mad anthony

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

Saturday, December 31, 2005


I'm not usually one for new year's resolution. Much of my life has been about following an academic calendar, not a yearly calendar - so September is the begining of the year, not January. I work for a college, and I'm working on my MBA, so I still tend to measure things by the semester rather than by the month or year. But unlike the school year, work is year-round, as is my MBA program, so I'm finally at the point where the start of the new year means a little more than just having to remember to write a new date.

So this year, I'm actually going to set out some new year's resolutions. Most of them are things I've already been working towards, but I'm hoping this year to actually make them happen. If things work out, this will be a good and big year for me - which makes me worry that I'll somehow manage to screw it up and it will be a disaster. But I'm starting to believe more and more that what I give is what I get, that the actions and choices I make have a large impact on how well I'm doing and how happy I am, and I'm hoping to make my life somewhat better and myself somewhat happier than I have been in the past.

One of the classes I took this semester was Leadership and Management, and one of the things we looked at was goal setting - specifically that goals should include both a time frame and measurable results. I've tried to incorporate that.

That means that some of the things I want to accomplish aren't on my resolution list, like "stop being single" - since I don't have a clear time frame for that, nor do I have any idea what steps to follow to acheive that - or I'd be following them.

So, my resolutions for 2k6:

1) Lose another 30 pounds to bring weight down to 150 lb by May 1 2006 by watching what I eat and going to the gym daily

2) Purchase and move into a new house in a Baltimore suburb by August 31, 2006. Begin mortgage and house hunting around February 1 2006. Save/earn as much money as possible to help with moving expenses, down payment, and closing costs by increasing savings and by eBaying as much as possible.

3) Reduce the amount of "crap" that I will have to move by sorting closets and items stored in basement. Remove trash as soon as possible and donate, eBay or sell at Hamfest whatever items I haven't used in a while or don't need.

I probably should have more resoutions, but I don't really. But buying a house and losing 15% or so of my body weight are probably big enough that if I accomplish them I'll be pretty happy, and anything else will kind of pale in comparision.

Unless I fix that whole being single one.

So much for keeping government out of the bedroom...

John Miller at NRO points out this Washington Post Article about Manassas, Virgina cracking down on the number of people living in houses. Like many places, they have laws on how many unrelated people can live in a house. Unlike most places, they've redefined what "related" means so that nephews, uncles, ect aren't considered related.

The effort is to crack down on large immigrant families who have their extended families living under one roof. Which is bringing about cries of racism.

I tend to be a big fan of property rights, and I think once you own a house, you should be able to do what you want with it - including the right to have however many friends, family members, or significant others living with you as you would like. The government telling you how many family members you can have live with you is literally government coming into the bedrooms of you house - and I thought Griswold v Conneticut and Lawrence v Texas were against that kind of thing.

Now, I am also a firm believer that the right to your fist ends where my nose begins, so to speak. And thus I understand that laws like this are designed to look at quality of life - if I own a house and my neigbors like to have lound parties late into the night, I would hope they would invite me. But many other people would prefer not to live next to loud late partiers or people with piles of trash on the lawn or who hog all the parking spaces on the street. So if a large group of people occupying a house is doing those things, there are existing zoning laws that the government can go after those people with. The law is at best redundant and at worst an attempt to get rid of people who the goverment wants to get rid of even though they are living within all other zoning/quality of life laws.

But the situation does show one other thing - the problems of using property taxes as a means of financing local government. There is a reasonable, nonracist reason to be agains having a ton of people living in one house - the larger burden they place on town resources. A house with 10 people in it produces more trash and probably has more children in school than a smaller house. And as more and more people wait to have children or don't have children, or live longer, the population is increasing divided into those who consume large amounts of services, particularly education - like large immigrant families living together in the same house - and people who don't but are paying for those who do, like single people and the elderly.

I would like to see a lot of things - like education, trash pickup, parks - move more to "user fees" where people pay for what they consume. I doubt that will ever happen. Between property taxes and income taxes, I'm not sure which is worse - right now I make a decent amount and rent, so I don't like income taxes, but once I buy Casa de Mad Anthony, I would probably be more against property taxes. But it does seem that as family structures change and become more diverse, property taxes - which seem to assume that most families are mom/dad/2.5 kids - are becoming somewhat antiquated.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Liability gone too far (and PORN!)...

My mom was reading this article out loud yesterday and was kind of puzzled by the ruling. So am I, and it doesn't look good for companies.

The quick synopsis: Guy is looking at porn at work. Company (in this case, the United States Golf Association) tells him to knock it off. He doesn't, and goes on to secretly videotape a 10 year old girl in her bedroom and then upload the kiddie porn online from his work computer. Kid's mother sues everyone in site, including the USGA. Now the NJ supreme court has ruled that the company could be liable because they didn't act to stop him.

The article is rather vauge - it says they caught him at work with porn in 1998. It doesn't, however, say that it was kiddie porn. And there is a huge difference - mainly, that adult porn is legal and kiddie porn isn't. While I don't think looking at pr0n at work is appropriate (and could be considered to make a workplace a hostile work environment, thus opening the door to sexual harassment lawsuits), it obviously isn't as serious as looking at kiddie porn.

The other thing about finding porn on an employee's computer is that it doesn't always get their by choice. I work in tech support, and it's an interesting experience to hear a 70 year old secretary call about the porn popups that the latest spyware/virus has deposited on her machine. And back in 1998, before the ICANN cracked down on domain squatting and various federal laws, mousetrapping and using mistyped domain names to send people to porn sites accidently was not uncommon. A company tha punished employees for having porn on their machines would probably have to fire a whole bunch of people for the crime of not spelling domain names correctly.

To me, to hold them liable is silly. The damage was done by the employee, not the company. More importantly, this ruling means that companies now have to go out of their way to monitor employee's web surfing - or risk being liable for what their employees do while online. And it means that employees might end up getting fired for carelessly clicking on the wrong link by companies that don't want to face lawsuits. And one wonders if the next thing will be suing IT employees for not reporting porn found on employee computers while working on them...

But officer, you aren't in the right state...

So I'm driving to Philly from my parent's house in New Jersey. I'm on 95 South in PA, around exit 40 or so. I'm in the right lane, and notice a merge ahead, so I move into the left lane. I'm driving maybe 65 or 70 in a 55. I pass a couple cars, and then look in my rearview mirror to see that most fearsome of sights - a crown vic with a light bar and cattle catcher right on my bumper. Luckily, the lights were not on. So I squeeze into a spot and let him pass.

That's when I look at the side of the cop car as it sped by, probably doing 80 or 90. It was a state trooper. A New Jersey state trooper.

Jerk. I wonder if he's been driving through Virgina recently.

Scenes from the Independence Brewpub, Central Philly...

Mad Anthony's College Roomate: You know, we didn't really drink all that much in college.

Mad Anthony: No, we drank a lot. It's just that everyone else drank way more than we did...

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Diversity within suburban sprawl..

In the 50's, there was suburban sprawl, and in more recent years there was a backlash as elites came to view the suburbs as boring, bland, and lacking culture, and the cities as the place to be. Of course, the fact that the majority of Americans live in suburbs and are fleeing cities suggests that that is a view primarily of the elite.

Glenn Reynolds has positive things to say about and David Brooks wrote Bobos in Paradise, which looks at the suburbs and finds lots of diversity.

I didn't really realize how diverse the 'burbs are until Thanksgiving break, when I was driving through Somerville, NJ - the county seat of Somerset County and the town next to my parent's small town where I grew up. Somerville and much of the area around it were settled heavily in the 1900's by Italian and other immigrants who migrated to work at the woolen mills and other industries, mixing with the earlier English settlers. But as tech has increased in the area, there has been a large influx of Indians, Asians, and a ton of other nationalities. Anyway, driving through Somerville I noticed an Oriental grocery store, next to a Philipino food market, next to a Japanese resturant. So when I drove through today, I made a point of looking at the resturants and markets. Somerville has a veritable United Nations of resturants, including not only the standard Mexican and Italian, but also Cuban and middle eastern (and others I probably missed). My parent's town has started to gain a sizeable Philipino population, which own several stores and resturants in the downtown, and which have their own groups at the Catholic church my parent's go to - a church that used to be primarily Italian, to the point of offering confessions at holidays in Italian.

So I think those who view the suburbs as lacking diversity are wrong. A drive down Somerville's main street seemed more diverse than a drive down, say, Baltimore's North Avenue.

I'm kind of an unusual person myself - I was born and raised in the suburbs, but I live in the middle of Baltimore right now. There are things I like about my neighborhood - it takes me 10 minutes to get to work, it's cheap, and it's convient to various places. But given a choice, I'd trade the short commute for not having to park on the street and not having random people ask me for money when I come home from the gym at 11pm after a night class. Which is why I'm hoping to buy a house soon, and plan to focus my search outside of Baltimore city limits.

Just Chillin'

I should be updating this blog with deep insights on FISA warrants, wiretaps, and other deep thoughts. But I'm not. And won't. I'm in NJ now - I drove up Christmas Eve, and will be returning to Maryland on January 2nd. So far, I've been eating lots of good home cooking, including a bunch of Christmas cookies, and trying to spend some time on the treadmill in my parent's basement to work off said Christmas cookies. I've also been doing some reading - I just finished The Undercover Economist and am currently trying to chew through Home Buying for Dummies. I also reinstalled Windows on my mom's laptop and installed my old scanner on her desktop. And slept. A lot.

I'm meeting an old roomate in Philly tomorrow, so that should be fun. Part of me feels kinda bad that I'm doing nothing when I should be in Baltimore cleaning my room, writing eBay descriptions, and prepping stuff to sell at the Glen Burnie Hamfest. But I don't see my family much, and spending a week with them in NJ helps me avoid the guilt trips, especially since I probably won't see them again until Easter. And sometimes it's nice to sleep until 10, and then BS with the 'rents over coffee for a couple hours.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Anthony's spending tip - buy stuff that you like...

A couple weeks ago, Jane Galt had savings tips followed by a defense of them after people in the comments accused her of basically assuming that everyone should think like she does. She said that people should save more, and should spend money on things like family, pets, and exersize and not on Starbucks, chain resturants, flat panel TV's, cars, ect.

I tend to be somewhere in the middle on this. Savings is important, and reducing costs is a great way to save money. But people have different preferences than she does, and I don't think that buying a daily cup of Starbucks or the occasional resturant meal or lunch out is going to wreck you - if you are careful in the other things you spend money on.

I don't buy takeout coffee - I brew my own and take a travel mug with me. It actually takes me less time than parking, walking into a coffee shop, waiting, and walking back out would. I do, however, splurge for good beans - usually Starbucks or Trader Joe's. I try to brown-bag my lunch, but often end up eating lunch out - but aside from my weekly Taco Bell trip, that's about the only time I eat out.

I don't think cooking is quite as simple for many people as Jane makes it out be. By the time I get back from the gym most days, it's usually around 6:30 and I've usually still got a bunch of stuff (homework, paperwork, ebay, cleaning, ect) to do. Also, I don't have a real kitchen on my floor in the house I share - just a microwave, toaster oven, and stove. I can use one of the house's downstairs kitchen, but it's a pain to carry everything up and down two flights of stairs just to cook dinner. So I end up eating a lot of frozen food, which is cheaper than takout but more expensive than cooking from scratch. But it takes a lot less time, and I don't have 20 dishes to wash afterwords (and no dishwasher), so it's a reasonable compromise.

And I think that's what most people do - compromise. I want a new car, but I'm going to try to get another couple years out of my paid-off Chrysler. I'm still using the same TV I bought 7 years ago - but when I finally convince myself to buy a new one, it will probably be a plasma. I splurged on an iPod Nano last month, but I use it almost daily, so I think it was worth it - and I resold the shuffle it replaced to a coworker for half of what I paid.

Economists have used the term "satisficing" for explaining the decisions people make when faced with an information overload. Spend enough time researching, and you can come up with the perfect optimal decision - but at huge research costs. So you make the best decision possible with a reasonable amount of research, and that's usually good enough. I think people do that when they plan financially too - they compromise. They spend money on the things that they get a reasonably good amount of benefit from. They use an alternative that sits somewhere between the most expensive and the least expensive.

And of course, not everyone's values align. I've been a car nut all my life, so I'm willing to spend more on nice new car, even though it would be cheaper to buy a used one and drive it until the wheels fall off (and then put them back on and keep driving). I'm an electronics junky, so I spend more than most people on computers, electronics, and gadgets. But I'm also a bargin hunter, so I spend a lot less on those gadgets than most, and make some money reselling good deals I find (and can easily eBay gadgets that I no longer want and get most of what I paid for it). On the other hand, I don't have any pets (and don't trust myself to have care over any living thing), and I don't have the time or desire to travel. Most of my "vacations" consist of visiting my parents in NJ, which costs me about $50 round trip in gas and gas-station coffee.

I'm also planning on violating another of Jane's rules, "wait a few years before buying a house." The market in the Baltimore area already appears to be softening - from what I see, asking prices haven't dropped a whole lot, but houses are staying on the market longer and people are making offers below the asking price instead of above it. I'm not convinced that there is going to be a sharp decrease anytime soon barring massive unemployment, so I think now is a good time to buy. People have to live somewhere, and there isn't really any undeveloped land in Baltimore (and what little there is is being used for high-end homes) - so I don't think housing prices will go down much. Plus, I'm getting tired of living in my tiny apartment and tripping over stuff all the time. I feel that I've sacrificed and saved long enough, and that now is the time to act.

Which means that housing prices will probably drop as soon as I buy, knowing my luck.

Christmas Break....

Well, it's Friday morning - which means MadAnthony's last day of work for the year 2005. One of the perks of working for a college is getting a week of paid Christmas break. So at 4pm today, I'm done with work until January 3rd.

I'll be going to New Jersey for break, leaving tomorrow morning and coming back January 2nd. Got the usually family stuff - Christmas Eve fish dinner at my mom's cousin's house, Christmas day dinner at the parents. I intend to spend most of the rest of the week sleeping, reading a stack of books I've bought throughout the year that I haven't had time to read (Cowboy Capitalism, The Undercover Economist, Mommy Knows Worst) as well as re-reading "home buying for dummies" in preperation of house shopping. I'm also probably going to hang out one of my old college roomates who lives in Philly one of the days.

Part of me wonders if I should be spending more time in Baltimore, since there are a bunch of things I need to do - clean out the closet, write eBay descriptions, ect. But this is the only time I get to visit the 'rents for any length of time, and next year will probably be busy and not give me a whole lot of time to see them. And I could use a break - maybe it's good to not be able to do anything but relax.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Bought another monitor...

For the last two years I've had a Kogi 19" flat screen. I paid around $400 for it after rebates and a gift certificate I won from CompUSA. I thought it was a decent monitor -until I bought a Dell 17" to do a dual-screen setup and realized how much sharper the Dell was.

So today I was in Office Depot and saw a display model LG 190Q for $200 after a huge discount and $150 worth of rebates.

So the Kogi will go on ebay or to Hamfest, where I should get at least $200 for it, which means I'll break even but end up with a way better monitor. I'm using the LG right now and it's pretty sweet. It's also a really good looking monitor in terms of style.

monitor front
monitor back

I didn't think something with the word "sex" in it could be this boring...

I've written about poorly described sexual harassment instructions before. I also found Jeff Goldstein's take on Sexual Harassment - that it is either the obvious (you can't make your secretary blow you for a promotion) or people claiming that poorly-chosen words were in fact horrific violations of their rights.

Well, yesterday MadAnthony had to go to mandatory sexual harassment training at the college that he works at. Despite having the word "sex" in it, sexual harassment training was possibly the most boring hour of my life.

In it's defense, it didn't claim that every interaction was sexual harassment. But it went through every legal definition of harassment. If you've ever taken a legal environment of business class, it was pretty basic - quid pro quo, hostile work environment, same-sex, ect. (Think Sundowner and Boca Raton and Jenson v Eveleth Mines).

There was also the pointlessly obvious, like saying that certain cases of sexual harassement, such as sexual assault, would result in firing. Well, if you raped your coworker, I think losing your job is the least of your concerns.

I don't think anyone gained anything out of this. Sessions like this one exist for one reason - so that the employer can meet the legal definition of having a sexual harassment policy and making people aware of it (Boca Raton again). It's CYA.

The fact is that most sexual harassment training and policies could be boiled down to 3 basic things:

1)don't do things that coworkers or customers might find offensive
2)if someone is doing something that you find offensive, tell them to stop doing that
3)if they don't, tell someone else in authority

There. It's sexual harassment training in one minute.

And I think this is pretty obvious to most people. I'm a guy, and I work in IT, so most of my coworkers are also male. We can be pretty crude sometimes, but we are pretty good about staying within the lines when we are around members of the opposite sex or people who might be offended - and the handful of women we work with are open and comfortable about telling us when we've gone too far.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Party time!

Well, about 3 hours ago I finished my Leadership and Management final, which makes me officially done with the semester - I had a presentation in my international MIS class yesterday.

So now it's time to celebrate.

This semester has been busy for me, and I'm not sure why. I took 2 three-credit classes, but I took that many in the spring and don't rember being this busy, and I don't think this semester's were significantly more difficult.

I think I did OK on the test - there were some questions that made me go "huh?" though.

I'm only taking one class next semester, as there are a additional things I want to focus on - starting house shopping, getting back on my diet, ect. But I have over a month until class starts again, which will hopefully give me some time to clean up my room and sell off a bunch of stuff on eBay - in other words, all the things I've neglected the last 4 months.

Back to drinking. I wonder what will make me puke first - the eggnog or the rum in it?

Maybe I need to go on strike...

I've never been a big fan of unions - I think that they have have hurt the flexibility of a lot of American companies (ie pretty much the whole auto industry). There's a reason a lot of American nameplate cars (including MadAnthony's '02 Chrysler) are built in countries like Mexico. What unions tend to do is make a few people very well off in the short run, but leave a bunch of other people worse off in the long time as companies have an additional incentive to move jobs abroad or replace them with automation or other technology.

So I wasn't exactly expecting to be sympathetic to the striking MTA workers in NYC. But then I read their list of demands, and I went from disagreeing with these people to thinking that they are f'ing insane nuts with no grasp on the real world.

From the NY Times

The authority dropped its demand to raise the retirement age for a full pension to 62 for new employees, up from 55 for current employees. But the authority proposed that all future transit workers pay 6 percent of their wages toward their pensions for their first 10 years of employment, up from the 2 percent that current workers pay.

They are striking over having to actually fund their retirement - like pretty much everyone else in the world? Sure, 6% might be a little more than most people contribute to their 401K, but this isn't a 401K. They get to retire at least 10 years before most people, and they get a pension - guarenteed money until they die. That a sweet deal that most people in the real world would love to have.

But when you are government monopoly, you can pay your employees that much.

Mr. Toussaint, president of Local 100 of the Transport Workers Union, announcing the strike at a 3 a.m. news conference, tried to portray the action as part of a broader effort for social justice and workplace rights.

"New Yorkers, this is a fight over whether hard work will be rewarded with a decent retirement," he said. "This is a fight over the erosion, or the eventual elimination, of health-benefits coverage for working people in New York. This is a fight over dignity and respect on the job, a concept that is very alien to the M.T.A

So what about the dignity of the working people who can't get to work because of your strike? Who don't get strike pay, and either didn't get to work today and thus don't get paid, or who had to walk for miles in the cold because you don't want to fund your own retirement. You call that dignity? You call that justice?

These guys have a pay, pension, and benefit package that most of America (and the rest of the world) would kill for, and they still aren't happy, and are trying to cast themselves as the victims. I don't think it's going to play out that way. People are going to look at their demands, look at their own paychecks and benefit and retirement packages, and wonder what planet the TWA union people are from.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

The king of bad timing...

I ended up staying up after my aborted Best Buy trip this morning. There were a couple small things I wanted at Compusa, which opens at 8. There were also rumors that BB.COM was going to have some xbox 360's available online..

So I kept hitting refresh, but decided around 7:30 to go to Compusa.

So of course, the 360 went online at 7:45 AM and I missed it.

Then again, the odds of me having been in front of the pc when they went online even if I'd stayed home were small, and I really should be keeping my credit card empty(er), and there is no guarentee I would have been able to make a profit on eBay and wouldn't have gotten ripped off by some scammer.

I know, I'm rationalizing. Those grapes are probably sour.

MadAnthony tries to score an XBOX 360, fails...

So today Best Buy is putting a limited number of XBOX 360's up for sale. I wouldn't mind getting one to flip on eBay, but I didn't really want to camp out all night for one. So I figured I'd try a different stragagy.

There is a new Best Buy that opened in the Inner Harbor here in Baltimore - on Pratt Steet accross from HarborPlace (or as my landlord likes to call it, HorriblePlace). It's not too far from me, so i decided to go to bed early, get up around 3AM, and see how the line looked.

Got there around 3:20 and easily found a spot on Pratt street. Looked up and saw people sleeping on the second-floor landing - the Best Buy is on the third floor. Walked up the escalator and there were way more people in the front. According to one of the people in line, there were 37 people there. The leaked BB allocation for #1054 was 24.

Oh well, turned around and went back home. Now I'm debating if I should stay up or go back to sleep - after all, CompUSA opens at 8am, and there are also looks like BB might be putting some XBoxes online.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Skiddin' out in the PT...

Yesterday, Baltimore had some "wintery mix" - which sounds like something you would feed your polar bear, but is actually weather reporter's generic term for any mix of snow, rain, freezing rain, sleet, ice, hail, and toads falling from the sky. I had a doctor's appointment yesterday (verdict: just a cold) and was driving back. Most of the drive was smooth, until I got to the ramp going from southbound 83 to Druid Lake Park Drive - and realized that traffic was stopped. Slammed on the brakes, and they locked up and the car skidded. Leaned on the brakes and stopped with about a car lenght to spare. Then realized that whoever was behind me might not have the same combination of luck, skill, and ABS and traction control. Luckily, the Civic behind me managed to stop without hitting me.

When I was able to crawl ahead, I discovered why traffic had slowed - a black Ford pickup had spun 180 degrees and smacked into the side wall. And about a mile down 83 around the same time, a guy was killed when he lost control of his pickup merging on 83 from North Avenue.

So MadAnthony's driving tip of the day - BRIDGE (and ramps) FREEZE BEFORE ROAD SURFACE.

But it also brings an intersting point. Economist Gordon Tullock once said that the best way to make cars safer would be to put a giant spike in the steering wheel - the idea being that it would give people an incentive to drive carefully, since they don't want to become a kabob. He had done some research that showed that as cars safety improved, deaths didn't drop significantly, probably because people took more risks driving because they knew that they had more protection in case of an accident.

I've noticed I have a tendency in my own traction control and ABS equipped car to do that - to step on the gas at a stoplight in wet weather and let the traction control kick in, or slam on the brakes in icy weather. Part of it might just be that I'm a shitty driver, but I do feel like I drove somewhat more conservatively when I had my previous car, a 10-year old LeBaron that would hydroplane if there was a cloud in the sky.

On the other hand, I had the LeBaron while I was a high school and college student (when I lived on-campus), so I didn't really need to drive in bad weather much, so that might be part of it.

Scenes from work, tax policy edition....

Coworker: You know what makes me depressed. Looking at my paycheck and realizing how much I've paid in taxes. I mean, that's money that I've worked for and the government gets.

Mad Anthony. (looks at check stub). Yup. I've paid over $17,000 in taxes so far this year. That's enough to buy a nice used Lexus. And when you think about it, I don't really feel like I've gotten a Lexus worth of services from the government this year. More like a Kia worth. A very used Kia, with like 200,000 miles and a bunch of dents.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Why you should always call and complain..

I recently switched from Nextel to Verizion, and did the whole port your number thing. I switched about 5 days before the end date on my contract, and assumed that it would just finish out my contract.

Nope. Got a $219 bill from Nextel for early termination. I guess I should have looked at the specifics before I switched, but alas.

So I finally called them up today, pointing out that my bill showed that I had paid until the 8th (my contract end date). CSR looked, noticed that they never credit me for the days at the end of the contract, said she would see if she could get authorization to remove the charge. Came back on about 2 minutes later and said she had gotten the charge withdrawn and I now had a zero balance.

Score. Saved $200 by spending about 10 minutes on the phone. Which works out to like $1200/hour.

Monday, December 12, 2005

It's official... consumers no longer have to worry about fraud..

The FTC is cracking down on inflated thread counts in sheets - there is apparently a huge controversy over if a 300 thread count sheet set can contain 150 double-ply threads, or must contain 300 single ply threads.

If that's important enough to require the FTC, I think we can assume we are all safe from fraud.

Personally, I recently treated myself to a $15 set of Wamsutta flannel sheets from and am really impressed. Soft, fluffy, ect.

But I could probably sleep ok on the floor - by the time I get to go to sleep, I'm usually too tired to care what I'm sleeping on.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Thoughts on Christmas Shopping, part 1

Christmas - the only time of year that MadAnthony walks out of Well's Liquors with $45 worth of alcohol.. and none of it's for him.

(I got my parents a bottle of Sambuca Romano (sadly, they didn't have any gift sets) and a six-pack of Red Hook Winter Ale (I wanted to get them some Red Hook IPA, which they had while touring the brewery in Vermont a couple years ago and liked, but can't seem to find in NJ) and my brother a bottle of E&J XO Brandy (which I know nothing about, but it had a fancy bottle, and a $5 rebate).

Friday, December 09, 2005

Baltimore makes the WSJ...

Baltimore's merited a mention in the Tony and Tacky section of the Wall Street Journal's OpinionJournal - for a Federal Hill Antiques dealer who has a display of dead rats in his window.

Personally, I'm not sure what the attraction of seeing dead rats are - not when plenty of live ones can be viewed in the alley behind MadAnthony's apartment.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Should I have stocked up on bread and milk?

Well, they are calling for snow tomorrow. In typical exactness, and depending on source, we are getting somewhere between an inch and a foot.

I stopped for gas on the way home (I had to work 2 hours overtime because a coworker was out sick) and I stopped at the 41st Royal Farms/Enroy station. I considered running in and getting a loaf of bread in case I got snowed in. Then I remembered that I almost never eat bread, and already have most of a loaf going stale in the fridge.

Last year, when snow was predicted, I had a routine - I would stop by the #1 Chinese Kitchen and pick up some takeout, and while they were cooking it run to Roland Park Liquors and pick up some Natty Boh or Yeungling. But since I've been trying to eat better and almost never drink, I skipped that.

Not that I've been very healthy eating-wise of late - I haven't really been watching what I eat, and I haven't been to the gym in a week, because 1)I've got a bunch of homework, and a final and 3 projects due 2)I've had some sort of cold/flu/allergy attack for the last couple days and have felt like crap, and it's hard to exersize when you are wiping your nose every 5 minutes and occasionally hacking up hunks of pleghm.

While it would be nice to have a day off from work, and it would let me get some homework done, it would actually be a pain - I'm supposed to meet a classmate in Columbia to finish a presentation that we have to give on Monday, and I don't relish the thought of driving there in bad weather - and if I have to put it off, I don't know when we'll get it done. Did I mention it's due monday?

And if it goes into Saturday it's even worse - Saturdays are overtime for me, so if I don't go into work, I don't get paid - and the worst is a delayed opening, where I work fewer hours (and then get paid less) but still have to drag my ass to work in the snow.

Why even liberals should fear big government...

An interesting article on how silly government regulations can do more harm than good - from The Greyhound, the Loyola College Student newspaper (also a Baltimore Sun column here.

Loyola had a program where student distribute sandwiches to the homeless. The city made them shut down the program last month for not having a license to distribute food and for not having running hot and cold water. The sandwiches are prepped and wrapped on campus, so they never touched while being distributed - but the law says they need hot and cold water.

The students say that the city is trying to get rid of them because they sit in front of city hall and are embarassing them. Which may be true.

And that is the problem with having lots of laws - they lend themselves to selective enforcement, and mean that if the government doesn't like you and wants to go after you, chances are they can find some law that you are violating and use it against you.

Now, I'm not saying that the Care-a-van people aren't trying to embarrass the city. And I'm not saying that the people who participate in this kind of thing aren't the type who can't accept that at least some people who are homeless are not so much victims of "the man" or society or circumstances so much as a desire to drink a bottle of Mad Dog in the morning instead of going to work. But the volunteers were doing some good, and I would guess most homeless people would prefer a free sandwich from someone who didn't have on-site running water to going hungry.

But because of an excess of laws, and a desire of government to protect people from every little thing, Baltimore City has managed to actually prevent someone from giving a man a fish. Great job.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Are we better off than our parents?

I found Jane Galt's lengthy post comparing her work experience to her parent's to be pretty interesting for two reasons. She followed up with this post discussing why we are better off today then we have been - ever.

The first thing that was interesting about her post was her experiences looking for a job post-9/11. I graduated college jobless in May of 2002 with a degree in Management Information Systems, so her story has some parallels to mine. When I picked MIS, it was mostly because I liked that it combined business and computers, two favorites of mine. But the thought of riches was in the back of my mind too.

After graduation, I spent the summer working for my college. They paid me student employee wages, but they gave one perk - free oncampus housing - that made it OK. This meant I basically had all the advantages of a college student without having homework. Needless to say, I spent much of the time while I wasn't at work drunk.

I then spent about 6 weeks working for the college as a contractor. I then got my first job offer - which I accepted, then decided to pass up because it was in DC and I realized there was no way I could work in DC and not be miserable. So I moved back to NJ and lived with the 'rents for a while, going to job interviews, working the occasional temp data-entry or filing job, and pondering law school. I kept in touch with the people in my college's IT group, and eventually found out that there was an opening. Applied, got it, and moved back to Baltimore.

So am I better off then my parents when they were 25? It's sort of an apples to oranges comparision, and it's made more complicated by the fact that they were already married at 25, while I'm single. That means they had two incomes to do things like buy a house. Still, I probably will be buying a house in the next couple months, although it probably won't be as nice as their first house. Then again, they have only owned two houses - ever, and I think the practice of trading up to a better house every couple years is a recent phenomnea.

But at the same time, I probably would have more money towards housing if I didn't have so many gadgets - a desktop with dual lcd monitors, a powerbook, an iPod Nano, two TV's, a RePlayTV, cell phone, ect. And these are gadgets that didn' exist 30 years ago.

And while telling someone to reboot their computer for the 80th time may drive me nuts, I have a job where I sit in a climate controlled room, can surf the web when things are slow (or blog!). I have sources of supplemental income, like eBay, that didn't exist 10 years ago, let alone 30.

And I think I probably have more chances for upward mobility. My guess is my parent's income hasn't increased a whole lot adjusted for income from years back. I have a college degree and am working on my MBA. My lack of upward mobility will be due more to my own laziness, lack of social skill, or desire not to have to wear a tie, not because of a lack of opportunity.

So in summary: Not having a job sucks more than it used to, but having a job sucks less than it used to. And I'd rather have periods of unemployment in my life if I can buy iPods and laptops with the money I make when I don't have a job.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Cited in the city update

Got an email from my landlord. Apparently the complaint against me has been "abated".
So I'm now allowed to go back to living my life the way I choose, without Baltimore City acting as my mother and telling me to clean my room.

I guess I'm good for the next year, by which time I hope to be a homeowner... in a suburb outside of the city.

I think I'm going to go home and take a dump on my bedroom floor, just to spite the housing inspector. I'll show her unsanitary!

(note: I'm kidding about the dump part).

Thanks for making me question my manhood, Trader Joe chick..

So I spent most of yesterday at my college's grad center working on a group paper - we spent about 7 hours working on the freakin' thing, and it still sucks. Luckily, the prof offered a transfer of points, and I took it off the paper, so it's only 10% of my grade.

On the way back, I decided to stop by Trader Joe's to stock up on asian-style frozen chicken and Winter Blend coffee (before they run out of the coffee- who would think that whole cloves, cinnamon sticks, and red and green peppercorns would taste so good in whole-bean coffee?).

Grab my stuff, go to check out. There is one short checkout line that has a "cash or check only" sign. Get in one of the longer lines. Then I hear a voice: excuse me miss, miss, I mean.. mister".

It was the checkout girl from the cash only line. Apparently I look like a woman from the back. Must be my girlish figure.


Sunday, December 04, 2005

I hate cars...

I think I may have mentioned earlier that I now have a speedometer and gas gauge like a normal person. I left the car with the dealer near my parents in NJ for a week before Thanksgiving break. End result - bad gauge cluster, which cost over $500 to replace. Service manager at the dealership told me that he's "never seen one of those burn out on a PT Cruiser before". Lucky me.

So I'm driving to our grad center this morning for a group paper (which we spent 6 hours on and still isn't perfect, and I don't think any of us are real happy with) and notice that the "air bag" light on my dash is on. It's been going on and off all day while I'm driving, complete with annoying ding. It's been NINE FREAKIN' DAYS since I picked the car up from the dealership and IT'S ALREADY F'ED UP! I might as well just start flushing my money down the drain. I think the electrical system on this car has some major issues - the sensor that makes the "check engine light" come on burned out 2 years ago - luckily, the car was still under warrenty then.

I've long been a Mopar fan, but I think my next car is going to be a Honda or Toyota.
And I long for the quality build construction of my K-Car - sure, it had problems, but it was also 12 years old and had 100,000 miles.

Ticketed for a messy room, part deux..

Here's where I stand right now on the letter from Baltimore City about the possibilty of me being fined $500 a day for having a messy room.

I spoke to my landlord on Friday afternoon. He suggested I call the inspector up and clarify what exactly I have to do. He was also concerned because he's leaving the country for the next couple months in a few days, and isn't a big fan of having inspectors around when he's not.

So I called her, resisting the urge to curse her out. After telling me all about Baltimore City housing codes, she told me that the two things that she really didn't like were that 1)I had a bunch of boxes behind my bed and that "kind of trashy stuff attracts mice" and 2)I had wires running accross the room and she "could have tripped over them".

Well, she would have to worry about tripping over the I've had those wires there for two-plus years and haven't tripped over them (although I did once fall in the shower - I hope they don't ban showers for that).

The boxes she refers to were a bunch of priority flats and old cardboard boxes I stored in the foot-wide space between my headboard and the wall. I use them for eBay.

So she's coming tomorrow morning while I'm at work to reinspect (the landlord is letting her in). I hope I pass and this annoying chapter of my life is over. If not, I'm going to go nuts. I moved a ton of stuff into the basement (much of will be getting ebayed or taken to hamfest in the next two months - some of it is on eBay already). If it's not, I don't really know what to do - I'm out of places to stash stuff...

Friday, December 02, 2005

I've been served...

I recieved a citation in the mail yesterday from the city of Baltimore. My apartment has been declared "unsanitary" and I have 10 days to clean it up or the city will fine me $500 a day.

Now, I won't deny that my room is a mess. Maybe even a dump or a shithole. But I wouldn't call it unsanitary. I do have a ton of boxes, mostly of computer parts and ebay inventory, and packing materials for said ebay materials. There are also some clothes and papers on the floor.

But when I think "unsanitary", I think poop and dirty dishes, not boxes of iPods and bubble wrap. The Baltimore code handbook(pdf, page 13) says that "floors, furniture, countertops and surfaces must be free of debris, including human and animal waste and other unsanitary matter". The stuff on my floor is papers, and it's not even trash - it's stuff I need to sort.

My problems with this are many. First of all, I've violated the most vauge of laws - having a messy room. How am I supposed to know if my room is neat enough for their standards?

I thought that the point of cases like Lawrence vs Texas and Griswold vs. Connecticut were to keep government out of the bedroom - and now the govenment has literally come into my bedroom, not to tell me to lay off the butt sex but to tell my room is messy.

It is reassuring to know that Baltimore has so few problems that they have time to harass people about the neatness of their rooms. Guess all the drug dealers and murderers have been erradicated from Baltimore.

This is the worst possible time for this to happen, too - I've got four projects and tests due in the next 3 weeks. I was already going nuts trying to figure out how I was going to fit everything in, and now I've got even more shit to do. I Cleaning my room hasn't been a priority for me because most days I'm only home and awake for a couple hours a day. I was planning on doing some cleaning after Christmas break. I'm probably going to have to take time off from work to clean, and then take time off again to meet the inspector and have it reinspected. What a waste.

I think I'm the ideal Baltimore City resident. I pay Baltimore's stupidly high income taxes, and I consume practically no city resources - I don't have kids in school, I'm not on welfare, I've never been in jail, ect. But now the city is making me do what my mom tried to do for the 22 years or so I lived at home - make me clean my room.

I can't f'ing wait until I buy a house and move out of this f-ed up city.