mad anthony

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

Friday, November 30, 2007

Scenes from work, safe to eject edition...

Coworker: The computer they have their is really slow. I want to replace it, but they run some specialized stuff on it. They have some sort of USB dongle on it.

mad anthony: So replace the machine, unplug the dongle, and plug it into the new machine.

coworker: but I don't know what's going to happen when I remove the dongle.

mad anthony: I do. It's going to go "da-donk"

coworker: you know what? You are an ass.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Buy stuff on black friday, piss off this guy...

Via The Consumerist (the website that drives me nuts but that I can't keep away from) comes this San Francisco Gate editorial on why Black Friday is evil and you are a disgusting pig if you think otherwise.

As frequent mad anthony readers will know, I decided to sit out the brick and mortar shopping part of this year's Black Friday sales (except for a quick trip to Radio Shack to buy their $5 cordless soldering iron, electing to do most of my shopping online. But as someone who has done Black Friday in years past - I spent 6 hours in front of Circuit City last year - and who regularly shops at those evil chain stores that he lambasts - I find myself with a strange desire to kick Mark Munsford in the nuts. Or at least to buy some Canadian-mined shale oil, just to pis him off.

It annoys me when I read columns like this, because this guy has a job in the media and I write for this blog that a couple of my friends read. I mean, I'm not the world's greatest writer, but at least I've never written this:

I don't even know what Kohl's is. I'm guessing some sort of mass-crap superstore, like Best Buy or Target or T.J. Maxx or a weird amalgam of all of those and it doesn't really matter because last Friday they opened at 4 a.m. for the mad rush of Black Friday shoppers, because if there's one thing you want to do when your body is groggy and sleep tugs at your heart and your dreams have turned vacant and sad, it's grope cheap waffle makers before sunrise.

I actually do know what a Kohl's is, because I'm one of those self-hating capitalists who seeks to find meaning in discount flat-panel TV's. It's a mid-level department store (where I've actually gotten some decent deals, including a $2 pair of sneakers). I have no desire to shop at one at 4 in the morning, but if someone does, I don't think that makes them stupid, or indicates a lack of meaning in their lives. But I do think if you are going to write a column, even an editorial, that touches on the subject, you could at least spend the 30 seconds to research them - I mean, they do have a website.

The meat of the column doesn't deal with that, though. It deals with how some friend of the author suggests that high gas prices will kill off Wal-Mart, because people won't drive to Wal-mart because they can't afford gas, and they will shop at mom and pop shops instead. Our author disagrees, because instead we are going to destroy Canada for shale oil, and isn't that too bad, because boy he'd like to kill Wal-Mart.

Of course we should kill Wal-Mart. I mean, God forbid people actually be able to shop at the stores they want to. Never mind that millions of people voluntarily choose to shop at Wal-Mart, which would suggest that Wal-Mart sells them things that they want at prices they are willing to pay. But they are just the dumb proles who shop at shitty chain stores, and obviously they can't think for themselves.

But even ignoring the fact that Mark Munsford thinks he's better than you because he doesn't shop at Wal-Mart, and setting aside the shale-oil thing for a second, let's look at the "high oil prices will kill Wal-Mart" thing. It's funny, because I was just watching "The Wall Street Journal Report" a few days ago (with money honey Maria Bartiromo) which predicted the opposite - since the Wal-Marts and Targets of the world offer one-stop shopping, they will do better with high oil prices, since people can buy all their stuff in one place instead of going to a bunch of different stores.

But I think the theory is wrong for two bigger reasons - there aren't really any mom and pop shops left to do shopping at, and often chain stores are closer than those stores anyway. I live in White Marsh, MD - a place specifically mentioned in this book as a place where malls are the downtown, because there never was a downtown. Target and Wal-Mart are closer to me than any independently owned store. And even in places that do have a downtown, there aren't a lot of places to buy the things people need. My parents live in a small town in NJ, population ~7500. They have a main street, but it's full of restaurants and antique stores and small specialty shops - not the kind of places you can buy groceries, clothes, tools, and everything else like you can at Wal-Mart or Target.

I heard (I think also on the WSJ report) that fuel costs make up 3% of the average budget - so it's unlikely to make a huge impact on spending. And even so, for many people the bulk of their gas usage isn't shopping, it's commuting. I only go shopping every couple days, and it's usually combined with other trips. I've got to go to work 5 days a week (or more), and it's a whole lot further away than Target - and I would guess I'm not unique in that regard.

And about shale oil - I think it's great. I'll admit to not being an expert on it's environmental effects, but I'm going to guess that oil drilling in the Middle East probably isn't great for the environment there either. And I bet the government of Canada is more likely to step in to fix or prevent environmental problems than the government of Saudi Arabia. More importantly, I would much rather buy my oil from Canada than from the middle east. Sure, Canadians might have their silly national health care and far more people speaking French than I am really comfortable with, but they have way fewer Islamic fundamentalists than the Mideast.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A friendly reminder to always back your shit up...

Having stumbled on this story (via here) I felt the need to share my own recent hard drive failure story.

My main PC at home is a $200AR midnight madness sale special from CompUSA last year. I have (umm, had) 5 hard drives hookd up to it. 3 of them hold various, umm, movies and TV shows I've downloaded. One of them has music. The fifth one has (umm, had) most of my data on it. It's actually the boot drive from my old PC, which died about six months back (either power supply or motherboard - it was too old for me to bother troubleshooting) - a 200 gig Western Digital that I got for like $25 after rebate from Dell several years ago due to a price mistake (they offered 2 $100 rebates that overlapped) back when 200 gig hard drives were rare and expensive. After my old PC died, I took the drive out and put it in an external case.

I usually keep the video drives off unless I'm watching something, but the music and data drives usually stay on. But since I was going to be away for 5 days, I figured I'd turn them off. When I got back from Thanksgiving, I turned them back on. And I kept hearing that "da-dunk" sound that Windows makes when it detects new hardware. Then I went to open a file off my data drive. And realized it wasn't there.

Then I turned it off and on again, and heard it clicking. Bad sign. So I called up bsom, who has a huge collection of data recovery software, and knows how to use it. So I drove over to his house with a C-MART bag full of old hard drive, plus another external hard drive I had.

Hook up the old hard drive. Nothing. Doesn't even mount. bsom figures it might be the controller in the case, so we open up the other hard drive - and discover it's SATA and the old drive is PATA. So I drive home and grab another external hard drive case. Hook it up, drive shows up fine. Start copying. Eventually it shits the bed. I go home. bsom keeps working on it, and is finally able to recover most of the data, primarily by leaning on the drive itself while reading it (which means it's probably a head failure of some sort).

I'm glad (and grateful) that he was able to recover my data - most of it I could live without, but there are a bunch of pictures, plus the excel spreadsheet that I've been tracking my rebates on since 2002, that I would hate to loose.

So now I'm realizing that I really need some sort of backup solution. I'm debating between just adding another hard drive and using ghost, or going with something fancier, like a NAS of some sort. I could live without the movies and tv shows, but I need the data, and I'd hate to lose the music either.

Cyber Monday a Cyber letdown...

So in recent years, the Monday after Thanksgiving has been tagged "Cyber Monday", as it is supposed to be one of the largest online shopping days of the year. People go to work on the Monday after Black Friday, and use their internet connections at work to do a bunch of their Christmas shopping.

This year, a bunch of online stores have been hyping the Cyber Monday idea, having one-day sales for Cyber Monday.

From what I've seen, they were a letdown.

I did make two purchases. ClubIT had a 4 gig USB flash drive for $5AR with free shipping, so I jumped on that. And Amazon had a Logitech Revolution VX cordless notebook laser mouse for $7AR, free shipping.

But I didn't see any other good deals. OK, I saw one I didn't get in on. Zip Zoom Fly, which I was already annoyed at for advertising several nice FAR items that were priced far higher than they were supposed to be on Black Friday (they did fix the price - and then they sold out before I noticed) had a FAR TV tuner card - something I could actually use, as I've been looking to set up another HTPC. The sale started at 12am pacific, 3am eastern. Woke up at around 4:30 - probably due to the cat - and it was already sold out.

I did briefly consider buying the $25AR usb notebook hard drive from, but decided against it - it was a manufacturer's rebate, and IOMagic is HORRIBLE with rebates - they will actually list your status as "you should have received a check by now" - and if you email them, it magically changes to check mailed and shows a check number, and then you get your check. Total scam.

In the past, Black Friday was a great chance to get deals, but in recent years it's become more hype than reality (and it seems like some of the good deals have moved online). Cyber Monday for the most part seems to just be hype - lots of stores ran ads with the Cyber Monday tag line, but few had any good deals worth jumping on.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

I wish someone would pay me $500 to get their hands on my wii...

Newspapers have been getting a lot of flack in recent years for inaccurate reporting as well as an occasional inability to grasp the subject matter that they are talking about. I'll admit I don't read a whole lot of newspaper articles (I subscribe to the Baltimore Sun primarily for the Sunday circulars, coupons, and auction listings), but every now and then I read an article, and it sometimes gives me pause.

Like this article from the Newark Star Ledger a few days ago. It deals with the shortages that consumers are encountering trying to buy the Nintendo Wii game console. For the most part it's pretty straightforward.

But it also included this claim - if you're looking for a Wii online, aftermarket prices on eBay and other sites are ranging around $500.

I wish. If there are Wii's selling for $500 on eBay, it's because they are including a ton of games and extra controllers. I've sold 3 Wii's on eBay in the last year. One in January went for $390, but the most recent one I sold last month went for $270 . Prices have gone up since then, but they are nowhere near $500.

I wish they were, as I still have one more on the way to me from Amazon. The last one I got from Amazon was sold to a coworker for a very modest profit - if I could really get $500 for it, I wouldn't have sold it to him. I'm not totally convinced I'm going to make any money on the one I have, and I passed up an opportunity on Black Friday to order another one from Amazon as I didn't think it was worth tying up more money in Wii's.

I'm kind of curious where the $500 figure came from. My guess is that the reporter either didn't know how to use eBay and saw some auctions with lots of extra stuff sell for $500+, or he got it third-hand from someone and put it in the article without any fact-checking.

And for those who are curious, in the past year I've purchased 8 Wii's - 2 from, one from walmart (in-store), one from gamestop (in-store), two from target (in-store), and two from Amazon. Of them, 3 were sold on eBay, one will be listed on eBay in the next few weeks, one was given as a wedding present to bsom and t, two were sold to coworkers, and one is plugged into my tv at casa de mad.

Friday, November 23, 2007

a reflection on turkey prices...

So I was looking at Lilek's blog yesterday, and noticed he posted a 50 year old grocery store ad from Thanksgiving (scroll towards the bottom). He found it interesting that what's served at Thanksgiving hasn't really changed much in the last 50 years.

What I found more interesting, being the cheap-ass that I am, was that the prices for turkey actually was higher 50 years ago - I could have sworn I saw my local Weis supermarket advertising turkey for 37¢ a pound last week, while the cheapest price 50 years ago was 45¢.

Now, maybe turkey isn't the best gauge of changing food prices - it is usually heavily advertised, and is probably a loss-leader for grocery stores - they figure they will sell it cheap to draw you into the store and buy a huge cartload of other food to go with the turkey for your holiday feast.

I don't see many other prices on the ad - the only other thing that stands out for me is 29¢ cans of sweet potatoes. I have no idea what the going price for sweet potatoes in cans are, but I'd venture around a $1. So in 50 years, canned sweet potato prices have gone up by 400%.

Which isn't too bad when you think about it. I mean, I'd be thrilled if gas prices or stamp prices were only 4x what they were 50 years ago - heck, gas prices are pretty much 4x what they were 10 years ago right now.

I think this tells us a lot about how cheap food is in our country. People don't realize that the cost of a lot of other things goes up quite a bit, while food prices generally stay pretty constant. And the fact is, for the average family, food is probably a very small part of their overall budget. I know it is for me - I probably 10 times what I spend on food in a month on mortgage payments and other household expenses, and a large chunk of my income on gas, car insurance, car payments, and other things to make sure that I can get to work (and to the grocery store).

People will often talk about how great organic farming is, or how small farmers are better than big evil corporate farms. But my guess is that if there were more organic farms, food would be considerably more expensive - and there would probably be a whole lot more people struggling to make sure they had enough food for their families. (Penn and Teller had an excellent episode of Bull$hit that looked at the trouble we would have feeding the world if we didn't use chemicals and genetically engineered food).

I think pesticides, chemical fertilizers, genetic engineering, and those big evil corporations have done more to feed Americans than anything else - and have made turkey prices lower now than they were 50 years ago.

Black Friday, celebrated on the couch...

So this year, I perused the Black Friday circulars and was not impressed. Sure, there were the awesome doorbusters - the $229 laptop at Best Buy and the the $299 laptop at Circuit City. But last year I got to Circuit City at 10pm and still wasn't early enough to snag the laptop. In past years, there were enough small items that were free after rebate (FAR) or cheap enough to make it worthwhile, but not this year.

So I decided instead of spending 12 hours in front of Best Buy, I would stay home and see what deals I could snag online. I may run to one or two stores later today or tomorrow - there are a few things at ACE hardware FAR, and I need a lightbulb anyway, and there is a 10 off 25 Macy's coupon that's good tomorrow morning - but I decided to stay in for the most part.

So what have I bought so far? Quite a bit:

-trendnet print server $4.99AR, free shipping

-TomTom One LE, $119 out the door, shipped free - this is going on eBay - wish I had known I would get it, as I just bought myself a refurbed tom-tom one for $170 last month.

-monitor desk mount, free after rebate (FAR)
-kensington laptop lock, FAR

-Ritek CDR, 99¢ AR
-Coolmaster Power supply, $3.99 AR
-2 gig SD card, $1.99AR
-TrendNet wireless PCI network card, 99¢ AR

-Logitech Quickcam Communicate, -$31 AR (yup, $18.99 with a $50 rebate!)
-Logitech cordless desktop LX -$10 AR ($19.99 with a $30 rebate!)
-Logitech MX Revolution Cordless Laser Mouse $6.99 AR

-eVGA PCI-X 256 mb video card, FAR (plus $6 shipping - the only thing I didn't get free shipping on)


-coolmaster case, FAR

There were a couple disappointments - I was hoping Circuit City would put the $7AR 4 gig SD card rebate online, but they never did. A bigger disappointment was the ZipZoomFly sale - it had a FAR (with free shipping) CoolMaster case and power supply. Sale started 12:01 PST - ie 3am east coast. I was tired around midnight, so I went to sleep and woke up at 3:15AM for the sale - and found that they had jacked the prices up so they were no longer FAR. A few people in the thread on FatWallet said they got in, so it seems like they had the sale for 15 minutes and then raised the prices. I could see if the items went out of stock - I could see if they listed the items for a few minutes, then showed them out of stock, only to come back after the sale was over - but advertising the sale, then raising the prices after a few minutes while the stuff is still in stock, is sleazy to the max. I'm glad I woke up when I did, since Amazon paid me to buy a bunch of stuff, but still...

And with all this shopping, I did buy myself a present - Guitar Hero for the Wii. Not sure if I'll like it or how much I'll use it, but bsom and t seem to love theirs, and GameStop was one of the few places that had it online. I figure if I hate it or don't play it, I can always eBay it for most of what I paid. I thought about asking for it for Christmas, but I can't see any of my relatives buying the right thing...

So I'm going to have a huge credit card bill, a giant stack of rebate forms to fill out, and a ton of packages arriving on my doorstep in the next week - and in 6-8 weeks, a ton of rebate checks coming in. I'll also have plenty of inventory for when hamfests start again in another 2 months. And I didn't have to sleep outside of Circuit City or shiver in the cold (and MadAnthony hates the cold).

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

In Jersey, finally...

So I'm at the parent's house in NJ.

Yesterday, I was talking to my boss about how I was going to be driving up to NJ from MD, and he commented that he usually tries to avoid driving on the day before Thanksgiving, and I said that I've made the trip every year and it's usually pretty smooth - I go the back way, and I know all the bottlenecks.

So of course I had to be proven wrong. The drive was actually pretty smooth most of the way- until I got to Allentown PA on I-78 and saw a sign informing me that I-78 Eastbound was closed at exit 78 and that I should take RT 22 instead.

So I did. That was around 3pm. I didn't get to my parent's house - about 60 miles away - until 5:45 pm. Traffic was crawling on 22, and wasn't helped by the fact that the left lane was closed in one place due to a disabled tractor-trailer.

When I pulled onto 22, I tuned to PA's radio station, which informed me that it was closed due to an overturned tractor-trailer.

When I got to the parent's house, I checked, and there was indeed an overturned tractor trailer. It says the road opened at 3:45, which makes me wonder if I would have been better off staying on 78 - I guess it depends how backed up traffic was.

Most people who drive from MD to NJ go via 95. I've always done the 83-81-78 route. When I was in college, my dad - who was convinced that it was safer - told me I couldn't take my car with me unless I went that way, and I've gotten used to it - I know where the best food is, the cheapest gas, where the cops hide - plus I pay 75 cents one way in tolls, rather than about $30 each way if I took the MD/DE/NJ Turnpike. Most of the time, it's a smooth pleasant drive, but every now and then a truck seems to have trouble staying shiny side up and throws a wrench in my plans.

Monday, November 19, 2007

A list I'm surprised Baltimore didn't make...

The annual ranking of the most dangerous and safest cities that CQ Press/ Morgan Quinto compiles every year are out. Detoit is the worst. Baltimore, surprisingly, did not make the top 10.

The rankings have been taking a bunch of heat - they are based on FBI stats that even the FBI doesn't think should be used for this, and the methodology that CQ uses is not made public, so it's hard to verify. Still, it does seem like it would at least be useful for comparing cities to each other, and a city that does badly would have to have a lot of crime to make the list.

But how useful the stats are is anyone's guess. As I said, I was surprised Baltimore didn't make the list, since it usually has one of the highest per-capita murder rates in the country (which makes me think that the CQ methodology gives a lot of weight to other crimes). But even with it's high murder rate, you have a fairly small chance of being murdered in Baltimore if you aren't involved in the illegal drug trade - most of the murders in Baltimore are drug related. Not selling or buying drugs in Baltimore sharply cuts down on the chance that you will be murdered in Baltimore.

As far as the other crimes, there are quite a few property crimes in Baltimore - hey, that's where the wheels got stolen off my previous car. But stuff like that happens everywhere - I had two windows smashed on my first car while it was parked in small-town NJ, in front of my parent's house.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Why giving illegal aliens driver's licenses isn't such a bad idea...

When I read this article on the potential for voter fraud from giving driver's licenses to illegal aliens, I agreed with it - why would you want to give illegal aliens driver's licenses?

After some thought, and after watching this week's Opinion Journal Editorial Report, I'm leaning towards thinking it's actually a good idea. The voter fraud angle does concern me, and I would hope someone comes up with a way around it, but I think it would be good if illegals had licenses.

Do I think this for the benefit of illegal immigrants? No. Because I'm a selfish bastard, I think I would be better off with licensed illegals.

With the exception of a very small number of cities, it's very hard to survive in the US without driving. There are a ton of illegal immigrants in the US. Thus, there are probably a ton of illegals driving as we speak - not carrying insurance, and having accidents. Many of these accidents are hit-and-runs, because they are illegals who have no license or insurance, so they run.

Would this stop with licensed illegals? Probably not. Illegals also have limited resources, and thus there are probably a number who still would not carry insurance. But some would, and it would make it easier to track them down.

Driver's licenses also give us a way to have some idea of who is in our country. Terrorism is the obvious reason this is a good thing, but there are probably plenty of lesser crimes committed by illegal immigrants, and knowing who they are and where they live and having a picture of them would probably help some cases get solved.

I do think the voter fraud angle is important. Illegal immigrants - people who are not citizens of a country - have no business deciding who will rule that country. But if someone could come up with a way of getting licenses to illegals while making sure they don't vote, I would be fully behind it.

I think, besides the voter fraud aspect, the big problem that people have with licensing illegals is symbolic - that it is us admitting defeat, admitting that we have a ton of people coming into our country illegally and that we aren't going to do anything about it. But that's already the case - we are already at a place where illegals are accepted as a part of life, and where we don't deport them - and many cities are passing laws making it even harder to catch and deport illegals. This is the new reality - let's just be honest about it, and help ourselves deal with it as best as we can, even if that means licenses for illegals.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Technology - the cause of, and solution to, cronic worrying...

I worry too much. I've been known fear getting fired (despite the fact that the last person fired in my organization was let go sometime around 2003), falling housing prices (despite the fact that I'm not planning on selling my house anytime soon, and I have a fixed-rate mortgage, so it's not like it really matters), that that tingling sensation in my hand means I'm having a stroke, and that I'm going to die alone, having never found true love (I don't think this one's overblown).

But technology makes it possible for me to worry in all sorts of new ways. I have a cat camera to watch my cat, Nibbler. It's aimed at the basement, where her food and litterbox are, although she doesn't always spend a whole lot of time down there. I'm at work, and plan on doing some other stuff after work, so I won't be home for a while. I've been keeping an eye on the cat-cam, and haven't seen her all day. Which makes me worry.

See, Nibbler has a bad habit. OK, she actually has several bad habits, including using my arm as a chew toy and trying to eat whatever I'm trying to eat. But she also likes to bumrush the door when I come home or leave. It's a twice-daily routine - I open the door, she runs outside, I grab her and put her back in the house. Rinse and repeat until she's on the inside of the door and the door is closed.

When I'm leaving, I always glance around after the door is closed to make sure that she's not outside. But I always have this fear that she'll have sneaked out and I'll have missed her. When I see her on the cat-cam, I know she's inside and OK.

A few minutes ago, I opened a new tab in IE to load a page that doesn't work in firefox, and glanced at the nibblercam. She was on it, taking a drink of water, stretching, and then moving off-camera. So she's alive and OK.

If I hadn't happened to open the browser when she was there, I still would be worrying about her. Then again, if I didn't have the cat camera, I wouldn't know that she wasn't on camera for most of the day. So I'm not sure if technology makes me worry more, worry less, or just worry differently.

Why I probably won't find love online...

The book I am reading right now Super Crunchers, which looks at the impact that databases, regression analysis, and other methods of applying math and computing power to the huge amounts of data that are now available is impacting a number of areas, such as medicine, business, and education. It's increasing profitability and accuracy, but with the usual reluctance from the old-guard and privacy concerns.

One of the examples of applying algorithms was dating sites - it specifically looks at eHarmony, and talks about how many marriages have come out of it - which still only works out to about 1% of the site's users.

I have yet to put up a profile on eHarmony, but I've tried and a number of free dating sites. I have yet to actually get any dates out of them, let alone anything long-term. While, like many things, I'm probably partly at fault for this - I tend to be picky about who I contact, there are probably things that need to be improved about my profile, and I'm not all that interesting or attractive - but I've also been less-than-impressed with most of the profiles - and I feel like I keep running into the same profiles over and over again, which suggests that while there may be huge numbers of users on the services, most of them have been there for a while -which suggests they aren't having any better luck than I am. And I'd be thrilled if I could find one profile for a woman who doesn't enjoy watching sports, going out drinking every weekend, and traveling around the world, none of which really interest me.

I'm not really sure if I should be thrilled or depressed by this stat. On one hand, it suggests that I'm not a complete failure - that while online dating works for some people - and I certainly know people that it has worked out great for - it also seems like it doesn't work for a much larger number of people. So it's not completely my fault, and maybe even the fact that I am not an online-dating success story does not necessarily mean that there is no hope for me.

On the other hand, I'd always kind of thought of online dating as my last resort, if I couldn't meet someone through the "normal" channels (work, friends, school, church, ect). I haven't had any luck with any of them - I work in IT, so the bulk of my coworkers are guys, I don't have a whole lot of friends (and none of them seem to have single, dateable friends, at least not ones that they think would work out), I'm done with grad school, I don't have any cool hobbies that put me in contact with the opposite sex, and I never really understand how people meet at church - they must go to way more fun churches than the one I go to.

So even math can't seem to help me now.

Darn, it's the weekend again....

So it's Saturday, around noon, and I'm at work. I work for a college, and several times a year they have "college days" - a giant open house for prospective students. They feed them, give them tours, and have presentations on some of the specifics that students may be interested in - study abroad, honors programs, specific majors. College is like any other business, and these are our potential customers, so we try to make a good impression on them, and that means having someone onsite in case something breaks. I've done this a couple times, and most of the time I either get no calls, or maybe one call, which usually turns out to be something simple, like pushing a button. But it's like a lifeguard - sure, most of the time they will just sit in their chair, but if someone's drowning you want them there. (Unless they are the beach on BayWatch, where all kinds of shit seemed to go down on a regular basis, requiring lots of long slow running sequences).

I'm glad I'm working. Glad because I'm making 7 hours of overtime, and 7 hours of time-and-a-half pay is a good thing - I've got a new door to pay for, plus Christmas is coming. But I'm also kind of glad that it gives me something to do on a Saturday.

Most people look forward to the weekend. I do sometimes, if I actually have something going on (which can be as trivial as some yard sales or a hamfest). But when I don't, I really don't look forward to them, because it mostly means I'll spend the day sitting around my house watching TV and eating frozen pizza. Which serves to remind me of what a lonely loser I am. Not to mention the fact that being home reminds me that my house is probably dropping in value by the minute.

That isn't to say there aren't a whole lot of things I could be doing on the weekend - I've got a basement full of crap that needs to be sorted, organized, disposed of, donated. I've got a yard full of leaves that need to be sucked or blown. I've got a box of stuff that should probably get listed on eBay, a smoke detector that fell off the ceiling, and a pickup truck badly in need of a wash. But most of these are things that can wait, and I usually spend at least part of my weekend doing the errands that can't wait - grocery shopping, running errands, doing laundry, cooking, running the dishwasher - so it's hard to motivate myself to do the things whose immediate consequence of being put off is not apparent. If I don't do laundry, I have no clothes to wear. If I don't go grocery shopping, I have no food to eat. If I don't clean the basement, well, I only go down there once or twice a week anyway.

There used to be a group of us at work that had a Friday night tradition of going to a local bar and grabbing dinner, talking, and occasionally watching Jeopardy. The last few months, it's been hard to get everyone together, and I kind of miss it. I looked forward to it every week, and not just for the greasy food and stylish wood paneling. If it was just that, I'd go myself and be the loser sitting alone at the bar. But I also enjoyed the conversation, even when it didn't involve donkey porn. It was nice to talk to people in a non-work context, to gossip about work and about life. It was also nice to feel like I had some sort of social life, some reason to be around other people having fun. Sometimes I feel like there are all these parts of the world that I'm just apart from - like everyone else has their group of friends and their interesting lives and their fun activities, and I just can't find a place for myself in it, yet.

Oh, well. At least the workweek is coming.

Yet another reminder that I'm getting old...

It's pretty frequent that something comes up and reminds me that I'm not as young as I once was (and probably not as good once as I've ever been). For example, since I work at a college, we have students working for us - and one of them mentioned a few days ago that he was born in 1989. That's 9 years after madanthony emerged, kicking and screaming, from the womb. That's almost a decade. That means it's been almost a decade since I entered college, a fresh-faced and innocent youth so full of hope and fear. Well, I kept the fear part.

But for a true reminder of the fact that I'm old, there is this YouTube video that my friend bsom stumbled on while looking for a video of the buzz box guitar pedal. It's an infomercial for a collection of alternative rock music. It's got stuff like smashmouth, fuel, filter, live, collective soul, and a bunch of other music that I don't exactly consider old. This is the music of my youth - the stuff I listened to in high school and college. And now it's in the equivalent of a K-TEL sampler.

Not only does it mean that the music I listened to in high school has been out so long that the "alternative" artists are willing to let it be included in a box set with no fear of losing street cred or selling out, man, it also means that I'm now old enough to be part of the generation that watches infomercials and buys shit off the TV - probably because they can't sleep because those darn kids keep running across their lawn, or they are watching TV while they wait for the metamucil to kick in.

And now, I've got to go buy a single piece of fruit with a coupon and then return it, making everyone behind me wait in line.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Nibbler goes to the vet, part two...

So I had to take Nibbler to the vet Saturday for her second round of shots- rabies and something else - whatever they give 16-week-old kittens.

The vet declared her as healthy as a horse (hopefully not the kind of horse they have to shoot) and said that her heart murmur seems to have gone away - good news, especially since I was reading about how much kitty cardiologists charge.

So I still have a few more rounds of shots - one set in two weeks, and another (I think) two weeks after that.

And now, for some random pictures:

should have sprung for a color laser printer. This one only prints black cats.

cat and mouse

Sunday, November 11, 2007

madanthony battles technology... technology 3, madanthony 0...

This has been kind of a crappy week for me, and the weekend wasn't much better. Of course, there is the bad news that's affected all of us where I work.

Then there are the little things - the stuff that is minor in the grand scheme of things, but has been making me tear my hair out the last couple days.

my shitty internet connection

I got an email from my mom on Friday morning that she couldn't get to the nibblercam. Since the rest of my site was up, and the camera bounces to my home network, it was obvious that my comcast internet connection was down. And still was when I got home Friday night. I took a nap, then called them at 5am. After being transferred to four people, including one guy who said he was going to "run some tests" and then dropped me back in the queue, they confirmed there was a "service interuption" in my area. Which continued Saturday morning, was fixed for a couple hours, then went down from Saturday night until about 11am Sunday morning. In addition to cutting off my access to the rest of the world, I actually had taken home a computer for work that I needed to create an image for, which was rather difficult without an internet connection.

When I first read about this woman, I thought she was nuts, but now I'm thinking about digging up my hammer... I do live around the corner from a Comcast office.

My mysteriously disappearing $3500 laptops

So part of my job occasionally involves ordering things, and since I'm one of the few Apple people on staff, that often includes ordering macs. A few weeks ago, a department asked for two top-of-the-line Apple Macbook Pro's - 17", with 4 gigs of RAM. They are a fairly important department, so the request was approved, the Purchase Order faxed. I got a shipment notification a few days later, and started tracking it. Last Monday, it said they would be delivered. And that's the last anyone's seen of them.

This is what the tracking info shows. There are two laptops, both show the same thing. See that little thing at the top that says "rescheduled delivery 11/12/07"? That originally said 11/5/-7. Then 11/6/07. Then 11/8/07, and so on, but the progress hasn't changed. So on Thursday I called UPS. Who transfered me to UPS International, because the laptops shipped from China, even though they are lost somewhere in Northern Maryland. UPS admits that it's odd, but tells me I have to get the shipper, ie Apple, to put a trace on it.

So I call Apple. The woman I speak to doesn't understand why I would want to put a trace on it - after all, it says delivery is rescheduled for today. I explain that it's said that for the last 4 todays, and that there hasn't been any changes on the tracking. I've ordered enough stuff online to know that UPS will show if a delivery attempt is made and nobody is there, and that's not the case - plus we have two reception desks, so there is always someone around to sign for packages. She reluctantly agrees to put a trace.

So I call back Friday to see if they know anything. They don't. Traces take 10-12 days, and they can't do anything - like send me replacements - until it's done. Meanwhile, the person whose laptops they are going to be wants his laptops, because he and his staff were planning on using them for critical design work over Thanksgiving break - you know, in a week and a half. I have a feeling I'm going to wind up having to go to the Apple Store and buy 2 laptops, and then figure out what to do with two extra giant laptops if they ever show up.

The Light Fixture with no bulb

About two weeks ago, while I had a bunch guests over, the light bulb in my kitchen blew out. I was pretty busy, so I didn't get a chance to try to change it for a few days. When I finally opened it up, I got two surprises - a dead fly in the globe and the fact that it takes a circular flourescent bulb. Finally got to Lowe's on Monday and bought a 30 watt circular Sylvania bulb. Got home and realized that it was a 9" bulb and the old bulb was 8". Went back Saturday to return it. Bought a GE 8" circular bulb, even springing the extra $1 to buy the "kitchen and bathroom" bulb that's supposed to "make food look better", which I figured would make my Hot Pockets look tasty. Got home, put it in, nothing. Finally noticed the "use 30 watt bulbs" sticker on light fixture. The bulb I bough was 22 watts, and I didn't remember noticing any 30 watt bulbs at Lowes. So I went online when I got home and found that there was nobody on Amazon who sold 30 watt 8" circular bulbs. Finally googled the part number and discovered that, on the whole world wide web, there are 3 places that sell the bulb, all tiny sites that sell only light bulbs. I pick one that takes Google Checkout, so I don't have to give some shady site my credit card number. $11 for the bulb, $6 shipping. After checking out, I kick myself for not buying another one as a spare, especially since the site had flat-rate per-order shipping. Then again, the bulbs are supposed to last 5 years, and if I still live here and can't find a bulb in 5 years, I think it's time to get a new light fixture.

Attack of the virus-infested laptops

So at work, we support student laptops, and employees can take laptops home and work on them for overtime. I've usually avoided it, but one of my coworkers was overwhelmed and, well, I've got a door to pay for. So I took two home. Spent several hours beating on the first one, trying to get it to do a system restore, and having all kinds of software errors. After it bsod's while doing windows updates, it finally occurs to me to do a memory diagnostic, and it comes back bad. It wasn't software after all. The next day I take another one home, spend a few hours cleaning up viruses and spyware, and take it back and still can't get it to connect.

In theory, I could have put in for the overtime I spent working on them, but I don't feel right putting in considering I didn't actually fix anything. So I ended up getting nothing, and losing two evenings.instead of earning $250 or so in overtime - but I figure it's better than putting in the overtime and then having management wonder why they are paying a tech to not fix computers.

I hope this week is better.

It's begining to look way too much like Christmas...

It seems like every year, Christmas starts getting hyped earlier. It used to be that Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving) was the big start, and then it started creeping up before then. The last couple years I've noticed Target and other stores putting Christmas stuff out right after the back to school stuff. Walking through Target right before Halloween, I felt like Target was just waiting to get this whole Halloween thing over with so they could get it clearanced out and replaced with Christmas stuff. And last week, all the Sunday circulars were sporting great gift and entertaining ideas.

Now, I understand that Christmas is the big time for retailers, and they want to get as many sales as they can. And I guess people must buy stuff early - retailers seldom devote large amounts of shelf space to things nobody buys, so I can't imagine they would put it out if people didn't buy it.

But the expansion of the holiday season from a month to 3 months annoys me. Not because I'm some crank lamenting the commercialization of a sacred holiday, but because by the time Christmas actually rolls around, I'm tired of it. Part of is that as an adult, it doesn't have the same mythical atmosphere that it did as a kid - I know that Santa isn't coming down the chimney, and I've already bought all the "toys" I want. Christmas is more a time to spend time with family,and I don't need 27 isles full of tinsel and colored lights for that.

And on a side note, I am seriously thinking about sitting Black Friday out this year. In past years, I've made sweeps of stores and bought tons of stuff, mostly to sell on eBay or hamfests. I've been doing black friday since at least 2001, and spent last year on the sidewalk in front of Circuit City. But every year the crowds get bigger and the deals get smaller. This year there are a few decent items, but there are very few Free After Rebate items, and what I've seen doesn't seem worth the effort. There are some great deals on big-ticket items, like $300 laptops, but last year I spent 7 hours shivering outside only to find out that I still wasn't early enough for a $300 laptop. There are still a few stores that haven't had their circulars leaked, so maybe I'll find something, but so far I don't see anything worth it. In previous years, some of the items have made it online overnight, so I may stay up this Black Friday, but it probably will be huddled in front of the macbook at my parent's house, hitting refresh on the best buy website, rather than sitting on the concrete in front of some store.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

I guess I'm out of touch...

It's not the point of the article, but I have to wonder if I'm some sort of sexually repressed prude for not really finding the example in this blog post all that odd:

Feminism has made a number of strides in the double standard, particularly as regards sexuality. Sure, sexual double standards are still there--I know a lot of men who would not date women who slept with them on the first date, which seems lunatic to me--but they're a hell of a lot milder than they used to be.

Now it seems to me that a willingness to sleep with a guy on the first date would seem like a valid signal that the women is not interested in a long-term relationship - and I'd say the same thing about a guy who was trying to get into a girl's pants on the first date. I'm not saying there is anything wrong with that, but it does suggest that at that point in the person's life, they aren't looking to get married and settle down.

But maybe I'm just out of touch - after all, girls don't sleep with madanthony on the first date. or ever. Or even date him. So what do I know.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

So what's new with the pussycat?

So, you may be wondering how Nibbler is doing.

Well, she's a kitten. Which means she's a handful.

There are things that are great about her - she has been really good about using her litterbox, she's cute, she seems to like me enough that she pretty much follows me around the house, and still falls asleep in my lap every now and then (unfortunately, she seems to time it for about 5 minutes before I'm about to get up).

But she's a kitten, which means she has tons of energy. She regularly tears through the house at speeds that amaze me. She tries to climb into anything - closets, the pantry, empty bags and boxes, the refrigerator, ect. If there is a door, she wants to be on the other side of it. If I close it and I'm on one side and she's on the other, she'll meow like crazy, and then bum-rush the door when I open it. She does this when I get home, which is scary - but she usually stops right outside the door, so I can grab her and carry her back in.

I've also been struggling with letting her sleep in my bed at night. I used to automatically shut her outside my bedroom, and she would wail and make me feel bad. Lately, I've been letting her sleep in the bed, as long as she doesn't bite me or leap on my head - if she does, out the door she goes. Invariably, however, she'll wake me up at some point playing with my beard - she'll rub her head against it (awww), then she'll start licking it (cute, but also kind of gross), and then she'll start chewing on it (owww... my skin!). That usually gets her kicked out as well, as it's hard to sleep with a cat gnawing on my chin.

She's also still a biter, and I'll admit I haven't done a whole lot to stop it- the advice I read suggests scolding her and giving her a toy to chew on, which I'll do sometimes - but now that it's cold enough that I'm usually in long sleeves it doesn't bother me as much - but it's something I need to get her to stop doing, or she might not grow out of it.

She also still keeps trying to steal my dinner. For a while, I'd gotten so frustrated that I'd lock her in the family room while I ate, but I would still hear her meow and feel bad. Lately I've been forcing myself to spray her with a water bottle if she paws at my plate, and she seems to be getting better... she won't usually dive for my food until, say, midway thru dinner. I usually read while I eat, though, and she's smart enough to figure that if I've got a book in one hand and a fork in the other, I can't spray her - so that's when she'll attack my spaghetti.

I also feel like I'm probably not playing with her enough. I've been working a bunch of overtime lately, plus I've been trying to get some stuff listed on eBay, so I haven't had a whole lot of time to play with her. While it's cute to see her chase the fish-on-a-string, it gets kind of old after I'm really tired. I did get a laser pointer last week, and it was awesome watching her chase it, but the batteries died after two days - I have another one on order that takes standard AAA instead of off-the-wall ones, but it ships from Hong Kong, so I won't get it for a while.

I'm also going to be away twice in the next couple weeks - Thanksgiving to visit the folks, and then early December for an Apple hardware training class in NY. I'm hoping I can get someone to watch her (how's your schedule look like, t?), otherwise I guess I'll have to board her somewhere.

Someday, I hope to be able to enter my house via the front door...

So someday I'm hoping that I can get my front door replaced. I didn't realize that having a front door installed takes as much planning and scheduling as a space shuttle launch, and is only slightly cheaper. I figured I would go in, order a door, and have it scheduled to be installed a few days later. Nope.

Went to Lowe's on Thursday. Turns out they need to measure the door before they would write up an estimate. So I pay them $35 so a guy can measure my door and confirm that it is, in fact, a standard size front door.

Go back today to write up the estimate. Originally it was $1082. Turns out that doesn't include paint - when I asked if the door was painted, the guy said "no" in a tone of voice that suggested I'd asked if I could go take pee in isle three (lighting and light fixures). Turns out if I wanted the door painted white, that was extra. And if I wanted a color, I'd have to wait even longer and get a quote. And if I want a door jamb that doesn't have to be painted, it costs even more.

So the final tally so madanthony can enter his house from the front door? $1355, about half of it being labor. And there is a three week turnaround time - it probably won't be done until the week of November 26th. I'm hoping it actually is that week, because the week before and after I'm not going to be around...

Things madanthony rather spend $1355 on than a new door?

  • 1355 junior bacon cheeseburgers
  • 4 payments on the Ranger, plus 4 tanks of gas
  • a very nice plasma TV
  • a mortgage payment
  • a 20" iMac
  • most of a year's worth of groceries

Well, I guess the old door that came with my house was there when they built it 29 years ago (since most of the other houses have the same door). So if I get another 30 years out of this door, it works out to like $50 a year. Still, I hate to spend this much all at once on something that doesn't give a whole lot of pleasure or get noticed - nobody looking at buying a house says "wow, I liked house #2 because of the door". But I can't really see replacing the knob on my banged-up, badly painted current door, so I guess paying off my truck loan early will have to wait...

Monday, November 05, 2007

RIP, Jimmers...

I got word today that a coworker, Jim (or Jimmers as we called him) was in a coma and not expected to make it past the night.

Jim was a consultant for the college I work for, doing network security work. He also ran some other businesses, including GoJimmers, the hosting provider for

A few months ago he was diagnosed with cancer. The original prognosis wasn't good, but then he seemed to be fighting back. But evidently there were some complications with some of the chemotherapy drugs.

Jim was a great guy - smart, friendly, always willing to help. He did a lot of interesting things, including spending time working for the White House while Reagan was president, and always had a ton of stories. People often throw out the phrase "living life to the fullest", but he definitely did - he was an avid motorcycle rider, target shooter, and airplane pilot.

There are certainly a lot of people who were a lot closer to him than I was, but I talked to him enough times - at work and at the occasional after-work outing - to know him well enough to miss his jokes, his comments on politics, his stories, his ability to crack a tough network issue. Plus, he was the only person at work to have a cubical that rivaled mine for sheer amount of crap crammed into a small space.

Like many people, I struggle with the meaning of existence, of God, of wondering if the events of life are random or part of something bigger. Things like this make it even harder to figure out.

But they also teach us of the shortness and fragility of life, of the need to not always put off things we want to do or spending time with people we care about. One of the things Jimmers would do is get groups of people together to go to a cabin he had in the woods and, well, shoot stuff. The last one was Memorial Day weekend, and I was invited to go, but declined - there was a hamfest, and some other stuff, and I figured I'd go to the next one. Now, I wish I had gone - had known that there isn't always a next time.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Did somebody not flush after they dropped a brown zune?

So about two weeks ago, woot had a refurbished brown Microsoft Zune MP3 player for $85 shipped. I made fun of the Zune when they wanted $250 for it whenit first came out, but $85 is a hell of a price for a 30 gig mp3 player with a big color screen and video capabilities. I'm currently using a Creative Zen Micro Photo 8 gig that I got over the summer for $50AR, and I can probably get close to that on eBay for it, so I figured my net cost would be <$50, and I'd get a way nicer mp3 player out of it.

I got the Zune on Saturday, and tried installing it Sunday night. The unit looks good - no scratches or anything. Installed the software, plugged in the Zune when prompted. Windows recognized it and grabbed the drivers, but when I plugged it in the Zune software didn't recognize it.

I've had a pretty busy week, so I didn't get a chance all week to screw around with it. I did read some message board forums that suggested unistalling the software, and reinstalling it without a network connection so it would use the older software on the CD.

So Friday night I decided to make my Zune work - which shows how lame I am when I spend my Friday night playing with my brown Zune. Tried it with the cd and no network connection, but then Windows wouldn't detect the Zune through the add hardware wizard, even if I plugged the network connection back in.

After four tries of various combinations and a couple hours, I finally got it to work by plugging it into a back usb port and using the software cd with a network connection so it would grab the latest software.

I've owned a number of MP3 players - an original 10 gig firewire iPod, an iPod shuffle, an iPod Nano, and a Creative Zen Micro Photo. The Zune is the only one I've ever had a problem getting to install - even though my original windows iPod was pre-iTunes and shipped with MusicMatch (ewww!).

One other interesting thing is that the Zune will automatically find your MP3's and sync them with the Zune. I have 35 gigs of MP3's and a 30-gig Zune, so I'm not sure how it picked what's on there, but I figured it would be easier than picking songs randomly, so I left it syncing and went to bed.

So the software sucked, but how's the hardware? Don't know yet - haven't used it yet. I plan on going to the gym tonight, so I'll bring the Zune and give it a workout while I do my workout.