mad anthony

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

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

A MadAnthony DVD review - Slasher!..

I like to buy movies, because I always feel that people should have a good collection of movies so that they always have something to watch when they have a free evening at home. That would work better if I actually had free time - I have a ton of DVD's I've bought because I got a good deal on them but have yet to take out of the shrink wrap.

But I was reading a message board last week and someone was talking about $88 cars, and another poster mentioned the movie Slasher,
which is a documentary about a guy who runs those "slashing prices" sales, complete with $88 beaters and toy chainsaws.

I ordered a copy, and it came in today. It was kind of slow at work, and I had a PC I was working on on my desk, so I popped it into my G5 and watched it on the 20" cinema display while I worked.

It was pretty good. It could have been longer, and it had the tendency to skip parts, but it was interesting. You see all the tricks that car salesmen do to move cars - if you've ever read an article like Confessions of a Car Salesman you are familiar with the tricks, but it's interesting to see them in action.

And the people they portray are very interesting - you aren't sure if you want to root for the Slasher because he works hard and loves his work or root against him because he's kind of a jerk and wants to convince people to buy POS cars. And you feel bad for his customers, but at the same time wonder because they aren't the brightest light bulbs on the Christmas tree. One $88 car buyer (spoiler ahead) has her car pretty much blow up when she gets home. On one hand, you feel bad because she's talking about how much she needs a car to get to work while she's driving home. On the other hand, you look at what she's wearing - everything designer, SouthPole shirt, Kangol hat, ect - and wonder if part of the reason she can't afford a car is her poor budgeting.

After seeing salespeople in action, I think I'm going to buy my next car from CarsDirect so I don't have to deal with salespeople.

On chairs and property rights...

Jesse Walker at has a post on a subject I've written about before - Boston's refusal to allow people to save their shoveled-out parking spots with chairs and the like 48 hours after a snowstorm.

The whole parking thing is always interesting because it's sort of a tragedy of the commons, failure of public property type thing. Plus, I live in the city and park on the street, and always wonder if I'll be able to find a place to park my car.

But what I think is interesting is that Jesse lives in South Baltimore. He talks about how in the absence of laws, people have socially accepted ways of dealing with things, like you don't park in someone's shoveled-out, saved spot. He also says that:

Here in Baltimore, it's generally understood that a homeowner is supposed to shovel out not just his car but the stretch of sidewalk in front of his stoop. (You can, of course, hire a kid to do this for you.) This may or may not be required by law, but I've never heard of anyone actually getting a ticket for failing to do it; the only real sanction is the disapproval of your neighbors.

Actually, no. I do know someone who was ticketed for not shoveling a walkway- my landlord. Two years ago, he was out of the country, and neither my housemates nor I bothered to shovel. A few weeks later, he got a $25 ticket from the city of Baltimore for not shoveling his walk.

We kind of figure that one of his neighbors who he doesn't get along with ratted on him, and I don't know if the city really goes around looking for people to ticket - although it wouldn't surprise me. But I guess Baltimore figures the social contract isn't enough and they need government to enforce it.

And I hate to admit it but it worked - after the last snowstorm I made a point of shoveling the walkway and the sidewalk so he wouldn't get ticketed again.

And I noticed that while I, and most people, just shoveled enough of a path for people to walk thru, the neighbor who we think narc'ed him had their walkway perfectly shoveled from the edge of the grass to the street. If you looked just down at their sidewalk, you wouldn't know it snowed.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

The prisoner's, I mean CompUSA customer's, dilemna...

People who have taken economics are familiar with The Prisoner's Dilemma. The lesson from the Prisoner's Dilemna is that people will come out with an inefficient outcome (ie confessing) because it's better than the worst possible outcome (not confessing, other person confessing, you go to jail) and we don't know what the other person will do.

I was reminded of this this morning when I went to CompUSA to pick up a few sale items. I got there about 30 minutes before the store opened, since I was coming from Staples. I was the first person there, but other people started coming soon after. Everyone waited in their cars.

Until around 10:45, when a guy walked up to the front door. Darn. Because as long as everyone else stays in their cars, we are all better off (and warmer). But as soon as one person gets out, everyone has to get out ASAP or be stuck at the back of the line.

If we could collude - if everyone would agree to stay in their cars until 10:59 and then get in line in the order they came - we would be better off. But this guy wanted to make sure his chances of getting what he want were high, so he got out - and thus everyone else did too. And we were all worse off.

Darn you, economics.

God wants you to buy this laptop...

I hit a couple President's Day sales this morning - what better way to appreciate Washington and Lincoln than buy a couple routers and hard drives? My first stop was Staples. When I got there about 10 minutes before they opened. Being that it was 18 degrees (according to the temperature display on my car, which probably can't be trusted), most people were waiting in their cars. The one exception was a woman and her teenage son waiting outside.

I got in and grabbed the couple items I wanted and went to check out. The woman in front of me was the woman from outside. She was buying a Compaq laptop that they had on sale for $480 AR. While she was checking out, someone mentioned that there were only 2 (because employees had bought the rest, as he admitted) and the woman responded something to the effect of "Praise the Lord. See, God works. If you are obidient, he rewards you."

Now I believe in God - I can't think of any other way the world could have come into being without some sort of active creation. But I tend to be less positive on the details. I have trouble seeing God as a micromanager, someone who steps in for the smallest things. I'm not convinced, quite frankly, that God really cares who gets the last discounted laptop at Staples.

But I think the praising-God thing also sells oneself short. She didn't get the laptop because God wanted her to. She got the laptop because she was smart enough to read the sales circulars, to get to the store early, and willing to brave the cold to get it. Maybe God inspires people to do things, but in the end it's people's own actions that makes things happen.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

long day...

I knew this day was not going to go well when I started my drive to work and noticed traffic backed up on Druid Hill Lake Park Street Drive Avenue or whatever it's called. Got to the exit ramp to get on 83 north and noticed it was backed all the way up and 83 was stopped. Luckily I noticed in time to avoid it, and took Keswick all the way to work. Unfortunatly, that pretty much doubled my commute time.

I was almost to work when my boss chirped me on my Nextel Blackberry:

Boss: Where are you?

MadA: Almost there. Big accident on 83 North- I had to take the back way.

Boss: You picked the wrong day to be running late. We're catching hell...

See, today was the day that my employer decided to change their password policy to sync password and enforce certain rules (you know, so your password can't be set to, say, "password"). We are a fairly small college, but we also let alumni keep their accounts. That works out to something like 25,000 accounts. That's a lot of people who couldn't log in.

Even though I've been working in desktop support for the last 6 weeks, I was called back onto phones - and asked to work thru lunch, stay late, and come in early tomorrow. Which is good, because I could use the money, especially since I recently discover that I now owe the state of Maryland something like $1000 for taxes because HR for reasons I don't understand decided to not deduct a whole bunch of money that should have been deducted from my paychecks. But it's bad, because I worked a 13 hour day and feel like crap,

Adding to the crappyness I feel is the ten million calories and 3 gallons of soda I've consumed - bagels for breakfast, pizza for lunch, and chinese food for dinner. Which means instead of going to the gym after work, Mad Anthony was at work shoveling takeout pork Lo Mein down his throat. There is something about being stuck at work surrounded by free food that makes you wolf down that 4th piece of pizza even though your stomach hurts. I don't know why.

So I'm off to bed, since I need to be at work in less than 8 hours...

Monday, February 13, 2006

I'm so ronrey...

Well, Valentine's Day is almost here, which means another post by MadAnthony complaining about how much he hates Valentine's Day. And another year has passed, and MadAnthony is still single.

But I don't really have much to say that I didn't last year, and I don't want to wallow in self-pity.

And being single has it's perks - I can do what I want, and make fun of my friends and coworkers who have to adjust their lives to those of their significant others.

But of course, I'd love to find someone. But between the fact that I'm not exactly Brad Pitt in the looks department (unless Brad has shrunk a foot, gained 12 inches in the waist, and adopted the posture of the Hunchback of Notre Dame in the last month), don't have any cool hobbies, and am kind of boring. Plus I really suck around people.

I work in IT, so most of my coworkers are male. I've thought about internet dating, but I can't really think of anything to put in an ad that would sell myself - and I'm guessing with stories like this that women in the Baltimore area are going to be a little less thrilled with the idea of internet dating.

I don't really go out much. While I'm taking some MBA classes, it seems like most of my classmates are older than me, and already married with kids. Plus they all have big important job titles, while I'm like "yeah, I fix computers".

So I have a feeling there will be a few more of these posts in the next couple years...

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Closet of death was right on...

Most of the time, I think I live a decent life. I was born at the right time - when people live longer than ever by decades, when technology lets people do things they only dreamed of a few years ago. While there are a few areas in my life that could be better - social, dating, appearance, ect, I'm doing OK.

But then sometimes shit happens to me that I'm pretty sure doesn't happen to anyone else I know. The recurring problems with my car, from getting the wheels stolen a 5 weeks after buying it, to the elctrical problems, are an example.

And then there is what just happened

An hour or so ago, I wrote a post describing my day, and refered to my closet as the "closet of death" becasue it was such a mess. I rearranged it, and one of things I did was stick a couple 12-packs of soda onto the top shelf of the closet.

When I say "top shelf", I mean that the closet has (well, had) a wire shelf with hangars on the bottom attached to the wall. I've stored a bunch of stuff up there, but mostly empty boxes from electronics I own. I also have (had) a bunch of clothing hanging on it - out of season stuff like short sleeve shirts, old jackets, and stuff I don't wear much, like a suit or sweater vests.

Well, I'm chilling in my room, reading the CompUSA sales circular, and I hear a crash. Shit, I figure that one of the cases of soda must have fallen off the shelf.

Nope, I wish it was that simple. The whole shelf pullled off the wall. From my acccident reconstruction guestimate, the soda was heavy enough to pull one of the supports from out the wall. Once that happened, the perfect storm followed - the force of the shelf pulling out, combined with the weight of the clothes hanging on it, broke the hooks that the top of the shelf rest on, and the weight of it falling pulled bent the bottom of the supports.

I was hoping that there would be enough that I could put it back up, but all the supports are bent, most of the hooks that hold the top part are broken, and half the supports are out of the wall. I don't really know what to do. My landlord is in Brazil right now, but comes back in a couple weeks and will probably flip out. And I had to pile all the clothes on the futon in the common area, which probably won't make my roomate too thrilled when he gets back - but I don't know where else to put them.


Doing stuff, and getting nowhere...

Well, since I got in early last night and didn't go anywhere today because of the snow, I got a lot done around the house. But I wouldn't say I got a lot accomplished. And I just got an email from that the college I work at is opening at 10am - enough time to enjoy an extra cup of coffee and a few minutes of sleep, but not enough to do anything.

Most of the stuff I got done is the kind of stuff that always needs to be done - washed dishes, did laundry, pre-packed and weighed ebay merchandise for the 10 auctions I have ending this week. It's the kind of stuff that never ends. You wash dishes, and a few days later you have a sink full of dishes. Which I never understand, since I don't cook much. It's kind of depressing how much of our lives we spend doing the kind of stuff that we don't really like doing, but have to do lest we wallow in our own filth.

And speaking of wallowing in filth, I also did a little cleaning in my room, sorted some stuff in the basement, and finally poked around my "closet of death." If you looked at my room, you probably wouldn't consider it clean. In fact, if the Baltimore City housing inspector came by again, she would probably issue me another summons. But it's a little more organized than it was before, and once I get some stuff eBayed, I'll have some more space.

Still, I work best under pressure, and I don't think I'll have the motivation to actually clean and throw away a bunch of stuff until I actually buy a house and move. Of course, that would involve me actually, you know, going out and looking at houses and stuff.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Scenes from work, I don't think that's what HR meant edition

Coworker 1: Where is (name of coworker)?

Coworker 2: Oh, he's at the training that HR is conducting on Office Bullies.

Mad Anthony: Gee, I wish I'd known about that. I've always wanted to learn how to be an office bully.


I'm not a wine drinker. Other than a couple times I had wine with the parents or at a nice dinner, my wine-drinking experience has been limited to Boone's Farm Stawberry Field - the kind of wine with a screwtop that you find in the "bum wine" isle. I usually stick with beer - it seems less pretensious and goes with almost anything - and I don't even drink much anymore.

But over Christmas break, I was in NJ and decided to make a trip to the Westfield Trader Joe's - the only one in NJ that sells alcohol (none of the ones in Maryland do). I picked up a bottle of two-buck chuck (which in NJ is 3-buck chuck) Sauvingnon Blanc. Since it's snowing outside and I'm not going anywhere, I decided it would be a good time to crack it open - it would go great with some Linguine and Clam Sauce.

One little problem with the whole "crack open" thing is that unlike Boone's Farm, Chuck actually has a cork. I did happen to have a corkscrew, but no experience using it. After about 10 minutes of tugging, I finally got it off - but I made a huge hole in the cork in the process.

The wine wasn't bad though - sweet, but not overpowering, and kind of fruity. If I were a wine snob, I would probably compare it to pencil shavings or strawberries or charcol or something. But I'm not a wine snob, so I would have to say it tasted like fermented grape juice - in a good way.

Guess I won't be starting a wine blog anytime soon.

There's snow business....

Well, it's snowing in Baltimore. First big snowfall of the year, and of course it's on a weekend. It always seems to snow on weekends, which kills off the one benefit of snow - the occasional paid day off. I work for a college, and sometimes we close for snow. I work overtime on Saturdays, though, which means if we close I don't get paid to not work like I would on a weekday.

Luckily it didn't really start snowing until 1pm or so and I work until 2:30, so I didn't lose any much-needed hours. It wasn't coming down hard or sticking, but I still decided to skip my usual Taco Bell/Target/Office Depot/church/gym errands and went straight home (after getting gas and picking up an early edition of the Baltimore Sun). It didn't really start sticking until 5 or so. It's almost 9pm and it's still coming down, so I might get my wish of a Monday off.

I've already gotten a bunch done - 2 loads of laundry, some cleaning in the basement, and I've got a pot of pasta on the stove right now... which I should probably stir...

Thursday, February 09, 2006

I've got more cells than a drug dealer...

Here are some pics of my phone collection - with my personal cell (the Verizon/LG VX8100), my work BlackBerry (a Nextel 7520), and the Samsung/ Sprint phone I'm beta testing, I now have more phones than I have ears...

Here are some pics:

3 phones - open

LG (left) and Samsung

I also bought a song off the Spring. $2.50 for a copy of "My Humps" from the Black Eyed Peas (not that I'm paying for it). Apparently, you can use it on your cell and your PC - but it seems kind of steep considering iTunes are 99 cents or so each. I haven't tried listening to music with the included headset, but it didn't sound too great over the included speakers on the phone. The front controls are handy though.

Sprint blogging, part 1...

Well, I got my Sprint Phone to beta-test - the first thing of value I've gotten out of this blog. It was apparently delivered some time yesterday, but FedEX did such a good job of hiding it behind a small potted tree on my porch that I didn't notice it when I got back from the gym last night. I'm surprised it wasn't stolen by one neighborhood crackheads.

It's kind of ironic that Sprint sent me this, since I just purchased a Verizon LG VX8100, which is a similar design and has similar features.

I haven't done more than play with it so far, but a few reactions:

-ships with a 32mb TransFlash, which is a nice touch. My VX8100 uses miniSD, but doesn't come with anything.

-Has a very nice display. Like most phones, it has a display on the outside of the phone when it's closed and another on the inside when it's open. The displays are super clear - better than any other phone I've ever seen. But then again, Samsung makes LCD's, so it's not surprising their phones would have good LCD's.

-comes with a bunch of accessories - in addition to the TransFlash card and adapter, it also came with headphones and a USB to phone cable. Every other phone I've ever owned, including the VX8100, comes with a phone and charger and that's it.

I haven't tried out the music store or actually made any calls yet, so that will be coming later. I also intend to take a few pics of the phone, as well as a few pics WITH the phone to try out the camera (and maybe compare it with the camera on the VX8100).

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Scenes from work, get-a-date edition...

Coworker1: I spent last night building a hardware device that says a dead man's name when you hit the button. It's burned into an EPROM.

Coworker2: sometimes it amazes me that you have a girlfriend

Coworker3: Have you met his girlfriend? She's as, umm, interesting as he is.

Coworker2: I've found that most relationships that work have two people who are equally interesting. You can't have a sucessful relationship where one person is way more interesting than the other.

Mad Anthony: I guess I need to find someone really boring...

More car horror stories.....

Well, Sunday morning I get into the PT Cruiser to go run a few errands. Turn it on and notice the check engine light is on. Don't think too much of this, as two years ago it went on, and it turned out just to be the sensor that makes the check engine light go on had gone bad, or something. It was still under warranty then.

But as I'm driving, I notice that the transmission is making some disturbing noises and that it's not shifting - the tach goes up but not down.

So I go to Autozone, because they have a free check engine light diagnosis. It gives three errors - 0605 ROM error and two 0700 transmission control errors.

So I call up a Chrysler dealership. They suggest that I get it towed, as it's in "limp-home" mode and doesn't go out of second gear. So I take advantage of my AAA Plus membership and get it towed.

Turns out it's the whole transmission controller. $600, plus a few hundred more for some other routine maintance. Car dealer comps me a rental (a Toyota Corolla) and says it will be ready today at noon. Call them at 11, they said the parts didn't come in and it wouldn't be ready until after 1. So I'm picking it up after work.

Once again, I'm debating the merits of getting rid of this car before it costs me more - it's like having car payments because I'm dumping so much into this car, and it seems like it has major recurrent electrical problems. But if I buy a new car, there is no way I will be able to get a mortage, and I really don't want to put off buying a house any longer.

Thursday, February 02, 2006 is selling out!

I don't check the gmail account that appears on the right all that often, because it's mostly spam. So I was giving going through it yesterday and noticed an interesting one - from Sprint, asking me to participate in their Ambassador Program. Apparently, you get a phone to try for 6 months and fill out reports on their website of how you like the phone and it's features. They don't talk about blogging anywhere, but I'm guessing that's part of what they are hoping people do - since it seems clear they found me through the blog (since they used the gmail account, and since they refered to me as "Mad Anthony.". So I guess their is a bit of buzz/grassroots marketing there, although they don't explicitly mention it.

Of course, they are also probably hoping that I'll love the phone after 6 months that I'll start paying for service - but considering that I just signed a two-year contract with Verizion (and got a spiffy LG VX8100) two months ago, that's unlikely. Plus I already have a BlackBerry for work, so I am going to be phoned out.

But it is another gadget to play with, and it feels cool that a major corporation wants my opinion (and probably thinks I have enough influence to convince people to buy their product). So I should be getting the phone (they said it would be a Samsung SPH-A900) in the next month or so, and I'll give a post when I get it.

And if any companies want to take advantage of my coolness before I make my first million, feel free to send me free products to try - especially if you make plasma TV's or luxury SUV's.

Edit: A little googling reveals that a bunch of other bloggers, including Jeff Jarvis of BuzzMachine and a number of his commenters have also gotten the emails. Seems like Sprint is sending out a lot of these. I am curious how they picked me, as I'm way below the radar, but I'm glad they did.

Scenes from work, How's My Driving edition...

Coworker: You know, I think once you accept the fact that you could die at any time, life becomes more enjoyable. Once you get that out of the way, everything else is insignificant.

Coworker2: I don't know...

Coworker: Think of it this way - if you woke up every morning expecting that you would die in a firey wreck on your way to work, and you didn't, you would feel great just to be alive.

Mad Anthony: If I woke up expecting to die in a firey wreck on the way to work, I think I'd go back to sleep. Or at least call in sick.

Coworker: Anthony, the way you drive, you probably should expect to die in a firey wreck.

Mad Anhony: Sounds like you've been reading my blog

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Nice shoes!

A few months back, a coworker noticed I was reading Manolo's Shoe Blog and asked if I was "the gay".

No, I'm not. If I was, I would dress better, and I would probably be into interior decorating, instead of using a folding table as a desk and a plastic box as a printer stand. Also, I wouldn't find women attractive.

But I do tend to collect shoes. I'm not Fat Joe - I don't throw them out once they get a stain - but I do buy a bunch of shoes when I find a good deal. I bought 3 pairs in the last 2 weeks...

The first were these adidias, which were $14 after FatCash on clearance in a Saturday Sale at

Then on Saturday, I was at Kohl's because they had their 70% off all clearance stuff. Most of the clothes were crap, but they also had some shoes on clearance - I got these Reebok classics, which were originally $54.99 for $9.80 and these Axcess by Claiborne loafers that were originally $69.99 for $12.87.

I'm debating if I should keep or eBay the Classics - I don't like wearing all white sneakers, since they get dirty, and they don't really match anything I own. The other shoes are the kind I should be wearing to work - I tend to dress more like a skateboarder than an IT Professional. Right now, I'm actually wearing the afformentioned $14 addidas at work...

Road Ragin'

Driving into work this morning, I did something kind of dumb. I'm pulling off a right -lane exit ramp onto a road that goes from 4 lanes to 1 over the course of a two-block section. I always try to get into the left lane, since it becomes the oen lane. I pull into the middle lane, don't see anything and start moving into the left lane. That's when I hear a honk and screech, and realize there was a Jeep in my blind spot. I swerve and speed up and the other guy brakes and we somehow avoid a colision.

OK, that wasn't one of my finer driving moves. It's worse than the time I almost launched one of our Groupwise sysadmins thru the windshield by slaming on my brakes (in my defense, I was trying to avoid a $90 red light camera ticket). But I wasn't expecting what came next. The guy pulls around me, and I'm expecting a finger. But no. He stops in the middle lane of the road, gets out and starts banging on my window. And there are cars in front of me, so I had nowhere to go. He yells "Why don't you look before you pull out". I squeak out a "look, I'm sorry man". Luckily, the light turned green then and the guy realized he shoulc probably get back in his truck and did.

I'm not sure what he expected to accomplish by getting out of his car? Yes, I shouldn't have pulled out in front of him. But it's not like I could go back in time. Did he think I was going to get out and fight him in the middle of Cold Spring Lane? And would he have reacted the same way if I was driving, say, a pickup with a gun rack instead of a PT Cruiser?