mad anthony

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

Saturday, December 30, 2006

What I did on my winter vacation...

So, I spent the last week in NJ with the parents. I will be going back to Maryland early Monday morning (new year's day) and going back to work the next day.

I always have mixed feelings about being in NJ, and how much time I should spend there. Part of me feels that I should spend as much time as I can - I feel bad sometimes that I moved away after college, and that I haven't spent enough time with the parents. As they get older, I also know that they won't be around forever, and I don't want to feel guilty that I haven't spent enough time with them when it's too late. I'm already surprised to see them age, how they have trouble climbing stairs and the like. My dad's 65 and will probably be retiring in the next couple years, my mom is 64 and already retired.

At the same time, after a few days, I find myself looking forward to being by myself in Maryland. I have a RePlayTV full of shows I haven't watched, and a basement full of crap I need to clean out. I look forward to spending some time with the handful of friends and coworkers I hang out with, being able to listen to my own music blasting and keep my own schedule and routine. I have very set habits of what I do when, so a change in structure always leaves me a bit confused. I'm looking forward to going back to my old schedule, my old habits, and my own music - my brother has a part-time job at a local NJ Christian music station, and has been filling in all this week, so my 'rents have been blasting his music. He's a good DJ, but I really don't like the music - aside from making me ask the deep questions about my religious beliefs and faith that I prefer to push to the back of my head, much of the songs deal with death - another thing I prefer to push out of my mind - and they play the same songs over and over again.

And even though I like spending time with the parents, I sometimes find myself out of things to talk about - they are pretty set in their ways politically, and like to spend lots of time talking about relatives I don't really know and about their church.

But I have been pretty busy. In addition to the usual holiday stuff, I've done some shopping - I drove down to Westfield to the one Trader Joe's in NJ that sells Charles Shaw wine, and at the same time tested out my new Pharos Drivemate 135 GPS (it worked well). I went to two old navy stores and bought some pants. Tomorrow is supposed to be the day that Target Christmas clearance hits 75%, and I plan to be there early to stock up on car wax gift sets and the like. Post-Chrismtas sales in general have been disappointing, though.

I've also been trying to keep up with my exersize and diet, a process made difficult because 1) I'm surrounded by a ton of Christmas cookies and other home cooking that isn't exactly healthy and 2)my parents have a treadmill, but it kind of sucks. It's the Yugo of treadmills, with a slider instead of buttons to adjust how fast you are going, which makes it harder to specify what speed you are going. My 'rents also keep the basement rather warm and humid, so after a short time I'm covered with enough sweat to drown a small country. I've been able to put in an hour and a half most days (in bite-size 45 minute chunks) but I'm curious when I get back to my scale how much weight I've gained this holiday season.

I've also been doing a lot of reading. I had specifically ordered two books from Amazon before I left - PJ O'Rourkes retelling of The Wealth of Nations and The Underground Economy - but neither one came in before I left Maryland. Instead, I read Double Billing and half of Stiff before the libary called to let me know that the copy of William Easterly's book White Man's Burden that I had reserved with my mom's libary card was in. I picked up that and just finished reading it, and am about to start Army of Davids by Glenn Reynolds, author of the mega-blog instapundit.

White Man's Burden was an especially interesting read - the author is a former IMF economist who sees attempts to majorly change economies of poor countries as likely to fail, and feels that Searchers with a bottom-up approach are much more likely to find succesfull ways to deal with poverty than top-down planners, who try to solve all the problems at once instead of to solve individual problems one at a time.

I was debating about going back to Maryland on New Year's eve, because I feel lame spending New Year's Eve with the parents. I had plans to go to a local bar with a coworker, but it turned out that the bar was actually going to be closed (one of the problems of a local bar that caters mostly to a college crowd that is away on break, and that is run by a basically retired couple who do it more for a hobby than anything else). I didn't want to end up tagging along as a fifth wheel on other people's plans, so I figured I'd wait and drive back Monday. I am looking forward to going back - I'll miss the parents, the home cooking, and having enough time with nothing to do that I could read a 300-page book in a little over a day, but I'm also looking forward to my routine, and human contact with people I'm not related to.

The creative destruction of capitalism, or MadAnthony goes shopping...

I went shopping today, to Linens and Things to pick up a $4 AR/AC Black and Decker blender. Showing how effective loss leaders are, I also picked up an $8 clearanced wine rack to put the 3-buck chuck I'm smuggling back from the Westfield Trader Joe's on.

The LNT by my parents is in the Somerset Shopping Center, which is practically around the corner from the 'rents house where I grew up. It was very crowded, and as I made the cross-parking-lot treck to the store, I realized how pretty much every store that is in the mall used to be something else 20 years ago when I was growing up.

The Barnes and Noble used to be a Grand Union grocery store. The Lomanns' used to be Officemax, and before that Sears. The EMS Sports used to be a Strauss Discount Auto. The Linens and Things and a few other stores used to be Epstein's, a local department store with a couple locations. The Gap was a Kids R US, and before that an Acme supermarket. The FYE was a Pergament home improvement store. The Rite Aid was an RX Place, and before that a Woolworth's. There are a bunch of other stores where I can't even remember what was there before.

Most of these changes had more to do with chainwide failures than problems specific to the store - Grand Union went bankrupt, Officemax closed most of it's NJ stores, Sears moved away from small stores without softline departments to large mall stores. And some of the new additions reflect similar changes - the Gap is experimenting with cheaper non-mall stores, and specialty catagory killers like Linens and Things have taken to selling things that you used to buy at mass-merchadisers, creating whole new catagories.

There are a lot more places to buy stuff in Central NJ - another large shopping center, with a grocery store that replaced the two in the Somerset Shopping Center, is just around the traffic circle. Like the stores at Somerset, it's changed names 3 times and corporate parents twice, from Mayfair Foodtown to Edwards to Stop and Shop.

So should I feel a twinge of regret at these changes? Probably not. Indeed, much of these changes were because companies failed to make major changes to keep up with competitors or changes in the markets. I used to be a regular shopper at OfficeMax when I came up here to visit the parents - their customer service usually sucked, but they had great deals. Then they decided to not focus on price competition, got rid of rebates - and last year, while up for Easter, I visited their store closing sale (and later kicked myself for not buying more Pre-N network cards, having been able to flip the five I bought for around $40 profit each).

So capitalism marches on, delivering products closer to what consumers want - and stores change, bringing a touch of nostalgia. I guess 20 years from now I'll be looking at the shopping centers and malls around my new home in White Marsh, and pondering how much has changed since I moved there.

Monday, December 25, 2006

I fought the idea of law school, and I won...

So I was eating breakfast with my parents on Christmas morning, and my dad asks me "so, now that you almost have your MBA, are you going to go to law school?"

There's a little bit of background behind this. After graduation, I worked in a student position and then as a contractor before getting a job offer in DC - which I turned down after doing a dry run to DC and realizing I hated the city. I ended up moving back in with the 'rents, and tried to figure out what to do with my unemployed self. Law school seemed like a good option - 3 more years to put off getting a real job, the possibility of untold riches, and the chance to study legal theory. I took the obligatory legal environment of business class as an undergrad, and actually found it really interesting. Plus, the LSAT (the test to get into law school) involved no math, which meant I would probably do well on it - and way better than I would on the math-intensive GMAT for business school.

Forward a few months. I got a job offer working for my old college, and moved out of the 'rents house and back to Maryland. A few times, I found myself frustrated with my job and my life and thought "maybe I should do the law school thing". But then life and work got better, and I forgot about it

But a few months ago, I did something that kind of made the decision for me that law school would be a road untraveled - I bought a house. And thus, I lost the ability to just quit my job and take another path - instead of a decent amount of money in the bank, I now have a mortgage payment, and that means I can't pay the opportunity cost of three years without a job. (and yes, I arguably could sell the house, but I'd lose an assload of money - even without a softening real estate market, I'd lose all the transaction costs).

I guess if I really wanted to pursue a law degree, I could. UBaltimore, for example, has a night law school. But given how I felt like my MBA took a lot out of me - and that was at most two classes a semester, and not all that intensive classes - taking 4 law school classes at night seems impossible. I'm looking forward to getting done with class and spending more quality time reading, watching tv, doing stuff around the house. And unlike my MBA, I'd have to pay for law school, and I don't exactly have piles of money sitting around. If I could get it for free, I probably would do it, or at least try it, but it's not worth the investment of real money.

Why not? Because I don't really think I would actually want to be a lawyer. I guess I could probably do ok in business, writing stuff - I'm a decent writer (when I bother to use spellcheck) and I seem to have a more-than-average ability to tollerate mind-numbingly boring work (I spent two summers in the mail room of an insurance company in college, and the first time I trained my replacement we went through 3 people in one week, because the first two were bored after less than a day of work). But I don't really like people, or talking, and I don't think I would want to do trials of any kind, especially not criminal. Which is odd - I did mock trial and forensics in high schoo, and debate in college, but I've found myself not really liking to talk in public anymore - I've found the last couple classes where I've had to present I've been nervous and "ummed" way more than I would have liked to. I guess I'm getting rusty.

It's kind of ironic that this came up now, as I just started reading "double billing" (there's a link on the side under "current read". It's one of several books I bought in the last few months because the title or review was on a website or blog I read and sounded interesting, but up until now I haven't had a chance to read. I'm only a couple chapters in. It's an interesting read, because it's always kind of interesting to read of people with other jobs, other careers, other lives, to see what paths other people have traveled and to wonder what my life would be like if luck or fate or choices had turned me to take those paths instead of the path I ended up on. But working until midnight, going through piles of paper, playing office politics, and having to wear a suit all day don't really sound like my cup of tea, even if making piles of money does. I have a lifestyle that encompasses much of what I want, and I have a reasonable work-life balance (plus I can wear jeans to work). I don't think the few things I want more financially, or the self-fullfilment of an illustrious career, are worth giving up 3 years salary plus the cost of law school for.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Aint nobody dope as me... so fresh and so clean clean...

So I could have left for New Jersey yesterday or today, but I'm waiting until tomorrow morning. So why did I want to stay in Baltimore for that extra day? Wild Christmas parties? Exploring the nightlife of White Marsh (which, as far as I can tell, consists of the TGI Friday's by Ikea)?

Nope. I set aside today to do something I haven't done in a long time - clean.

See, for the last 6 months or so since I moved in, I've looked at the mess around me and said "well, I don't have time, I'm too busy with class/work/hustlin' to do any cleaning. I'll get to that when things are quieter".

The problem with making excuses is eventually you run out. And today it did. Plus I figured it would be nice to come home next week to a clean house and to be able to invite friends over without hoping they don't ask to use the bathroom.

So today was the someday I finally cleaned. I decrudded the master bath, which had gotten to the point where gas station bathrooms were a standard of cleanliness for it to aspire to. I scraped the disturbing brown ring that had built up in the toilets in the other two bathrooms, which I never use. I vacumed. I did about 6 loads of laundry. I carried ski boots into the basement, since I closed my ebay ski boot store last week. I cleaned out the closets in my bedroom, shoving a ton of XXL shirts that are too big for me into boxes while I try to figure out if I should donate them to goodwill, have a yard sale, or keep them out of a fear that the day I get rid of them will be the day I'll gain 90 pounds and need them again. (It's also made me realize that this whole losing weight thing is costly - and not just the gym membership and better food. I had a bunch of shirts I really liked that I've aquired over the years, and now I need to start over. I've been trying to stop in any Old Navy I pass at any chance I get, to scour the clearance racks. But I guess it's better to be a slightly oveweight guy who has to keep wearing the same couple shirts over and over again than a morbidly obese guy with a closetful of cool threads).

The house looks way better, and I'm proud of it. That isn't to say I'm going to be featured in Better Homes and Gardens anytime soon. In fact, most people would say it's a mess. But for me it's an improvement.

My next big project is going to have to be tackle the basement. About 2/3 of my basement is a storage/laundry room that I've pretty much just dumped stuff I don't know what to do with in, and I need to bring some order to it. I'm dreading it - it's wall to wall boxes, many of which are stuff I never unpacked when I moved. Much of it is the kind of stuff I probably never should have moved in the first place, but now that it's in my house I figure there must have been a reason I kept it - so now I need to figure out what to do with it.

And that's not it. My office (aka the second bedroom) also needs a ton of work. I've got piles of stuff that I'm dragging to two hamfests at the end of January, so hopefully some of that will be converted to money. My dining room still has piles of painting supplies in the corner, and I still need to buy a dining room table, the one piece of furniture I haven't purchased yet (mostly because I eat my meals either in front of the TV or at my desk in front of the PC). And I still need to bug bsom to finish rewiring my house (we did get a new motion detector light installed outside and a broken ceiling fan switch done last weekend - and by "we" I mean he did all the work and I occasionally handed him a screwdriver (which is why as a joke he got me a toy "my first craftsman tool set" for Christmas).

But for now, my house looks the best it has since I moved in - and to keep it that way, I'm leaving for the next 10 days. So at least it will remain clean for the next, oh, 11 days.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Well, that's done (for the rest of the year, anyway)...

Yesterday night was my last day of my next-to-last MBA class. We got out at 8, which was nice. I have one more class to take next semester, and then I'm

When I first started the MBA program, I had big dreams - I was going to learn all sorts of skills, network with all kinds of people, maybe even meet some girls.

Now, I'm just looking forward to getting my piece of paper and being done. Not that I haven't learned stuff, and I've met some cool people. But I've also come to realize I probably won't be going anywhere career-wise, and I'm looking forward to having a little more free time to concentrate on things like going to the gym and doing stuff around the house.

And while there are some amazing-looking girls in some of my classes, they are all married. It seems like most people have gotten their life ducks in a row before doing the MBA thing, while I put most of my energy into getting through the MBA thing and buying my house, and not so much on the personal life side.

So I celebrated last night by coming home and opening a carton of eggnog and a bottle of Baccardi. I had a godawful stomach ache this morning, which was probably related to the quart or so of 'nog that I downed, not to mention the half-pound of Christmas Cookies.

And today was the last day of work for the year. One of the perks of working for a college is that we get stupid amounts of days off - I'm off until January 2nd. We got out early today - school closed at 2.

I'm planning to stay in Maryland until Christmas Eve, then drive up to NJ. I'll probably head back to Maryland either New Years Eve or New Year's Day - I'm still trying to figure out what I'm doing NYE, if anything. I figure I can use the next 36 hours to do all the stuff I've put off doing over the last semester, like cleaning my house - I think there may be mushrooms growing in my toilet, and my bedroom floor looks like a shoe store exploded.

I do hope to put up a few new year's resolution/ year in review posts in the next week or so....

Friday, December 15, 2006

FedEx Ground plus CompUSA... my personal axis of evil..

So back in September, CompUSA had this great deal going. They had a router for $10 after rebate, with a whole shitload of stuff free - a bluetooth headset, a print server, a modem, and some software. So I showed up at the store right when they opened - to find out that half the stuff wasn't even in stock.

So a few days later, CompUSA changed the rebate so you could sub a different bluetooth headset. So I ordered all the crap. I had the stuff shipped to work, out of force of habit - I used to live in the middle of Baltimore city and got in the habit of having stuff shipped home so the crackheads in my neigborhood would't steal it and sell it for a vial.

So a few days later I get an email that they couldn't ship my order because the billing address didn't match the shipping address, so I needed to either call my credit card company and email them, or email them and have them send it to my billing address. I do the latter. A few days later I get another email saying it was still on hold. So I call Amex, then email compusa. A few days later, they ship two of the five items. I keep waiting for the other 3 but they never come, and the rebates expired. So I was still able to send for the software rebate (with some help from a UPC database - it required a copy of the router UPC) and figured I'd eat the cost of the print server. I use the little form on Compusa's website to cancel the rest of the order, and while I'm disappointed to not get the deal, I'm only out $25 for the print server, and I can probably sell it and get part of that back. I figure I'm done with this.

Until I get an email at the end of November that they were shipping my order, the order I thought I had cancelled two months earlier. So I end up having to call and get an RMA to return it. Luckily, the woman is pretty good about it.

So a few weeks later, compusa has another decent deal - eHome router and network card, free after rebate. Great hamfest fodder. I figure I'll pay the $5 for shipping, and this time I'm smart - I have it shipped to my house. None of that crap about billing address not matching shipping address this time.

So last Thursday I come home around 9:30 from my night MBA class to find a FexEX Ground tag on my door. There is a check on the box suggesting that the package was left at the apartment office - which is odd, because I live in a townhouse that I own and thus don't have an apartment office. The check is above "left with neighbor" and an L, though, so I figure maybe they left it with my neigbors on the left - who are drunk college students, but that's besides the point.

So the next day, I roll back from my traditional Friday dinner at Field's to find another tag. Call FedEX saturday morning. I can't have them send the package to work - that can only be done at the request of the sender, ie Compusa (who is closed on Saturday). I already had plans for the day, so I go tour the clipper city brewery with bsom and then hit the Patapsaco Flea Market, since we're right around the corner. And come home to another door tag.

I call FedEx ground on Monday. They will hold the package for 10 days, but I can't pick it up until Tuesday and I should call back to make sure they are holding it. So I call back Tuesday, and they tell me I can pick it up - in Dundalk, and they are only open until 5pm.

So finally today I used my lunch break to drive down to Portal Street, convinently located near several check cashing and fried chicken outlets, to pick up my package. I ended up spending $4 in tolls, getting there and back, plus gas and wear and tear on the truck. The irony is that the items I was going to buy were $10 cheaper online than instore, but I had to pay $5 shipping. So with the costs of picking up the package, it would have been cheaper and easier just to drive to the damn store.

Do I think CompUSA or FedEX are evil? Not really. I do think they managed to have a perfect storm of policies that made things very inconvinient, however. I understand the billing + shipping thing, as credit card thieves will often have stuff ordered with a stolen card shipped to a different address. However, CompUSA managed to lose two emails from me, which suggests that could use a little work. More importantly, it's stupid of CompUSA to require a signature IN PERSON for $100 worth of shitty home networking equiptment. At least let me sign the little signature release form and leave it on my door if I want to - I asked FedEX when I called them if I could do this and they said that CompUSA forbid it, that it had to be an in-person sig. See, lots of people have these things called jobs, that they go to so they can have money to buy stuff online, and thus can't sit around waiting for the fedex dude to drop by. It took me almost an hour and a half to drive to and from the FexEX depot, plus tolls - which is exactly what I hope to avoid by buying stuff online.

The other thing that annoyed me about FedEX was that I couldn't reroute the package - I've done that in the past online with UPS packages - had them shipped to work. I understand that FedEX doesn't want people stealing door tags and rerouting packages willy-nilly to themselves, but like the credit card billing thing, it's a pain for legitimate consumers who aren't home to receive signature-required packages.

I do have to admit that everyone I dealt with at FedEX and CompUSA for both these issues was pleasant and cheerful, and I wasn't on hold with either company. The person I picked the package up from was pleasant and fast as well. Still, if things had gone the way they should have, I wouldn't have had to talk to any of them.

Scenes from work, I need a girl edition...

female coworker: So, have you fixed the carpet in your basement yet?

Mad Anthony: No. Because I still need to get my air conditioner replaced so it doesn't leak all over the carpet. Maybe this spring.

female coworker: You need a women in your life to kick your ass.

Mad Anthony: Among other things.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Trying to find something I like about winter....

As a kid, I don't really remember caring much about the difference between seasons. Heck, as a college student (except for my senior year, when I worked for the college) I didn't really like the summers, because I spent them living with the 'rents and temping for an insurance company, and looked forward to going back to being away, and drunk. But now that I'm an adult, with a house and a commute, I find myself hating the cold weather.

Some of the reasons I don't like winter have less to do with the weather and more to do with external factors - for example, I work for a college, so parking is way easier in the summer when there aren't a ton of students around, and things are slower and more relaxed in general.

But a lot of the things are directly related to the cold. I like to drive with my windows down, and that doesn't work when it's 20 out. I hate having to bring an extra change of clothes to the gym. I can't stand how my hands get chapped and bleed when it's cold out, or how my allergies go nuts from indoor dust, or how the static electricty builds in my house to the point where I've rebooted my Logitech Harmony remote by touching it and causing an electric shock. I don't like scraping frost off my truck, or having to wait for the to get warm enough for the heat to work.

So by now, if you are still reading this incoherent rant, you are probably wondering about the something I like part in the title. Well, a few days ago I opened up a can of Trader Joe's Winter Blend coffee - a seasonal coffee that they make with chunks of clove, cinnamon, and peppercorn. It tastes really good, and it smells even better. Something about breathing in the smell, especially on a weekend morning, makes me feel good. So I started to think that there are a few things I like about this time of year.

Continuing the coffee meme, I also enjoy the Starbucks pepermint lattes that they offer this time of year - one of the few good seasonal drinks, compared to the rather gross pumpkin lattes.

And there's thanksgiving and Christmas - paid time off from work, time with family and friends, good food, ect. There are the Black Friday sales. There is the relief of being done with the semester's work (I have one presentation and a short paper due, and I'll be done in a week). My tradition after finals has been to get drunk off Rum-laced eggnog after the last final, and I look forward to that in a week's time.

And this Christmas, with Google Checkout/ FAR deals, I have a pile of free and nearly-free stuff that I'll be selling off at the next couple Hamfests, plus a couple things from the newegg/paypal free shipping coupon.

But the best thing about winter is that it ends. See, I don't really appreciate summer as much during the summer, because I've forgotten how much the winter sucks. But come March, when it starts to get warm, when the cute coeds at work start swapping bubblegoose jackets and uggs for shorts and halter tops, when the leaves start blooming and the grass starts growing and I can roll down the windows of the Ranger and feel the breeze blow while I bump gangsta rap, I feel good, because things are changing for the better. Without pain, pleasure isn't as good, and without the winter, spring and summer aren't as fun.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Things you never want to seen made: laws, sausages, HOA bylaws...

So tonight was the homeowner's association meeting and Christmas party for the HOA for the community I bought my townhouse in a couple months ago. It was an, umm, interesting experience.

First of all, trying to understand what's going on, the politics of a new place that you've never been involved in, is like being plopped in the middle of a country you've never been to and being expected to vote in the election. Imagine if you were plopped in some random South American or African country and expected to know what was going on with politics, with only the rumors of random people on the street to try to figure out what's going on. Well, that was tonight.

Evidently, there was some bad blood between the acting president and one of the other people who live on my court - during the meeting, the guy accused the president of having spent time in jail, being responsbile for a fire, and not cleaning up after his dog. Acting president responded by pointing out that said guy wasn't actually on the deed to his house, and thus the resolution that he had gotten passed was not valid.

What made the meeting kind of pointless was that if a resolution got to a vote, it passed no matter what the people at the meeting voted - because if someone is not at the meeting, it counts as a yea vote. Out of the 94 houses, 13 houses were represented, so it was kind of an exersize in futility.

It also made me want to never serve- at one point the treasurer asked me if I wanted to volunteer for a position, and I think the look of horror on my face was pretty apparent. I wasn't planning on volunteering for anything this year - I want to get my MBA wrapped up before I put anything more on my plate - but I thought it might be something I would want to do in the future. But having people accuse me of stuff at meetings, having people call me at all hours of the day about illegally parked cars, and all the other stuff that board members have to deal with doesn't sound like my idea of fun.

Will I go to the next board meeting? Probably, if I don't have anything else better to do. It's a good idea to know your neigbors, even if some of them seem a little, um, interesting. Plus there was free food. But what they've said about laws - like sausages, they are something you don't want to see be made - applies to homeowner's association meetings too.

Scenes from the clipper city brewery tour

bsom: So, do you feel wierd drinking at 1:00 in the afternoon?

Mad Anthony: Not really.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

a job versus a career...

So one of the mba classes I'm taking this semester is taking is called Improving Self-Efficacy and deals partly with how to be a more effective leader. Part of that includes working on your career - on improving your role in your organization. The professor pointed out that statistics show most people change jobs an average of every two years - and that if you aren't moving up in your organization, you should take your talents elsewhere where you can move up.

I'm not going anywhere where I work. That's not to say I haven't moved - night helpdesk to day helpdesk to desktop support. But I'm unlikely to go anywhere else anytime soon. I have an ongoing joke with my manager every time he buys something new, like his boat or his new BMW 650, that if he keeps spending money he's never going to retire and I'll never get his job. But there is no guarentee that I'll get his job when he does retire, or even that his position will exist and not be restructured.

But I think I'm OK with that. Sure, it would be nice to move up, and get the warm fuzzy feeling of accomplishment, the chance to have a positive effect on people, and some more money. But there is something nice about having limited responsibility, and while I'm not rich, I make enough to pay my mortgage and my truck payment and still buy food.

And there are a lot of good things about my job. I get to play with cool toys - I have a P4 and a G5 on my desk at work, both with 20" flat panel monitors (the closest I'll probably ever get to having twenties), a work owned macbook, and a blackberry. I get to spend my time solving problems, tinkering with computers, and occasionally rolling around in a golf cart. I have a kick-ass retirement plan and work with some cool people.

There is another reason I'm not big on changing jobs or careers -I suck at interviews. I interviewed a bunch around and after graduating college, but none of them worked out. I ended up working for my college, where I had worked as a student. I did have a phone interview, but it was the fact that I'd worked there as an undergrad that got me the job. The fact is, I'm not a big fan of myself, and thus have a hard time with interviews. I'm not really sure why anyone would hire me, so it's pretty hard for me to convince someone I should.

I often complain about the crushing lonliness of being single. But I guess it's a good thing in that I don't have anyone to answer to, anyone to support, so as long as I make enough to support myself I'm content. That isn't to say I don't sometimes think it would be cool to have a sports car or a bigger house with a garage or a bathroom with that fancy italian marble like they show on the HGTV. And I'm tight with a buck - I try to save money whenever I can, and I'm always looking for extra income via eBay and other means. But I guess I'm not money-hungry enough to jump ship anytime soon.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

I think I'm a compulsive shopper...

So, one of the fun things about the internet is that you can buy stuff anytime, anywhere. The disadvantage is you can find yourself spending money on all kinds of stupid shit you don't really need... at low, low prices.

Usually I'm pretty good about controling my spending, and most of the time I buy stuff that I'm either a)looking for anyway b)not looking for but can use or c) can resell at a profit. I've bought stuff from pretty much every catagory online - food, clothing, electronics, ect.

One impulse purchase I made before Thanksgiving was a Pharos GPS from Dell. It was around $140 after coupons and rebate, and is supposed to have one of the best chipsets around. I haven't gotten it yet - it's supposed to ship 12/11. On one hand, it will be a fun toy to play with, and it may come in handy come spring, when I tend to go to lots of yard sales. While I usually go with a yard-sale buddy, which makes naviation easier, we still often miss streets and the like. But I certainly could live without a GPS - beyond yard sales, I pretty much drive to work and back, and I know the way- and given my financial situation, I may regret it come the next credit card billing cycle.

But for the king of impulse purchases I don't need, I bought 5 pairs of shoes. That was because of this deal - I didn't buy the ones linked in the first post, but rather 5 other pairs of Sketchers for a total of $59.50. That works out to about $12 a pair, which I think is hella cheap for brand-name casual shoes. My workplace is super casual, so I can get away with wearing sneakerlike shoes to work. But I don't need another pair of shoes, let alone 5 - I have a ton thanks to various saturday sales, Kohl's 50% off red tag clearance (the pair of nss skate shoes I'm wearing now cost $2 from Kohl's) and the clearance section of DSW Shoes.

But I guess it's not that bad - many people spend $60 on one pair of shoes, and I do occasionally get compliments on my kicks. I guess I've always liked to buy shoes, because for much of my life I've been fat, and lots of trendy clothing doesn't come in size fatass... so if I want to wear something cool, my feet were usually about the only place I could pimp out.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Shut up already....

Instapundit's Glenn Reynolds has a column on noisy devices that hits close to home.

I have an over-the-range microwave that nags me like this. If you don't open the door or hit stop after your food is done, it keeps beeping at you until you do one of those things. The one at my parent's house is even worse - it will nag you midway through the cycle to beep and display a message that says to "turn food over" - unnecessary for most things and downright dangerous if you are making, say, soup.

That isn't to say that dings aren't useful in some applications - I'm greatful my truck will ding and let me know I left the headlights on, saving me the hassle of a dead battery. But when it's information I know and don't care about, like that my bowl of previously frozen terriaki-flavored chicken has been sitting in the microwave for 30 seconds, it's annoying.

This brings me to another pet peeve - web pages that play music. I constantly make fun of my boss, who loves putting stuff in the backround of his website. Considering the number of people who surf from work and probably shouldn't be, anything that autoplays on a webpage is a bad idea. Sure, it was great in 1997, when it seemed like a novel concept, but not anymore. For example, I check a local realty site pretty much daily, to see what other houses are for sale in my development and to remind myself what an idiot I was to buy at the top of the market. If I don't remember to mute my volume, I get odd looks from coworkers thanks to their music.

When using a device or a website, I just want it to do what I want it to do - no song or dance, no nagging me about something I don't need to know.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

You are richer than you think, and you probably don't realize why...

Via a link in the off topic section of fatwallet comes an interesting article on the world's wealth, based on a study by the UN.

There are some interesting stats in the article - it takes $500,000 in assets to be among the world's 1% wealthiest, $61,000 to be among the top 10% in the world, and the average American has around $143,000 in assets. But 50%

Reading the article, with it's giant quote from a Canadian economist about how global income inequality is rising and it's heading that 40% of the world's weath is owned by 1% of the population, you would get the idea that the US and global capitalism is responsible for the income inequalities. The quote in the big pink box misses the second half of the economist's quote, which isn't really gone into:

here is a whole group of problems in developing countries that make it difficult for people to build up assets, which are important, since life is so precarious," Davies said.

Very true. And that issue isn't private property or capitalism - it's a lack of private property, without which capitalism can't work. Hernando Desoto has written an interesting book about this subject. Much of the reason many African and South American countries don't have much wealth is that they don't have a good system of private property in relationship to land ownership. People don't get deeds or titles to their land, and that means that they don't really own the land under their dwelling. If you don't own the land under your house, and don't know who does (unlike, say, Baltimore's ground rent system, where you do know), you aren't going to dump money into, say, granite countertops, because you don't have title to the house and can't really sell it. More importantly, you can't use it as equity - lots of people in the US have taken out HEL's and HELOC's - loans against the equity in their homes. If you don't have a title, you can't use that equity, and that means you can't use money for things like education or starting a business.

DeSoto also points out in his book how hard it is to open a business legally in many countries, because of the regulation, the steps you need to go through, the people you need to pay off to get permits. That is another thing that blocks success in other countries.

So I think the UN Study tells us a lot about countries. It's no accident that the countries with strong systems of property rights have the most wealth. It's a shame the article didn't go into it, but instead leaves the average reader feeling like Americans probably got their wealth through global explotation, on the backs of poorer countries.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Stupid sale, I mean super sale...

So on Friday, over dinner at Field's, I had the following conversation with coworker and former housemate bsom:

bsom: So, our old landlord saw an ad on TV for a Supersale at the Timonium fairgrounds and wants to go tomorrow in the hopes of scoring a cheap laptop.

mad anthony: Doesn't he realize that it's all a scam? That it's like store returns and stuff that fell off the back of a trash truck?

bsom: I told him that. He wouldn't listen. So wanna go?

So, the next day, fortified by a Chick-fil-a chicken biscuit, we trecked to the fairgrounds. I knew that there wouldn't be any $199 laptops, and if there were they would be worth about fidy cent. But I figured it would be entertaining, like watching a car accident. And, aside from a paper for my night MBA class that was due Monday and hadn't been started, I didn't have anything else to do. And I was planning on going to CMART that day anyway, and bsom was interested since one of their buyouts was of a gourmet supermarket, and "stuff in jars is often tasty". (My main reason for going was that they had bought out the inventory of a cigar shop that got hit by an ambulance).

So the super sale was everything I expected, and less. The cheapest laptop they had was $399. It was an old IBM P3 with a 60 gig hard drive but (i think) only 64mb RAM. And it was running Windows ME. And it didn't have a network card. And the price didn't include the power adapter or an optical drive. Other interesting things that the computer vendor had included a rack of 5-year old IBM flat panels (the white ones with the huge bezel) for $69. We had a couple here at work, all of which have died, and the picture quality was horrible - and you can often find 15" flat panels on sale for $99 or less NEW. They also had a bunch of Vizeo LCD TV's - all of which had "guarenteed no bright pixels" crossed out on the box - which suggests they probably were all returned with bright pixels.

There was only one vendor selling computer stuff. The rest was pretty much a giant flea market - bootleg (i assume) sneakers at prices that were higher than the real thing, fake designer purses, fake cologne, car wax and floor cleaner with impressive demonstrations, "tobacco pipes", cheap knives, cheaper toys, bootleg mixtape cd's, and 1500 watt car amps.

The worst part about it was that they charge you $7 to get in. It did make me feel pretty good about my deal hunting though, considering how much people were paying for total crap there when I knew I could get better stuff way cheaper.

CMart was cool, though - I got a couple food items cheap (including something in a jar) and a couple tins of small cigars - a pack of Panters, the cigar of choice of Lileks, a pack of Nat Shermans and a tin of CAO mint ice cream and mango flavored cigars that I've been meaning to try but was too cheap to pay cigarbid/cigars international prices for. I haven't smoked much in a while, but I once it gets warmer I figure I might enjoy a cigar outside on the deck every now and again.

So that was my weekend. Although I did eventually write that paper (10 hours of procrastination and 2 hours of actual work). It's possibly the worst thing I've ever written. Which I said about my last paper for the class and I got an A, so hopefully that will happen again.

Scenes from work, doctor who? edition....

Coworker: I've got to leave now. I've got a doctor's appointment.

Mad Anthony: Gee, I didn't realize that terminal ugliness was treatable.

Mad Anthony: Owww. Please don't hurt me....

Scenes from work, deez nuts edition...

Coworker (reading from the back of a bag of trail mix). Warning! Do not give nuts to children under 6.

Mad Anthony: Yup, I think giving nuts to a 5 year old is considered statuatory rape in every state.