sábado, 3 de octubre de 2020

Now I understand the reason why Chilean comedy cop film "Fuerzas Especiales" failed at the box office...

 A lot of people know I have traveled to a modest but still respectable amount of foreign countries, and hopefully once the pandemic ends, I will be able to continue traveling around. I have been to Chile on two occasions and would definitely go there again and again.

During my first trip, I saw posters in downtown Santiago promoting a comedy cop film called Fuerzas Especiales which is similar to those famous 1980's spoof comedy movies such as Police Academy or The Naked Gun. If you liked those movies, you will probably like this film as well. The fact that I dumped half of my popcorn on the floor after the movie ended is vivid proof I had a blast. I sort of feel glad the theater only had 1 person that didn't feel offended I was so annoying because I was likely laughing real loud.

Even though it was the sequel, the plot was very straightforward: Salinas and Freire are now best buddies and they have been promoted to the special forces. The problem is that, well... their rather "colorful" approach to policing is not well accepted among the clique.

I don't really get it. I think Salinas's idea of putting armor on a llama during a downtown Santiago protest in the first 10 minutes of the film was brilliant. As in pure comedy gold, haha.

The movie also delves into the romantic lives of our two heroes. Salinas is miserably oblivious to the fact the force's beautiful cop Vergara is crazy for him, whereas Freire's new girlfriend is both slightly closer to his age than his ex in movie 1, all around nice.... and just happens to be the single mom of a huge troublemaker child who hates Freire to the bone and will do any kind of mischief to get rid of him.

After Freire is wanted for a crime he didn't commit, the oddball team of heroes including the no nonsense Chief Oropeza and freshly minted officer Riquelme come to help clear the names of our friendly duo.

I would have thought such a movie would become a cultish hit in the US, particularly because the kind of slapstick humor in the film is so reminiscent of 80's satire films. No political agendas, just simple PG-13 rated fun.

While for some weird and rather unfair reason this movie was never released in cinemas in Mexico (I have no idea why if I believe a lot of families would have enjoyed watching it even if the Chilean accent is a bit hard to understand at times), sadly the English translated title is just... well... See for yourself:

I don't really understand the logic behind such an absurd title. The exact English translation should be "Special Forces". They could have simply tried to name the movie "Chilean Naked Gun" or "Chilean Special Forces", and it would have come out as something close to the original title without sounding condescending.

Yes, Mexico is a 3rd world country, 50% of the population earns less than 2000 USD a year and I have visited many houses in rural areas with dirt floors, don't have a toilet and much less a tank of potable water. Ironically houses without toilets have a good chance of having satellite tv but that is sort of offtopic. But despite that, the cities are actually quite developed, and nobody rides around with donkeys, not even in the villages where I have lived in for the past 10 years. People ride around villages in scooters or old tsurus.

Chile is actually quite a developed country. With a population of only 16 million people, half of which live in Santiago, rural areas always have well paved roads, lighting and toilets are pretty much everywhere. Chances are a rural town in Chile will have better facilities than a small midwest town of similar population in the US.

That isn't to say everything is peachy perfect in Chile, public college simply does not exist there so only kids born in wealthy families get college degrees which only further separates the haves and have nots. This ultimately affects the minority indigenous communities of the country that likely find it simply easier and affordable to go to college abroad. But insanely expensive colleges and horribly bad salaries for low skill labor in Santiago is a problem that affects the US as well. People also have to remember Chile has some amazingly skilled engineers. As a country that routinely gets 8.0 earthquakes pretty much every week, their building codes are probably one of the most stringent in the entire world and people over there don't even bat an eye when they get hit by their weekly 7.0 quake. I have been to the Atacama desert during one such quake and people were quite aloof about it. The US has tons of historic buildings that can crumble into pieces with 4.0 quakes. There is a reason why it took them forever to reinforce Washington DC's Capitol Hill. I actually saw the cracks on the marble when I went there in 2016. The quake that did so much damage was around 6.0.

I am not sure why Amazon Prime and Netflix removed this film from their selection. Either it was because nobody ever paid any attention to it, or the really awful English title was too distracting which only perpetuates the social stigma that every aspect of life in Latin America is backwards, primitive and all sorts of wrong when a lot of things in my neck of the woods are actually quite efficient. Chances are the pandemic will only further make processing things online such as loan repayments or petitioning passport renewals to become more and more efficient. Medical licenses even now are partially fast tracked online. Once the university gives the green light the student has passed all graduation requirements, the mexican government sends you an email that you are now allowed to pay the license fee and as if by magic, your digital pdf license is sent to you by email in less than 2 minutes.

It took me a whopping 5 days to go in person to the central offices 10 years ago and request a temporary license. Imagine how much more streamlined and efficient some of these processes will be in another 5 years. Hopefully greater sensitivity towards foreigners from thinking every corner of Latin America is riddled in poverty and backwardness will start to put some much needed breaks to pervasive bad stereotypes.

BTW, enjoy the film! Buenos días, buenas tardes everyone!

sábado, 13 de junio de 2020

What am I doing during the Covid-19 pandemic?

As expected, my books have not been selling at all in well over 2 months. As many people know, I am a frontline healthcare worker and I was just graduating from my Anesthesia residency right on the brink when the virus started to affect Mexico.

Mexico is currently a virus death zone, the reported official deaths are probably only 30%.  I am very used to seeing infectious disease undercounting as I have diagnosed laboratory confirmed dengue cases quite a number of times over the years, did all pf the paperwork in a timely fashion and casually the diagnosis never appeared in the state level tally. Expect thr real death rate to be 3 times higher. Furthermore, I knew at least 10 frontline workers and counting that have died from the virus. So yes, this disease is very real and people I worked with for years have died and only more will come as the economy is reopening and careless mexicans are parading drunk in the street without life saving facemasks.

As for me, I managed to get board certified on time but my thesis disertation has been delayed, delayed, delayed and well, I am starting to lose hope I will get my second license number this year. The university after 4 months of being 99% closed with all staff resting at home have finally sent a message on social media (since I am not a regular student, I don't matter and never get an email from them even if my life depended on it), well they have already realized the virus is here to stay for the next 3 years and some non medical faculties have started zoom type exams. As for the medicine department, crickets and more crickets. Apparently they are still hyper obsessed with wanting all 6 exam participants to be physically present to sign  a paper which considering the lack of healthcare workers being available at all, I would think dragging people like this to travel 40 miles or more to another city to sign a paper for free simply seems crazy at a time like this. Maybe they will modify this requirement because once again, the virus is here to stay and over 1000 GPs and specialists and fellows are stuck. And while residents and fellows graduate once a year, MDs graduate every 6 months. The longer rhey linger, the longer the line will be. If they don't hurry up and find a way to accelerate this, thrre will be another 500(+) affected people and next year it will be another 3000. But their greatest concern is to open 1st year classrooms. Like... if I knew the line to graduate 3 months into the pandemic was 1500 people long and not moving an inch, by the time I am finished I will be number 8000 in line and I will have a useless degree that doesn't enable me to get a job. No sane minded person would sign up for a school for 99% online classes knowing they will be waiting an additional 8 years after the courses are completed to graduate and get a job.

But don't worry, people are good to bitch on social media specialists like myself that are in dire need worldwide are pansies and don't wish to work. Little matters nobody will hire me because I lack a piece of paper that is beyond my physical powers to attain because like I previously stated, college bureucrats are watching netflix in their homes instead of simply ditching the exam in its current form all together and granting affected people a different form of graduation that makes sense in this era.

Meanwhile, I was hired recently as a General Practitioner because the missing diploma and missing license number deems me ineligible to be hired as the specialist I am. I have worked on and off here for the past 6 months and this is my first month of official employment. I enjoy my job, my coworkers are real fun to work with and the cased lately.. well.. they have been challenging. Luckily I am working in my specialist field and at least for now despite being a Covid hospital, I am exclusively working in the OR.

One thing news media seems to ignore is that when staff are furloughed at a hospital because they have risk factors, the workload ends up distributed to those that remain. The workload is manageable because elective surgery has been reduced tenfold but some coworkers have been furloughed and thus we are now beneath minimum capacity. I have been working additional days to cover so that takes a huge mental and physical toll. Add the fact I might have caught the virus and am waiting test results and that does add to the levels of stress I feel. Don't worry, I have no symptoms right now. I have been very careful wearing extra masks I have bought with my scant savings. I might get a bonus pay to compensate due to the high risk exposure but as a new contract employee, there are no guarantees i will qualify.

As for what have I been doing? I wrote the 8th An Ominous book Mortality and finished it quite a while ago. I have been very emotionally weary for obvious reasons due to the tolls of my incomplete graduation and the increased job demands from the pandemic living far away from my family so I have not been in much of a mood to look at my work. I might have felt more motivated if I had more KU borrows or reviews, so the lack of extra money coming when it would have been really useful to buy PPE to stay alive would have motivated me. I can't afford to hire editors or any of the fancy smancy publicity stuff (the devaluation of the mexican peso an additional 30% in 2 months means even a starbucks coffee in the US would have cost me 1 N95 mask... I think I value having functional lungs over a machiatto). In a nutshell, I don't know when I will be in the mood to publish Mortality. It is the darkest book of the series that explores Spaulding's hidden past, might seem too depressing to read. I still enjoyed writing it very much.

Am I writing anything else?

I have approximately 80,000 words of a draft for a prequel exploring Tioja'a childhood. I need around another 40,000 words. Despite the graduation issues that seem endless I was working towards the goal of finishing the draft. This month I have been swamped with too much work, little rest and food and so I am just not in the right mindset to write for now. I just don't feel the need when I can't afford editing and a cover anyways.

Oh, I also don't know if the mexican copyright office is open. Oh crap, I forgot even of it were open i would need to visit a bank in person to file the payment. I don't have permits to skip work right now because we are so strained to the limit of employees. So... yeah I won't have any books being published in the near future. Which is a shame because my prequel is a fun read. At least it is to me. I believe my writing style isn't exactly popular. But again people feel I am such a different person my writing probably reflects my persona as a acquired taste.

But don't worry, during the scant few hours I have not been stressed working or sleeping, I have been doing a crosstitch work of art. People call it a napkin for some reason. The gift is for a very dear friend on mine and it will take a few months to complete. I find the activity to be psychologically very relaxing. I can't tell anyone what the design is, it is a secret. ;)

viernes, 1 de noviembre de 2019

How to get rid of hover tabs on google chrome

Today I booted my 10 year old laptop (yes, I am stubborn and will not buy a laptop with Windows 10 because I hate that operating system so much), and google chrome did something funky with my computer and updated a new feature I definitely detest called hover tabs.

This screen cap is an image of what I am referring to:

I think it is distracting, ugly, and awful, and it seems like according to quora, at least one other poor sap hates the feature too.

If you hate it as much as I do and want things to go back to the old way, look at the screencap below and copy the URL. You click on the menu to disable the awful feature and close the program.

The next time you boot it, the awful horribly ugly feature will (hopefully) be forever disabled.

viernes, 27 de septiembre de 2019

UNAM opens a free language website that offers diplomas? Oh My!

Now, I know the UNAM University has a few online bachelor degrees that are dirt cheap and presumably equivalent to the whole enchilada undergrad degree. I myself would have jumped the bandwagon for a fun associates degree a few years ago had it not been I am currently doing a postgrad degree which absorbs most of my free time.

I just learned about a new pilot language website called the "Ambiente Virtual de Idiomas" which offers Spanish language speakers freebie stuff to learn English, Italian and French.

I couldn't care less about learning English, but tons of people will surely enjoy this feature from the website.

French is not a top language I would be interested in learning, but for anyone with a huge desire to visit a Francophone country (me! me!), maybe it will come in handy.

Hopefully they will expand the website and offer more material. Why not give it a try?

Unidades de Apoyo para el Aprendizaje (English language material only)

and a second website:

Ambiente Virtual de Idiomas (AVI)

sábado, 4 de mayo de 2019

An Ominous Book T-shirts

I am launching these two cute designs featuring characters from my books: Lod Spaulding and Lord Froylan.

Colorful, cute and fun for all, why not take a look and see if something catches your fancy?

Lord Spaulding

Lord Froylan


I hate LATAM airline's new pricing system

Now, I am a stereotypical millennial. College educated, hopelessly single and most likely perpetually childless, and instead of being one of those people that goes bankrupt buying the latest gizmo and brand name clothes to impress the Jones, I prefer to travel because I love traveling.

And yes, I am guilty of traveling abroad a lot more than locally. Depending on how you count the countries I have been to, I have either been to 9 or 10 countries so far ever since I graduated med school in 2011. I have made a huge effort even now that I am temporarily earning 40-50% less money than as a GP to travel abroad at least once a year. I might break the tradition this year though because I need a certain amount of money to purchase my titulation papers and specialist registrar license.

Now, I have been to South America on 2 occasions and have flown on LATAM airlines on both occasions. On both occasions, the flights have been to Santiago de Chile because for some reason that still confuses me, even though Chile has a more robust economy thanks to a stable government and copper mining, tickets are almost always cheaper for me than if I went directly to Argentina. One could argue that if I was very clever and didn't mind connections, I could still land a great deal flying either to Peru, Colombia or Panama on a wide array of different airlines including the quality mexican ones such as Interjet or Aeroméxico, where I could then connect to Buenos Aires for a lower fee. Since I am still currently a poor graduate student earning a modest but still sufficient scholarship, I haven't bothered to check that out for now.

Back to the topic at hand, the first trip to Chile was a direct 8 hour lugger via LATAM and I found out one day before I left Mexico that Chile has a sort of reciprocity tax with Mexico and Australia. Apparently, Mexico charges a similar tax to most Latin American tourists, even countries with stable economies (such as Chile) where citizens that would be unlikely to weasel themselves into the country and work under the table without getting work visas.

Now, since this entry tax is not a visa "per se", Wikipedia never really gave any thought about mentioning this little tidbit of information. I believe it was some random mexican backpacking tourist blog that revealed this critical information to me the day before I left, so that I could be prepared to fork the 400 MXN in US currency when I showed up (there is a MXN/Chilean peso conversion booth in Terminal 1 of Mexico City's airport... the problem is that all direct flights to Chile are in Terminal 2 where the currency booths only offer the really popular money conversions such as USD or Euro). I showed up at Santiago de Chile's airport and walked the plank of shame along with the scant few other mexican citizens to the pay-me-up booth instead of going direct to customs like everyone else. Long story short, while the blog post was correct that you had to pay 23 USD to enter Chile, it has to be exact change. I brought 2 20 dollar bills. Had I known they were going to be so picky, I would have gone to Banco Azteca anytime and convert exact spare change. I ended up having to pay the tax with my credit card, which is something that always annoys me because mexican CC's charge like a 30% surcharge for international transactions plus the unfair USD/MXN conversion. Luckily when I got home, my credit card bill stated I was only charged for the regular monetary conversion rate. If you ever travel to Chile on an Australian passport, they charge a much heftier 160 USD. Just to let you know.

Anyhow, my first trip mainly focused on Santiago de Chile for 2-3 days, a side day trip to Valparaíso, and then I flew to Calama domestic via LATAM and easily reached the very touristy San Pedro de Atacama. Don't worry about the fact that Calama airport is still 45 minutes away from the town. 90% of the people flying to Calama are tourists just like you and there's a whole ton of shuttle companies fighting over each other to convince you to ride with them. I highly suggest buying the return ticket for a 20% discount, they usher you to your hotel directly and you can also call them to change arrangements with no extra charge. I then did the 4 day Uyuni trip in Bolivia which is really, really, really worth it. People claim Mexico is cheap and whatnot. They don't realize it would be impossible to book a quality 4 day tour with food, booze & lodging included along with really friendly tour guides that explain everything every step in the way (in Spanish only) for only 4000 MXN, at least in the really touristy areas such as the Mayan Riviera. You would be lucky if you can book a 1 day entry to Xcaret or the half day whale shark snorkeling tour for only 2000 MXN per person. 

My second trip to South America was also via LATAM and I spent 5 days in Easter Island. In case you are wondering: the island is freaking awesome. Some people claim that you can rent a car and see it in 1 1/2 days. Theoretically, it could be possible if you already know where all of the cool places are (hint: a lot of the cool stuff is not mentioned in the maps and barely covered on the internet travel blog sites. You have to know a local from the island to tell them to you). Easter Island is safe from earthquakes, hurricanes and tsunamis, which is good. The bad thing is that 50% of the time, it can be raining cats & dogs. You never know when you will get a dud day. No, it will not be sprinkling little droplets of water, it's going to be monsoon rain bad. And just to let you know; most of the best parts of the island are outdoor activities. Even the museum on Ororo volcano requires a very long trek in the wilderness that will become a mud slop during bad weather.

I didn't do it because I lack the permit (I would love to do it someday though!), but Easter Island has one thing that is a real bling bling bargain: scuba diving classes. I was amazed at how cheap it was to get the PADI permit. Still a bit more pricey than Roatán, but cheaper than if you got it in Cancún without a buddy discount. There is an underwater moai!!! <3

So, in case you are wondering, that is the main reason why the majority of people visit Easter Island for several days. An ideal itinerary would be 7 days, some people that simply want to take things very slow spend 10 days. I would have liked to do 10 days, but even though lodging in a guesthouse where you can cook your meals is very affordable (around 50-80 USD a night), food is expensive. There is a reason why everyone suggests foreign tourists to bring food from back home that can be legally brought to Chile such as cereal boxes, pasta and soup packages in the plane. Believe me, bring your food and then splurge on 1 meal a day. Your wallet will thank you for it.

In a nutshell, I had 2 really great trips to South America and while I think LATAM could offer a larger variety of in plane meals because they always offered a very limited selection of pasta alfredo and tomato raviolis, the airline offered good deals backs then. I still can't believe I snagged round trip tickets to Easter Island for only 745 USD (taxes and everything included).


Sadly, and this is the reason why I decided to write this tediously long blog post, LATAM changed their policies early this year. Some brilliant executive higher up in the food chain has decided to emulate crummy American companies and start nickel and dime tourists for every menial surcharge. This is especially annoying to mexicans such as myself in part because everything charged in USD is 200 times more expensive for our already limited wallets due to the always unfair exchange rate and the country's chicken little paychecks. Mexicans are also not used to be treated like disposable sardines by airlines. In comparison to american companies, most Mexican airlines still offer a lot of services. Before Interjet's finances began to crumble in a good percentage due to the NAIM airport disaster where everyone is now paying AMLO's stupid wambulance temper tantrums with a 800 MXN tax when they fly international from AICM (yes, even to nearby destinations like Texas or Guatemala get slammed with the same awful tax as people flying to China or Europe), Interjet offered you 1 can of free beer. Ah, those were the days!

Back then, when LATAM offered you an outlet deal, the deals were good, real good. 450 USD round trip to Lima with taxes included, you choose your seat for free, 1 piece of free documented luggage that was max 23 kg, yup yup!

Now, LATAM started issuing a really crummy deal: their "cheap" 350 USD round trip tickets to Lima do not include a documented luggage and these "bargains" do not include the taxes either which usually ump the plane ticket price 100 USD.

As a millennial where I am used to being told everything moneywise in my face so that I can make an informed decision instead of wasting my time, I would prefer to get the full price of my ticket so that I don't waste time typing my name and yadda yadda yadda, only to discover that "bargain" is in reality 500 USD.

I also detest airlines that are emulating every bad corporation decision by American airline companies to dump every surcharge on customers because they whine that they are always bankrupt... only to never remove these awful and very pricey fees once they become solvent. Just to let anyone know, there is a reason why I seldom travel to the USA even though I can enter the country whenever I feel like it. They few times I travel there, I always fly mexican airlines.

Airlines claim that surcharging tourists is a good money grab. Yes, in theory, it is. The problem? Since most people traveling to South America are on short trips such as myself or people visiting friends & family, they are usually not going to be bringing Fido the dog and their golf clubs. They will be traveling with clothes, shampoo and a laptop. I am used to traveling with a backpack and have learned the delicate art of traveling with only sufficient changes of clothes for 5 days and then hire a laundry service abroad for dirt cheap. And I suppose at least for the trip towards my destination, I can suck it up and carry 1 piece of luggage on the plane and buy shampoo abroad.

The problem when everyone dumps their luggage inside of the plane?

Everyone packs their luggage to the limit and then you are waiting in the aisle like the stooping idiot while everyone is stuffing their turkeys in the overhead bins. Along with the fact that it is epicly annoying to have to search all over the plane for a place to stuff my luggage even everything is already filled, airlines are losing money for every minute the plane is in the airport because it cannot take off until all of the bags are stuffed and the passengers seated. In a way, enticing clients to document luggage saves the airline time & money. But when you make it prohibitively expensive to do so, will people bite the dust?

I really, really hope LATAM reverses this decision. They have a luggage document surcharge that, well, it boosts the plane ticket price to the upper economy pricing system. That 400 USD plane trip to Lima with the luggage surcharge boosts it to 500 USD but without any of the perks of the upper economy ticket (such as seat selection and a better ticket cancellation policy). Might as well just buy the upper economy ticket that has the free documented luggage included and get over with it.

LATAM has an absolute power over flying to Easter Island, there is no other way to avoid it unless you Travel via the USA to other pacific islands or make complicated round trips all over SE Asia and go there via Tahiti. Their Lima-Rapa Nui route was also canned because Chile is insanely strict regarding bringing diseased fruit & vegetables to their country. In that sense, I think the policy to continue viewing Rapa Nui as a domestic flight to protect their already fragile environment from diseased foreign food to be good mojo.

I am definitely not a fan of LATAM's new luggage policy that renders every "deal" to be a dud. Perhaps I would have to suck it up buttercup and bow to the overlords in order to visit Easter Island again, but that doesn't mean I have to do the same for LATAM's other routes.

Aeroméxico travels to several South American hubs such as Santiago. Tickets can be a bit on the pricey side, but Aeroméxico continues its 1 documented luggage for free at least to South America (this is obligatory according to mexican law and they can get penalized for millions of dollars if they try to do this gimmick to any international destination that isn't Canada or the USA). If you are patient with outlet sales (and Aeroméxico has been holding quite a lot of them lately), chances are you will fly to Santiago cheaper with them.

Your second option is using the huge array of competing airlines for travel to Lima and Colombia. The Airbus A350 is perfectly capable of flying from Mexico City and Cancún to Peru and Colombia, so you can get good deals on Interjet. Volaris doesn't fly to South America yet, but they have been expanding their fleet to Costa Rica and now even Nicaragua. It is only a matter of time before the two budget airlines fly to Panama, which will open the doors to South America on the cheap.

If I were a tourist wondering if I wanted to fly to South America, I would avoid LATAM unless the Upper Economy ticket was a better deal over the competition. Maybe they can get away with Brazil and Argentina, but plenty of cheaper airlines fly to the closer South American destinations.

Buyer beware.

miércoles, 24 de abril de 2019

Indie April

These are the final days of Indie April.

What is that?

A special 1 month event where bloggers, reading enthusiasts and book authors share the word of indie books and promote their material with the hopes of increasing sales, and obtain the ever elusive reviews.


I haven't gained any new reviews for my books (le sigh!) but I have gotten a handful of KU reads from several books and I have read & reviewered a few indie books.


If you read a book, even if you didn't like it too much, try to spend 5 minutes of your time writing a review on major websites. You will make an author feel very happy and could stimulate people to try out new work.