Actual Phone Conversation Last Week

[Phone rings.  I think it’s Nita and don’t bother to check the number.]

ME:  Hello.

CALLER:  May I speak to James or Juanita Winter?

ME:  [Deer in headlights look I get when I realize it’s a telemarketer.]  Speaking.

CALLER:  Mr. Winter, I’m calling from Moneywell Bank, the bank that pretty much owns you.

ME:  Ooookaaaaayyyyy…

CALLER:  Sir, we noticed you are not taking advantage of your home equity line of credit.

ME:  Would this be the equity on the condo I can’t sell because I’d have to bring six grand I don’t have to closing?

CALLER:  If you mean the property on Northridge, yes.  You are not taking advantage of your home equity line of credit.

ME:  That’s probably because the house is now worth less than the mortgage by about four grand.  There’s a housing downturn going on right now.  Perhaps, working at a bank, you might have noticed?

CALLER:  I understand that, sir, but you are not taking advantage of your home equity line of credit.

ME:  That’s because there is no equity.

CALLER:  Perhaps if you took advantage of your home eq-

ME:  [Click]

Gee, wonder why the government has to borrow a few trillion to fix the economy and overhaul education.  Could it be that a second-grade education is all that is required to approve someone for credit?

MTM Cincinnati: The Subway That Never Was

When you think of subways, you think of large cities like New York, Boston, Washington, Chicago and San Francisco.  Smaller cities like Cleveland have rail service as well.

One that almost had it was Cincinnati.  Trolley service existed up to the end of World War II, but city leaders attempted to go a step further.

In 1916, the city passed a bond issue to build and operate a subway system on a route used by the defunct Erie-Miami Canal.  Construction began on a combination rail tunnel and parkway now known as Central Parkway.

The tunnels were completed.  Three stations were built, and cars began using Central Parkway midway through the Prohibition Era.

Then the money ran out.

The city attempted to get federal funding during the Great Depression, but the Roosevelt Administration favored building up the nation’s power grid and flood control projects instead.  World War II precluded any mass transit money to cities.  By the time the dust settled from the war, the nation was already building the Interstate Highway System.

The tunnels still exist and are maintained.  Several attempts to utilize the tunnels have never succeeded.  So three stations and an empty tunnel remain.

Photos from www.cincinnati-transit.net after the jump.

[More My Town Mondays posts with Travis.] Continue reading

Sins Of The Assassin By Robert Ferrigno

It’s 2043, and America is a backwater, divided between the Islamic States of America and the Bible Belt, formed out of the old Confederacy.  New Orleans and parts of Florida are under water.  Canada and the Atzlan Empire (formerly Mexico) are nibbling at the edges of the former USA.  Meanwhile, China and Russia vie for supremacy.

This is the dystopian backdrop for Robert Ferrigno’s second futuristic thriller, Sins of the Assassin.  It’s three years after the events of Prayers for the Assassin, and Rakkim Epps, the Islamic Republic’s blunt instrument, is back.  This time he and a genetically enhanced super-nerd named Leo are infiltrating the Bible Belt, hoping to intercept long-buried superweapon in Tennessee before a warlord known only as “The Colonel” gets it.

Meanwhile, an extremely old and wealthy Pakistani, known only as The Old One, is on the run in luxury, hiding on the sea aboard a super-liner.  He has sent an operative into the Republic’s capital for a 9/11-style strike that will shake the Republic and the Belt to their cores, allowing him to take over.  The Old One, kept alive and somewhat young by expensive medical science, sees himself as the head of a global caliphate, a fortold Muslim leader who would bring the world to Allah.  Never mind that the hundred-and-twenty-year-old man is also a dirty old man.  He is The Old One, and no one questions him, except maybe Rakkim and his wife, Sarah, who exposed and foiled him in Prayers.

Sins skirts the edges of science fiction, but uses only a few elements to create a horrifying future that’s a little too familiar for comfort.  It’s a bleak landscape where the only thing that’s truly changed is the state of decay America is in at this point.  It’s a Chinese-ruled world, and neither the Christian-dominated south nor the Muslim America are exactly the paradises believers of either faith today would really care to see.

No, this is not a story about enhanced superwarriors (though there are those), geeks with amped-up brains, or spaced-based infrastructure crumbling above people’s heads.  Rakkim Epps is an earthy James Bond serving a dying nation (two, actually, as reunification of the Americas is tossed in at one point).  He is a faithful man, but not a dogmatic one, with little patience for blind belief.  His rivals in the story, a psychotic hillbilly preacher turned guerilla commander, the Colonel, and the Belt’s answer to the Republic’s enhanced warriors, the Fedayeen, all earn Rakkim’s respect.  The exception is Belt warrior Gravenholz, a sadistic traitor looking to score off the highest bidder.

But if Rakkim is Bond, the Old One is from another epic, Star Wars.  He is Palpatine, controlling and manipulating events from behind the scenes for his own puposes, using every contingency to his advantage.  Ferrigno does a terrific job pitting Rakkim against the Old One even when Rakkim is unaware of it.  It sets the stage nicely for a climatic third installment in the trilogy.

In Which I Ruin Battlestar Galactica For You…

  1. In case you think they’re going to pull a Galactica 1980, I guarantee Robbie Rist and Barry Van Dyke are nowhere in evidence.  (And one suspects they’re happy to leave it to Richard Hatch anyway.)
  2. Remember the old Bugs Bunny joke about a wrong turn at Albuquerque?  It has ancient origins.  Really ancient origins.
  3. Imagine the Terminator series beginning on MSNBC.  Jimi Hendrix plays us out.
  4. James Bond will return.

[Actually, I can’t back that last one up.]