quinta-feira, 31 de dezembro de 2020

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My best friend and her youngest daughter both have Covid-19. They got it when they were visiting a friend in Florida with whom they stayed. It is hard to believe, but thankfully the symptoms have been mild. Still, it's like living with a knife on your throat for a while, as things can change and some people have serious side-effect that linger after they recover. She has been having video calls with her doctor in Maryland, so if things turn sour, I am certain she'll be advised to go to a hospital.

The last time we had spoken on the phone, I had told her about all my appointments at the dentist and she had replied that she was too scared to go, it seemed like a very risky thing to do. I have the opposite opinion: at this point, dental medical facilities are some of the safest places because there is a very tight safety protocol, much tighter than at the regular doctor's office, much tighter than at any place where you might go and meet other people. Plus, I am careful about putting my mask on as much as possible, not that that is 100% virus-proof.

On Sunday, the new members of Congress will be sworn in, but today Congress is in mourning: Republican Representative-Elect Luke Letlow, from Louisiana, has died of Covid-19; he was only 41 years old and is the first Congressman or Congressman-Elect to die. He leaves behind a wife and two small children. As far as anyone knew he was healthy, so all the complications that led to his death were virus-related, according to the doctor cited by Politico.

Two of my friends who are nurses have already been vaccinated. One is in NYC and the other one is here in Memphis; they both got the Moderna vaccine. The husband of the one in Memphis seems very happy, he jokes that she is a Moderna girl now. I hope it keeps them safe.

quarta-feira, 30 de dezembro de 2020

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Always having to look for a silver lining, a glimmer of hope, is an American thing. In the aftermath of having spent close to two hours in the cold, waiting to get into the building to get my driver's license renewed, I was informed that I had to do the written and driving exams again because it had been more than six months since my previous license had expired. To say that I was stunned is the understatement of the year, for I felt a kind of cloud falling all around me, a mix of disbelief and onset of depression. I did not understand my reaction; it felt too overblown considering the circumstances of 2020.

When I got home, I texted a friend to tell her what had happened and I finished my text with "2020 blows." Besides comiseration, I got the silver lining from my friend regarding our current calendar time: we hung out more, worked on the garden, and acquired yard birds. All true and very fulfilling, thus it hs not been total loss or, as some people say, chin up.

Sometime in my afternoon, I finally decided to browse the manual to study for the Driver's License exam that I was given at the Department of Motor Vehicles. It turns out that, if my previous driver's license expired more than 6 months ago but no more than 5 years have passed, I have to pay a $10 late fee, which is double what I would have to pay if it had expired less than 6 months ago. Lest you think that it is a ridiculous amount, it is for me; but for countless other people, this money is a meal or more for their themselves and their family.

The same mistake can be devastating for a poor person and a minor nuisanse to someone who makes a comfortable living. How does one go about fixing that inequality?..

terça-feira, 29 de dezembro de 2020

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Maybe I am growing soft with age, but I do not feel like commenting on how ridiculous the news have been out of Portugal. I was reading Alain de Botton today and he mentioned how historians tend to fall on the side of history, as if things could not have been any other way. That is partially because historians have access to records of what happened, as the records of the things that did not happen either were not kept or did not even exist. But now, with the Internet, more evidence of could have happened but did not happen remains and it is digitized and easy to search.

There is a less positive point: because publishing is now so easy, i.e. marginal cost close to zero, many things that are not newsworthy become newsworthy, like a Fact Check of a Facebook user statement, when the user remains anonymous, as if anyone on Facebook were a public figure or a jornalist, for example. I don't know, maybe it's just me going soft with age or the fact that I'd rather stare at the birds. But silly pretty pictures I can handle those for endless hours.

segunda-feira, 28 de dezembro de 2020

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The Nashville bomb was the work of a suicide bomber, whose remains were found in the explosion. I do mean to sound calous, but isn't there a better way of killing oneself than to perpetrate a bombing of a public space? We should not complain, as nobody else seems to have died, but there was an element of luck. Clearly, the person was mentally impaired.

In the evening we got word that President Trump signed the stimulus bill, hence much ado about nothing. God knows what went on in the background to make him sign it, but we will see the extent of the negotiation: if there is leverage being used against him, he will not try any other stunts.

During the day, I mostly gardened and I think I made progress, although it feels like very little was done. Besides finishing planting the bulbs, I continued to build the rock border and trimmed the jasmine, which had spread too much. I had not realized how invasive it is, but I did not plant it, so I never researched it.

The birds have emptied the white house bird feeder again, which makes me happy. It is not uncommon to see 12 or more birds around the garden. One time, I counted 9 mourning doves pecking at the ground. In the branches of the Japanese maple, more that 10 birds jumped and flew around. Common visitors include cardinals, house finches, tufted titmice, Carolina wrens, yellow-rumped warbler, Carolina chickadees, and the mourning doves, of course.

domingo, 27 de dezembro de 2020

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Since President Trump did not sign the relief bill, some people's unemployment benefits might run out today. Hopefully, benefits will be retroactively restored and nobody will have to suffer for this. In the meantime, we found out that Steve Mnuchin negotiated with Congress without informing the President of the details of the deal. Of course, since the President does not read his daily briefing, it is entirely possible that he was informed, but failed to consume the information.

Larry Summers thinks that Trump will disappear into the fog after he leaves office, which, in my view, is the American way. Once Americans get what they want, they move on. There is no point in dwelling upon something that has become a moot issue. We will see the true strength of Trump when the details of his Presidential library become known, although I would say there is a high likelihood that it will not be built.

Despite everything, the election of Donald Trump and his defeat shows that any country can end up with a bad President and it takes a lot of work to get rid of said person, but it is not impossible. The will of the people does matter in the end.

sábado, 26 de dezembro de 2020

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A couple of minutes before 1 PM, I got a message from a friend of mine in Oklahoma asking me if I lived in Nashville. I only read it after 3 PM, but I was a bit annoyed that he would ask, since I had told him where I had moved to; but I do move very frequently. I told him that I was in Memphis. He replied that there had been a bomb set off in Nashville and that he wanted me to be safe. He and I met in school in 1995, a few months after the Oklahoma City bombing. Events like this always have a bitter taste for people with connections to Oklahoma.

This bomb in Nashville, on Second St., was very strange. The location is a tourist hotspot, which I have been to. There are bars, restaurants, quaint little shops, concert halls, etc. It is a really great place to visit when there is no pandemic, but it was mostly empty at 6:30 AM on Christmas Day, when the bomb went off. Plus, the RV where the bomb was placed had a loud speaker system that first payed an audio recording of gunshots, then issued warnings that a bomb was to go off and it even had a countdown to the explosion.

The police had evacuated most people by the time it went off, but it seems that that had been the plan all along. The damage to property was very great and the front of one of the buidings collapsed. Then the power went out, even the natural gas supply was affected, which precluded the generator in an AT&T business from functioning, so communications were down up to 180 miles away. On my neighborhood Nextdoor, people are still complaining about the lapse in cell phone service.

The authorities are investigating the case and have no idea who could have done such a thing, but I guess it was someone who wanted to damage property while not hurting people. Maybe a desperate business owner who wanted to make a claim on his/her insurance. Hopefully, the FBI and the police will get a lead soon.

sexta-feira, 25 de dezembro de 2020

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A merry Christmas Eve was had by all, despite the blistering cold. We are expecting the temperatures to drop to -7C tonight and I just realized that I did not cover the faucets outside, but there is no freeze warning, so I guess we will be OK. Let us hope Santa does not develop frost bite on his way over.

My Christmas present was an antique Spanish Santos cage doll -- I was unaware such a thing even existed, but am very much intrigued by it. I shall spend some time tomorrow researching it.

For the first time in my life, I attempted to make a bolo rei and I made a gluten-free 5-minute version, which turned out pretty good, considering that I had no idea if the flour would be up to the task.I had some friends try it and they also liked it.

I am taking time off from work until January 4 and the plan is to try to read a book, walk more, and perhaps organize the house a little bit. I still have some bulbs to plant, but it is so cold now, that I don't really feel like getting my hands dirty. Perhaps I should store them in the refrigerator and plant them once it warms up.

quinta-feira, 24 de dezembro de 2020

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It is hard to imagine that tomorrow is Christmas Eve. We could ask ourselves where did time go, but we all know that it's not a great question this year. A better one is what happened today. Well, today, President Trump vetoed a defense spending bill and everyone is still trying to figure out what he wants to do regarding the stimulus bill, which did pass with veto-proof majorities, but rules do not apply to this President.

Almost my whole morning was spent at the doctor, as I went to see a second allergist regarding all the reactions that I have been having to food. He thinks that we will not know what is wrong with me because there are lots of things that we don't understand and the reactions that I have to all the different foods do not fit a known disease. So I should just file it under food intolerances and count my blessings because, in his opinion, I am heathier than 99% of the people he sees, as I do not have to take any medicine at my age to function.

In any case, he did do some bloodwork, so maybe something will come up. If not, we shall resign ourselves to not knowing. And I suppose the fact that I was able to identify the problem was food-related is what keeps me healthy. I feel sorry for all the people who suffer, but do not know that the food that they are eating is what is making them unwell. I felt pretty debilitated and in pain before, but the solution was fairly straigh forward: do not eat the foods that make me sick.

Maybe due to the pandemic, medicine will change and become better more quickly. I think there are lots of innovations and potential changes that could happen. For starters, it will be a lot more difficult to go back to waiting years for developing a vaccine, so we will likely see more vaccines for lots of things more quickly.

Speaking of vaccines and pandemic, while talking to a coworker from another country, I learned that he had had Covid-19 earlier in the year. I was pretty much speechless. I still catch myself thinking we must be in a bad dream every once in a while.

quarta-feira, 23 de dezembro de 2020

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Mr. Trump is throwing a tantrum regarding the stimulus bill: he thinks it is a "disaster" and people should be getting checks for $2000, rather than the $600 that is in the bill, so he is threatening to not sign it into law. As if we did not see it coming that the lame-duck President would be going out with a bang. I got a feeling that my taxes are about to go through the roof and I do not qualify to get any stimulus, other than my alarm clock waking me up to go to work. We will be lucky if the stock market doesn't crash and takes the economy along with it.

According to a machine learning model developed by Youyang Gu, the U.S. will reach herd immunity around July 2021. By then, it is expected that 30% of the population will have had the virus and 30% will have been vaccinated, thus reaching the 60% needed to reach herd immunity. I expect to be in the 40% group that will still be waiting to get a vaccine.

The virus is getting closer, though. One of my friend's is a nurse at a school and she had to self-isolate because one of the children in her school got coronavirus and the two had been close in the same office. Her daughter also had to quarentine herself because she was in close contact with a victim. Poor children and parents...

terça-feira, 22 de dezembro de 2020

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"Can you all see the convergence?" That is how one of my friends texted to remind us to look at the sky to see Jupiter and Saturn in the great conjuction. From the balcony I saw something, but it was so odd that I thought it was some sort of airplane, so we headed out to the lake to see it. It was the same thing that had been visible from my balcony: two dots, one bright and one faint, very close together. It is said that this was the "Christmas star" when Jesus was born and it was also present at the time that Newton discovered gravity.

As I write this, the news outlets are sending notifications that the Senate has signed into bill the $900 billion coronavirus relief bill, which had already passed the House earlier today. Talk about another great covergence. I am not surprised that the Democrats passed it in the House, as the President-Elect is a Democrat, but I am surprised that Republicans voted for it before the run-off election in Georgia. I don't think Republicans care that much anymore about keeping control of the Senate. They will strengthen if they are in the minority and they have a way of not being responsible for what is about to happen.

But there were more things in the bill: the Smithsonian is to create two more museums, one for women and one for Latinos, and the U.S. affirms that the choice of the successor of the Dalai Lama should not be subject to political interference, a clear jab at China. I wonder whose idea it was to put that in the text.

segunda-feira, 21 de dezembro de 2020

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I received an email from the Brooks Museum announcing that they are shutting down until January 6 in anticipation of what they expect will be decided by the local authorities in Memphis. Tennessee is one of the states with the highest progression of cases and, in Memphis, we have a positivity rate in excess of 28%.

Our early success has become our downfall, as peope met their families over Thanksgiving and the number of cases started to take off. What this feels like is being in one of those domino chains and seeing the pieces before us falling off in sequence until at some point it gets to us. I hope it stops soon.

According to the news, Congress reached an agreement to implement another $900 billion stimulus bill. The euro is at $1.22, while before the pancemic it hovered around $1.10, so that tells you which side has pumped more money in the economy since the beginning of the pandemic. It's the right thing to do, as there are a lot of people struggling. During the first round of stimulus, poverty in the U.S. declined a bit, but then as the money ran out, it started to climb up.

The silver lining of this pandemic is that we have never learned so much so quickly about how the U.S. economy works and what is effective and what isn't. We are entering a new age of economic analysis, in which there is decentralization of data collection. We will see how long it takes to spill over to Europe, if it ever does.

domingo, 20 de dezembro de 2020

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All day it rained. Julian refused to go out, but insisted on running some errands with me in the afternoon. He stayed in the car while I returned an item to Banana Republic, but then started to get restless so we stopped at the Regalia Shopping Center. I unbuckled him and he hopped on my lap, ready to exit, only to remain frozen as soon as he realized it was raining and everything was wet.

I carried him to the shopping center and we walked around under the walkway. That was his only outting for the day and he got frustrated because I did not take him inside the stores. Oh well, it's still 2020--you should be used to it, buddy...

At Williams Sonoma, I did not find another bouchon pan, which was most unfortunate, since that means I will have to half the recipe for popovers, since they don't turnout as good when baked in muffin pans. Half is better than none, so chin up. Plus that would be an excuse to stop by Sur La Table, except I did not realize that they had permanently closed the store in September and something else had already replaced it.

To be honest, the last thing I bought there, a French crêpe pan, is still in the cupboard unused. I haven't even seasoned it. I was going to make crêpe complète with it, emphasis on was going...

At the liquor store, I managed to find Portuguese wine, so I bought 8 bottles. That's what I'm giving some friends for Christmas. I must be showing my age, because I did not get carded at the store. I had even taken my American passport because my driver's license is expired and I only realized it the other day. My Portuguese driver's license says that it's valid until 2037, but that's a lie. I am not allowed to have a Portuguese driver's license because I do not live in Portugal, which is such bullshit.

Well, I have been so enthused about Portugal lately that even my passport is expired. Not that I could renew it, as the consulate has not been answering calls or replying to emails. The only thing I get, actually, are emails telling me to pay my taxes and emails asking me to invest in Portugal, but I'm more leaning toward divesting before it crashes again. In the meantime, I'll settle on enjoying my outcast status.

sábado, 19 de dezembro de 2020

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Friday, one week before Christmas. And then we wait to do it again on New Years'. In three weeks we will see how we will have fared. Sometimes it feels that all we do is wait. Not that it would be different otherwise.

During the day, when I come downstairs to grab coffee, I look out the windows to see the birds in the garden. Sometimes there are none; others it feels like a huge party, with quarreling and flying from branch to branch. I could stare at them for hours, even though they only stay a few minutes. But while they are here, they fly with such eagerness as they search for the juiciest morsels of food. They are free, while we are not.

My neighbor and I ran some errands this evening, including picking up two parakeets that she is planning on offering to her Mother. At the pet store, standing in front of the cage full of animals waiting to be bought, I felt sheer horror, even though these are not animals that would survive in the wild. It felt more humane to only look at the wild birds, rather than keeping captive ones. But it is actually the other way around: capitivity is what humans do.

sexta-feira, 18 de dezembro de 2020

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It appears that Mike Pence will be going out of the country after the Presidential inauguration. I wonder where he will be going. Maybe a Middle Eastern country where men have the same respect for women that he does. But maybe this is all testing the waters, as they usually like to do.

Christmas will be a week from tomorrow and my ability to track time has flown out the window. This year, I am looking forward to Spring, so that I can see the garden in bloom. And maybe we will start seeing green shoots early, as this year we have La Niña.

One of the first things I heard this morning is that Mr. Macron has Covid-19. I am looking forward to the Portuguese President getting sick with it. It will be a rather comical situation, as the Presidency has been reduced to the whims of a self-centered man.

quinta-feira, 17 de dezembro de 2020

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Congress, it appears, is pretty close to reaching an agreement on another stimulus package. I wonder if a final version gets announced before the run off elections in Georgia or if we'll stay in a low simmer until after. There is lots of chatter about what a President Biden should do: some want him to forgive student loans, others are talking about changing the tax structure of 401k accounts and switching them to post-tax accounts, similar to Roth accounts.

In a traditional 401k, people are allowed to set aside income for retirement pre-tax and they pay taxes on this income and any appreciation when they withdraw the money, thus the payment of taxes is deferred until retirement. If the money is withdrawn before a certain age, then besides the tax, the person must pay a 10% penalty. In a Roth IRA or Roth 401k, people have already paid taxes on thr income they save, so no other taxes are owed, not even on the money generated in the account.

Such a switch would give the current administration a big boost in tax revenue, but it would also have tremendous implications for savers, so I am really curious to see what will come out of it, as tax-deferred accounts are rather popular.

quarta-feira, 16 de dezembro de 2020

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The Atlantic has a very interesting piece on Facebook, in which the author calls it a Doomsday Machine. I agree that it is quite powerful, too powerful, even, and anything that is too powerful can be too dangerous under the right conditions. Call me naïve, but I had never thought about the dark side of Facebook in the terms that this article describes it. To protect us from all this, Facebook employs moderators:
"Facebook has enlisted a corps of approximately 15,000 moderators, people paid to watch unspeakable things—murder, gang rape, and other depictions of graphic violence that wind up on the platform." ~ Adrienne LaFrance, The Atlantic

I have trouble understanding what leads someone to have such a job, but I suppose that everything has a shitty side, if you search in the right spot. Maybe these people think they are protecting someone. And yet, we, the protected ones are always complating about how the service is lousy. Maybe it censored the picture with a piece of art thinking it was pornography. It is hard to teach an algorithm to know the difference, but people can. Hence the Facebook moderators. But, still, it is so disturbing.

terça-feira, 15 de dezembro de 2020

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Let us file today under "Coincidence!" We woke up to news that several of Google's services were down. Even Pokemon was not working because people use gmail addresses to sign in -- what a strange thing. I have never played Pokemon, so it did not affect me. Then, throughout the day, the Electoral College voted and, surprisingly to some, Mr. Trump still lost the election. Oops...

Now, as I lay myself to sleep, I keep getting updates on the massive Russian hacking of several federal agencies and other large players, something in the magnitude of "dozens," although a dozen at a time, you can make it to infinity. It just seems mighty strange, but this hacking business has been going on for several months now.

In other news, my dog fell asleep under the Christmas tree, which is the whole reason why I go through the trouble of decorating one. It does make me all fuzzy inside to see him on the Christmas tree skirt.He sure lives up to "All I want for Christmas is You."

Merry Christmas, y'all..

segunda-feira, 14 de dezembro de 2020

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The Christmas tree is finally done. Perhaps it is the pandemic, but it felt like an undesirable chore at some points. I don't remember it being that difficult last year and this year I don't even know if I am happy that it is done. Perhaps, I have been working too hard and have little patience for anything else.

One of my friends asked if she could drive from Houston to spend a few days at my house, like she did last year. I did not make her feel welcome, so she gave up on the idea. She is too restless and is always going out to events in museums, galleries, concerts, sailing club, etc. Although she wears a mask, I don't think a mask is enough. You have to wear a mask and curtail contact with others to lower your probability of getting this virus. If you wear a mask and continue with business as usual, you will have a higher chance of getting sick.

Yesterday, there was a party in the gazebo of the neighborhood. People were outside, trying to be safe, obviously, but as I walked by, I saw some of them hugging each other. It is not safe to hug each other, even if you are outside. That should be pretty obvious by now, but there seems to be some cognitive dissonance going on. Not just here, everywhere.

The other day I had an argument with my nephew because I saw him hugging some of his classmates. He says he's being very careful, he trusts these people, yadda, yadda, yadda. We shall see how this will end up, but I told him that each of us has a responsibility to society to try to stop this disease from spreading. Trusting others is our weakest link: that's how this virus spreads from person to person.

domingo, 13 de dezembro de 2020

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It has dawned on me that I still do not personally know anyone in the U.S. who has had Covid-19. I know people in other countries who have had it. I don't think Americans advertise that they have it, but also many of my friends are super-paranoid about it; some of them are surprised that I go to the dentist, others that I go to the grocery store. You cannot eliminate all risk entirely, so the best course of action is to be thoughtful about the risks that you take and the precautions that can mitigate said risks. It's a bit like cooking, but I am actively trying not to get it.

Big crowds supporting President Trump have gathered in parts of the country and some isolated violence has ensued, with some people stabbed and one shote. Of course, many of the people who attended these demonstrations do not wear masks, so come Christmas day, they'll be ready to infect others.

This morning's "It's been a minute" had a really cool segment on an article that E. Alex Jung wrote for New York Magazine about all the cultural developments that have happened because of the pandemic. Art became all about the absurdity of our times, much in the same way that after World War I and the 1918 pandemic artists developed Dada. The current art movement has no authorship, it develops organically in the Internet. Society changed so much after within the decade after 1918; for example, women's clothes changed to reflect their empowerment. It is naïve to think that there will not be massive changes within the next decade.

sábado, 12 de dezembro de 2020

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Second day of Hanukkah, the festival of lights. I did light the Hanukkiah again.

As I predicted, the SCOTUS has refused to hear another case regarding the election. The lawsuit was from Texas and the court dismissed it saying that the plaintiffs lacked standing. It is kind of funny that Texas, a state that is always complaining about the federal government overreaching its power, now wants to decide how other states should conduct their elections.

It has become quite apparent that the court of Justice Roberts tries to keep things above the fray and, so far, so good. On December 15, we shall see how the Electoral College will vote. I suppose that many Trump supporters have an inkling of hope that the presidential electors will go rogue. I do not blame them because four years ago, I too held on to that fantasy.

We, Portuguese, are about to make a fool of ourselves during our term ahead of the EU. I can already imagine the Prime Minister doubling down on his insults of the Dutch to try to bully them into allowing the EU to send more money to Portugal in the name of solidarity.

What solidarity can we invoke considering how much money we waste in corruption? And what moral ground will we have asking money from other countries who have lost far more people than what we say we've lost? We went into the pandemic saying that we were the economic miracle of the EU; they should just tell us to get on one knee and start praying.

sexta-feira, 11 de dezembro de 2020

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There were two things that made me happy today: the first was lighting the Hanukkiah, for today is the first day of Hanukkah; then, at 7PM, my time, PALCUS had a webinar on Portuguese culinary traditions.

I started lighting the Hanukkiah after one Christmas that I spent in DC. On one of the days that I was there, my best friend, with whom I stay when I visit, started to set it up and lit it. I had never seen it done, but I really loved the ceremony and how peaceful it made me feel, so now I light it every year. I have several Hanukkiah, which I started collecting. I was inspired by a Hanukkiah collection on display at the Jewish Museum in NYC, when I visited a few years ago.

When I lived in Portugal, my Mother always made a selection of sweets for Christmas. The last Christmas I spent in Portugal was in 1998, when she was still alive. We always spoke on the phone every week and, many times we would talk about food. One day, I asked her to write me some of her recipes, one of which was for broínhas de Natal. They are these little breads, full of nuts and dried fruits, which are fluffy enough that you wonder how can it be possible, considering that the recipe calls for no fat.

Ten years ago, when I lived in Arkansas, I made it for my coworkers and one of them harassed me until I produced the recipe, as he liked them that much. I cannot have any using the original recipe, but I suppose that I could try making them with gluten-free flour, although it would likely take a few failed attempts until I got it right.

Anyway, happy first day of Hanukkah!

quinta-feira, 10 de dezembro de 2020

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This afternoon, I thought that I was getting a mammogram, but it turns out that they went straight to the ultrasound of my left breast, where I have a fibroid. That's the only thing they checked and at the end, the technician said that in 6 months I should get a mammogram and another ultrasound to get back on track. Utrasounds are expensive; If I recall correctly I am responsible for almost $500 for each breast, which is to say that's how much my visit should have cost me today.

After, I stopped by the grocery store for the first time in over two weeks. I saw one woman with blue hair, sashaying through the aisles without a mask. Everyone else had a mask on and it makes no sense that she would get into the grocery store without a mask, which is against a local Memphis ordinance. It makes even less sense that nobody told her that she needed one to get in. At this rate, we'll never get rid of the virus.

quarta-feira, 9 de dezembro de 2020

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Well, the SCOTUS refused to hear the Trump supporters' case that challeged the election results in Pensylvania and no Justices dissented. The court did not even justify its refusal. It's amazing how quickly the wind turns in the U.S. If you get too comfortable, things will likely not go your way.

There were other funny things in the news this week: for example, Mike Pompeo griping about the elections in Venezuela having been subverted. And even the President-Elect is not being spared in the media, as his administration is being accused of not being as diverse as expected, so to quell the critics he decided to appoint more Latinos.

If someone wants to be honest about diversity, they'll take the composition of the U.S. population and set up the teams accordingly. Personally, I was a bit disappointed that Biden appointed an all-women communications team, which by the way, Trump also did. I don't like it when men put just women in charge of defending them. Plus, why not put an all-women economic policy team? That would be transformative if that were the goal you were going for.

But, thanks to Trump, people are a lot more vocal about having things change and I think that is a good thing. I like the confusion, the competition of ideas, and potential paths forward. If we've already paid the price of having Trump, we might as well, squeeze as much out of it as we can.

terça-feira, 8 de dezembro de 2020

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Since the beginning of March, I have driven less than 3200 miles (5150 Km). Today, I drove a bit because I had some errands to run: buy some cookies for my neighbor, return some broken items to the hardware store, and go to the ATM. During my short little periple, I heard the 6PM news, where we were warned to not hug each other, not even with a mask. I can't imagine why anyone would be doing that, but since so many people still think that the virus is a hoax, it is not surprising.

A few months after the start of the pandemic, I saw some articles in the paper that were trying to put things into perspective: they asked us to imagine that 150 or 200 deaths a day was the equivalent of an airplane falling daily. If that were to happen, would we not be shocked? Yes, but that's because an airplane falling is a shocking thing; it's so rare in the last few years. But now, hardly any airplanes fly anymore and the number of deaths that used to be shocking are just a matter of fact from which we have stripped all emotion.

My neighbor who is a traveling crisis nurse is on assigment again, this time in Louisiana. She did not text me to let me know, but I need to text her to give her moral support. I have always wondered what it would be like to live through a war in our own soil. I guess this is pretty close.

segunda-feira, 7 de dezembro de 2020

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I cannot remember who was the first neighbor that I met in my neighborhood, but in the beginning, when I walked Julian, I would often run into one old lady who had lived here for decades. She spoke with a slight accent and later I found out that she was German, a holocaust survivor. She died two weeks ago, I learned today, while attending our neighborhood Christmas Tree lighting party.

There are times in which one is so busy or not wanting to think too much about things that one forgets to be present. There were a few encounters with my neighbor like that, where I can say that I was not fully present. The first one was fine, but then the second, third, and so on, were as if they were the first and I don't think I was as interested. She was very old and had beginning Alzheimer's, which I did not know at the time, but on our second encounter I knew that her memory was not good.

Her son was one of the nicest people I have ever met. Even though he lived in the Pacific Northwest, he would visit to check on his Mom. I would meet him while he walked her dog and I walked mine and he would always strike a conversation as if we were old acquaintances. How strange to be spoken to like that when one is new to the neighborhood.

My other neighbor in the back has dementia, but somehow manages to always remember me and her daughter tells me that my presence relaxes her a lot. At today's Christmas light pary, she was sitting in a car, so as to be protected from the cold and away from people, but still able to participate in the activity. When I walked to the car to greet her, another neighbor told me that she was asking about me a few minutes earlier.

Sometimes, at home, she'll ask "Where are the girls?" The girls means me and her daughter and we think that in her mind she thinks that we all live together in the same facility. And in a way we do, as we all live in the same neighborhood. Or maybe it's the other way around and this neighborhood lives in us, even after we die.

domingo, 6 de dezembro de 2020

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Segundo as estimativas do Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation relativas a 3 de Dezembro, ainda temos pelo menos uns 5 mil mortos pela frente até 1 de Abril. É cerca de metade de um mês normal pré-pandemia, mas se relaxarmos corremos o risco de acabarmos com perto de 15 mil mortos adicionais. Os números já têm em conta a vacina, mas até 1 de Abril poucas pessoas serão vacinadas.

Assim que a pandemia acabar, vai começar o período de calibração dos dados não só para tentar ver se as contagens estavam correctas, mas também para ver que países foram mais eficazes na implementação de medidas, que países os modelos conseguiram prever melhor, quais o que tiveram maior erro, etc. Não penso que Portugal fique muito bem visto se for sujeito a um escrutínio maior. Aliás, isso já aconteceu recentemente, quando Mário Centeno ficou à frente do Europgrupo. Antes era um génio das Finanças, mas o seu desempenho não deu credibilidade à reputação que tinha "conquistado."

Em Janeiro, Portugal fica à frente da Conselho da União Europeia, logo irá ter corda para se enforcar, que é como quem diz, vai se ver se os europeus são tão tolerantes de gafes como os portugueses.

sábado, 5 de dezembro de 2020


“This virus has humbled me as a professional and a person,” said Michelle Odden, associate professor of epidemiology at Stanford. “I did not think this level of failure in a federal response was possible in the United States. We have a lot of work to do.” Fonte: NYT, 4/12/2020

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A few months before the pandemic, on January 3, to be exact, Jim Sollisch wrote a piece in the Washington Post exalting the act of shopping for groceries every day. And when he said every day, he meant deciding what to cook after visiting the grocery store, nay, grocery stores, for the author spoke highly of curating our grocery shopping experience at different venues daily. I often think of him during the pandemic and how often he shops now, not that I know whether he changed his habits any.

He does have a point that we should acquire produce from different supply chains, just because that would vary the types of soils that the vegetables came from, which also varies the types of microbes that may make it into our gut, as well as the concentration of nutrients. For example, a study of foraging people in Africa shows that they have guts with a lot more biodiversity than urban people, actually completely different guts. And they do not have diseases like Crohn's disease, despite having bacteria in their guts that we usually associate with it in Western societies. Of course, unless we move to this particular tribe and lead the same lifestyle, we're never going to get to that level, but let not best be the enemy of good.

I am a creature of habit at the grocery store and often end up buying the same thing over and over, but with my food intolerances, I have had to change my ways. With the pandemic, I shop more sporadically and I have not picked up or requested delivery of groceries, but, less than two weeks ago, I signed up for a mail delivery service of vegetables, the Misfits Market, which is similar to what, in Portugal, is Fruta Feia, but it is delivered by mail. When I was in Houston, I received produce via another service, which had its own delivery service, which dropped a thermic bag at my door with the goods. The Misfits Market box costs me less than $30, which I think is rather reasonable, but there are more expensive options.

There are a couple of ways to choose the service: one can select which vegetables we would like to be delivered or we can let the company decide what to send. I pick the latter for the simple reason that I want to be surprised and I want to try foods that I have never tried before. Except for okra, as I do not like it that much, but, if push comes to shove and I am ever in the possesion of a handful of this slimy fruit, I have a plan -- chicken gumbo, gluten-free roux, of course. Chicken is the only gumbo I know how to make because I learned the recipe at New Orleans Cooking School in 1999, right before Y2K. On Saturday, my first box came and it included broccoli romanesco. I was surprised that I knew the name, despite it being so rare to find. Needless to say that I had never bought it.

Before the pandemic, the epitome of a good life was to amass experiences: plan and do things. Now, we are limited in the experiences that are available to us, since we cannot travel and we must avoid each other or, at the very least, limit our contact with others. And I surmise that this will go on until next summer at least. But I am thankful that people are more willing to wear a mask when they are in close proximity of others. And I am also grateful for having a way of trying new foods at home.

sexta-feira, 4 de dezembro de 2020

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Ontem iam vacinar 300 mil portugueses na primeira fase; hoje disseram que afinal a primeira fase irá contemplar 950 mil almas. Continua a ser pouca gente e o pior é que Portugal passou os últimos nove meses a assobiar para o lado: se corresse bem, mérito do governo; se corresse mal, era inevitável e já agora precisam de apoio financeiro da UE.

A UE tem um vício muito grande, pois paga quando acontecem tragédias, mas se as coisas correm bem, não há qualquer compensação que não a do bem-estar dos cidadãos. Isso funciona bem com governos altruístas, o que não é claramente o caso do português.

O que é fascinante neste tempo em que as nossas vidas são medidas ao ínfimo detalhe e há dados para tudo, é a facilidade com que algumas entidades da comunicação social organizam esses mesmos dados. Por exemplo, há uns dias a Bloomberg publicou um ranking the resiliência dos países face à pandemia, que combina dados do contágio e mortalidade com dados económicos e qualidade dos serviços de saúde e do bem-estar dos cidadãos.

Os EUA, que toda a gente diz ter um sistema de saúde do terceiro mundo, ficaram em décimo-oitavo lugar e acima de vários países da UE, como Países Baixos (23), Grécia (31), Portugal (33), Espanha (41), e França (45). Nada mal para o país liderado por Donald Trump.

Já o NYT disponibilizou uma ferramenta para calcular qual a prioridade dos americanos no acesso à vacina. Podemos ver a nossa prioridade em termos nacionais e também em termos do estado em que vivemos e até do condado; mas é apenas uma possibilidade, pois ainda não foi divulgado qual a ordem de prioridade para receber vacinas.

Para mim, o mais importante é que a ferramenta mostra quantas pessoas há em cada grupo. Por exemplo, o estado do Tennessee, que é onde eu vivo agora, tem cerca de 365 mil pessoas a trabalhar na área da saúde e 81 mil em lares de idosos, mais 83 mil que trabalham em primeiros socorros. O TN tem 6,8 milhões de pessoas.

A área mais avançada de análise de dados em Portugal é as Finanças. Não sei porque é que não arranjam uma equipa do Ministério das Finanças e a metem a organizar a base de dados de Portugal. Se o combate à pandemia passasse por extrair impostos dos contribuintes, Portugal seria o país da UE mais bem organizado e preparado.

quinta-feira, 3 de dezembro de 2020

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De acordo com a Ministra Marta Temido, Portugal vai comprar 22 milhões de doses de vacinas por 200 milhões de euros. E hoje também foi anunciado que Portugal comprou doses da vacina Pfizer para 300 mil pessoas para a primeira fase de vacinação. E o NYT noticiava hoje que a União Europeia tinha contratado com a Pfizer 200 milhões de doses.

Há aqui umas coisas que eu gostaria clarificadas:

  1. A população de Portugal estava estimada em 10.28 milhões de pessoas em 2019 e os protocolos das vacinas indicam que cada pessoa deverá levar duas doses, logo qual a necessidade de comprar 22 milhões de doses, que dá mais do que duas doses a cada pessoa?
  2. Se se comprar vacinas a mais, não se corre o risco de o país ser acusado de esbanjar recursos que faltariam noutros países, especialmente nos países mais pobres?
  3. A DGS disse que a vacina iria ser facultativa, isso quer dizer que as pessoas não são obrigadas a tomar, logo quantas pessoas é que a DGS espera que não tomem e que efeito terá isso nas metas de imunidade de grupo?
  4. A população da UE é de 446 milhões de pessoas, logo o contrato da UE com a Pfizer, que contempla 200 milhões de doses, permite vacinar 22,4% da população da UE. Só que Portugal anunciou que no início vai só vacinar 300 mil pessoas com a vacina da Pfizer, o que é apenas 2,9% da população portuguesa. Porque é que não vacina mais pessoas com a vacina da Pfizer, se a UE contratou tantas doses?
  5. Como é que Portugal vai escolher as pessoas que vão ser vacinadas na primeira fase? E que hospitais têm condições para administrar esta vacina, que requer refrigeração a muito baixas temperaturas--só os das grandes cidades?
  6. Já agora, quem vai ser o primeiro vacinado do país -- o Presidente da República para tirar a primeira selfie? E o Primeiro Ministro vai ser vacinado quando e com que vacina?
  7. De acordo com a Reuters, cada dose da vacina da Pfizer custa 15,5 euros, logo as 300 mil pessoas irão custar a Portugal 9,3 milhões de euros, o que não é muito dado o orçamento de 200 milhões de euros, ou seja, ficam 190,7 milhões de euros para comprar o resto das vacinas e que Marta temido diz ser 21,4 milhões de doses, o que dá um custo médio de 8,9 euros por dose. A vacina da CureVac custa 10 a 12 euros por dose (ver peça da Reuters), será essa que Portugal está a contemplar comprar?

quarta-feira, 2 de dezembro de 2020

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Janet Yellen joined Twitter! And Senator Grassley, Republican and outgoing Senate Finance Chair, said that the committe needs to see her tax returns before he can make up his mind on her nomination to Treasury Secretary. All it takes is the prospect of a Democratic President for the GOP to care about tax returns. Too funny...

Speaking of finance, I was thinking about the cost of Covid-19 vaccine. The vaccine shots themselves range between $3 and $37 per dose, with all the vaccines requiring two doses, but then you have to take into account the infrastructure needed to accomodate the vaccines (refrigeration at facilities, during transportation, data management, vaccination marketing campaign, etc.), plus one must also not forget training medical personnel.

There are also logistic considerations regarding timing. According to an NPR piece interviewing Angie Rasmussen, a virologist, some people feel really bad after taking the vaccine: not just a sore muscle where it was administered, but also feeling physically ill and not able to lead a normal life immediately and that happens after each dose.

So, what are the implications for vaccinating medical personnel, for example? You can't have all your nurses/doctors take the shot at the same time and risk many of them not being able to function for a few days simultaneously. There has to be a plan of staggering administration to people. Then, you also have to make sure that the side effects of the vaccine after the first dose do not discourage people from getting the second one.

It will be interesting to see how each country organizes and manages the vaccination process.

terça-feira, 1 de dezembro de 2020

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I had an interesting exchange on Facebook with a Portuguese man who has lived in the U.S. for 45 years. His argument is that the U.S. is over, that life was easy when he came to the U.S., but now that is not the case. If anything, life in Europe is easier. His comments were in response to a Portuguese young man's question about how to fund his college degree in the U.S., so this older gentleman was not so sure that the U.S. were still the land of opportunity.

That is also the argument of many people, who defend that the social elevator is broken. The truth is a lot more nuanced than that, of course, but there are still plenty of opportunities for people to thrive, but it is true that if you come to the U.S. with nothing, you have to really work hard to get opportunities. Americans like to help people who they see work hard, but they will not make your life easy, if they sense that you don't care.

In many states, access to higher education is more expensive and there is not as much funding for scholarships and on-campus jobs. With the pandemic, things will be even more dire because state governments need to balance the budget. But that young man can still make it in the U.S. and the funny thing is that he's the fourth person that I've seen recently asking about how one can move here.

I suspect that once the pandemic is over and people realize how steep the death toll is, more will come to America.

segunda-feira, 30 de novembro de 2020

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Tomorrow I return to work and I'm already half on. How else does one explain checking USDA's export sales report before going to bed...

I surprised myself today when I realized that I am not very excited about Christmas or even setting up a Christmas tree. I do want to celebrate Hannukah by lighting the menorah, though. It feels that people are using Christmas as a way to escape the pandemic, but I want to have it present in my thoughts, even if only to think about those who have and will succumbed to the disease and to wish them well.

Much of the second wave could have been avoided if we had had competent leadership and, yet, in many countries people are speaking of it as if it were set in stone, as if this was not the product of our own failures, but some sort of fate. It does not even feel that we are living in the twenty-first century.

I do not know if Mr. Biden's election will be able to lift all boats around the world in this sea of ignorance and incompetence. It is also hard to imagine that the large number of casualties will not have any political consequences; but then I think of all the centuries in which misery flourished. Our time is unique, but it it not necessarily inevitable.

domingo, 29 de novembro de 2020

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O LA-C postou no Facebook uns videos acerca da sua participação a comentar o caso do Novo Banco no Expresso da Meia-Noite. Na segunda intervenção, o Ricardo Costa disse uma coisa que achei extraordinária. Diz ele que o Tribunal de Contas não tem competência técnica para fazer uma auditoria do Novo Banco porque nunca fez uma e que a Deloitte é muito competente na matéria porque já fez muitas e, mesmo assim, demorou nove meses. Conclui, então, que, se o Tribunal de Contas tentasse fazer uma, demoraria bem mais de nove meses.

Não percebi de onde tirou o Ricardo Costa estas ideias. Quem trabalha numa empresa de consultoria não sabe tudo, mas tem de aprender depressa porque as consultoras são pau para todo o serviço. Para além disso, o trabalho é muito intenso e a mão-de-obra está sempre a sair e a entrar, especialmente em Portugal, onde quem tem quarenta anos já é considerado velho para arranjar emprego. Também não é líquido que o tempo gasto signifique dificuldade. Se calhar demoraram nove meses porque não têm pessoal suficiente para fazer mais rápido ou o cliente não pagou o suficiente para o trabalho ser completado em menos tempo.

Há também que salientar que alguém que tem um curso superior adquiriu conhecimentos suficientes para trabalhar de forma independente e para aprender coisas novas. Não há grande diferença entre a competência das pessoas que vão parar à Deloitte e as que vão parar ao Tribunal de Contas. Muitas até devem ter frequentado a mesma universidade e os mesmos cursos.

Ou seja, o Ricardo Costa informou-se do assunto ou anda a fazer campanha em nome do meio-irmão?

sábado, 28 de novembro de 2020

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The holidays are a time in which we are supposed to reach out and pretend to be social, therefore I sent a few messages and spoke on the phone with some people. One of my friends here in town is upset because we have not seen each other for almost a year. She has a very busy schedule and we did not see each other that often, but after the pandemic started I did not feel comfortable being around her because she told me she does not wear a mask all the time around people. Plus now she goes to restaurants a lot and continues to not wear a mask around everyone.

I want to scream "Law of large numbers," but what is the point. Here's a basic principle about life: everyday that we do not die does not mean that we are immortal. People do not realize the priviledge of being alive today, of having access to healthcare, knowledge, good food, clean water, comfortable homes.

For millions of years it was not like this. For thousands of years, a few had priviledged lives, while most lived under dire and squalid conditions. Today, in most developed countries, we flipped our luck: only a minority struggles. I feel like we owe it to ourselves and the ones that came before us to act responsibly and to not use up scarce resources.

But I ramble: it is what it is.

On this Black Friday, I did do some shopping. I visited two garden stores and bought a few plants for the garden. I managed to find some hydrangeas and hardy ferns at half-off, which made me happy. And I bought camelias, pansies, violas, two small ivies, and a few bulbs. Now to find the will to plant all of this tomorrow, as it is supposed to cool off on Sunday.

sexta-feira, 27 de novembro de 2020

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It was a happy Thanksgiving. It actually feels better now than when it started. I am not particularly fond of holidays, but I guess one must do. I had a traditional meal with friends and, since I was not able to take my usual cranberry jam, since someone was already taking cranberries, I made Brazilian cheese bread. Dinner was roasted turkey, roasted duck, green beans, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, cranberries, and the cheese bread. There were also other things with gluten that I could not eat: dinner rolls, homemade bread, stuffing, corn pudding, and gravy. The desserts were pies: pecan, pumpkin, and some other ones, but I did not pay attention, since I could not eat any.

The conversation was interesting. One of my friends works at Rhodes College, so he let us know a bit about the pandemic plans in place. Students can attend classes in person or online. The college signed a contract with Baptist Memorial Health Care to provide compreenshive health sevices to the college. All students get tested as soon as they arrive on the campus and every two weeks after arrival by a nurse team from the hospital that will visit the campus.

Three residiential halls are empty and are being reserved for quarantining students, should anyone test positive. If a student lives alone and test positive, (s)he quarantines by (herself)himself; if more than one student live together, then if one test positive, all must quarantine. While the students are under quarantine, food gets dropped off at their door.

It seems like an adequate plan, so we will see how things turn out.

quinta-feira, 26 de novembro de 2020

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Some of my friends in Portugal have reached out to me concerned about my well-being. Nothing in my life has changed significantly because I have been social distancing, working from home, and limiting my outings since March 19. I did travel during the summer for a few days, but I had very limited contact with people and I always wore a mask. Furthermore, I have only eaten outside of home three times since March.

The only calculated risk that I have taken is that I had surgery in July and I have had several medical appointments, including at the dentist. Still, I feel the risk of being exposed to the virus is minimal. My goal is not to eliminate my exposure completely, but if I am exposed, I want the viral load to be small enough that it does not overwhelm my immune system.

I see a lot of people complaining about everything that they cannot do, but I am, for the most part, grateful for everything in my life. I am grateful that my job allows me to work from home and that I live in a city that takes risk seriously and works hard to keep me and other citizens safe. The authorities have to set the tone and step up to the plate because not everyone understands risk. But I also have to take responsibility for my own safety and the safety of the few people with whom I still interact.

Nevertheless, I am angry that there are people who do not take this threat seriously and especially angry at people in power who fly by the seat of their pants. With the amount of money that is spent on education and science research, there is absolutely no excuse for authorities to remain ignorant of what the scientific community says. Of course, not everyone in the scientific community is conservative about risk or even capable of doing cost-benefit analysis, but the majority gave us good advice.

Although the virus is opportunistic, many of the bad things that have happened did not have to happen. It was our unwillingness to prepare and our own perceived invincibility that contributed to the problem. How many times did we have the opportunity to prepare and, instead, chose to squander resources? None of this was unpredictable or even inevitable. We, humans, made the poor decisions that have brought us to this point. And we will continue to pay in human lives for those mistakes until this is over.

quarta-feira, 25 de novembro de 2020

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Quando leio a imprensa portuguesa, sinto uma mistura de repugnância e contentamento. Uma notícia no Eco fala de como Portugal está abaixo da média na despesa extra de saúde por causa da pandemia. Note-se que Portugal gastar abaixo da média não é automàticamente problemático, dado que paga salários abaixo da média.

O que é problemático é o que vem a seguir: Portugal esteve bem no controle da transmissibilidade do vírus, o que fez em 32 dias. A única coisa que Portugal fez para controlar o vírus foi fechar o país na mesma altura que os outros países fecharam, só que como o vírus chegou a Portugal mais tarde, o contágio não foi tão rápido. Naquela altura, Portugal fazia poucos testes, o próprio PM Costa o disse. E depois as autoridades não fizeram rastreamento generalizado de contactos, logo como é que controlaram intencionalmente?

Como é possível que, com tanta gente a morrer, os jornalistas abdiquem de pensar crìticamente e induzam os leitores em erro? Ou talvez deva interpretar este comportamento como atrevimento e desfaçatez. Se for esse o caso, se calhar até nem estamos mal de todo. É que se as coisas já estão assim tão más, é sinal que estamos mais perto de uma mudança brusca do que se julga. Só falta alguém cair da cadeira, salvo seja...

terça-feira, 24 de novembro de 2020

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What a day! President Trump has finally given his blessing, so that the Federal government can finally and officially start working on the transition of power. We also learned today that there is a third vaccine for coronavirus, this one only about 62-90% effective, but it does not require refrigeration beyond a regular fridge. 

AstraZeneca, which is a British-Sweedish company, partnered with Oxford university o work on this vaccine and it is a nonprofit venture. The EU still does not have a pharmaceutical company with a vaccine, as Pfizer and Moderna are American, but we will likely end up with more vaccines than just these three.  

Let's see who gets what and when.

segunda-feira, 23 de novembro de 2020

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One of my American friends cooked cranberry jam this morning, the recipe that I make and that I had given to her about 10 years ago, while spending Thanksgiving with her in Denver, Colorado. I do not take credit for the recipe, for I found it in a magazine, but what caught my eye when I first saw it was that one of the ingredients is Port wine. I like to use Ruby Port, just because I like the color so much, so there is always a bottle of Port at home.

Every year I get a message from my friend letting me know how everyone in her family enjoyed the cranberries, but this year, since they will not be together, the message said that everyone was sad because they were going to miss eating it. She sent me a photo of her Port Sandeman bottle saying that she and her husband were also drinking a glass to their favorite Portuguese-American.

I always get amused when my Portuguese friends tell me that I am so negative about Portugal. I sell the hell out of Portugal. If I were in charge, Portugal would be a rich country. As it is, it will continue to become poorer and milk the EU for cash. Oh well, dá Deus nozes a quem não tem dentes...

domingo, 22 de novembro de 2020

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I almost missed my Saturday Zoom call with my Houston girlfriends. A big chunk of the conversation was still dominated by politics and the election. All of us are still social distancing and I suppose that we are all used to it now. It has become the new normal; the thought of being in a carefree environment with other people is the awckward situation now.

My Memphis girfriends continue to have the monthly dinner in restaurants, but I stopped going after the pandemic. It just feels strange that they do it in a restaurant. I could understand meeting in someone's backyard and spending some time with each other outside, but they always go to a restaurant. And there was a Zoom call once, I think, but I did no participate.

It's funny how one can be friends with such different people.

The numbers in the U.S. continue to be bleak and North Dakota is the place in the world with the most daily deaths per million people. If one looks at the progression of cases geographically across continental USA, there are hardly any regions with two spikes. The areas that did really poorly in the Spring are doing better now than the areas that lagged behind in the beginning. Thus it took the virus about 7-9 months to spread everywhere.

When the pandemic is over and done with, I wonder what people will do with the massive amount of data that is being collected every where around the world.

sábado, 21 de novembro de 2020

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Yesterday, the father of one of my friend's passed away unexpectedly. The pandemic is bad enough, but losing your father one week before Thanksgiving is really sad. This is the most important holiday for Americans, the one that you spend with family and loved ones.

I can't think of what to say when someone dies. All the words seem insufficient and there is nothing that one can do to soften the blow. It is hard for me to see other people suffer, perhaps even harder than being in their shoes. But if our species is anything, it is resilent.

My friend was at work when she heard the news. Her coworkers hugged her to comfort her, pandemic be damned. I don't know of a people who hugs each other more than Americans. When they talk about human touch, they mean it literally. In Portuguese, we don't have human touch, we have "calor humano." Human heat would not ring the same.

Mike, my garden guy, was supposed to come today, but had a change of heart and took the day off. He said he was too tired. Sometimes I worry about him. I spend more time than I should trying to figure out how much money he makes in a year. It can't be that much. He charges $35 per hour and a year has about 2000 hours, so that would be $70K per year, except that he does not work eight hours a day, thus it has to be less. I think he probably puts in half the time. I could not live on that. I suppose my Mother was correct: I am too ambitious.

I am taking this week off work and hope that I will find the will to read a book. And I could also start refreshing my French.

sexta-feira, 20 de novembro de 2020

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Loving County, in Texas, has one case of Covid-19. What's so special about it? This was the last Covid-19-free county in the continental United States. The virus is everywhere now. There is no point in shutting down anything at this point. You should just wear a mask, avoid people, and if you cannot avoid them, then at least stay far away from them. In the words of Anthony Fauci:
I want to really be explicit about this, because whenever I talk about simple things like uniform wearing of masks, keeping physical distance, avoiding crowds (particularly indoors), doing things outdoors to the extent possible with the weather, and washing hands frequently, that doesn’t mean shutting down the country. You can still have a considerable amount of leeway for business, for economic recovery, if you just do those simple things.

~ Anthony Fauci, The NYT

quinta-feira, 19 de novembro de 2020

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Around September 11 and 12, RTP published some of the first news regarding Covid-19 explaining only a portion of excess deaths in Portugal, about 30%. On September 17, the number of death certificates started to revert to the mean and so we went from Covid-19 explaining 30% of excess deaths to it explaining more than 50% in a few weeks. It also helped that the international media started to look at excess deaths and the Portuguese miracle did not come across as very credible.

But here's the catch: death certificate data are not considered final until 2 years from now and, by then, very few people will be paying attention to see if any changes have been made to history. Revisions to the pandemic data follow mostly a whimsical schedule.

Two days ago, on November 16, 4375 cases, which had taken place earlier in the pandemic, were added to the cumulative number of cases. The reason for the increase was a change in the data analysis system used. That explanation does not hold water because, obviously, data analysis systems do not produce cases. These cases had to have been reported in some other form and were being witheld from the old system for no obvious reason. But why add them now, after all, what are 4375 in a total of over 200 thousand? They would have had more weight earlier on.

I do not trust the data from the Portuguese authorities because much of Portuguese data is manipulated for political reasons: how else would a country without a functioning justice system be considered the 7th ranked democracy in the world? The level of absurdity would be comical were it not for the fact that by manipulating the data on the pandemic, people are unable to evaluate risk properly, which leads to more people getting sick and dying.

quarta-feira, 18 de novembro de 2020

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Next week is Thanksgiving, which will be a quite dangerous time because of the pandemic. This is the most important holiday for Americans: it is a time in which families get together and nd also invite random people into their homes, as it is quite un-American to spend Thanksgiving alone. Canada has already had their Thanksgiving and the number of infected people increased.

I have already received an invitation to spend Thanksgiing with a coworker's family and I also have open invitations to some of my friends' get-togethers. Additionally, my girlfriends in Houston had also suggested that we hold a virtual Thanksgiving party via Zoom. This latter option seems to be the safest.

On Facebook, a few Portuguese people have started to talk about their plans to go to Portugal over Christmas. I think it's too risky, plus we don't know if countries will close their borders or will implement quarantines. This is not the year to travel and there is nothing to gain from exposing ourselves and our loved ones to such risk. We are fortunate to live in a time in which most people have access to technology that allows them to talk and see their loved ones at very little cost. People should take advantage of it.

terça-feira, 17 de novembro de 2020

Version 2.197

In the Western world, there are two schools of thought when it comes to healthcare: one is what people denote as socialized medicine, in which the healthcare system is mostly financed by taxes and there is universal healthcare; the other one is a for-profit healthcare system in which not everyone chooses to have access to routine healthcare. The healthcare system of each country usually stands within a spectrum of these two extremes, but there are hardly any pure systems, although many European countries fall closer to socialized medicine and the U.S. is closer to the for-profit system.

The U.S. is often criticized for being one of the richest countries that does not provide universal healthcare to its citizens. One should note that in the U.S., there are groups of people with access to socialized medicine type healthcare, for example, the elderly have access to Medicare which is funded with a federal tax on the working labor force, and veterans receive healthcare through a federal funded system. Medicaid is another system that is a joint effort of the federal and the state governments, which cares for children, pregnant women, parents, elderly, persons with disabilities, etc., who qualify (meet a low-income threshold).

After the Affordable Care Act was passed, health insurance became accessible to anyone in the U.S., as people with low income could have the federal government pay for part or most of their health insurance premiums. However, when the ACA individual mandate was repealed, people did not have to get health insurance, whereas when it was in place, those who chose to not get it had to pay a penalty, so there was an incentive to get health insurance.

Do not assume that some people are completely shut out of healthcare in the U.S. because federal law requires that hospitals provide emergency care to anyone, regardless of ability to pay, so you could say that in the U.S. there is universal access to catastrophic healthcare, but not universal acess to preventive healthcare. But even that is not valid everywhere. For example, San Francisco, in California, has offered universal healthcare access to their residents since 2007 and, more recently, states like California and New York have started to move in that direction as well. The main point to keep in mind is that independently of what people's views are, there is likely some place in America where they can live accordingly.

Perhaps the greatest critics of the American healthcare system are Americans themselves, but there are also many Americans who defend it because they feel that depending on the government for healthcare leads to being complacent. Furthermore, the U.S. federal government does invest in healthcare in the form of research, public health threat monitoring, etc.

One can succumb to the temptation of trashing the way Americans manage healthcare, but it is wise to remember that of the Western countries, the U.S. was best positioned to prevent the pandemic. Since the Bush Administration, there had been a multi-administration effort to try to mitigate pandemic risk. And the Obama Administration had negotiated with China to keep American observers there so as to keep track of the risk of a new virus making the jump from animals to humans.

Despite the animosity between the Democratic and Republican parties, there are many policies that continue from one administration to the next regardless of party. For example, over the last 50 years, we saw the development of biofuels and reduction of the dependence on oil, the development of the Internet, creation of the information economy with the collection of massive amounts of data and satellite imagery, etc. All of these were the work of multiple Republic and Democratic administrations.

Even in international relations, for several administrations, the United States pursued a policy that promoted the development of China because the sheer size of the country make it very attractive as a market for American products. When I first came to the United States, in 1995, I worked at the Office of International Programs at the University where I studied. Most of the students that were managed by the OIP were sponsored by foreign governments or non-profits, many from China and other Asian countries. I remember one of the first meetings I attended in which Dr. Art Klatt, the director of the OIP, spoke about how interesting China was for American companies: think about what it would mean if each Chinese person consumed a Coca-Cola a day, he would say.

The Trump Administration is the first that has interrupted the flow of inter-administration policy and the current policy has the United States navigating with a short term focus, which is completely uncharacteristic of American policy. The size of the pandemic is a faillure of American policy, but then again, all other countries are failing, which brings me to my point: all countries were dealt the same challenge, but the social contract that citizens have with their governments is different.

In European countries, the focus is on providing access to healthcare care to everyone. In the United States, the focus was to prevent the situation from hapenning in the first place. Both systems have failed and few, if any, can claim to be better than the other.

segunda-feira, 16 de novembro de 2020

Version 2.196

While walking Julian this afternoon, I ran into my neighbor who was feeling under the weather a few days ago with a simus infection. Since he was unable to attend his partner's birthday party, we sent some leftovers. Today, he thanked me profusely for the carrot vegetable soup and the crustless quiche that I had made. It was very comforting, he said. I thought it was amusing to hear someone rave about vegetable soup.

He also drank some of the Earl Gray tea that I gave to his partner for him. I find that Twinings Earl Grey is the best tea to take when one is with an affliction of the respiratory system. The tea is infused with bergamot oil, which has antibacterial properties and is a nasal decongestant. It is especially potent when taken hot. I always recomend it to friends and often offer it if someone is not feeling well. To be honest, I do not offer it; I just order people to drink it because that is how I roll.

My other neighbor across the street has tried two of my soups. They were big hits and I am kind of becoming known for them, which is kind of funny because I seldom make soup, but I am thinking that I should probably be more diligent about it. These last few weeks, my immune system started acting up again, so I should focus more on vegetables, fruit, and animal protein, as those things do not seem to have any effect on me.

Cereals, especially ones with gluten, but also others, beans, and anything sugary, even alcohol, trigger reactions. I found out about the beans the other day, while I was trying a vegetarian diet for a few days. It was hell and I am still not recovered. I have two allergic eczemas that itch like crazy and I still have lots of inflamation. I will get my diet right one of these days: the more you fail, the more you learn enough to get it right.

domingo, 15 de novembro de 2020

Version 2.195

My only question right now is if anyone in the Trump White House will be dumb enough to do something akin to treason. It appears the administration has been firing people who are not Trump loyalists, while replacing them for yes-men. I suspect we still have another six months of circus, until people get accustomed to the idea of a new President.

Jared and Ivanka's return to NUC will also be entertaining and I called that one years ago: they have done so much harm to Trump's name that they will be treated as pariahs. You cannot bite the hand that feeds you.

At any rate, let us be realists: in six months, this pandemic will likely be over. The harsh winter will speed up the contagion and the most susceptible will die. Not even Biden can stop this train wreck from crashing at full speed.

sábado, 14 de novembro de 2020

Version 2.194

I received a message from my medical group regarding my flu shot. They were a bit authoritarian and asked me to just call and schedule it, which I did, so at 1 PM I went in to get it. Normally, I get my flu shot at work, when the nurses visit the office once a month for vitamins and flu shots.

There were hardly any patients at the office, but they must be busy because when I tried to schedule my physical, the next opening with my nurse practictioner was in December 9. There was an opening today at 1 PM, but since I had eaten breakfast I could not take it.

As far as I can tell, patients are getting the usual level of care at the doctor and there aren't any shortages of flu shots. It's kind of amazing, considering what I hear about American healthcare from some people. Of course, many Americans themselves think that the system is totally rotten. When the Covid-19 vaccine gets discovered, I will not be as eager to get it.

We, the person who takes care of my lawn and I, continue to tear the garden down. I actually wondered today if he had health insurance. If he does, he has to buy it via Obamcare, since he mostly does odd jobs. I should ask him about it. One of the health insurance providers that I used via Obamacare keeps sending me emails saying they would like to have me back. Well, I am tended to, now.

Last night I dreamt of tornados and hurricanes and today it was announced that tropical storm Iota has formed. This year sure just gets better by the minute.

sexta-feira, 13 de novembro de 2020

Version 2.193

Today we had another pandemic birthday party, as it was one of my neighbor's birthday. I don't know how it came about, but when my other neighbor told me about it, I offered to bring a bottle of champagne -- I kind of bought four bottles when it was announced that Mr. Biden had won the election, yes, over $300.

I started with the champagne, then I offered to make some soup, since we were going to have the get-together outdoors and it was kind of chilly, after I suggested to buy some cheese--one of my favorite things to do in life, and finally I made a few savory flans or crustless quiches, since I cannot eat gluten.

Between my neighbor and me, the get-together had delicious food (she took care of making the soft cheeses shine, with dried fruits and jam, plus the crackers). Everyone enjoyed it. I am glad the food I made turned out good, since I am a bit of a mess in the kitchen, as I have trouble staying focused on cooking. Of course now people think that I am a better cook than what I actually am. However, I must say that I know how to make a good soup consisistently.

I know that with the pandemic getting harder to control and people beginning to lock themselves at home, all it takes is to mslke oneperson happy and we automatically make the world a beer plce. But it still is fun.

quinta-feira, 12 de novembro de 2020

Version 2.192

Rodin's The Eternal Idol is one of my favorite sculptures and I was lucky enough to see it a year ago, while visiting Boston. It's at Harvard Museums; there is also one at the Rodin Museum in Paris, but I've never been to Paris, even though my plan was to visit it last June. Yesterday, Instagram reminded me of a photo I took of the sculpture, which I shared in my stories. I got a reply from a Portuguese friend, a lady who is 82. She admonished me with "Que mal me pareceu, menina!" to which I asked her why, since it's a Rodin, after all--but it is a Rodin of a naked man kneeling, while resting his head on the torso of a naked woman.

My friend was joking, she said. Then we started talking about art. She is concerned that this winter will be her last, she speaks as if she will not visit any other country or do anything of interest to her. I tried to cheer her up, but I feel for all those people who are alone and do not have anyone to cheer them up. I hope that, at least, they have a pet. Sometimes pets work better than humans.

quarta-feira, 11 de novembro de 2020

Version 2.191

The circus goes on and the media goes around and around over the "smooth transition" that is not going smoothly. Nothing else was to be expected, of course. What could have been expected, at least in Europe, was the resurgence of the coronavirus with a vengeance. Many European governments spent the summer doing nothing to prepare for the Fall and Winter, so now all that is left to do is to see how many people will die and even that would require a better handle on the data.

Surprisingly, there are some governments that think ahead. A month ago or so, the Prime Minister of Greece gave an interview to Ian Bremmer of the Eurasia Group. The weather was still warm, but he was already saying, somewhat coyly, that to Greece one of the things in which to spend the money was heaters to allow people to stay outdoors comfortably.

I suppose our very own Prime Minister has not thought of anything useful to do for the Portuguese people, other than allowing quick cremations, which the government did very early on in the pandemic. If that's not admiting that a lot of people will die under his watch, I don't know what is.

Too bad the Portuguese media is so entertained with the American elections. It would be useful to know how people are planning on preparing for the cold winter that is on the way. Since more people will spend time at home, will they have access to heating in their homes? Is the government planning on subsidizing heating costs, buying electrical heaters for the poor, etc.

Or the plan is to expedite cremations even further? Maybe develop an app to do the paperwork?

terça-feira, 10 de novembro de 2020

Version 2.190

Well, Mr. Trump has started to lay off his staff. I am not sure how that is going to serve his transition work, but leaving the White House in complete disarray is probably in his plans. If that is the case, then it's probably for the best that Joe Biden was VP four years ago and has some understanding of how a White House is supposed to work.

Not all is bad. Opportunity Insights is a research group at Harvard University that has been analyzing the effect of the pandemic on the U.S. economy and the Biden team has met with the researchers, so they have a pretty good grasp of the state of the economy. The other promising aspect is that, since the U.S. was rather experimental and agressive in its monetary and fiscal response to the pandemic, there is data showing what tools worked and what didn't, so any policiy going forward will be more intentional and will likely maximize it's benefit-cost ratio.

Of course, the big rub is going to be the Senate and whether it will remain in the hands of Republicans, who'd rather play political games, then pass policy. Today, Mitch McConnell, who will likely be the Senate majority leader gain if the GOP retains the Senate, congratulated Republicans on winning several races, while at the same time casting doubt on the outcome of the presidential race. It's one of those logical flaws in which the Trump supporters trip: if there had been election fraud, then the outcome of the non-presidential races would be as much questionable as the Presidential one, since everyone votes at the same time on everything.

I wonder if Mitch McConnell is of Portuguese ascendancy. His logic skills sure seem Portuguese. But maybe he's just trying to engage the GOP base for the runoff elections for the Senate in Georgia.

segunda-feira, 9 de novembro de 2020

Version 2.189

The Internets were very much taken by Kamala Harris' sartorial choices last night. She entered the stage wearing a white suit -- a nod to Hillary Clinton and the suffragette movement -- and a white silk pussy bow blouse. She was spot on and, although many people complain that too much attention is spent of women's attire, I think that we, women, have the advantage of being able to communicate with our clothes much more easily than men. I do not regard that as a bad thing.

Now would be a good time for Melania Trump to wear the "I really don't care, do you?" jacket, as all the attention will be on her.

domingo, 8 de novembro de 2020

Version 2.188

Mr. Biden has been declared the winner. There was a palpable weight that lifted upon hearing the news. In Silver Spring, MD, a place that I know very well, shoppers at an outdoor farmer's market just broke into dance at the news that Mr. Biden had won the election. I received messages from one of my friends who is from Mexico, but has American citizenship, telling me what a great day this was and he knew that I'd be as happy as him. Another friend from Mozambique called and we spoke for an hour. I sent a message to one of my friends in India to congratulate him because Kamala Harris is the first Indian-American VP. And finally, this evening, I got together with friends to celebrate with champage. Tomorrow, we shall continue. We are almost free, although these next few weeks will certainly be difficult. It is close to 2 A.M. and I am tired, but very happy.

sábado, 7 de novembro de 2020

Version 2.187

The blue wave keeps crashing ashore. Hindsight is 20-20, no pun intended, but the states that turned blue and are making a difference are:
  • Arizona: the state of the late Senator John McCain, a Vietnam veteran and POW, who Trump called a loser
  • Michigan: the state where Trump supporters were planning on kidnapping the governor and overthrow the state government
  • Wisconsin: the state where Trump ignored, or shall we say disobeyed, local authorities and held an event in Green Bay, a red zone for Covid-19 cases
  • Georgia: the state of the late Civil Rights icon and House Representative, John Lewis, whose district Trump called "horrible"
At this point, it would take an act of God for Joe Biden to not win the Presidency, especially because Donald Trump has no legal team competent enough to litigate the election. So far, the courts have been rejecting his claims and, on Twitter, people post highlighted portions of the court decisions to make fun of how flimsy his legal claims are. For example, in one case, Trump's legal team claimed that the vote counting in Michigan had to be stopped using hearsay as evidence:

To anyone who claimed Donald Trump was a political genius I offer these kind words: "You, my friend, were wrong!" Donald Trump won the last election because he was in the right place, at the right time. If another candidate had been chosen in the primaries, that candidate would have won too. But, if some other Republican had been president, they would have won this election and the GOP would have had two terms in the Presidency. Or even Trump: if he had just played it cool and gone along with the show, he would have won this election. If he had done that, he would have been a political genius.

sexta-feira, 6 de novembro de 2020

Version 2.186

Still no President yet, but things seem to be as smooth as one might hope for. I have seen indication that three lawsuits by the Trump campaign have been kicked out of court for not having merit to proceed, so the judicial system is working very swiftly. Imagine a Trump in Portugal: if he sued, we'd have to wait years to know the outcome. America might not be perfect, but the system works and the parts that don't work tend to improve over time. A more perfect union is a project for the future, not some glorious time in the past that we must return to.

Numerous times, I have thought about what Donald Trump means when he says make America great again. It is a good country, but it has never been great in the sense of easy. Americans have always had to work very hard for everything they have: they are workaholics, they are never satisfied, and they tend to be a bit obsessive. Life is seldom great, but for a few and even for these, many times the way up the ladder was hard. It has always been good for Donald Trump, though. Maybe he wants to resurrect his father so that he has someone to bail him out.


quinta-feira, 5 de novembro de 2020

Version 2.185

I pride myself on being an excellent citizen. I keep myself informed of the issues, I participate in the democratic process, I am concerned with voting on the right side of history and who I believe creates the best outcome for society, I lead a life such that I maximize my value to society, and I even do not mind paying my share of taxes--in two countries, I may add. 

Thus, it is rather disappointing that my fellow Portuguese find the need to insult me on a regular basis. Before the election, I was insulted by the right-wing Portuguese folks that support Donald Trump; after the election, I have to endure the insults of the left-wing friends who think that Americans are slackers at counting votes and that Biden should have had a bigger lead. None of my American friends insulted me, not even Trump supporters. 

Some argue that America is a lousy democracy because people have to wait in line to vote and many people face difficulties in being allowed to vote. Well, it just so happens that the first time I went to Washington, D.C., to renew my Portuguese passport and ask to be registered to vote in Portugal, I was denied because the person that did all the registrations was not working.

A few years later, I did become registered, but since I move too much, I did not update my address. Last year, I contacted the Portuguese consulate prior to the election and was told that I had to have changed my address at least 60 days before the election, which I had failed to do. Yes, it was my fault, but in the U.S. I can change it up to 30 days before. 

For the election of the Portuguese President, I am not allowed to vote by mail; instead, I need to go to Washington, D.C., and vote in person. I live over 12 hours aways from Washington, D.C. If that is not making it hard to vote, I don't know what is.

Even though I did not vote in the last Portuguese legislative elections, I was still interested in the results and was appalled at the news that the Portuguese authorities had no interest in counting emigrant votes--it took 12 days to count 147.154 votes and the President of the Republic, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, was very keen on not even waiting for the votes to be counted before inaugurating the new government. You know what that is? A clear disregard for the constitutional rights of citizens and he's the one who is supposed to ensure the Constitution is being observed. 

Just think that Portugal takes 12 days to count less than 150 thousand votes, but the United States has counted over 150 million in less than 24 hours for the president race alone. They have also counted votes for Congress, state Senate races, state House of Representative races, governors, mayors, judges, school boards, Sheriffs, District attorneys, etc. The U.S. takes less than 24 hours to count well over a billion votes and I have to put up with my Portuguese friends complain and insult me about how terrible and slow American democracy is. 

I almost wish I had voted for Donald Trump just because that would be worse for Europe. But, no, I did the right thing because I have a hyperactive conscience and I always do what is best for others. It is a big mystery how it came to be that I was born in Portugal. And having to put up with mediocre people like Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa and António Costa is the icing on my shitty cake. At least Trump offers some amusement value and some tax cuts.

Anyway, about the U.S. election, it appears at this time that Donald Trump is out and Joe Biden is in. Things have been rather quiet because the votes are being counted fairly quickly, Biden started to be ahead early on, and the election seems to be pretty balanced. I am actually surprised that Biden is ahead because he is not a good candidate. Even my dog couldn't be inspired by the man. Pence is out for four years, thank God. I wish the Senate had turned, just for the amusement value of Mitch McConnell being in the minority, but they are still counting. Perhaps the virus will get to him...

The turn out is record-breaking, maybe slightly above 159 million votes, although that is an estimate and votes are still being received by mail if they have been post-marked by Election Day--the rules are different by state and sometimes even within a state. 

Before you compare Portugal with the U.S., you should remember that the United States is a federation of states; there is no expectation that it has to have uniform voting rules across states. In the European Union there is also no uniformity, nor is there an expectation that there will be at any point in the future. You know what's uniform? Americans all vote in the same day; the E.U. does not even have that.

quarta-feira, 4 de novembro de 2020

Version 2.184

I am starting to write this at 10:40 PM, CST. Joe Biden has 209 presumptive Electoral College votes vs. Trump's 109. A candidate needs 270 to win. At this time, Biden has 56.5 million votes, while Trump has 55.2 million, but the numbers keep increasing by the minute. The first votes to be counted will be the votes that were done in-person and the last votes to be counted will be the early votes that were done by mail. The early votes favor democrats, while votes on election day favor Republicans.  Turn out today was not as strong as expected: I saw an estimate today that, at most, total votes were 155 million, still very high. Of course, there will be contested votes.

It seems to me that if election-day votes favor Trump, his advantage should be highest tonight and then it should erode as mail-in votes get counted. But then there is the mix of votes and that is what determines the Electoral College. Texas is worth 38 Electoral College votes and it was the second state that had the highest rate of early votes vs. the 2016 election.

Considering how much defiance there is to count the votes in TX, it is possible that it will take several days to come up with a final tally. We shall see...

terça-feira, 3 de novembro de 2020

Version 2.183

We have been wishing for tomorrow for the last four years and the day is finally upon us. That each of us, despite our insignificance, believe that we can make a difference and, together, make up the millions who sustain the idea on which this country was created is almost a fairy tale. It is the thing of books and films, so many times fiction, so few times reality -- certainly a dream for many of us who decided to become a part of this people voluntarily. Together we write and live history.

Over 98 million people have voted early and, given the delays in reporting due to the large turn out, it is very likely that that is a low estimate and the actual number may be north of 100 million people. That is record-breaking on its own, but it is also indicative that once every one has voted, the turn out of this election will leave all other elections in the dust. Michael McDonald, the University of Florida professor who leads the U.S. Elections Project, estimates that over 160 million people will vote in this year's election.

If that ends up being the case, then the voter participation rate would be 67%, the highest in over 100 years. Of course, 101 years ago, more than half of the population was not allowed to vote, as the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the Women's Right to Vote, was passed by Congressed in 1919 and ratified by Tennessee, the 36th state to do so, in August of 1920.

Now, a century later, women have been doing the same ground work: campaigning and organizing themselves to make their voice heard and, this time, to tell the world through their vote that Donald Trump is not fit for the highest office in the land. 

segunda-feira, 2 de novembro de 2020

Version 2.182

I feel the noose around our collective necks getting tighter by the hour. One tries to be hopeful, but it is hard to remain so in 2020. At the grocery store today, lots of shelves were getting empty. I don't know if it's people afraid of the virus or the election. It is nearly impossible to escape the violence, since the President himself incentivizes it. If anyone still needed a reason to stay home, I guess this is it. 

Some Republican activists in Texas petitioned the Court to try to toss over 120 thousand votes that were cast via drive throughs in Harris County, where Houston is. Drive-throughs had been tested earlier in the summer and had not been challenged in court, but now they are. It does not seem like the Texas Supreme Court is sympathetic to the plaintiffs, but we'll see which way the Federal courts lean tomorrow morning.

The hour changed today, so I had 25 hours to spend, but it does not seem like I accomplished that much with the extra-time. Worrying about the election wears you out.

domingo, 1 de novembro de 2020

Version 1.181

When I wake up, the first thing I do is to check the early voting count. And before I go to bed, the last thing I do is to check the early voting count. California and Texas are less than 100K votes away from each other. Of course, CA has the lead, but it has more people than Texas. My girlfriends in TX think that Beto O'Rourke is the cause of Texas being so engaged. I'd like to think that Texans are voting because President Trump humiliated Rex Tillerson and, y'all, only a fool messes with Texas! Anywhoo, who knew that Democracy could be such an exciting way to live? 

The other big news is, of course, the pandemic, which is roaring, but my personal view is that people should've known what was coming in the Fall and Winter. It was pretty darn obvious that there was mismanagement, so it was up to us to do our best to control our own personal risk.  Those who were clamoring for "herd immunity" will get their wish sooner than later. I hope they're the first ones in line to get the virus and contribute to the testing of their hypothesis. 

We are likely about halfway through the pandemic, so we are working toward the finish line. It will be OK in the end.