It Works on My Computer

The new job is going great, no actually it is going awesome. The days go by so quickly because there is so much to do that I am putting more hours in than I have since I worked on the first start up back as a recent graduate, but I don’t even look at the clock. The work is not easy, it is pretty challenging and the list of requests is daunting, but the attitude of lets get as much done as we can the organization has makes it simple to jump on board and want to make a difference.

One of the things that has already made a huge difference here is that my friendliness is appreciated. The way we treat our customers (which in my case are all internal) is what makes this job so enjoyable. It is one of my directives to make sure people are being listened to as well as their needs met. I am glad that not only my technical skills are important but also my people skills.

Last week was specially busy with several deliverable by the team creeping up at the same time. I am glad that I can jump in and help out with some of them, but we were almost at the point of just letting one of the balls just drop because there was no other way. It was frustrating, but we have to do what we can with our current resources… I never realized how hard it can be to hire overseas help. After a long day of feeling like no matter how much we accomplished we were just going to be way off with timeliness, I decided to go have a second look at some small thing a user reported.

As it turns out the user had the issue before and it just kept on coming back months later. The issue seemed very random and nobody could reproduce it. The details are boring and it had something to do with working remotely, but I asked her to do something very simple next time she was working from home.

The next day rolled around and on top of all the other deadlines we had some hardware go bad. Coordinating vendors both for software and hardware is no easy task, and the day was just getting longer than it should have been. Then a message from that user popped up thanking me and the team for our diligence on staying on top of her program and how the simple steps I gave her made her able to work with no problem.

I think most of it was that her issue was resolved, but I think the personal touch of being able to listen to her issues and actually care to fix her problem made the difference. I think that being personable and establishing relationships with those that work around you should always be encouraged. You do not have to party with your coworkers every weekend, but being able to have conversations and really listen to them as people can make us IT people not seem like socially inept people that speak using binary code.

Are you one of those “Habla” people?

I am very proud of my Latin heritage even though I am not Mexican. However I have to laugh at some of the misconceptions or misuses of the Spanish language to try to make me feel “welcome.”

The term “habla” or speak is probably the funniest one that I have ever heard. I was actually one of those “habla” people. I acted confused because I wanted to see where the person was coming from. I assumed two things, one that the person felt comfortable enough to use a Spanish term by either having worked with a lot of Hispanics or actually related to one via extended family. I also assumed that the person had little to no knowledge of the actual language.

I made my best confused face and asked, what do you mean. I wanted to see where the person took what obviously became an uncomfortable encounter with one of the “habla” people.

You see, I am almost immune to people’s ignorace about my country. I blame mostly the schools, but the interwebs have taught me that people all over the world are very clueless about other countries. Even Europeans that claim to be wordly people often make huge assumptions about Americans that also crack me up. Most people assume that just because you get a label stuck on you like “Colombian” your individuality is completely removed and topics from drug trafficin to coffee trade should be part of your repertoire. See exibit A. A recently made comment on my Arroz con Pollo post.

I made this for my Columbian neice Julie and she said it was just like they make it in Columbia. Very delicious, it reminded her of when she grew up as a child. She used to work for a Drug Lord whose mamacita made it all the time. Thanks for the help!

Written By Beverly Grady

At first glance you would be like, awesome, you are being thanked for a recepy. What Beverly seems to miss is first that Colombia the country is actually spelled with a “O” but common mistake, I will let that slide. Then we move onto the crown jewel of Colombian missinformation. Just because I am Colombian it is not O.K. for you to relate to me meaningless information while trying to compliment me for providing you with a recepy. I don care if Julie used to work for Pablo Escobar himself, I don’t know him any more so than Juan Valdez.

Now the funny thing about the rest of the sentence is the use of the word “Mamacita” and now I am really confused. Colombians are easy to identify when they are speaking Spanish. We use “ito” and “ita” a lot. That colorful stroke of language happens in our every day speech quite often. When we ask you to move over, we don’t just say, “excuse me” we say “could you please move over just a little bit.” Its a funny thing that most people can easily pick up if they speak Spanish and are not good at picking up actual accents.

Confused? good. So the lady uses the word “Mamacita” and it could mean two things. The slang trying to convey a “girlfriend” type relationship, or the actual mother of the drug lord. Not sure why drug lord was capitalized. Its irritating, I have no clue who used to make the Arroz con Pollo.

Going back to the other story, the person I was having the “habla” conversation with started to get embarrassed and apologetic. I can hide my accent in Chicago even more so, the person did not know me, so in my very proper dictation I said I’m sorry are you referring to a word in Spanish? trying to insinuate that I did not speak the language.

The person was turning colors now and I had enough fun. I explained that what she was asking me was if I spoke, and sure enough I can speak :) but what she meant was to say if I was someone that actually speaks Spanish… “Habla Español.”

Once the embarrassment wore off the person was actually cool and happens to be married to one of the “habla” people but does not know any of the language besides slang. From experience I know how tough it can be to be a non-speaker in a family of fluent people. I would caution you to not use a language you don’t know or understand, but in reality I have tons of fun with people misusing Spanish, and thank every single day that my wife can understand me in two out of the three languages that she speaks.

Good Morning Glenview

For two days in a row we woke up in our new place. We are officially residents of Glenview IL. It takes me less than 10 minutes to get into the office in the morning, and even though we are currently living surrounded by many boxes waiting to be unpacked, we are home.

Driving back to the condo from my Mom’s place last night was when it hit me, we live in Chicago now and are not just visitiors anymore. When Bea asked if we should get something for breakfast on our way home, I told her we could go and pick up Colombian “empanadas” for breakfast. Even better is that we can go to Mekatos a Colombian bakery not too far from where we live.

Even though the Bears were handed a beatdown by the Bengals, I was watching the game with other Chicagoans. Driving down the streets I see people wearing orange and blue and businesses supporting the Bears. Its nice to spend a lazy afternoon on my Mom’s couch watching TV while everyone else naps.

Last week was one of the busiest weeks I have had in a long time. Drove back down with Bea to pack up our house of 3 bedrooms with a full basement for storage; while trying to downsize it to a two bedroom condo. Even though I have moved even internationally before, this time I was actually driving the truck to the final destination and we were doing all of the packing. I compromised with my job and did the move ourselves while scoring a month’s worth of vacation a year, which to me seems to make more sense in the long run, my back begs to differ.

The biggest mistake of the week was while giving away my fish tank I decided that rather than empty it all, to leave some water in and use it as fish transport. I had moved the tank before almost empty, but 25% of the water proved to be a lot heavier than I calculated. I am not in pain anymore, but it felt like I had ripped some tendon around my elbow for the next 3 days. Thankfully from moving before I had learned plenty of packing tricks to make boxes a little less heavy. There is probably enough for a full post just about packing, so maybe I will do that later.

Without the help of some of our “stronger” friends we were able to pack in almost professional time. I cannot thank Phil, John, Andy, Celeste, Alicia, Sherrie and Robert enough. We even did some post packing gaming and played Pandemic which I LOVED! and just like that I managed to leave undefeated on the BSG Board Game! (mostly because we did not play the last night).

Driving up the rented truck was no small feat. I would have more respect for truck drivers now, but after several rear death experiences caused by them either blowing past me way over the speed limit or cutting me off I actually don’t like them very much anymore. Truckers know they cannot cut off a car because their acceleration will spell trouble, but I had more trucks cut me off than smaller cars. Overall driving with a load behind you is a horrible experience, you are at the mercy of wind currents, semitrucks wakes and people that make our nation’s highways their personal racetracks. Hundreds of dollars in gas later and probably a couple of gray hairs I earned we got here in good time.

Unloading was done yesterday and we were able to sleep in our own bed last night. Even though there is still tons of unpacking to do we are actually “moved in.” Its bitter sweet because we left Kansas City in a very rushed way, but I guess that is the way it was supposed to be. We have been lucky enough to already have someone visit us up here, and another one this week. I am looking forward to being able to have people visit and show them around Chicago.

Spring Clean Up

Most people clean up their clutter during the spring. I personally don’t like to acquire stuff at all. I am not a pack rat, but I have a hard time getting rid of stuff. Thank God for my wife!

We are making progress on getting ready to move. Even though packing its going slow we are getting rid of stuff. We are almost done with the office which needed to be de-cluttered long ago, but I just could not do it. With her help we got ride of about 4 big large garbage bags worth of crap that I had stashed away in closet and about 4 boxes full of junk. I still kept a lot of the cables that I know will be useful and are expensive, but gone are the badly manually crimped cat5 cables that I kept just because.

I still had 3.5 diskettes that have not been inside of a computer for over 10 years. Most of it was from my college days when Travis would spend all night downloading the latest game from some sever in England… lol remember that. And then 14 disks later we were all playing GTA. Also my unreal collection of Zip disks that probably had every single build and fan made map of quake. While it would have been fun to find out what was in all those disks I would have never done it… I know because I tried before and quickly gave up. There was nothing on those old disks that I really need.

I think with our book, dvd and video game addition Bea and I have enough stuff to haul around. Getting rid of some of the stuff that was being kept for “sentimental” value felt liberating. Since I moved out of my parents house this will be the first time truly downsizing to a smaller place, and I have to say that being forced to get rid of stuff that I truly don’t need feels a lot better than I could ever have expected.

Mentors and Shadows

Having a long drive has some good side effects besides losing your hope that there are competent drivers out there. You do get to listen to some radio shows. The first week I reacquainted myself with the vast variety of choices in FM. Chicago has more Spanish radio stations than even XM had at one point and that was enjoyable. My MP3 collection needs refreshing from the computer so I started to listen to some good radio programs. Today I listened to an author being interviewed about a recent book she wrote about her mother.

The interesting part of the interview to me was that her Mom eventually came to the realization that happiness comes from within and that most people waste their lives trying to please others to make themselves happy. Another interesting part of the interview and the reason I wanted to write about this subject is that the author’s mother scaled back her contact with her kids once she realized that they did not see her for what she was now, but for what she had been before. I actually experienced some of that with my own family.

The word mentor has been important in my life since I first heard it. To me the word mentor is not to be taken lightly and the people in your life that you allow to be called that should be carefully considered. We all have good and bad qualities, and sometimes bad qualities can have good outcome. An insomniac could finish up a miniature model in half the time that someone that sleeps at night does. Qualities and traits are not what most people admire, most people admire accomplishments, but how they are achieved is also important. Someone that I consider a mentor has to value family above career for example.

Someone that has a strong personality or influence in our lives can become a mentor but also a shadow. The tricky part is being able to recognize not only the type of person we want them to be, but also what part we want to admire or follow. That covers mentors, at least in general, but what about shadows.

Shadows are a lot trickier, people that affect us sometimes not just without our consent but even without our consciousness. On top of that, I know many people that have been motivated by their shadows, meaning someone telling them they could not do something fueled them to actually accomplish those things. In that case is a shadow actually a mentor?

In my life I have had to cut or temporarily stop relationships. I have realized and life has reaffirmed that being around certain behaviors will affect you whether you want it or not. I think friends and family are the main mentors and shadows of your life, and how you manage those relationships dictates your well being… not your happiness, but for sure your overall world outlook.

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