mad anthony

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

Saturday, April 30, 2005

So where is big brother, anyway...

I always find paranoia about businesses use of databases kind of ironic when it seems like so many companies don't bother using easily available information. Much of the marketing out there seems untargeted, and it seems like companies would get a better return on investment if they gathered some data about who they were pitching to and only pitched to those who might actually bite.

For example, yesterday I recieved a piece of junk mail from Working Assets. Working Assets is a long-distance phone company that gives part of their profits to left-wing charities. If I signed up, I would get a free pint of Ben and Jerry's a month for the next year.

The brochure had quotes about the great causes that Working Assets donates to, like Doctors without Borders and some peace group working for "disarmament" (I'm guessing of anyone but Saddam). These are the exact opposite of Mad Anthony's political ideas. Maybe sending this kind of pitch to a registered Republican was a bad idea.

But there is one other bit of info that is publically avilable and would suggest that Mad Anthony is not a good candidate for a long-distance service - I DON'T HAVE A HOME PHONE. I'm one of those crazy young people who relies on a cell phone for all my communication needs. So long distance is pretty useless. But it never occured to Working Ass..ets to check if the people they are mailing to have a home phone number.

On the plus side, the package did include a notepad (which I can use for taking notes at the next meeting of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy) and some address labels (which I can use for sending my generous contributions to the Republican party)

Maybe the point isn't to actually buy it...

I was enthusiastic about my designer can opener in an earlier post. I'm wondering if some of my enthusiasm was misplaced - I noticed a ton of the Graves stuff on clearance endcaps at Targets recently, including the can opener. That would suggest that not everyone may have thought what I thought when I bought mine - although I didn't see them for more than 30% off, so people must have bought them before they were marked down further.

Then again, something fashionable is going to be short-lived, so I guess the endcap was inevitable. But whatt this exerpt from a Virginia Postrel interview about some of the Phillipe S+ark stuff puts another spin on it. Target isn't necessarily selling stuff by famous designers because they expect people will buy them so much as to show that they are a trendy, hip place. It's not necessary that people go to Target to buy a can opener designed by Michael Graves - it's enough that people go to Target in part because they feel cool because they are shopping at a store hip enough to sell stuff designed by Michael Graves, even if they don't actually buy it themselves. It's sort of like advertising, or at least atmosphere - even if they don't sell a ton of it, it's important because it makes them seem upscale and a cool place to shop.

Well, my boss's boss now thinks I'm a perv...

At work last week, we had a meeting about a major process change relating to the way departments are structured. Not to get too deep into it, but now various groups that were only responsible for specific tasks will now be responsible for different tasks and will be assigned those tasks in different ways. This isn't very popular among employees, so my boss's boss made us all go to a meeting to discuss the changes.

To illustrate the changes, he draws a diagram with the four types of tasks. One of them is called Backround Jobs. He writes this with just the initials... B.J.

I catch myself smiling and trying to stifle a giggle. He catches me doing so, comments on it, and changes the diagram to "background jobs".

God, I wish I wasn't so immature.

Hell week...

Well, it's finals week. I've got a closed-book, open-notes takehome ethics final that's due Tuesday, so I'm trying to prep today. Will probably drive to the libary tomorrow afternoon with my trusty PowerBook and stay till it's done. I also have a presentation in my Operations Management class on Wednesday. And this Friday I'm working a 14-hour day to provide night coverage at the college Helpdesk I work at because it's finals week and they want someone around for professors to yell at.

So posting will be slim to none. But after this week is over, I don't have any classes until July 17 (I'm taking one summer class). So besides working 6 days a week, I'll have nothing but free time....

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Some thoughts on exercise from a guy with extra size..

Insty has been talking about fitness a bunch on his blog, and linked to this old post that I thought was kind of interesting. (Yes, I'm going to comment about an 18-month old post, even though I have an ethics final due in a week. Shut up.)

Second, weight training is really important. Diet is important -- you really can't get in shape without paying attention to what you eat... Aerobic/cardio work is important too (if I slack on that, I can see my cholesterol go up, and in particular my "good" HDL go down), but people seem naturally to pay more attention to aerobic exercise for some reason. Don't neglect the weight training, too.

I think the reason for that is kind of obvious - "cardio" is easy. Throw on some sneakers and walk or run around. No equiptment, no training, no thought, and you don't have to feel bad because everyone else around you can bench-press a Volkswagen while you are struggling with a five-pound weight. Even the exersize equiptment that I think of when I think of "cardio" is fairly intuitive - exersize bike or treadmill. Just walking or pedaling, except you don't actually go anywhere.

In the last 2 months I've started walking, as well as using my landlord's ancient treadmill. I haven't been exersizing as much or as frequently as I would like to, but it's something, while 2 months ago the most exersize I got was walking to the fridge for another beer and bag of peanuts. As much as I like to think that at some point I will get fit enough to lift weights, I wouldn't count on it. I can walk without having to read a book or figure out how the heck to use a weight bench like I would with any kind of weight training.

I have to say, after reading one of insty's posts, I've very tempted to buy this nifty gadget (the cheaper version of one his readers mentioned). I know a cheap pedometer would probably do the same thing, and that if I do what I've been thinking of doing and join the rather nifty fitness center at the college I work, I'll probably be walking outside a lot less. But still, it's so cool. It uses GPS! And hooks up your PC!

Invading my privacy for better pizza delivery? Nifty...

My slightly paranoid landlord sent me this link from the ACLU's website. He also sent it to my ex-roomate/coworker, and we watched it at work.

Both of our reactions were along the "hey, that would be kind of neat" lines, which I'm pretty sure wasn't what the ACLU was hoping for. Then again, we both are techies and were probably thinking what a huge database that thing would have to query..

Sure, the whole health/diet aspect might seem a bit much, but some of the other stuff - like using caller ID to know where to deliver your order - is in practice and increases customer service. Running a credit check might not be a bad idea - and might result in fewer bankrupcies and costs passed onto consumers to make up for those deadbeats who don't pay their bills (although it seems kind of unlikely that anyone would use it on a small credit card transaction, since the point of the credit card is that it guarentees the merchant that they will get paid - any debt would lie with the credit card company, and the merchant will verify the credit limit when they swipe or otherwise process the card transaction).

Even the health aspect probably wouldn't be that bad - hey, some people, especially healthy people, would stand to benefit with lower rates. Any time you can better estimate risk, you get fairer insurance premiums. But there are a ton of pizza places, and quite a few insurance companies - chances are that if you didn't like having to get the sprout sub because your health insurance company is in bed with your pizza parlor, you can probably find either an insurance company or a pizza parlor that isn't.

That's the thing to remember about the ACLU's paranoid shockwave file. Nothing I saw in their scenerio involved the government, except for the "libary book" thing. If you don't like companies doing this kind of thing, then take your buisness to companies that don't do it, and let companies in general know that if they do share your info in ways you find inappropriate, you will take your business elsewhere. But some people will welcome our new robot, errr, database overlords - because used correctly they can result in faster service and lower prices.

I'm more nervous about what the government does than what businesses do, because short of changing my citizenship I can't escape the government. And I would bet that many in the ACLU have no problem with the government taking around 15% of everyone's income by force for social security (when you count the employer "contribution"), but lie awake at night knowing that your pizza parlor might know if you have AIDS.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Worst. eBay spoof. Ever.

I got an ebay spoof today - your standard eBay "you need to update your account" BS complete with link to a domain that contained the word eBay, but wasn't ebay.

So what made it so bad? The sender adress was ""

BTW, memo to - you might want to patch your mail server, since it appears the above spam was bounced through your server.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Pour some sugar on me....

NRO has a good article on the stupidity of the sugar tarriff.. The federal government charges high tarriffs on imported sugar. American sugar plantaition owners, AKA "Big Sugar" (which sounds like the name of a mafia don) lobbies both Dems and Reublicans to keep it in place, and most Americans don't know or care much about the tarriff, so Americans pay more for sugar. It's rent seeking in it's purist form.

But the NRO doesn't really talk about the other group that benefits from high sugar tarriffs - Big Corn. See, with sugar prices being so high, companies that use lots of sugar need cheaper alternatives - so they use corn syrup. That's why everthing from soda to ice cream has switched to HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP instead of cane sugar. It's not only the sugar farmers who lobby for higher sugar prices, but also the corn lobby - corn farmers, plus big agricultural companies like Archer Daniels Midland. The sugar tarriff is a bit of protectionist corporate welfare at it's worst - and it's corporate welfare that doesn't just take money from consumers and give it to one special interest group, it takes money from consumers and gives it to multiple special interest groups.

It's a sweet deal for them, but it should leave a bad taste in the mouth of all consumers. (pun intended)

Mmmm... pyramid

The government has released their new food pyramid, and Raymond Sokalov at OpinionJournal thinks that it's a waste of the $2.5 million they spent on it.

Now, Mad Anthony is an advocate of small government, and likes to see it not tell people what they already know - that they should eat right and get off the damn couch. But I can't get too worked up about it - considering how much the government spends on useless crap, $2.5 million is a drop in the bucket, and some good might come out of it - it is an easy reference for how many calories you should eat, ect. Maybe I'm just channeling PJ O'Rourke on the Stategic Helium Reserve in his book Parliament of Whores: And if you think about it, running the stategic helium reserve is exactly the kind of thing our government should be doing- it's much less expensive and harmful to the nation than most of what they do, plus with any luck they will float away.

Then again, the pyramid is a bit sloppy - it's since been fixed, but at one point they had brown rice listed as a leafy green vegetable.

As entertaining as the OpinionJournal piece is, I'm not so sure about one of Sokolov's claims:
As a mildly overweight retiree, I am as interested in dropping pounds as any other tubby. In fact, I think I know perfectly well already, without a pyramid on my wall, that eating less and exercising more would turn me into an Ashton Kutcher look-alike.

I doubt it. I'm pretty far below retirement age, but I will never look like Ashton Kutcher, and not just because I refuse to wear trucker hats. I'm trying to lose some weight, and I'm hoping to suceed and look a little better, but I don't think Demi Moore is going to start dating me.

On a side note, I got my first "have you lost some weight" comment today from one of my coworkers, the facilities manager at the satellite campus where I work on Saturdays. So maybe I really am starting to lose some weight (I don't trust my $10 Target scale all that much).

Scenes from work, I am a guy edition

(after a female student, wearing a very short shirt and a very low-cut pair of jeans, walks out of our office)

Mad Anthony: Damn, that girl was hot.

Coworker1: She kind of had an ugly face though.

Mad Anthony: She had a face?

Rent seeking in Mad Anthony's backyard...

It proves I don't follow Baltimore news/politics much when I find myself getting news about my city from Reason's Hit and Run blog - especially since the neighborhood they are talking about, Mount Vernon, isn't all that far from where I live in Resevoir Hill.

Much like Resevoir Hill, Mount Vernon has a bunch of huge old mansions. There are two kinds of people who live in poor old mansions in the inner city - wealthy people who have bought them and restored them, and poor people who live in ones that were converted to apartments years ago and haven't been converted back. Now the rich people are trying to kick the poor people out using an interesting method - trying to get taxes increased on the apartment buildings so that the landlords wind up selling.

Now, I can see why people don't want to live in a $500,000 house that's next to a slum - which is why if I ever buy a house, it will be on the outskirts of Baltimore City or in the county. But if you live in the city, that's part of the reality. Using the government to force people out by raising their taxes is sleazy - and it's a great example of what economists like to call rent-seeking - using the government to make you money (or in this case, to accomplish a goal that isn't necessarily monetary).

That being said, I'm surprised that too many landlords would not sell their apartment buildings in hot neighborhoods. In Resevoir Hill, there are a ton of buildings I've seen go from apartments to private owners in the 2 years I've lived there, but there are still quite a few that are apartments. With the high prices that houses are going for in these neighborhoods - and the fact that many people think that they will go down at some point in the near future - it seems silly not to sell. Then again, maybe I'm just hoping that housing prices will go down so I can afford to buy a house...

Scenes from work, Supersized edition...

Coworker1: I hear Morgan Spurlock is coming out with a new TV show.

Mad Anthony: God, I hate that guy.

Coworker1: Why?

Mad Anthony: Well, he's got this attitude that business is evil and that people are not responsible for their own actions but are forced to be fat by society.

Coworker2: Yea. Of course if you eat only one thing all the time it's not going to be good for you. (takes a bite of salad). I mean, I could eat nothing but salad for 30 days and I would probably gain weight.

Mad Anthony: True. Especially since your salad consists of 2 leaves of lettuce with a bunch of black olives, cheese, and ranch dressing on top....

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Don't kill your TV....

I've written about how stupid the TV-B-Gone is. Julian Sanchez mentions it Reason's Hit and Run in conjunction with National Tv Turnoff Week.

One of the best defenses of TV was written by Lileks last year.

I have a problem with people who catagorize all TV as bad. Sure, there is some crap on TV, and if all you do in your life is sit in front of the TV drinking beer and eating Fritos, you should consider picking up some hobbies.

But I watch a lot of TV. Well, that's not really true. I have tv programs playing a lot off my RePlay - but I'm usually doing other stuff, like reading blogs, posting on this blog, checking my email, writing item descriptions and editing pictures for stuff I'm posting on eBay, eating dinner, folding laundry, cleaning my room, ect. There are a couple shows I really like that I will take the time to sit down and watch while avoiding distractions- HBO's The Wire and Veronica Mars come to mind - but most of the time I'm half watching TV while doing something else. I'm not sure how what I would be doing otherwise while doing those things - like listening to rap music - is any better.

I don't read as much as I used to and that's something I want to change. But some days when I come home from work or class or whatever, I don't want to think - I want to escape. That's why one of my favorite shows was the late, much-maligned Fastlane - sure, it was escapist hot-chick-hot-car-rap-music-stuff=blowing-up fare - but sometimes you want that.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

A new camera, and a stab at photoblogging...

I already own a decent digital camera - a Toshiba PDR-5300. This is what I've used in previous pics on the this blog.

I was in Target last week and found an Olympus DiMage Z10 digital camera. I was drawn to it because it looked pretty cool, not to mention that it was on clearance. It was originally $270, but it was 50% off and they gave me an additional 30% off because it was the floor model (no accessories, plus a couple scratches on the bottom from where it was attached to the security device. Walked out with it for $95 plus tax.

I took it to work on Friday and fooled around a little:

The Humanities Building

Alumi Chapel and Knott Hall

I also took it with me when I went to the Guilford Resevoir to walk a few laps:

path to the resevoir

Pump House at the Resevoir - if this was built in the 1980's instead of the 1920's, it would be a cinderblock box instead of looking like a Spanish villa

overlooking my car from the resevoir path

zooming in on my car - my test of the zoom feature, same position as above.

Overall, I'm pretty happy with it - I like it better than the Toshiba, which cost 3x as much. Then again, the Toshiba is easier to put in my pocket...

Things I want to say to my roommate but have not, part 1

Yes, I know the 3 dogs next door are annoying with their frequent barking. But yelling "SHUT UP" at them over and over again will not actually cause them to stop barking. In fact, it will probably make them bark more. And it drives me nuts.

I like to engage in procrastination...

I have this ethics paper due in a couple days. I've been dreading writing it for weeks.

Well, it's finally done. And I spent way more time dreading it than I actually did working on it. I started it two weeks ago, got the bulk of it done last weekend, and finished it up yesterday and today. I spent a total of maybe 5 hours on it, despite the amount I've time I've spent thinking about how little I wanted to do it.

I've already emailed it to the prof - so now I just need to spend my time worrying that I should have written it better or spent more time on it.

Can someone remind me why I decided to start taking MBA classes again?

I'd more pissed at losing my iPod than my soul...

Ann Althouse has a post about iPod theft victims who feel violated because someone stole their iPod. (BugMeNot)

Personally, if someone jacked my iPod, I'd be more pissed over losing the iPod than the music. I mean, if I lost my desktop, which has a ton of music/movies/docs, I'd be pissed. But I think it's pretty safe based on it's size.

But the article is great for the number of quotes from creepy iPod owners. I own a shuffle, an old firewire iPod, and a 12" powerbook, but I'm starting to understand why some people find some mac owners creepy - because they are:

The burglar visited every room of Sara Scalenghe's Northwest Washington apartment, stealing an expensive digital camera and a gold necklace passed down from her grandmother. But Scalenghe did not begin seething until she confirmed her biggest fear: Her new iPod had been swiped, too.
The digital music player held 50 favorite songs, ranging from Mozart to Italian rap. The device also contained thoughts on a looming dissertation and recorded conversations with friends. For Scalenghe, her privacy, as well as her home, was invaded. "I know it sounds silly, but it changed everything. I was really upset," said the 34-year-old graduate student. "I can't explain it. But it hurt."

First of all, a 34 year old grad student? Mad Anthony wonders why he didn't go to grad school. It would probably be way easier than, you know, having a job. But she had a whole iPod (the article later refers to it as a $300 device, which would mean it would be a 20 gig iPod - capable of holding 5,000 songs, but hers only had 50 songs on it. She should have gotten a shuffle.

There are a couple similar quotes from a musician and another college student - am I the only iPod owner with a freakin' job?

But my other favorite quote comes from an "expert":

"Everybody has a lot of memories they associate with music, and musical taste is usually very important to people," said Anita Boss, a forensic psychologist in Alexandria who has counseled crime victims. "You actually have a piece of identity theft here."

She added: "Anytime something is stolen that is so personal, victims are going to have a reaction like that. It's not the same as stealing a coat."

No, dumbass, you don't have identity theft. You have the theft of a high quality MP3 player with a bunch of songs people really like on them. See, with identity theft, people steal your personal information, and many victims are unable to do things like buy houses or get credit cards because identity theives have used their personal info to open accounts and trash the heck out of their credit. iPod theft victims, on the other hand, have to live with the fact that some stranger now knows you listen to 80's music and Jay-Z.

And I really like my leather jacket. It's me.. I'd be pissed if someone stole it.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Welfare for poor baseball fans...

Via wizbang comes an article about Boston trying to regulate the price of parking near Fenway Park on game day. Apparently, gas station owners and anyone else with a car-sized patch of free space wil rent it out to people, and charge up to $100 to park there. Boston wants to regulate the price they charge.

I'm a big fan of letting supply and demand run their course. But the amount of government regulation that is designed to keep prices down for sports fans who go to games always amazes me, and this is a great example of it. People are willing to pay the prices, but the government still wants to regulate the industry. They seem to forget that parking near the stadium exists only because there is money in it - otherwise people wouldn't bother running the parking lots. My guess is if they suceed in setting a price ceiling, many people who run parking lots won't find it worth the hassle - and there will be less parking available at any price. Once again government controls make people - business owners and customers alike - worse off in sum, even if some individual fans may get cheaper spaces.

Baseball games are one of the few times I see public transportation making sense - lots of people going to the same place at the same time. Heck, the only time I've ever ridden Baltimore's light rail was to go to a game at Camden Yards.

But Boston's regulation attempt isn't the only example of government involvement with keeping sports prices down. Most states have anti-scalping laws in place that make it illegal for someone to resell a ticket to someone who wants to buy it. The Supreme Court years ago made an antitrust exemption for baseball, letting them do stuff that would get other businesses hauled to court. And tons of cities dump tons of money into subsidizing stadium building projects, in the hopes of creating lots of part-time seasonal jobs in the lucrative peanut and beer sales business.

I understand why people try to argue for rent control- shelter is one of the human necessities of life. Of course, rent control actually makes things worse by making it unprofitable to build rental housing, thus making housing harder to find. There are a host of other problems as well - if you aren't familiar with the pitfalls of rent control, I recommend the rent control chapter in Henry Hazlitt's Economics in One Easy Lesson which you can now read online.

But sporting events, and attending sporting events, is not a necessity like housing. So why are there so many government regulations of it, especially ones like anti-scalping laws and the Boston parking proposal, that are designed to make it cheaper? I mean, if the government is going to try to make something more accessible, you think it would be a necessity and not a luxury.

Yet the other major necessity that people associate with shelter - food - is just the opposite. While there are some government subsidies (food stamps, WIC), for the most part the government works to drive the price of this necessity up by paying farmers to not grow food or by setting price floors, such as on milk. So here you have the governent purposely driving UP the price of something that everyone needs to survive - food - while trying to drive down the price of something nobody needs - parking. (and yes, I know farm programs are federal and Boston is local, but I still think it is an interesting comparison).

And thus you have the greatest argument for decreased involvement of the government in market pricing - when they make policies, they don't make sense. At least the market usually does.

Get Perpendicular....

One of my coworkers forwarded me the animation below. It is the funniest flash animation I have ever seen involving dancing bits.

turn on your speakers!

(After watching this, I had an incredible urge to to hug my 120 gig Deskstar that I have in a USB drive).

Joe Smith, who lives at 12 main street, wants to censor this blog!

Slashdot is reporting that Americans are in favor of blog censorship.

Oh, the humanity. Will Mad Anthony no longer be able to make jokes involving the word poop?

No. What people said is they don't think bloggers should publish personal information like home addresses on blogs - 80% don't want it about private citizens, and 62% don't want it about elected officials.

Now, here's the thing. People tend to see laws as the answer to everything, so when they see a problem their response is to solve it by passing a law against it - even if doing so is basically unconsititutional.

But while free speech dicatates that it's legal to publish people's home addresses on your blog, that doesn't mean that people should. I can't think of any good reason to do so, and I can think of lots of good reasons not to, like exposing people to theft or vandalism or physical harm.

That isn't to say that most people's home addresses can't be found with a phone book or 5 minutes of googling. But people are lazy, and you throw, say, a picture of an abortion doctor up on a web page along with their address, a map to their house, and some comments about them being a murderer, and it makes it a lot more likely to happen.

So even though publishing people's names and addresses is legal and should be, that doesn't mean that it should be done, and it doesn't mean that people are wrong to be P.O'ed when it is.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Zero Tolerance Watch...

I'm no James Taranto, but I stumbled on my own stupid example of zero-tolerance policies at schools gone mad - thanks to a promo email from XTZ.

Two students were suspended for 3 days for using a mind-altering drug at school. So what drug? Weed? Crack? Tobacco?

Nope, it's a drug that you probably get for free at the office... good old caffine. The story is here. They brought a bottle of caffinated flavored syrup to school and did a shot. The school thought it was booze, and suspended them. When they realized it wasn't, they decided it was still punished them.

Hmm, I actually have a bottle of this stuff, thanks to ThinkGeek and it's actually sitting in my boss's cube next to the coffeemaker. Didn't realize that my boss put up with drug use...

Out of time...

Did you ever stop and think about all the stuff you have to do, and realize that it's pretty much physically impossible for you to do everything that needs to be done? I mean, not just that you will be busy, but that you aren't sure how you will fit basic tasks like doing laundry or washing dishes into you schedule because you have so much stuff that needs to get done?

Yup, that's me. I've got a paper due next week (which I really should be working on now), a project due for another class, I've been trying to get in some exersize, and I've been trying to sell a bunch of stuff on eBay because I really need the money. And somewhere in there I need to get some sleep, so I can get into work early enought that my boss doesn't start threatening to put me on probation again.

So posting may be light the next couple weeks.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Will FireFox get outfoxed?

Via Gongol comes an article speculating that FireFox will soon suffer from the same problems as Internet Explorer in terms of spyware, viruses, and security holes.

I use FireFox on both my PC and Mac, and like it (although it does crash occasionally on my home PC). While the number of Fox users is increasing, it is still a very small portion of the internet. Thus, it will still be to the benefit of spyware makers to write for Internet Explorer, even if it holds only 90% of the user base instead of 95%.

But there is more to that. Most FireFox users right now are techies - people who are knowledgeable about computers and use them regularly. I think these people are smarter about not getting infected in the first place, by being carefull what sites they download, what they agree to, and know how to remove infections when they occur. But more importantly, I think Fox users are probably better about installing patches when they come out.

Internet Explorer has it's faults, but it's a decent browser if you keep it patched. The problem with IE is that users don't patch it. That, combined with it's market penetration, is why spyware is written for IE.

I'm not a hippie, I just dress like one...

Well, it's warm outside, which means mad anthony can break out his favorite footware.

Oh yeah!

I know, here I am, an upstanding, gainfully employed, registered Republican, who owns a pair of Birkenstocks. I have to admit, as much as I dislike protesting hippies, they do have good taste in footwear.

They are comfortable. My feet, much like the rest of me, are both wide and short, and it's difficult to find sandles that feel good - but these do. Even if they are made out of synthetic leather, this way we save the lives of all those wild cattle that are hunted to make leather...

I know that some, like the manolo, consider the Birkenstock ugly. But despite Manolo's claims, I don't know of any shoe that feels more comfortable.

But there is a time for Birkenstocks and a time for other shoes. The Birkenstocks get worn around the house, shopping (although most of the time I go from work/exersize to shopping), ect - not to work or church or fancy resturants or other places where they aren't appropriate.

I have to say, despite the fact that hippies don't seem to know the first thing about capitalism, they have figured it out without knowing what they are doing - make and sell products that people really want. And that's why Mad Anthony will shop at Trader Joe's (although I always wonder if I would be beaten with fresh organic baguettes if I let on that I voted for Bush), wear Birkenstocks, and eat Ben and Jerry's if it's on sale. I might not like the politics associated with the products, but I love the products.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Scenes from work, employee evaluation edition..

Coworker: So how did your employee evaluation go?

Mad Anthony. Not bad. But I was disappointed that nowhere on my employee evaluation form appeared the phrase "mad anthony is teh r0xx0r!!"

Boss: I don't think HR would know what that means...

Think of the children... really...

I've mentioned the strange case of Muslim countries that refuse Polio vacines to children because they claim it's part of a plot to kill them/make them impotent/whatever. End result - kids die of a disease tht could easily be prevented.

Via Winds of Change comes this
story that they are doing it with the measles vacine
as well. Over 500 kids, mostly under 5, have died, while none have died in non-Muslim areas.

There are bunch of quotes in the article, including one women who didn't get the vaccine because her husband told her not to. Go women's lib!

And then there is this guy:

Nasir Mohammed Nasir, imam of Kano's second-largest mosque, said Americans "can't be killing my brothers and children in Iraq and at the same time claim to want to save my children from polio and other diseases."

"We suspect a sinister motive," he said.

Umm, the "brothers" we are killing in Iraq are shooting at us, trying to blow us up, and trying to kill people for doing things like voting. That's why we are killing them, not because we like killing Muslims. As far as children killed in Iraq, they are unfortunate, but the improvements we are making, and the lives we've saved by getting rid of Saddam, outnumber the casualties of kids killed in Iraq.

So yes, it's believable that we want to save kids. Because we are Americans, not monsters. We like kids, and honestly care about them - even if they are kids being raised by parents who will eventually instill anti-Americanism in them. We just don't like people who shoot at us, or people who want to do what they can to prevent democracy from taking root in Iraq.

See, Americans are willing to look beyond politics and religion when it comes to saving kid's lives. These parents, on the other hand, would rather that their children die than accept help from the U.S. - meaning that Americans actually care more about their kids than their own parents, who are willing to let them die to prove a political point.

And what point is that? As I've said in the post I linked earlier, I think that Muslim leaders are afraid to accept help from the Americans because it will show that we aren't so bad after all - that we do good things. If we do good things and are willing to help Muslim countries, that would suggest that our actions in Iraq were actually motivated by a desire to protect ourselves and to foster democracy, not just because we don't like Muslims. And if Muslims realize that, the hold that their leaders have over them will be lost, so they do what they can to make that happen. Even if some kids die.

A gay director? Shocking!

Drudge is linking to a story about a republican consultant who recently had a gay wedding with the headline "G.O.P. Consultant's Marriage Is a Gay One...".

Aside from the not-exactly-shocking fact that there are gay Republicans (I think something like 20% of gays voted for Bush last election), there is one other thing. What did the consultant do? He directed Republican campaign commercials.

Yup, a gay director. Shocking. Gays never get involved in entertainment!

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Let's pass a law that the sun needs to be up more..

Via Slashdot
comes this article on a proposal to extend daylight savings time.

Stupidest quote from the article:
"The more daylight we have, the less electricity we use," said [Rep. Ed] Markey, [D-Massachusetts]

Umm, dude? You aren't actually making more daylight. The sun will be out the same amount of time. You are just changing the time that the sun is out.

From a more practical standpoint, I have no idea where these supposed savings are. I mean, it's dark when I wake up and it's dark when I go to sleep. I'm not sure how much a slight shift makes in terms of my electricity use when that's the case.

Besides, my energy use doesn't vary with the weather. I still turn the lights on in my apartment, no matter if it's sunny or dark out.

Monday, April 04, 2005

I borrowed this tissue. You can have it back now.

I was reading a blog I hadn't noticed before, one that occasionally review's products. I noticed their ethics policy on the side of the blog:

We aren’t paid to mention specific products and we don’t get to keep any of the items you see here. All advertising will be clearly labeled as advertising.

Which would make sense on an electronics or car blog. But the blog is the cigar portion of Luxist, a luxury goods blog.

I can't help but wonder how they go about returning any cigars they might review.

I don't like what they want from me, it's like the mow money I come upon...

Mark Kirkoran of The National Review is seeing immigration issues in an article about lawn services. The actual article (BugMeNot if you are paranoid) doesn't mention immigration, but it's not a huge leap considering the number of illegal aliens who do yardwork.

But Mark seems to see a problem with this, and I'm not so sure. The biggest complaints about illegal immigration are that it steals jobs from Americans and that illegal immigrants depend on goverment services - but if these guys are working, and they are doing a job that nobody else wants to do, neither of those seems valid. (The other huge, and very valid, complaint about illegal immigration is the security issue of terrorists taking advantage of the ability to enter illegally).

If illegal immigrants want to perform lawn work, and people feel better off paying them, that seems like an ideal capitalist transaction. Illegal immigrants are better off than they would be back in the old country, and homeowners have free time that they would otherwise spend doing yard work, and it doesn't cost them as much.

Right now, Mad Anthony lives in an apartment, so he doesn't have to worry about lawncare. I like to think that when I do buy a house, I will get some exersize and mow my own law. But I am both lazy and busy, so I could see myself hiring help mowing the lawn.

Is my car properly inflated?

A month or so ago, I was talking with two slightly-below-middle-aged or so coworkers about the price of cars. They had said that they felt that the price of cars had gone way up, way past the price of inflation.

I thought that was interesting because of my own car experiences. I've only had two cars in my life or so. The first was a 1987 Chrysler LeBaron sedan that was handed down third-hand. This was replaced a couple years ago with a brand-new 2002 Chrysler PT Cruiser Limited.

The owner's manual in the LeBaron said that it cost $14,500 when it was new. I plugged that into the handy Inflation Calculator and got that the car would be $22835.46 after inflation if purchased in 2002. That is right around even with inflation, so you could argue that car prices have kept pretty even with inflation. After all, both vehicles were the smallest/cheapest Chrysler badged car at the time.

But such a comparison would miss the great improvements in cars in the last 15 years in terms of standard and optional equiptment. The LeBaron's safety devices consisted of seatbelts (shoulder in the front, lap in the back). The PT has front and side driver and passenger airbags, plus rear lapbelts. The LeBaron left the factory with an AM/FM radio. The PT has a CD and tape player, plus decent speakers. The LeBaron's engine put out 95hp, the PT 150hp. The PT also has leather seats, keyless entry, tinted windows, heated seats, power locks, power windows, a power sunroof, chrome alloy wheels, traction control, and an alarm. The LeBaron lacked any of these. The PT also handles better, looks better, and has much better interior ergronomics.

So comparing cars based only on price misses the biggest improvement. Cars might not be getting cheaper, but they are getting better, faster, and more comfortable.

Some inflation calculations, like the Consumer Price Index, try to calculate inflation based on a "market basket of goods", which is always a challange since some things, especially things like cars and technology changes. This makes it hard to gauge how much of the increase is due to actual increases in price and how much is due to better quality and increased features. Virginia Postrel has looked at this in relation to hotel prices - when a hotel price goes up after a room renovation, is it because the room has improved aestetics-wise or because of inflation? My anecdotal evidence suggests the dilemna with cars is similar. Feel free to plug your own car ownership history in the inflation calculator and make your own conclusions - and feel free to leave comments on your results.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Don't weep for me...

Drudge is linking to this article about the Pope's death.

I was very impressed by his last words:

"I am happy and you should be happy too," he said. "Do not weep. Let us pray together with joy

I'm a Catholic, though not a terribly good one. I haven't always agreed with the Pope, who has been a lot more liberal on some things than I would prefer (ie his anti-war and social justice teachings) and more conservative than I would prefer on other things (ie birth control). However, he has always seemed like an amazing person - one very committed to his faith and to doing what he believed was best for people. He will be missed.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

I'm going to lose an hour - have you seen it?

John Miller at The National Review has an interesting anti-daylight savings time article.

I'm kind of torn on the whole daylight-savings time thing. I like sleeping, and getting an hour less sleep does not make me happy, especially on the one day of the week when I can sleep in, and during a time of year when I have a ton of homework to put off until the last minute. Not to mention the fact that my boss has been sending me threatening emails (featuring both bold text and the "urgent" red envelope) telling me that I will be put on double-secret probation, or something, if I'm late to work again.

On the other hand, I've been trying to get some exersize by walking, and since the resevoir I generally walk around isn't lit, the amount of time I can do this is limited. With the sun going down later, I can go home and come back later instead of trying to find a parking space near it at peak times.

Why we blog...

A couple months ago, I had a conversation with one of the students who works for my department, and who reads this blog. He had commented that he prefered my personal posts to my political posts because he thought the writing was funnier and he didn't really care about the politics.

I was kind of surprised, because I've always thought of myself as a political blogger first, and as political blogging as being more serious than personal blogging. After all, the best known bloggers, like Instapundit, are known for their political writing. Political posts are usually tougher to write - they involve checking links and facts and deep thinking about political and legal issues, while personal posts are just a matter of typing stuff that happened to me in the day. I'm not really convininced anyone wants to hear what I did all day - I don't exactly live the gangsta life. Shit, I usually get bored thinking about myself.

Then again, there are bloggers who are good enough writers that they make the most boring of things sound interesting. Let's face it, a big chunk of Lileks's writings are of the "I woke up, played with the kid, went to target, and came home and made a sandwich" type, yet I still read him every day, because he's a great writer and somehow manages to make me care what he bought at Target on a random Tuesday. Then again, I'm no James Lileks.

Another thing that's made me think about blogging is the comment on this post about Baltimore politics. It wasn't a brilliant post, but I thought it was relevant, and it was a small national news story at the time. Anyone who has ever left a comment on a blog knows that starting a comment with "I don't know anything about (subject)" and calling the author stupid probably doesn't have much to say. But the funniest part of the comment was the ending that "got it as the mayor saying that he should be focusing on more important things, like you should if you want to have a blogger worth [reading]".

Kind of funny to say that a post on a blog that has conversations from my job needs to focus on more important things than a post about a statement by an urban mayor about national policy. But it also raises the question of why I blog.

I like when people read my stuff and link to it. I wish more of my hits on this blog were from links or regular vistors, rather than people getting blog in their search results on google for such topics as "pimped out cars" and "hairy armpits". But part of the reason I blog is for the same reason I kept a diary as a kid - it lets me think, and forces me to put my feelings and experiences into words and text. There are a handful of coworkers and friends who I know check this blog, and I'm glad for that, but writing it has become such a habit that I would probably keep writing even if I knew nobody was reading it.

Best Buy to get rid of rebates...

Slashdot is linking to this article on how Best Buy plans to eliminte rebates in the next two years. The article says that it thinks other companies, like Circuit City and CompUSA, will do the same.

I have in the past discussed why I love rebates. If you are smart about filling out the forms correctly, contacting the rebate center when they screw up, and knowing what companies do a good job of fulfilling rebates, you can get much better deals with rebates than without. I've made hundreds of dollars reselling rebate items on eBay, and this is going to hurt me.

I'm not really surprised that Best Buy is doing this. They have said in the past that they want to focus on the most profitable customers and get rid of "devil" customers who they don't make money on. My guess is that their reasoning behind eliminating rebates has more to do with the fact that they want to discourage price-sensative rebate customers who they don't make much money on rather than because of customer complaints. Best Buy take a lot of heat for their hard-sell extended warranty Product Service Plans (PSP's) but don't plan on reforming them.

I've had good luck with Best Buy rebates - at least the company-run ones, which go to Calais, Maine. The ones run by manufacturers tend not to be as quick. But I rarely shop Best Buy, because they aren't really price-competitive.

I have had some rebates that I never get - these are usually the ones that go directly to the company instead of a 3-rd party rebate processor. This often means the company will be at best overwelmed and at worst has no plans to pay. But most of my rebates processed through major rebate houses like Parago (Miami, FL) have gone smoothly, although they occasionally take an email to fix an error. I've also noticed that CompUSA rebates, which have long had a bad reputation, have improved - I've gotten checks from their new processor, Global Fullfilliment (Mesa, AZ)in about a month.

I doubt all retailers will get rid of rebates - there are too many price-concious consumers who are used to them. Rebates offer a sloppy but effective form of price discrimination - it lets them sell to one group of people (those who take the time to fill out and send in rebates) at a lower price than another group of people (who don't send in the rebates). An economist (and I'm not one, nor did I stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night) would argue that getting rid of rebates may be bad for consumers - there will be a deadweight loss among consumers who lose money because they pay more, and among retailers who sell less.

I wouldn't be surprised, however, if the stores that continue to offer rebates use online systems like Staples Easy Rebates and Rite Aid Single Check Rebates, where everything is done online and nothing is mailed in. This requires some additional work - the customer has to fill in the info online - and thus discourages the laziest and least price concious - but is easy enough that it doesn't make people grumble about rebates too much.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Thoughts on fat from a fat guy...

Megan McCardle has some rather controversial proposals on getting people to lose weight, and some thoughts on weight and genetics and her own experiences. For reference, here is a picture of her.

Unlike her experiences, Mad Anthony isn't trying to lose 30 pounds - more like 100. I've always been overweight, since grade school. I've tried diets in the past, although the most sucess I had was when I wasn't even really trying.

Since graduating college, my weight has gotten worse. I sit at a desk at work all day, live off convinience food, and am a big fan of any food covered with bacon and cheese.

About a month ago, I took one of those life expectancy calculators and wasn't too happy with the results. I've started watching what I eat, and walking a little bit for exersize. I don't really trust my $10 Target scale, but it looks like I've lost maybe 10 pounds or so.

I have to say I do feel better about myself. I feel a little more energetic as well. But the thing is that this can't be a "diet" -something I do until I lose a certain amount of weight and then stop. It has to be a permenant change. It is a little depressing that I can't really ever eat another donut or french fry or piece of cake. But I don't really relish the idea of dying before I know if social security will fail by my retirement time like I think it will. I also know that some of the areas I'm not to happy with in my life, like dating, would be much easier if I wasn't dragging around an extra hundred pounds of Mad Anthony around. Still, I also know that I haven't really been sucessful in the past, and I worry that I will fall of the wagon.

So why are people fat? I think genetics do play a role. That doesn't mean that fat people will always be fat (I hope not, anyway), but it means that some people will have to work a lot harder than others, and some people can keep thin without doing much work at all.

I think lifestyle is a huge factor as well - if you (like me) work in a job where you don't move around much, it makes it that much harder. I was in better shape when I was a student/contractor who worked in desktop/deskside support - I was always running somewhere to fix something, and frequently dragging a computer or monitor or printer with me there. (I've been hoping to change posititions, but it doesn't look like that's going to happen). So if you work at a desk all day, you really have to make sure you put aside some time do some sort of physical activity. That can be hard if you are pressed for time (there a couple days a week, when I have class, when it is impossible for me to exersize at all) - and it's hard to feel comfortable exersizing in, say, a gym, when most of the people around you are in way better shape.

Diet, is of course, the third big factor. Just like it's way easier to sit and watch TV rather than exersize, it's way easier to eat junk than healthy food. It's also way cheaper. So far, my staples have been granola bars, salad, turkey sandwiches with mustard, and frozen grilled food. This costs much more than my old staple foods like frozen pizza and frozen tacos. The fact that I don't have a whole lot of time, and that my kitchen lacks a stove or oven (I could use one of the other kitchens in the house, but that's kind of a pain) doesn't help. Still, there are some decent convienience and fast foods out there if you take the time to read the label - and actually eat the serving size instead of the whole box.