Sunday, May 31, 2009

The lawn ranger...

Economists and other aficionados of game theory are familiar with the idea of the Prisioner's Dilemma. The idea is that people could often have a better outcome if they worked together, but often don't, making people worse off.

I think this applies to mowing the lawn - if everyone in my neighborhood didn't mow their lawn, nobody would be the guy with the bad lawn, and everyone would save time on lawn care. (Property values is another story). But once someone mows the lawn, everyone else has to, or risk being the bad neighbor.

So my next-door neighbor mowed his lawn yesterday, so I had to do mine today. Not that it's a huge deal - I can get it done in about 30 minutes, since it's a tiny patch of grass in front and back. I use this manual reel mower and an electric string trimmer. The reel mower is easy to use, and I don't have to worry about gas or anything. The house's previous owners actually left a gas mower, but I've never used it - it seemed like a hassle to maintain given how tiny my lawn is. The manual reel does the job - although it comes to a screeching halt if the tiniest of twigs gets caught in the tines.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

I can't wait to load this on my 386!

The above picture is an item I saw for sale at a yard sale this morning. If you aren't a complete dork, Windows for Workgroups dates back to the early 90's and was the precursor to Windows NT. And this copy was still shrink-wrapped.

I didn't buy it, although I probably should have just for the humor value.

Busy day today - I went to some yard sales in the morning, headed to the gym for an abbreviated 75 minute cardio workout, then went into work for 5 hours. Our department is moving offices, so a coworker and I came in and cleaned and packed stuff. Our office - and my cube especially - was a mess, and it was exhausting sorting and moving so much stuff - and breathing in so much dust.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Run for the border...

I don't eat a lot of fast food. This is mostly because I'm cheap and figure I can eat at home cheaper, plus I figure it's healthier to avoid it. But driving home from the gym after work, I thought about what was sitting in my freezer and didn't really want any of it. So I decided to treat myself to some Taco Bell.

It's not horrible healthwise - I got everything "fresco-style", so they substitute salsa for the cheese/sour cream/ect. And it's not too hard on the wallet - tonight's dinner was ~$4.50, not much more than I would have spent on the frozen chicken tenders and fries chillin' in my freezer.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

I'm in yer window, stealin' yer breeze...

Nibbler, my almost-2-year old cat, goes through phases - sometimes she'll be real affectionate, curling up in my lap and sleeping in my bed. Other times, she'll mostly ignore me. She's going through one of the ignore phases now for the most part, although she'll still follow me around and hang out in the same room that I'm in, just a couple feet away.

She loves open windows, and was chilling in the window in the spare bedroom I use as a sort of home office. I usually keep the window open, because the computer and monitors and external RAID throw off a ton of heat.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

All hands on cookies....

Every month or so, we have a meeting called "All Hands" where everyone from Tech Services - all 60 or so of us - gather, usually to hear presentations and get updates about what's going on. In some ways, it's kind of a pain, because you get dragged away from the piles of work you have to do to listen to people talk, but I guess it's kind of a necessary evil - you need to keep employees informed of what's going on in the department, and it is nice to find out what employees were hired or promoted or what changes are planned. Well, sometimes it's nice to find out what changes are planned.

The meetings have been jokingly referred to as "All Hands on Cookies" because cookies are traditionally served at the meeting. This is the cookie tray after the meeting - as you can tell, all the good chocolate/chocolate chip/sugar cookies were gobbled up, leaving the oatmeal raisin and other second-tier cookies.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Passive - agressive notes...

The above note was on a bunch of the gym lockers at the gym I go to. The lockers are for daily use, so every now and then they put notes on lockers that people are "squatting" on. Theoretically, I guess they eventually cut the locks, but the notes always seem to stay up quite a while.

While I hate lugging my gym clothes around, especially since I seem to break the straps on my gym bags on a regular basis, I'm not sure I would want to keep stuff in a locker - my clothes smell pretty ripe after a workout. And I need to take my iPod home every few days to recharge it and add new music, anyway.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Where I'm spending Memorial Day...

I have a long to-do list this Memorial Day, and one of the things on my list is to write descriptions and take pictures for a pile of stuff I've got to list on eBay. So that's what I've been doing today - I'm sitting at my PC in the back bedroom of my house, which I use as a home office and sort of eBay storage/staging area. As you can tell, it's a little messy. It's hard to be in the crap-resale business without having a lot of crap around. I'm also watching the Bones marathon on TNT on the USB TV Tuner I have hooked up on my machine.

The PC is a Cisnet Celeron 3.06 that I got at one of CompUSA's Midnight Madness sales a few years ago. The monitor on the left is a 19" LG that I got at Office Depot as a display model several years ago. The monitor on the right is a 24" HP-debranded refurb from buy.com. I'm hoping to replace the PC this summer with a new mac mini, but for now it does the job.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

A ham-tastic morning...

Today was Memorial Day Hamfest in West Friendship, MD. My friend bsom and I went to sell. I grossed around $330, and got rid of some junk, although not as much as I would have liked to. As a treat, you get 3 pics today...

Started off the day with the traditional stop at 7-11, so I could get coffee and a tasty "insert blank" out of the bakery case.

Set up to sell.

I keep hitting the pizza button, but nothing happens! (It's to the right of the space bar). This is the keyboard of a NetPliance iOpener that someone was selling for $30.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

With Goodwill towards none...

The Goodwill store on the Alameda used to be my favoritest Goodwill ever - it was close to work and the gym, had plenty of parking, was reasonably clean and well organized for a thrift store, and most importantly had good prices and some really good finds. I've gotten stuff like a TI-83+ graphing calc for $8, Wii-motes for $5, a $20 new in box black Target baker's rack and $28 Yamaha Natural Sound amp that turned out to be broken.. but still fetched $85 on eBay.

Alas, Goodwill decided to wreck it. It's now a Goodwill Outlet, with most of the stuff being sold by the pound. I stopped there today and it's changed for the worse. Most of the display cases are gone, the electronics section has shrunk and what little that is there is crap, and there is no longer any new in box Target merchandise.

It seems to be a theme that anytime I find a store I like, it promptly goes out of business. I guess this is because I'm a bargain shopper, and if I can find stuff there that I can resell at a profit, they probably aren't making any money...

Friday, May 22, 2009

What I'm doing with my Memorial Day vacation...

That's my current to-do list for this weekend, although I'm sure I'll find stuff to add to it.

One of the perks of my job is that we get quite a few extra days off - I have a 4-day weekend this weekend. Memorial Day is the only holiday that I typically spend in Maryland with free time. I go up to NJ to visit the parents for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, and July 4. I stay in Maryland for Labor Day, but it's usually move-in weekend at the college I work for, so I'm usually putting in mad overtime all weekend.

Obviously, I'm off to a pretty slow start - it's past noon on Friday, meaning that my vacation is already 12.5% over, and I've only accomplished two things.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The big 4-0-0-0-0...

I was driving to work this morning and noticed that the odometer on my truck was at 39997. When I stopped at a red light at Cold Spring and York, it had hit 40,000. I figured that was kind of a milestone, so I took a picture.

The truck is a 2006 Ford Ranger XLT 4wd club cab that I bought at the end of July 2006. It's been pretty solid so far, knock on wood, despite my running into the side of a Pontiac 6 months ago (it was fixed, quite well). I'm hoping to get a lot more miles out of it - the car enthusiast in me keeps thinking how much I would love to have a giant, blinged out SUV or a sporty little convertible, but the cheapskate in me likes having a paid-off vehicle. Besides the truck works - it's hard to sell at a hamfest out of a 300Z, or to haggle at a yard sale when you stepped out of an H2 Hummer.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

An auction auction...

Last year, I discovered an auction house right around the corner from me that had some good deals. Most of the stuff was crap, but I did find some decent stuff every now and then that I could resell for a profit, and it was kind of fun digging through all the stuff.

Unfortunately, the auctions started at 5pm on Wednesdays. Since it takes me at least half an hour to get there from work, I needed to duck out early to go there. It wasn't a big deal during the summer, but once the school year started and I got dragged into projects - first Office 2007, then Outlook/Exchange - there was no way I could go. I would still check the listings weekly, and saw some stuff I would have loved to bid on, but I just couldn't get away from work. I figured once summer came and work slowed down I could go.

But alas, last week I noticed an Auction House Closing Auction for them. I had to go.

I didn't buy much - most of the stuff was junk that was sitting in their warehouse - but I bought some stuff I figure I can resell at hamfest, plus a giant SBK DJ case - I have no use for it, but it was $3.

The above picture is the sign that was painted on their wall.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Suspicious Activity...

So last Thursday, during what was the day from hell at work, I get a call from Amex telling me that they think my credit card had been compromised and asking if I'd charged $3500 worth of tickets on Air France. Considering that I hate both flying and the French, no. Evidently they also tried to charge a $1500 flight on Northwest.

This is the second time the card's been stolen in the last 2 years. I have to give Amex props for finding that it had been jacked before I knew, and for overnighting me a new card - after canceling this one.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Two Buck Chuck, meet Two Buck Choc...

I'm not much of a drinker anymore. I'm also not much of a wine connoisseur - I find it rather confusing, plus it makes me sleepy. But I have an odd obsession with Two-Buck Chuck, the "street" name for Trader Joe's house brand of wine, Charles Shaw. There are no Trader Joe's in MD that sell wine, so when I visit the 'rents in NJ or when I've been in other states for work, I've stocked up and brought some back with me. I even bought a clearanced VinoTemp 28 bottle wine cooler at Target for $50 to store it in.

My friend bsom knows about my odd Chuck obsession, and we will occasionally buy each other random crap that we find amusing. He found this giant bar of mocklate at Walgreen's - Two Buck Choc. It sat on my desk at work for the longest time, before I finally took it home and took this picture.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

This sale is In Tents!

One nice thing about Casa De Mad, my sprawling 1200 square foot townhouse, is it's close proximity to the White Marsh Mall, home of Ikea, the Swedish purveyor of fine particleboard furniture and Swedish meatballs. When i first moved here, I went there on a regular basis to scour their "as-is" section to furnish my house. I got a ton of deals, including a $13 coffee table, a $5 upholstered chair (that has since been ripped to shreds by the cat) and a $34 dining room table.

This month, they are having a "tent sale" of discontinued and as-is furniture, advertised in the pennysaver. It's only open on weekends. Since I had to swing by target to buys some drugs, I mean, to pick up a prescription, I figured I'd stop by.

I was seriously underwhelmed - most of the stuff was either really odd or still priced too high. They did have some good deals on kitchen cabinets and bathroom vanities, but I'm not quite ready to tackle either. They had a bunch of Lack furniture in pink, if you are into that kind of thing. But not much I really needed.

I did end up buying three things - two 99ยข catnip toys, which I'm sure Nibbler will bury behind the sofa, and a $9.99 set of Ikea 365 flatware - they were kind of cool looking (and pretty heavy), and you can never have too many forks.

I brake for yard sales...

Spotted outside of the flea market Saturday morning at Putty Hill Park. The bumper sticker says "I brake for yard sales" - it was hard to get a pic because I was worried someone would be all "why are you taking a picture of my car, psycho?".

During the summer, I try to hit yard sales every Saturday if I don't have anything else I have to do. The first two weekends I did very well. The last two I've come home empty-handed. I gave up today after 2.5 hours of yard sales and flea markets. I've been hitting flea markets on the theory that they have more vendors, but I'm wondering if I should skip them, because they also have more buyers, and because the merchandise tends to skew to clothing/kid's stuff/housewares, while I look for more computer/electronic stuff.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Poor little Toshiba...

So one of the ways I make extra cash is buying stuff that I can resell, either on eBay or at swap meets. One of the things I look for is broken laptops - people are often thrilled to get a few bucks for something they otherwise would throw out or throw in the back their closet, but there is a lucrative market for them on eBay for the parts.

This is a Toshiba Satellite I bought from a college student for $45. As you can tell, the screen is a little damaged. It seems to work otherwise. I hooked it up to an external monitor and it went through the BIOS and Vista splash screen, but switched itself back to the broken internal monitor as it made the Vista startup sound.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

To log in, please hit Strg+Alt+Enfl...

One of our student employees plopped a laptop on my desk this morning for me to fix - it looked like a standard IBM ThinkPad, until I opened it and looked at the keyboard, and, well, it was all German to me.

It wasn't too bad, but it took a little getting used to - especially since I needed to path out to a windows share, and the \ was on a key with two other keys - the left and right alt keys actually do different stuff.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Thanks for the heads-up, FedEx...

So a few days ago I decided to spring for a new reciever to replace the one which stopped turning on a couple months ago - I got tired of listening to TV through the tinny speakers in my TV, and not being able to easily use any of my other components.

So it came today. On my front porch you will see the fairly sizable box that my $190 refubed Onkyo TS-X506 reciever. On my door you will see the hanger that FedEx Ground left me telling me that they went to deliver a package, but I wasn't home so (box checked) box was left at your front door.

Gee, thanks for the note telling me that you left the box at my front door. Because the giant box next to my front door didn't tell me that.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Nothing like opening a fresh case of Apples...

We had some money left in our budget at work at the end of the fiscal year, and I had a few users who I owed new machines to, plus it's always good to have extras in stock for when I need a replacement machine NOW. So I ordered a couple MacBooks from Apple's education store. One nice thing is that the Ed Store offers 5 and 10 packs of MacBooks - perfect for a college. It shaves off $20 a computer, helps the environment, and, well, there's just something cool about a 5-pack of laptops.

In typical Apple fashion, they are still creatively packed, with the adapters artistically arranged at the top and a cocoon of styrofoam protecting them from angry UPS drivers.

Monday, May 11, 2009

This was the best I could do...

I neglected to take any cool, creative pictures today - I guess I was too busy trying to fix everyone's email. So instead I give you a picture of my cat's butt.

Sunday, May 10, 2009


I don't cook much. It's not so much that I can't cook - not that I'm a gourmet chef, but I can make decent, basic food - but as a single guy, it often doesn't make sense for me to. But every now and then I cook something, mostly from the "saute some stuff and dump in some other stuff" school of cooking. Sunday is usually the only day that I really have time to cook something that involves more than setting the microwave.

So tonight I made sausage and peppers - sauteed peppers and onions, grilled some Jenni-O hot Italian turkey sausage on my Cuisinart griddler, and dumped it on a toasted sub roll. Quick, not horribly unhealthy, and tasty - plus, there's nothing like the smell of sauteing peppers wafting through Casa De Mad.

I'm not much of a drinker, but I figured I cook rarely enough that this event deserved a beer - in this case, Goose Island Honker Ale that I smuggled back from Indiana when I was out there for training last year. I figure I should use it up before it gets skunky.

What the HAC?

I got a facebook email from an old college roommate about an improv show at the Hamilton Arts Collective last night. I didn't have anything else to do on a Saturday night - strangely enough, my iPhone wasn't blowing up with calls from supermodels - so I went.

It was really good - lots of funny stuff. I didn't know Hamilton had much of an arts scene - I lived there briefly twice, right after college and then a few months later after moving back to Baltimore

Gas pains...

I usually stop at a different gas station that I pass on my way back to work, but I had a little bit of time to kill on Saturday - my gym closes at 4 during the summer, and I usually go to mass at 5 at a nearby church. So I drove a little out of the way to a slightly cheaper gas station. It's cheaper because it's off-brand, and because it's scenically located in an, umm, blighted area.

Gas prices have been jumping up a bunch this week - the usual station I stop at was at $2.01 for the longest time, and then jumped to $2.05 and then to $2.19. I hope this isn't a continuing trend - I'd hate to be paying $4 a gallon again, like I was last summer.

Friday, May 8, 2009

The gym, the gym, the gym is (not) on fire...

So this was the scene that greeted me this afternoon when I pulled into the parking lot of the gym at the college I work at after work - two fire trucks parked on the sidewalk, with a bunch of firemen milling around.

I was initially worried that the gym was burning down, which would make it hard for me to get in my 90 minutes of cardio, but I figured it probably wasn't, since there was no smoke or flames, no huddled mass of evacuees, and the firemen were wearing uniforms instead of firefighting gear.

It turned out to be part of "Family Fun Day", which meant having to push through throngs of rugrats to get to the locker room, but it beats a fire.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

The racing stripes seem like overkill...

Truth in blogging - I actually took this picture yesterday, on my way home from work.

Now, the Chevy Impala is actually a pretty decent car - I had one as a rental a while back and was pleasantly surprised. And the V8 powered SS version is pretty cool, although not as cool as the caprice-based 94-96 Impala SS. But I'm not really sure that racing "skunk stripes" are really appropriate. But if they are, they should go on the roof, too, and not just the trunk lid.

But I can't really talk, considering the fact that I drive a canary-yellow pickup.

Picture taken @ Northern Parkway and Old Harford Road.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Take that, postal service!

Postal rates are going up two cents on May 11th - making now the time to stock up on forever stamps. Luckily, one of the perks of working for a college is that we have an on-campus post office, so I stocked up on forever stamps today - I bought 4 booklets.

I actually mail a fair amount of mail, because I do a lot of mail-in rebates and because I pay most of my bills the old-fashion way, with paper checks.

Granted, I've saved all of $1.60 - I probably would have saved as much if I'd waited and bought them at a grocery store with my rewards credit card. But I get to feel like I'm sticking it to the man this way!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Truth, Justice, and discount office supplies for all...

White Marsh Town Center is one of those lifestyle centers that is all the rage these days - a big-box strip mall designed to not look like a big-box strip mall. It has the usual tenants - Staples, Old Navy, Barnes and Nobel - plus a bunch of restaurants (including a pretty decent brewpub), a movie theater that is frequently overrun with obnoxious teens, and some smaller stores. It's set up to resemble a town, built around a "main street" with parking in the back, instead of in front of the stores, and with the buildings designed to look like something other than big-box retail stores. The building that houses Staples is, oddly enough, designed to resemble a turn-of the century courthouse, complete with giant dome and random latin words engraved.

I stopped at Staples tonight to pick up an in-store pickup order 2 free after rebate label makers - it wasn't enough to qualify for free shipping, and I didn't feel like going out Sunday morning to buy it in person, but didn't want to wait and have it go out of stock. Since it was raining tonight (again) and I still can't mow my lawn, I decided to swing by and pick it up.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Maybe I should build an ark...

This is the view out of the windshield of the Danger Ranger this morning as I drove to work. It was taken at the intersection of Perring Parkway and Putty Hill Ave on my way to work this morning. Of course, I was running late to work, which of course meant traffic was a mess, because in Baltimore it somehow takes twice as long to get anywhere if it's raining.

It's been like this for the last few days - gray and unpleasant. I was hoping to go to a flea market yesterday, but skipped it due to the rain. I also desperately need to mow my lawn, which looks like something from the "before" shots of Flip This House, but between working overtime and the fact that it's either been raining, about to rain, or just finished raining, I haven't been able to. Hopefully tomorrow...

Sunday, May 3, 2009

I'm begininng to suspect I have a bit of a drinking problem...

Sunday night is recycling night in my neighborhood, and it's hard for me not to notice that most of my recycling consists of empty Diet Mountain Dew cans.

The truth is, I'm addicted. I can't function without caffeine, which I consume in the morning in the form of coffee, and in the afternoon and evening in the form of caffeinated diet soda, usually Diet Mountain Dew (now that Vault Zero seems to have vanished from local stores...). Without it, I go through physical withdrawal - headaches and the like - as well as being, well, really freaking tired. I usually drink 2-3 cups of coffee and about 4-5 cans of diet soda in a typical day.

I'm not even going to lie and say I can quit at any time. I can't. But I figure if I'm going to be addicted to something, at least it's something that makes me more productive. Well, I guess meth would probably make me more productive too, but it's hard to find a job where they have a meth pot in the break room, as opposed to a coffee pot. Plus, diet soda is marginally better for my teeth.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Where computers go to die

This is a stack of old pc's sitting outside our storage room at work. (I'm at work today covering in case there are any issues with finals, and getting some other stuff done).

What really makes me feel old is not only do I remember when these computers were new, I remember when the computers that these computers replaced were new.

Friday, May 1, 2009

A shoe-in for best dressed...

I've heard a number of people say "the first thing women notice about a guy is his shoes". I suspect that this is not true, or that if it is, that other factors can quickly outweigh it. Because I have a fairly extensive shoe collection, and a fairly extensive calendar of Friday and Saturday nights spent home alone, watching TV while the cat chews on my arm.

When it comes to clothes, I'm not terribly fashion-forward - most of mine come from the clearance racks of Target or Old Navy. But I probably have 30+ pairs of shoes, mostly casual athletics - although I tend to wear the same 5-10 most of the time. I actually once had a shoe rack collapse from the weight of too many shoes.

I'm not sure why, although most of them I got cheap thanks to my love of clearance shopping - the Addidas' in this picture I think were $9.99 from shoes.com a few years back during one of their Saturday Sales. Maybe part of it was that I used to be really fat, so what I could buy clothing-wise was limited to whatever was produced in sizes big enough to double as a car cover, but my feet were no fatter than anyone else's.