Vice Presidential Debate (Marlarkey)

Unlike the first presidential debate last week, I was looking forward to the vice presidential debate. Vice President Joe Biden can always be counted on to provide a good show with his gregarious personality. Congressman Paul Ryan looked like the guilty little schoolboy who stole his sister’s panties and on the verge of being caught redhanded with them on national TV. Both sides hit their talking points without revealing anything new in the back-and-forth discussion moderated by Martha Raddatz, who did a much better job than Jim Lehrer did in keeping President Barack Obama awake during the first presidential debate.

Meanwhile, I was still playing Tiny Towers on my iPad as the candidates talked over each other. I added the 71st floor to my tower. It’s taking about three days to add a new floor in the game. A day to collect 800,000+ coins and two days for construction. Like the 2012 presidential election, this is dragging on as the end comes nigh.

Again, Governor Mitt Romney is still MIA from appearing on The Late Show With David Letterman. But that didn’t stop Letterman from commenting on the Ryan gym photos that Time released before the debate. Does anyone really want this guilty little schoolboy to be a heartbeat within the presidency?

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hkTVeZ8EomM]

The Silver Economy Is Ruining My Tech Career

Underwater MortgageFollowing the aftermath of the dot com bubble, I went back to college to learn computer programming. Most people thought I was crazy. Computers were out, health care was in. With baby boomers retiring en masse in the coming years, employers would find it impossible to fill so many open computer positions. Plenty of future opportunities for me. And then the Great Recession came along. Now baby boomers don’t want to retire from their jobs, which is ruining my tech career.

Baby boomers, I came to learn, are a very whiny bunch.

A typical sob story is a Baby Boomer couple who bought a house that they couldn’t afford at the top of real estate market (mistake #1). They borrowed the down payment from their retirement accounts (mistake #2), which has to be paid back or hefty taxes will be due, and took out an adjustable interest mortgage with low payments for the first few years (mistake #3). The couple needed two jobs to pay their bills and maintain their “affluent” lifestyle on credit cards (mistake #4). Everything was going good until Wall Street cratered the economy. The husband lost his job and the wife works fewer hours. Now they can’t afford to retire and must continue to work. Whining to me about their woes doesn’t help (mistake #5).

I’ve heard countless variations of this theme over the last few years. I want to shove a dead hard drive down their throats when they start going off on their spiel. Whine, whine, whine. I’m sick and tired of hearing how their version of the American dream got flushed down the toilet while their pants were down.

So what? Life sucks. Move on.

Their sense of entitlement is so out of whack with reality that they haven’t figured out that they need to make some huge adjustments. Like downward. All the way downward. They had the best life for the second half of the 20th century. Now that the 21st century is here, the economy is kicking their sorry asses. The party is over, the hungover is here.

As a Gen Xer who grew up in the shadow of baby boomers, I don’t feel incline to whine about my circumstances. (Unless it’s my personal blog here, which is read by two dozen spammers who leave interesting comments in the spam queue about my blog posts and their penis enlargement pills.) I’ve been unemployed for two years, underemployed (working 20 hours per month) for six months, filed for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, and worked more jobs in the last two years than the previous decade. Not the kind of things you want to whine about at work.

When my father passed away from lung cancer this year, my baby boomer brother complained that he died in a “shitty little trailer” in Sacramento. But that trailer home was paid for. Born in the Great Depression and raised during World War II, my father knew how to live within his means. Something that baby boomers need to learn for the first time.

Great America’s Gold Striker Roller Coaster

California’s Great America amusement park in Santa Clara, CA, is getting a new wooden roller coaster called the “Gold Striker” in 2013. After watching the video a few times, it looks like the old Lockheed IMAX Pictorium building will be demolished after being closed for a decade. If you wanted to see an IMAX movie, this was the only place to go to for many years before IMAX theaters became commonplace in recent years. On a middle school field trip in 1984, I saw a short video of the Space Shuttle Challenger being launched into space at night, where the roar of the engines shook the six-story tall building. Nice to see this part of the amusement park finally being renovated.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hKhTIh8095g]

I’m not a fan of roller coasters. I have fear of heights and hate surrendering control, which is what makes roller coasters fun for most people. I prefer roller coasters that go up and down without too many variations in between. Plain and boring works well for me.

A college roommate tricked me into riding “Montezooma’s Revenge” at Knott’s Berry Farm in Southern California in 1994. That roller coaster does a loop and goes straight up before going backwards in reverse. My guts felt like it was hanging out through my mouth on the return trip. This wasn’t a “beginner” roller coaster as he had promised.

The “Gold Striker” makes the venerable “Grizzly,” the other wooden roller coaster at the park that I rode twice before, look tame in comparison by being taller, longer and faster. I’m looking forward to riding the new roller coaster next year. I might even ride it more than twice.

Who Celebrates Columbus Day Anymore?

Columbus DayI was driving into work yesterday when the KGO 810AM traffic report on the radio mentioned that traffic was light throughout the San Francisco Bay Area because of the Columbus Day holiday. That didn’t make any sense. The northbound traffic on the 280 came to a crawl because of an accident in Cupertino. Not surprisingly, the accident was long gone when I drove by and the next traffic report mentioned the slowdown. As for Columbus Day, who celebrates Columbus Day anymore?

The last time I celebrated Columbus Day was in the second grade in the 1970’s, where the boys wore Indian feathers, painted red “war” paint on our bare chest, and ran around with rubber tomahawks to menace the girls in their “settler” sundresses. I didn’t want to be an Indian. I wanted to bring in my cap rifle and guns to shoot the Indians dead (I had grudges against several of my classmates), but there were no cowboys around when Christopher Columbus discovered America in 1492.

I inquired with a co-worker if we were supposed to be at work since Columbus Day was a holiday. Unfortunately, it wasn’t that kind of a holiday. This paleface wouldn’t be driving back home to go back to bed. This was Monday, work had to be done and I needed the paycheck. Getting up late in the morning was for the weekends and real holidays.

My co-worker also told me that Columbus Day should be called Indigenous Day of Remembrance—not to be confused with American Indian Heritage Day in November—for all the evil things that Columbus did when he set foot in America: the slavery and small pox epidemics that decimated the native populations. All the stuff I wasn’t taught about in the second grade. No surprise there. I didn’t learn anything about American history until I took courses in college.

The only time Native Americans are discussed in modern day America is whether or not Elizabeth Warren has Cherokee and Delaware ancestry and Senator Scott Brown’s supporters are doing the tomahawk chop in the U.S. Senate race in Massachusetts.

I’m not even sure if Italian-Americans celebrates Columbus Day. At least, not in Silicon Valley. None of my relatives from that side of the family invited me over for spaghetti and meatballs last night. Considering that the San Francisco Giants and the Oakland A’s are reeling in the playoffs, no one was in a celebratory mood. Forget about some dead old white guy. Another “Battle of The Bay” world series may not happen this year.

The Agony Of A Flu Shot

Flu Shots SignMy full time non-writing job is replacing computers at a hospital in the San Francisco Bay Area. I have zero contact with patients as I go about my rounds to replace dust bunny infested computers that are years past being replaced. But, because this is a hospital, I had to get a flu shot to protect everyone else. If I haven’t, I would have to wear a mask during the flu season—or risk losing my job. Until this requirement was imposed on me, I thought peeing into a cup for a drug test was bad enough.

The first time I got a flu shot as an adult was at a company sponsored event in 2006, where we were herded into a big empty room to stand in line, fill out a form, and sit down for the shot. I made a huge scene as I became indecisive about getting a flu shot, going back and forth like a drama queen. Everyone was or laughing or smiling,  telling me that it wasn’t a big deal.

Somehow I got the shot. Somehow I made it back to my cubicle without collapsing. Somehow I caught the shuttle bus, commuter train and light rail back home without puking. Somehow I allowed a needle to pierce my skin for the first time in years.

I was in the third grade when my back went out in the late 1970’s. For whatever reason, an ambulance wasn’t called. No school nurse available. My teacher drove me over to her family doctor. An old man who seemed to specialized in two forms of treatments: requesting blood tests from a lab and sticking his index finger up my fat ass. I sometimes caught him sniffing his finger. I was too young to know if this was right or wrong.

I threw a screaming fit every time I went to the lab. Two big guys dressed in white would hold me down on the examination table. Somehow I willed myself to stay still as my blood was drawn. Every. Single. Time. I’ve been skittish about needles ever since.

As for the doctor, he retired to Florida. Another family got wind of his preferred treatment for young children and threatened to call the police if he didn’t pay them off. He got out of town just before the district attorney’s office cracked down on paid referrals between doctors and labs.

I’ve been getting a flu shot every other year since 2006. Although I don’t throw a crying fit anymore, my legs still get rubbery and I’m on the verge of passing out. I usually end up with a sore arm and a slight fever after being inoculated.

The flu shot at the hospital didn’t hurt as much as the new needles are more smaller. I did experience a wider range of side effects—soreness, fever, chill and muscle ache—after I came home and went straight to bed. Unlike the $30 USD flu shots I got at CVS, I didn’t have to pay for this one.

Mitt Romney’s Hard On Fetish For Big Bird

The references to Big Bird and PBS went over my head during the first presidential debate the other night. (I was too busy playing Tiny Tower—now at the 65th floor—at the time.) But, apparently, Mitt Romney has a real hard on fetish for Big Bird on the campaign trail. I’m shocked—shocked!—that Romney is a Big Bird stalker, professing his love and threatening to do harm in the same breath to America’s favorite fowl. I wouldn’t be surprised if Romney gets busted for possessing Evil Bert porn.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wniJVjk6mMg]

Big Bird, Sesame Street and PBS has always been a favorite target for the Republican Party since the multicultural wars of the 1960’s, where the old white men of history and literature were threatened by the emerging voices of emancipated slaves, liberated women and other minorities in the American melting pot.

Even if the public subsidy for PBS was completely eliminated, it would only amount to 1/100th of one percent of the federal budget. A number so small in a $3 trillion USD budget that it’s not even big enough to be a rounding error.

Big Bird’s real contribution to the American economy is $46.9 million USD and 1,320 jobs. That’s right. Big Bird is a job creator that Republicans loved to talk about. Unfortunately, I don’t think the Republicans will stop looking down their lily-white noses to acknowledge that politically inconvenient fact.

First Presidential Debate (Big Bird)

The first presidential debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney took place last night. I’m not sure who won. Like the Republican National Convention and the Democratic National Convention, direct exposure can be hazardous to your health. I was too busy playing Tiny Tower on my iPad, adding the 64th floor and firing/hiring workers in my quest to become a “small” Donald Trump. The only time I looked up at the TV screen was when my roommate hurled a well-timed obscenity at Romney for lying about Medicare, Social Security and everything else. Ho-hum.

I was amused by the talking heads saying that Obama looked like he wanted to be somewhere else. Uh, hello? Last night was his 20th wedding anniversary to Michelle. Can’t blame the poor guy for wanting to be somewhere else on such an important night.

A real debate for Romney would be to appear on The Late Show with David Letterman before the election in November. Letterman held no punches when interviewing Obama last month, which is probably why Romney is afraid to come on the show. If Romney isn’t willing to be on the show, Letterman told viewers not to vote for him. Senator John McCain also snubbed Letterman in 2008—and lost the election to Obama.

An Amusement Park In The Middle Of Nowhere

Cow In Grassy FieldA Los Gatos developer wants to build a $1.2 billion USD amusement park in Tracy, a bedroom community in the middle of nowhere in the Central Valley, which would be four times larger than Disneyland in Southern California. When I first heard about this proposal, I had to wonder how much cow dung was being smoked to come up with this idea. I’m sure the cows in the surrounding fields will be very impressed with the empty roller coasters and the silent screams.

The “Spirit of California” amusement park will consist of 30 different businesses, including a casino, hotel, convention center and boat marina (a nearby river connects to the Sacramento-San Joaquin delta), on 628 acres of a former sugar plant. All the stuff that the big cities like San Jose and San Francisco take for granted when considering development projects. A big boost to the tax coffers will change Tracy from a bedroom community into a small city.

Located in a nexus of freeways that connect Stockton and Sacramento in the north, the San Francisco Bay Area to the west, the Central Valley to the south, and the planned California high-speed rail line passing through, thrill seekers from all over the state will have easy access in getting from somewhere to nowhere. Construction will start in 2014 and the entire amusement park should be done by 2024.

As long as the amusement park is being funded by private investments, I think this proposal might actually work. If the developer starts waving a tin can for public funds, all the government agencies involved should turn a tin ear.

Bad enough that high-speed rail is starting off in the middle of nowhere with a 65-mile segment from Merced to Fresno in the Central Valley, California doesn’t need another publicly funded boondoggle. If the developer wants to build the amusement park, let them find the money and make it happen. Otherwise, this might turn out to be another pipe dream that will leave the cows unimpressed.

Review – Battleship (Redbox DVD)

Battleship The MovieA summer popcorn movie demands that you park you brain into neutral, sit back, relax and enjoy the show. Almost. When “Battleship” became available on Redbox, I was thankful that I didn’t spend any money to see this movie in the theater. (Redbox provided a 50-cent off promo code that reduced the one-night rental to $0.76 USD.) You’re not supposed to think too hard about the underlying premise of a popcorn movie. If you do, the whole movie unravels. Sorry, I couldn’t help myself. The science fiction in this alien invasion movie was seriously lacking.

Since I saw “Battleship” on a small analog TV screen, the tiny intro text at the beginning of the movie was unreadable. Without reading that, the science doesn’t make any sense. After playing the DVD on my PC to review the opening sequence, the science still doesn’t make any sense.

In 2005, scientist discovers an Earth-like planet in another solar system. No details on where this solar was located (i.e., how many light years from Earth).

In 2006, NASA has a new communication satellite that can send a laser beam to the newly discovered planet that is five times as powerful than anything before. What does “five times as powerful” mean? I don’t know. Let’s assume that the laser beam travels at five times the speed of light, which may technically be possible.

In 2012, five extraterrestrial ships arrives at Earth. One ship collides with a satellite, breaks up in the atmosphere and destroys much of Hong Kong. This turns out to be the communication ship. The other four ships lands in the Pacific Ocean near Hawaii, throws up a huge force field and take over the satellite station on the island. You would think that the aliens would have brought a spare cellphone to call home.

Within the six year time frame of the movie, the laser beam has to travel through space to reach the planet, be decoded by the repetailian-like aliens with spiky goatees, and a handful of ships are sent in response to kick ass on Earth.

From a speculative scientific point of view, the alien planet has to be within a 25-light-year radius (five years X five times the speed of light = 25 light years) from Earth. The Gliese 581 G planet is 22 light years away and the red drawf star would be consistent with the aliens intolerance of the Earth’s brighter yellow sun. Let’s give the aliens a year to decode the laser beam and assemble an invasion fleet that travels like hell in the remaining time left.

With the aliens being interstellar neighbors, wouldn’t 60 years of television and radio signals being broadcast into space be enough to provoke the aliens into attacking Earth without NASA sending a laser beam?

As for the rest of the movie, the military action and the dialog was entirely predictable. That the museum battleship, U.S.S. Missouri, just happened to have a half-dozen live rounds on board was also implausible. Based loosely on the game, no battleship was sunk.