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.

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.

Texas Mom Jailed For Letting Kids Play Outside

As a native Californian who was born and raised here, I always have to wonder what’s in the water in Texas when weird things happen down yonder. A mom was thrown in jail for letting her young kids play outside after a busybody neighbor called the police to report them as being unsupervised. The stay-at-home mom was watching her kids from a lawn chair. The police officer who showed up didn’t believe her and arrested her for child endangerment. In the finest American tradition, the mother had filed a lawsuit against the police department, the police officer and the busybody neighbor.

We don’t know why the busybody neighbor called the police in Texas as she made no comment on the matter. If this had happen in California, it would be because the noisome kids were driving down the real estate values in the neighborhood.

Seriously.

Two roommates and I were renting the front apartment of a triplex not far from San Jose City College in 2002, which meant that we had to take care of the front yard. After a roommate’s mother raped my petunias to make potpourri, I stopped watering the planter and the naked petunias died.

An older neighbor lady walking her dog one morning informed us that the dead petunias had caused the real estate value of her house to drop by $25,000 USD. I asked her if her house was on the market and she said no. When I pointed out that her house has no relative value until it was on the market, she left in a huff and threaten to call the landlord.

We ended up moving shortly thereafter, but not because of the busybody neighbor down the street was fretting about real estate values.

A bisexual man with his straight girlfriend and his gay boyfriend—all Mexicans—moved into the front apartment of the triplex next door. He accused our Mexican roommate of peeping into his bedroom window while he was having sex with his girlfriend and lusting after his boyfriend. Mexican roommate told him he was stupid in Spanish and slammed the front door on him. Apparently, in Mexico, calling someone stupid and slamming the front door was socially unacceptable.

After a string of late night visits from the police inquiring about his legal status, the Mexican roommate moved out. The other roommate and I moved into a smaller apartment a month later. The landlord’s wife started pulling out the dead petunias as we handed over the keys to the apartment, restoring the neighborhood real estate values by $25,000 USD. No one gave us a commission for this economic miracle.

From what I later heard from another neighbor, the neighborhood was in turmoil for six months from the sexual hijinks of these neighbors before they were evicted. That probably didn’t effect the neighborhood real estate values as much as the dead petunias did. This situation was truly Californian. If this had happened in Texas, the troika next door would have been deported back to Mexico—or California.

Cutting 400 Trees For The Space Shuttle Parade

The Space Shuttle Endeavour is coming to South Los Angeles for a 12-mile, two-day parade before arriving at its final home at the California Science Center. That’s the good news. Everyone loves a parade. How often do you see a 78-foot-wide, five-story-tall spacecraft being towed down the street? The bad news is that 400 trees have to be cut down to accommodate the width of the space shuttle.

But for some residents in South L.A., the excitement of the shuttle rumbling through their neighborhoods quickly faded when they learned that 400 trees will be chopped down to make room for the behemoth.

[…]

Many worry that the replacements — young, wiry trees that will provide little shade — will pale in comparison to the mature magnolias that line the Crenshaw corridor. Others are concerned that the bare streets will further depreciate property values.

Didn’t NASA do an environmental impact study on transporting the space shuttle to its final home before selecting Los Angeles?

Cutting down mature trees reduces the amount of shade that keep buildings and sidewalks cool during the summer. Replacing mature trees with double the number of young trees won’t replace that missing shade for a generation. Which is why most communities have made it difficult for homeowners and developers to cut down mature trees. Cutting down even a single mature tree can be a substantial loss to a neighborhood. Multiply that by 400, the loss becomes an environmental tragedy.

This reminds me of the classic episode from “The Andy Griffith Show,” where the fine citizens of Mayberry spruce up the place for a Hollywood movie and the movie producer stops them from cutting down of a historic oak tree because they were ruining the small town atmosphere he was looking for (begins at the 20:00 mark).

Like a very young Ron Howard, I went through a Hollywood movie making phase during the late 1970’s. (Except my father refused to get me a Super 8 movie camera as developing the film was expensive for a wannabe George Lucas without an allowance.) That an old oak tree could be sacrifice for a Hollywood movie—or “progress” under different circumstances—was a disturbing idea to me then. Sacrificing 400 mature trees for a spacecraft relic is a disturbing idea now.

A Bloody Summer In San Jose

San Jose August 2012 Homicide Map
San Jose Mercury News

I’m not sure if San Jose is turning into the Old West or the next Oakland with seven people murdered—some in broad daylight—in the past week. The 31st homicide took place last night with a stabbing inside a Safeway on Story Road. Even when I lived in downtown San Jose during my college years in the 1990’s, where the most violet incident was a blotched robbery that ended with the getaway driver accidentally shot himself in the foot with a shotgun and crashed the car into a telephone pole, this violent trend has been unprecedented.

Most of the homicides took place on the East Side of San Jose, which my late mother called “the wrong side of the railroad tracks” (the North-South lines that runs parallel to Monterey Road) and journalist Geraldo Rivera once called “the ghetto side of town” on national TV. This is where the gang bangers, poor and immigrant families can be found. Ten of the homicides are suspected to be gang-related and the gang prevention task force has been mobilized.

My neighborhood in the San Jose City College area was peaceful with no homicides. (The 2012 homicide map shows an empty space below the 280 and between the 17 and the 87 in the lower left corner.) When I moved into my apartment complex seven years ago, I reported every incident of gang graffiti, suspicious teenagers hanging out in the carports and the theft of my car antenna. Gang bangers have never established a foothold here. A killing under the golden arches last year was literally around the corner and the closest murder to my home.

Why the sudden up tick in shootings? Gang members could be earning their street creds by killing each other (not necessarily a bad thing). The understaffing of police officers due to recent budget cuts have left patrols stretched thin throughout the city. Prisoners being moved from the state prisons to the county jails to relieve overcrowding under court order, which in turn forces the early release of criminals back into the community. Or it could be a statistical fluke where everything happens at once for no particular reason.

Anyway, whatever the reason, the 2011 record for 39 homicides will soon be broken if this violent trend continues unabated.

GOP 2012 Convention Supports Strip Clubs

Strip Club Sign

When Republicans hit Tampa, Florida, for their 2012 presidential convention in late August, they will drop their hard earned money on the strip clubs, spending three times more than Democrats—$150 USD vs. $50 USD, respectively—for lap dances. According to one club owner, the biggest spenders were from the Christian evangelical  groups like the Promise Keepers.

This isn’t surprising. When you’re in the business of telling people how to live, the rules applies everyone else—except you, of course. While everyone else has to live the straight and narrow Christian life, you can end a long night at the convention by blowing your money at the strip clubs and maybe bringing back a sweet young thing to your hotel room. These are small businesses and less fortunate women who need the financial support that a big convention brings to town. If there anything that Republicans support, it’s business and hypocrisy.

Remember Senator Larry Craig? The Republican from Idaho got arrested for picking up an uncover cop for gay sex in an Minneapolis airport bathroom. Now he’s claiming that he was on official Senate business in the bathroom to avoid being busted by the Federal Election Commission (FEC) for using campaign funds to defend himself in court. (He pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct.) In particular, he was traveling from Idaho to Washington when he inadvertently foot tapped himself into a sex sting operation.

The Republican Party of California is on the verge of becoming a minor—if not, entirely third-rate—political party. The southern strategy that put Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan from California into the White House doesn’t work anymore. Being holier than thou and far-right of Barry Goldwater isn’t popular here since white folks are now the minority. The Democrats can bankrupt the state government and California can slide into the Pacific Ocean after an earthquake, but no one will remember the Republican Party.

Perhaps Professor Arnold Schwarzenegger can help the Republicans become a moderate political party—or bang the maid without having a love child.

Making Policy With Professor Schwarzenegger

California’s favorite maid-banging action hero, Arnold Schwarzenegger, turns up at a new gig to make policy at the Sol Price School of Public Policy with the Schwarzenegger Institute for State and Global Policy. If you’re a University of Southern California student interested in learning “post-partisan” policy, Professor Schwarzenegger—he earned an honorary degree from USC in 2009—will pontificate on his views of body building, acting, entrepreneurialism, governing and maid-banging. And let’s not the forget the fine art of leaving a hidden F-bomb in a public policy statement.

The Las Vegas High Speed Rail Connection

Although the California high speed rail project looks like Governor Jerry Brown’s last attempt at establishing his legacy (or another boondoggle, it’s hard to tell), there’s a surprising new twist in the tracks: travel from San Francisco to Las Vegas in four hours. With a connection at Palm Springs, you can transfer to the privately-funded XpressWest high-speed rail train to speed across the desert to the City of Sin. The four-hour train trip will set you back $140 USD in today’s dollars. Or you could spend $80 USD on a ninety-minute airplane trip, if you’re not afraid of flying.

As reported in The San Jose Mercury News article:

Renamed last month from DesertXpress to XpressWest, the private venture eight years in the making is bankrolled chiefly by Vegas hotel developer Tony Marnell and supported by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Southern California politicians. One day, they dream of extending the line to Phoenix, Salt Lake City and Denver.

It’s at least a decade away for the Bay Area, however. First, California, which received $8 billion in tax funds Wednesday to begin construction on a separate, government-owned bullet train line, hopes to find the full $69 billion to send trains between San Francisco and Los Angeles by 2029. Meanwhile, the Vegas train developers must secure several billion dollars to build a rail line to connect to the state project at the desert city of Palmdale.

The California high-speed rail has the making of a very expensive boondoggle. If you look at the map, the most direct route between Los Angeles and San Francisco would be to run the tracks straight down the middle of the I-5 and make whatever connections needed to tie in the outlying communities. Unfortunately, politics came into play. The most indirect route was chosen to go east through all the towns in the Central Valley before coming back over west to connect with the San Francisco Bay Area.

Subsequently, the first section of the high-speed rail tracks will be laid in the Central Valley to connect Nowhere A to Nowhere B.

This reminds me of the compromise that Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority made for building the main light rail line. The objective was to move people from the bedroom communities in the south to the jobs in the north. Unfortunately, politics came into play. The main light rail line went through downtown San Jose, which reduced the light rail train speed from 65MPH to 35MPH and added an extra 30 to 45 minutes to the rush hour commute. A more direct route would have bypassed the downtown area and sent the line passing by the San Jose International Airport. If you’re heading to the airport, you can get off at the Metro station on North First Street and take a ten-minute shuttle bus into the airport.

The United States needs a major infrastructure project to connect far flung areas in the West, but I’m not sure if the high-speed rail as configured in California is the way to go.

California July 4th Fireworks Gone Bust

San Diego had a spectacular fireworks display that lasted 30 seconds on July 4th, 2012, when the Big Bay Boom show went up in smoke all at once. A computer glitch and/or virus may have caused the ignition of all the fireworks.

 

The three major firework shows in Silicon Valley were no different with a low cloud cover obscuring the night sky. Depending on where you were in San Jose, Santa Clara and Mountain View, you heard the huge air cannons go boom, fireworks go shrieking into the clouds, and bright lights flashing inside the clouds. A very muted celebration since the holiday fell on Wednesday this year. Surprisingly, at my apartment complex, no one was shooting bottle rockets off the balconies.