mad anthony

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

Friday, March 30, 2007

If Dvorak says the iPhone will flop, you may want to buy Apple stock...

I've ranted in the past about John Dvorak columns, most recently here. But I recently stumbled, posted on a message board I frequent, another one of his amazingly stupid columns here which predicts that the Apple iPhone will be a flop.

And if Dvorak says it will flop, that means it will probably be an unqualified sucess.

Now, honestly, I have mixed feelings on the iPhone. From what I've seen, it's got an amazing interface, some very cool features (Safari, Visual Voicemail), a ton of built-in music sofware, and integration with iTunes and the iTunes music store, the most popular online music store.

Working against it is the fact that it's only available on Cingular, the fact that it's damn expensive ($599), that it may be fragile, and that some people may not want to use a $600 device for the things they use an mp3 player for, like going to the gym. I think the Cingular tie-in may hurt it the most - lots of people are locked into other carriers via contracts, and can't switch, even if they have a positive perception of Cingular (I really don't - I had them briefly in college after my Cellular One account got absorbed into them, and was less than impressed). The other thing is that lots of those smartphones (including the Nextel Blackberry 7520 currently clipped to my pocket) are paid for by employers. Employers are unwilling to spend $600 on a device for employees, especially when it's 1)made by Apple and 2)when most of the features that make it expensive are entertainment-oriented and not work-oriented. It also lacks the managment ease of having a BEZ server the way Blackberry does.

So I doubt it will be the next iPod, but I think it's got enough going for it that it won't be the next Rockr or Newton either. And Apple has done a decent job of taking some of their failed products or concepts and reworking them to become useful - the G4 Cube was a flop, but not the Mac Mini, the original iPod only held 5 gigs, hooked up firewire, and only worked with Macs, and Apple had dabbled in set-top boxes for years before AppleTV.

But my biggest gripe about Dvorak's column is that he chalks up the sucess of the iPod to marketing hype and the Apple brand name. He's correct that pre-Apple, the MP3 player indusry was a bunch of no-name players. Heck, I had one of them in college - a Digisette or something that I bought for $30 off uBid. It's 32mb of memory held about 6 songs - 7 if they were short. But the iPod was also innovative not just because it was from a recognizable brand, but because it was a good compromise between size and capacity - it used a microdrive, a small hard drive, when other MP3 players were either flash (and thus held few songs) or used laptop hard drives (and thus were big and bulky). The iPod also had a really good interface. And it didn't really take off until the third generation, when Apple finally launched iTunes software for Windows - before that, Windows iPods used MusicMatch, which sucked.

So if the iPhone is a sucess, I think it will be because of it's features, and not because of the hype (although the hype will help). And if it's not, I think Apple will go back and fix it until it is.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

And then my network card asplode...

I'm not doing too well with windows machines at home lately.

So last month my 4-year-old AMD that I was using as my primary machine stopped booting up. Luckily I had a spare machine - a CISNET celeron 3.06 that I got for $200 from one of CompUSA's "midnight madness" sales last year. It's been working out OK, even though it lacks a few of the things my old machine had, like dual monitor support and more than 6 USB ports (my old machine had 18, not counting hubs).

So I was printing out something for my class tomorrow (only 7 more sessions!) and my machine rebooted itself. Comes back up and won't hit the internet, tells me that it can't find the DHCP server. Reboot my router, same thing, reboot the machine several times, same thing. Get on the macbook, it gets online fine. OK, so maybe wireless is working on the router but wired isn't. Disable AirPort, plug into network, works fine. Try to disable and renable the onboard NIC on the CISNET, something that sometimes works on some of the machines at work. After about 5 failed attempts to get into the BIOS on the cisnet (you have to hit delete, and then either F8 or delete again, or something...), I give up. Pull the old Netgear PCI card out of my old machine, plug it in... and it works fine.

So I guess the onboard nic died. Not to mention when I tried to print anything, it restarts. I haven't tried to troubleshoot that... I'm kind of frustrated. Too bad that I think this thing is out of warranty, and even if it's not I'd have to send it to Secaucus and be without a PC for a while.

I think I really need to get cracking on building a new machine soon.

Mad Anthony F's with the police... auction

I generally hate the question that I seem to get from coworkers on Monday mornings. It seems like my coworkers always have great weekends, filled with drinking, debauchery, and other pleasures. I, on the other hand, have the kind of weekends that make those of 75 year old church ladies look exciting - they generally consist of watching tv, running errands, doing homework, going to the gym, and - if I'm really lucky- going to a couple yard sales.

This weekend, though I did something fun. Well, something I think was kind of fun... even though it's pretty lame. I spent a large chunk of Saturday at the Maryland State Police Seized Items auction.

It started at 9, with registration starting at 8. I got there right around 8am, after driving down 95 in the Ranger through the rain while eating a tasty chicken biscuit from Chik-fil-a. There was a pretty long line for registration, which was held in a state police recruiting trailer. You had an hour to look over the items, which were mostly the kind of stuff that either people steal (cd's, mostly in soft cases, laptops, cell phones, jewelery, watches, car stereos, portable cd players) or that they use to commit crimes with (knives, gun scopes, scales). There wasn't a lot of chance to see stuff, given the amount of people there.. it was crowded. They ran two auctions, one outside (tools, bikes, a set of wheels and tires from a Mercedes, ect) and the electronics and clothing and stuff inside.

I bid on a bunch of lots, but much of the stuff went way high and I dropped out. I also left early - there were still about 200 lots left, including some knives and multipurpose tools I was interested in, but I'd been standing for 5 hours and my feet and back were killing me, so I paid and left.

So what did I buy? Four things, in order of auction:
-A Pelouze 2 pound digital scale - $10
-A Lanzer Encore x10 10 channel crossover - $37
-A roll of 100 37ยข stamps for $19
-An Apple Powerbook (15" G4 1ghz, 256mb RAM) for $500

The best deal was probably the stamps... I basically got postage for half price, and I mail a lot of stuff between bills and rebates. I've already ordered 400 one cent stamps from to go with them (I'm ready for the postage rate increase). The Encore was kind of a mistake - I saw x10 and figured it was for home automation networking, but it turns out it's for hooking up elaborate car stereo systems. I can't find any, sold or unsold, on eBay, so I don't know if I'll make anything selling it.

The Powerbook was one of those things where I wondered what I was thinking afterwords.. I didn't know the specs, if it would turn on, or if it had an adapter. It did, and it's got a reasonably decent processor, although it's a little low on everything else (256mb RAM, cd-rw, no airport). It's also got a couple dings in it. Still, I'm sure I can get most of what I paid for it on eBay or locally. It was a gamble, and I don't usually like to gamble - but I'll probably come out of it better than most people in Atlantic City.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Load up on guns and bring your friends....

Since last year, a couple of my coworkers who are avid gun enthusists have been trying to get me to go shooting with them. It's one of those things I've always wanted to do, but I've never had a chance to - the last time they took a couple of the college students who work with us there was the night I wrote the contract on my house.

So yesterday one of my coworkers mentions that he's going to the range with another coworker, and did I want to come? bsom and his girlfriend had also talked about going for a while, so we all piled into his car and (after an extended stop at Whole Foods so bsom could take care of a poo-mergency) headed to Continental Arms.

Up until yesterday, I had never fired a gun before. My parents were always the kind of people who can't see why anyone needs a gun, and I've never really had exposure to them. One of my coworkers had a Beretta .40cal semiautomatic, and the other had a bolt-action Marlin 22 magnum. The Beretta was very cool - powerful, lots of kick, and a laser sight. As bsom put it, it's a point and click interface - it's shooting for the video game generation.

I can't say I was the world's best shot - I haven't gotten used to the recoil, and I don't have the world's steadiest hands. Still, I did OK, and they say that practice makes perfect.

Which is why I'm thinking about buying my own gun. I can't really rationalize buying something as big as the Beretta, but I can get a .22 rifle for a few hundred. I figure I could use a new hobby, so I'm seriously thinking about it.

Besides, it could come in handy if the revolution comes - or more likely, if I ever find myself in a post-Katrina type state of chaos.

Monday, March 19, 2007

This post's interest rate will reset to higher one it two years...

Somone, possibly Megan McCardle, at the Economist's Free Exchange blog, is pondering who the typical subprime borrower is - someone who generally has good credit but couldn't get a loan for rising housing prices without an unconventional loand, or someone with generally bad credit who probably couldn't normally finance a piece of bubble gum with 25% down (a reference to the documentary Slasher). Meanwhile, Brad DeLong thinks that it's a failure of the lenders, not just the borrowers, to the point that a federal bailout is in order.

Now, MadAnthony is pretty much as free-market capitalist as they come, to the point of defending Ford for it's Pinto gas tank decision and arguing that human organ sales should be legal. But I've also bought a home in the past year, and can't help but think that mortgage brokers and companies have some share of the blame.

When I was shopping for a loan, I was offered mortgages with payments that would have been impossible for me to make and still buy food - with payents that would have made up about 70% of my take-home pay. I had a mortgage broker tell me to transfer funds out of my savings account and hide them so I would qualify for downpayment assistance. I had a major provider approve me for a no-doc loan without requesting it because of my "good credit" - they didn't call it a no-doc loan, they had some sort of marketing-speak for it, but the bottom line is that they would have loaned me close to a quarter million based entirely on the fact that I've paid my Amex bill and the loan on a 2002 Chrysler.

And the government isn't entirely blameless either (I always find a way to blame them for something). When I bought Casa De Mad, I took advantage of Maryland's More Home 4 Less program, which uses federal CDA (Community Development Association) funds. In addition to a lower interest rate, and various options including IO's (Interest Only for the first 5 years), 40 year terms, and and ARM's (Adjustable Rate Mortgage), the program offers a $5000 no-interest loan towards closing costs. Which I did not qualify for, because I had enough money in my savings account to cover closing costs.

Which is retarded. I easily could have made a bunch of purchases and spent that money, but instead I saved it, and I was punished for my responsibility. More importantly, it's suicide to buy a house without having something saved up in case of an emergency - either something breaking in the house and requiring expensive repairs (like, I don't know, an air conditioner that hemorages water), or to cover mortgage payments in case of a job loss. But the government has set up a program that discourages homebuyers from having savings, thus encouraging people to be stuck if they end up needing savings.

What was interesting is I was evidently one of the first people to have this problem. When buying a home in Baltimore County, one has to go to one-on-one counseling which includes a financial review of pretty much every financial document you've ever had - tax forms, pay stubs, bills, ect. When I found out that I wouldn't get the loan, I called the nonprofit that did my councinling, and they had never run into this before - suggesting that most people who use the program have no savings. And during the conseling session, the woman who ran the program pretty much looked at my financials and said she didn't really have anything to say. While I'm not exactly a scofflaw, I'm not exactly loaded either, so that suggests that the average first-time homebuyer is really stretching things. They made a big deal that you had to put at least 1% down to use the more house 4 less program, which also suggests that many first time or marginal borrowers aren't the best at financial planning, or at least don't have the most stable income sources.

I think that there is some truth to the fact that homebuyers felt that they had to stretch to buy a house, or had to jump into the market before they were priced out. I first started looking at home prices and the like around '04, and prices pretty much doubled between then and when I actually bought. While I would have liked to have made a larger down payment, and while I had to give up some of the things I would have liked in a house (garage, lawn, not being attached to other houses), I also felt that I needed to jump in when I did or I would never afford a house - so I bought right before the market started sliding. (Of course, I also had to work around my lease and my job).

I do question the wisdom of many of the loans people took out. I tend to be risk averse, so an ARM or IO or anything where my payment might go up was not something I wanted to do. I also don't have any big plans to switch jobs, so I wasn't going to bank on having a higher income in a few years. It's one thing to hope that your house increases in value, it's another thing to depend on it in a few years to make payments. Some of the alternative loans that were sold were designed for a very small subset of people - less than IO mortgages were often designed for people who get most of their compensation in one lump sum, like salespeople with large commissions - they could make small payments during the year and then a big payment when they got their year-end or quarter-end bonus. But those loans were sold to people not in those catagories, and lots of that blame for that falls on the mortgage industry.

So what to do? Well, here I'm torn between my libertarian small government beliefs and my own self-interest. Even though I have a fixed rate (although 40-year) mortgage, it's in my best interest that there is a soft landing to the subprime mess. I don't want prices to go down a bunch, which is what will happen if foreclosures increase and banks start auctioning off houses at rock-bottom prices. And the fact that less subprime loans are being written is bad when it comes time to sell a house- if fewer people can get financed, fewer people can buy, and prices go down - good old supply and demand. So even if I would never use a 50-year stated interest ARM, their availability makes my house worth more.

I tend to be against government bailouts. I do think (as much as it pains me to say this) that Hillary Clinton has an intersting point in the quote in Brad DeLong's post - that prepayment penalties exist heavily in the subprime market and don't in the rest of the mortgage world. While I'm generally for courts enforcing contracts, getting rid of them is a less painful alternative to a bailout. I can't understand why anyone in their right minds would sign a mortgage with a prepayment penalty, especially given that the average person is only in a house for something like 5-10 years. And it beats massive forclosures.

I do think, though, that most banks would rather refinance a loan than foreclose. Let's face it, banks lose money on foreclosure. They don't want to have to do it, they want to own money, not houses. The kind of houses that get forclosed are often the kind that have "deferred maintainance issues". They are obviously worth way less than what's owned, or the person would sell the house (which is why foreclosure rates were so low during the housing boom despite the high prices - people had better alternatives to foreclosure)- which means the bank would be losing money. Refinancing - which keeps home values up, keeps banks out of the real estate business, and keeps subprime lenders from being kicked to the curb - seems like a win-win for everyone. Including me.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

How to write a paper...

About 2 hours ago, I finally finished the last individual paper of my MBA career. I still have a group project, and a few smaller assignments, but this is the last major paper I will have to write by myself.

It wasn't a difficult paper - 5 pages, plus another 6 pages of attachments. I think I was actually disadvantaged by the fact that I had several weeks to write it, and no other classes to worry about - I'm only taking one this semester. But that meant I had more time to procrastinate, more time to think about how hard it would be, more time to feel bad that I wasn't working on it, but not bad enough to actually do it.

I nibbled on the paper last weekend and throughout the week - making the outline for a a chart, writing a couple paragraphs. I worked on it for a while on Friday night while frozen rain fell from the sky. But I set aside Saturday to do the bulk of it. My schedule went something like this:

6AM: Wake up to alarm.

8:30 AM: Wake up to snooze button for the 36th time. Finally get out of bed.

8:31- 11:30: breakfast, TV, internet

11:30- 12:30 work on paper

12:30: Get call from bsom. He's making corned beef and green beans (his fiance doesn't like cabbage). Do I want to come over tonight? Sure.

12:30-1:30 - work on paper

1:30- 3 - Dump several pounds of salt melt on sidewalk. brush snow off truck. Chip melted ice off steps and sidewalk. Drive to Giant and the liquor store to get the essentials of bachelor life - 6 packages of Hot Pockets and a six pack of Guiness.

3:30-5 - work on paper.

5-6 internet

6-7 work on paper

7- 11 - corned beef

11- midnight - paper

midnight - bedtime.

By then, I gotten almost everything done except the recommendations and executive summary - you know, the whole point of the paper, the part that I'll probably be graded on. I crapped that out in an hour, and I don't think it makes any sense. Printed out the mess, stapled it together. It actually looks pretty good, but I have no idea about the content - I hate reading my own writing, I'm a poor judge of what's good writing, especially when I have a bias against the author, ie myself, and I'm not really sure what the prof is looking for (it's based on a case study, but he mentioned a few times he wants us to downplay the two major issues in the study, which doesn't leave much left. Plus, I had to keep it down to five pages, which made it difficult to say much of anything. I did cheat a little - it's 1.5 spaced and size 11 font).

I feel like I put a fair amount of work and stress into it, so I'm hoping I get a decent grade. On the other hand, I've kind of stopped caring. It's almost over, and then I wont' have an excuse to do all the other shit I need to do (ie I'll read these books, clean the basement, sell this stuff on eBay, get my ham license, get more exersize, work on the house, develop a social life, ect once I'm done with class, like class takes 30 hours a week instead of 3).

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Materialism, Happiness, and stuff

The WSJ has a really interesting article about how the US is the most depressed country of the 14 surveyed. The least depressed? Nigeria.

It's interesting, because for my international IT class that I took last year involved picking a country and finding out what IT looked like in it. Being the iconoclast that I am, plus having recived lots of spam from them, I picked Nigeria. My research seemed to suggest that Nigeria is, quite frankly, f'ed up - 5% of the country has AIDS, the average life span is around 54 years, and the military has taken to carjacking people for cash. Doesn't sound too cheerful to me.

But as the WSJ article points out, if you are struggling for survival, and winning, then you see that as sucess and are happy. If you have all the comforts of life, you have the time and luxury to look for meaning in your life - and if you don't find it, you are unhappy, even though your life is probably cushier and more secure than most of the world.

It's an interesting subject, and relevant. I was talking to a coworker over dinner a few days ago and complaining about, well, something, and he said something to the effect of "Well, you should be happy. I mean, you've got a secure job and a house and a truck and almost have your MBA".

Which is true. But who wants to judge their life, their accomplishments, by what they own? (well, I guess rappers do). You could argue that possesions signal two things - hard work and taste. Making a large purchase generally means that you've put a lot of time/effort into working for it, and made wise financial decisions. The possesions that you own also signal your taste, that you know what good things are, that you can pick the best - although I'm not sure too many people consider my bright yellow pickup as in good taste.

Even the MBA that I'll get, if I can ever get off my ass and write the paper that's due next week, is more a signal than something with intrinsic value. Employers look at college degrees more as a signaling mechanism that you have the work ethic to get through college than as a way to assure that you know certain things. I don't really feel like my MBA is any sort of accomplishment - it just means that I've gone to some classes and turned in some papers. But that may be enough - except for the fact that I have no plans to switch jobs, and there are no real promotion opportunities where I work -ever, so I don't really have anyone to signal anything to.

Posessions are nice, and they can be fun. It's nice compare, say,
your net worth to those in your age/income bracket
(you can calculate your net worth here), but few people want to be remembered after they die as the person who had a net worth that was considerably higher than their peer group. They want to be remembered as someone who was good, who did good. They want the higher things on the heirarchy of needs. Sure, food and shelter and pooping and security are on there, but so are esteem, confidence, friendship, sexual intimacy, morality.

Part of what keeps me down is comparing myself to other people - there are always people who have more money than me, who are smarter, who are in better shape (and are usually on the eliptical machine next to me, moving their legs at speeds I didn't think were humanly possible). Focusing on bettering myself for my own sake - to be better than I was, not better than everyone else - would probably make me happier.

But the fact that I seem to be destined to being single brings is a source of unhappyness for me as well. The fact that I don't seem to be accepted makes me feel that there's something wrong with me - and I always hope that if I lose a little more weight or make a little more money or buy a nicer car that that will help. It hasn't so far, and it never will. There are things I need to deal with - lack of self-esteem, an unwillingness to take risks - that I need to fix - but it's sort of a vicious cycle - I can't be confident if I feel rejected, but I'll always be rejected if I'm not confident.

Maybe this would be easier if I lived in Nigeria.

Friday, March 09, 2007

What nuts are you trying to ban? Deez Nuts.

Via Reason's Hit and Run Blog comes news that a Maryland delegate is working to ban hanging fake nuts on trailer hitches. For those who aren't familiar with the latest fashions in truck ornamentation, they are talking about deez nuts.

I joked about getting these when I bought the Ranger, but I wouldn't. And not just because I don't have a hitch, or because I'm too cheap to drop $25 on a pair of fake balls (I could eat lunch for two weeks on that...). I think they are tacky, as most people who don't drink a case of Busch before noon do. But I'm not convinced that they are the biggest threat to children. And as much as I hate to agree with the ACLU, there are some free speech issues. It's hard to think that plastic balls are a big enough threat to children to quell speech - it's not exactly yelling fire in a crowded theater. And there is a slippery slope - the bill would ban all naked private body parts, which the ACLU guy points out would include art like the Venice De Milo.

So while I don't agree with your desire to hang fake nuts, I will fight for your right to show your nuts. (I don't know if that sounds right).

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

The end is so close, yet so far....

Eight more classes. Two more papers, plus some reading and minor assignments. Then I'm done with this whole MBA thing.

I think I have whatever the graduate version of senioritis is. I'm having trouble getting myself to focus on getting what little work I have done finished. I have a case study that's due in two weeks. I've started it, but I haven't gotten far. It's only a couple pages - plus a whole bunch of charts (SWOT analysis, SPACE matrix, Porter's 5 forces, and a couple others I can't remember). It's actually on a somewhat interesting topic - BRL Hardy, an Australian wine company. I've read the case a bunch of times, opened up my laptop, started writing - but I just can't get the words on the page - or in this case, the screen.

I don't really care anymore. They announced people who got accepted into the honor society for business, and of course I wasn't one of them. So there really isn't any reason for me to care what grade I get - I'm not getting any kind of honors, and I don't plan on switching jobs, so there really isn't any reason for me to put in extra effort to get a good grade. For that matter, I guess this whole MBA thing was kind of a waste of time... although it's not like I had anything better to do with my time anyway.

It will be nice to get this over with though. Even though I haven't done much, every time I do something other than work on the case, I feel guilty. It hangs over my head, it beats under my floorboards like the telltale heart.

Reading about wine did inspire me to crack open one of the bottles of Trader Joe's Charles Shaw Cabernet Sauvingon (I'm sure I butchered the spelling of that) that I brought back from Virginia last year when I was down there for Apple training. I had two glasses and promptly fell asleep at 9pm, because 1)I don't usually drink much and 2)I never drink wine.

I am starting to lean away from the idea of starting on another Master's degree, at least this year... not so much because of all the work as because of all the guilt of not doing work I should be doing....

Scenes from work, bio edition

Coworker: Your body produces melanine instead of seratonin when it's dark. That's why you are unhappy during the winter, when it's dark more.

Mad Anthony: Really. And I thought my unhappyness was due to my lack of self-worth.

Scenes from work, computer say what edition....

MadAnthony: So I have a user who is having trouble with her monitor.

Coworker: CRT or tube?

MadAnthony: CRT. I mean tube. I mean neither. It's an LCD. What the hell kind of list of choices is that?


Reading a John Dvorak article always makes me sad. Because he gets paid a bunch of money and gets to play with all kind of cool gadgets, even though his columns don't really make any sense.

Take this one on "killing Wi-Fi". Ironically, he complains about how A good portion of the public doesn't really know what wireless means, yet his column doesn't really clarify things at all.

He seems pissed off that Verizion's EVDO and Sprint's similar wireless broadband service are expensive, and don't really do anything that he needs them to do, and that he can't understand why the public so stupid that if given the choice between that service and free municipal Wi-Fi, they'd want the slower expensive service over the free faster service?

To me, that's comparing apples to oranges. First of all, there is no such thing as "free municiple wi-fi", just like there is no such thing as a free lunch. I mean, it's free to use, but taxpayers pay for it. I personally don't think that local governments should be getting involved in municiple wifi, but if voters in the area think that's a good use of their tax dollars, that's up to them. I do think that businesses providing free Wi-Fi, like Panera, is a good idea - when I moved and didn't have my network connection hooked up yet, I ate at the Panera around the corner from me a bunch of times just so I could check my email from my Macbook - everyone wins.

The thing is that EVDO and municiple WiFi serve different markets. WiFi hotspots are great for the casual browser - the college student who wants to check their email. But since not every city will have municiple wifi, and since it's not economical for them to go everywhere, they aren't a viable solution for someone who lives and dies by their network connection, like business travelers. The college I work for has a handful of EVDO cards that are used by people who travel a lot, including student athletes who can do homework from the bus to and from games. The beauty of EVDO is that you can get a signal pretty much anywhere you can get a cell signal. If you depend on your network connection to put food on your table, then $60 or so is a small price to pay for being able to save a multimillion dollar buisness deal.

He also can't understand why everyone is so excited about EVDO when the speeds are slower than broadband. True, but the beauty of EVDO isn't the speed (although it's way more usuable than previous attempts at cellular modems) but the fact that you can use it in a ton of places, and that it's wireless - unlike an 802.11a/b/g/n access point, which is going to be plugged into a wire at one end - which means their needs to be a pipe (or tube) somewhere nearby.

He also discusses internet-enabled cell phones, although I can't tell if he's for them or against them or just really pissed off. I have a web-enabled blackberry. I never use it, because it sucks at browsing the web. That's probably why a bunch of other people who have web-enabled cell phones don't use it - either because they don't want to pay extra for the service, or because the web experience kind of sucks on lots of portable devices.

I'm giving up grocery shopping for lent...

OK, not really - It would be even sillier than giving up FaceBook.

But I realized a few weeks ago while putting away my groceries from Trader Joe's that I had bought duplicates of things I already had. I'm running out of room in my pantry to store food. My freezer has enough frozen Chinese-food-in-a-bag that I could eat it every night for two weeks and still have some left. I even still have leftovers from Thanksgiving that my mom gave me still in the freezer.

The problem is that I don't shop very carefullly. I don't prepare a list, and when I shop at Trader Joe's I just tend to grab the same things every time, without knowing if I actually need them. When I go to the real grocery store, ie Giant, I'm more careful - I peruse the circular and cut out coupons to match stuff that on sale, and so I don't have the same problem - except that I sometimes buy things because they are on sale even though I don't need/use them.

It's occurred to me that I've got a bunch of money tied up in inventory. So I've told myself that I'm not going to buy groceries until I finish what I have in the house.

That isn't, of course, totally true. I'm still going to buy certain perishables (soy milk, bread). I also take frozen stuff for lunch (rice bowls, hot pockets, lean cuisine) and I'll keep buying them as needed (although I'm tempted to just start taking cereal for lunch, since I at present have something like 9 boxes of cereal... I got a good deal). So what it really means is that I won't be buying stuff for dinner or weekend lunches.

I haven't made a "big" shopping trip in about two weeks, and I can probably go a couple more before I need to....

Saturday, March 03, 2007

I wonder how much longer I'll have a CompUSA to shop at...

Compusa is closing half of it's stores. The stores that are closing have disappeared from their store locator on their site.

Luckily for me, the store I usually shop at in Towson is one of the ones that was spared - although the Springfield, NJ store I would visit when at my parents is one of the ones getting the ax, as is the Glen Burnie, MD store I've shopped at a few times.

But I'm guessing that the reimaining 103 stores might not be around much longer either. Companies that are retrenching, that are closing over half their stores usually aren't in good shape, and there is a pretty good chance they might give up for good.

Which is too bad. The more stores that are around, the more competition, the more sales, the more deals - lower prices and more selection is good for consumers.

I've gotten some good deals at CompUSA in the past. Back in 2001 or so, I would go there pretty much every Sunday to get the free after rebate stuff advertised on their back page of their weekly ad. I bought my first DVD player there - a very hackable Apex 3201 for $49 after rebate. I bought my first flat panel - a 19" Kogi, thanks in part to a gift card I won from an in-store "price is right" type contest. Heck, I bought the computer I'm on right now - a $200AR Cisnet Celeron 3.06 from one of their midnight madness sales (it came with a crappy printer I sold on eBay for $25 and a CRT I gave my old landlord when I moved). Last year they paid me $20 for an XM
radio that I sold on eBay for $40, thanks to duplicate rebates.

But they haven't had as many good deals as they used to, although they have had some. But I think the biggest problem is that they have a lot of operating issues. Their stores tend to be old, dirty, ratty - I think the Towson store still has a big Prodigy logo on the front door. Their staff isn't always helpful, and often has no idea what's advertised in the circular. They do a horrible job with clearance or moving old merchandise - unlike Best Buy, which wholesales it's old stuff, or Staples, which keeps marking down stuff until the prices get stupidly low and customers go out of their way to find the reimaing stock, CompUSA tends to mark things down a couple dollars and let them sit around until they are well past obsolete. I'm not a huge fan of Best Buy - their prices are high, they don't offer rebates, and they've even stopped discounting their open box stuff and instead offer a gift card with purchase - but they know how to run a business - they create exciting stores, keep them up to date, move inventory. CompUSA never can seem to figure out if it wants to be an electronics store or a computer store or if they want to attract geeks looking for the obscure or newbies looking for their first machine.

Closing the stores may help in the short term, but in the long term CompUSA needs to change their business model to figure out who they want to serve and serve them, and they need to get their stores and inventory systems up to snuff.

We are all on drugs...

I really enjoyed this post from Megan McCardle about the stupidity of laws designed to make it hard to get pseudephadrine because it's used to make meth. And not just because of the Law and Order: Criminal Intent references.

My dad has been hit hard by sinus infections this year and has been popping Sudaphed like candy. And the last time I talked to him on the phone about this, I'm pretty sure I got him close to advocating drug legalization instead of futile laws like this. My dad, who I don't think has used any mind-altering substance any harder than screwtop wine.

So I think laws like this probably do more harm than good - I doubt they do anything to curb the flow to meth labs, but they make ordinary Americans wonder if this whole war on drugs thing is really such a good idea.

Single in a cruel city....

So I was on a message board I usually read yesterday, and someone posted a link to the Are You Experienced? quiz.

Mad Anthony's score? 64. The text included "Average, lukewarm, vanilla. Women hardly notice you." Which describes my life to a T. Although I'm fairly sure that it has nothing to do with the can of Axe sitting on my dresser.

So yup, still single. That New Year's resolution isn't going too far.

I did post an ad on okCupid. I got one response, but she was just looking for advice on buying a house.

I can't say I've put a whole lot of effort into it - I haven't replied to any ads. I always find some reason to talk myself out of it - too fat, too skinny, too young, too old, likes watching sports. And I haven't put any other ads up on other sites, partly because I'm cheap, and partly because I have no reason to think it's going to be any more succesful.

I had one, umm, interesting experience, this week. I was leaving a bar I grab dinner at on Fridays last week. While I'm headed out the door, I hear a voice. It's a women who works in another department where I work. I talk to her for a couple minutes, and then leave. When I get to my truck, my coworker who came with me goes "Dude, you probably could have hit that". She was kind of cute, and she did seem very friendly. Maybe there's hope for me after all.

So I'm back at the bar this week, and the grandmotherly women (well, grandmotherly if your grandmother occasionally curses and hands you pints of Yeungling) who owns/runs the place mentions that the bartender saw me talking to this women, and that I should stay away because she's, well, nuts. Evidently she's a bit of a nympho and would pretty much hook up with a ham sandwich.

So there goes my brief sense of thrill that someone of the opposite sex is interested in me. I guess it's good - I dodged a bullet. While hooking up randomly might be briefly satisfying, it's probably more trouble than it's worth, what with STD's and work awkwardness.

It does seem to confirm what I've always feared, though... any woman who would be interested in me would have to be crazy....