All talk, and no game…

united states currency seal - IMG_7366_web This has been a very frustrating political year. All of the candidates seem to have managed escaping answering real questions, once again. The so-called media seems to have no interest in the truth any longer. Where does that leave us?

I have been asking that very question for some time now, and I think I have an answer. We need to stop listening to Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, PBS; stop buying The New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, etc… Stop giving them our business until they stop trying to play politics themselves. All we see is a non-stop barrage of spin from one side or the other (depending on the source.)

Romney

Maybe, if they see that we are no longer willing to put up with them talking circles around the issues, we can get them to actually start reporting the news and informing the public properly. Tonight is the first presidential debate for the 2012 election season, and I can’t help but wonder if it’s all just a waste of time. There’s no question what Obama’s intentions are, we can simply look at what he started and know that he will continue that agenda. Romney’s lack of personality shows us that he will say whatever it takes to get in, and then follow the party line.

We don’t need party lines, and we don’t need empty shells. We don’t need Obama-style spending, and we don’t need his kind of future. America is broke, and lost. We need to focus on getting the people back to work, freeing the education system from all the restriction that reward apathetic teachers. We need to have a little less talk about religious issues like abortion and gay marriage, and a LOT more talk about fixing our budget crisis.

Barack Obama

Today I was watching a morning news program (national, not local) and they asked people to tweet what they were looking to hear the candidates discuss tonight. Once again, people are too worried about OTHER PEOPLES’ LIVES, and asked for more of the same! Is it any wonder why the parties never get anything done? It’s because they spend so much time bickering over things they shouldn’t be legislating that they can’t stop for ten seconds and talk about what really matters right now. Leave social discussions for when the economy is booming.

We (as a society) will never agree on social issues completely, so why do we expect our government to force our own ideas on others for us? Does it really affect YOU if some woman in Florida gets an abortion? Does it really affect YOU if a same-sex couple in Idaho wants to get married? The answer to both questions is NO! A truly faithful Christian would not judge, and would not try to force their will on others. So let’s all get over it and move forward so that our country can move forward.

Money

I fully expect the time to be wasted on such issues, and allow the party-drones more time to spin the lack of economic growth. We need to hear about how they are going to do the following things, in order of importance:

  1. Get Americans back to work by bringing manufacturing back to America
    • We cannot provide for the needs of a middle class with service industries that pay barely over minimum wage
  2. Reduce government spending!
    • We don’t need to be building bike-paths, funding research on the mating habits of termites, or making bridges look pretty. We need to minimize to help reduce the cost on the American public that has already taken so many hits through a terrible economy and lack of jobs that pay living wages.
  3. Balance the federal budget!
    • This should not require raising taxes! Reducing spending will do it.
    • Make the tough decisions that will anger a lot of people, but be better for the country as a whole. You CAN keep your office if you do this, look at Wisconsin and how Gov. Scott Walker managed to stay in office through a recall campaign that seemed relentless in it’s desire to vilify a man who was actually doing his job!
  4. Restore our rights that were taken away in the name of “fighting terrorism” (both sides took part, so this is NOT a partisan issue)
    • “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” -Benjamin Franklin, 1775
  5. Restore the American image abroad, to what it was before we started trying to tell the whole world how to run their own governments
    • Our government needs to understand that what we think is “just” or “right” here, may not be seen the same way in other places. Just like it’s not our place to run an individual’s life, it is not our right to run a sovereign nation.
  6. Get America back to the top of the education pile.

Best Television Ever.

I just finished watching the first episode of “The Newsroom,” which is an HBO original series about a somewhat asinine (yet likable) news anchor named Will McAvoy. Will, played by Jeff Daniels, had allowed himself to become one of those Anderson Cooper types who nobody really seems to dislike… Until he did this, within the first 9 minutes of the show:

College Girl: What makes America the greatest country in the world?

*Some talking-head crap responses from all involved, and then the moderator (professor) tells Will that he wants a “real human moment.”

Will McAvoy: “It’s not the greatest country in the world professor, that’s my answer.”

Professor: “You’re saying…”

Will: “Yes.”

Professor: “Let’s talk about…”

Will: “Fine.”

*Turns to female news-anchor to his right*

“Sharron, the NEA is a loser. Yeah, it accounts for a penny out of our paycheck, but he gets to hit you with it any time he wants. It doesn’t cost money, it costs votes; it costs air-time, column inches. You know why people don’t like Liberals? Because they lose. If Liberals are so fucking smart, how come they lose so God damn always.”

Sharron: “Hey…”

Will (turning to face Conservative Anchor): “And with a straight face, you’re going to tell students that America is so star-spangled awesome that we’re the only ones in the world that have freedom? Canada has freedom. Japan has freedom. The U.K., France, Italy, Germany, Spain, Australia, BELGIUM has freedom. Two hundred and seven sovereign states in the world, like a hundred and eighty of them have freedom.”

Professor: “Alright…”

Will (turns to student asking the question): “And yeah, you, sorority girl. Just in case you accidentally wander into a voting booth one day, there’s some things you should know; and one of them is there’s absolutely no evidence to support that we’re the greatest country in the world. We’re seventh in literacy, twenty seventh in math, twenty second in science, fourty ninth in life-expectancy, a hundred and seventy eighth in infant mortality, third in median household income, number four in labor force, and number four in exports.

We lead the world in only three categories: Number of incarcerated citizens per capita, number of adults who believe angels are real, and defense spending where we spend more than the next twenty six countries combined… Twenty five of whom are allies.

Now none of this is the fault of a twenty year old college student, but you, none the less, are without a doubt a member of the worst ‘period’. Generation ‘period’. Ever ‘period’. So when you ask what makes us the greatest country in the world, I don’t know what the fuck you’re talkin’ about… Yosemite?!

Sure used to be. We stood up for what was right. We fought for moral reasons. We passed laws, struck down laws for moral reasons. We waged wars on poverty, not poor people. We sacrificed, we cared about our neighbors, we put our money where our mouths were, and we never beat our chest. We built great big things, made ungodly technological advances, explored the universe, cured diseases, and we cultivated the world’s greatest artists AND the world’s greatest economy.

We reached for the stars. Acted like men. We aspired to intelligence, we didn’t belittle it, it didn’t make us feel inferior. We didn’t identify ourselves by who we voted for in the last election, and we didn’t scare so easily.

We were able to be all these things, and do all these things because we were informed. By great men, men who were revered.

The first step to solving any problem is recognizing there is one. America is not the greatest country in the world any more.”

Now, if you didn’t want to read all of that, that’s OK. We can move on to my commentary without you knowing anything at all about what I’m trying to say…

This is one of those subjects that gets people angry, and then they react brashly, as if someone has just come in and raped their mom, or killed the dog with a blazing hot fire-poker. Everyone has a lot of things to say, while they have no idea what the facts are.

English: Map of the geographic regions of Wisc...

We live in a country where more people would fail a basic geography test, of their own state, than would actually be able to accurately tell you what our rights happen to be. This is not the symptom of being the greatest country on Earth, it’s a symptom of having lost that spot, but not the attitude that goes with it. Do you think that the Chinese people are standing about wondering what some gold-digger in Beverly Hills is doing? No. They are working their asses off to continue building the world’s NEXT greatest country. I wish them all the best, honestly. I just hope they learn from our mistakes and don’t let it all drop out from under them after they’ve had it for a decade or two.

I’m not going to go on about the show’s writer, because you have other blogs for that. What I am going to do, is recommend you watch the first ten minutes of this show while it’s available here on YouTube. It’s not available in all parts of the world, but if you’re clever with Google, you can get a copy that works. It doesn’t matter that it’s a TV show, or that it’s written by a very clever (if not preachy) Hollywood type. What matters, is that it’s one hundred percent, completely, without argument…

The truth.

Can we face this? Can we admit it? Can we fix it?

I think we can, but we have to care less about Hollywood than we do about Washington. When I say Washington, I mean D.C., not the state where petulant teen-dramas about stupid sparkly vampires get filmed.

Too much? I think not.

Heads Up…

I have finally gotten around to making some new headers for you all to enjoy. These are very “springy” due to the rainy day that inspired me to try some new stuff. “Summery” ones will follow soon.

Here you go…

I thought the flower cluster poking out between the pillars of the railing was perfect. This one also qualifies for the Weekly Photo Challenge! How cool is that? I wasn’t even trying, lol.

This is the bridge where the flower lives, which was also a great fit for the blog.

This is a shot of my rear-view mirror, with the view out the windshield blurred out… You know what they say; “Hindsight is 20/20.” I think this illustrates that concept rather well.

Just a nice photo of a nearby street, while it was empty of course.

Hope you enjoy them, and feedback is welcome as usual. I would like to remind everyone that I reserve all rights associated with any of my own works of photography and graphic design displayed on this blog. I apologize to my regular readers for the legal spot, but I have to put that there because I have already had one item show up elsewhere; thanks for understanding.

WoW Hackers are strange…

I received an email that was completely random last night. The email was an offer for a bunch of free stuff, if I was willing to retry World of Warcraft. It was from Blizzard, but triggered by someone in the game who I never heard of.

Apparently, someone had managed to get my Battle.net password and was using my account to get some time in WoW. This is now the second time this has happened to me, which is a bit strange because the first time was due to gold farmers looking to sell gold in game for real world cash. After learning that my Blizzard account was banned, I had to go through a process to confirm that I was who I said I was, and they reversed the ban. Oddly, the ones who hacked my account didn’t take the 370 gold that was on my main character… Lazy farmers I guess.

This time they just created a new character on a server I have never played before, and joined a guild. Timing is everything in these, because ironically they were trying to play it at the exact same time that I was. I kept getting booted off the game, so I figure we were fighting each other to be online. Now, since they probably would have no use for actually adding game time to my account, I can only guess that it was an effort to steal all of the stuff Blizzard gives you after they “quick-level” the chosen character to level 80. They were mid-flight when I finally got permanent access to the account (by adding an authenticator, and a VERY strong randomized password.) So I may have caught them just before they were going to make the trade. Again, they left my main character alone.

I just don’t see the purpose in all of this, because if your goal is to make money, why limit yourself to one side of things and not take it all? One could argue that I probably wouldn’t notice if they left the base characters alone, but with an offer like this hitting my mailbox, how could I NOT try and claim it? It was called a Scroll of Resurrection. So if anyone was wondering if this is a legit offer… It is!

Here’s what I was told I would get:

  • Free permanent upgrade to the Cataclysm expansion (along with the 2 prior ones)
  • Choose one character to auto-level (or quick-level if you prefer) to 80, which apparently came with all the gear you would need to get started at that level
  • Free transfer service: You can move the selected character to the same server as the person who invited you.
  • Free faction change: You could change to the faction of the invitee if you needed to.
  • 7 days of free game time

When I saw that, I was like “Cool, I can make my character on Skywall level 80, and actually be able to play the game; and I get the 2 expansions I don’t already have for free. Let’s go!”

With the account secured now, I am hoping to get the hacker’s character deleted and have the quick-level put on my main character. At the very least I am hoping they will move the new character to Skywall so I can at least have it on my original world.

Sorry, not something I would usually write about, but this whole process baffles and annoys me. That’s why I don’t have all the pictures like I normally do, I had to say something and this is more of a rant than a real post… Speaking of which, I should probably change my WordPress password too.

Games and Gamers…

Everyone has an image in mind when they think of a gamer. You know the one; living in his mom’s basement, with no job or life to call their own. Perhaps even fat, lazy, and dirty. There are those who fit that description, but the reality is most of us are actually quite functional members of society.

I guess the thing to figure out is what makes a gamer. You can try and define us by the types of games we play, but if you know more than one gamer you’ll know that we can argue about the dumbest aspects of a game. The tiniest thing can mean loving it, or hating it. So we can’t be put in that kind of a box. Simply, a gamer is someone who enjoys playing video games. This means that the Grandmother who plays Wii Sports is a gamer. Anyone who plays solitaire at work, is a gamer. The lines are blurring, and society is finding it more and more difficult to keep up their shunning of this new age of human entertainment.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3

The world has changed, and video games have become the new books; that fact will frighten some and sadden others, but it remains true. If you go around and survey people between 20 and 30, asking if they’ve ever read Moby Dick, they might answer yes only because their parents read it to/with them as a child. Ask the same group if they’ve ever played Mario, and I would be willing to bet 90% or more would say yes, and then be able to go on describing their favorite part. The success of recent games like “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3” is not just because there’s more kids playing video games, but because their parents are playing them too. An entire industry has grown up, and almost nobody has noticed. The ones who have noticed have been trying to deny it, or capitalize on it; there really seems to be almost no middle ground.

The beauty of games is that they come in so many styles and types. No two are the same, even if they share some of the same elements. “Battlefield 3” and “Modern Warfare 3” are direct competitors in the shooting genre, but ask any gamer which one is better and they can go into great detail about why one is better than the other. Same type of game, two completely different styles of implementation. I prefer “Modern Warfare 3,” because of the better response from the control system.

Sephiroth - Aerith scenePeople ask me why I like games so much, and I have never really taken the time to consider it in great detail until now. If I had to sum it up, I like them because of the complex things that make it all work; and because they can be just as effective, as an escape, as a good book. In truth, many games now have more involved and developed story lines than modern books. The process of getting your attention has gone far beyond simply making it fun to play.

They have to engage you mentally as well. “Final Fantasy 7” still has thousands of players around the world (including your writer) even after 2 new console generations and countless graphics improvements in the industry. The story captured peoples’ imaginations and took us to a place no book can… A place where we actually get to make choices in the story. Sure, they have choose your own adventure books, but those just encourage you to spend more time organizing a system, to reach every possible ending, than actually enjoying the story.

Creating a game is a very time consuming and complex thing. It seems that most people think they just sit in a room for a month or two and crank one out like a movie, but it is vastly more stressful than that. You have to code everything so that when you press “A”, you jump. You have to have extremely talented artists to make it all look amazing while you play it (even a game as simple as “FEZ” took immense thought and creativity.) There are people whose’ only job is to make sure that a single level works the way it should.

The easy tileset for the Gnome games version o...

The process of fixing a bug in a game is very misunderstood by most gamers as well. If you browse the forums for any game, you will find people complaining about things that they don’t have in game, or that are broken. Often they just demand immediate solutions, but they don’t understand that it takes time and many people to get there. First someone has to identify where the problem is in the code, then they have to either fix it or write a new feature (which could break something else) and send it off to the artists. The artists make sure it appears to belong in the game, because if the menu shows Mahjong tiles in a solitaire (Klondike) game, it confuses the player. That’s an extreme example, but true enough.

After the code is implemented, and the art work is done, the testers take over. Their job is to find as many bugs in the new system as possible, and report any they find back to the coders. One new feature can run through this circle many many times before it’s ready to be given to the gaming masses, and even then it might not be perfect. It’s easy to say “fix the bugs before you release a game” but the number of different possible actions are magnified thousands of times once it reaches the public. If I have 10 full time game testers, they may be able to execute a few million actions in a month. Millions of gamers will execute billions upon billions of actions, and can uncover a lot more errors simply because of the number of them going through the game; and that’s not even mentioning the ones who deliberately try to break the game in the search for exploits.

As a person who’s interests lie in writing and graphic design, I love games of all kinds. I’ll take a simple game with interesting graphics and a great story over a super complex game with a bad story every time. Role Playing Games are among my favorite, and Resident Evil types are the ones I despise most, because they are great examples of what I am talking about. Resident Evil started off as an intricate hybrid of a shooter and a puzzle game, with elements of a “find the object” game. The story left a lot to be desired, and I found myself never going back to the series after the first one. Role Playing Games put almost all of their eggs into the story aspect of the game, so they draw you in and make you want to know what happens.

I’m often asked why I want to go to school for graphic design and photography; I usually end up being honest… “I want to work in movies finding shooting locations, or making video games. I know that even if I never get to do that people will always need someone to design their web pages, logos, fliers, and advertising materials.” Graphic design can help me get to a dream job, but it will also allow me to continue with a viable career even if that doesn’t happen, which is a win win. Photography can also help me get a dream job, but it can be done freelance, which will help boost my income no matter which direction I end up going in.

I went off in a few directions here, so thanks for putting up with my late-night ramblings. I guess that means everything above is useless, and the lesson here is that gamers have short attention spans. I have a short attention span, and I am a gamer. I just can’t figure out if I have a short attention span because I’m a gamer, or if I’m a gamer because of a short attention span.

Spring Cleaning…

Wiese mit blühendem Löwenzahn in Tharandt

I really am starting to despise Spring. It seems that every year something bad happens between March and May. Last year I had an accident that forced me into unemployment (which I have been trying to survive off of ever since) and this year my Grandmother ended up in the hospital with heart problems twice in three days. Now, my Grandma is doing fine and the silver lining of the accident is that it freed up considerable time to get prepared for, and reasoning to seriously pursue, a future college experience. I say “experience” rather than “education” for a reason…

Steve Jobs and Bill Gates at the fifth D: All ...

Steve Jobs and Bill Gates at the fifth D: All Things Digital conference (D5) in 2007 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have a rather cynical view of the world, hence my handle on virtually all of my online accounts; I also enjoy going for a drive, which I can no longer afford to do as much as I would like. Education implies that I will be learning skills needed for life, and that without such I could not survive. This is not true, considering I have made it to 29 without college. I’ve actually made good money from the jobs I have had, which proves the point of “college graduates make more money” to not always be true. Steve Jobs, and Mark Zuckerberg dropped out, as did Bill Gates and he has been the richest man on earth for many years. Of course those three are extreme examples, but the fact remains; we are now living in an age where a college graduate may very well end up making barely over minimum wage.

There is something to be said for doing what you want (rather than what you have to) though, so while I won’t be learning my life skills from professors, I will be learning things that will allow me to do more than I already can. I can tell you that I do not look forward to Math classes, because that is one area where I have a huge amount of (earned) anxiety. I can process extremely complex systems and organize things very well, but when it comes down to calculations involving numbers and letters, my brain has a tendency to switch off. So I will get to live “the college life” once and for all. Aren’t you glad that I will have this blog to point out all the hypocrisy?

The habitation of a hermit

Anyway, I was talking about Spring cleaning. It’s that time of year when we clean out the cobwebs from the winter months, and unpack the summer clothes in the hopes that we see more sun than rain. For me, this symbology has taken on a much deeper meaning, an almost existential period. My interactions with people decline, and I become a near-hermit for a short period of time every year; as I try and work through whatever crisis hit this time. I am hoping it will be done quickly this year because, to be honest, I have been through worse. I thought about this blog many times over the past two weeks, and just couldn’t build up the ambition to do something until now. I am hoping it’s an indication of my return to normalcy.

Spring cleaning also means I need to find replacements for my “winter/fall” themed header graphics. So I am hoping to get out of the house today and get some material to make more inspiring “Spring/Summer” ones. This all depends on the weather and other uncontrollable circumstances, but I am going to try and get it done before the end of the week.

Also… I never really got a good indicator of your interest in my reviews of Windows 8. Did you want them, or shall I continue just kinda puttering with it in my spare time? I will take the time to really dive in, if the demand is there. I am also going to take this “transition-subject” opportunity to give lots of warning to my readers: as the US elections (yes I have readers in 8 countries now 🙂 ) draw nearer, I MAY end up posting political pieces until they are over. It doesn’t make much sense right now, considering how far away that is and how much opportunity they still have to make huge mistakes, but it might happen as we get close to August or September. There will also be a lot of technology (mostly entertainment tech) related pieces as we get close to E3 because Gaming is a rather large area of interest for me on many levels… Which I will explain in my next post.

Hands On With Windows 8

Before I begin, I have to say that I have been a little absent this week. Normally I try to post twice a week, but I have been busy preparing to bring you this.

I must admit that I began downloading my copy of Windows 8 with a lot of skepticism. The trend has been laid for a long time, that you really only want to upgrade at every other version of Windows. Windows 95 was good, but 98 set the standard. Millennium Edition (ME) was a failure on many fronts, which drew a lot of criticism from users and probably helped Apple build it’s base on the (then) new i-branded hardware. XP stands as the single most well received version of Windows ever. I personally liked Vista, but the vast majority of people thought it was unstable and not friendly with older software.

Windows 7 took it up to where Vista should have been at the start. Most people really like the software, and the “compatibility mode” actually works with most things now. You would be hard pressed to find anything really annoying about it, and I haven’t experienced a “Blue Screen of Death” since I installed it for the first time during the preview period. I think Microsoft may be trying to break the cycle… Finally!

The first thing you see, after logging in, is the new Windows Phone style of environment. After the initial reaction (for most it’s either WOW, or UGH!) you will have to start actually trying to use the  system. While everything is very responsive and quick, navigation is tricky, and compatibility will be an issue once again. You can move the icons around however you like, and change the background color, along with many other options for personalizing the look. I chose purple, because I like purple.

Prepare yourselves, because you are going to have to teach your grand-parents a whole new way to use the computer again. Some of it will be easier for them, and some of it will be harder. Navigating between the app-screen and the desktop is easy enough, but takes a bit of getting used to. You will notice that there is no longer a start button in the lower left of the desktop, which has been replaced by a pop-out menu system that is the basis for navigating your operating system. If you move your mouse to the lower-left corner of the screen, you will be able to quick-swap between whatever app you have open and the main start/app-screen. This process is very quick, and seamless. In the lower-right you get the menu shown below. The “start” icon takes you to the app-screen which, for all intents and purposes, has replaced the old start-menu.

Moving to the upper left will show you whatever app you had open last, and if you had more than one open, you can move the mouse down a little bit and see the whole list of apps that are currently running. This leads me to the single most important change… Switching to another app will NOT close the process, so you will have to check this app-list and close out the ones you’re no longer using. While this step may seem like a no-brainer to people like me, most people never bother doing this on their iPhones, Androids, or Windows Phones… I would be willing to bet that that trend will carry right over to their computers running Windows 8. Be prepared for all kinds of apps claiming to optimize the speed of your computer by automatically closing unused apps.

Something else to keep close in mind is that there will often be two types of apps to deal with, even if it is the same program. Internet Explorer for instance. In app-mode it will be very quick, and bare-bones, but right-clicking will no longer display a menu. It will show you the navigation bar (located at the bottom of the screen now) and the tab bar (located at the top.) If you open Internet Explorer in Desktop-Mode, it will be exactly the same as you use now in Windows 7. Another very noticeable thing is that Facebook apps cannot be used in the app-mode version of IE. You can browse facebook just fine, but using any flash-based apps will not work, and navigation bars like the one that WordPress uses do not show up.

Overall, I like the new system, but I am not someone to be annoyed by learning a new way to do things. Most people will start off very frustrated with the seemingly alien environment, and unless they manage to integrate Adobe Flash Player into the app version of IE, they will be causing a lot of people to downgrade simply because of the Facebook app issue. Most people will (probably) never bother with Desktop mode, and will not even be aware of how much power they are signing away by doing so. To be honest, the desktop behaves like an app, in that you can close it like any other.

Make no mistake, this is a transitional OS, designed to help people prepare for a world where we have more powerful machines that do less, only because of software limitations. The days of having hundreds of programs installed, and buying a laptop for a DVD-burner are over. This is meant to make you ready to give all that up for a slick touch-based user interface installed on a glorified net-book which will be dubbed “ultra-book.”

The only place this will really really shine is on a tablet device, which is the only reason why I can’t wait for it to come out. I think the Windows Phone OS has a lot of potential to compete with iOS where Android has failed. Microsoft will keep things a little more open, so we should see some incredible apps come up for sale on Windows-based tablets.

If there is demand for it, I will post an in-depth review of specific aspects of Windows 8 once a week. Would that be something you want to see?

Being an Adult is Overrated…

Sure, we have all the coolest toys, and we don’t have to get special permission to stay up late; but we have to be responsible in order to get this stuff. If we stay up too late and sleep through our alarms, we don’t get to make the work up tomorrow. We often get fired for such things.

Have you ever looked back and wondered why you wanted to get here so fast?

Cover of "M*A*S*H (Widescreen Edition)"

When I was a kid, I wanted nothing more than to watch cartoons on Saturday morning, and I could even recite most of the commercials off the top of my head. When my bike broke, I just asked mom to buy me the part I needed to fix it; and then fixed it in my driveway. Staying up late meant watching Letterman, then turning the volume down to watch MASH without my mom hearing it. Everything was… Simple.

Now, the cartoons are horrible, and you don’t even have to wait all week to watch them, so they aren’t special anymore. When my car breaks, I have to spend hundreds of dollars that aren’t in my budget, and usually have a shop fix it because some of the tools needed to do any work won’t fit in the garage. Staying up late means going out and trying to mingle with people I really don’t care for, trying to find a person I could maybe imagine spending more than three days with. Everything is… Complicated.

BMX bicycle rider is doing the Foofa-Noo. Used...

I remember dreaming about doing something exotic with my life, like saving lives as a doctor, or winning cases in grand fashion as a lawyer. Going grocery shopping meant going and picking out my favorite cereal from the store and begging for all the crap that my mom never wanted to buy, it was an event. Bill was the name of one of the neighbors, and I never had to talk to him. We could spend the entire summer riding our bikes, and pretending we were storming some wild land filled with monsters; conquering all with our trusty super-beam auto-targeting rifle of doom.

These days I only hope going back to school can help me get a job that I don’t absolutely hate. Going grocery shopping is a massive chore, which I hate, and it means going to the supermarket and standing in an excessively long line because some teenager can’t operate the register properly. Bill is no longer someone’s name, and I certainly can’t avoid it, or else I lose all my toys. If I spend the whole summer riding my bike now I would be living on it, and not have a home to keep me warm in the winter; and forget pretend rifles, because now I can’t stop thinking “that’s not real.”

Red roses

Someone, who I can’t remember, once said “stop and smell the roses.” I wish I would have listened when I was a kid, because one of the things I also did was constantly try to grow up faster. You just don’t understand what that means when you’re 5, or 10, or even 15. No matter how much anyone tried to tell me that I was rushing it, I kept on pushing. Maybe we all have that problem, except a blessed few who manage to keep their imaginations.

I think the reason why I look forward to college is because it is actually a step backwards. I will get to pretend to be 19 again, and experience something I should have done 10 years ago. Sometimes I wish I could turn back the clock and take all my knowledge with it, so I could once again think in a simple way. It’s not so much that I want to be little again, because I hated asking for help to get something off the top shelf, it’s that when you don’t know any better the world seems so much brighter. We see hunger as a world problem, but if you ask a kid how to solve it they will say something like “give everyone a pizza.” We can laugh at that now, because it’s humorously impossible, but a five year old would think that could work. A typical ten year old would say to build a McDonald’s in every town, because they aren’t worried about where McDonald’s gets their food, they only know they have food. A fifteen year old might give a more workable answer, but even then we would be able to poke thousands of holes in it, because they still don’t understand the cost of things.

Saturday on Sunday

Somehow, as we grow up, we become boring. We no longer think rain is fun, and snow annoys us. We have debates about stuffed-up politicians and finances, or what the best way to grill a steak is. They argue about who the best football player is, and constantly claim the be the best at any video game they play. We drive safe cars, at safe speeds, in safe zones, and put padding on everything. They just want some wheels, a hill, and some way to steer.

We used to have fun… once.

Now we don’t have the time.

Such a shame really, because if we did, our inner child would have so many ideas for what to do without mom telling us no all the time… If only we could hear them.

The Cost of Living…

When you first look at the graphic above, you will focus on your own state, we all do. Upon taking a closer look, you will see that no part of the United States allows a person, who is single, to live on their own with just a minimum wage job. This data is based on rent consuming 30% of your income, which is rather fair considering taxes and health insurance now take around 25% for someone on minimum wage.

20 Dollars art5

This means that in order to pay rent, in Wisconsin, you will need to work 79 hours a WEEK. Otherwise, you will be using one full paycheck (at 40 hours a week) just to pay rent, and the other to pay the remaining bills associated with having an apartment (heat, electricity, water, sewer.) This leaves nothing at the end for things like food, gas (automotive,) phone, or internet. Now, internet may be a luxury, but I firmly believe that a phone is a necessity as one can’t keep a job if they cannot be contacted by phone.

Part of the problem is that landlords are increasing rental prices every year, regardless of their costs rising or falling. I can’t fault them completely, because if they have prices that are far below the average, then they will attract a certain type of tenant that is not exactly desirable. Another major factor is the number of retired people who are now taking up a lot of the living spaces in more rural areas. Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin, is home to the highest population of people over the age of 65 (per-capita) in the state. This means younger people, who do not have the savings or jobs to afford to compete with life-savings accounts, are being pushed out and forced to move.

Adapted from Wikipedia's WI county maps by Bumm13.

The young people then have to have multiple roommates to survive, or are forced to move back in with their parents. It’s not at all uncommon to see many homes becoming multi-generational family dwellings these days. This is where an entire young family moves in with their parents, often placing three (sometimes 4) generations under one roof.

The demand on housing is costing young adults the ability to even get started with their own savings to send kids to college, let alone retirement. You may have noticed that I have taken a bit of an ageist tone with this post, but I am just calling it as I see it. The aging population of this country is suffocating the younger generations out of housing, and is the single largest reason why such high salaries are demanded here.

We need to find a way to bring the prices back in line with starting wages so that people have a fighting chance. Perhaps if some of the retired folks moved to traditional retirement locations, instead of small communities which are already struggling, the prices could relax.

retirement

I don’t blame the retired people, I blame the civil servants who enacted policies that favor one group over the other. We would not have such a huge influx of older people if there were not incentives put in place to encourage it. The city council here has been so focused on providing for the needs of the elderly, that they forgot the needs of the people who still work, and the needs of the people who are just starting out. When all you have is elderly people and their support staff, you guarantee that your community has an expiration date. Once the older population passes away, the support staff will leave, and you’ll end up with another Flint, Michigan, only you won’t have a mega-corporation like General Motors to blame for it.

Politicians need to stop worrying so much about elections, and instead they need to actually do the job they volunteered to do.

BMW’s New Toy…

 

They call it the “i8 Concept Spyder”, and it’s looks are impressive. I’m not going to bore you with the eco-hype that has been “built-in” to this car, because it’s a concept, and concepts almost never see production… At least not in the same form as the concept itself. Sure, some technology moves into production, but most of the hyper-futuristic whatnot gets cut in favor of cheaper solutions.

The imagery of the car is stunning in a lot of ways, except that weird indented backside. I think that kind of destroys the look in the rear.

The interior features some interesting choices, and not all of them are good ones. I’m not sure where the idea to put shift-knobs in the way of screens came from, but that person should be shot. There is no reason why it has to be so scrunched up like that. Move it back  and fill that giant swoosh through the middle, this way the climate control can be managed by a driver, even when there’s no passenger in the vehicle.

I am not sure whether I like the guages and displays or not. On the one hand, they are very gadgety, which I like. on the other, the gauges seem oddly shaped, and the other screens are just in odd positions. It appears that the colors can either be changed, or turn orange after you reach a certain speed.

 

Overall, I like it… Wouldn’t buy one though.