mad anthony

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

Sunday, August 15, 2010

My neck, my back...

So this isn't something I've really mentioned much, but chances are there is a pretty big elephant in the room when it comes to my physical appearance. Occasionally, someone will mention it, and I've always gotten a little uncomfortable about it. See, madanthony is a hunchback.

For a long time, my back has been noticeably curved. I basically have a hump. I don't really remember when I started noticing it, but by my senior year in college it was serious enough to see a specialist about it - who said it was curved, but it wasn't worth doing anything about it, and I should lose some weight and do some situps.

Well, eventually I lost the weight, but I wasn't too into the whole situps thing. And as I lost the weight, it became more noticeable, if only because the more obvious physical deformity - being morbidly obese - was gone. I've changed doctors a few times, and my current doctor has mentioned a few times that I should see a specialist again about it. So a few days ago, I did.

So evidently I have Schuermann's Kyphosis, which would make a great name for a rock band. Basically, my spine is curved, quite a bit - evidently normal is 35 to 50 degrees, mine is around 85. The thing is that as long as it doesn't cause me pain or keep me from doing anything, there isn't really much that can be done. If it had been caught when I was a kid - at age 12 or so - I would have been put in a brace for a few years, and it probably would have corrected it somewhat. But I didn't, and while there is surgery, it's dangerous and only limited in effectiveness. So I was told to come back in 5 years to make sure it wasn't getting worse (because even if it is, it gets worse so gradually that they wouldn't be able to measure it over a shorter period of time, because the change would be within the measurement margin of error) and if it's not, to forget about it.

But I can't really forget about it. When I was fat, I blamed the fact that I couldn't get dates on my weight - which was probably correct to some degree. But now, I wonder how much my giant hump is working against me. When women think about what they want their dream guy to look like, "hunched over" is never on the list. It makes me shorter, and shorter guys have less sex and get fewer emails on online dating sites.

It also makes me look like I have horrible posture, which makes me look even less confident. In the book The Game, the author mentions a number of time the importance of posture in looking confident to attract women, and he went as far as taking posture lessons. But posture lessons don't do much good when the pieces of your spine are permanently bending down.

What's most frustrating about this is that I have no control over it. It's not even a bad choice I made in the past - at the time I could have done something, I didn't know I needed to. I lost weight, and I've started doing some strength training to build muscle. While I'm not sure I could do it, one thing that The Game suggests is that with enough work and practice it is possible to overcome things like social awkwardness to be better perceived by women you want to date as well as people in general. But there is no way I can will my back to be straight, and because of that there's a pretty good chance I'll die alone. And hunched over.

Reflections upon entering my 4th decade...

So last week, I turned 30. The big 3-0. I've never been a big fan of birthdays in general - it always just seems like a reminder that I'm another year closer to dieing and still not exactly where I had hoped to be. But 30 is even worst - I'm no longer a 20-something. I'm closer to middle age than I am to teenager.

In some ways, I'm probably better off than I thought I would be a few years ago. I'm in better shape physically than I've probably ever been, certainly considerably better shape than I was in my early 20's, when I was about 100 pounds heavier than I am now. I'm a homeowner, and I'm not upside down. I have a job that, while I wish I was further up the career ladder in, pays the bills, is steady, lets me do some cool stuff, and is generally a lot better than a lot of other jobs. I'm in pretty good financial shape.

But of course, there are also things I'm not as happy about. I'm single, and haven't had a whole lot of success changing that - and the older I get, the more unlikely it seems that I'll ever find someone, that I'll be able to do the things I want to do, the things that everyone else seems to be able to do - get married, have kids, ect. My parents are, like me, getting older, and having a bunch of health problems, and I'm sure they will only get worse and require more time and probably some difficult decisions in the coming decade.

So what does the next decade of madanthony's life hold? Probably surprises, hopefully of the good kind, but probably a mix of good and bad. Someone once said that "if you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans for the next 10 years". While we may have an idea where the path of life will take us, it sometimes takes unexpected turns, and sometime something small makes a huge difference. It was an online survey that made me make the dramatic lifestyle changes that let me lose 100 pounds, and that have made the gym a place I spend a significant amount of my free time. It was a decision to look for a summer job so I could stay in Baltimore that eventually led to my current career. It was an off-the cuff remark, followed by a few minutes with a kitten who didn't want to do anything but fall asleep in my lap that brought Nibbler the cat into my life. So hopefully on the relationship front, something will surprise me and hopefully send me the way I want to go.

I'm not saying that there aren't things we can do, or even probably things I should be doing, to change the direction of my life to the way I want it to go. But I think sometimes life just happens, and maybe it will happen to me. Well, it will happen, and it's just finding out what "it" is.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Business or hobby? I don't know...

So the last few months I've been selling at more hamfests than normal. Usually I don't sell at Timonium, but I did this year. I also sold at Manassas and Berryville/Ruritan.

I've gotten quite a bit of inventory lately - I bought a bunch of computers and monitors from 2 online FDIC closed bank auctions, a bunch of Hoffman electrical enclosures from another online auction, and still have some PC cleaning stuff from an auction I went to in PA last fall.

At one of the 'fests I was at a few months ago, someone asked me if this was a hobby or a business. I said hobby, but then started thinking. It's becoming more like a business - I've been looking harder for inventory, and traveling further to find it - then when I do, traveling further to sell it. I invested in one of those folding canopies. And I keep debating if I should be doing more - going to more auctions to find inventory, going to more 'fests to sell it. I'm not pulling in a huge amount of money, but I'm doing OK - it definitely gives me a lot of extra financial breathing room to spend on things like the occasional Starbucks coffee or put away in savings in the hope of buying a new truck.

But it also requires a lot of investment in time. There are lots of people chasing stuff to resell, and some of them have outlets - like stores - where their stuff can fetch more than I can get, so they are willing to pay more. So I've been to some auctions where I've left with a ton of stuff, but I've also driven 8+ hours round trip to go home pretty much empty handed. And a weekend with a hamfest is pretty much a weekend I can't get a whole lot else done - I spend Saturday night loading the truck, wake up stupidly early Sunday morning, and then collapse in bed when I get back and spend the rest of Sunday in a state of groggy post-nap confusion. Plus my house is now full of inventory.

I also find myself kicking myself when I buy something and it sells well, and I could have bought more but didn't. But at the same time, I only have so much room to store it, and at some point the market becomes saturated for anything I'm selling.

I think my best bet is to keep my eyes peeled for stuff like the computer cleaning supplies and hoffman enclosures - they are easy to sell, don't require much explanation, don't take up a lot of space, and don't become obsolete as time goes on like computers and electronics do.

But while I like the extra money, I'm not sure I want this to take over my life. I suspect that spending weekends at hamfests and having about 40 computers in my basement is probably killing what little chance I have of not dieing single and alone. So I will probably continue to keep an eye out for auctions, but also try to be reasonable about how much I buy and where I travel to - and how many 'fests I sell at. I think expanding any more would require significant capital investment - a warehouse and a box truck - and I could never justify that. The whole having a day job thing also cuts into how many auctions I can go to and how far I can travel, but I know I wouldn't make enough doing this full-time to give up my day job - especially since it has pretty awesome benefits.

Pickup Artists, or is the way to a women's heart through being a jerk?

A few weeks ago, economics blogger Megan McCardle had posts here and here on pickup artists - people who claim to have distilled picking up women at bars to a method. Even more interesting than the articles themselves are the comments, which run from "this stuff is crap" to "there are some legitimate stuff in here, but also some crap" to "pickup artists are gods we should all imitate".

Since madanthony has never had much luck with the opposite sex, I'm pretty interested in the idea. So I decided to pick up a copy of the book that the comments mentioned was the original in the genre - Neil Strauss's The Game. I figured I'd read it more as an anthropological study than as a how-to book.

Which turned out to be a good idea, because it's not really a how-to book. It profiles the author's entry into the world of pickup artists who spend their free time picking up women in bars and bedding them.

In a way, the book confirms what every AFC (Average F*cking Chump, the book's term for nice guys who finish last) like myself has known but doesn't want to admit - that the way to attract women is to be a douchebag. Techniques include "the neg" (pointing out something unattractive about the women you are hitting on), the freeze-out (ignoring the targeted woman and pretending you aren't interested in her), and bringing lint with you so you can put it on said women, and then pick it off.

The thing is that the author at one point admits that while these are great for picking up women in bars, they are not so great if you are trying to build a long-term relationship, because lying and being a douchebag aren't really good things to build a relationship on. The other thing to keep in mind is these are designed for picking up women in bars - if you are after the kind of women who doesn't hang out in bars waiting to be picked up, your mileage may vary. Megan makes fun in one of her posts of Mystery's outfit - but the outfit was designed to attract women in bars, where standing out is necessary if you want to, well, stand out.

The other thing is that much of this rests on how much time you can put into it - the author mentions that at one point he was spending 18 hours a day doing everything from reading and working out to learning magic tricks to prowling bars to getting tanning and teeth whitening to taking dance and posture lessons to improve himself. Which works if you are a writer, but for those of us with real jobs, not so much. And it's not exactly shocking that if you put enough time into something you can succeed at it.

At the same time, it is interesting that social interaction can be learned and refined, even if it's shallow interaction designed to bed aspiring models. Personally, I've always wondered how I've been successful at some things in my life, including things that many people struggle with, like losing weight and keeping it off - while being a complete failure at relationships, something most people seem to have at least some short-term success with. I've generally ascribed this to the fact that weight loss is internal, completely under my control - if I watch what I eat and put in enough time at the gym, then I can continue to fit into my pants. But if I want to get into some girl's pants, I need her to do something. The lesson is that it isn't external - that you can change enough about yourself and the way you interact with people to change your success interacting with them.

Of course, that gets into doing exactly what I hate doing - interacting with strangers. But it does give some interesting advice - if you are approaching people, it works better if you have some idea of what you are going to say, and if you have something interesting to say - a question, a request for an opinion, a magic trick. They also suggest walking to a shopping center and just saying "hi" to every woman you encounter as a way of building confidence - which is an interesting idea, if I can get the confidence to do it.

I think the other interesting thing about the book is that, if you are a dating failure like me, it makes you realize that you aren't the only one. It also had a quote from one of the original pickup artists from the '70's commenting that one thing to remember is that everyone else is as scared of approaching people as you - which I think is probably true, and good advice. As I get older, I realize that a lot of the people I'd always assumed knew everything - doctors, coworkers, parents - didn't always know everything. The same is true about being confident.

So while I don't plan on walking up to random women in bars and asking them to picture a cube - or for that matter, spending lots of time in bars - I do need to make a point to try to engage more random people in conversation, to remember that other people have the same feelings I do, and to try to do things that put me in touch with people. Although I'm not sure what those things are.