mad anthony

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

Saturday, March 19, 2011

How to shop at a hamfest...

Next weekend is the Timonium Hamfest - one of the largest hamfests on the east coast, and located very close to me - one of the perks of living in Baltimore. Hamfests are basically swap meets/flea markets geared towards ham radio, electronic, and computer enthusiasts. I've been selling at hamfests for the last 5 years or so, although last year was the first year I sold at Timonium. I generally avoided selling so I would be able to focus on buying stuff, but I've been more active at buying stuff for resale lately and want to convert it to money and free up some space in my house. I'm spending part of this weekend pulling stuff out of my basement and pricing it in preparation.

Last year I did the outdoor tailgating, and only sold on Saturday. This year I sprung for an indoor tailgate space and will be selling both days - it was cold last year. I figure that this will give me a few advantages besides comfort - the indoor space doesn't open until 8am, which means I can shop the outdoor tailgaters before I start selling. I can also set up Friday night, and bring additional inventory Saturday and Sunday if I have space. I don't know if being inside will help or hurt sales, though... we'll find out.

Based on my selling experiences, I figured I'd share a few tips about how to have a productive buying experience, from someone who has been on both sides of the tables full of junk.

1)Bring lots of cash - most sellers will only take cash, and you don't want to miss out on something because you don't have enough money on you.

2)haggle, but don't be a dick about it - many sellers, myself included, price stuff above what they expect to get for it because they know most buyers will haggle. So don't be afraid to offer a lower price for something. However, don't be a jerk - I'm a lot more willing to work with someone who is nice and tells me they need a lower price because they don't have a lot of cash, or don't have space, or that their wife/girlfriend will be mad if they buy it than someone who tells me that I'm stupid for wanting that much for an item or that it's probably broken and they don't trust people who sell at hamfests. Also, how much I'm willing to go down depends on a lot of things - how much I paid for the item, how long I've had it, how big/heavy it is, how many more of them I have, if it's something that becomes obsolete, and how early in the day it is. Chances are, if you are looking at a couple year old desktop pc near the end of the day, you have a lot more haggle space than if you are looking at an iPod at 6:05 am.

3)don't spend money you cant' afford to lose - I'm honest about what I sell, and try to test used items and describe them accurately. Still, sometimes stuff is defective or worked when I tested it but got knocked around in transit. I'm willing to give out contact info if someone wants it (I even have cards printed up this year with my email, ebay id, and google voice number). Also keep in mind that not every seller knows that much about what they are selling - there are a lot of resellers who just buy lots of stuff at auctions or the like and drag it to the 'fest. To me, it's not worth intentionally selling stuff I know doesn't work because I sell year after year to the same people, and if I burn them once they won't buy from me in the future. I have a handful of customers who seek me out at fests, and a few I sell to outside of hamfests, and I've heard customers telling other people they've had good experiences with me. If I ripped them off, they would be telling people to avoid me instead. Still, not everyone thinks this way.

4)if you are looking for something specific, know what you are looking before before you come - I'll often have people ask me if I have RAM or a power supply for "a Dell laptop", but they don't know anything more specific. If you need a part, research the part number or specs before you come up. Asking for RAM for a Dell laptop is as useful as asking for a tire for a Ford - a Fiesta tire isn't going to work on an F-450 Super Duty pickup.

5)don't grumble about how there aren't enough ham radio stuff and that it's all electronics and computer stuff - there is a reason most ham radio clubs market their hamfests to computer and electronics sellers and buyers as well - because there aren't enough vendors and hams to support a fest6) that's just ham radios. There is enough crossover between the electronics, computer, and ham worlds that stuff that appeals to one often appeals to another. Besides, the dues that sellers like me and buyers like the people who buy from me pay goes to support ham radio clubs - and maybe some of the people who come because of the computers and electronics will become interested in ham radio.

6)arrive early - most fests start early - Timonium tailgating opens at 6am to buyers. If you get there late, you will miss some deals. Lots of vendors pack up pretty early, because they've been up really early and want to go home and get some sleep.

7)dress appropriately - comfortable shoes, layers in case it's warm or cold, rain gear if there is a chance of rain. Some people find a backpack useful if they are buying a lot of small items.

8)if you want it, act fast - if you pass something that looks interesting and say "gee, I'll come back and buy that", there's a pretty good chance it won't be there when you get back. And don't be afraid to ask the price of something, don't just assume it's out of your range. I've been surprised at how low some sellers are willing to sell stuff. Worst that can happen is they quote a price you don't like and you keep walking.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Maybe all the good men are right here....

I read Kay Hymowitz's WSJ article Where Have All The Good Men Gone a week or two ago (and added her book to my amazon wish list) but haven't gotten around to writing a post on it. Until now.

The article laments the rise of the man-child, the "pre-adults" who aren't interested in marriage, gainful employment, or doing much else but reading Maxim, watching Comedy Central, and playing video games.

First of all, I'm not sure all the cultural indicators that are flagged are proof that there are vast hordes of man-children wandering around being immature. The fact is that it's possible to play video games, or read Maxim, or watch tasteless TV shows, and still be gainfully employed, well-groomed, and family-oriented.

And I don't want to downplay my own failings, either - I'm sure there are plenty of things wrong with me that are the cause of my singleness.

But if women are mourning a lack of mature men, of the kind of men who want to settle down and raise a family instead of existing in a post- college haze, I can't help but wonder if the reason is partly because they overlook guys who are those things because the man-children are more fun/interesting /attractive/exciting, and partly because they themselves aren't interested in settling down, or at least aren't sure what they want.

I use dating sites pretty heavily, and one thing I've noticed is a lot of women have profiles where they talk about how much they love certain activities - travel, extreme sports like skydiving or rock climbing, ect - and how they want someone who does those things. And they will also have selected that yes, they want children.

The thing is that these are typically women in their late 20's to mid-30's - ie they are at the age where if they really do want to have children, biology suggests that they probably should do it soon. Which would suggest that their days of jetting off to France are pretty likely to come to an end for the next decade or two, and that if having children really is something that's important to them maybe they should be focused more on looking for someone who is husband/father material than someone who has been to the Eiffel Tower.

I'll also see plenty of profiles talk about how they want a guy who is employed, doesn't live in their parent's basement, doesn't mooch off them, ect - unlike all the other guys they've dated. Of course, if being gainfully employed and having one's own house was a sufficient condition to at least getting a date, madanthony's life would be much more exciting. My guess is despite their claims, when it comes to a choice of a boring, less attractive, but gainfully employed guy or a better looking unemployed moocher, they will pick the latter.

And if that is what women really want, that's fine. But they need to be honest about it - not just when writing profiles, but with themselves. Clearly their stated preferences and their actual preferences are different, probably because they haven't stopped and thought about what their actual preferences are.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

uggh, weekends...

Every time the weekend approaches, my coworkers get all excited about what they are going to do. I, on the other hand, typically greet them with a profound sense of meh.

When you are chronically single and undateable like me, and when you don't have much of a social life, like me, weekends are just another day, except without going to work. And when you don't have much else going on in your life, that's not all that much of a plus.

How do I typically start my weekend? By making a to-do list on the back of a piece of scrap paper, which typically includes such exciting events as "laundry" and "Target". Since work and going to the gym eats up the bulk of my weekdays, the weekend is when I typically get much of the little errands and other things that I need to get done done. None of which are particularly enjoyable (although Target does have a Starbucks....)

But it's better to be doing stuff than not, because weekends where I have free time usually mean I end up sitting in my house and thinking about what a fool I was to buy a house at the exact top of the housing market, or surfing internet dating sites full of profiles of women who will never go out with me, making me ponder what I am doing wrong and why I am such a loser.

But the good thing is that my weekend malaise tends to be most profound in the winter. Spring and summer bring more things to occupy my time, which means less time for madanthony to get all emo. Granted, many of those things aren't particularly sexy - hamfests, auctions, yard sales, flea markets - but they'll occupy some of my time, and hopefully also put a little money in my pocket. Also, I've signed up for a 10-mile run in June, so I now have a reason to push myself to put in some time on my basement treadmill - or maybe even outside. And summer does hold the possibility of a slight improvement in the giant black hole that is my social life.

Of course, summer is invariably followed by winter, which means that at some point I'll go back to posting about how much my weekends suck.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

weight loss is possible, but shaming kids into it isn't...

Megan McCardle has a post up about shaming fat kids into not being fat, and that she doesn't think it's a good idea.

I'll agree that telling kids they are fat and suck probably won't do much good. However, she also makes an argument she's made in a number of posts about weight loss - that it's nearly impossible to lose weight and keep it off. I strongly disagree with that.

See, here's the thing. I consider myself pretty knowledgeable both about weight loss and about fat kids, because I was a fat kid - and a fat adult. In 2004, I was 24 years old, five foot five, and 250 pounds - morbidly obese by BMI standards.

The thing that got me to change my lifestyle was actually one of those silly online death calculators - which said I'd die at age 56. For the fist time, it put into real terms the idea that my weight would most likely have significant, long-term negative effects unless I did something about it. So I did. I started watching what I ate, and - for the first time in my life - I started exercising. It took me about 2 years, but I lost around 100 pounds. And since then, I've kept it off - my weight has fluctuated a little in both directions, but right now I'm 150 and a 34" waist - when 7 years ago I was 250 and a 46" waist. I'm not as careful about what I eat as I used to be, but I also work out about 2 hours a day, so it balances out.

So I think weight loss is possible. And it's not like I'm some uber-successful person who succeeds at everything he tries - in fact, when it comes to dating, careers, or finances I'm a complete failure at the first two and maybe average at the third. So if I can do it, a lot of other people should be able to as well. I'm not saying it's not difficult, but there are many things that are difficult but still accomplished by a number of people.

But as far as the shaming fat kids thing goes, it's not going to work. Part of it is that, as Megan mentions, fat kids tend to be pretty ashamed already, and more of it is unlikely to change anything. But what got me to lose weight wasn't shame or even disgust at the way I looked - it was finally understanding the long-term consequences of my actions. And let's face it, kids are inherently bad at understanding long-term consequences, as well as at making decisions that place long-term consequences over immediate gratification. I can think of plenty of things that, looking back on, I would do differently if I had really understood the consequences and trade-offs - and those are things I did in my teens and 20's, never mind the ones I did as kids.

Losing weight takes a lot of work, a lot of sacrifice, a lot of doing things that aren't particularly fun now - like 90 minutes on the precor or not eating that donut - in order to gain benefits later. In order to do those things, you need to really want those long-term things - and kids aren't good at that, they tend not to think long-term. They probably don't even understand long-term well enough to care about it.

So I think that means it's difficult to find any way to motivate kids to lose weight. I think the best you can do is educate parents on how to feed their kids right and encourage them to exercise regularly. But kids are still going to find ways to go around those things, and I don't think we'll ever find a way to stop it.

And btw, the pics at the top of this post are of me - the first picture was taken in December 2004. The second one was taken in March 2010.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

and miles to go before I rest...

So, having run, err, walked, the Baltimore half-marathon back in October, I found myself on the mailing list and facebook page of the company that organizes the marathon, and several other running events. One of which is the Baltimore Ten Miler, in June, which runs through madanthony's old neighborhood (and the backdrop for several scenes in The Wire) of Reservoir Hill. After waffling back and forth for a while, I decided to sign up today.

Which means now I actually need to start training. I work out pretty much every day - typically 90 minutes on the elliptical and about 30 minutes of low-impact strength training. As you can imagine from the fact that I still hover on the line between normal and overweight on the BMI scale, this isn't enough exercise, and is counteracted by too many visits to the cookie and ice cream sections of the grocery store and the all-you-can-eat buffet at work.

I did the half-marathon with no extra training whatsoever - and my finish reflected it, around 7500th out of the 8000 finishers with a time that was about 3x that of the 1st place finisher - in other words, he could have done 40 miles in the time it took me to do 13.

Which means in the next week or 2 I need to start a new training regiment. Ideally, what I hope to start doing is doing some running before work - either on the treadmill at the gym (to better simulate the experience of road running, plus to try to get myself on the pace that I need to be on to improve my time) or around the Reservoir near work. The question is if I can make myself do it - I'm not a big fan of getting up early (or going to bed early, a necessary condition to getting up early). I have to remind myself how bad I felt when I realized how much I sucked after the half-marathon - hopefully I can shame myself into putting in the work that I need to put in to get a decent finish time.

no madanthony is an island...

When you are chronically single, like me - when you just seem to give off a force field that repels the opposite sex - you are never short of reminders of what a loser you are. Happy couples walking around at the store or sitting in the car next to you at the traffic light, romantic comedies on the TV at the gym where the loser actually gets the girl by doing things that would probably get him arrested in the real world, coworkers talking about their girlfriends/spouses/ect. It's always a reminder that there is just something about me that I'm doing wrong, that makes me unable to have something that everyone else seems to have no problem with.

And then there's the smaller, odder things. Like last week, I bought a bunch of stuff at an auction from a failed bank. In addition to some pc's, servers, toner cartridges, and check processing equipment that's going on eBay or to hamfests, I bought a couple pieces of corporate wall art - a bunch of large framed pictures. One of them - a large framed picture of a tree-lined path - would look perfect in my bedroom. I tried to hang it tonight, only to realize that hanging a several-foot-long painting by yourself is pretty much impossible.

Now, you might question if, if madanthony had someone else in his life, if he'd be hanging a picture that formerly graced the teller counter at a Timonium, MD bank branch in his bedroom. For that question, you might wonder if any sane woman would let her significant other drop $1100 on stuff from a failed bank. And you would probably have a point, but it's not the point of this post... the point of which is that, in life, there are big and small things where it would be nice to have another person to share your life and experiences with. And I don't have that. And I have yet to figure out what's wrong with me, what I'm doing wrong, what I need to do differently to get what I want.

What do I want? Well, this probably sounds stupid, and saying stupid things is probably part of the reason I'm single, but sometimes when I'm not doing much - usually when I'm driving home from work - I'll think about my cat, Nibbler. I'll picture her curled up on my lap, purring, her little furry head resting on my chest, and I'll find myself - no matter how bad my day was - involuntarily smiling. And that's what I want - a female that sits on my lap and purrs. No, seriously, what I wish I had in my life was someone that made me smile like that - someone who the very thought of spending time with made me happy. And I wish I was that someone for someone - the person who they wanted to be with when they weren't, the person who the very thought of put a smile on their face no matter how bad their day.

But clearly that's not meant to be. When I was fat, I tended to blame being fat on external things - it wasn't my fault that I was fat. Once I realized that it was, in fact, my fault that I was fat - that what I ate and not exercising were the reason I was fat - I was able to change those things and lose weight. But I haven't figured out what it is that I'm doing wrong that's causing me to be unlovable - if I need to spend more time at the gym, make more money, become more cultured, or what it is that I'm doing wrong now. When I was fat, it was because I deserved to be fat, because I did the things that fat people do. So I must be single because I deserve to be single, but there isn't the same obvious "eat fewer calories than you burn" equation for dating. Or at least not one that I've discovered.

And that's why there is a wall in my bedroom that still lacks a picture.