domingo, 12 de julho de 2020

Version 2.069

Today, I laughed so much at one of my jokes that I cried. I was talking to one of my girlfriends who is very much into mystical things and talks about EFT and ho'oponopono. It sounds tropical, but I had never heard of it. Well, EFT reminds me of ETFs and I know what those are, but EFT not anything financial, so I'm not even going to bother looking it up.

Anyway, there she was telling me about cleansing the energies and our thoughts and using japamala for ho'oponopono--I have no ideas what that means--, so I just replied that I was so happy that it had worked out for her. And I added that I just used a vibrator or a finger. What else can one say? Plus, I try to never miss an opportunity to crack a joke and laugh.

This weekend so far, I have managed to read quite a bit: I started a book and even finished one of Miguel Torga's diary volumes. I can honestly say that I am not a very good fiction reader and I much rather prefer essays, biography, journals. One of the books that I most enjoyed reading was "Dangerous Liaisons, and I suppose that part of it was the fact that it was written as a chain of letters. It is one of my most cherished books and I have the copy that I originally read, almost 30 years ago.

My small air-conditioner is not working properly, so the technician is coming over tomorrow. I know, it's a Sunday, but I did tell him that it was not urgent. We shall see if it needs to be replaced I am not feeling it, although it would be nice to have a unit that was a bit quieter.

sábado, 11 de julho de 2020

Version 2.068

Today was report day and I did get stressed out enough about it that I got the beginning of an anxiety attack. I just wanted to crawl into a hole and feel very small. It's part of the thrill, I supposed, plus I do not get nervous over anything else hardly.

When I was a child, I lived in constant social anxiety mode. I could not talk to people, I could not ask for directions or greet people, I could not call a stranger on the phone. Every time I needed to do anything like that, I would hold my breath and count to three, then count a second time, until finally doing it. This whole ritual of dealing with anxiety seems so foreign now, like it was not even me. It dissipated after I moved to the U.S.

Today's anxiety is slightly different. I revisit everything in my head wondering what I may have missed, looking for systematic errors in the analysis. It is similar to what I did after exams, when I would go over the exam after taking it and correct it in my head. I would know exactly which questions I got wrong. How can one know, somewhere inside of us, that it is the wrong answer and still make the mistake? That is why I obsess over it again and again, overanalyze, and overthink everything. That is the only way that you can get better, but it does make you look like you lack in spontaneity.

We had over 65 thousand cases of coronavirus today in the U.S. The economy continues to open, but people are being more careful because the numbers are so grim. I spoke to one of my friends and she nows wears a mask all the time while at work. In May when I spoke to her as e were coming out of lockdown she said she wore it sometimes only, when she interacted with people. I have not seen her since before Christmas and I was not with her on her birthday, so I still have her presents from both occasions. She asked me if I had sewn a mask for her as a present, but I have been too lazy to sew.

Julian wanted to ride in the car today, so we went for a very long drive. I stopped by my hold house to check on the hostas that I planted years ago. They are big now and look pretty. The garden does not look well kept and the neighborhood has lost trees, which is not surprising considering that some of the trees were very large and looked old. We have had some powerful storms recently.

I loved the garden in that house. It was shaped as a triangle and around the fence, which formed a long V, there was a strip of overgrown vegetation and small trees that covered the fence itself. When you walked outside, you felt like you were on the edge of a forest. The window on the breakfast nook fced east and occupied the whole wall. I could sit at the table with a cup of tea or coffee and just stare outside for hours. I do like my current house better, but I miss the other garden.

After stalking the house, we went to Shelby Farms and strolled along Hyde Lake just for a bit. It was very hot and there were so many people out, many of them scattered on the grass in chairs and on picnic blankets. We are very lucky here in Memphis because we have lots of public parks full of lush vegetation and bodies of water.

On our drive, we took Massey Rd, which is one of my favorites in East Memphis, between Poplar Pike and Quince Rd. That neighborhood is just stunning. There are coves along Massey full of mature trees that perfectly frame the houses. The effects of light and shade, the different tones of green, everything feels quite magical.

sexta-feira, 10 de julho de 2020

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My nephew finished 12th grade today. So happy for him. This week we decided that he would get his driver's license this summer, so I committed myself to paying for driving school. I asked for the bank account number to transfer the money and someone from the school sent a text message with an account number, which my nephew forwarded to me. It did not look proper and professional, so I made him ask the school to send an email with the number and the letterhead from the school. Then I told him "Tens de exigir que as pessoas sejam professionals. Portugal tem de ser um país a sério."

I relay this because I am profoundly disgusted with the character of a lot of people in Portugal. I'm not even talking about the driving school personnel. I am talking about politicians and other people in high positions who display no sense of decorum. This week, the newspapers decided that they were going to publish stories about corruption and favoritism. One doesn't know whether to laugh or cry, when such stories are based on public records of more than a year ago, but there are more recent, too.

It is hard to not smell the distinct rottenness that has taken over the Portuguese Republic. Even the President gives speeches that are similar to those of the dictatorship and the Prime Minister's Twitter account makes patriotic exhortations that would have made post-25/4 society cringe, but that now are ignored because -- it appears -- no harm, no foul.

But, of course, I live in the United States, as my Portuguese friends remind me, and the measure of rottenness here is the American people having elected Donald Trump. My friends conveniently forget that the more than half of the electorate that did not vote for him has spent the better part of over three years trying to get rid of Trump and trying to hold him accountable.

I am beginning to have a particular fondness for people like Trump--all they care about is money and themselves; it may not be noble, but it is logical. The ones I don't get are the leaders who remain poor, while covering illicit enrichment around them. That to me makes no sense, especially in country that loses its standing in the world and actively participates in a process of impoverishment.

quinta-feira, 9 de julho de 2020

Version 2.066

Today was so intense at work, that I sometimes forget what's left and what's right. I have to double check things all the time when I get that tired. But I am not complaining. I enjoy what I do so much, even the challenges are good. It is a great privilege to be paid for being curious and willing to experiment. I do not take it for granted at all. The last time I was unemployed, I got really depressed. I don't know why that happened because I had prepared so well for that possibility.
I reduced my expenses to the bare minimum, liquidated assets, and saved as much money as I could.

My unemployment insurance paid $496 per week, which was the maximum allowed in TX and enough to pay the rent, but I assume most people would make much less than that. The rest of my expenses, including my health insurance, I could cover with my savings and I still had plenty of money left when I found a job three months later. I have always understood that the United States has a lot more risk, but that is why we can make more money and pay fewer taxes. Nothing is a given here. If you plan things, you can get ahead most of the time. But you have to be methodic and there is a fair amount of luck involved.

With this pandemic, Congress is supplementing health insurance with $600 a week. Many states pay less than half that in unemployment insurance, so it's like tripling your benefits and Congress is considering whether to extend support longer. One must admit that for a country with a weaker social net than most, the U.S. has been rather generous and supportive of those that got affected. But there are still others that fall through the cracks and will need to be helped in some other way.

Over the last year, I visited the Crystal Bridges Museum several times. There is a sculpture that I particularly like and that I photographed in one of my visits. It's a life size rendition of men waiting in line for bread during the Great Depression. It is from 1991, but it could have been contemporaneous. At the American Art Museum, in Washington, D.C., there is a whole section on paintings that were done when the Federal Government commissioned artists to document the struggle of the American people during the Depression.

That is one of the things that I like about the U.S.: they show themselves and the world the less presentable side. No miracles here, just people starving and needing a loaf of bread.

quarta-feira, 8 de julho de 2020

Version 2.065

My housekeepers, two very nice nice ladies from El Salvador, came by today and having the house clean and slightly more organized makes me feel better. Julian was so happy to see them and they just think he is a great dog, my little charmer. When they were leaving, one of the ladies told me that she always talks about Julian at home. And to think that someone abandoned this dog...

I received a most unexpected message from a British man. Over 25 years ago, while in high school, he had done an exchange program in Portugal and I got to meet the group of students, since they became friends with my sister. At the time, I was already in college and, for some reason, he liked me and was very charming, so much so that when we said goodbye he kissed me. Although that was not my first kiss, it was very likely my best. Not only was it unexpected, but it had such tenderness that I still remember it fondly.

After he went back to England, we wrote a couple of letters, but then lost touch. I don't know if I had forgotten his name because I had not thought about him in such a long time, but I recognized his name when I saw it on the message. He remembered my name, obviously, as he found me on Facebook.

This is all the more strange considering the way the Portuguese authorities have been speaking about the British. On Twitter, the Portuguese Prime-Minister presented a chart comparing the safety of the UK with the Algarve. Not only is it childish and completely small-minded, it is also nonsensical. The UK is one of the most dynamic regions in the world; the Algarve would be severely underdeveloped were it not for British tourists. And you cannot insult people and expect them to come back to patronize your services.

As an emigrant who left Portugal, but tries to keep some ties and also to project a good image of Portugal to everyone I meet, regardless of origin, I am offended by the Portuguese authorities' lack of tact and even negligence in portraying the country in a better light on the international arena. If we wanted to live proudly alone, we wouldn't have had a Revolution in 1974. Furthermore, how does it make sense for these people to want to celebrate the Revolution one day of the year and then spend the rest of it not living up to its spirit? It is sheer hypocrisy.

terça-feira, 7 de julho de 2020

Version 2.064

I woke up and had a message from my new Portuguese-American friend regarding some negative remarks about Portuguese slave trade, so he is afraid that Portuguese people might be a target in the U.S. Although I think it unlikely, I do not think it can be ruled out because we are in a period of confrontation and it still has a while to go and it will escalate until it diffuses. If I were the Portuguese authorities, I would take this opportunity to revise the education of Portuguese history. We must be more balanced in the way we portray ourselves and I would like to see more information about the African countries where we were.

There is a paradox in the teaching of Portuguese history as we spend quite a bit learning about Brazil and how it came about its independence, but almost no time on the history of the other nations that were colonized by Portugal. It is odd because, if anything, we held on to Brazil less time than the countries in Africa. I think it would be interesting to learn about the local history and culture of these nations even before we came along. And it would be a good opportunity to ask the African nations to collaborate in the drafting of a new curriculum. Have them teach us what they believe we should know about their history and that would give us a balanced point of view.

I am saddened that some of the historic streets in Lisbon are going to be painted bright blue. There have to be some very fucked up people that work in City Hall. I just cannot grasp how such a stupid thing came about. Did they have a meeting in which they were brainstorming about the priorities for the city and bright blue streets popped into their heads? Just imagine an aerial view of downtown with streaks of bright blue scattered in a city that is known for its light and traditional pavement.

At least, they made sure to scare off the tourists before implementing such idiocy. Over the last few months, we have been more than embarrassed by the Portuguese authorities for all other countries to see -- there is no need to add insult to injury. Nevertheless, it is all going to hell in a hand basket, for sure.

segunda-feira, 6 de julho de 2020

Version 2.063

My neighbor gave me a photography book by Annie Leibovitz. In it, there are some photos of Arnold Schwarzenegger, when he was young and still doing body-building. I find his body ugly, muscular bodies are ugly. My favorite photos in the book are the nudes for the Pirelli calendar. They are body parts of dancers, but they are not muscular, just defined.

Photography of body parts always reminds me of landscapes. In fact, a few years ago, there was a series of photographies where naked bodies were piled on top of one another, such that the whole would be evocative of a landscape. I always forget who did it, even though I love that work so much. I looked it up, it's Carl Warner's series Bodyscapes.

I sometimes wonder if being a strong person mentally isn't as ugly as the body of Arnold Schwarzenegger. People say that they admire strength, but I don't think they realize that being strong means being able to overcome things that many people cannot. It means that you have a greater level of indifference, that you do not feel as much pain over something that is painful.

But it is not beautiful to feel nothing or very little and indifference is not worthy of paintings or photographs. Maybe someone who feels, but is able to control their emotions is more beautiful. Maybe that's like the body of the dancers.

domingo, 5 de julho de 2020

Version 2.062

Happy 244th Birthday, USA! I invited some friends over for dinner and stopped by the grocery store earlier to buy some filet mignon and some chicken. I wanted to cook something Portuguese, but could not decide. Then I thought that it would be silly to have Portuguese food on America's birthday, so I ended up bastardizing dinner: I cooked the filet mignon Portuguese style (I really like a recipe from the book "Tesouro da Cozinha Regional Portuguesa") and served it with a baked potato and roasted asparagus, which is as American as you can get. For dessert, peach cobbler with vanilla ice cream, which is as american as you can get, but I did add a bit of lemon juice and zest to the peaches before adding them to the baking pan, which is super-Portuguese. The food was good.

After dinner, we chatted and then went upstairs to the balcony and watched, well, mostly listened, the fireworks around Memphis. It's illegal to have fireworks within the city limits, but people still do it anyway. Plus, this year, those that have jobs have been so limited in terms of how they can spend their money (no travel, no parties, no restaurants, no shopping for weeks on end), that there were lots of savings accumulated to spend on fireworks. And they must have been spent...

I have been a bit out of touch with Portugal, so I don't even know if there were fireworks in Coimbra, as this was the year to celebrate Rainha Santa Isabel. I always thought it was neat that my new country and the city where I came from were linked by the 4th of July. Anyway, it's another birthday. Hopefully, next year, we will have even more reason to celebrate.

sábado, 4 de julho de 2020

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I ended up not working today, even though we have the day off, since tomorrow is Independence Day. I guess it makes more sense to do things on Sunday, so that the email will be on top of the inbox when people return to work on Monday. Nevertheless, I kept myself busy and I even cleaned some weeds in the patio, even though it should have been done by the person that usually mows the lawn. It doesn't matter; I felt like doing it.

During my morning walk, I spoke to my British neighbor whose dog has a hot spot and needs to wear a cone. I offered my neighbor a medium-sized pro-collar that I had purchased for Julian, but that ended up being too big on him. I had been wondering what to do with it and was thankful to get rid of one more thing in the house. Hopefully, it will work out.

In the evening, I went over to my neighbor's house to give moral support to her Mom and also to meet her sister, who has just arrived from California. The airplane was packed, but 1/4 of people were not wearing mask or had their mask not covering their nose.

In the beginning of the pandemic, I researched the 1918 pandemic and, according to information I gathered, the second wave was a lot more deadly that the first. Back then, we could claim that information travelled more slowly, but this time around that is not a luxury at our disposal. We know what it at sake, and yet some people don't want to protect themselves. We're screwed; this fall will be terrible.

sexta-feira, 3 de julho de 2020

Version 2.060

Viola Liuzzo. Remember that name.

I started work at 7:30 AM with a conference call. Thursdays are usually intense because that's when the weekly export report comes out and I have to check a lot of things and also present the results of the analysis. I enjoy my work a lot, it does not feel like work, but it is difficult to stay very focused for hours on end. It drains you after a few hours. So toward the end of the day I was totally worn out and instead of working late, I organized my thoughts and planned to doing some things tomorrow morning. Since the 4th of July falls on Saturday, we have tomorrow off, but I think that will allow me to get things done more quickly and still enjoy an extended weekend.

After I sent a message to my neighbor to ask if it was Friday yet and announce that I was about to have a glass of white wine, I took the glass and the bottle and crossed the alley to her place, just in time for a couple of neighbors to seem me. They probably think I'm a lush. Oh well, I have earned my pleasures. At my neighbors', we chatted with her Mom, who seemed to be doing well, having even gotten out of bed and put on clothes.

Then another neighbor swung by. He is just too hilarious and works as a nurse at a psychiatric ward in a nearby city. Sometimes, one can tell that the people who crack jokes and make you laugh all the time have a certain kind of sadness that surrounds them and I suppose I see that in him. He and his partner were the first people that I met when I moved to the neighborhood and they have always spoken to me as if we were long lost friends. Most Americans are very genuine people. You kind of have to be in this country because you never know when a natural disaster might hit and your survival depends on your neighbor.

We ended up talking about many things. It is hard to think about the trail of the conversation and what led into what, but at some point we talked about the Civil Rights Movement and how the death of a white woman had made a difference. I did not recall that story and even though I have been to the Civil Rights Museum, I don't remember having learned about it and then having forgotten it; however, there is so much information to take in, that visiting the Lorraine Motel is a bit overwhelming. Plus, we tend to remember the names of the people that we hear mentioned the most, and for me that's Rosa Parks, Emmett Till, MLK...

Viola Liuzzo, 39 years old, mother of five children, was the white woman that the Ku Klux Klan shot dead, while she was giving rides in Alabama to people who were participating in the demonstrations to protest for equal rights. When she got killed, she had a 19-year old black man in her car who was also a volunteer. He survived by pretending to be dead, covered in blood from her wounds. It was his testimony against the attackers that earned a conviction of three of them to 10 years in prison.

I did not know anything about her before today, but I researched the story after he mentioned that she had been the only white woman killed and that her death had been the tipping point of the Civil Rights Movement. Three years ago, Donna Britt, a black woman, wrote about Viola for the Washington Post. Viola Liuzzo was from Tennessee, even though she had been living in Detroit, IL, from where she had driven to Alabama a week later to have a date with history on March 26, 1965.

There is a certain proximity to the world of the dead here in Memphis. Every once in a while, their stories come to you for no particular reason. But that is not surprising: the United States is a country of story tellers. Names are important, people's lives are important. Even during the pandemic lockdown in New York, there were people collecting the oral history of everyday citizens of what it is like to live through a pandemic. Knowing the struggles of the past is an important way in which we try to build a future.

quinta-feira, 2 de julho de 2020

Version 2.059

After work, I went to the pharmacy to get a prescription for vitamin D. I still don't understand if I am supposed to take it all the time or if it's a temporary treatment, so I need to email the doctor. Anyway, I'm not quite sure why I have a vitamin D deficiency, since I walk outside twice a day and my diet is pretty diverse, especially after I stopped eating rice and gluten. I don't like this aging business and I am afraid that I shall evolve into a nagging little old lady.

Since I used the pharmacy drive-through, I took Julian with me, since he does not comprehend why I would ride in the car without him. We stopped by Shelby Farms and walked for not even 10 minutes when the storm that had been announced earlier arrived. The wind gusts were so strong that Hyde Lake had large waves with white crests, just like the ocean. I had never seen it like this. Usually, it is always very calm. I have not seen the ocean this year, so I'll take what I can get.

The storm lasted less than an hour and later Julian and I walked again. Near my favorite park in the neighborhood, the one that has a small collection of trees with a blanket of moss on the ground, I saw a shiny silver thing on the street. I took a photo and sent it to a friend to ask if that was a bullet. Well, I knew it wasn't a bullet; it was just the remnants, but I did not think of the word shell or even casing.

Sure enough, it was a 9 mm shell casing of a defense load, meaning not the kind you shoot for practice at the range. I suppose that calling this a defense load is a bit of a misnomer, since it is quite offensive, but it's illegal to hurt people with a gun, unless you need to defend yourself, so I suppose that's how it got baptized.

I touched it when I was trying to figure out what it was, so my prints got on it. Then Julian and I continued with our walk and I let it be. Once I got home, I decided to go back and retrieve it. Why would I leave my fingerprints on a shell casing in Memphis? The U.S. government has my fingerprints on file, so that's a bad idea. Anyway, I went back with an empty compote jar and put it in it. Now I need to figure out what to do with it. I will probably tell my HOA about it, but I will not post a wacky message on NextDoor insulting the person that was playing with it. Don't need to tempt destiny...

quarta-feira, 1 de julho de 2020

Version 2.058

Today was my nephew's 19th birthday. I tried to be focused on him all day. I have loved this baby since before he was born and I have so many mixed feelings about all the pain that exists in the world. I understand that one cannot grow as a person without experiencing pain and adversity, but the thought of a child having to grow up in our world completely creates a feeling of deep revulsion in me. Perhaps that is why I failed at becoming a mother.

But, as an aunt, I try to convey all the love and admiration I have for my nephew, while not being overly condescending. I do not believe that someone will be happy with themselves without cultivating high expectations and superb ethics. I suppose, I am expecting my nephew to be an emigrant as myself. We shall see. I have never spoken to him about it.

Mike, the lawn guy, swung by today. He strikes me as as much socially dysfunctional as myself. Since I was cooking dinner, I sent him home with some of the food I cooked, plus a bottle of white wine. A few months ago, he had told me that he had started to drink white wine and he had been enjoying it. I suggested some vinho verde, but I'm not sure if he followed through.

Sometime this afternoon, I started to feel ill. I think it is allergies because I feel tired and have a bit of a sore throat. I is nothing that I haven't felt before, but one wonders if our memory serves us well. A few days ago, I brought an Asian lily into the house and its scent has been overwhelming, to say the least. So maybe that is the cause of my discomfort. I took it to the garage and turned on an air purifier. I do feel a lot better now.

Once I realized that I was not feeling well, I emailed my boss and a coworker because I was afraid that I would not perform well in tomorrow's meeting. I warned that I might not be as perky as usual, but, a few minutes later, my coworker assuaged my fears: he let me know that I am never perky. I suppose one cannot fail at something in which one does not succeed, so tomorrow should be a great day.

terça-feira, 30 de junho de 2020

Version 2.057

The number of coronavirus cases are increasing in Houston. I still receive emails from Bellaire and, today, the Mayor's office announced that public services will be limited. The Mayor of Houston has decided to publicly identify businesses that fail to observe the directions of Greg Abbott, the Governor of Texas.

I read an article about who had been getting sick in Houston and it is just so random, like one woman who had been socially distancing, but suspects she got ill at a family dinner. Several of the adults and children who attended became ill. The good thing is that Houston has the largest medical center in the world, so it can accommodate many people, but the metro area is nearly six million people and many of these people are not very obedient, so one can expect the medical resources to get very taxed.

I worry about my friends. Most of them are still self-isolating, so they should be OK; but some of them are really old and I wonder if I will see my nonagenarian friends alive. But the younger ones also worry me: I just saw a Facebook post of one who threw a birthday party for her son who turned 23 years old, inviting some of his friends. It's hard not to think if everyone will be OK.

We are at our most vulnerable now. Too many people are becoming defiant.

segunda-feira, 29 de junho de 2020

Version 2.056

I went grocery shopping today. It had been a few weeks since I last went to Kroger and one can tell that the overall demeanor of the people has changed yet again. There are more people wearing masks and there is a palpable heaviness, as if our spirit is slowly being broken. It is quite the opposite with myself: I tend to be more optimistic and upbeat when everyone else is down.

This morning, I spent some time reading my diary, in particular some entries from 2016 and 2017. In between my need to rationalize everything and to carve out potential outcomes, I see some traces of depression. In particular, I had written about my keepers, the females in my head that act as my warning system when things are not well. They have not visited me in a long time.

One of them swims in a river and sometimes the river is calm, others turbulent. When I sense danger is when I imagine that she is drowning; she is always keeping an eye on the shore. Another one stands on a cliff and looks out toward the ocean. She represents my need for stability and equilibrium. Desperation comes to me as a broken down woman who screams and rolls herself on the floor, as if she is trying to escape her body. There is also a happy child, who is about 5 years old and when I see her, I feel the need to keep her safe. I suppose that all of this is the way that I have found to watch myself and make sure that my emotions are in check and do not threaten me. It is all part of my need to control everything.

Reading my journal I realized how good I am at sensing change and threats to the status quo. It is not exactly something that endears you to others, as one is perceived as overly pessimistic, but change is the only constant. You can fight it, but the energy you spend is wasted because you cannot avoid it. It is better to learn to adjust and try to eliminate the worst possible outcomes.

domingo, 28 de junho de 2020

Version 2.055

I finished my taxes today. I am super-happy to finally get it done, although every year I promise myself that I will not procrastinate next time. Yet, I always do. I did a few simulations and it seems like I should receive quite a nice refund from federal, about $5000, which would be a really nice vacation, were it not for the fact that we should just stay put for a while.

Other than that, not much is going on. I still have some peaches from Georgia that I need to cook. I think I will try to make a gluten-free cobbler, but I need to go and buy some eggs. Maybe it would be a good idea to also get some ice-cream to go with the peaches.

sábado, 27 de junho de 2020

Version 2.054

I had my second counseling session today, so I took the afternoon off, since I did not know how I would feel emotionally. My homework is to go over cognitive biases and see how my thought processes might relate to those. We all have cognitive biases, but, in my line of work, I have to spend 40 hours a week doubting myself to make sure that I have done my job to the best of my ability. Some people's jobs entail building; my job is about building and destroying, until I cannot think of any other way of continuing the cycle within the allotted time frame. And perhaps because I spend a third of my life living it in such a duality, I like to keep the other third that I am awake easy, which is not how most other people operate.

After my session, I went over to my neighbor's to show her a pair of shoes that I had just bought, since I could not decide whether I wanted to keep them or not. I thought the size and the scale of the shoes were good and they were also not uncomfortable, but one wonders what is the point of buying shoes with a pandemic going on? One wears shoes, regardless of the viruses that live around us. So I am keeping the shoes.

My neighbor's mom agreed that I should keep them. We then lingered in her bedroom while she rested in bed. She struggled with getting comfortable and her facial features contorted in pain, but she did not want to eat and she drank very little fluids. It seems clear that she was in pain because she was literally starving herself. Three times she asked me how she ended up like that -- she thinks she is in a hospital or a nursing home. She does not remember that she is home.

The last time I was in St. Louis I almost died of food poisoning. I had gone to a conference for work and during the drive over there I started to not feel well. I managed to go to dinner with Henry, my coworker, but at some point I began to deteriorate and told him that I did not feel good. He drove me back to the hotel and I got into the elevator and proceeded to throw up on the trip up to my room. Then I had to come back downstairs and tell the front desk what I had done, which made me feel terribly guilty, despite the kindness of the staff. I returned to my room and went to bed. For two days, I threw up and slept and I could not even hold down water.

At some point, I looked out the window and saw the Arch of St. Louis. What a great view, I thought, and I may not make it out of here alive. In hindsight, I should have gone to the hospital, but thinking about it was too difficult, so I just stayed there. Things started to improve when I decided to add packets of sugar to the water. If the water was sweet, I could drink it and not throw up. Funny enough, the street where I lived back then was called that: Sweetwater Way.

After drinking sweet water, I graduated to eating fruit and that is often the food that gives me comfort when I am not feeling like eating. I asked my neighbor's mom if she wanted a fruit smoothie, but she declined. Then my neighbor thought of making a protein shake and her mom actually took a few sips. Her demeanor improved so much that I told her we needed to get her to eat some fried butter, like they do at the Texas State Fair. She looked at me as if I had fallen from the moon and then smiled when she realized I was joking. That was the highlight of my day. It wasn't exactly a joke; I was actually thinking about alternative ways in which to maximize her calorie intake. When I left I told my neighbor that tomorrow's breakfast should be that protein milkshake. We shall see how the day goes...

sexta-feira, 26 de junho de 2020

Version 2.053

Early on in the pandemic, just because I am a sucker for bad news, I looked at the data for the 1918 pandemic just to check the death toll and how it unfolded over time. The second wave was the deadliest. I wondered how people died more the second time around, but back then information was not as ubiquitous and science was pretty behind. I suppose I was trying to convince myself that this times people would be more careful, things would not get out of hand.

Yesterday, I was talking to a coworker who told me that he felt the virus was getting closer. His best friend and respective wife have it. They are probably in their early 40s and have two children, the oldest one 15. I asked if there was anything I could do to help. I could order food for them, for example, but he replied that they did not want help.

My massage for tomorrow got cancelled. One of the previous clients got sick a few days after his massage, so he got tested, but the results are not out yet. It does feel like it's closing in on us.

quinta-feira, 25 de junho de 2020

Version 2.052

Yesterday, I went to the dentist. At the door, there was a sign asking us to call in to get instructions before entering. Janet, the receptionist, asked so many questions that I distinctly felt that I lived in the Inquisition: did I travel in the last 14 days, did I have any symptoms, had I been next to anyone who is positive for the virus, and on and on... Upon entering, I had to sign a waiver in case I became infected in their office.

I don't know, but at this point it almost feels like we are living in the Old Testament. It's not just the pandemic, it's the sand storm coming all the way from the Sahara desert, the locusts plagues in India and Pakistan, etc. It all seems so contrived to be real. At least, I did not have a cavity, just a stain in my tooth, probably from one of my retainers, which has a metal piece that touches that particular tooth. I could't believe it. Surely there had to be something wrong. The whole world is falling into pieces, so why would I not have a cavity.

Work has been extremely busy. Every time I feel like I have carved some room to breath, a new challenge comes up. I relish challenges, but it also wears me out. I cannot even comprehend how people survived before society opted for a 40-hour work week. Yes, I understand that work used to be less brainy and more physical, but even still, the thought of doing repetitive manual labor is enough to send me into a depression spin. Or maybe it's not as bad as I imagine.

I was so beat up after work today that I texted my neighbor to tell her I was ready for a break and she kindly invited me to go over to her place. She offered me a glass of wine and fed me dinner. We chatted for a bit, while her husband watched Jimmy Buffet on TV. Then she broke down, crying. Here is this lovely woman, who is always laughing and trying to be cheery all the time, sobbing. Her mother has just turned 86 and has dementia and last night called 911 to ask to be rescued. The call got transferred to the fire department who almost came, were it not for the fact that my neighbor got up just in time to let them know that her mother was OK, she has dementia.

Her mother is not OK. Every day, she becomes frailer. It's not just that her mind is not working, she also does not want to eat. It's like her body is trying to die, but the organs do not fail, so it stopped wanting food or even water. When I visit, I try to cheer her up. I ask her if she's on a diet for bikini season or if she'd rather have a glass of wine instead of water. She just giggles and sometimes complains because she shakes so much due to Parkinson's, so I tell her that's really good. If she starts rattling and rolling, she'll be all set, like the song goes.

I tell my neighbor that she needs to make peace with the situation. We are at a point where we cannot make improvements; all we do is manage the end and try to provide some comfort. But every day is like the last: we get up, we eat, we drink, we stay alive. Why would any one day be the last literally? What makes the day we die so special that it has to happen?

For me, it is easy to see the end approaching because I am on the outside, but if I were in her shoes, I'd be wracking my brain just like she is trying to figure out what else could be done. Yes, it is futile, but every single day that we live is futile; there is nothing special about any one of us being alive at any particular time. What makes it special is our own belief.

This morning, I was standing in front of the window when a hummingbird flew by. I had not seen one this year yet. I don't recall the last time I felt this guilty all because it had been months since I had changed the hummingbird nectar in the feeders. So many days I thought about doing it and I procrastinated until today. I thought that hummingbird was special.

quarta-feira, 24 de junho de 2020

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When my ex-husband was getting an undergrad in business, one day he got home all excited because his accounting professor had gone over some techniques on how to spot data manipulation. That was the first accounting class he'd ever taken and someone thought it worthy to add that to the curriculum. I, on the other hand, had taken numerous accounting classes in Portugal, both in high school and college, and did not recall ever talking about data manipulation. The shadiest topic we ever covered was "confidential expenses" and the so-called blue bag.

The first thing one does when analyzing data is evaluating how reliable the data are. How was it collected, what biases might it have, what limitations does it have and how do those shape our conclusions. Then, if there is information on more than one variable, does it all make sense together -- do things pass the smell test, as one of my former bosses used to say.

I am thinking about these issues because it was obvious that the pandemic data was going to be heavily scrutinized, so one should better lay the cards out on the table and be as transparent as possible. Consider that as a kind of preemptive strike: if later on, anyone casts doubts on the numbers or our efforts, we could always defend ourselves by saying that we had been very transparent with the data and that we were hoping that such transparency would allow the scientific community at large to help us garner better information more quickly for the sake of saving and protecting lives. That is what anyone with half a brain would do.

"One can fool some men, or fool all men in some places and times, but one cannot fool all men in all places and ages."

~ Jacques Abbadie, 1684

terça-feira, 23 de junho de 2020

Version 2.050

Today would have been my mother's 78th birthday. Were in not for the pandemic, I probably would have scheduled a trip to Portugal so that I could put flowers on our family grave. I'm the only one in the family that does it. Of course, it does not really matter, but it is a way of reminding ourselves where we come from and also that we are part of something bigger than just our everyday lives. For us to be here now means that many others were here before us.

I scheduled a massage for Friday. Many people think that I am very calm because I don't really show my emotions or, as one of my personal trainers used to say, I've got a poker face, but when I get stressed out, I feel it mostly in my body, rather than my mind. My back gets really tight and it starts to burn, so for the last few weeks I have been daydreaming about someone kneading my back so hard that I can almost feel the pain required to relieve the pain that I feel.

The appointment I requested is for one and a half hours and that's because I was too embarrassed to schedule two hours. I don't even know if it would make sense a two hour massage for a person as small as me, but I will inquire just in case. The therapist I am going to is a neighbor and I only discovered that she did massage last week, when I had dinner at my other neighbor's. She doesn't know yet that she's gained a very good client.

Then tomorrow I will be visiting the dentist because I think I have a cavity. I suspect my cavity has something to do with drinking too much kombucha. I am not supposed to drink carbonated drinks because my teeth are too soft, but I needed the bacteria for my gut. I have stopped drinking it now. Teeth are one of the most frustrating things for me.

I also got an email from my periodontist asking me to review the appointment I never had. I was supposed to go there at the end of March, but everything got shut down because of the pandemic. When I called to ask about it, they told me that they were in the process of rescheduling it, which never happened. I guess I will need to call again. I know I will have to have surgery and it's going to be at least a year and a half of treatments. We shall see...

segunda-feira, 22 de junho de 2020

Version 2.049

I am feeling guilty as I write this, as I failed to send a message to my neighbor in Houston. It was a mix of laziness and carelessness in managing my time, but I must also pat myself on the back for spending most of my weekend working on taxes. I will have enough to itemize deductions this year, so I saved almost all of my shopping receipts and just needed to add all the local taxes that I paid in 2019.

Property and local taxes added up to close to $6900, a rather meager amount compared to property taxes alone in many other big cities, but that's one of the advantages of Memphis. State and local taxes, or SALT, will be added to the contributions to my retirement accounts, health savings account, health insurance premiums, charity contributions, property interest, and other smaller things that I don't recall, to reduce my taxable income. I was surprised to see how long the tax preparation packet is this year. Taxes have gotten really complicated with this last reform.

While I was whiling away in Taxland, the big news of the day was the Tulsa Trump Rally, which did not go well for the Trump campaign. Apparently, many teenagers reserved tickets to go, but had no intention of showing up, so it was a rather lame event. Tulsa, a city in Oklahoma, is still grappling with its history of the Tulsa race massacre that took place in 1921, in which a group of white people attacked the Greenwood district, which had a thriving black community, killing several dozen people and maybe several hundred. It is estimated that about 800 people may have been taken to the hospital.

The affair is not only shameful for the actual events, but also for the cover up that followed and that lasted decades, as local and state history did not include mention of the event. Only in 1996 did the state start to investigate what happened, but school curricula only included it this year, which I find very odd still. My first Christmas spent in the U.S. was in Tulsa, OK, in 1995, and for many years I did not know about the massacre, even though I lived in Oklahoma over seven years. It's still the place where I have lived the longest, after Portugal.

It was in poor taste for Trump to select Tulsa for a rally, but it has also served the purpose of having the massacre be talked about in national news. If Trump had not become President, we'd probably not be having these conversations and the truth is that there are a lot of people who need to hear us acknowledge their suffering. That's the hardest part about this whole thing for me: progress happens more quickly when people like Trump get to power.

domingo, 21 de junho de 2020

Version 2.048

I received a very nice visit from the young man who has Portugal written in his car and to whom I offered a basket of Portuguese goods on June 10. Amazingly, his family emigrated from the Azores and Madeira in the 1890s, yes, over 100 years ago, to Hawaii. His surname is Portuguese and a while back he became interested in learning more about his heritage. He has even learned a little bit of Portuguese, mostly Brazilian style, but he showed me that he found a tutor of European Portuguese and he is committed to learning it.

In my basket of goods, I included Fernando Pessoa's Mensagem, even though I did not know if the person would be able to read Portuguese. He is reading it, although he has trouble understanding some of the poems, but his favorite so far is Mostrengo, which reminds me that I should share with him a video of João Villaret reciting it. I shared with him the website for Arquivo Pessoa, since I showed him a page of Livro do Desassossego and he said that he really liked it. He is so committed to his Portuguese heritage, that he purchased a copy of Maria de Medeiros' film "Capitães de Abril" for $75, so that he could have the a DVD that is compatible with North America DVD players. I am impressed...

His wife was working, so she did not come, but I have invited them over to dinner some time, we just don't have a date yet. I don't know quite yet what to cook, but I could try to make something traditional with cod fish. I seldom cook traditional cod fish dishes; the only ones I have mastered are Bacalhau com Natas e Bacalhau cozido com batatas. I am not a very good cook, I am always making up dishes and fail to follow the traditional recipes.

Anyway, he probably thinks that I am crazy because I know how to find so many Portuguese things in the U.S. I even gave him a bag of Delta coffee, since he told me that he did have a coffee mill at home. But it's nice to have someone with whom to talk to about one's country.

sábado, 20 de junho de 2020

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Today we celebrated Juneteenth, the day in 1865 in which the slaves were freed in Galveston, TX, more than two years after President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, although still a few months before slavery was outlawed in the Union. The first time I heard about Juneteenth was my a friend in Texas and, today, when we were having our Zoom happy hour and I mentioned this, she said that she became acquainted with it, when she lived in New York state, since the African-American community has long celebrated it.

This is the second African-American holiday that I have seen gain importance ever since moving here, almost 23 years ago. The first one was MLK's birthday. The trouble with social change is that you have to step back and look at it from a distance. If you're too close, you almost miss it. But things are changing and they seem to be changing in the right direction.

sexta-feira, 19 de junho de 2020

Version 2.046

After work today, I went to Germantown to get some pieces framed. I don't recall ever having anything of significance framed in the U.S. at a real framer, but I had seen this store, which after the pandemic had written on the window "This too shall pass," and I immediately knew that that would be the place for me to have several items that I had collected over the years framed, the reason being that I, too, have "This too shall pass on my Skype status at work.

The total bill was over $2100 and that was after they gave me a discount, but I believe the work will be well worth it, plus I am not planning on having anything else framed--well, I suppose I could have Moon Taxi's autographed poster done, but I have not decided on it, yet.

The young man who helped me with my things was very nice and I liked his input. He asked me about my house and the type of light I had and I showed him a few pictures of my space in order to inform his suggestions. In one of the pieces, he gave me several mats to choose from to frame a nude piece that I had and I chose the one that had a texture that most resembled human skin. When I told him that, he asked me if I was an artist.

I am not an artist; all I do is visit museums and buy books. Then he asked me what kind of books I liked. Personal essays, short stories, and poetry, I replied. I am not a great reader, I read very slowly and I tend to think a lot about what I read, so it is time and energy-consuming, but I did not explain this part to him.

The owner, who is a woman, was also there and happened to take over the conversation with me. She asked me how I had learned about them and it was because they are in the same mall that Trader Joe's is. She was happy to see me probably because I spent quite a bit of money, but I have been collecting these things for over 20 years, so it's really not that much money if you think about the time component.

She told me that they usually have people come in an give talks about artists, so when I go pick up my order, in about 2-3 weeks, I am supposed to sign their guest-book, so that I can receive their announcements via their mailing list. I think that would be a really interesting program and something right up my alley...

quinta-feira, 18 de junho de 2020

Version 2.045

On Saturday, I FedExed my nephew's birthday present to Portugal. It cost me $220 to send, but it arrived today, one day before promised. I did not have to deal with the hassle of the Portuguese Customs, as it entered the EU via France and FedEx took care of everything. I suppose this is the way to go and, as far as I am concerned, the Post Office can go out of business and I shall be a happy camper.

I mentioned to my neighbor my adventures with the Portuguese customs and she, in her most American way, inquired how people in the customs' office find the time to harass the citizens -- wouldn't they have other things to do? I suppose they do not, if some of us are FedExing packages via France.

On our evening walk, we ran into one of the board member of the Homeowner's Association, who asked me if I'd be interested in serving on the Board. I would not have voting rights, since I was not elected, but I'd have an input, plus he said that they were looking for a female perspective. I said OK, I'd do it, but I still wanted to be involved in the social committee, which I believe will be the most interesting.

Of course, this means that in, no time, I will know a lot of people in the neighborhood. It will be hard to lose that anonymity one has when one is a newcomer, but it does not last forever, I suppose...

quarta-feira, 17 de junho de 2020

Version 2.044

The Georgia Peach Truck was making a delivery in Memphis today, so I went and got the box that I had ordered. I was not expecting for the line to be so long. They had several police officers guiding traffic and, even still, we stood in line for close to two hours. Those peaches better be the best peaches of my life or I am going to ask God to give me a refund on my waiting time.

The good thing, though, is that I finally finished the audiobook "The Age of Light," which is an historical fiction portrayal of Lee Miller's life, in particular the time that she went to Paris and started working and dating Man Ray. I think I should listen to it again -- maybe on my next road trip. I sure miss traveling, plus mentally I really need a vacation. File that under first world problems, I suppose. Many times I wonder how my genes made it to me because I'm all about comfort. I should've been extinct long ago.

I was asked to be in the social committee for the Homeowner's Association and I said yes. We were goofing off and I suggested that we should do a Stayin' Alive Outdoor Party, since we are going through the pandemic. We could all wear bell bottoms and hippie clothes. Anyway, it will be interesting to see what we'll be able to come up with now that we cannot go to a restaurant to have a Christmas dinner, since many of the residents are in the risk group. Plus, come fall and winter, things might be really bad. I don't see that many people taking care to wear masks and social distance.

Tomorrow, will be wicked in the morning. I have a meeting at 7:30 AM, then I'm supposed to lead the 8 AM meeting. I hope to be bright eyed and bushy-tailed by then. I'm about to fall asleep right now...

terça-feira, 16 de junho de 2020

Version 2.043

What a day! The Supreme Court of the United States affirms that Civil Rights laws also protect LGBTQ workers from discrimination. Neil Gorsuch, the first Trump appointee to the Supreme Court, voted with the majority. If you'd ask me, I would have said that it would've been more probable for Kavanaugh to vote with the majority, but, alas, I was wrong indeed as Kavanaugh voted against it.

The cherry on the cake is that SCOTUS has also turned away 10 appeals that aimed at widening gun rights protections. It is quite remarkable such a turn, since the court tends to move slowly and cautiously, but when they see the writing on the wall, they do keep up with the times.

Speaking of SCOTUS, when I was in DC in February, I stopped by the National Portrait Gallery and there was a portrait of the four female Justices: Sandra Day O'Connor (she's retired), Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan, and Sonia Sotomayor. Around that time, someone sent me a very funny Portuguese social media post that said the SCOTUS Justices are known as the Supremes. Nope, they are called Justices. The Supremes are that band whose lead singer was Diana Ross. And, yes, the National Portrait Gallery also had a portrait of the Supremes: a poster of one of their concerts.

segunda-feira, 15 de junho de 2020

Version 2.042

I had a to-do list for this weekend, which I have yet to complete, and I am not sure I am going to make it. I veered off my path sometime today and went down memory lane. I was looking for my Rock in Rio CD, which I cannot find after so much moving that I have done; instead, after random trials of sound, I played Sarah McLachlan's Fumbling Toward Ecstasy.

It had been a few years since I had heard it back to back. I grew up so much while listening to that album and her music that listening to it now feels like visiting an old friend. One of my ex-boyfriends cannot play her, for his wife assumes that he is thinking about me, if he does.

It was my second American boyfriend who got me into her. He was completely enthralled with Sarah McLachlan and we would lie in his bed listening to her albums and trying to decipher her lyrics. As a man, the thought that she might be bisexual was very exciting to him. I was indifferent, but I liked the music.

It made me smile to see him giddy with excitement about the things he loved. His eyes would sparkle and his body would become more expansive as he gesticulated to heighten his enthusiasm. And he would sigh all the time and giggle in an almost childish display of emotion. Or maybe it was all in my head, the way I saw him. And maybe that love was like Sarah sings:

"I know this love is passing time
Passing through like liquid
I am drunk in my desire
But I love the way you smile at me
I love the way your hands reach out and hold me near"

At night he would search for me in bed and we would make love, like there was no space between us, just two parts of the same being. Everything then was so intensely carnal, so full of sensation, so much flesh touching one another, so unlike now.

domingo, 14 de junho de 2020

Version 2.041

It is past midnight, so I hope not to fall asleep before finishing. I arrived at my neighbor's house around 6:20PM for dinner and ended up leaving about four hours later. The jalapeño poppers were actually called Texas popsicles and had a slightly different recipe: the jalapeños are cleaned of there seeds and stuffed with brisket, cream cheese, and sharp cheddar cheese, then they are wrapped with bacon and grilled. I had forgotten about the brisket yesterday. There was also grilled corn on the cob, but it had been soaked in beer, so I could not have any, as beer is not gluten-free.

There were also two other guests for dinner, a couple who has sold their house in the neighborhood -- closing day is Monday --, but will be staying until October, since the buyers are locked up in a lease until then, and these neighbors are still having their new home built. They will be downsizing into a less than 600 sqft house from a house that is over 3800 sqft.

Although I have never spent that much time with both couples, they all seem to be very nice people. The wife who is leaving is a masseuse, so I may procure her services before she leaves. She asked me to speak Portuguese for her and thought it lovely when she heard me. Her husband was also very pleasant. When I mentioned that I was from Portugal, he said that the pizza oven of the house they were about to sell had been made in Portugal and that the insulation was cork. Then he said that Portugal was the largest cork producer in the world and explained how one harvests it.

Yesterday, when I was at my other neighbor's, another neighbor had visited (I know, I have too many neighbors) and he made sure he mentioned that his dinner plates were made in Portugal. So were some of mine, I replied. It is such a striking contrast to hear Americans go out of their way to point out these positive things about Portugal, at the same time that on Facebook, I see so many Portuguese people denigrate Americans because of Trump and racism.

I truly think that racism could be on the way out though. If we go back a century, it was to see European immigrants being discriminated against, for example signs that said No Irish Need Apply were rather common. Now, it is hardly noticeable. Racism against black people will get to that point too; that's why people are protesting. It will not happen overnight, but the side of good shall prevail.

sábado, 13 de junho de 2020

Version 2.040

I took the afternoon off, so as to not spend as much time working on the computer. One of my dorm friends suggested that I should just get surgery to fix the carpal tunnel syndrome; but I think not. I depend on my hands for work, so I should just learn to take better care of them before the problem gets too far.

The afternoon was nice and I mainly chatted with the neighbors. At 7PM we had a balcony concert in the neighborhood, courtesy of my neighbor Mike, who also streams it live on Facebook. He's been doing one about once a week. The weather was just perfect: not too hot, not too humid. This time at least five families were present, so afterward we chatted for a bit.

I got invited to a dinner tomorrow night at one neighbor's house. It's a barbecue and let's just say that it will be rather decadent. The menu includes chicken wings and stuffed jalapeño poppers. Note that the jalapeños are stuffed with a mix of cream and cheddar cheeses and wrapped in bacon. I almost feel a heart attack coming as I type it...

Oh, I also was contacted by two different recruiters this week, so I got to talk to one of them this afternoon.I find it surprising that so many companies were hiring -- my company also hired someone recently and there's a few more positions in the works --, but I believe that the labor market was so tight, that companies that are in good shape are trying to take advantage of this opportunity to hire highly skilled people. If the person got unemployed because of the virus then that will save on the entrance package, probably, since they won't have to match non-vested retirement savings.

I ended up recommending a couple of former coworkers for the positions. I hope at least one of them gets something.

sexta-feira, 12 de junho de 2020


A atribuição da verba de quatrocentos milhões de euros inscrita na proposta de orçamento suplementar para este ano, com a finalidade de “dotar as escolas, os docentes e os alunos para o desenvolvimento de competências digitais no trabalho escolar”, tem gerado comentários acerbos, que me espantam por alguns deles provirem de pessoas inteligentes.  

Version 2.039

Today I got a message from my neighbor who is doing crisis nursing in New Jersey. She extended her contract until the beginning of August and, so far, knock on wood, she is Covid-free. I cannot fathom being such a positive person as she is, but I suppose a lot of it is driven by some sort of faith in God that I do not possess. But it is nice that there are people like this; the more diversity of thought and experience, the more resilient the ecosystem.

I continue struggling with taking care of Julian's paw. He has done two rounds of antibiotics and anti-inflammatories, but he still has a blister between two of his toes. He apparently does it to himself by licking the paw so much that it becomes irritated. I have him in a Pro-collar, which he does not appreciate because it is uncomfortable for him to lie down. I have caught his sleeping while sitting down several times.

It is quite hilarious that he can balance himself and sleep at the same time, but then again that's what I did when I went to Paladar, in New Orleans, and I felt sick. I only woke up to go to the rest room to throw up, then returned to the table, sat down, and closed my eyes. My friends were very impressed, although they swear that the reason why I got sick was that I stopped at a gas station in Mississippi, on the way to NOLA and had fried chicken on a stick.

Even the other day, when I told that episode to my neighbor, she was appalled that I would eat at a gas station. The only thing that is safe to eat there are things that come in a wrapper, she informed me. I did not tell her that, in Memphis, one of the best sushi places is at the gas station on the corner of Poplar and Ridgeway. But that issue of gas station food has been resolved, since I cannot have gluten or rice anymore.

quinta-feira, 11 de junho de 2020

Version 2.038

A few days ago, I was contemplating what to do in my old age. Do I stay in the U.S. or not. It just so happened that a Portuguese friend with whom I had not spoken in over three years emailed that same day, which was an odd coincidence because he thinks that I am 100% Portuguese. I disagree. I had always felt like a stranger in Portugal, but after being in the U.S. for half my life, I am indeed a stranger.

When I speak Portuguese, I do so with a slight American accent. It's not that perceptible to me, but it stands out enough that Portuguese people point it out. If I write in Portuguese, I get called on for making mistakes, as if I need to be perfect because I left, when many of those who stayed speak/write worse than me, but that's tolerable. If I write in English, I am conceited.

The strangest thing, I suppose, is that I have never been treated like that in the U.S., where I am an actual stranger. If people perceive that I have a slight accent when I speak English, they ask where I am from with curiosity and celebrate the fact that I came here on my own. Sometimes, they comment on how I speak so clearly and with purpose, which makes it easy for them to understand what I say.

Anyway, today was Portugal Day, so I set up a care package of Portuguese goods and took it over to my Portuguese neighbor, whom I've never met. I even sewed a border on a piece of Portuguese cotton fabric to wrap my things with. My neighbor and his wife, who I think are probably in their 20s, can use it as a table cloth or a picnic blanket. In my package, I included a copy of Fernando Pessoa's Mensagem, tuna cans, soap, tea, a pot holder, and a couple of ceramic pieces. I hope they like it.

quarta-feira, 10 de junho de 2020

Version 2.037

We buried George Floyd in Houston, TX. Until recently he was a nobody, whose life was not perfect; today we remember him for the imperfection of his death. Not to say that he is the only one, but he is part of an increasing crowd of one-too-many. I am hopping that this is, indeed, the straw that broke the camel's back because, if so, it means that things are about to change for the better. They will not change for the best, but they will be better and better is worth fighting for.

There will be casualties because that is the history of the United States: that is how the country reinvents itself, in order to continue its path toward a more perfect union. This is not any different from many times before. The only ones who are different are the people of whom we ask the sacrifice, but change is in the air and we must rise to the occasion. Justice must be served.

"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

~ Preamble to the United States Constitution

terça-feira, 9 de junho de 2020

Version 2.036

I am awake today. Yesterday, I forgot to push publish before putting away the computer. I suppose there are advantages and disadvantages to writing in a state of semi-consciousness, although I am not holding out for the recognition lavished upon André Breton.

Cristobal arrived as a tropical depression today; we had lots of rain, which was behind schedule. I took the opportunity to go pick up the right wrist support that the doctor had ordered for me from the medical and mobility store, since she believes I have carpal tunnel syndrome, or at least the beginning of such. The diameter of my right wrist measures in at exactly 6 inches, which is right at the border of small and medium, so the woman gave me a medium--she wanted to make sure that I'd be comfortable. It cost $25.

I am now wearing two types of support, one for each hand. On my left hand, I have a wrist and thumb support because a blind fell on my wrist last July and opened a gash that required five stitches. I healed fine from the wound itself, but, later on, realized a tendon that runs through my thumb started to hurt. Too bad the emergency care doctor did not let me know that I could have issues long-term, but I was able to figure it out and I am so much better after using the support regularly. She did a great job stitching me up and giving me instructions to look after the wound because you can hardly tell that I have a scar. The human body can do some amazing things.

Another amazing thing is that I feel vindicated. Nearly five years ago, I had an argument with friends where I defended the point of view that people who engage in sexual activities with others, while online, i.e., physically apart, are sexually active. The counter-argument was that only people who physically interact with others can be considered sexually active. I suppose it takes a pandemic to prove my point, but I won that argument. Conscious arousal starts in the brain, but I suppose that if you're a man that wakes up with a boner most of your life, you tend to overlook that minor detail.

segunda-feira, 8 de junho de 2020

Version 2.035

I was told today that I did not know the history of my country because there was no slavery in the Portuguese colonies. The person who told me this has also said that my command of the Portuguese language is lacking. Lest you think that I am hurt, this sort of comment actually reenforces my personal choices and my idea of what it means to be a person. If one has to sugar coat the truth in order to carry on with the illusion that one is dispensed from showing humility and contrition in the face of history, then expect little or no respect from me.

As social animals, we live our lives not just through our point of view, but through that of others. We must feel empathy, I suppose; but it is more virtuous to live in doubt and willingness to change than to hold on to a fable of at long-lost time. It was not my intention to preach, even though it feels like it.

Carl Sagan once said that we, humans, were a way for the universe to know itself. I subscribe to that view; we are not born with the answers, but with the ability to ask questions and attempt find an answer.

domingo, 7 de junho de 2020

Version 2.034

I did not go out today. I stayed mostly in the house gardening and also helped my neighbor with her garden. It was less than three weeks ago that we were sitting in my neighbor's patio, when she professed her hate for her garden. Ever since I learned that her house has a covered patio that I have coveted the space, so I told her that I actually loved her outdoor set up and her garden was a great space. For example, she could do a raised bed along the fence with some rocks, I suggested. But the covered patio was the crown jewel, in my opinion.

The following day, we met I thought to brainstorm the set up of the patio, but she had already started to place rocks for the flowerbed, so I helped her. Then she wondered where she could buy more rocks, so I told her. Within a couple of days, she had the rocks placed in a layout that she found pleasing.

By sheer coincidence, a few days earlier, I had toured the garden of another neighbor who was also doing some landscaping work. That garden had massive hostas, very mature and lush, but they thought that they were not colorful enough, so they were going to dispose of them. I absolutely love hostas; several years ago, in my previous Memphis house, I tried to build a shade garden full of hostas, but I moved too early to see how my plans had turned out. Nevertheless, every once in a while, I still drive by the old house just to see how the hostas in the front flower beds are doing.

Of course I asked the neighbor to give me the hostas, since it caused me pain that they were basically on death row. And that is how I ended up with close to 20 variegated hostas, for which I did not have that many places to put them; but since the other neighbor was needing plants for the raised flowerbed, I set aside four large ones for her garden. What a difference they made and because they were transplanted almost immediately, they did not even wilt; instead they proceeded with their happy lives and started blooming.

The last two to three weeks have been partly consumed with the progress of that garden, with me studying the direction of the sun, the placement of the trees, and giving suggestion of where to move the plants based on the amount of sunlight that they would get.

Today, the sod went down. Originally, the garden had Bermuda, but it was in a bit of bad shape with weeds and drainage issues. A lot of the drainage problems were because the previous owner had placed a tarp around the garden and covered it with pebbles, so any runoff that came from the alley would bypass that area and land on the lawn, hence the issues with the weeds and bare grass areas. By creating the raised bed, those issues were mostly solved, all that was needed was to even out the terrain for the grass.

Since no Bermuda sod was available at the garden store, they went with fescue, which does well in cold weather. This fescue is so fine that it reminds me of the grass in a putting green. I saw it first about a couple of months ago, when another neighbor had put some in his front-garden, which is totally shaded by trees.

I called my ex-father-in-law to give me the scoop on this fescue sod and how to take care of it. I sent him a picture of the yard, that my neighbor had sent me, with the sod in place and he said that fescue was probably a good choice for that space. Tomorrow I will share the information with my neighbor. She jokes that all the work she has done was my fault, since I told her she could use rocks to build a flower bed. She seems happy with how it turned out.

sábado, 6 de junho de 2020

Version 2.033

On Fridays, I suppose we have initiated the tradition of having a Zoom happy hour after work. The conversation was dominated by current events: protests, deaths of black people, police violence. It has been a few years now that we have been confronted with police violence, mostly because now there are cell phones everywhere with video-cameras, so there are at least two versions of the facts: the one in the police report and whatever is captured on video.

During the Obama administration, this type of incident was reported just like today, but then there would be a service in memory of the deceased and the focus would be on being more understanding, peaceful, etc. In a way, we were comforted in our hour of grief, just to go through it all over again in a few weeks or months. That starts to wear out on you eventually.

There is no comfort now coming from the White House and one must ask whether we are angry not just for the heinous acts themselves, but also because nobody says a prayer to comfort us. I am just glad that there is an uprising and I hope change will ensue. It's been a long time coming.

sexta-feira, 5 de junho de 2020

Version 2.032

Today I was pleasantly surprised, as I got a call from two children who wanted to see how I was. I met them six years ago, while in Houston and they are both American children, but their parents are not. Morally, it should not make a different who your parents are; legally, it makes all the difference and these children are the offspring of illegal immigrants. When I met them, they did not speak English and they did not laugh spontaneously; they were American, but they were not American.

A few times, I took them to Starbucks and had them order their own food in English; we danced to Adele's album 21, until they knew all the lyrics, even though they did not understand what they meant. I cooked for them and tried to teach them to eat more vegetables and fruit. They painted with my art supplies and we laughed spontaneously.

I did all of this for them, but I also did it for myself because I believed that I could make a difference. It is not over; they are still children and the future is still theirs to be shaped and built. I am happy that they remember having spent good times with me; but, above all, I am happy that they have learned English and that their English is way better than my pretend Spanish.

quinta-feira, 4 de junho de 2020

Version 2.031

The strangest things happened today: both James Mattis and Pat Robertson condemned the actions of the President. I don't know if we have reached a tipping point, but it seems quite improbable that things will settle down any time soon. Unfortunately, at least two more innocent people were killed by police today: a black chef in Louisville, KY, and a Hispanic man holding a hammer in Vallejo, CA. Every day, the protests seem to gain momentum and, for the most part, people are trying to educate themselves about past crimes committed against minorities.

We shall overcome and build a more perfect union.

quarta-feira, 3 de junho de 2020

Actualizem o SICO

As autoridades ainda não toparam que o SICO não está a funcionar correctamente há vário dias. Os dias do mais recente fim-de-semana não têm valores. E já agora que tal fazerem a revisão dos dados de 2020 para podermos ver em que pé estamos?

Não se compreende haver falhas destas no meio de uma pandemia. É que nem a comunicação social acompanha o SICO e vai investigar o problema. Vergonha...

Version 2.030

I had my first counseling session today. This is one of the reasons why healthcare is expensive in the U.S.: last Wednesday, I made an appointment to see a physician for the following day, and less than a week later, I have already seen the counselor she referred me to, plus she ordered a brace for my arm to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome and it's already waiting for me to pick it up. Oh, and there's a pandemic going on, massive unemployment, shutdowns, etc. If Americans had to wait 6 months or a year to see a specialist, they'd go crazy--and they're already quite crazy.

The counseling session went OK, but it is not one of those things that I am comfortable doing; however, since I am in physical pain, I am forcing myself to go all the way. Nevertheless, it feels really shitty to be talking about my "problems" when there are so many other people who have it worse than me. When I told the counselor that I was having trouble concentrating and sometimes I just pace around, while accomplishing nothing, she suggested that I may have adult ADHD.

I don't think I do; under normal circumstances I enjoy staring at the ceiling for a very long time, which I don't thing people with attention deficit disorder do. In fact, most of my coworkers make fun of me when I'm working on something because I am completely oblivious to what is going on around me. So maybe that is the problem: if I am used to being able to concentrate so hard, I really notice it when I can't do it.

Several of my Portuguese friends sent me messages to ask if everything was OK in my neck of the woods. One could say that I am living in a bubble. None of this instability has affected me, but, of course, I have had my share of uncertainty in my life, so it was bound to happen that I'd be unaffected by something one day. I cannot say that it feels good to be in a good situation because one of my first reactions was survivor's guilt, since I know I am fairly good at navigating uncertainty and I feel sorry for those that aren't. But we all have to learn.

Anyway, the counselor gave me some homework. I am supposed to use an app called Covid Coach to help me deal with stress, so I'll set aside some time tomorrow to learn the ropes of this thing.

terça-feira, 2 de junho de 2020

Version 2.029

The riots are escalating across the country, but in order to become a better country, we must give up what we are today. The basis of all creation is destruction.

I do not believe we will see a de-escalation soon and I expect we will continue this process until after the election. If Donald Trump wins, many people will be upset about it; if he loses, his supporters will be upset and Trump will spent over two months undermining the President-elect, although there is also a good chance that he will refuse to step down. And considering that he plans on holding rallies during the campaign and nobody will be wearing masks, he could also become ill before the election, which would create a new conspiracy theory and God knows what else.

Anyway, June 1 is the beginning of hurricane season and June is a special month for African-Americans. June 19, 1865 is the date in which Texas recognized the emancipation of slaves, so this date, referred to as Juneteenth, is known as Freedom Day, Black Independence Day, Jubilee Day, and Cel-Liberation Day.

In 1865, in Galveston, TX, the following announcement was read aloud:
The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.

So anything can happen between now and the end of this presidential term.

segunda-feira, 1 de junho de 2020

Version 2.028

Another day of violence and yet, in my corner of the world, the sky is bright blue without any clouds. Sometimes, I hear a pop and I wonder if it's a gunshot. Today's pop, heard while walking in Nashoba Park, was too loud; probably some kids playing with fireworks, as that season is upon us.

At 10 AM, my Houston girlfriends and I had scheduled brunch via Zoom. Maybe I had given the impression of being anti-social -- it's odd to be perceived as anti-social during a pandemic --, but I was asked to organize the call, which was my first time being a host in Zoom. It was not very intuitive, but I got it done.

I got behind walking Julian this morning and, by the time I got home, I had barely 15 minutes to fix my brunch: poached egg with prosciutto, asparagus, and gluten-free bread. I even managed to make an Americano and be ready on time to begin hosting the call. Nobody else was having brunch, just me. I suppose I am too literal, but we had talked about brunch and I had made sure to include "brunch" in the title for the call.

After lunch, our neighborhood hosted the annual Homeowners' Association meeting outdoors, in the park with the gazebo. We were asked to wear masks and take a lawn chair. Since I gave away my lawn chair last year, I did a quick trip to Target to buy one and also get some fruit, which I was almost out. I would say one third of the people in the store were wearing masks.

Some of the aisles' floors were marked with arrows to indicate the flow of traffic, but I kept forgetting to follow the directions. However, I had tied my hair, was wearing a mask and hat, and I used three cart wipes to clean the cart again, after an attendant had already done it, and clean my hands. It is hard to shop without touching things, but at least, my hands were very clean.

In the HOA meeting, my neighbors did not recognize me. Besides the hat and mask, I also wore sunglasses for good measure. For most of the meeting, I sat in the sun and I just opened an umbrella for shade. Everytime I go out to a place where I need to be a considerable amount of time, I always wear so much gear that I feel like I could be part of the 1975 TV show "The Invisible Man". And the darndest thing is that nobody laughs at me, even though I look absolutely ridiculous.

My Memphis girlfriends had scheduled a dinner at Coastal Fish Company for today. I ended up not going, as I did not feel comfortable being in a restaurant for a couple of hours, even though it was in the patio. Over the last few weeks, I have begun to socialize more closely with one of my neighbors and I am even allowed in the house. Her mother is 85, so I would feel terrible if I were to get sick and make her sick. Plus, if I were to get sick, I don't even know if my immune system would be up to par, as I have an autoimmune disorder. When in doubt, be careful going out...

domingo, 31 de maio de 2020

Version 2.027

I often wonder what is was like to live in controversial times, so when I meet older people than me, I am always keen on hearing what stories they have to tell. Now it is my time to collect the stories, but it feels like I have nothing interesting to say.

Those of us who have kept our jobs, are not minorities, and are wise enough to stay at home to avoid contact with carriers of the virus are mostly protected. Or privileged, as it is so fashionable to say now. Privilege is an odd condition. I have a male friend who is bullied by his boss. If he were a woman, it would be a question of sexism; since they're both white men, they are both privileged.

While parts of the country live through riots and the big cities have imposed curfews, I think I am mostly safe from the violence; although, I thought I heard three gunshots and a car escaping earlier in the evening. It must have been all in my head because there were no police car sirens after.

Last year, a man got shot nearby and died. When I went to the Memphis in May barbecue festival, I met one of the detectives that worked on that case. I asked him a question about it, but he just stayed quiet, as if to wait for time to skip a beat and that moment to dissipate. Something in his demeanor stayed with me. One could feel the emotional toll of that line of business.

There are police officers now that are hurt that so many people have decided to criticize the police or assume that they are all capable of killing innocent citizens. It is the acts of the few that shape our perception of the many. It is not fair, but the riots are the price we pay for not acting sooner.

Today's JFK quote on Twitter is on point:

sábado, 30 de maio de 2020

Version 2.026

It is strange to wake up and read about riots on the news, when one is mostly locked up in the house. Today, I did take Julian to the vet for a follow up visit and we also went to Fletcher Creek Park for a few minutes. The week started with me not feeling well. Many mornings, I wake up and my right arm is numb, especially the hand. My back is tight, I feel the muscles contract around my bones and it hurts. I also feel a tightness around my throat and the whole thing just freaks me out. I am not a hypochondriac, but I definitely know when something looks off.

On Wednesday, I sent a message via the medical center app to the nurse practitioner that does my check ups to see if I could schedule a visit. Within a couple of hours, I got a reply and a phone call scheduling an appointment for the following day, which was yesterday. I had to see a doctor, since my nurse practitioner is out on maternity leave.

This doctor seemed thorough and I liked her honesty. She thinks the numbness in my arm might be due to carpal tunnel, which makes sense, since my desk at home is not the best for my wrist. The tightness in the throat might be due to anxiety or acid reflux, but she also wanted to check that my thyroid was normal. I told her that I did not have any reasons to be stressed out, but she replied that the relationship between the mind and the body is something that is still not fully understood -- I really liked that she said that; it shows humbleness and honesty --, so she suggested that I talk to a counselor, who could teach me relaxation techniques to see if that would make a difference.

Until today, I had not felt acid reflux, so I don't know if that is the power of suggestion or merely a coincidence. The doctor did mention that I could have silent acid reflux, which would not be noticeable in a normal way. Today, someone called to schedule an appointment for the counselor, but I missed the call, so I still need to work that out. We shall see... Well, I also need to go to the ophthalmologist.

sexta-feira, 29 de maio de 2020

Version 2.025

I am continuously amazed at how quickly things can happen in the U.S. We started our lockdown on March 16 and on March 25 the CARES act was passed in the Senate and two days later it was signed into law by the President. The stimulus checks started to roll out in April and today, May 28, the Chicago Federal Reserve released a working paper analysing the marginal propensity to consume of a sample of individuals who received those checks.

One can see how closely the Federal Reserve tracks the economy, no doubt this speed was informed by the long and subdued recovery of the Great Recession and by Congress' timidity in spending enough on fiscal policy to respond to that challenge. This time, the Federal Reserve Chairman does his PR rounds and takes every chance he gets to encourage Congress to not slack off.

Europe is still debating what to do. Monetary policy is not an obstacle, but governments not only drag their feet, but show complete lack of solidarity. Each country followed their own response to the medical crisis, even though the failure in one country would end up seeping into other countries. Even now, there is not a single entity in the EU guiding the medical response.

I am a bit disgusted with the Portuguese obsession of pointing out the failures of the U.S. dealing with Covid-19. New York became a focus point because Italy was a focus point: 75% of the cases in the U.S. came from Italy and most ended up in New York. And if one adds up all the data for the European Union, does it put the U.S. to shame? I think not. Europeans claim that their healthcare is so much better than what Americans have and yet, not only did they fail to contain the pandemic in their own countries, but they also ended up being the cause of much of the problem for America.

quinta-feira, 28 de maio de 2020

Version 2.024

On Friday, we celebrated the 2-month anniversary of Congress passing the CARES Act, which is one of the relief bills to deal with the adverse effects of Covid-19. The CARES act is massive in size, the most expensive bill ever enacted in the U.S.: $2,2 trillion. For comparison sake, U.S. GDP was $20.54 trillion in 2018.

It was spent on direct payments to individuals (according to that law, individuals making less than $75000/year qualify to receive $1200 immediately; those that make more than $75000, but less than $99000 can receive a smaller amount of money. Children up to 17 years old got $500 each), loans to small businesses, payments for healthcare expenses, tax rebates and tax credits, etc. This was the third bill that Congress had passed to deal with Coronavirus and after that another bill was passed to address salary protection. At this moment, Congress is debating whether to pass more bills to keep the economy afloat.

I thought that, despite the insanity of having Donald Trump as President, Congress was very generous for how quickly it was all put together and, surprisingly, a lot of the payments were sent to the families within a month of the CARES Act passing, for example. Of course, people who became unemployed also were entitled to unemployment insurance, but that is administered by the states, but since the systems were overwhelmed, payments have been very late for some people, unfortunately.

Of course, all of this comes after the U.S. Federal Reserve started to flood the economy with money. It is completely unprecedented the scale of intervention; at one point, the Federal Reserve even hinted that they would support nonprofits directly. On Marketplace and Twitter, Kai Ryssdal shared that it was "no asset left behind." No other country in the world has spent as much money or has gone as far as the U.S. to protect its people and the economy. But society is also trying to step up to the challenge.

One of the first things I did when the economy was shutdown was to make a $250 donation to World Central Kitchen, the nonprofit organization started by José Andrés, the Spanish chef. When I was in Washington, DC, last February, which seems like an eternity now, I went to Jaleo, his restaurant, twice, even though I was only in the area for about four days, and I made sure to drag a friend with me. I really admire the work that Chef Andrés does, so I wanted to support that work.

The company I work for rewards and facilitates employee donations and volunteer work in the community and we are also encouraged to share our work in this area with our colleagues, so as to inspire our team members to participate. I am always happy when I see my colleagues in Brazil and Portugal post their accomplishments toward supporting the communities in which they work. Furthermore, the company usually matches 50% of our donations, up to $1000 per employee per year.

So when I was setting up my donation to WCK, I went to my employer's community support website, but because of the urgency of the pandemic, they advised us to donate directly to the nonprofit, since that would get the money to the nonprofits quickest, and then submit my donation receipt to get the company match. And that is why I ended up donating $250 to WCK right away and then set up my paycheck to send $25 every two weeks to them (I get paid bi-weekly).

Every month, I also put $25 in my Kiva account and that money only gets loaned to women in underdeveloped countries because that is who I like to loan to. what I do does not sound like much, but every drop in the bucket counts. There are other donations I make, as my goal is to try to donate $200 of every paycheck to causes I cared deeply for; but I also make one-off contributions, if I feel I can make a difference.

I recognize that today I lead a life of privilege and, despite having been unemployed several times, I have always had savings or unemployment insurance. If all else failed, there was also access to credit cards. I have always understood that the United States is a high risk country where you are expected to take care of yourself before asking for help, so I have always prioritized investments and savings over spending. My personal philosophy is that you are only one event away from your whole life collapsing.

For many of us, this pandemic is that event and we who are well should recognize the sheer luck that it has not hit us -- yet, because one never knows -- and we must remain humble. But once we take care of ourselves we must do better to help others. For the last two months, many of my Portuguese friends have felt sorry for me because I am in the U.S. and they presume that it is a horrible country, where one does not have access to healthcare or basic needs, but they feel safe in Portugal.

I do not share that experience. I have been reading some of the news in Portugal and there is something very wrong with a country in which, in the middle of a pandemic, the Ministry of Finance delays income tax refunds because someone doesn't want to let go of that cash, when the European Central Bank has clearly stated that the countries have carte blanche to spend.

But what is sickening is that this lackadaisicalness in returning people's own money is announced less than a week after Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, the President of the Republic, says that there are almost 400 thousand Portuguese people who are seeking help to have access to food, which is an euphemism for the fact that these people are at risk of going hungry. How many of these folks are entitled to IRS refunds? Why is it defensible to delay IRS refunds in a country where hundreds of thousands could be going hungry? Even Donald Trump does not dare to be this callous -- he signed off on those stimulus checks, literally.