mad anthony

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

Monday, June 29, 2009

I'll probably need more tissues...

I just laid down on my green, cat-scratched Ikea couch in my living room and cried.

Now, madanthony crying isn't really a shock - I'm the kind of person who gets weepy when people on TV shows die. But it's been a long time since I've had a serious, wracking-sob kind of cry. I don't really know how to deal with all the thoughts that are going through my head right now, but blogging seems like a logical way to get them out of my head and organized. Well, I suspect this post won't exactly be organized, but you know what I mean.

The seriousness of my dad's MS diagnosis didn't really hit me until yesterday. I had gotten an email from my mom a few days earlier saying they thought it was MS, but it wasn't until I talked to them yesterday- I've called them every Sunday since I was a freshman in college - and heard how upset my mom was. Hearing what they were told by the doctor - that they might have to sell the house that I grew up in, that they have lived in for 37 years - really hit me hard.

There are so many things I'm thinking. When I graduated college, I was eager to move away - I really didn't want to move back with them. Now I feel bad that I did - that I can't be more of a help, that I didn't spend more time with them when they were healthy.

When I think about the times I've been upset, they have usually been the people that I've turned to for comfort. Now I somehow need to figure out how I can reassure them, and I don't know how. I'm going to be up there in a few days for the 4th, and I want to make them feel better, which is going to mean somehow repressing the desire to burst into tears.

For a long time, I've had a sort of pragmatic distance with religion. I've tended to think that there probably is a God, because to me it's the only really satisfying explanation for the existence of anything, but I've never been quite sure of the details. I've kept worshiping in the Catholic faith I was raised in, but never been quite sure how much of it I believed. I always wondered if there would be something that would either tilt me towards believing more or giving it up. I'm wondering if this may be it - part of me finds myself praying, part of me wonders how a loving God could let stuff like this happen.

I can't help but think of all the things my dad won't be able to do anymore - like visit my townhouse here in Baltimore, which is pretty much all stairs. I don't know if he'll ever be able to take a vacation anywhere, or go to church, or run errands. I'm angry at myself for not living closer to them, not being around more, not being able to help them as much as I'd like. I'm angry that I've been single and childless while they were healthy - if I ever do meet someone and have kids, they won't get to know their grandfather as a healthy, normal person, and he won't really be able to play with them. I find myself watching TV shows and being jealous of the characters who have healthy parents.

And I'm trying to figure out if and how my life should go on. I've been exchanging email with a woman on a dating site I use - a cute blond who also seems to be smart, interesting, and ambitious. She sent me her phone number last night - I was going to call her tonight, but I figured I'd, well, sound like I was crying. I need to call her tomorrow night or she'll think I'm a total dick, but I don't want to burst into tears, and I need to explain that I might not be that available. Part of me thinks I should just forget about it at this point, but I also don't want to lose an opportunity to meet someone cool.

I feel like my life just went from being somewhat unhappy to completely miserable. The normal things that I've been unhappy about - career, dating, social life - aren't going to get any better, and this is going to get much worse. Of course, it's 1000x harder for my parents, who have to deal with it on a far more intense level than I do.

When the people who cared for you need caring for...

My dad has been having health problems for close to a year - feeling lightheaded and dizzy and the like. He had a history of allergy and sinus problems, and the doctor assumed that that was what was causing it. He had surgery for it in September, and felt better for a while, but then was still having problems. He had another surgery in December - I was up for Christmas and drove him to the hospital. He felt better after a few months, went back to work, and then started feeling crappy again. He finally went to a new doctor, who decided that it was probably something else and ordered an MRI. He got a preliminary diagnosis, but went to see a doctor today who is pretty certain that it's Multiple Sclerosis.

He still has to have some more tests to confirm it and to figure out which course it is and how best to treat it. He did say that my dad will probably need a walker, and that he should consider moving to a house that doesn't have any stairs. My parent's current house is a single-story ranch, but it's basically built into a hill so that they need to go up a flight of stairs to get in. I'd hate to see them have to move - it's the house I grew up in - and I know they would hate to have to move as well - they have lived there since it was built in 1972.

For my whole life, my parents have been the one to take care of me, to tell me that everything would be all right. Now I guess it's the other way around, except that I know that's not true anymore - things will never be the same again, and they will probably get worse. I need to figure out how to balance my life - work, dating, things I enjoy - with spending time with them - I want to help them in any way that I can, and I feel that I owe it to them for all they have done for me. I also want to be able to spend as much time with my dad as I can while he's still around . But I'm in Maryland and they are in New Jersey - not a huge drive, but far enough that I can't just leave work early to go to a doctor's appointment or the like.

My mom seems to be taking it harder than my dad - which I guess is understandable. My dad has been living with the symptoms for a year, so at least he gets to finally know what is causing it and hopefully get some help. My mom pretty much has to take over all the household duties and take care of my dad, and she's not in the greatest shape herself- she has been told she needs both knees replaced but hasn't been able to do it.

I'll be up there in a few days - I get a few days off for July 4th, and I was going to go up there anyway. But it's going to be a tough visit, and I have a feeling that life for me and my family is going to get pretty tough. I'd appreciate if you keep my family in your thoughts/prayers.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Impulse buing....

I bought a new TV today, even though there is nothing wrong with my current TV. I've been thinking for a while that I would like a bigger TV to replace my current 32" TruTech LCD, bought on clearance at Target for $400. The new one is an LG 42" plasma that I got from for $650 shipped. It's only 720p, but it's a nice set from a good brand, and it's 10 inches bigger than what I have now. I figure I can sell my current TV for $250 or so, which will bring the price down even more.

I figure I watch enough TV that it's worth it. And in the grand scheme of things, it's not a huge amount of money, but I still feel bad about spending so much money. I have a good bit of savings tucked away, and my only debt is a small student loan and a giant mortgage. But being cheap, spending any money pains me and makes me feel guilty - especially when it's kind of an impulse purchase. I'm going to be spending some other money this year - I plan on replacing my ancient $200 PC with a Mac Mini next month, and and I need to get gutters replaced and a fence put up this summer. I'm hoping to pay the student loan off in the next year or so - I have the money now, but I feel better keeping the cash liquid in today's economy.

I've got some extra income coming in - I've been able to pick up a little overtime, I've had a pretty good run on eBay and still have a stack of stuff to sell, so I'll do OK. And what is the point of having money if you never spend it? I figure I sacrifice and scrimp enough of the time that I need to splurge every now and then - but I also need to keep that splurging in line enough that I still have enough savings to feel secure.

I don't, in fact, need a vacation...

One of the perks of working for a college is that I get a ton of vacation time. In addition to a number of payed holidays - usually two days for each vacation day, plus the days between Christmas and New Years - we get a ton of vacation days. Because I've been there over 5 years, I get 3 weeks of vacation, 3 personal days, and a floating holiday.

And I use almost none of it - I usually end up losing a good chunk of it because I'm "maxed out" and can't accumulate any more.

That's not to say I don't take any vacation days. This year so far, I took off the day before Easter, plus a couple hours to get my toilet replaced and a couple more hours to pick up some stuff I bought at an auction. I took the day after July 4th off, and I'll probably take off another day to do some outlet shopping, and a few more hours off to get some work done on my house (btw, if you know a fence guy or a gutter guy in Baltimore, feel free to let me know).

My boss has been on me to use some of my time. I don't really see much reason to. I'll take time off if I have to in order to do something I need or want to do, or if it's around a holiday that I'm going up to visit the parents, because then I don't have to worry about rushing to/from. But I can't really see taking days off just for the sake of taking time off - if I would just end up spending the day sitting around the house watching TV and surfing the internet, I might as well be at work and get something done. If I had kids who wanted to go to Disney World or a wife who wanted a romantic getaway, I could see taking time off. But I don't really like to take vacations alone, nor do I really like spending money on things that aren't material.

I also figure it's good for my career not to take time off - I may not be the smartest guy at work, or the guy who is the best with dealing with people, but at least I'm there. There's more chance that I'll be around for an important meeting or help someone out if I actually come to work. Plus I figure it's not really fair to my coworkers for me just to take off and do nothing, plus there are a bunch of things that I'm the only person or one of very few people who do, so if I'm not around it won't get done (and will have to get done when I come back).

They say vacations are supposed to be relaxing, but I think I'm more stressed if I'm not at work, because I worry about what I'm missing. Plus I don't have the world's most robust social life, so work is where I get to talk to people, to interact with other humans - if I'm not at work, I'm just at home with the cat, which isn't exactly healthy.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The audacity of hope....

Early on in my unsuccessful adventures in internet dating, I joked to my friend bsom that I really had nothing to lose if it didn't work out - after all, it's not like I could get any more single. To which he replied "Well, your cat could leave you. You know, you could come home and there could just be a letter written entirely in pawprints."

Well, Nibbler the cat hasn't left me - I think she likes being fed and having a place to poop too much - but I'm not sure the whole dating thing is a simple as that. In a way, I'm worse off than when this whole thing started. It's sort of like Tantalus - I thought I was close to getting something I wanted, but still couldn't seem to get it.

Now, I know I probably went into this with too-high expectations. I thought we kind of clicked on the phone/email, but obviously those things translate differently into the real world. And I guess that's a lesson to me if I ever manage to ever convince another woman to go out with me.

But I still don't understand why this is so hard for me. Everyone else I know my age - or even much younger - seems to have found someone, and I can't seem to. What is a normal part of life for everyone else seems to be as out of reach as Tantalus' fruit tree. Is there something wrong with me? Is it fixable? Am I being punished by some divine force for something I did wrong? I'd like to think that the reason I've been single is part of some master plan, that there is someone out there for me and I just haven't met her yet. But I'd also like to think that I'm going to win the lottery tomorrow, and I know that isn't going to happen (especially since I never buy lottery tickets).

Dealing with disappointment, loneliness, and hopelessness are an important part of the human condition. But, at least when it comes to dating (and home prices) it seems to be something that I feel like I've dealt with more than my fair share of, and I wish I could figure out how to change it.

Scenes from work, CSI edition...

student worker: Are you going to build a GUI interface in visual basic?

mad anthony: Huh?

sw: You've never seen the clip from CSI? Let me find it.

(plays this clip)

mad anthony: I'd give her something gooey in her face.

A Clunker of a bill...

In general, I'm not a fan of using the tax code as a means to enact social change - I think it should be used to raise the money needed to keep the goverment running and performing it's functions, not to transfer money from politically unpopular groups to politically popular ones. So I'm not a fan of the many "stimulus" tax credits that have been going on lately, including the Cash For Clunkers bill that was recently passed.

Of course, one reason I'm not thrilled about it is because I don't qualify for it - which seems to be the case for almost all of the stimulus tax credits. Because I bought my house when prices were high, because my mortgage happened to be issued by the wrong agency, because I bought my car back when people still bought cars, because I haven't found a woman willing to talk to me, let alone have kids with me - no tax credits for me. So I end up a payer instead of a payee. Then again, if they ever tried to take away the mortgage interest deduction I would be screaming bloody murder. But the problem with tax law is that it makes people make decisions based on that law, and changing it impacts those decisions - the price of housing would majorly drop (even more) if the mortgage interest deduction went away.

But I don't like the bill for other reasons than the fact that it doesn't make me any money. It's debatable if we really should be encouraging people who are on the fence about buying new cars to buy them - sure, it's good for dealers and manufacturers, but taking on more debt isn't really something the government should be encouraging. It also seems likely that a lot of that money is going to go to people who would have bought new cars anyway - so you are giving people money for doing something they were going to do anyway, which is a complete waste of money and stimulates nothing.

Also, I'm a bit of a car enthusiast - with a penchant for odd and unpopular cars. I'm also a big believer in the fact that car ownership makes people's lives better - that it gives them the freedom to go places, to find better jobs and housing, and this bill actually hurts that. It takes a bunch of perfectly good cars and destroys them, which seems like a waste of good cars. It means fewer cars out there for collectors in the future. It also means fewer cheap used cars - by crushing a bunch of perfectly good cars, we are taking a bunch of <$5000 used cars out off the market and out of the hands of used car buyers. And <$5000 cars are the kinds of cars that young people and people with low income tend to buy as their first cars, the kind of trucks and vans that contractors just starting out buy. Cutting the supply of cars will raise the prices, and it will keep lots of poor young people in the ghetto instead of being able to drive to a job.

The other thing is that the bill is being sold as good for the environment. As the Reuters article points out, the gas savings is minimal - someone could trade in a truck that gets 16mpg for one that makes 18mpg (they say a "Hummer", but good luck finding a Hummer that has a trade-in value below $4500). Wired magazine had an article last year (which doesn't seem to be online) arguing that you are better off keeping an SUV than trading it in for a hybrid, because of the huge amount of energy and raw materials it takes to make a new car. So from an envirmonmental perspective, building a brand-new car, and having to dispose of a perfectly good old one, to save 2mpg, makes no sense.

So we've managed to make a law that takes $1 billion from one group of random taxpayers and gives it to another, while making it harder for poor people to buy a car and probably causing more damage to the environment. Now there is a clunker of a bill I'd love to crush.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Why despiration is seriously underrated in potential dates...

If you read any dating advice columns, especially ones aimed at the start of relationships, they will usually talk about how important it is not to appear too interested. Evidently, dating is supposed to be something like buying a car or haggling at a yard sale - you need to seem like you don't really want what you really want. In car buying, it's because you won't get a good price if they know you really want that yellow pickup. In dating, if you appear too eager, you are considered desperate, and that's a bad thing.

I'll admit to being desperate. Not that I would date/propose to the first woman who talked to me, but if I was dating a reasonably attractive woman who I liked and had a lot in common with, I wouldn't want to continue that relationship barring any major revelation of something unlikeable about that person.

I don't really see why desperation is such a turn-off. I mean, I think it could be a good thing. A desperate guy isn't going to cheat - he had enough trouble finding one woman willing to date him, he's not likely to find a second - and even if he did, he wouldn't want to risk the relationship that was so hard to get in the first place. He's going to be willing to do whatever it takes to keep the relationship, do what he's asked, give in, compromise.

I guess part of it is a certain "I don't want to be part of any club that will have me as a member" mentality - if a guy is that interested in a woman (or vice versa) they may think there must be something wrong with the person that they would be so interested. But what if it's the other way around - if you are such a catch, wouldn't you expect people to be interested in one another?

In general, I hate games - I suck at climbing the career ladder at work, and I suck at dating just as much. I hate that things need to be so complicated, that people need to pretend that they don't feel the way they do about the things they want in order to get them.

Adventures in internet dating, or why I will probably die alone...

Well, the reason I hadn't posted much is because I had met a woman online and thought it might go somewhere. And the reason I'm posting again is because it didn't.

I hate being single, and I've been it my whole life. Almost 29 years of going to sleep alone, waking up alone, eating dinner alone, taking trips alone, spending Valentine's Day and New Years Day and all those other days that couples spend together by myself. I've never shared a kiss, I've never even really had anything that could be called a real date.

I don't know what's wrong with me. I'll admit, I've got plenty of faults - a little bit of a belly (which used to be a lot more, until I dropped about 90 pounds a couple years ago) and a bad back that gives me a bit of a stooped posture. You know how some guys are described as tall, dark, and handsome? I'm short, pale, and homely. I suck at conversation, I don't have any cool hobbies like skydiving or playing in a band, and I'm socially awkward.

Still, I'm also gainfully employed, have a Master's degree, am in decent financial shape, have my own house, no criminal record, am disease-free, the owner of cute but psychotic cat, and think I'm generally a decent person. You think somewhere there might be a woman willing to spend more than an hour with me for some reason other than the fact that her computer is broken, but no.

I hate being single. Every minute of every day is a reminder of it, and a reminder of what a failure I am. I go to work and listen to coworkers talk about their wives, their girlfriends, the chick they picked up at the bar last night. I go to the gym and watch couples that look like they stepped out of an Under Armor ad work out together while the TV's play "Everybody Loves Raymond" and movies like "Win a Date with Tad Hamilton" or "The Wedding Singer" - movies where the nice guy gets the hot girl, often by doing things that would probably get a restraining order in real life. I log into FaceBook and see that everyone I went to high school and college with is married with kids - not just the cool kids who never had trouble finding a date, but also the ones who weren't much better than me at finding someone.

I've been using various online dating sites for the last few years with no success. I'll contact women, usually never to hear back. Sometimes we'll exchange a few emails, but it's usually been kind of forced, talking to women where it was clear that we were both reaching to find something in common.

So when I got an email from a girl I had contacted months earlier, I didn't expect much. But we kept exchanging emails, one or two a day for over a week, and I finally emailed her my number. We talked for almost 3 hours the first time, until the battery on my iPhone was almost dead. We continued to talk, pretty much daily for over a week, usually for an hour or so. We had a lot in common - jobs in education, similar politics and religion, similar parent/home environments, and a bunch of other stuff. I thought that maybe I had finally found someone - maybe the reason I was single for so long was just waiting for her.

We finally met in person last week - I figured we would grab coffee at a diner, nothing fancy, just a chance to see who we were. I thought it went OK - I mean, it only lasted about 45 minutes, but it seemed OK. She looked a little different than I expected, but was cute. I asked her if she wanted to do something that weekend, and she said yes.

She has a part-time job with odd hours, so I texted her on Saturday night about giving me a call if she wasn't at work. She didn't text me back until several hours later saying that she was going to bed because she was running a race the next morning, but would call me afterwords. Didn't hear from her until much later the next day - another text, saying she'd crashed after the race and was headed to a birthday party. I told her I'd be around if she wanted to call me afterwords. She texted back OK - and that was the last I've heard from her. I waited a few days, to not seem to desperate, and left her a voicemail. Never heard back, which means she definitely isn't interested.

I keep trying to figure out what I did wrong - should I have picked a better place? Said something different? Did I look at her too much? Not enough? Or am I just so hideously ugly/socially awkward that any woman meeting me wants to run the other way?

It's taken me almost 29 years to get to the point of a woman even meeting me in person. At this rate, I'll be 58 before I find another woman willing to date me. I think it's safe to say that I'm always going to be single, that all my v-days and New Years and trips and nights will be spent alone. I wish I knew what was wrong with me so I could fix it, but I suspect whatever it is is not fixable.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

All the little ants are marching, black and red antenna waving...

Every summer, my house gets invaded by ants. It's a summer tradition, like sunburn, vacations, and shorts and sandals.

In the days before I had a cat, it wasn't a big deal - I would throw down some ant traps on the floor and the counter, and pretty soon the ants would go away. Once I got Nibbler, I realized I couldn't put the traps down, or she would probably try to eat them, since her first instinct when she encounters anything is to put it in her mouth.

The last year or two, it wasn't a huge deal - the ants would be around, but as long as I kept my kitchen relatively clean, they wouldn't stay long. I'd see them swarming around, say, a spilled blob of sweet and sour sauce, but once I cleaned it up they would be gone.

This year, though, the ants seem to be fierce. I don't know if it's some super-strain of ants, or if the economy has reduced the amount of food available, or the rain has made them grow, or what, but they are kicking my ass.

I keep seeing a trail of ants walking somewhere, and then I discover that they have found something and are eating my food. I had a jar of marshmallow fluff that they took out, an open box of knockoff Lucky Charms. Friday night I bought a box of scones and left it on the kitchen counter for breakfast - by Saturday morning it was swarming with ants and went in the trash.

I bought some ant traps yesterday and put them in places that cat can't get to but the ants have - on top of my cabinets, in my closed pantry. Hopefully they will attract and kill some of the ants. I've been trying to keep anything that might attract them away. I've been cleaning my floor and counter regularly to remove spills, rinsing dishes so that they don't go into my dishwasher, rinsing out ice-cream containers before throwing them out, buying a plastic container for my cereal. But the ants keep finding stuff - I found a bunch of them swarming around a single crumb in my sink that had failed to go down.

The traps take a few days to work, so we'll see. I haven't seen ants swarming around them the way they swarm around my food, though.

Part of me almost feels bad for killing ants - I mean, they are just trying to survive, eat, just like me. It's nothing personal. But they are eating my food, costing me money. And I want to have people over and having ants crawling around isn't something I want them to see.

So hopefully they will finally leave. Because I don't like having to plan my life around an animal that is like a millionth of my size.

Yes, I'm still alive...

You may have noticed a lack of posts on this blog of late. I've had some things going on in my life that are kind of in flux, and I don't really want to get into them until they are kind of sorted out. So posting will probably be sparse for a while.