A job hunter at work.
Sue De Lapa

WANTIN’ YOUTH: Sprinkled from Carpinteria to Goleta, there’s a subculture of young talent wasting away on friends’ couches, in spare rooms of increasingly reluctant parents, and on garage futons.

Despite their high-tech skills and education, they’re not only jobless or painfully underemployed but sinking in the dismal swamps of hopelessness, often so isolated by boredom that they’re cut off from their fellow techies.

Is there any hope for our homegrown legion of stay-at-home computer gamesters? Can they be saved from plunging into (gasp!) everlasting unemployability? These geeks may speak Greek, but they’re our nerds. They need us.

Barney Brantingham

Have the Mitt Romneys of America exported all the jobs to China, or are there a few left on the South Coast for our children to fight over? My heart goes out to them as they spend days idling at their computers, playing meaningless games, awaiting that long-dreamed-of knock on the door.

“Hi, our start-up badly needs you. We can only offer $100,000 a year, top benefits, an excellent pension, and the ability for you to work at home. Plus a car allowance and generous vacation policy. When can you start?”

But for those unfortunates still awaiting that knock, there’s hope. A group of “hacker hostels” have sprung up in the Bay Area. In these oases of digital energy, the would-be best and the brightest return to dorm life, living cheap while networking the heck out of one another and negotiating the job market’s jarring speed bumps.

Young programmers, scientists, designers, and other twenty-somethings or thirty-somethings (or older) work, eat, and sleep (in bunk beds), according to a recent feature in the New York Times. There they can discover the camaraderie, creative stimulation, idea-swapping, and start-up ideas they’re not likely to find watching daytime TV.

Here’s something inspiring: Justin Carden, a 29-year-old software engineer working on a biotech start-up, raved to the Times about the intellectual stimulation he found. “If you’re wanting to change the world and make it a fundamentally better place, you need to be around the right people.”

(I’d be happy if they’d just save the world.)

By hacker hostel, I don’t mean stealing identities and selling credit card data to crooks in Russia. It’s just something clever I didn’t make up. So, if we open such a digital sanctuary, where would it be? Something vacant, maybe? Like (ahem) the Miramar?

County supervisors have just granted Rick Caruso ​— ​L.A. developer, one-time wannabe buyer of the Dodgers, possible mayoral candidate, and present owner of the long-closed ex-resort ​— ​a $15-million corporate welfare deal involving bed taxes. While we’re waiting for him to rebuild the Miramar — ha, ha, and double ha — or, more likely, sell the joint, how about getting something for our money?

MRS. MALAPROP: She’s a character, all right, her name coined in Richard Sheridan’s 1774 play, The Rivals. Both the comedy and Mrs. Malaprop have amused audiences for all these years, currently at Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts’s Solvang Festival Theater. Kitty Balay, in the role of the wacky woman, bounces around the stage uttering unintentional absurdities.

For instance, “She’s as headstrong as an allegory on the banks of the Nile.” She meant alligator, of course. They come tumbling out, somehow funnier out loud. But Erik Stein stole the show Saturday night as Sir Anthony Absolute, swinging his cane, stomping around, bellowing at one and all, and generally raising hell until he calmed down and all was well that ended well.

SIGHTSEEING: If any kid or tourist new in town dares wail that “there’s nothing to do,” pick up Leslie Westbrook’s fat new guide to Santa Barbara, and toss it his or her way. Her Insiders’ Guide to Santa Barbara (Morris Book Publishing) is stuffed with all things fun: where to go, where to eat and sleep, and more.

CAR NUTS: Sunday mornings between 8 and 10 a.m., you’ll find a curious conglomeration of folks gathering on Coast Village Road, eyeballing whatever cars their owners decide to show off, hoods up, aficionados with noses poked in, wide-eyed grease-monkey gurus quizzing the proud owners. It’s a loosely organized group called Cars & Coffee. Last Sunday, along with late-model dazzlers, the star was a shining 1925 Franklin. (The last Sunday of the month, the fun moves to Montecito’s Upper Village.)

GOD PARTICLE: Congratulations to UCSB scientists for their part in helping solve the cosmic puzzle of the so-called God particle, a subatomic thingy without which there apparently would be no galaxies, life, World Series, or Super Bowl.


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