mad anthony

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

Sunday, September 28, 2008

My one beef with the bailout...

So evidently congress has come up with a compromise bailout bill. Most of it isn't surprising, and I can't really find fault with most of it. I'm certainly not psyched by the thought of the government buying tons of debt, but I figure it beats a total collapse of the credit markets.

But I do have one problem with it - part of it includes The federal government may stall foreclosure proceedings on home loans purchased under the plan. Great.

This seems unfair on a number of levels. First of all, it is essentially arbitrary welfare. If you are a homeowner in default, and your mortgage happened to be bundled into a security that the government eventually bought at auction as part of the bailout plan, you get to live in your house rent-free, on the taxpayer. If you are a homeowner in default, and a bank didn't sell your mortgage to the government, than have fun watching your stuff get carried to the curb. More importantly, if you are a responsible homeowner, who made sure when they bought a house that they could afford it, who is making the payments on their mortgage even though it's putting a big crunch on their financial budget, you get nothing, while your deadbeat neighbor gets to live for free on the government's dime - that is, your dime. Responsibility gets punished, sloth gets rewarded. Up is down, black is white.

Yes, there are probably a few people who are getting foreclosed on because of circumstances beyond their control - job loss, health problems, ect. That's unfortunate, but it's something that is part of life, and has happened for a long time, and the government hasn't done anything about it before. Even if we want to bail these people out, randomly picking people whose mortgages are bought at auction isn't the way to do it.

My guess is at least some of the people who get to live rent-free on the government were flippers who flopped or people who lied on their mortgage apps. It's great that these people get rewarded, while honest people who lived within their means don't.

And there is one other reason to not like this proposal. The government has defended the bailout by saying that it could eventually make a profit, by pointing out that the Resolution Trust Corporation made a profit after the Savings and Loan scandal - that the government can buy mortgage-backed securities cheap while the credit market is shaky and resell them when confidence has been restored. Well, part of making a profit is cleaning up portfolios and getting as much out of them as possible. That means moving on foreclosures, on getting deadbeats out of their homes, and the homes resold as quickly as possible for cash. Not foreclosing on non-paying homeowners, and instead letting them live rent-free, is exactly how NOT to make a profit.

The other thing I'm wondering is how transparent the process is - will a homeowner whose mortgage gets sold to the government know that it has been sold? Because if so, this sounds like a disaster waiting to happen. If homeowners know that the government holds their mortgage, and that the government will not foreclose on them if they don't pay, they have every incentive not to pay - why pay if they can live for free?

The next few years are going to be very interesting for the financial and real estate market, and I mean that in a bad way.


In a comment a recent post, a poster commented that maybe I should splurge a little more and stop being so cheap.

The funny thing is, I actually have let myself buy a couple "nice" things that I normally wouldn't buy. I recently bought a North Face fleece and a North Face Denali jacket, even though most of my wardrobe is usually from the clearance section of Old Navy. Spending $80 on a jacket was hard for me, since my last one was $20, but it is a really nice jacket, and I kind of feel a little better wearing it. And it was half of what it normally costs, since it was a discontinued color.

I also just bought a new iPod. I currently have a refurbed brown Zune. I love the hardware - it's got a great display and a good interface - but the software is horrible. When I sync it, it will randomly delete songs off the player, and I can't get them back on. I've actually found myself dreading when I acquire new music, because I don't know if I'm going to be able to easily get it onto my device. So I bought one of the refurbed black previous-generation iPod Classic 80 gigs from the Apple Store online for $160, plus $60 for AppleCare (because I know the battery will need to be replaced in the next three years). But this won't set me back all that much - I looked on eBay, and used Zunes actually go for ~$100 (and I have a bunch of accessories, including the travel kit, with mine) - not bad, since I paid $95 shipped and used it for a year. I also have an old 20 gig 4th-gen iPod that I use as a removable hard drive, and since the new iPod will take the place of both of those, that can go on eBay and fetch $50 or so.

I've been splurging in smaller ways as well. I haven't been as frugal when grocery shopping - I can't remember the last time I brought coupons with me, and I've bought stuff I've wanted even when it wasn't on sale. I've been stopping at Starbucks more than usual, too.

The reason that I've let myself go financially is that I've worked a shitload of overtime in the last month or so - my last paycheck had over 50 hours of OT on it. The next one won't have as much, but I do have a few projects at work that will probably make me put in a decent amount more. So I'm doing OK money-wise.

But I also have financial goals that are much bigger than a new iPod. When I bought Casa De Mad, I could only put 10% down, which means I'm paying PMI - Private Mortgage Insurance - which means I'm spending $80 a month on something that doesn't get me anything. (Annoyingly, if I'd bought my house in 2007 instead of 2006, it would have been tax-deductible). So I'd like to get that paid off, and that's going to take around $20,000, which means I should be putting as much money as possible to that. I also would like to have enough in savings to have a cushion for small surprise expenses (I do have an emergency fund - about 3 months salary - parked in a hard-to-get-to internet bank - if I ever get laid off or the like). I also have some other expenses coming up - I need dental work (but have been putting off a dentist visit), new glasses, and some work on my house - I'm getting angry letters from my homeowner's association about the condition of my soffits.

So I've had my fun, but I really need to get back to throwing every available dollar back into savings if I want to meet my financial goals.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

madanthony goes to a gun auction, returns damp, gun-less...

A few days ago I snuck out at lunchtime at work to go to an auction of an isoldit ebay store that went out of business. The only thing I bought was 5 plastic storage tubs (for $2.50 a piece), but I also returned with a flier for a gun auction that was taking place today. I gave it to a coworker of mine who is a weapons enthusiast, and we decided to go.

We parked where we thought the auction was, next to the grandstands at the Timonium fairgrounds. Then we discovered that the actual auction was in another building on the other side of the grandstands.

They had quite a few guns. I've toyed with the idea of buying a gun of my own, even though I've only shot a few times and am not terribly good at it. What I'm after is a 22-caliber pistol, like a Sig Mosquito - cheap ammo, easy to handle. The bulk of the guns there were rifles. They only had two .22's - a Smith and Wesson revolver that went for $300 (more than I was willing to pay) and a target pistol that went for ~$400. I only bid on one lot - some saturday night special .32 that started out at $10 - but dropped out, and it sold for ~$40 - probably not a horrible price, but by the time I pay the $30 FFL fee, for a gun I didn't really want, it didn't make sense.

There were a number of sales where my coworker (who also bid on a couple lots, but didn't win any) went "wow, they got a good deal". I don't know enough about guns or gun pricing to really make any judgments of my own. Buying a gun at auction probably makes more sense if you are someone with a big gun collection than if you are a first-time buyer than me, and this auction was great if you like rifles, not so much if you like pistols.

I would go again - and I'm hoping that the next one includes the estate of someone with a big handgun collection.

I did buy one thing - a soft rifle case that went for a buck. I'm hoping it has some eBay value. It's still sitting in my truck, so I haven't had a chance to look it up.

As far as being damp, we discovered the problem of parking far away - it started pouring during the auction, and by the time we walked back to my coworker's Mustang, I had water in places I didn't know you could get water in.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Debate aftermath...

So, it's Friday night. What did madanthony spend his Friday night doing?

Well, I was up in my home office, with the debate on the smaller of my two monitors via my USB TV tuner, a Lenovo ThinkPad on my lap that I'm creating an image for for work, and VodkaPundit's Drunkblog on the bigger screen.

As most of you can guess, I'm a McCain fan. He's not my perfect candidate, but I think he's a little closer to small, limited intervention government.

I didn't think it started off well, when they looked at domestic issues. I hated that they both kept talking about poor homeowners who couldn't pay their mortgages (because they bought more house than they should have) and blaming corporate greed. I also didn't think McCain did a great job of responding to his attacks on small government and, while he was certainly effective at reminding people of his work cutting pork, he should have done a better job defending lower taxes and the free market.

But once they got off the bailout and into foreign policy, I thought McCain did awesome. He made Obama look bad on a few things - his talk of sitting down with the president of Iran, his initial response to Russia's attack on Georgia. He also did a great job of pointing out how much foreign policy experience he has, how much he traveled, ect. I've got the Fox News post-election spin on, and they are talking about how Obama is spinning McCain's experience as showing that he's not about change and claiming it helps him - which I don't believe, but it also kills any attacks on Palin's lack of experience.

Anyway, I thought McCain did well, especially at the end, but I think he's going to need to brush up on his domestic stuff before the next one - and to not spend all the time talking about pork, but instead deal with taxes and small government.

Caught between a rock and a hard, crunchy credit crunch...

A number of people, who know I tend to have strong opinions politically, especially about financial and economic issues (I was an econ minor as an undergrad) have been asking me what I think of the proposed bailout/buyout. And I don't really have a good answer.

I'm leaning towards "necessary evil", as there does seem to be a lot of evidence suggesting that without some sort of assurance that money will eventually be repaid, nobody is willing to buy any form of debt. Without people willing to buy that debt - be it corporate bond issues or complex financial instruments that include things like home mortgages - the economy pretty much grinds to a halt. Businesses can't finance expansion, or normal operations, people can't buy houses, which means people can't sell houses, and eventually nobody can borrow. As much as people like to paint debt as evil - and it can be if used the wrong way - it also runs our economy, and is necessary to purchase pretty much any large item.

I don't like the idea of the government getting more heavily involved in the credit markets, and I don't like the idea of bailing out people who made poor choices, even if those choices seemed rational at the time. I also don't like the fact that whatever bailout bill is passed will have all kinds of stupid shit attached to it. And I especially don't like the talk of making sure any bailout bill includes help for poor, struggling homeowners who bought too much house, didn't read the fine print, and now can't pay their mortgage - I feel like people like myself - who have taken a hit in housing value, but are still paying their mortgage, are getting screwed for being responsible.

But at the same time, I don't like the idea of a massive collapse of the credit market, and I don't have any better thoughts on how to prevent it.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Let's make a baby, baby please...

Last week I got to go over bsom's house and see his and t's new son, Ian. I don't know if I've ever seen a baby that young before - I was all like "he's so tiny" and they were all like "actually, he's big for his age".

Having a close friend have a child, plus seeing many of my coworkers and people I knew from high school and college, has made madanthony think about kids a lot. My general thought on children has been that I probably should avoid them, because I'm not sure I should be responsible for another living thing, at least not one as fragile as a child. I did, after all, once accidentally shut my cat between the front door and the screen door - I frantically searched the house for her, before tracking her panicked meows to the front door.

But on the other hand, there are a number of people I never thought of as being able to raise a gerbil, let alone a child, who have become parents in the last few years and seem to be doing quite well. So maybe I'd do OK.

And there is something cool about the idea of kids - the idea of leaving someone behind on the earth after you are gone to hopefully, in some way, make the world a better place. When I look at how my parents raised me, there are a lot of things I would like to be able to do for a next generation, lots of traditions I would love to pass on. There are also a lot of things I would do differently - my parents were very overprotective, and I think it's contributed to my insecurity, my shyness, my lack of a sense of adventure or willingness to take risks.

But the whole kid thing is probably academic anyway - given my, well, unwillingness to take risks, I'm single, and don't see that changing anytime soon. So unless something drastically changes in my life, I doubt there will ever be a mini-mad.

There are some TV shows I hate to admit I watch...

I generally have a simple formula for what I like in a TV show. Usually, it's boobies and shit blowing up, which is why one of my current favorites is Burn Notice and one of my favorite shows of all time was Fox's short-lived Fastlane.

But I also have a number of reality shows programed in my DVR. No, not the kind of fake reality shows where they stick a bunch of people who hate each other in a house and see how they interact, but shows that follow everyday people at work. I have The First 48, Jacked (which follows a NJ auto-theft task force) and Wrecked (about a Chicago towing company).

But I recently added one show to my DVR that, as a straight male, I'm kind of embarrassed about. It's a show I would never have thought to watch, but happened to be on on a TV at the gym in front of me, and I got sucked in. The show? Bravo's Tabitha Coffey's Salon Makeover.

Now, the reason I find the show oddly compelling has nothing to do with the hair-related subject matter. I get my hair cut at Great Clips by whatever cute nose-ringed stylist happens to be on duty, and I'm happy if I can get my hair to mostly stay down on my head.

But Salon Makeover isn't just about hair. It's about business and management. She goes into troubled salons and addresses issues of marketing, of product placement, of poor customer service, financial stats - things of interest to a business major and MBA like myself. She looks at management issues - one of the biggest ones which seems to be managers who have trouble controlling employees who are also their friends. If I ever get promoted, I could see this as an issue, so it's interesting to see how they deal with it.

When I was in my MBA program, one of my teachers was an ex=phone-company exec who took early retirement to teach and do consulting. His biggest consulting client is a chain of salons and spas, and he found it pretty interesting - and said that retaining and keeping workers happy was one of the hardest parts of the salon business.

So maybe I'm not the only straight male who finds the salon business oddly fascinating.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Got my mind on my money and my money on my mind...

There's a fine line between being a nice guy and a doormat. I think I'm squarely in doormat territory.

This, of course, the continuation of my saga of non-profit loansharking.

So I was supposed to get my money by Monday. I hadn't heard anything by Thursday, and happened to mention to a coworker who is also a good friend what happened. He instantly offered to call the contracting company that the guy worked for, but I asked him not to. Evidently, he did anyway, because the next day another coworker told me that he had talked to the contracting company and would make sure I got my money back.

So the next day I get a call from the contractor - he can either give me the money over the weekend or Monday during work. I tell him Monday is fine.

Monday I don't hear from him until late afternoon. He says he won't be in my area until after 6. I agree to meet him at the parking lot of my gym at 6:15. So I only do an hour workout instead of my usual 90 minutes, and go outside to meet him. Not there. Check my cell, and he left me a voicemail that he was running late.

He shows up around 7:15. He only has $190. He'll give me the other $87 he owes me next week when he gets paid again. And as he's leaving he tells me "if you have any problems, call me. You have my number, and I don't appreciate getting calls from other people. I apologize, and tell him I had asked my coworker not to call.

And then I got in my truck and drove off... and started wondering why I apologized. Yes, I should have manned up, tracked down his number, and called him myself. And I do feel bad that it probably hasn't helped his career that his contracting company knows he's a deadbeat. But at the same time, I don't appreciate someone borrowing a fairly significant amount of money from me and not paying it back when he said he would. He could have just as well tracked down my number and called me, and, I feel, probably should have.

And I'm annoyed that I'm probably going to have to go through this whole sit in the parking lot routine again next week to get the rest of my money.

I'm starting to think that this whole thing is because of my complete lack of confidence in myself, my general hatred of myself. I loaned him the money in the first place, knowing it was risky, because I didn't have the balls to say no, because even though I would have had very legitimate reasons not to risk my money, I couldn't bring myself to say no. I didn't call because I "don't like conflict", which is another way of saying that I don't have enough confidence to tell people things they don't want to hear, even when I'm completely right. I found myself willing to just let it go, even though that violates every conservative/libertarian property rights principle I believe in, and even though I'm generally hyperfrugal with my money, not spending what I don't have to and looking for every opportunity to make more.

This isn't much different than the reasons I'm single, that I have a very small circle of friends, and what is probably a dead-end job - I don't have a whole lot of confidence in myself, and I can't convince a woman, another person, or bosses that I'm worth anything. It's sort of a spiral of failure - the less confidence I have, the more introverted I get, which gets me nowhere, which makes me feel like even more of a failure. But I don't know how to get that confidence back. I feel what would help is if something good happened to me - relationship, promotion - that convinced me that I was not completely worthless. But those things are unlikely to happen as long as I figure that I'm completely worthless.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Nice? Not me...

I was over bsom's yesterday, seeing their amazingly cute baby (probably a future post on that later) and mentioned to bsom my money-lending tale of woe and he told me that "your problem is you are too nice".

Which is odd. I don't think I'm very nice. In fact, I think I'm an awful person. I seldom offer to do people favors. I watch porn. I pirate music, movies, and software. I never offer to buy lunch or a round of drinks. I buy things from people who think they are worth less than they are and sell them to people who think they are worth more than they are. I never give to charity. I drive a gas-guzzling pickup truck. I don't play with my cat as much as I should. I fail to rescue injured dogs. I routinely slack off at work. I can come up with hundreds of personal failings If anything, the loan was an attempt to be a nice person for once.

Of course, a nice person wouldn't spend pretty much every free minute thinking about it and being angry at himself. He would just let it go. But I'm not a nice person, and I'm angry about it pretty much all the time.

On one hand, it's not a huge amount of money - it's not like I'm not going to eat because of it. On the other hand, I'm generally pretty thrifty with my money - I brown bag my lunch, my home PC is an outdated wreck, and all my clothes are off the clearance rack. I generally agonize over purchases smaller than the amount I lost.

Still, I don't really plan on doing anything about it. I could track down his number, call him, try to get my money back, but I don't really like confrontation, or making phone calls, for that matter. If I really wanted to be a dick, I could call his boss and tell him what he did, but I'd feel guilty if I got him fired.

So I guess I'll pretend I'm a good person and not do anything.

madanthony tries to give Walmart some money, fails...

I have a love/hate relationship with Wal-Mart that's different than most people's. I love them as a business - in a few decades, they've gone from a tiny 5 and dime to the world's largest retailer. They help keep prices low, letting people buy lots of stuff they wouldn't otherwise be able to. Their inventory, point of sale, and distribution systems are legendary to the point that business professors have referred to them as an IT company that happens to also sell toilet paper and underwear.

But I've never liked shopping there, and almost every time I go there I find myself disappointed. When I need general merchandise, I usually go to Target, where I generally have a pleasant shopping experience, and occasionally get some very good deals on stuff that's on clearance.

But I was running low on soda today, and the sale prices at most of the stores I normally shop at, like Target or local supermarkets, were not very good. I drink a lot of diet soda- probably around 6 cans a day - and I was down to my last 12-pack. I noticed a Wal-Mart ad that had a giant 24-can cube of Diet Mountain Dew rolled back to $5.96, so I decided to stop at the Wal-Mart that I pass every day on my way to and from work.

I walked in and was pleasantly surprised - it was clean, brightly lit. I headed to the soda section.. and was disappointed. Not by the prices - 12 packs of brand-name soda were regularly priced at $2.75, cheaper than what most grocery stores have it at this week on sale. The problem was that there was almost no actual soda on the shelves. They were practically bare. It looked like those shots of the bread isle before a snow storm. As far as what I usually buy - caffeinated diet soda - there were a couple cases of Diet Dr. Pepper and one lonely, misshelved 12-pack of Diet Cherry Coke Zero. No diet mountain dew or diet vault anywhere to be seen, nor any 24-packs of pepsi anything. They also had Propel - which I drink when I go to the gym - and it was $2.50 for a 6-pack, cheaper than Target, which is usually $2.99, and most of the grocery stores near me charge $3.99. The problem was that they only had a single 6-pack on the shelf.

I also headed to the electronics section to see if anything good was on clearance. Nope. They actually had a high-end digital camera that had a $499 sticker on it, and a "sale" sticker.. for $525. I wish I had my phone with me, I could have taken a pic and submitted it to the Consumerist. They also had a 14" no-name flat panel monitor for $148. Yes, 14".

If I could figure out when Wal-Mart gets there soda deliveries, I could probably save a bunch of money buying my soda there, but as with most of my Wal-Mart experiences, I find myself scratching my head and pondering how they are so big and successful when they can't keep Diet Mountain Dew in stock. And yes, I know that soda is usually stocked by the vendor and not through the retailer's normal distribution channels, but a company the size of Wal-Mart should be able to muscle Coke and Pepsi into actually having their stuff in stock.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Growing up means not caring about Maxim...

When I was in college, I remember being hooked on Maxim. It wasn't so much that I saw my life in it as I saw what I wanted my life to be - drinking all the time, having big circles of friends, staying out late. Hot chicks in bikinis didn't hurt, either.

I still get Maxim - years ago I signed up for a bunch of free offers online, and now I've got a subscription until sometime in 2011. Whee.

I glance at them, but they always just make me feel old. I don't go out very much, I don't drink very much - I've probably had more diet sodas today than I have beers in the last month - and the stories in Maxim don't really do much for me. I never had the Maxim lifestyle, but now I don't really want it either - I'm older, more mature, a suburban homeowner. I'm not trying to bang tons of chicks (not that I ever was, or could), just trying to find one willing to put up with me long-term.

And the articles/advice in Maxim is hollow, and sometimes downright creepy. One of the articles in the one I got today discussed the fact that women cheat on their men almost as much as the reverse (which I guess isn't shocking, if you do the math). It ended the article commenting that this is good if you are a single guy, because you can probably hook up with some chick who cheating on her boyfriend, and when she finally dumps him she might be interested in you.

Because being "that guy she cheated on with" is really a noble goal, and a great starting ground for a relationship...

Guess I probably am a sucker...

Well, I guess I am a sucker after all.

He was supposed to pay me back by noon. It's 4:40 and I haven't heard from him.

Lesson learned. Never be nice to anyone. If anyone asks me for help again, I'm telling them no, then punching them in the face.

I'll give it a day or two, and then see if I can track him down, but chances are I'm out $277.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

In praise of small packages...

Assuming my scale is correct, I've lost 4 pounds this week.

Most of that is probably because I've actually been going to the gym - I've made it 8 days in a row (although a couple of those were cut short), which is probably more than I did a month the last month or two. But the other part of it is that I've been eating better - trying to avoid bad stuff, cutting down on snacks, and eating smaller desserts.

One of my summertime weaknesses is ice cream. I have a bowl of it pretty much every night. I usually buy the low-fat kind, but once I start eating it, I often have trouble stopping. I'll have a decent-sized bowl, and then go back for seconds, and sometimes thirds.

So I've made myself stop buying half-gallons (which, thanks to rising food costs, aren't half a gallon anymore), and am instead buying novelties like popsicles and those little ice cream cups they feed to kids. They are pre-measured, so it's easier to tell myself I can have two and that's it.

Yes, I'm weak. I have no self-control, or I wouldn't have to do this. But I'm not the only person that way, or companies wouldn't be marketing "100-calorie packs" and the like. We know that long-term, it's best for us to restrict our caloric intake. But short-term, ice cream tastes good, and more of it tastes even better. So portion-control packages is a way balance short-term desires with long term goals.

I think it's a holdover of evolution that makes us eat food if it's easily accessible, even if we don't need it. In the old days, food was hard to come by, so we are hard-wired to eat it when it's available, because who knows when we'll eat next?

And it's not just humans. Today, I went to Target and stocked up on a bunch of stuff, including a bag of cat food, which I left sitting in the plastic bag in the hallway, figuring I'd bring it downstairs and lock it in the spare bathroom I use for storing the cat's stuff later. When I went to move it, I noticed Nibbler had torn a hole in the bag. Nevermind that she had 3/4 of a bowl of the exact same food sitting downstairs. Maybe part of it is the thrill of the hunt, but I think part of it is that her little kitty brain is hardwired to take any opportunity to get food - or water, for that matter, if her constant sticking her head under my kitchen faucet is any indication.

So this is what a weekend is like...

Today is the first day I where I didn't have something work-related to do since some time in mid-August. Didn't have to go into work, didn't take any computers home to work on. I do have to go in for a few hours tomorrow to try to get a few machines set up, and hopefully get some paperwork done.

It was kind of refreshing. I slept in - it was pouring last night, so I figured it wasn't worth going to yard sales. When I woke up at 6am to the alarm I never reset, it was sunny, but I figured that a lot of people probably decided not to have their sales, so I went back to sleep until 10.

I got caught up on some of the errands that I needed to run - Target, grocery store, get a haircut. I spent some time at home, doing nothing. I went to church, the gym (Saturday around 6pm is one of my favorite times to go - it's practically empty, no competition for the machines).

I actually felt better. I've been pretty down, more than usual. Work is grating on me. We work off a work order system, and the number of work orders - which usually is around 15 or 20 - has been hovering at around 40 for the last month or so, not including setting up new equipment. I've also taken on a lot of the responsibility for organizing new equipment delivery, what we commonly refer to as migrations. It hasn't been going as smoothly or quickly as I'd like, and I fear that something I was hoping would make me look good is going to end up making me look bad. My boss is actually much happier with my progress than I am - I feel like I've failed. Actually, one of the things I'd like to do tomorrow is try to outline a process for future setups.

I had toyed with the idea of driving up to NJ this week - there's a treasury auction this Wednesday not to far from my parents - but I can't bring myself to take a day off. My boss and coworkers would probably be ok with it, but I feel like I shouldn't - I want to be perceived as a hard worker, as someone who might move up someday, and not taking time off is the best way to do that.

I'm either the world's nicest guy or the world's biggest sucker...

So we had a couple contractors over the summer, when we were in the process of migrating our back-end systems from Novell Netware to Microsoft Active Directory - a process that involved touching every computer on campus in order to remove the netware client, add the machine to the domain, and migrate profiles.

A few of those contractors came back to help us with start-of-school stuff. One of them had the misfortune of having his car towed a few days ago for being parked in a "no parking 4-6" zone. He also had some kind of problem getting his paycheck from the company we hired the contractors from.

He had asked me if I could help him out, and I was reluctant to. I barely know him. But at the same time, I can't imagine being in that situation - no car, no money - and I'd want someone to help me out. And I'd feel pretty bad being able to do something and not.

So I ended up hitting the ATM, then giving him a ride to the Baltimore City Impound Lot (which although is listed as being at 411 Fallsway, is actually (according to both signs and my Tom-Tom) in the 500 block, which took me about 20 minutes of driving and a conversation with a Baltimore City trash truck driver to figure out) and loaning him the $277 bucks he needed to get his car out and buy gas to get home.

He's supposed to get paid on Monday, and give me the money then. He even offered to let me hold his laptop as collateral, which I declined.

I'm hoping I get my money back. My faith in humanity, my belief in karma, rests on this. I figure I'll be nice until it backfires on me. If I get burned, I'll be disappointed - there are a number of things I'd like to spend $277 on, and I usually tend to be pretty frugal with my money - but I'll live. But I certainly will be less likely to do nice things for people, especially ones that involve me putting time or money on the line.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Kids are into technology at a young age these days...

Geez, kid isn't even 2 days old and he's already got his own blog.

Anyway, bsom and T had their baby yesterday, and they've set up a blog. And while I know that this means way less time on electronic-crap-finding missions with bsom, I know they will make great parents... and with those genes, the kid will probably take over the world.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Scenes from work, team sports edition...

coworker: Have you ever faxed more than one purchase order at a time?

mad anthony: I've tried to, but sometimes it seems like the second page doesn't make it through. I did that with an order for Apple for two Macbook Pros for athletics, and now I've got like the entire woman's soccer team after me..


mad anthony: ... which isn't nearly as hot as it sounds.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Scenes from work, is that organic ass edition...

coworker: Damn, it's rank in here. It smells like ass in a can.

madanthony: I prefer my ass fresh.

Scenes from work, printer sex support edition...

coworker: I tried plugging in the printer USB, but the port on the printer was broken. It was loose.

madanthony: I wish I could find me a woman who was loose. You know, morally.

coworker: So I figured I'd hook the printer up to the network, but when I printed out a configuration page, it gave me a 169 address.

madanthony: I need to find a woman who would give me a 69...

Sunday, September 07, 2008

If it's wrong to make money off other people's misery, I don't want to be right...

Consumerist has a recent post on getting deals at pawnshops, which has led to a number of commenters saying they don't want to take advantage of other people's misery.

I don't usually go to pawnshops, but not because I have any qualms about their business. Sure, they make a profit off people who really need money, but nobody forces people to use them - people instead make a rational decision that pawning something is better than, say, having their power turned off, and that a high interest loan from a pawnbroker beats a loan from the local loan shark who will break his legs if he doesn't pay. I don't go to pawnshops because the few times I have, I've found the prices to be very high - and because there aren't any pawnshops near enough to me to make it worth making frequent visits. Most of the pawnshops near me also sell on eBay, which means they know how much stuff is worth, eliminating the opportunity for arbitrage.

But if it's wrong to make money off of misfortune, than I'm a major jerk. I've bought stuff from bankruptcy and business-closing auctions, and made a nice profit off of it. I've bought stuff from yard sales, including estate sales and from people who were in foreclosure. I've bought dead laptops from people who broke them. Hell, the way to make money on eBay is by information asymmetry - when I buy something from someone, it's because I know (or think I know) that it's worth more than they think it is.

So does that make me an evil, horrible person? Maybe. But in ecosystems, there are animals that are scavengers - catfish that feed on garbage at the bottom of the river, buzzards that eat dead animals in the desert. They may not be popular, but they serve a need, they keep the ecosystem clean.

And so does the pawnshop customer, the estate sale buyer, the bankruptcy auction bidder. They are helping people get rid of things in situations where liquidity - where fast sale of something - is more important than the amount of money they get for it. There are plenty of businesses that do this professionally - and these businesses exist because there is a need for their services. Like the customer at the pawnshop, the business that sells to an odd-lot buyer or liquidator does so because it's the best alternative in a bad situation.

So I don't think I'm completely evil - and I still plan on making money off other people's misery.

You can't spell diet without d-i-e...

I made myself a promise at the begining of this week - that I would get back to taking care of myself, to going to the gym (almost) daily, to start eating right again, to lose some of the weight I've put on in the last year or so and more.

So far I'm not doing too well. I made it to the gym on Monday and Tuesday, skipped Wednesday to go to an auction (that sucked), skipped Thursday to work until 11:30, skipped Friday to go to happy hour with coworkers, made it Saturday but had to shave a few minutes off my workout, and made it today.

Eating-wise, I'm probably doing better, except for the beer and deep-fried macaroni and cheese at the aforementioned happy hour.

So where does madanthony stand, weight-wise? By goverment standards, I'm overweight.. I'm short - around 5'6" - and weigh about 165. The CDC says for my height, anything above 154 is overweight. Now, I'm not as fat as I once was - this was me in 2004, when I was closer to 250. I like posting that pic, because losing that weight is one of the few things I've actually succeeded at. I don't have a decent recent pic of me standing up, where you can see that I still have some gut left.

Ideally, I'd like to get down to around 140, but I'm not sure I have the dedication to do that - I've never gotten below 150, and for the most part have hung around 155.

While I shouldn't be blaming my inability to keep myself from stuffing my face and then taking a nap on external factors, my work schedule is definitely giving me an excuse for my poor behavior - it's tempting to eat fast food and skip the gym when I'm at work late. Of course, if I really cared about my health, I'd find a way around it - go to the gym at 6am when it opens, before work, or use the seldom-touched treadmill in my basement at midnight. But I'm lazy, I want the benefits of weight loss without actually having to put the work in.

And what benefits do I hope to gain? I probably should give up on the idea that losing weight would make me more attractive to women, given how much it's helped me so far - but hope springs eternal, and there is a certain level of confidence that succeeding at something gives you - even though it's a pretty stupid thing to be proud of - look, I actually can eat like a normal human with some self control! And it would be nice to fit into those slim-fit jeans I accidentally bought on sale, and those athletic fit shirts from shirt.woot . But most of all, losing weight gives me something to focus on besides the vast wasteland that is my social life.

Monday, September 01, 2008

If I get a stylish bamboo skin for this blog, will it be eco-friendly?

The new trend in technology seems to be covering things in bamboo. First there was the SimpleTech [re]Drive, covered in bamboo and with an aluminum frame, and now Asus is introducing a line of bamboo-covered laptops that are "partially biodegradable".

Maybe I should buy a Hummer and cover it in bamboo - I mean, if it's covered in bamboo, it's good for the environment, right?

I'm somewhere in the middle on the environment - I don't think there is anything wrong with reducing our waste, recycling, cutting use of fossil fuels, ect - if people are willing to do it, and if the costs outweighs the benefits, there certainly are advantages to having less trash, mining fewer metals, and having less oil and pollution. But I don't think people should be forced to make drastic changes to their standard of living, and I think recycling is often promoted even when it costs way more than just mining new stuff. And I don't think that the biggest problem facing the environment is laptops and external hard drives - I have to wonder if places that process and recycle computer waste would even know what to do with them if these show up in a couple years.