The Return of Flicks Chocolate Candy

I came across a curious display at the local drugstore: Flicks chocolate candy.

Flicks Chocolate Candies

I haven’t seen these since the early 1970’s when I was little boy. I often played with my candy before eating them and Flicks did double duty. After coming home from the grocery store with my mother, I would go to the end table in the living room, open the wrapper at the end of the tube, dump the chocolate drops out and count each piece out aloud. If I didn’t know what the next number should be, my mother would count off of her fingers to help me along. After I ate all the chocolate, I took the wrapper off the cardboard tube and used it as a “telescope” for my imagination.

At some point I stopped eating Flicks and started eating M&M’s, sorting and counting the colors. Along the way Flicks disappeared from the store shelves entirely. According the company’s website, Flicks stopped making the candy in 1989 after the 100-year-old production equipment was damaged when moving to a new city. A new owner acquired the recipe and brand in 2004, and painstakingly reconstructed the original machinery to produce Flicks chocolate candy in 2005.

What’s the new Flicks chocolate candy like in the 21st century?

The biggest change was the packaging. Before you could open the wrapper at the end of the tube and spill out the chocolate drops. Not with today’s food safety regulations. The chocolate drops are now in a plastic bag. That killed half of my childhood memories when I opened the new Flicks. As for the chocolate drops, they still melted in my mouth and tasted the same as I had remembered from all those years ago.

Alas, the display bin is dwindling down to nothing after being available for a month. I doubt that the drugstore will stocked them with the regular candies. For a brief moment, I found and lost my childhood again.

Bravo’s Silicon Valley (High School) Reality Show

The other night I was bent over my MacBook programming a Joomla! CMS component for one of my other websites when my roommate duly informed me that Bravo was teaming up with Randi Zuckerberg to come out with a Silicon Valley reality TV series. I paused for a moment, three letters formed in my mind—WTF?!—as I considered the implications, and then laughed. Bravo won’t be getting this right. I went back to programming.

[iframe src=”http://www.bravotv.com/video/embed/?/_vid18180064″ width=”400″ height=”225″]

If you watch the video, a woman remarks at 1:30 that: “Silicon Valley is like high school, but its only smart kids and everyone has a lot of money.” I know of only one company in the valley that fits that description.

Google.

When I worked eight months at the help desk call center for Google in 2007, the pecking order was quite obvious: engineers and mangers worked directly for the company and everyone else worked for the vendors.

The engineers and managers were mostly twenty-somethings hired straight out of college who looked like the uber-elite crowd from high school. Especially all the hot-hot-hot women running around the place. I’m surprised that Playboy have never done a photo shoot of the hot-hot-hot women at Google. No high school would be complete without a sparkling vampire*cough* Al Gore *cough*—hanging around the campus to give it some sizzle.

As for everyone else, we worked for the vendors who provided all the services that made the company run. We weren’t young, sexy and rich. I was a fat white guy who answered the phone to explain to these young engineers that the reason their computer didn’t work was because they haven’t turned it on. (I reassured upset engineers that Google was developing all the Star Trek technologies that they seen on the TV reruns.) Those phone calls were the highlight of my unglamorous days.

What Bravo wants is the soap opera that can overwhelm and destroy a Silicon Valley company.

Only once did I get sucked into that at Google. The lead field tech screamed at me over the phone for 15 minutes for my obvious lack of training in handling a particular ticket. He really needed to talk to my supervisor but vented at me instead as I was professionally obligated to stay above the fray when answering the phones. That moronic behavior rattled me enough that my supervisor sent me home with pay. My supervisor’s boss later explained that the field techs were under duress because their jobs might be moved from Google (cool) to a vendor (not cool). I was happy to get out after the stock price peaked in December 2007 and started a long slide into the Great Recession. I later heard that those were unhappy times for the young, sexy and not so rich crowd.

When the new show does air, I’ll be blogging about every episode of the young and the restless in Silicon Valley. Bravo won’t be getting this right. This should be fun for those of us who know better.

Rick Santorum Needs A California Education

Rick Santorum, running for the Republican presidential nomination beat a dead horse contest, talked about the California education system while campaigning in Wisconsin. The newest Santorumism is that American history is no longer taught in California. That’s news to me. I took quite a few history, literature and social studies courses in college, where AMERICA was mentioned a few times. That was much better than what I was taught in grade school in the early 1980’s, where the teachers didn’t even mentioned Watergate and President Richard Nixon’s resignation because the 20-year-old textbooks didn’t include them.

[youtube]asTPft2-RWw[/youtube]

The traditional conservative complaints about the California education system is all those multiculturalism classes that you need for graduation.

If you’re a fat white guy like me, you have a target on your back if you’re the only fat white guy in the classroom. When I took black social studies, I took the heat for slavery,  Jim Crow and Michael Jackson. When I took women literature, I took the blame for every woman being naked, pregnant and in the kitchen. When I took small group communications, the Vietnamese guys made me do all the work and speak in front of the class (the instructor gave me all their points as a bonus). These were uncomfortable classes even for a moderate conservative like myself.

As a fat white guy today, I’ll probably take the heat and the blame for Rick Santorum. *sigh*

Updated 4/17/2012 — Closed the comments on the blog post. For whatever reason, this blog post had attracted 80+ comment spam with Asian logograms per day. Who knew that Rick Santorum was so popular with Asian spammers? After two weeks of this, I’m tired of cleaning out the spam folder. If you’re a spammer reading this, your business isn’t welcome here.

Saying No To Protect Your Personal Intellectual Property Rights

Shay Pierce, an independent video game designer and programmer, earned the dubious distinction last week as being the only person at OMGPOP, developer of Draw Something (a Pictionary-style clone) app for the iPhone/Touch/iPad, to turn down the $210-million USD buyout package from Zynga, developer of Farmville and other popular games. As he wrote in a Gamasutra article, he had a legitimate reason to walk away from the deal.

It was a reasonable contract. But there were a couple of consequences of signing it which concerned me. Zynga sells puzzle games on the iOS App Store. I sell a puzzle game on the iOS App Store. Was this a “conflict of interest” under the contract’s definition, or not? If so, would Zynga act on that fact, or not? I didn’t want to lose ownership of Connectrode, or have to remove it from the iOS App Store.

Connectrode is a game that I developed independently in 2011, while I was working as an independent contractor. I designed it on my own, did all the coding in my spare time, and contracted the visual and audio work to talented friends here in Austin. (I finished and submitted it to the App Store shortly after my employment with Omgpop began, with the company’s awareness and permission.)

Financially, Connectrode had performed the same as most spare-time indie game projects: not terribly well. It was reviewed positively by TouchArcade, Joystiq, and others, and it was featured by Apple for three weeks; but it never broke into the top 10 or sold millions. It wasn’t changing anyone’s life.

But… I love Connectrode. It’s a very personal creation. My wife (who’s played hundreds of hours of Dr. Mario with me) encouraged me to make it; when you first launch the game, you see a dedication to her. (The code has a special case so that on her phone, this dedication appears on every launch.) And designing a compelling abstract puzzle game is more difficult than you might think — I’m proud of it. It’s not much, but it’s mine.

For many people, signing the job offer would be a no brainer since they have nothing at stake. But for those of us who are creative in our own spare time, the intellectual property rights (IPR) form can be a kiss of death depending on how it is worded.

When I was at Accolade/Infogrames/Atari (same company, different owners, multiple identity crisis) before the dot com bust, the QA department was presented with a revised IPR form that was so broadly worded that everything the employee thought of at work or home belonged to the company. Not only did we have to signed the form by the end of the day, we had to submit a list of every personal copyright, trademarks and other intellectual property rights we had to be evaluated by the corporate attorneys.

This sparked a rare uprising in the department—no one signed the document.

Some threaten to call their attorneys. A few threaten overwhelm the corporate attorneys with hundreds of pages to document their extensive copyright claims. Others talked about a strike—a popular topic since Sony paid their testers $4 USD more per hour. At the time, I only had my personal website. I was keen enough on IPR to know that I wasn’t giving the company anything beyond the labor they paid me for. The HR rep, seeing that the QA department wasn’t going to budge on this issue, went back to the corporate attorneys for a much narrower IPR form that everyone could sign.

The CEO of OMGPOP, Dan Porter, posted a few tweets (now deleted) about Shay Pierce over the weekend, creating a brouhaha about what happened and confirming that douchebaggery is alive and well in the video game industry.

These days whenever I’m presented with an intellectual property rights form for a job, I leave it blank. Like last week’s social media password controversy, my anonymous alter ego has nothing to declare. As a tech worker, I’m there to do the job I’m paid to do. Whatever I do and think on my own time is my own business. If a push comes to a shove, I won’t hesitate to say no.