Ex·cep·tion·al

/ikˈsepSHənəl/
adjective
1.unusual; not typical.
“crimes of exceptional callousness and cruelty”
synonyms: unusual, uncommon, abnormal, atypical, extraordinary, out of the ordinary, rare, unprecedented, unexpected, surprising; strange, odd, freakish, anomalous, peculiar, weird;
“the drought was exceptional”

I have a huge chip on my shoulder. Every time someone that has never been outside of the U.S. of A. and they call ‘Murrica the best country in the world, it irks me. Not because I think that Colombia is the best country in the world (even though I think it is a happier nation.) but because I think to call something the best you at least have to have something to compare it to. I also discount military that have been “off base” during their duties because like tourists they probably never “lived” in those countries. For a country so set on assimilation and propagating democracy, this country does little to get to know anyone else. So again, unless you have lived in another country and has actually tried to learn a little about their culture you have no business calling America the best country in the world.

That said, America is great and exceptional. Careful though, exceptional does not mean necessarily better. If you did have the chance to read what Putin addressed to us “A Plea for Caution” it is quite a well crafted piece. I’ve had some time to digest it now and while I don’t dismiss it as propaganda I do see it as somewhat of a slap in the face. Not of America, not even of Obama, but it is a slap on the “World Police” mentality. The UN is or was supposed to be that… but are they?

What Putin wrote bothers me. It bothers me not because some of what he says is correct, heck most of what he says is correct… but how can a piece that ends up being somewhat arrogant calls the US arrogant. The part that bothers me the most is the “exceptional” comment. The US is exceptional in many ways, it is not a perfect country and I am quite critical of it and its society at times, but it is the land of opportunity. It is the land of inequality, just hidden a little better than in other places.

You have to understand that even though I was born in another country and sometimes feel more part of the “Fifth Estate” than anything else, I am American. I finished my schooling here, I have worked most of my life here, I continue to shape who I am as a human being here. I am an American. While I do dream of retiring somewhere else, I will always be grateful for the opportunities this exceptional country gave me and still gives me.

So to Mr. Putin (I almost called you “Pootie Poot” which is what we call him in our household) while I am not against the notion that we are all created equal under God, this country houses a lot of different people, and yes different does things out of the ordinary. This is an exceptional nation, and while maybe not the best or better than any other country in many respects This is still America and we will continue trucking on.

About Once a Month

That is the schedule that seems to be working out for me to actually blog. I still have the itch to produce content, but that back scratch-er seems to be out of reach. I have been wanting to share this podcast with you for a while, but their topics have always been kind of specific and I did not want you to get lost in the topic but rather get to know the guys doing a wonderful podcast. The current one talks about something that we all should care about in some level. The NSA getting all up in our digital business. Go listen to the Super Number One, I’ll wait.

Ok, even if you did not listen the discussion is what really makes me like these two guys. They have a conversation about it. Explore the subject with their own opinion and devil’s advocacy skills as well. I don’t always agree with what they say but they are always on point when it comes to diving a little deeper and having a true discussion. This topic of the NSA listening is an interesting one because it comes to us when a lot of people think of the digital divide as something that separates those from access to the internet vs those that don’t.

Don’t get me wrong, that does exist just as much as the divide between those people that have a bank account and those that just cash their paycheck every week. There are tons of lines that divide us and in cases dissecting our society can be quite complex. This NSA leak business though makes things a lot more complicated.

When was the last time that you saw that both political parties are dancing to the same song?

Why did this dude run to China? I know most of you guys are probably not interested but in the security community there have been a lot of noise about hacking and China lately. It is not new for the people that follow security, the new thing has been that it has been all over the financial news, and even the government wanted to start working on gathering information about attacks.

I work indirectly with security. I do however know analysts both professionally and personally. In fact about a couple of months back I had a conversation with one about this subject of social engineering and China just really hammering the US lately. Then this guy goes running to China with the whole Metadata scandal. If you did not listen to the podcast one of the things said that resonates with me the most (because it was my first comment after the news came out…) it is that this is not new information and basically the patriot act and carnivore were just earlier versions. Prism is really a 1.0 type of thing. My fictional mind says that maybe we are in version 5.0 somewhere underground.

Data without context means nothing and it can be dangerous. I wish I had an opinion on this but in reality we have really no data. We don’t know enough to be pissed about it, scared or feel safe. Can we really ever feel safe? When was the last time that a TSA check made you feel safer while flying?

The government listening to us makes me no more afraid than a corporation like facebook having so much demographic information on us. Or twitter, or this blog, or playing candy crush. Everything we do now has the potential to leave a trail. Whether that trail is used to sell us something or put us in jail when it becomes illegal to drink too much coffee, who knows.

One Friend Less

I see when I mess up in English, I was actually having a conversation about languages this week at work and saying how sometimes this language really limits me in expressing how I feel. There are words that simply don’t exist in this language (I have been writing a post about that one for a while.) One of my favorite examples is “Saudade.”

This week I also talked a lot about my blog to someone that does not blog. I explained how it was something I used a lot more back in the day but have since stopped using for various reasons. I do miss it, but today I got a chance to be motivated enough to actually post something. I was “unfriended” on facebook. Since the conversation was removed and probably nobody that knows the participants in the conversation even saw the exchange I figured, lets preserve the exchange without the authors… except for me. One disclaimer though, I do realize that people, conversation and context don’t exist on the internet and for the person that unfriended me this was probably the short end of the stick in the sense that it escalated without proper background. The person that unfriended me was someone that I was already questioning even having as someone that I read. They did survive several cullings (I love doing that on facebook for some reason) which is an activity that brings me almost as much inner peace as detailing my car.

Some more context. I am starting to hate facebook. It has amazing ways of viewing other people’s life unfold and it makes you almost feel part of things that happen oh so far away. It also lets you hear what I call “facebook prayers” which makes me wonder if some people just never talk to any other humans. The part I am tired of is the constant regurgitation of talking head points about racist, sexist, and just plain ignorant things. Some people seem so conditioned to it that at every slight opportunity ignorance comes out, and then the diatribe of the topic already regurgitated several times comes pouring out like a river that smells like the streets of New York. Aside – (Someone needs to come up with a true New York Perfume that smells like sidewalk piss.) Long week in New York… too much work not enough play I guess. After spending time there where the language you hear the least is English I come home to this little discussion.

Original Status – Heavily Redacted
Person 1
Carpet guys are here and I’m getting an education on country music. Apparently “country boys and girls getting down on the farm” is worth singing about. I also have become aware that there are women who thinks trucks are sexy. #TheMoreYouKnow
-
3 people like this.

Funny, witty, entertaining. The reason this person survived multiple cullings.

Person 2
Let me know if they are any good. I’m always on the lookout for good flooring guys. Just be thankful they speak English!

Person 1
They’re from XXXX XXXXX. Super polite. One of the guys is an apprentice and I can hear the older guy teaching him along the way.

Nothing to see right? Simple exchange. Well, not for me. My facebook feed feels inundated with this type of crap, not just by Person 2 but many other friends of friends that say just ignorant stuff without realizing it. I stay quiet and say nothing 99% of the time, but maybe because the topic had NOTHING to do with English speaking in the first place, or because I saw so many NON English speakers living and working in New York which for you geography buffs is part of ‘Murrica!

Logtar
I’m curious Person 2, what does speaking English have to do with any of what Person 1 said? Furthermore, if they did not speak English and were contracted and did a great job why would it matter if they performed and maybe educated Person 1 on some Latin music? How many languages do you speak again Person 2?

I know. I am wrong… I opened up the door, you could even say I baited… but this was my hope. Maybe, people can see that jumping to the whole “SPEAK ENGLISH PEDRO!” BS is kind of offensive and most first generation naturalized Americans are tired of hearing that. Maybe people will stop assuming that every worker in this country that does something construction related does not speak English. In fact, if you talk to contractors in some areas of the country they will tell you that skilled labor left, to the point that they are poaching framers from each other’s jobs. I digress though. I just did not see where the whole, “be glad they speak English fits.” What kind of people do I associate with when they are glad that their ‘Murrica speaks only English? Assimilation complete at all. So here is where it gets very interested.

Person 2
It is VERY difficult for people to communicate with people who don’t speak English. I work with MANY hispanics, some from Mexico, some from El Salvador (and even guys from Eastern Europe). ALL of them speak English! It is a requirement because my guys have lots of interaction with homeowners. I also listen to a lot of latin “Polka sounding” music when around my guys. Not sure I like it any less than country music! I speak only one language, English.

Logtar
I figured Person 2, but your comment is really offensive because the conversation had nothing to do with speaking English at all. Thank you though, I now know where not to take my business. I work in a environment where many of the people I interact with don’t know just one language, and English is not even close to being their primary language. I kind of chuckle at your VERY difficult, try to understand the word “Policy” in a legal environment where the meaning translation is “Politica”, which does not match with the literal translation. Its ok though Person 2 I am sure communicating with people from all over the world is can be very difficult when all you know is English. I like to communicate via food, but that is just me.

Here is where it kind of got surprising, one of the reasons that Person 1 was considered for previous culling was that I figured the antagonistic stuff came from a place of intelligence and not close mindedness.

Person 1
So (for the sake of being a dick because I’m bored) – if I move to Colombia I should just expect to speak English?

Person 2
I respect your opinion, John. I’ve heard countless stories of customers asking a worker a question about their specific project only to get either a blank stare or an “ok” from the worker. It has nothing to do with the quality of their work, but customer service. I’ve made a conscious effort to employ skilled people no matter where they are from! They must be legal to work in the US (no matter where they are from) and be checked through E-Verify. They must also be able to communicate with my homeowners. Heck, some of my hispanic guys do a better job of that than my American guys!

So now its a tag team!

Logtar
Funny that you bring that up, many Americans actually do and live in closed communities sending their kinds to English only schools. That’s ok though Person 1, I now know what I am dealing with.

Person 2
If you move to Colombia (not Missouri!) you should expect to learn the language and assimilate into that culture.

Person 2
Those folks can attend the English only schools, that’s their prerogative. But don’t expect the locals to go out of their way to accommodate it!

Person 2 By the way, Person 1, I love it when you call yourself a dick!

I should have known better and stepped away after the flirting started, that should be private but it is facebook right?

Logtar
People that take every opportunity to shine the light on topics that are not theirs but that a talking head gave them to discuss and use. It is really sad that a post that has nothing to do with “Speaking English” was taken there. I thought pointing that out would make it stop and maybe open a mind but I see that immediately where I a from is being questioned and now the word assimilation is brought up. I am as America as you two are.

Person 2
I never asked where you were from, nor does it really matter to me.

Person 1
You’re not making sense. What talking head? What topic that is “not mine”?

Person 2
It must be “Offend me Friday” or something.

Logtar
What does your post have to do with speaking English? which is the first thing that Person 2 brought up. What does me being from another country have anything to do with pointing out that it is ignorant to bring up “people that don’t speak English” in a topic that had nothing to do with it.

Logtar
I said it is offensive, not that I am offended. It does make me sad when I see this kind of ignorance though.

Person 1
This is done.

Topic deleted, Logtar was unfriended. I thought about posting the actual screen grab or posting it to lamebook for other people to comment on, but I figured I would use my little corner of the internet for my rant.

This is the thing. I am tired of being around people that are semi racist and intolerant of others but when called out on it they simply shrug and say, I am not racist. I am from another country and I personally can be racist in some situations. We don’t even want to do it but our brain is trained to… how, by being exposed to images and writing that is racist or intolerant. You might not think anything of it, but constantly being bombarded with, people should speak English, and undocumented workers are taking our jobs, and bla bla bla eventually becomes what everyone goes to when anything remotely related to the topic comes up. Why do I have to explain to people that even though I am from another country and speak more than one language I am American… BUT that does not make me one of the “good” ones or in any was assimilated, if anything I infect people with as much food and culture from other places in the world as I can. It is almost like my mission to make people see that communication is not just about language and that 20 seconds trying to look up what you are trying to say in a dictionary is not going to kill you but maybe teach you a thing or two. Tell the people of New York that they have to all speak English and be assimilated and they will laugh in your face, or a good portion not even understand you. I seriously thought that xenophobia was on the decline in this country. I guess it is alive and well.

Btw, I was not remotely offended by any of it. I was just more sad that I was right about the level of some people’s quick response to a topic that to me is much, much broader than just! “Learn English Pedro! You are in ‘Murrica!” Then again, the original post had nothing to do with it… that was my only point.

Random Violence

Weird freaking dreams right? That is the consequence of not writing as an outlet.

That is the conclusion Heather and I came to last night.

A lot has happened in the last year, new job, more travel. There is a chance that I will spend some time in Brazil this year and I should be looking forward to it but sometimes I just want to stay close to home. The world is getting to be a little to scary with random acts of violence… or are they really random.

Two tourists in Brazil were kidnapped yesterday, one of them raped. See earlier this year we took a cruise and after reports that there was local unrest in Belize I decided that we would not get off the ship on that port. I rather not chance getting shot at over some local unrest. Funny thing is that most people think that Colombia is an unsafe country, but don’t understand that there are unsafe areas. The country overall has not been unsafe since the mid 90s in my opinion, well not more so than any other.

Last night the office building where I go to the office at (when I go to the office) had some windows broken due to gun fire. The way it is being told right now is that it is totally random someone walking through the street and just firing. The skeptical person in me says that there is more to that but who knows.

I grew up in Colombia with violence being something you grew up with. I had a baseball cap snatched from my head, had a knife pulled on me in a mugging, my family was shot at, I was blocks away from a car bomb. I have seen my share of violence. I don’t want it in my life. As I get older I try to figure out where it comes from.

Violence is born from frustration and most of that frustration has been born out of poverty and hunger. There are people that do lose it and see violence as a viable outlet, but I think frustration because you cannot feed yourself or your family is a great motivator.

The economy hit this country hard, and while the political process continue to be about everything but the real problems I get more and more concerned about the future. Should I get an arsenals and get ready for society to crumble? Should I be afraid to travel to countries where I have to work but might not be all that safe? Is violence really random or something that can be prevented?

I wish I had more answers than questions.

The Mind That Fires the Gun

This post has been floating in my head for quite some time. I tend to dislike guns and associate them with negative things. Some day I will be brave enough to discuss the details, but for now I will say that my first experience with guns was at a young age and it involved being shot at. Subsequently an extended family member that was a cop came over to our house and I saw up close my first revolver… as a means of protection for our family. Later in life I have encountered and even fired a lot more guns, and still did not care for them. It is amusing to me that people think that Colombia is this backwards “third world” place, growing up I thought of hunting as something that humans did before modern agriculture. The only people that really hunt in Colombia are the natives in the Amazon; unlike here that people mow down Bambi with high powered rifles.

I have plenty of friends that own guns. I have wanted one for personal protection for quite some time. I know that owning a gun is not enough, being trained on it and actually firing it in a range is what will make it effective in a life and death situation. This year as a present I decided to get a shotgun, for the nurse. The story of why will come soon enough, but because of something unrelated to this post I told her about it. She has not seen the shotgun but she knows about it. It is still kind of a surprise in that sense.

A Chiefs player killed his girlfriend a block away from where we live. We had no clue that we had an NFL player living in the neighborhood. The weird thing is that around that same time I was buying a gun as well. It was an easy process, I was amazed at how easy. Granted, I have no criminal record and I am a citizen but I could not help but be at awe at how easy it was to get one.

I have no problem with people owning guns, I just don’t want crazy people having access to guns; the hard part is how do we determine that.

A young man, possibly mentally ill kills 27 people, 20 of them very young children… like my nephew, like the nurse’s nieces… I cannot imagine how parents feel. I know my Mom was freaked out when she heard the news because she had no idea where Sandy Hook was located or what was happening. Even a second thinking your loved ones are not safe is hell.

This horrific event seems to be shifting the gun control discussion. I honestly don’t think it will accomplish much. If the mother of the kid that lost it was a good citizen and sane she could have still purchased the guns. Limiting assault type rifles seems logical but how many of those guns are already out there. The real problem is not that guns kill people, its that people that “lose it” either temporarily or permanently are the ones that kill people.

So the problem is not guns, it is mental health. You can call it evil; but I thought we were past the middle ages and thinking that winged monsters are the ones responsible for bad things that happened. People that lose their grasp of reality are the ones that kill others.

Mental health comes with a huge stigma still. A lot of people still don’t see it as an illness that needs to be treated. This is what really amazes me when people think that universal healthcare (including mental health) is something we don’t need. I dare you to read this article and reflect.

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