that I have a real job - but work for a school - this is still true, but not as much.

So I'm making a few new year's resolutions this year.

1)Lose weight. This one is pretty familiar. I'm still about 10 pounds above what the CDC BMI chart says I should be, and when I look in the mirror it looks to me like I could stand to lose more than that. I haven't been eating as well as I should, and I could stand to exersize more, so those are two things I hope to do this year. I only have one class left in my MBA, so that should give me more free time to devote to more important things, ie the gym. I probably should be more specific if I really want to accomplish this - detail how much I want to lose each week and exactly how to accomplish things - but it seems like life has a way of changing the best-laid plans, so I think laying out every meal for the next 365 days is kind of pointless. Besides, I'm starting to wonder how much it matters if I'm 10 pounds overweight - it's definitly a big improvement over being 100 pounds overweight, which is where I was two years ago. And keeping that weight off takes some effort. If I'm good about what I eat and exercise, and still don't lost those 10 pounds, I can probably live with myself.

2)Live Better. This one is pretty vauge, which is exactly what goals shouldn't be - they should be clearly defined, with timetables and deliverables, so you know what needs to be done by when so you know if you are on track. But this isn't that kind of goal. For the last couple years, my main focus has been on buying a house and getting my MBA, along with some other smaller goals. I haven't devoted a whole lot of time to things I enjoy, beyond eBay and Hamfest. So what I'd like to do this year, now that I have more free time and a house to enjoy that time in, is get back to doing the things I used to enjoy doing. I want to spend more time reading books for pleasure - granted, I prefer nonfiction, usually business or economics books, but I enjoy them and have read very few of them over the last couple years compared to what I did before. I also used to play the drums, and plan on bringing my old drumset back from the 'rents house once I get the cap installed on my truck so I can safely transport them. I also used to - as a kid, anyway - enjoy cooking, and that' something I'd like to start doing, now that I have my own tiny little kitchen. If I can afford to, I'm also hoping to get my back yard fenced in, and spend some quality time with my new gas grill (30% off, Target clearance), probably with a beer in one hand and a cigar in the other. I'd also like to get my ham radio license - not that I will probably ever use it, but it seems like it would be cool to have, and I told bsom that I would study for and take the test with him once I wrapped up my MBA. Plus, once I get my ham license I can get those cool Amateur Radio plates for my Ranger.

3)Stop Being Single - I mentioned this last year jokingly. Along with the more time and enjoying life more, this fits in. I don't really know how to do this. Accomplishing last year's goals - buying a house and losing weight - were easy. They can be translated to a simple formula - to lose weight, burn more calories than you take in. To save for a house, spend less money than you take in. Sure, the details can be a little tricky, but at least if you aren't succeeding it's easy to figure out that it's because you are spending too much or not exersizing enough. Meeting girls is way harder.

One of the books I had to read for one of my MBA classes was The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. Sure, there are a lot of hokey stories in the book, and I regularly wanted to smack his kids, but there were also some good lessons, and one of them dealt with the circle of control - the idea that there are certain things you can control and certain things you can't. While you shouldn't worry about the things you can't control, you also need to realize that many of the things you think you can't control you actually can. Sometimes they are situations where you are making a choice, although you are choosing what's essentially the lesser of two evils - you are making a choice, but your options suck. Sometimes, though, they are things you can control but tell yourself you can't.

I think my love life, or lack of one, is one of the latter. I haven't done much to try. Part of that is low self-esteem - I can't really imagine wanting to date me if I was a girl - and fear of failure. I've been able to make excuses - to focus on my other goals - but now that I've acheived them I have an empty house to come home to. So there really are two things I can do - that are in my circle of control. The first is to work to develop some self-confidence. I'm not really sure how, but I need to make a point to talk to people, and to not be afraid to be shot down - I need to make myself realize that to try and fail is better than not to try at all. (I used the word "people" in that sentence instead of "women" because this really goes beyond dating and into my work and general social life - I tend to avoid talking to people unless I feel comfortable with them, and since I don't talk to them I'm never really comfortable with them). The second thing I can do is try to put myself in more situations where I may come into contact with dateable women. I'm not really sure how to do this - I don't really go to bars, and because most of the people I hang out don't either - they either don't drink (and I'm not much of a drinker anymore either, because I've turned into a lightweight) or are already in a relationship. I've also heard church as a meeting place, but I've never had luck with that - most of the women my age seem to be married with kids already, and there isn't really a good way to walk up to a random chick and introduce yourself. Maybe I need to go to a different church. The other option is internet dating, somethng I've been scared to try. I'm having trouble coming up with an ad that doesn't make me sound like the whiney loser I perceive myself as. But it's something I should try, because I have everything to gain and little to lose.

4)Save More - I made two big purchases this year - a house and a new truck. That's put quite a bite on my cash flow, and I don't have a whole lot left over. I also have two major home improvement things I need/want to do this year - replace my air conditioner condenser unit thing, which freezes up and leaks when the AC is on, and fence in my backyard. I'm hoping that my tax refund will cover most of this. What I would like to do is throw my "extra" cash (rebate checks, gifts, eBay income, hamfest income, what little overtime I still manage to snag) into a high-yeild savings account, and use that money to accomplish two goals. The first is to get my truck loan paid off early, and the second is to get about 10% of the principle of my house paid off so that I can drop below the 80% threshold and stop having to pay PMI. I plan to pay off the truck first, mostly because mortgage interest is tax-deductible and Ranger interest isn't. I have the account set up, although right now it's only got the $50 minimum to open it. I doubt I'll be able to get the truck paid off this year, but I'd at least like to get enough socked away that I can do it in the next year or two and then start working on the mortgage.

So there are my resolutions. Wish me luck

The MadAnthony 2006 year in review

So it's getting to be that time of year again. The time of year when New Year's resolutions are made. I'll put up a seperate post with those, but I figured this is a good time to review last year's resolutions, which I had posted here.

I think I did OK, for the most part - I didn't hit the specific time targets that I had set, but I accomplished two of them and was pretty close to the other one.

I did lost some weight - about 20 of the 30 pounds I was hoping to lose. There are still 10 pounds seperating me from my current weight and what my weight should be according to the CDC's handy calculator. I suppose you can guess what one of next year's resolutions will be.

I did buy a house, although not as quickly as I hoped to, and I did get rid of a bunch of stuff before I moved, although I still have a ton of crap I need to wade through sitting in my basement.

Back in '04, I had my parents take a pic of me. I decided to make it a tradition, so I could chart my changes in apperance. So here they are:

Mad Anthony, circa December 2004

Mad Anthony circa December 2005

Mad Anthony circa December 2006

So I'm a little less fat than I was a year or two ago, and my hair has returned back to it's normal color after July '05's bleaching experiment. I've also grown a bit of facial hair. And I still need to get a new pair of glasses.