The Kia Soul of The MTV Video Music Awards 2013

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I didn’t watch the Miley Cyrus-inspired disaster on the MTV’s Video Music Awards this year. (I never watched these things even when they weren’t controversial.) The only good thing to come out was the new Kia Soul hamster commercial, where the hip-hop hamsters hit the gym to Lady Gaga’s “Applause” song. Kia has gotten a lot of advertising mileage out of these hamsters. I was never a fan of the hamsters until the “In My Mind” commercial appeared in the theaters last year.

The Ho-Hum Sticker Shock of College Housing

Hand towerThe San Jose Mercury News wrote that the cost of campus housing exceeded the cost of tuition for San Francisco Bay Area colleges. A quick back of the envelope calculation for my college years as a young student (early 1990’s) and an adult student (early 2000’s) shows that housing was always more expensive. Other than the sticker shock that parents are going through at this time of year, I’m not sure why this is news in Silicon Valley. Being a starving student was never an easy task.

After dropping out of high school three months into the ninth grade and three days into the tenth grade, I stayed home during my high school years and taught myself from books, newspapers, magazines and public television. I worked with my father in construction for several years after I turned 18-years-old, decided that I didn’t want to work in construction for the rest of my life, and checked out the local adult high school program. They turned me away after I blew out their evaluation exam, saying that it would take me five years to complete my high school diploma, and sent me over to San Jose City College to earn a general education associate degree in four years.

My parents never supported me going to college and expected me to fail like I did with high school. For the first year, I lived at home with them for free. But each day I looked for cans and bottles in the campus garbage cans to earn the $250 USD I needed for classes and books each semester. My father and I took my mountain of recyclables in his truck to the recycling center each month. After I got a minimum wage job at the campus bookstore, I worked 30 hours a week for the next three years. My parents conceded that I wasn’t a total failure when I graduated from community college.

After I joined the campus ministry to become a Christian in 1992, I moved into a five-bedroom Victorian that was a former frat house in Downtown San Jose with 12 guys. The monthly rent was $200 USD each. That lasted three months before four of us got our own two-bedroom apartment that still cost $200 USD each. Three months of rent was what it cost to go to community college for a year.

Not long after we moved out of the Victorian, the city of San Jose restricted the number of garbage cans for pick up to three. A household of 13 guys put out seven trash cans each week. Like basic cable TV, no one wanted to pay for a dumpster. The last guy to move out called the landlord in the Midwest to inform him that all the original tenants on the lease moved out a decade earlier.

When I went back to college to learn computer programming as an adult student, I worked 60 hours a week as a video game tester, paid $1,000 USD per month for a studio apartment and Uncle Sam paid for my second associate degree with a $3,000 USD tax credit to retrain for a new career. I even made the dean’s list for maintaining a 4.0 GPA in major courses. The cost of housing has exceeded the cost of tuition.

 

A Gentleman’s Club Comes To Downtown San Jose

Gold Club San JoseA gentleman’s club, The Gold Club, has recently opened in downtown San Jose, surprising some people because an announcement wasn’t made until last month. As nudity isn’t allowed, all the female employees will be wearing bikinis. Not surprisingly, the councilman who represents the district that the club sits in and other civic leaders are complaining about the inappropriateness that a bikini bar represents for a vibrant downtown. After visiting the Voodoo Lounge in Las Vegas for a Star Trek convention party, I doubt this club will matter much.

The biggest complaint about the downtown clubbing scene is that it doesn’t exist. If you want to go clubbing, you need to go to San Francisco or Los Angeles. Most clubs come and go so fast in San Jose that none ever found a steady clientele. If the police gets called in to break up a fight or two (the bouncers are almost always moonlighting cops), the club closes down faster than they can open. After a name change and/or a change of ownership, the club re-opens a month later and the cycle repeats itself.

As for the female staff members in bikinis, I suspect most of them will be skinny little things. While visiting Las Vegas, I noticed that the skinny little things wore bikinis on the strip or danced in skimpy outfits on the mini stages in the casinos, and women with hips were more clothing to sell cigarette or run the keno sheets. Skinniness versus hippieness is the dividing line for these types of establishments.

One time my friend and I went to Hooters in Campbell for dinner. All the waitresses were the skinny little things that I paid no attention, probably because they are 20+ years my junior and I prefer women with actual hips. Our waitress in the skimpy Hooters outfit for that evening looked like she was 16-years-old and wore braces, a combination that screamed jailbait like nothing else. We gave her a big tip for trying so hard at being sociable with us as we were disconcerted by her appearance.

Does San Jose need a red light district to stay competitive with the other big cities?

No, it doesn’t. I remembered downtown San Jose back in the 1980’s, where the prostitutes openly plied their trade and trash covered the streets. When the brand new convention center opened in 1989, my father and I caught the bus to downtown to attend the free car show. Downtown became a redevelopment zone that sent the prostitutes packing and construction dust covered the streets. After years of constructing new buildings and renovating old buildings, people are returning to downtown to live and work there.

But I doubt that a bikini bar will bring a wave of prostitution and crime to downtown as the critics claim. After the police clean up a fight or two inside, the club will have a different name and theme in a few months. Maybe the Chippendales will come to downtown.

Watching “The Profit” In Las Vegas

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While attending the Star Trek convention in Las Vegas, my roommate and I had a role reversal between what we do in our off hours. After I come home from my tech job, I’m writing on the computer and he’s flipping through the TV channels with the remote. After arriving at our hotel room, I found myself flipping through the TV channels with the remote and he’s connecting with his Facebook friends at the convention on his iPad. A brand new reality TV show called “The Profit” on CNBC caught my attention.

Marcus Lemonis, a self-made multimillionaire, invests his own money to help owners turn around their struggling business by taking full control for a week and making practical changes in exchange for a percentage of the profits. He focuses on the Three P’s: People, Process and Product. A business needs two out of three to survive, but having all three working together creates more profit for the business.

The second episode of a six-episode season featured Jacob Maarse Flowers, a second-generation family owned florist business in Pasadena that the son, Hank, inherited after his father passed away. He proves himself early on as being a weasel more interested in sitting on his ass, collecting a paycheck and letting his mommy write the checks to bail out the business. When Marcus asked him why he doesn’t have the store phone number on the delivery vans, he doesn’t want to have customers calling because that means more work and buying more flowers. Not realizing that having too much business is a better problem than not having enough business.

Despite cleaning up the store, installing security cameras, equipping the vans with GPS and a wraparound graphic with the store phone number, Hank goes home before the re-opening party and doesn’t see how these changes will make a difference. He tries to reneges on a $150,000 USD investment for 25% of the profits and behaves like a spoiled brat when Marcus calls his mother on the speakerphone to demand his money back. The episode ends with Marcus planning to file a lien against the store building to get his money back. Later, while being interviewed on a different CNBC financial show, Marcus reports that the mother later returned his money.

Unlike the similar “Restaurant Impossible” with Robert Irvine on Food Network, where Robert often threatens to pull out if the owners refuse to change but somehow manages to reopen the renovated restaurant, “The Profit” doesn’t always have a happy ending because Marcus isn’t afraid to walk away from a bad deal. I find this refreshing for a reality TV show. Every business is different, few owners are willing to give up control and even the best deals can fall apart at the last minute.

After being a short story writer for seven years and an ebook publisher for three years, I’m in the process of reinventing myself and my business. “The Profit” is a very informative TV show that touches many of the issues that I’m facing as a business owner. I look forward to seeing the other episodes and the full season next year.

A Curious Tale of The American Guillotine

Execution By GuillotineIf you pay any attention to American politics, especially the virulent strain known as the Tea Party that have driven moderate conservatives out of the Republican Party, you get used to hearing about all kinds of conspiracy theories. One of the weirdest conspiracy theory is the United States government buying guillotines, the medieval device that the French used to chop the heads of political prisoners. Why would the government need to buy 30,000 to 50,000 of these contraptions?

The country does have a black president in the White House. The only thing God-fearing white people are afraid of the most is the ANGRY BLACK MAN who can rape and pillage, riot in the cities and destroy Western (white) civilization as we know it. (This was why Trayvon Martin got shot and killed in Florida.) Since the ANGRY WHITE MAN is dying off from old age, it’s only a matter of time before the country goes down the toilet.

The government could declare martial law and summary execute its own citizens at secret detention centers around the country for the following reasons:

The guillotine conspiracy theory doesn’t pan out.

If the U.S. government was buying guillotines, it’s the paper trimmers with the long blade that you pull up and push down by the handle. I’ve always wondered what to call those things besides paper trimmers. No grade school teacher ever called them a guillotine. Maybe because we—the white students who will grow up to vote one day—were gullible and stupid enough to believe that the guillotine might be used for something else besides trimming paper.