mad anthony

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

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Because nobody ever says "I want to buy a Prius when I grow up"..

Via beltway blogroll comes the fact that environmentalists are protesting the fact that McDonald's is giving out toy Hummers (the SUV, not the sex act) in Happy Meals, and thinks that they should give away toy Priuses instead.

Because you know every young boy, sitting in the back of mom's minvan, screams in delight when someone drives by in a Prius.

I like the Hummer, although I like the original military H1 Alpha way more than the Tahoe-based H2. It's on my list of vehicles to buy when I win the lottery or produce my first major rap album (once I figure out a word that rymes with "blog"). In other words, never. It's a nice truck, but for the price of an H2, I could buy a 4x4 Ranger like the one I drive now, a Pontiac Solstice, and still have enough left over to redo my bathroom. Plus, given the fact that I regularly park on a narrow 1-way city street at work - narrow enough that I fold my side mirror in when I park- and that I have a fairly long commute and gas prices are fairly high, it's not exactly a perfect fit for me.

The Hummer is an asperational car. It's the kind of car that lots of people want, but few can ever buy for reasons of practicality and cost - no different from the Lamborginis and Ferraris that are popular as toy cars, but not seen very often on the road. Sure, the Hummer is cheaper, more practical, and sells better than the Lambo Gallardo, but it's still a vehicle that's fairly rare on the streets. I would say I see way more Priuses (or is the plural Priusi?) than I do Hummers on the average drive, but that may just because I live in a very blue state.

But if environmentalists want the Prius and it's ilk to be the cars people buy, they probably DON'T want it to be a kids toy. Think of the cars you see most often on the road, the ones that real people buy, the ones that make top-ten sales lists and sell in the hundreds of thousands - Civics, Camry's, Explorers, Caravans. You don't usually see kids playing with toy models of those cars, and that's the way environmentalists should want hybrids to be - the cars people actually buy, not the cars they would buy if money wasn't an object and they didn't have to worry about the price of gas or parallel-parking the thing.

One more thing - the commondreams press release contained this quote:

"McDonald’s should give away toys that reflect their values if they want to be taken seriously. They would not give away toy guns, now, would they?" said Al Tepper of

Hmm, giving away toy guns, maybe with some instruction on safe hunting or self-defense? That might not be a bad idea. Any resturants interested?

Mother nature is a bitch...

Every year, my friend bsom's neigbor has a yard sale. (They are avid yardsalers, and we've run into them at various yard sales in the past couple months). They offer to let the neigbors freeload on their ads/signs, and bsom invited me to drag some stuff over. I figured it would be a good chance to get rid of some of my crappier inventory - the remains of my pallet of ski boots, a bunch of cell phone stuff I purchased at an auction, and some other hamfest stuff. So Friday night I threw a bunch of boxes and a folding table in the back of the Ranger and drove a few blocks away to bsom's house. I figured it wasn't costing me anything, so anything I sold would be a win, and even if I didn't sell anything I'd get to hang out outside and shoot the shit for a couple hours.

All week they had been predicting rain. But it wasn't raining on Saturday morning, so they decided to go ahead with the sale. So we dragged everything out. And then it started misting. And then it started pouring. We covered everything up. And then it stopped raining. So we uncovered everything. And then it started raining, then pouring. So we dragged everything inside. Not too much longer after that, it stopped, but by then most of the customers had given up, and most of our stuff was pretty damp.

I made a whole $10.25, but I ended up buying a book from bsom's girlfriend, so I really only made $10. And that doesn't count spending on gas, or my cup of 7-11 coffee.

And I've got ski boots spread out drying in my basement. Luckily, ski boots are designed to be waterproof (although the boxes aren't) and most of the other stuff was plastic wrapped. But it was a miserable experience.

So I'm not a big fan of rain. And it's been raining a lot the last week, which has made my commute even more miserable than normal - it seems that Marylanders forget how to drive when it rains. (and yes, I know that people will point out that MadAnthony learned how to drive in New Jersey, a state not known for it's great drivers. Two years ago, I wrote a post that I think will explain why I think thatBaltimore drivers are worse). On Friday - the one day that it wasn't raining in the morning - I made it to work about 20 minutes sooner than I normally do, presumably due to the lack of precipitation. Throw in the other unpleasant aspect of rain - the whole "getting wet" thing, something exacerbated by my tendency to never have an umbrella, hat, or hoodie with me - I seem to assume that whatever the weather is when I leave the house is the way the weather will remain for the next 12 hours or so - and it's been a long week. Of course, the fact that I worked two 15 hour days this week, and had class two other days, made me feeling pretty chewed up after the whole Saturday yard sale debacle, which is why I spent most of Saturday afternoon curled up in bed.

BTW, for those wondering, I've sold $240 worth of ski boots (all but $20 of which I've recived payment for already). Considering I paid $105 for the whole pallet, and that ski season hasn't really started and that I still have quite a few left, I think I made a good purchase, even though writing descriptions and dragging these things around has been a PITA.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Hot pocket...

(as Mad Anthony fumbles with the office microwave)

Coworker: Why didn't you just hit quick start and then 3 minutes?

MadAnthony: Because I need to cook it for 3 minutes and 30 seconds.

Coworker: So why did you put it in for 3:33?

MadAnthony: I like my hot pockets well done

(and I'm working until 11 tonight. It's going to be a long night)

Some things just make you say WTF...

So, I had to drop off an iMac at the Apple Store today. I'm driving our shiny new van back to the office along Charles Street (it's an ex-gsa '98 Windstar, which unlike our old van has functioning brakes and some paint left on it) and notice traffic slowing down. I wonder why. Then I see why.

In the left-hand lane is a silver Suzuki XL-7 SUV. It's got it's four-way flasher on. It's also got both passenger-side tires flat. I mean, it's riding on rims. There's smoke coming off of them, and chunks of hot rubber flying on the road. The truck is sliding around between lanes, and everyone's giving it a wide berth. But the person's still driving it, probably doing around 30 or so. This went on for probably close to a mile, before they finally stopped in the left turn lane of a road. Meanwhile, they had left a trail of hot rubber chunks along the road, along with several people at bus stops who were pointing and laughing. I drove past the truck when it was finally stopped, and neither tire was attached to the wheel, and the rims were sitting at angles that they aren't supposed to.

I really can't understand why the person didn't pull off - that section of Charles has a huge shoulder, and everyone was giving the truck a ton of space, since we were pretty sure it was going to roll ass-over-teakettle over at some point. But the person kept driving. It was one of those situations where you figured something wasn't going to end well, but there was nothing you could do but wonder.

I don't know how they managed to blow out two tires in the first place, but it seems like if they had pulled over when it happened, they would probably just need two new tires. Now, they almost certainly need at least two alloy wheels, and probably a bunch of suspension stuff and possibly an axle or two.

I don't know how they managed to keep driving for so long either. I blew out a tire once when I had the PT Cruiser, on a Baltimore City pothole, and just getting it around the corner and into the right lane was a challange. I can't imagine driving at speed, in a topheavy SUV, for a mile or two.

Maybe that needs to a new driver's test question - should you drive a vehicle with two flat tires?

9/11, five years and a day later...

So, yesterday was 9/11, five years after the attack.

I have to say, by yesterday, I was getting a little sick of the coverage. I feel bad to say that, because some of the ceremonies were well done, and because there are a whole lot of people who lost family members and friends on that day. And it is important that we remember it, and that we remember that there are people who would like to destroy the US and all that it stands for, who would like to kill anyone - people going to work, people going on vacation, kids, adults, whoever, just for being American.

But there's been so much pre- 9/11 coverage that it's been beaten down. And because the tragedy is no longer fresh, it's subject to the typical watered-down politicizing.

I'm saying that mostly because yesterday my boss had the TV that's in our office on and tuned into CSPAN. In typical CSPAN fashion, they were running clips of the ceremonies with call-in in between, and in typical call-in fashion, most of the callers were morons, wackjobs, and freaks.

I hate call-in shows, and talk radio and talk TV. I don't care about the opinion of the man on the street, especially since the man on the street who has time to call into a show probably doesn't have a job or a life or anything better to do. And th CSPAN callers were typical - a guy who thought the US could have prevented it (but didn't say how), a guy who thought it was misleading that Bush mentioned that Saddam funded suicide bombers because they were Palestinians (because clearly, terrorism is OK if you are killing Jews, and it's completely reasonable that Sadaam would have been pro-terrorism against Israel, but wouldn't think to support it's against the US, who he hated enough to try to have a former president assasinated), a Buddist who was annoyed that the ceremonies were primarily Christian and wishes people would stop being so angry (gee, I wonder what made them so angry?).

And on my way to class at night, I passed the "peace walk" - a bunch of hippies standing along Charles Street holding "peace is patriotic" and other slogans. (I firmly believe that any political philosophy that can fit on a bumper sticker is probably lacking).

So I think that's part of my annoyance with the day - it's become politics as usual. Instead of remembering what happened, the main response is to respond to the political occurances that have happened since. (And I have to admit I'm guilty of it too - at one point John Corzine, the NJ gov, was on TV reading names of the dead, and the first thing I though was "man, I can't stand that guy").

I think it's important to remember 9/11, especially as a reminder that we need to always be vigilant about terrorism, that it can happen any time, and that thousands died just for going about their lives on that day. When it happened, I thought America was going to turn into Israel, where acts of terror happened regularly, where going to the grocery store or getting a piece of pizza or getting on a bus could kill you. That didn't happen, and I think the fact that we've been vigilant has been much of the reason.

But I wish the day could just be a reminder of the tragedy, and not another day of the same things people have been saying for the last 5 years.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

wake up every morning and hop on the express, yellow line Q headed for a job with a desk...

I've been going to work for years, but the last week or so is the first time I've had a real commute.

In the past, I've had commutes, but I've always been going the opposite direction of everyone else, or I worked nights and drove at a different time as everyone else.

That changed. I moved to the suburbs a couple months ago, and now I'm driving from the White Marsh area to Baltimore City. It wasn't too bad during the summer, but now that school's started, it's gotten a lot less fun.

Part of this is because I work at a college, and come September, something annoying happens - a bunch of students come back and take up all the good parking spaces. And since the college will no longer recogize my truck as a "service vehicle", I actually have to park on the street, which means I need to get there early enough to get a spot. There is more traffic earlier, plus there is more traffic now that there are school busses and parents dropping kids off, so now my commute is longer. When I lived in the city and was driving against traffic, I could be at work in 12 minutes. During the summer, I could make it in 35. Now, it takes me an hour to get from my door to my cube.

I don't mind driving. But I hate sitting in traffic. It's frustrating because I'm sitting there, burning gas and using up the time that I have on this earth (which is already rather short thanks to my love of deep-fried cheese) sitting in my truck. It's annoying because I know that if it wasn't for the timing, i'd be there so much faster. When I drive back from the gym, or make the trip on a weekend, it takes me 20 minutes. But at rush hour, it takes me an hour- 3x as long. It's depressing, and makes me wish for more flexible work hours. (I've tried to convince my boss that he should let me come in early, which not only would probably involve less traffic but would also let me park closer to work on a nearby street, but he won't let me. I'm not sure why - I figure I can do nothing as well from 7:30 to 4 as from 8:30 to 5)(note to anyone in a management position at my organization reading this- that was a joke.)

I've been trying to find a faster way to get to work, but they all seem to take me about the same amount of time - I can shave off a minute here or there, or be on a longer but emptier road instead of a shorter, busier one that takes the same amount of time, but there is no secret way of getting there that takes half the time. This is pretty much what David Freidman talks about in his book Hidden Order. He pointed out that economics suggests that things will always go to their most efficient use - and that's why whatever traffic lane you are in is the busiest - because people keep switching lanes until there is equillibrium. The same happens with routes. I'm not the only person trying to find a new one, and they all pretty much wind up going into equillibrium.

Which means that I'll be spending lots of time in my truck, waiting.