How to become a decent computer programmer through armed robbery

One hundred years ago my great-grandpa boarded a ship from Puerto Rico to Cuba to start a better life.  The Spanish-American war had ended, and the Americans that came to “liberate” us, had left the local economy in uhmmmm a challenging  state.  En route to Cuba, someone on the ship convinced him that going to Dominican Republic would be a better option, since non-blacks were the ruling class.  So, on the eve of the first world war, with no marketable skills except being white (or “not as dark” in his case), my great grandpa moved to Dominican Republic.  Initially as a ditch digger, but shortly after as an entrepreneur, drug dealer, and land owner.   My family recounts a slightly different version, but that’s the general gist.

The wrong side of the tracks may include a 14 hour work day for $1. (Actual sugar cane plantation very near to my family’s.)

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Obama and I: just another pair of privileged white kids

Brother from another mother.

I’ve led a privileged life.  I can’t complain.  I’ve never felt racism’s cold shoulder.  It either hasn’t been doled out my way, or if it has, I’ve been too stupid to notice.  I’ve been lucky enough to work as a computer programmer, in a system that is as meritocratic as it gets; Where I’m effectively shielded by an agnostic screen, and when confronted, I’m perfectly capable of writing in ALL CAPS as well as the next guy.

This isn’t to say that there isn’t discrimination.  I’m perfectly aware that women engineers have a slightly different story, and that ageism is real in my field, but *I* haven’t felt discriminated either at work, or in life. Until recently…

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Things I learned in a 4 month sabbatical while traveling the world

Sunset over the Cambodian rice fields.
(This never got old.)

When I was a kid, my best friend’s sister, Jamarys, had a quote on her door: “In the silence of not doing, when you slowly begin to listen, then anything in life can be your guide“.  The quote has stuck with me for a very long time, and after months of listening to the screams of silence, I can attest to that.  There’s nothing like a few months alone to get your bearings.  You may not figure out everything, but you’ll likely point your ship in the right direction— and that alone is worth the price of admission.

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Getting paid sobriety coins to go back to work

I knew I needed to get back to work weeks before my sabbatical was up. I don’t know how it happened, but I do remember when I realized it. It happened similarly to a cocaine addict’s sobriety relapse.  One day he’s being bestowed a 10 year sobriety coin, and the next he’s doing coke lines off of a stripper’s back– not knowing exactly how or why it happened, but for a brief moment, realizing that– boy does it feel good.

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Tic Tac laxatives and death by embarrassment

If you haven’t been sick once (or thrice) while traveling through Southeast Asia, you clearly haven’t enjoyed the fine cuisine.

The first time I had frog legs I had this excruciating stomach pain for two days, but I blame it on the inedible amounts of chili it had. This may be somewhat akin to a friend who years ago would drink mojitos until we needed to carry him out of an establishment. The next day he would invariably be sick, but would blame his upset stomach on the unwashed mint leaves in his drinks. Whatever, frog legs are good for you.

A few weeks ago I stopped heeding my own advice of only eating where women and children frequent. It was a fancy boat, through pristine islands in the gulf of Thailand. What could possibly go wrong with fresh pineapple cut by fishermen in a boat with no running water? Well, a lot apparently.

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