Personal computers

I was fortunate enough to once have a job working with computers! 

I really love personal computers. Of course, that’s because I really loved typewriters. I mean those old mechanical ones whose keys would get all tangled up if you typed too fast. Not that I could type that fast, but I loved to jam them up on purpose so I could figure out which letters to pull down first in order not to bend the arms. Then, I bought an electric typewriter with self-correcting tape. Now that I think about it, that was truly my first word processor! I used that typewriter to publish some of my first articles and I wanted them to look perfect before I submitted them. The correction tape made editing so much easier so long as I caught the mistakes before I went hit the carriage return to go to the next line because the typewriter’s memory was only good for the line on which I was typing. When the first PCs first came out at about $10K, I couldn’t afford to buy one. I used to visit my friend Jim and use his. However, typing any kind of text was still actually easier with an electric typewriter. And typewriters produced better documents than those early dot-matrix printers. The PC word processors required you to learn the operating system and all these arcane word processing commands. When WordPerfect eventually came out with their 5.0 version, I finally bought an IBM computer. This was back when IBM actually mass-produced IBM-compatible computers. They were the number one computer manufacturer back then. My IBM computer actually used IBM-DOS. This was before Bill Gates had the power to rule the computer world. His evil empire may be slowly eroding, but the competition is constantly watching him covetously.

I remember always upgrading my computer because obsolescence was the main component of every PC. I loved opening up that beige box and taking everything apart and putting it back together everytime I upgraded my PC rather than buying a new one. As a teenager, I used to build electronics kits and I became quite an expert solderer. When I joined the Marines, I could solder up to NASA Class 1 specs, the highest rating. I learned electronics in the Marines, but when it became a job to me, I lost all interest in electronics. I remember all this now, because my laptop crashed. I could have fixed it myself if I had had all the right diagnostic equipment. However, I had already paid for the extended warranty so I Fed-Exed it to get repaired. All they did was replace the motherboard, something I could have done, but not as cheaply as they. I have an old computer that I kept upgrading until not one of the original components remained. It reminded me of the knife that Socrates (or maybe it was Aristotle or Plato) described. If you replace one half of the handle, then later replace the other side of the handle, and then finally replace the blade, is it still the same knife? Well, to me, my upgraded computer is still my original computer, at least in spirit, if computers can actually have spirits not projected unto them by their owners.

Bill Gates is no longer the world's richest man. Let's hold a fundraiser for him!

José y María

Celaya, Guanajuato, México

In Spanish-speaking countries, the two most common names are José and María. Some parents name their sons José María and their daughters María José. My Uncle Eutimio and Aunt Asunción named their sons José Eutimio, José Ricardo, José Carlos, José Ignacio, José David, José Daniel, and José Agustín. They named their daughters María Concepción, María Elena, María Angélica, and María Carmen. They had fifteen children, but I can’t remember all their names right now. When I first met them on my last trip to Celaya, Guanajuato, they introduced themselves as Timio, David, Carlos, Ricardo, etcetera. Later, I heard one cousin call his brother Pepe, which is the nickname for José. I asked my cousin why he called him Pepe and he said that his name was really José. Later on, another cousin called another brother Pepe. This was a different from Pepe from the first one. I asked how they could both be Pepe. Then they explained to me how all the brothers were named José and all the girls were named María. I still don’t understand how they can name them like that, but they did. Afterwards, I thought about how convenient that would be. If you needed something, you would merely shout José or Pepe and you would have at least two or three sons running in to help you. Ditto if you shouted María.

Te presente a mi hermano José María y a mi hermana María José.


Chris is another memorable Spanish student of mine, but not for the reasons you might think. “Chris” is merely a sexually ambiguous pseudonym that I’m using in order to hide his identity. Oops! I revealed his gender. Okay, he’s a he. This blog entry would be so hard to write since we don’t have a gender neutral pronoun in English. Anyway, he was in my Spanish class for one whole semester, but I only saw him exactly six times during the entire semester that consisted of 58 total days. I never saw him before, nor since, that semester. In the beginning of the semester, he e-mailed me that he was having personal problems and that’s why he was missing so many classes. In fact, he never even showed up to class once. This was the third week of the semester and I still had no idea what he looked like. Then, he e-mailed me telling me that he suffered from anxiety and he was taking prescription medications. He attached an image of the letter from his psychiatrist asking me to excuse his patient’s absences, which I did. When the first exam came around, I e-mailed Chris reminding him to come to class in order to take the exam. I normally don’t do this for students, but I was concerned for him since he was in counseling. He responded by asking me not to ask him anything about his absences when he finally showed up to class on exam day for the very first time of the semester. He didn’t want to create a scene in front of the class because all of the attention would cause him emotional stress. He came to his first class late and I handed him the exam, but he avoided eye contact with me and he was forced to sit in the front row because all the other seats were taken. I could tell that he was extremely uncormfortable. He was tall and thin and extremely pale. His hair was dyed black even though it was naturally black and when he bent his down his hair would fall over his eyes. His lip was pierced and he had tattoos on his arms. Oh, yes, he was dressed completely in black. Well, he finished the exam before the other students and left without a word. I only saw him five more times: on exam days. He would e-mail his compositions and tell me about his ongoing therapy and how he didn’t feel comfortable sitting in classrooms with other students. His exam grades suffered because he was missing all of my wonderful Spanish lessons. Then, one day, he e-mailed me thanking me for being so tolerant with him. Every e-mail that I read from him always implied that he would soon start attending class regularly. But one e-mail absolutely floored me! He told me that he wanted to be a teacher! But I wondered, “How?” He didn’t feeling comfortable sitting in the classroom as a student, so I couldn’t imagine him as a teacher when all eyes would be on him. And that reminds me: we never made eye contact the entire semester. Well, he finished the semester with a D, but he would have gotten a much better grade had he actually shown up with a little more consistency. I wonder if he ever became a teacher.

Please don't ask me to speak in front of the class!


When I think of the IRS, I think of death and taxes, in that order. Thank you, Benjamin Franklin for pointing out our only two certainties in life. So far, I’ve been staving off the Grim Reaper, and, I’ve been paying my taxes every year, in attempt to avoid appearing in the radar of the IRS. Or at least, I try to avoid the IRS as much as possible. However, I had to call them up today. It seems that there was an error on my tax return this year. I wouldn’t have noticed, but my tax refund was significantly smaller than I had anticipated. I was counting on that money for my vacation this year. I waited for the letter from the IRS in which they explain their adjustment and I immediately spotted the error:  They had me listed as Single instead of Head of Household. I put off calling for about a week. Everytime I think of the IRS, audits and federal prisons come to mind. My mother and I panicked when she once received a letter from the IRS to go to their office for an audit. We just expected the worst. We dug up every receipt we could find in the house for the previous year. When she came back home, she was extremely relieved. In fact, after the audit the IRS increased her tax refund because she didn’t claim all of the expenses to which she was entitled! Years ago, I received an ammended tax return from the IRS, but they actually tripled my tax return because I didn’t properly apply the income averaging formula to which I was entitled after working for minimum wage while I was in the Marines. But I wasn’t expecting to receive one penny less this year on my tax return. So, I called the toll-free number they provided and I couldn’t get through to a live person. The automated voice message gave me another phone number and extension to call, which I did. Another voice message at the new phone number told me to call the next day or contact them through their website at Of course, I couldn’t find how to contact the IRS on their website. I called today and I was suprised to actually talk to a live person, although I did have to wait about twenty minutes on hold. But the woman with whom I spoke was very calm, professional, and understanding. She had a digital copy of my tax return on her computer screen and it turns out that it was I who made the mistake of filing as Single instead of Head of Household. She made the proper adjustment to my tax return and I should have my full refund by next week! Apart from the waiting on hold, the whole experience was quite painless!

Only two things in life are certain. Death and taxes!

From Nigeria with love

They say that without the Internet the entire economy of Nigeria would collapse. We’ve all received those winning lottery notifications. The urgent request from someone with a are large fortune who needs your help to transfer the money out of Nigeria. But the most fascinating scams of all are those that come via Instant Messages. I mean, I’m always invisible when I’m online, but somehow they find me and IM me. How do they find me anyway? I remember the good old days of IMing total strangers from around the world. I actually enjoyed some of our converstations, usually in English, but sometimes in Spanish. We would chat for about ten or fifteen minutes and then we would say good-bye, usually forever.

Then, the Internet changed drastically. All these females started IMing constantly. I actually started to believe that on the Internet I was a stud! Some 27-year-old female, or so “she” claimed, would IM in order to get to know me better. And she would get to know me quite well because in less than fifty words from me, she fell madly in love with me, no matter how I described myself. I had several descriptions of myself in my repetoire–hey, I’m a writer, no? Once, I said I was old, fat, ugly, impotent, but my lovely admirer still fell in love with me. See, I am a stud on the Internet! Once, they were in love with me, they felt entitled to ask me for money so we could meet in person. Of course, they never asked for the money outright. There was always a predicament from which I had to rescue them before I could send them money.

One of my “lovers” had gone to Lagos on vacation from a small town in Kansas. And she IMed me that she was trapped in her motel room by the manager who would not let her out until she paid her bill. Somehow, I was obliged to help her because she had no family or friends back in Kansas who would help her. She gave me the telephone of the manager so I could call him and give him my credit card information in order to pay her motel bill. Color me skeptical, but I didn’t call the manager. I still feel really badly for her because she has probably been locked up in that motel room for three years now. How could I do that to a woman who really, really loved me? She was counting on me, my damsel in distress, and I let her down. No wonder I’m still single!

Another “lover” IMed me so I could help her return to the U.S. Somehow, she had gone to Nigeria from Minnesota on vacation and had inadvertently bought money orders instead of traveler’s checks. She needed my help to cash her money orders. She would Fed-Ex them to me and I would cash them at my bank and I would immediately wire her the money. Then we could be together forever! She really loved me. I could sense it from the urgency in her IMs. I still feel badly about letting her down. I tried to scare her off by telling her that I was a police officer, but, no, she said I could wear my police uniform to the bank and then I could go to the front of the line. I told her that I needed time to let the money orders clear, but she insisted that I wire her the money immediately after I deposited the money orders. Well, when she asked me for my address in order to Fed-Ex me the money orders, I gave her the address to my police station. It’s been a few years and I still haven’t received those money orders! I feel so badly for her because she’s probably still stranded in Nigeria. Even her own family in Minnesota wouldn’t help her come back home. I guess I’m a monster.

My friend Liliam tells me that when the Nigerian men contacted her, they would chat awhile and then send her a love poem. I never received a love poem! Am I not worthy of a love poem? Of course, the men also wanted money, too.

After a while, these chats became so routine and mundane that they were no longer interesting for me. Sometimes they were in Germany or England, but they were always trying to go home and/or meet some gentleman and there was always a connection to Nigeria, some way, some how. Finally, before they even told me that they loved me, I asked them how much money they were going to ask me for. That would instantly end our chat. I can’t believe how easily they were offended! I’m such a cynic, ain’t I? Now, I just report them as spam and I never hear from them again. But I kind of miss them now. Lately, I receive IMs that invite me to sex chat rooms or live webcams. But no one tells me they love me anymore like my Nigerian girlfriends did. Maybe I’ll start chatting with them again.

Hi, my dear! Would you send me all your money?

That’s so gay!

In general, I am very observant about many things around me. However, when it comes to certain things, I’m quite oblivious to reality. For example, when it comes to sexual orientation, I don’t really keep a scorecard. I have friends whom I have known for many years and I couldn’t even tell you if they were straight or gay. I basically judge people by how they treat me. Normally, the subject of sexual orientation never arises. Once a friend, whom I had known about three years, told me he was gay. I’m not sure why he told me he was gay, but he did. I didn’t know how to take it. Why was he telling me now? He never did tell me and I never asked why he made this special announcement to me. We went on being friends very much the same as before the announcement. Later, I saw him at a party with another young man sitting on his lap amorously. I guess it was at that moment that I really thought of him as gay. But we were still friends. Then one day, we were talking and he begins telling me about this girl he’s all gaga over. “Wait a minute!” I told him. “You’re gay!” He then confessed that he was never really sure if he was gay or not. Well, it’s a couple of years later now and he’s still with this girl. In fact, they’re living together.

Once, after my sister returned from Mexico, she told me about one of our cousins. He was in his early twenties, a hair dresser, and living in downtown Mexico City with an older man in his fifties. My cousin was gay. His father, my uncle, was worried about what people would think about his son. He was worried that people would think that his son was gay. My uncle was either in denial or completely oblivious to the fact that his son was gay. I, however, accepted the fact that I had a gay cousin. I mean, he’s still my cousin! The last time I went to Mexico, I met my cousin again, believing that he was gay. Then, he hands me his cell phone and says, “This is a picture of my daughter.” I really thought he was gay! But I thought that maybe he had adopted. When he hands me his phone again, he says, “This is a picture of my younger daughter.” A couple of days later, we go to his apartment and he introduces me to his wife and two daughters. Okay, I thought to myself, maybe I’m confused as to which cousin was gay. But I was pretty sure that I was right about it being him. When I finally talked to my sister again, she confirmed that I had the right cousin, but that he had gotten married.

That's so gay!