Showing posts from 2019

140. Phases

A lot of the people I grew up with say that there's no racism in Venezuela. Somehow, they reached adulthood and failed to notice the lack of representation of non-light-skinned people. The paler the pigment the more you'd be seen in a leadership position (admittedly anecdotal observation on my part). The beauty queens, our second most famous export, didn't fit the mold of the majority of Venezuelans. They tended to be lighter in complexion. Incredibly racist jokes abounded in my private school, spread with gleeful ignorance (and the security of not having many people of color around us to hear them). Chavez rallied the poor, and the poor were dark skinned. Chavez supporters were called "ugly", "monkeys", and many more names. I am not a supporter of Chavez, but I can see how he coalesced his army. The study referenced in this article , puts Venezuela smack dab as the most racist country in the Americas. The question in this survey was someth

139. Army Rejects

Roxanne and I joined the Salvation Army once. We thought it would be fun to be ringing that bell and  get money for charity. And it was fun, initially. We didn’t know anything about the organization, so we started googling the organization. One of the most salient characteristics of this organization was their religious based tenets. This is how they feel about homosexuality, and this is AFTER finding themselves in hot water about the issue:    “The Bible teaches that God's intention for humankind is that society should be ordered on the basis of lifelong, legally sanctioned heterosexual unions. ... A disposition towards homosexuality is not in itself blameworthy nor is the disposition seen as rectifiable at will. ... Homosexual practice however, is, in the light of Scripture, clearly unacceptable. Such activity is chosen behaviour and is thus a matter of the will. It is therefore able to be directed or restrained in the same way heterosexual urges are controlled. Homosexua

138. Mother

I don’t believe my mom set to destroy the patriarchy, I think the patriarchy was just an inconvenient hurdle on the way to her goals. But destroy the patriarchy she did. Over and over again. One of the first women petroleum engineers, the first to work on oil rigs, one of the first to not change her last name, the first to many, many things. I imagine the amount of paperwork that had to be changed because of her mere existence and it always makes me flash a wicked smile. The most amazing thing about her is how humble she is about all of this. Throngs of women have looked up to her for generations and all she’ll ever admit to is being a hard worker. There’s more to her, though. She’s always a steady snowball that simply knows how to move forward. I wish that certitude of hers had splashed down to me through her DNA strands. Alas, the only thing I’m certain of is that she has always and will always be my hero. My she-ro. Most people that meet her, remember her. And not just bec

137. Double Date

Nobody tells you about the skeletons. In a first date, how often did you divulge your deepest secrets? Not often, I’m going to wager. You didn’t tell them about your childhood crush on Gadget from Chip And Dale Rescue Rangers;  and you definitely didn’t mention your psychological issues in crushing detail. Those come later. Finding someone who you can eventually open up to is great. Having someone who can dance with your defects is divine. I’m a lucky bastard, as I’ve mentioned before. More and more, the weirdos are those who never fall down. The ones who make a career or get their jollies by showing you a constant image of perfection. Those are the ones that I don’t get. They’d be more believable and more approachable if they’d at the very least tell you their fart story. We have all let a fart go in the most awkward moment. It’s just that some of us are broken enough to write a blog post about it. My runaway gas was in my office just before a performance review in m

136. Maturity

I never said I was a mature person. Sometime in the middle of this anxiety around a new job and new responsibilities, this moment came and brought me more joy than you can imagine. Yes, dear readers, the name of my city has a phallic acronym. The good old City of Kalamazoo is the COK. I know, my fortune knows no bounds. I absolutely have not stopped thinking about this since it happened. Here are a few of my favorite usages: "The COK shrinks in size during the winter months." "The COK has grown in the past few years." "The COK was erected in 1829, thanks to Titus Bronson." "The COK is full of pharmaceuticals." "The COK is no stranger to humidity." "When you think of the COK, think of beer." Please feel free to indulge me with your ideas in the comments! I even made a shirt to commemorate this righteous moment in our history. Extra Panel: It looks like this

135. Anxiety All The Way Down

Anxiety comes at me in waves. Sometimes I am perfectly satisfied with this hard wrought life I’ve made for myself, complete with a wife, home and community. The next second I am obsessing about having to meet people and how am I going to find and wear the proper pants for said meeting (and I only have like two pairs of pants).  One time, I had so much anxiety about my choices in the board game Pandemic Legacy that I ruined that game forever. I still think about all those diseased millions we left uncured in Shanghai. There’s objective reasons for my current bout with anxiety. I have a new job, a new commute, a new culture to shape and change. Anxiety is attacking me routinely. The self talk is obsessive and the feeling in my chest is pervasive. Some days are better than others, but last week it was off the charts. I daydream of an incompetent personified anxiety. The best I've been feeling lately is when I volunteer after work. I feel like I’ve contributed, I f

134. Ok Hugger

Trigger Warning for Some: Contains references to hugging.  I am an introvert, and I am a hugger. I don’t know why these things coexist in me, but they are not the only cacophonic elements of my psyche. Is it from my cultural upbringing in Venezuela? Is it in my genes? I don’t know, but  I love hugging the few people I can call friends in these strange times. I don’t hug everyone. I gauge the situation very carefully, often saying things like : “are you a hugger?” or watching for open armedness. Sometimes I am wrong (mostly with people bearing the XY chromosome). I can tell when I screw up, it feels like hugging a dead tree. Many times I never see the huggee ever again. I imagine that they decided to avoid me for the rest of their lives, lest they be held in in my (very arguably) comforting arms ever again. Sometimes, I turn non-huggers into huggers. Sometimes. Extra Panel: Leaving a wake of petrified people behind. 

133. Dreams

I used to have epic dreams. Metallic sharks following me in an infinite pool of geometric impossibilities. Multi-night adventures that had a cohesive plot. I even had a dream diary to document my recollections from the world's best cinema, my giant head. Then came college. My dreams started to be taken over by earthly worries. Dreams of being unprepared for exams persist until this day. Dreams of  rejection and ridicule proliferated. Every once in a while I'd dream about high adventures on the seas of Orpheus, but less and less. Cut to adulthood. I dream of going to the DMV. I dream about forgetting to pay my license registration fee on time (and I still forget). I dream about buying necessary things, not even exotic things like a domesticated snow leopard or an ebony moog machine. This dream about buying razors was the last straw. My brain wants to be boring and I need to fight it. I'm going to read fantasy, watch adventure movies and play video games until bed t

132. Warning: Adult Situations

Nobody tells you about the awkwardness. When your messy personal life collides with your orderly adult life, sparks can be generated that ripple through your existence. Like the time nudity escaped the censors at YouTube in the video playlist I was displaying in my wedding. Or when kids swear like a sailor after perhaps 2 minutes with my wife and me.   Having condo meetings, being in a board, having a trust, paying off my student loans. These are incredibly adulty things that feel alien to me. And yet, we are doing these things. The me from 5 years ago would be like “what? no, stop!”  I couldn’t be more proud of us though. We are doing the things. We are continuously confused, but we are doing the things.   Is privilege a big (huge) part of where I am right now? You betcha. And I do feel guilt. Only by giving back, my time and money, do I feel a little bit less guilt. In a perfect world, everybody should be allowed the freedom of choice and the support I had throughout my

131. Hammer Mode

I wouldn’t give anyone a bj in an alley for access to a smartphone. Using this slim, utilitarian and utterly disrespectful definition of addiction, I am not addicted to my smartphone. In almost all other definitions, I probably am (scratches neck). These days I’m frequently using twitter for political news, instagram for art and facebook for friends and family. For my wife’s birthday I left my smartphone delights behind as we travelled up to Michigan’s north (not north north, but north enough for a weekend trip). We had a great time consuming and sight-seeing all this beautiful state has to offer. We touched alpacas, drank some wine, got soaked in a pier and I was able to show her the part where Johnny Depp gets sucked by a bed in Nightmare on Elm Street. A win in every conceivable way. I am definitely a technofile and a techno-apologist, I believe my life in particular has been enhanced and improved exponentially due to consumer electronics. I enjoy nature somewhat, but

130. Hair

Nobody tells you about the hair. I have been bald or balding for over twenty years. My drains have never clogged. Since moving in with the love of my life about one year ago, I’ve collected enough strands of hair from my bathroom drain to refurbish a couch. I don’t mind using the slithery yellow bathroom snakes, they make me feel useful. It’s one of the few things in cohabitating life that is simple. You push that thing in, you wiggle it in and out and you solve a problem. It’s no mistake that it sounds coital, you do this every once in a while and you achieve harmony. I wish I could snake my psyche the way I can snake some hair from my drain. I would snake those repressed high school memories and flush them down the toilet. Those awkward memories that make you flinch when they light your hippocampus? Wiggle them out. I would write a pseudopsychology book called “Snake the Brain” and make millions. This comic is evidence that I have no editing room. A thought pops in my brai

129. That Sinking Feeling

Dear readers, politics in the United States are a mess. The right, in particular, has become meaningless. The right was the party of law and order, at one time. Under Trump, however, they are anti-FBI. They were for economic conservatism, but now they support the largest budget ever. They say they have an issue only with illegal immigration, and yet they cheer Donald Trump when he curtails legal immigration . The right under Trump only makes sense if you really see them as (poorly written) evil characters. The Hidden Brain podcast has an interesting episode called “ More Divided than Ever ”. It was really interesting, especially the part with John Hibbing, who talks about the biological nature of our political views. For instance, people who lean conservative tend to also dislike spicy food [duh, says my anecdotal experience]. I feel like understanding there’s a biological component to our stances does help me empathize more with an opposing political position. The thing is

128. Connections

When I went to grad school I had a great advisor. However, he once said something that I wasn’t able to understand at the time. He said that 90% of my success at work will be determined by my sociability, rather than the abilities I was learning in grad school. He went as far as making us read Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People” . I was appalled. I’m paying this guy like $1000* a minute for him to tell me that it will all come down to social skills?  He was absolutely, completely, entirely, and annoyingly right.  The tools and reasoning skills I learned in college have served me well, but they have paled in comparison to how my social skills have served me. Being able to make connections, humbling myself, expressing interest in others, those skills have allowed me to be a catalyst for change more often than the statistical and organizational tools I’ve learned.  So, Dr. Malott, you were right. And I appreciate the push you gave me early on to hone those

127. Flawless-ish

My wife truly is as close to perfect for me as I can even imagine. That’s why I relish on the few, beautiful flaws she has. The way she says “Jewlery” instead of “Jewelry”, her creative pronunciation of “Realtor”, her terrible choice in a husband; all this makes her even more magnificent to me. I never liked Superman. Not even Alan Moore, one of my favorite writers, could make this boyscout interesting. After a lifetime of mistakes, I discovered the reason why. He’s too dang perfect. I like my fictional heroes to have huge gaping flaws. Perhaps this says more about me than a real critique towards the god archetype. At work, one of the things I fight against the most is perfectionism . We are often so worried about getting a mythical perfect product that often times we drop improvements. “Don’t let perfect get in the way of better” ranks right up there with “make it a double” and “Sorry, I’m foreign” among my most uttered phrases. So that’s my bias against perfection. If I waite

126. The Return of the Suit

Yes, dear readers. I found a new job. I am an extremely lucky individual. I am lucky to have found a job doing pretty much what I was doing before (whatever that was), locally, and with a great group of people. Even during the occasional depression, anxiety and existential malaise I've experienced in my life, I've always known how lucky I am. I have a one in a million mom, a one in a million wife, a one in a million cat (Khaleesi), and one in a million friends. I also have to contractually acknowledge that I have another cat (Eris) and an immediate sibling. When this unemployment journey started, man, I had a plan. I spent a portion of the day learning, a portion of the day exercising, a portion of the day applying for jobs and interviewing. That lasted maybe a week. As certainty about my new job increased, I began to regress to a twenty year old version of myself. By now, I'm close to buying cases of Lebatt Blue and sending drunk ICQ messages. (Ask your grandpa if y

125. Conventional Titles

Recently, I was hanging out  in the job market . It's a market I hadn't visited in 16 years. It looks and feels like a lot has changed! One of the most interesting things is that people seem to be able to make up their own job titles with no repercussions: you can be a sensei, master, guru (basically anything Bruce Lee would have been called)  expert, commander, chief and many more! I don't know exactly the amount of self esteem one needs to unironically and seriously call themselves something as superlative as a "thought leader", I only know it's at least twice as much as I currently have. I actually don't have a problem with being called any of that, it's just that calling yourself those things seems a bit presumptuous. I've been called a guru before, but I would never, ever, call me that. In my profession, one of the biggest tenets is to "lead with humility". You quickly become an oxymoron if you title yourself a guru. Ther

124. Casa/home

ENGLISH VERSION BELOW “No Podemos Regresar a Casa” Cuando decimos eso, casi siempre queremos decir que tú o el lugar donde crecistes han cambiado muchísimo. En el caso de Venezuela, nuestra casa literalmente no existe. Yo se que no se compara con lugares como Siria, pero es impresionante como todo un país fue eliminado por las terribles decisiones gubernamentales. Desde que abandoné  (todavía se siente como que la abandone) a mi Caracas en el 2003, se ha convertido en uno de los países más pobres en la región y el crimen se ha vuelto insoportable. La última vez que fui fue en el 2011 y no la pude reconocer, a mi Venezuela. Todos estaban cuidadosos, estresados y asustados. Mi corazón siempre piensa en los que se quedaron atrás. Cuando veo fotos de mi valle, el valle de la ciudad de Caracas, yo y miles de mis compatriotas soltamos un suspiro grande. Yo la tome por sentado por 25 años, pero nuestra preciosa cordillera es una de las maravillas del planeta. E

123. Betrayal

My wife and I are bird watching. This is as weird for me to write as it is for some of you to read. I have personally not been a fan of these winged beasts throughout my life. A goose once bit my 4 year old weewee and I decided all animals in the  Aves  class deserved my scorn; a very human reaction on my part. Nonetheless, my wife has hung a bird feeder and I built a perch for my cats. I thought they'd enjoy the entertainment. The jury is out. They keep slamming the window to scare the birds away. At first, this primitive strategy worked. However, and this is why I'm starting to love birds, the modern dinosaurs have started to realize that a window pane provides ample defense. They are definitely more ballsy (cloacaful?) now. They just mock my feline girls nowadays. My wife is amazing at recognizing the birds. My skills are a little short at the moment. I just see two types, brown ugly birds and colorful birds. We also get this type: My wife promises me that it

122. Sight Seeing

These last few eternities we have been in an Alaskan cruise ship. My wife and I aren't exactly cruise folk. We like to make our plans and build our own adventures with as little people around us as possible when on vacation. We are definitely not minglers at the promenade kind of people. That said, this trip has been magical. Seeing whales and bears and cracking glaciers has been a unique experience when combined to the absolute decadence of a cruise ship. Want to have three lunches composed of desserts? It’s OK, in this lumbering, luxury liner. Two dinners, one of New York pizza and the other of Malaysian fare? You absolutely can in this bloated floating city.  At least my wife has gone to the gym thrice in this geriatric grand ship. Me, I’ve been failing at the one thing I thought I could do: Drink my 15 drinks a day provided by my drink package. My record is 12. Today is our last day and I hope I can do it! Edit: I got 13 and a Perrier ☹️ We saw whales. Lots of whale

121. Paper Towels

I love thee, paper towels. Most men that I’ve ever met love paper towels. These absorbent tapestries of angelic white are definitely a better invention than sliced bread. I have not been able to properly communicate to my wife how important paper towels have been in my life. All the errors they have been able to undo. Cat vomit from 5 different pets have posed no trouble for my bleached, thick friends. I’ve been able to harmelssly evict countless bugs with these corrugated beauties. Cooking misshaps? Not here! Mystery blood from a rowdy party? Not in my house! Never mind the weird side glances I get from my wife when I use a fresh paper towel sheet to pick up a dirty paper towel sheet. How many other tools let you do that ad-infinitum? She doesn’t believe in the miracle anti-bacterial goodness of a simple sheet of paper. Once, when I cleaned pre-used kitty litter that I spilled in the kitchen, she didn’t believe that a quick wipe with my pick-a-size banners of pulcritude would be

120. Open Minded

Hey folks! You can try this at home! Start broadcasting that you need a change in life, that you are willing to try something new. You will start receiving an advice avalanche from people you know (and some you don’t). The amount of life improvement nuggets that exist in the universe of humans seems absolutely infinite.  We are all culpable of this. I remember when I first tried meditation for anxiety. I couldn’t help myself telling people to try it! Meditation, or more specifically the perceiving of oneself without emotional engagement, worked for me during hard times. The thing is, it is not for everyone. Not everyone needs to meditate. Terry Pratchett’s quote has always stayed with me: “The trouble with having an open mind, of course, is that people will insist on coming along and trying to put things in it.”. In it’s most benign interpretation we have people really trying to help, from their limited focus. In one of the more pernicious interpretations we have cult leaders

119. The Choice Patient

The choice patient is a Republican talking point. Most people in the United States already have no options in their insurance as it is done through their employer. If you have a public option that will pay for your main healthcare needs, only a portion of Americans would need to supplement it with  something else. And this is the United States of America so there will always be VIP options , I have no doubt. We need to go to Universal Healthcare. On that the Democrats mostly agree ( Biden's 97% promise falls short to most others ). They disagree in how to get there. You heard on the democratic debate one of the main rifts: Should we have a federally managed, exclusive public option or should there be a space for private insurance? I am not intelligent enough to know what will be best in our current economic and political climate but hear me out. An exclusive single payer system is very rare in large countries. France, Spain, Germany and Canada have a role for private in

118. Shortcuts

I'm not going to lie. I loved drawing this one. I’m on the second week of forced unemployment and being able to draw this one was a great release of tension and anxiety. This comic combines some of my favorite things. It is about  clever shortcuts, diversity and the one game that changed everything for me: Super Mario Bros. for the NES. I can barely remember what I had for breakfast (and I made it myself), but I remember the day my mom bought me the NES and this game like it was yesterday. Seeing the box art for the first time, with its blown up pixel art, was an indelible memory. My brother said that the graphics looked like shit, because it was so blown up. When we were finally able to hook it up at home, all kinds of people came by to marvel at the graphics. I remember everything from the first goomba to the first time (after lots of tries) that we lowered the flag in world 1-1. It was a good time to be alive and young. Video games have always been there for me when

117. The Layoff Episode

Last week, my department got laid off, along with dozens of others around my organization. In my  job as an internal consultant, I made use of my talents to help the people I cared the most about: the employees (from front line to leaders). It was in the direct help to employees that I derived the most work satisfaction. I will definitely be mourning the loss of the opportunity to help my co-workers for a long time to come. I am unsure what I will pursue. At this moment, many roads seem viable that I hadn't seen before. I am both strengthened and overwhelmed at the choices. I really want to be in a position in which I can continue to help workers achieve better outcomes for their customers and themselves. Extra Panel: The Psychology of it All It had been telegraphed to us that we would lose our jobs, so I had time to build up to it emotionally. Or so I thought! The mixture of shame, disappointment and anger that comes after a moment like this is not possible to prep

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