sexta-feira, 31 de julho de 2020

Version 2.088

I woke up in a bit of a panic. I dreamt I was in Australia for a layover and also to meet a friend, who actually lives in Londons, but it's a dream and dreams don't make sense. We met at a building where there was a sculpture by a Spanish artist. She had a car, so I left a suitcase and a bag in it, but took my purse, except my purse did not have my cell phone, nor did it have my passport. I also did not have my tiny address book, where I keep the phone numbers and addresses for most people I care about; it's my analog back up, which hasn't been updated very regularly lately, but I usually carry it for peace of mind and to mail postcards sometimes.

My friend and I had an argument over the sculpture, as there were plans to move it to the bottom of a lake. She was very upset about it, but I kept rationalizing it. She left and after a while I open my purse and realize that nothing of use is there, yet I am supposed to fly out. I think I don't have any phone numbers for people who can help me and I also am probably not going to remember passwords to log into social media off the top of my head, so the best course of action is to go the police to see if they can help me catch my flight out. Then I realize that my work computer is in my luggage and I start to panic. I wake up.

Although everything is jumbled up, it all kind of makes sense, as this week I was explaining to someone that I have friends in Australia, who have asked me numerous times to visit them, but the thought of such a long flight is a huge turn off. I have also been thinking a lot about how Spain has had so many world class artists that were not only influential, but were innovators. Cervante's Don Quixote is considered the first novel ever written; Goya's The Disasters of War were depiction that almost resemble journalism, in which the artist presents war from the point of view of the victims. Then there's Velasquez, Picasso, Dalí, Miró, Gaudí...

Social critique are even present in today's Spanish artists. For example, Jaume Plensa's sculptures, which I have seen in permanent installation in Houston at Buffalo Bayou (the Tolerance sculptures) and Rice University (Mirror) and also in an exhibit in Memphis (Talking Continents), all of them spectacular. He has works in public places all over the world, but not in Portugal. Well, Greece, Poland, and Croatia also don't have any. The sad thing about Portugal is that I dare say that Joe Berardo has done more for the plastic arts than any government since the Republic began. We should all have some late afternoon drinks to his health, despite his unorthodox methods.

Anyway, the fight with my friend is probably a guilt complex because I have not checked on her since the beginning of the pandemic. I realize that the failure is mutual, but just a couple of days ago I was telling my counselor about my hyperactive conscience to which she replied "Yes, but look how far that has gotten you." 

When I am at work, I always get upset when I'm in the middle of something and the computer says it has to shut down. I realize that it gets backed up every day and that they have to push security patches, but if I were to lose it, I'd feel really bad about it, like I had been a total failure. And yet, I am sure that I would not be the first one to whom that would happen. Our mind sure works in mysterious ways.

I finished reading a rather worthless book today, but, what the hell, not everything can be Proust, which I likely should have read instead. Then Instagram reminded me that five years ago I was in Porto, Portugal, having scones and tea at Em Carne Viva--I love that place so much, even though scones have been eliminated from my repertoire. I still cannot imagine what I'll be able to eat for breakfast at a pastry shop if I ever visit. I suppose I'll be the weirdo eating suspiros and ovos moles. There is also ice-cream: I hope they still have epá.

quinta-feira, 30 de julho de 2020

Version 2.087

Today was probably the first day since my surgery that my mind has been mostly clear. I realized that I remembered very little of that day and made a mental note to ask my neighbor about it. Since she was throwing a party today, we spent some time going over the funny details of that day with the other guests. 

Per doctor's instructions, I had taken two pills to relax at 6 AM and our expected arrival at the office was 7:30 AM, so we left around 7. I managed to give directions to the office, but after we parked and the receptionist came to the car to get my information I started to not be all there and the last thing I remember before surgery was sitting on the chair--I had gum surgery.

After surgery, I remember that I was told to sit on a wheel chair and I looked at it and thought that I had never sat in a wheel chair. Then I was out again. I got in the car and remember that my neighbor was driving around very concerned and said "I need to find you a milkshake." I remember the chocolate milkshake, which I ate with a black plastic spoon to take a hydrocodone pill. After we arrived home, I just got in bed. My neighbor was about to trash the milk shake and I said "May I please finish milkshake?" and she gave it back, so I hurried eating it. 

One hour later, I am awoken by my panicked neighbor saying "Rita, your garage door is open. You need to take your antibiotics and ice your face." I got up, took the antibiotic, and got an ice pack. My neighbor left, I closed the garage door and went back to sleep. I just went from task to task like a robot, but I know I am a selfish sleeper: if I am sleepy, I don't care about anything other than sleeping. I woke up later that day and I prepared dinner, ate, took the dog out, and even wrote.

When I came to the U.S. people used to ask me in what language my dreams were. I never dream in a language, it is always visual. But my default language has been English since I started to become proficient. It was only after 2008, when I realized that I was losing Portuguese vocabulary that I started to force myself to think in Portuguese and, lately, I catch myself thinking in my mother tongue more often. Still, I find it amusing that during all this drug induced loss of consciousness, I always functioned in English. There was not even a slight hesitation.

The party was fun. I have never lived in a place in which I knew so many of the neighbors. My face still looks really terrible, with lots of yellow marks from bruising and still some swelling, plus I got some blisters on my lips probably from something I ate, which I am imagining was the baked potato soup, but I went without make up nonetheless. It is what it is.     

As I was leaving the party, I checked my phone and there was a message from my next door neighbor who is in New Jersey taking care of Covid-19 patients. She said she met an amazing man that she wants me to meet. It's the second guy that she wants me to date. How does she find time amid a pandemic to act all Cupid on me? And what it is about me that all my girlfriends want to find me a guy to date? I do fine on my own. If anything, I attract too many guys as is. Unless she found me a filthy rich drop-dead gorgeous guy, who speaks perfect English, likes art, travel, fancy restaurants, and is ravishing in bed, then I may be interested in giving him a test drive in a few months...

quarta-feira, 29 de julho de 2020

Version 2.086

I woke up first at 5 AM bright eyed and bushy tailed for absolutely no reason. It was still dark outside, so I popped some painkillers and off I went to dreamland for a second time. My subsequent awakening, around 9 AM, was not as grandiose, as I felt rather tired. It is very rare that I sleep this late. 

I had a message from my Portuguese-American friend letting me know that he had left the film "Capitães de Abril" in my mailbox, since I had let him know that my neighbor had given me an old TV in exchange for my push lawnmower, which I had originally offered to her. I replied and promised to watch it today, which I did. The point of view chosen is very much a David vs. Goliath story, which is very used in American films.

The highlight of my day, however, was a serendipitous conversation I had on Facebook regarding Helena Garrido and her coverage of Novo Banco's newest debacle. Maria Teresa Mónica wrote a post professing her admiration for Ms. Garrido and declaring that she is the best business journalist in Portugal. I wholeheartedly agree and commented declaring myself her number one fan to which MTM replied that that spot was hers. We agreed to a tie.

All over Instagram, this week, women have been posting black and white photos of themselves under the hashtag #challengeaccepted after being nominated by other women. I understand the concept, but it does very little for me. However, this spontaneous homage to Helena Garrido really hit the spot, not just because it is true that she is remarkable at her job, but also because she inspires women of different generations. And even a few men chimed in professing their admiration. If anyone who reads this knows Helena Garrido, please giver her our sincere admiration on my behalf and Maria Teresa Mónica's.

I learned a funny expression today, which I had never heard. While speaking to my counselor, she mentioned "stuck in the muck and mire," meaning "pessoas que não passam da cepa torta." I thought it was rather colorful and descriptive of the circumstances. Now I need to find a way to use it often.

terça-feira, 28 de julho de 2020

Version 2.085

I just checked what is happening with the books I ordered from Bertrand and they are still stuck in Lisbon, as they have been for the last 10 days, under the watchful eye of CTT. Around the time that I ordered these books, I also ordered another one from Book Depository, which is coming from Australia. I haven't received that package either. I suppose the lack of international flights must be doing a number on the postal service, although Portuguese mail has never needed a pandemic to deliver subpar service. 

Much of the swelling on my face has dissipated and I would say I am 60% at normal proportions. I realized that I should have switched from ice to heat pads yesterday, but I am terrible with time and dates when I am normal, so I figure I must be even worse when I am under the influence of meds. I feel better also. Although I have been waking up early, I sleep 2-3 hours in the afternoon. 

Today was a busy day. One of my coworkers insisted that he needed to do something for me, so he brought me some food. I had tried to steer him away from soup, but he figured that potato soup would be safe. I wonder if they used wheat flour as a thickener since I got a red spot on my face after I had it. I checked the online menu and sure enough it does. Oh well, it wasn't too much. The best part was the sweet iced tea from McAllister's, which I had not had in over 10 years. It was half sweet and half unsweet, so just the right amount of sugar for a once in a decade experience. 

Another coworker wanted to do something for me, so I suggested she could visit. We stayed in the patio far away from each other and spoke for several hours. While I was entertaining, other friends were checking on me sending me instant messages. I feel like I am part of the United Nations, since my friends are from all over. Luckily, none of my personal friends from real life have had the virus, for which I am very grateful.

My neighbor, who is a docent at a local museum, is going to have a protegée, who she will be introducing to the team via a Zoom conference call. She was feeling uninspired regarding what to say and asked me for advice. I suggested the obvious, which is a few words regarding the person and their motivation for volunteering. Then she could also talk about how art is both a personal and a shared experience, particularly in the setting of a museum. Being a docent is a form of shaping the shared experience. 

Finally, I added that being a mentor is a way of experiencing art from another point of view and it is a very symbiotic relationship in which both parties and the patrons win. She seemed pleased with my suggestions; I was pleased that I remembered Mark Rothko's teachings.   

segunda-feira, 27 de julho de 2020

Version 2.084

I woke up with my face completely swollen. The right cheek was so big that partially obstructed my vision. My post-op instructions were that day three would be the heaviest swelling, but since the second day had been pretty bad, I did not consider it getting worse. I owe my mistake to the optimism with which I see my own abilities. But it is over now. Tomorrow, I start applying moist heat and things will continue progressing at their rhythm.

Since I am always a very good sleeper, I had not expected last night to be so difficult, so much so that I got up and even took a hydrocodone pill to see if it helped. I abhor opioids, as I have a phobia of becoming addicted, but desperate times, call for desperate measures. However, I did not feel any buzz or anything worth getting addicted to, thus I must conclude, as if there were any lingering doubts, that my body has a few "defects."

I spent part of my morning reading a very interesting piece in the Atlantic regarding the half-baked response of the United States to the Coronavirus pandemic. Although I am a bit turned off by the style, I tend to agree with the conclusion that the U.S. really did botch this one. Next time we elect a Republican President, we should all build a bunker just to be on the safe side. And make t-shirts with something funny like "third time we'll end the world for sure."

Anyway, it always strikes me as very interesting, when discussing these topics, that people talk about the U.S. and China, with some reference to Russia's old status as a super-power, but nothing is expected of the European Union. The E.U. used to have over one fourth of the world's GDP back in 2008 and in 2018 it was reduced to 18.6%, but considering the level of literacy, supposedly it should have some brain power, and yet it refuses to take up more responsibility for the world order. I don't get it.

The most interesting thing in the article is actually the part about artificial intelligence and how computers have gotten so deft at analyzing text in different languages. I am looking forward to the day when some very smart machine pours over all the Portuguese media and makes a report of the amount of deference to political power and lack of critical thought that gets published. Of course, when that happens, the political parties and the citizens are not going to come across very pretty. At least, history will finally be set straight.

domingo, 26 de julho de 2020

Version 2.083

I first came to the U.S. almost 25 years ago, as an F-1 student. The classes did not seem too difficult, but the way students engaged with the professors and even schoolwork was completely different. Almost all the classes required some sort of research paper, when you'd go to the library, find the information and write about it. It was all a lot more creative. The teachers didn't tell you what to do and they mostly focused on how you should do it--form mattered a lot more than ideology. Anyway, I really enjoyed the process.

Then there was living in the U.S., having to manage money, working a part-time job, having friends from all over the world, many of whom I still keep in touch with. We also had to be involved in the community. I was Judicial Board Co-Chair and Co-President of the Diversity Group in my residential hall. All of us were extraordinarily different, and yet each of us contributed something to make it work as a community.

The older students served as mentors, people checked on each other, we'd borrow each other's computers, which back then were not as ubiquitous as now. When there was a holiday or a break, American students would invite the international students to go home and meet their families. And there was always something interesting going on: concerts at coffee shops, movie night, bar crawls, trips to the lake to watch shooting starts in October, or to go skinny dipping...

I cannot help but feel sadness for all the international students whose lives have been led astray by the pandemic, now that ICE has chosen to not allow international students to stay in the U.S. if their classes are online. Studying here is so much more that just having classes. It is truly finding yourself and becoming an adult. I hope these young people can get back to their lives soon.

sábado, 25 de julho de 2020

Version 2.082

The whole day has been a blur, but I feel fairly well. I was not completely sleep during surgery, but I had taken some pills before to relax me, so I felt rather lethargic as we got to the office. Then I got IV sedation and the rest of the morning felt like a stream of going in and out of consciousness. On the way home, I got a milkshake from Wendy's. I never eat fast feed, so that was interesting.

I slept most of the afternoon. It feels like living in a bubble, with its own schedule and there is some comfort in feeling safe in your little bubble when you are not at your best. My doctor left me a voicemail at 6:30 PM to make sure I was feeling well and to call his cell phone should I need anything, while the office was closed.

The last painkillers I took were this morning, so I am debating whether to take more tonight. I suppose it would be important to take them so that the night goes by smoothly. I think I'll do just that.

sexta-feira, 24 de julho de 2020

Version 2.081

The other day I had an argument with a Portuguese friend. It is not often that I have arguments with my friends, so he should consider himself lucky that I care enough to argue. I don't even remember what got us started, but I remember how we overcame the argument. I wanted to know what he would do if he had lived during the dictatorship. Would he have been critical, would be just live his life and not raise much hell. He couldn't tell me what he would've done.

It is these questions that haunt me sometimes, but I would like to believe that I would not stay quiet and I would fight for what is right. It is not a question of us defending our rights; it is also a responsibility. Past generations have fought for our right to free speech, our right to receive an education, our right to vote, etc. None of these things were trivial and we should not take them for granted. But we should take what we were given and preserve it for others.

History repeats itself, but it does not repeat itself in exactly the same way. A few years from now, people will look at some of the current governments and will see new forms of authoritarianism. I hope someone will ask on which side of the fence people stood, in particular on days like today.

quinta-feira, 23 de julho de 2020

Version 2.080

There is a frog or toad outside begging for sex. I suspect that he wants to use the water fountains as a tadpole maternity without my permission. I hope he doesn't get laid, at least here, or I shall spend the rest of the pandemic taking care of tadpoles.

Apart from being very busy at work as I prepare to take some days off, I feel like nothing worthy of attention is going on in my life. Well, I can complain about the two books that I purchased online from Bertrand, which have been stuck in Lisbon, under the care of CTT, for the last 6 days, tracking number EE718633271PT. When did I purchase the books? Ah, that was July 3, but one had to be ordered from the publisher, so that delayed everything. At this point, I am wondering if they'll ever make it.

On July 6, I also bought a The Portrait of a Lady, via Bookdepository; that too has yet to arrive, but it's supposed to come all the way from Australia. It was dispatched on July 12, so maybe all my books will arrive at once. That would be interesting. But I hope the employees who are handling both orders are safe.

quarta-feira, 22 de julho de 2020

Version 2.079

It appears there are a lot of people in Portugal who are happy that PM Costa pimped up quite a bit of money from the EU to spend on the "recovery." This is not recovery: the money at stake is insufficient to cover the total losses for the economy, some of the money will have to be paid back, and, as has been evidenced in recent history multiple times, a big chunk of the money will be wasted in corrupt deals we will hear about 10 years from now.

Thousands of citizens will die, in the meantime, because the government has decided that the best course of action is to double down on the mistakes it has already made. Anyone who is not a moron should have realized that, at this point, the priority has to be to control the number of cases and deaths and that has to be done for real and not by cooking the numbers.

It's very easy to do:
  1. make everyone wear a mask, just like everyone has to wear a seatbelt; stop with all the "you should wear a mask, but we can't make you wear a mask because we're not a dictatorship." It is a lie, you can force people to wear masks.
  2. educate people on personal hygiene--wash your hands, don't touch your face
  3. practice social distancing: reorganize public transportation, promote extended working schedules
    • people should work in shifts of six or five hours and allow businesses to stay open for two or three shifts, that helps with unemployment, but it also allows businesses to spread fixed costs over more hours, which should increase the number of visiting customers
    • the shorter working day would also be helpful for taking care of loved ones and children, as adults could rotate their schedules and allows for fewer people in public transportation at any given time
    • promote work from home arrangements if possible

You can't just state that the country can't handle confinement again expecting people to do the right thing on their own. There are plenty of nutty people outside of Portugal who can visit and spread infection or who can visit and take infection. The system is too porous and while the Portuguese government has the Portuguese media wrapped around its finger, not all of the international media is under control. Plus, there are plenty of foreign governments eager to reciprocate on the insults they receive from the Portuguese authorities.

Furthermore, it delays the recovery because Portugal will be put under travel restrictions as it has happened before. How many times can you make the same mistake before you realize that "Geez, that was stupid!"

terça-feira, 21 de julho de 2020

Version 2.078

Today, I finished watching "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society" for the second time. I had seen it before, but had completely forgotten about it, so much so that upon reading the synopsis, I still had no idea. It felt like I had never seen it and, yet, I knew that I had. Anyway, I refreshed my memory and it felt like it was a very adequate film for our current travails.

There is a scene in which the main character is at a party after the war is over and she feels disoriented, given the stark contrast between life during war and life after war. When the pandemic started, I spoke to someone who was telling me that he did not know how we would rebound. I replied that we are wired to overcome adversity; if we weren't we would not have made it as a species, case in point childbirth.

The way things are progressing is a lot more dire than I had hoped. When the weather changes and winter bugs are out in full force, many of us will be fighting for our lives. I just don't see how we can avoid it. Even with the vaccine, there will be those who will refuse to take and it certainly will not be effective for all. I always had my vaccines on time and I ended up getting several of the diseases covered: measles, chickenpox, rubella. The one thing I don't usually get is the flu, but I am a bit obsessive-compulsive about not touching door handles and other things many people touch.

But we still have months to go, which reminds me that I need to read Robert Frost...

segunda-feira, 20 de julho de 2020

Version 2.077

I should have been in bed by now, as I set the alarm clock for 5:30 AM, but I remembered that there is a comet visiting us, so I drove to Shelby Farms to try to see it. You can hardly see any stars due to all the light pollution from the city. It is depressing.

My friends and I had talked about taking a trip to Marfa, TX, this fall for our annual get-together. Besides all the art, one of the activities of interest was to see the Milky Way. The trip ended up being set aside because it was too far for some of them, but, still, I would like to go. Maybe with a smaller group.

Next spring, it will be the 25th anniversary that I went to the Grand Canyon on a road trip and then we decided to also go to Las Vegas. I have never seen so many stars as I saw on that trip crossing the Arizona desert. I would like to go again, but everything is so uncertain. I don't even know if I will be alive. Anyway, that's probably too depressing to be thinking about it now, right before going to bed.

I made peach cobbler again today. It is the third time that I have done it this summer. I had never done it before, but it is quite gratifying. I let the peaches soak in sugar, lemon juice, and cinnamon and I realized that, for me, that's how summer tastes like: peaches and lemon.

The next few days will be a bit hectic, as I will be taking next week off to recover from my surgery on Friday. I need to plan ahead the food that I will be eating and cook it beforehand. I hope I will be able to continue writing. The last time I started a daily journal, I ended up getting very sick with some sort of food poisoning and that got me off track.

Reading and writing, that's what I am planning on doing for therapy. I shall leave the arithmetic for The Sundays and for when I return to work.

domingo, 19 de julho de 2020

Version 2.076

For the second day in a row, the United States had more than 70 thousand new cases of Covid-19. In Nueces County, in Texas, 85 children younger than one year old tested positive. On one hand, it is completely insane and had to comprehend the magnitude of the disaster; on the other hand, after all we have been through, we know enough to make informed decisions, thus there has to be personal responsibility. It is survival of the fittest after all.

I stayed mostly home, but I stopped by the frame store to pick up some art work that I had left to be framed. Alas, not everything was finished, even though the receipt indicated that it should have been done by 7/13. It is rare that something like this is late, but now with the pandemic we must be understanding.

During the day, I tried to read, but I did not get very far in my stack of books.Outside it was really hot and it became uncomfortable to stand even in the shade. This evening, I spent almost two hours speaking Portugal on the phone with a friend. It had been a while since I exercised my tongue. I did OK and I don't recall forgetting vocabulary, but I must be vigilant. I'm falling asleep now, so the trouble is keeping up with the English.

sábado, 18 de julho de 2020

Version 2.075

A bit over an hour ago, it was announced that Representative John Lewis, an icon of the Civil Rights movement, has died at 80 years old. This week, we also learned that Ruth Bader Ginsburg is battling cancer again, but she continues serving on the Supreme Court, while on chemotherapy.

One of my neighbors has a sign on her lawn with the text of the First Amendment and I thought it worthy to take a photo and post it on Instagram. A Portuguese friend of mine commented on that photo that the Founding Fathers were very wise, but where were their political offspring today. If one reads American history, two things transpire: (1) it is not as pretty as some people think, and (2) some people are good, others are bad.

Today, we still have people that are willing to sacrifice their life and livelihood for the common good. There are always people who rise to the occasion.

sexta-feira, 17 de julho de 2020

Version 2.074

"A tua fama longe sua e mais depressa a má do que a boa." That's one of the Portuguese sayings that I used to collect, writing them down in a notebook, which I started in eighth grade. I am often reminded of the sayings, as they are cautionary tales, almost, although some are contradictory. But this one is appropriate today, as an American friend told me about something that he heard from a Portuguese friend. His Portuguese friend has a wife that works at a company that received government support because of Covid-19; however, her boss has not paid her a salary for about three months.

I told my friend that it would be very easy for the Portuguese government to find wrongdoing in the disbursement of Covid-19 aid, as they could cross-check the names of the companies that received aid with the employee income taxes that the company reports to the government, but I suppose such is not being done. I am a slightly annoyed that the Ministry of Finance finds the resources to harass me for money I do not owe and, yet, does not give a flick about tax evasion of people who actually owe money and also commit fraud.

There was a funny picture on Facebook today. Apparently, a Portuguese minister was inaugurating some recycling bins. Someone needs to call Donald Trump and make that suggestion. I am certain he'd be all over it.

quinta-feira, 16 de julho de 2020

Version 2.073

There is a sense of disbelief that assaults me every once in a while. These times that we live are so out there, once must wonder if it is reality. Sometimes, when I begin to question if I might be sick with the virus, I inhale deeply to see if my sense of smell is still intact. Perhaps feeling and being clean these days is of no use, as being able to smell body odor at all times could possibly be of comfort. I don't know.

I went to the dentist today to do impressions of my teeth. I was the first one to arrive after lunch. I always feel so much better when I arrive at an office after it had been closed for a while. It gives me a sense of having an extra layer of security, but I am known to overthink everything to probably unhealthy levels, so much so that, when I find mistakes, I sometimes wonder if my brain is working properly.

A few minutes after I arrived, a family came in: a mother and her two children a boy and a girl. The little girl, maybe 5 years old, followed her mother, but her mask was down and I almost wanted to tell her to put it on. She did after I thought of doing so. She probably looked at me and saw panic in my eyes. That poor child.

The world is broken. We became overconfident and let go of our guard. We are paying for being complacent.

quarta-feira, 15 de julho de 2020

Version 2.072

I spent a big chunk of my day at the periodontist, where I had an appointment at 7:20 AM. I left about three hours later. Yesterday, they had emailed me a questionnaire to fill out before I went it, but today they did not ask any questions. After I parked, a receptionist came to the car and was going to check my temperature and have me fill out some paperwork in the car, but then told me that I could go in.

In hindsight, I should've stayed in the car until they were ready for me, but since the office had just opened, I figured it was not too risky to be in there for a few more minutes. Plus, I had a fabric mask with an air-conditioner filter cutout as an insert, which is actually better than the masks other people were wearing. But at some point, I did become too anxious as other people started arriving and asked if I could wait outside.

I am scheduled to have surgery on July 24 and my treatment will last about 9 months. Nine months and I get no baby... The story of my life. Then later in the day, I started to wonder if my doctor will become ill. Then how am I going to finish treatment? I'd better not get my imagination get the best of me.

Then, in the afternoon, I had my counseling session. My counselor is going to refer me to long term therapy. I'm supposed to start working out again and try to be more active, but also more mindful. My homework is to do some of the relaxation and mindfulness exercises. I also need to call one of my neighbors who does personal training at home, to see if she'd like to work with me. And I need to start doing yoga again. Of course, none of this applies during the recovery period from the surgery.

It feels strange to be planning things, but it's the new normal for now.

terça-feira, 14 de julho de 2020

Version 2.071

Perhaps I overthink my existence, but I have always had that tendency, as I obsess a bit over the right side of history. There is a good side and, so far, using Steven Pinker's ideas, the existence o progress shows that things do get better over time. Those would be comforting thoughts were it not for the fact that many times when there is a big change, it was paid dearly with someone's life.

One of the theories that explained Portugal's poverty after World War II was indeed the fact that it did not participate in the war effort, so there was no need to rebuild anything: no destruction, no creation. Yet, it is not necessarily true that the death of many was avoided, as if one looks at the mortality rates in the country after World War II, they were much worse than in other countries that had been in the war.

I suppose that such could be a consequence of the demographics themselves of being vs. not being in a war, as in a war scenario many of the weaker people do die, but also many more young men die as they are, or rather were, perceived as strong and better soldiers than other demographics. There is some sort of higher moral in offering the strongest ones in a population to face the highest risk and, in doing so, trying to protect the weak.

That is in stark contrast to what happened during the dictatorship, as infant mortality was quite high and life expectancy was also so low. So the sacrificed ones were mostly the children, pregnant women, and the elderly. I must conclude that we did bear the burden of death, but we got nothing good in return for it: certainly not as much progress as other countries, and poverty continued rampant throughout the country.

Maybe I am mistaken, these things are hard to tell this early on, but it feels that this pandemic is going to be one of the most important events of the 21st century. This is where we pay the price for the progress that is to come, that is, if we do pursue a path of progress. The current government's attitude feels like it is paving the way for the price to be paid, but no progress to occur.

Portugal's diplomacy is nonexistent. Diplomacy is an art where two different parties try to achieve a mutually beneficial solution. Insulting other countries is not a recommended strategy. It is, however, reminiscent of the way many Latin males treat their female partners: like shit, which is a way of showing how much they care. One must live in the expectation of make-up sex, I suppose.

segunda-feira, 13 de julho de 2020

Version 2.070

I am always sorry to see the weekend go. Since May of last year, rather than taking long vacations, I had been spending my time on shorter trips over long weekends. It is probably the wrong approach to use up my vacation in this way, as weekend trips mean that I hardly have any idle time when I don't do anything. Instead, I am always on the move, or planning something. A rather hectic lifestyle, even if the weekends are spend on enjoyable things. Then the other disadvantage is that you never really disconnect because you are always getting back to work. Thus, in hindsight, I should have spent a couple of weeks in D.C. last February. Oh well...

For this weekend, I had intended to work on being more aware of my cognitive biases, at the request of my counselor, but I failed to get around to it. Instead, I read quite a bit, which was also one of my goals when I started working with a counselor, as I was having trouble concentrating on things beyond work. I finished the third volume of Miguel Torga's diary and I started "Não percas a Rosa."

I also started another book called "How to Find Love in a Bookshop." I have no idea why I bought this book a while back, although if one thinks about bookstores, one thinks of love, since I love books and bookstores, and that seems like a good enough reason. I started reading it simply because I can give the book away once I read it, although it is a Penguin book. I am on page 62 out of 339. Not bad for a single sitting. I also have another one of these called Paris by the book. I know, the title is lame.

The cardinals have been trying to mate in the garden, so the two of them kept going back and forth, while talking to each other. I realized how ignorant I am because I have no idea how these creatures sleep. It seems the nest is just for babies, but I cannot figure out their routine outside of that. I shall have to do some research on it. The female seems to be a lot more in-your-face than the male. The male would check on the humans, but the female really got close to see if we made any sudden moved that could be perceived as threats. I just held my breath and pretended not to care.


domingo, 12 de julho de 2020

Version 2.069

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

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

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

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

sábado, 11 de julho de 2020

Version 2.068

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

sexta-feira, 10 de julho de 2020

Version 2.067

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

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

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

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

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

quinta-feira, 9 de julho de 2020

Version 2.066

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

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

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

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

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

quarta-feira, 8 de julho de 2020

Version 2.065

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

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

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

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

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

terça-feira, 7 de julho de 2020

Version 2.064

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

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

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

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

segunda-feira, 6 de julho de 2020

Version 2.063

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

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

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

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

domingo, 5 de julho de 2020

Version 2.062

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

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

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

sábado, 4 de julho de 2020

Version 2.061

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

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

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

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

sexta-feira, 3 de julho de 2020

Version 2.060

Viola Liuzzo. Remember that name.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

quinta-feira, 2 de julho de 2020

Version 2.059

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

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

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

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

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

quarta-feira, 1 de julho de 2020

Version 2.058

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

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

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

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

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