mad anthony

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

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

I wii-ly want one now...

So I've had four Nintendo Wii's pass through my hands. The first two were from, and went on ebay (for $390 and $290, respectively - the second one was when I realized that it was time to stop selling Wii's on eBay). The third one I happened to see in stock at Target when I was buying my 32" TruTech LCD (on clearance for 50% off), and sold to a coworker for a few bucks over cost as a favor.

But the fourth one was different. I bought it as a wedding present for BSOM and his wife. Well, not just me - four of us from work chipped in (although I still need to collect part of the money from one coworker, which means I may need to get out the golf club). I drove to a couple stores before finally finding a couple in stock, at Wal-Mart of all places. They had been wanting one for a while, but couldn't find one.

We (or should I say Wii) gave it to them on Monday while cracking lame wii jokes (like, we should make you fill out an agreement that we get the console if you ever divorce - you know, a Wii-nup).

So yesterday I went over their house and touched their wii. And I couldn't keep my hands off. I'm not a huge gamer - I have a PS2 sitting in a box that I used to play Gran Turismo 3 on, but the last couple years I haven't even played that - I've been busy with work, school, the gym, ect. But the Wii isn't like other video games - it's more interactive, thanks to the Wii-mote. You feel silly jumping around holding a remote, but it works. I sucked at golf and boxing, but I managed to beat BSOM at bowling, despite the fact that they dude took bowling in college (but failed, because he missed the final - got the dates mixed up). I sucked at tennis initially, but started to get OK at it. Wii tennis has all the fun of actual tennis, without having to worrry about taking a fuzzy yellow ball to the dome.

So I think I'm going to have to go wii hunting in a week or two, after this month's Amex billing cycle ends so I can take advantage of a month of float. Hopefully I'll be able to find a fifth one, this time for Mii.

I now understand why everyone wants them. Nintendo made a fun system, one that appeals to non-gamers and occasional gamers, to people who don't really like playing traditional video games - as well as to the normal gaming crowd. The fact that it's $250 (not cheap, but still much more approachable than $600 for a PS3) explains why most stores have a pile of PS3's and a big empty space where the Wii goes.

Well, right now I know what empty space I want to put my Wii into.... next to my TV.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Scenes from work, high fiber lunch edition...

Coworker: (holding a copy of Reader's Digest magazine): Was Reader's Digest always this small?

Mad Anthony: Yup, it's digest sized. It fits perfectly on a toilet tank.

Coworker: And the articles are also short... just long enough to read while pooping.

Mad Anthony: I usually get through two or three. I think it's because I take long poops. But it could also be because I'm a fast reader.

Coworker: You aren't allowed to talk at lunch anymore.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Oh, shoot...

Well, I went shooting on Wednesday. It was only the second time I've ever gone shooting, and obviously I need a little work.

It was a very different experience from the last time I went shooting. This time, instead of using a coworker's gun and sharing a lane with them, I had my own lane and rented a Sig Arms Mosquito .22. The last time was like going on a driver's test. This was more like having my own car - I got some basic how to load the gun tips from my coworkers, but other than that I was pretty much on my own.

Which was fun. Shooting is a pretty good stress reliever, and an enjoyable way to spend some time.. The Sig was a pretty nice gun - small, light, pretty easy to handle, and .22 ammo is pretty cheap.

Although my finances being as they are, I can't afford to do it too often, and I would have a hard time justifying buying a gun of my own.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

I've always been lucky in ham...

So Sunday was the Fredrick Area Father's Day Hamfest. Last year's hamfest was a financial success and the source of some cool pictures so I was really hoping to sell this year. Alas, it was not to be - bsom was off getting married, two of the students were going home that weekend, and the 3rd needed to catch up on sleep. I don't like to go and sell alone, because then there's nobody to watch my merchandise and cashbox if I have to go pee or want to browse what vendors are selling.

But since I didn't have anything better to do on a Sunday morning (sleep is overrated), I figured I might as well go to browse. So at 7am I hopped in my truck, armed with a Venti Starbucks drip coffee and a raspberry scone, and drove the 50 miles to Fredrick.

My only purchase at the Hamfest was a $10 Kensington Orbit Trackball mouse - it was new, sealed, and I prefer trackballs to mice - easier on the hand, plus I don't need to move crap on my desk so I can roll it around. Walked around for a while, dropped my ticket stub in the door prize vat, and went home (after stopping at Sheetz for two hot dogs and 44 ounces of diet mountain dew).

And I figured that was it. Didn't buy anything for $1 that I could resell on eBay for bunch, but I didn't die in a horrible car crash either, so all in all a draw. Then on Monday morning my cell phone rang. Number I wasn't familiar with, with a different area code, so I let voicemail get it. Checked it later and found out that I'd won second prize in the door prize drawing. An Icom IC-208 mobile ham radio.

I've been debating about getting my ham license for a while. I don't really have much desire to talk to people I don't know around the world, but I probably could use a hobby. Plus, I could get one of those cool amature radio license plates with my call letters.

And now I have a radio, so I really don't have any excuses. The guy from the radio club is supposed to drop it off at my house on Saturday morning.

Monday, June 18, 2007

scenes from work, bartender edition...

bsom: do you need me to pick up anything for the party?

mad anthony: well, I have half and half and soy milk, but if you want to make white russians with milk you'll need to pick it up.

bsom: So if you make a white russian with soymilk, it's not a white russian anymore. You need a different name.

mad anthony: How about a white asian?

bsom: that's brilliant.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Playing the dating game....

After trying a couple free sites with no sucess (okcupid and PlentyOfFish) without any sucess, I finally broke down and joined last week. I signed up for the six-month plan. It helps that they have 50% fatcash thru fatwallet, so I'll get half of the fees back.

They actually have a money-back guarentee for the six-month plan - if you set up a profile, and email at least 5 people each month, and still haven't found someone after 6 months, they will give you another 6 months for free. Which begs the question - should I email 5 people just to qualify for the money-back guarentee. On one hand, it's free, but if you can't find someone worth emailing, do you really want a longer membership?

Match does seem to have a better selection than the free sites. It gives me hope - I feel like most of the ads on free sites were for women who had kids, had serious drama, were horribly disfigured, or were still in high school. The women on match seem to be more normal and better looking, and it's reassuring that there are still some nonrepulsive women my age who are still single.

But most of the chicks seem pretty much the same - they love the outdoors (madanthony gets sunburned when he looks out the window), love drinking in Canton and Fells (madanthony lives in the 'burbs and gets sleepy after two beers), and swimming (madanthony can't swim, and has been known to injure himself in the shower).

match does have a "wink" feature - it's not quite an email, just a "hey" to let people know you exist and to look at your profile. I have winked at a few women... and have yet to hear back from any of them. I don't even think any of them have viewed my profile - I don't know if that's good (they haven't seen the wink yet) or bad (they were so repulsed by my picture that they didn't even bother looking at the profile). The wink makes sense to me - I've put work into my profile, why should I write something else? match does say that emails get twice the response as winks - but is that because people email people they are serious about and wink at people who they aren't sure would have an interest in, or because people prefer emails?

I figure it's another resource, and it's worth a shot, but I would be surprised if anything came out of it.

I'm on the Chinese food diet...

So, Thursday I threw bsom a bachelor party. He and his fiance are going away this week to get married in Virgina.

Of course, seeing as bsom doesn't really drink, and that I didn't have the finances to fund a typical stripper and booze fueled celebation anyway, it was unlike any other bachelor party. Basically, I bought $60 worth of Chinese food from King Wok and we stood around my dining room eating it, followed by watching Dawn of the Dead on my Trutech LCD TV (50% off on clearance from Target). Then we ate cake.

It went well. Several people who weren't me came. We had about twice as much food as we needed, so I gave a bunch to bsom and kept a bunch. I've had Chinese food for dinner last night and lunch today, and I still have two full containers left. So it looks like I know what I'll be eating for a while.

I also still have a bunch of chips and soda and stuff, and 29 cans of Miller lite. So I'm seriously thinking about throwing myself a birthday party in early August.

Scenes from lunch, freakonomics edition

coworker: It would be cool to live somewhere like Massachusetts where you get a refund on cans.

Mad Anthony: It gives people an incentive to recycle. Plus, it gives bums a source of income.

CW: true. I was at a New Year's party in Boston, and we had to chase people out of the backyard who were stealing our cans.

MA: It would be interesting to study if places with can deposits have more homeless people. Do they migrate to areas where they have a source of income? Does the income make it more likely that they can choose the homeless lifestyle? Do places with can deposits require fewer social programs? Do homeless people there have a better standard of living?

CW: Umm....

MA: Seriously, I find this facinating. (pause). Maybe this is why I'm still single...

Scenes from lunch, poor people edition....

Mad Anthony: Maybe I should get my project management certification. I don't have enough initials after my name.

Mrs.BSOM: One of my friends is a social worker. She's got a ton of letters after her name - they have a ton of certifications they can get.

MA: Gee, I can't imagine a job I would want to have less than social worker.

MB: Not me. I'd love to do it.

MA: I'd hate it. I can't stand poor people.

MB: That's because you're a Republican.

MA: You've got your cause and effect reversed. I don't hate poor people because I'm a Republican. I'm a Republican because I hate poor people. *

*Yes, this is tongue in cheek. I don't think Republicans hate poor people, nor do I. I do, however, think that much of the root of poverty has more to do with poor choices people have made, poorly implemented government programs that provide the wrong incentives, and less to do with evil corporations or society.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Is there such a thing as a geek's tan?

mad anthony has a little bit of a sunburn today.

Yesterday, one of the consulting companies we work with had a pintail yachts cruise around the inner harbor. A bunch of were invited and went.

It was a good experience, and not just because there was an open bar. While I've lived in or around Baltimore on and off for the last 8 years, I still don't know it all that well, and I haven't spent much time in the harbor area. It was kind of cool to see what the stuff I've driven past on I-95 looked like.

Afterwords, one of the sponsors had a happy hour at a nearby resturant. It was fun, although I realized a few things: 1) sales people are annoying 2) drunk sales people are really annoying.

I didn't drink a whole lot - a couple beers on the boat, and a few drinks at the happy hour. I resisted the urge to get smashed, because 1)I had to drive back home and 2) I'm not that fun of a drunk, especially around people I don't know well.

On the plus side, I learned that mojitos are quite tasty.

Dude, where's my (niche) car?

The WSJ has an article about how cars keep getting bigger, so gas milage hasn't improved. They illustrate it by showing how the 80's Honda Civic CRX got way better gas milage than the current Honda Civic sedan.

The comparision seems kind of unfair. After all, the CRX was a tiny two-passenger sporty car, while the Civic is, well, a compact sedan. But Honda doesn't make a CRX or equivilent anymore, and it's kind of interesting to wonder why. Cheap two-door two-passenger Japanese cars used to practically be a catagory - in addition to the CRX, there was the Toyota MR2 and the Subaru XT, and probably some others I'm forgetting. Honda replaced the unloved and unlamented Civic Del Sol, which was more expensive and slower.

I have to wonder why no manufacturer has come up with something silmilar. Two-seat convertables have made a comeback (Miata, Solstice, Sky, et al) but nobody seems to make a cheap two-passenger coupe. Is it because nobody would buy it, or because no manufacturer is willing to take the risk?

Another underserved niche seems to be small pickup trucks. It used to be that everyone made a small pickup. Then in the late '80's, Dodge, whose previous pickup was the Ram 50 (a rebadge of the amusingly named Mitsubishi Mighty Max) introduced the "mid-sized" Dakota, and pickups have been porking up ever since. Autoblog had an article a few days ago that the Ford Ranger will probably be dropped after 2008, which pretty much kills the smaller-than-midsized market, except for the Chevy Colorado/GMC Canyon. Once again, it seems like an underserved market. Fleets buy a ton of Rangers, but they also are a great choice for people who need a pickup or 4wd vehicle but don't want the bulk of an F-series. I have a Ranger, and it fills my needs - commuting and occasionally hauling something bulky, plus 4wd and a decent suspension for snow and giant Baltimore City potholes. Since I work (and go to bars) in the city, I like having something that's reasonably narrow and reasonably easy to parallel park, and the Ranger does that. I don't need to carry passengers, so a bigger/wider cab isn't a big deal.

Once again, is there really no market for smaller trucks, or is it just that nobody has made a decent one? I like my ranger, but it is a little long in the tooth design wise, and the interior plastics (and cupholders/storage/egronomics) could be way better.

I feel the same way about two-door truck based SUV's. If Ford had still made an Explorer Sport or Chevy still made a two door Blazer, I would probably have bought it over the Ranger. Two door SUV's say that I'm a young single male, while 4-door ones scream soccer mom, at least IMHO. Since I don't usually carry dirty stuff, enclosed cargo space would have been nice, but I didn't want to spend the premium to buy an SUV. The Toyota FJ Crusier is about the only truck based SUV that looks like a two-door (it has small suicide back doors) but it costs close to $30 grand - like a Ranger and a half.

Maybe I just have wierd taste, but I can't help wonder if car manufacturers could serve these niches succesfully.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

How do I do it? I'm in debt up to my eyeballs...

I have a bad habit of comparing myself to other people, which always makes me come up short and feel like a failure. It seems like everyone has a nicer house than me, a better job that pays more, better sucess in their romantic lives, and a way nicer car.

Well, now I know why it seems like everyone on the beltway is driving a nicer car than I am. Car loans have gotten so long that they are slowing down new car sales because people haven't paid off their old car loans quickly enough to buy a new one.

Some interesting stats:

Three out of five new-vehicle loans made this year, or 60 percent, are for 61 months or longer, and nearly 20 percent are for longer than six years, according to a Consumer Bankers Association study.

-CNW says the average loan in 2006 was 64.8 months, up from 52.4 in 1998. This year it has climbed to nearly 71 months

-On average, it takes 48 months before a buyer has equity in a 60-month loan and 59 months on a 72-month loan, Spinella said.

That last stat means that lots of people buying new cars are upside-down. They owe more on their old car than it's trade in value. That means that they are rolling over more debt when they buy a new car, perpetuating the cycle.

Obviously, I knew that this happened, but I didn't realize how common it was. With people rolling over their debt, it's only going to mean that loans will be longer in the future.

So next time I'm staring longingly at an Escalade on deuce-deuces, I need to remind myself that the person driving will probably never own a vehicle free and clear.

For the record, I bought my Ranger with a 5-year loan through my credit union. I had my trade paid off, which was worth about a third of the cost of the Ranger. I've got some money set aside, and I'm debating if I should put it towards paying off the truck early or putting it towards my mortgage (interest rate is about the same, mortgage has the advantage of letting me stop paying PMI sooner, but truck payoff is easier to attain and interest on it isn't tax-deductible like my mortgage).

And the plan is to keep it until the wheels fall off. If anything, if I ever get to the point where it's paid off and I have extra cash, I'd rather buy a second vehicle - something small and sporty - and keep the truck for hauling/snow/ect.