quarta-feira, 30 de setembro de 2020

Version 2.149

We are stuck between a rock and a hard place. If there is any take away to be had from the first Presidential debate it is that Joe Biden is a terrible candidate. He is too old, lethargic, and his tongue gets tied in knots. Trump is a compulsive liar, but he has spent his whole life swindling people, so he's very good at it. 

Plus, the standard rules do not apply to Trump: he lies and contradicts himself like it's nobody's business. He goes from saying that the Spring shutdown was a necessity and saved a ton of people to affirming with great conviction what a big mistake shutdowns are. Biden can't even connect the dots and push back.

At another time, Trump prods Biden to admit that he's planning on packing the court, i.e., increasing the number of Justices in the SCOTUS--he cannot, only Congress has that power. Biden coyly tries to get out of it. Then when Trump is asked about the election ending up in the courts, he admits that he is packing the courts as much as he can, since Obama left a bunch of openings left to fill. And, yes, he is counting on SCOTUS to give him the election.

Perhaps Biden's funniest moment was when he called Trump a clown, after which he immediately apologized. He should have owned it. He should've said "You're a fucking clown and people are dying because of how incompetent you are!" There, go for the kill, surprise your audience and you adversary! Don't act like a little boy who got caught with his hand in the cookie jar.

I blame Barack Obama and Michael Bloomberg for our little conundrum. One because he could've convinced Biden to not run; the other because he should've known Biden was not up to par. If this is skill in scouting talent, then how the heck have these two done so well? 

Anyway, the most interesting thing about this election is wether the SCOTUS will agree to decide on the election if it gets appealed. I don't think John Roberts wants to politicize the court even further.

terça-feira, 29 de setembro de 2020

Version 2.148

 I cannot fathom why anyone thinks that preventing domestic violence has to be done in the Civics class curriculum. It reminds me of how Texas decided to fight teen pregnancy via teaching sexual abstinence in schools. They ended up with one of the largest teen pregnancy rates in the country. Did anyone do any study showing that talking about domestic violence in school prevents it from happening?

Then there are the side effects for the children that come from families in which there is domestic violence. What is expected of them and how should they feel? It almost seems cruel that these kids have to live in problematic households and then they go to school, a space that should be a safe haven for kids, and they get to hear how unfit their parents are, as if they did not know that already.

Will the classmates who know that that child's parents hurt each other ridicule and humiliate them? And what if the child acts on what she learned at school and tries to intervene at home, how well is that going to go? Is there a chance that the child might put herself at risk?   

But there are other aspects to consider, like sexual preferences. Will the curriculum teach how to do sadomasochism in a safe manner? Or will it ignore it entirely? What a can of worms...

segunda-feira, 28 de setembro de 2020

Version 2.147

From the looks of my taxes, it appears that I am a billionaire. Mr. Trump, billionaire extraordinaire, only paid $750 dollars in income taxes. I, on the other hand, have paid at least 35 times that, thus I must conclude that I make way more money than our billionaire-in-chief. Yes, the NYT has finally gotten their hands of Mr. Trumps taxes, but it does not seem like it will make much of a difference. People are not going to care.

My weekend was a bit blah, as I was not feeling it. I started several projects, but did not complete any, although some of them do require a bit of time to complete, but organizing a couple of kitchen cabinets could have been completed, were it not for the fact that I also started to dismantle the garden and organize the bathroom cabinets. But then as I browsed through my photos, I did realize that it took me well over three years to organize the house in Houston, so I still have time to break that record, plus this house is bigger.  

Luckily, my neighbor came by right after dinner and we chatted for a bit. I don't know how she can be so chipper all time.

domingo, 27 de setembro de 2020

Version 2.146

A couple of days ago, I saw a second Biden sign in the neighborhood: Veterans for Biden. I'm a bit curious to see which neighbors will put signs up. For a while now, a couple of other neighbors have signs: one with the text of the First Amendment to the Constitution; the other one with the names of victims of police violence, like Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, and the text "let justice roll like water." There is no doubt in my mind that these times are going to go down in history as a follow up to the Civil Rights Movement.

The election is in 38 days, but I will vote early. A lot of us will and, given how engaged everyone is, I think the voter turn out will be pretty good. Of course, so many people have moved because of the pandemic that it will be really hard to make predictions. 

When I opened Tumblr, this morning, I saw a poem by Carlos de Oliveira, so I went online and bought a book in AbeBooks of Uma Abelha na Chuva. Google also found a DVD of the film, so I bought it, too. It’s really hard to find Portuguese movies online. So that was almost $130 that I spent. Then I went on Etsy to see if they had Faraboult wool lap blankets in blue and found one which I bought. Not bad for not leaving the house. 

During the afternoon, Julian and I did a bit of shopping. He likes to go to Home Depot and TJ Maxx and we also stopped by Home Goods. I’m not sure what marked the occasion, but there sure were a ton of people out and about and the stores seemed to have refreshed their inventory.

sábado, 26 de setembro de 2020

Version 2.145

We said goodbye to Justice Ginsburg today. Gail Collins has a piece on The New York Times that RBG "knew something about the unreliability of happy endings." I think that this was a good ending for our Notorious RBG. The circumstances of her death almost garantee a new generation of engaged fighters.

Small children got to know about her and learn not only what she accomplished, but also what we need to strive for. Their parents took them to pay respect to Justice Ginsburg. This is the most reliable way that we can move forward and who knows what the world will be like 50 years from now because of what we went through over the past 10 days.

This week I spoke with a friend who is originally from another country and who was telling me how, before the election of Donald Trump, people would tell him how America had changed with the election of a black man, how the election of a woman would foment the change further. These were not American people, of course, but it seemed like they looked at the U.S. as a beacon, a role model. But now, he continued, it was like we had moved back decades.

One has to recognize that one of the accomplishments of the United States is that of inspiring people all over the world of the possibility of change and then there's the iconic happy ending, which is the norm in American film, but the theme of struggle is also as prevalent. Obama was not elected to succeed Bill Clinton; he was elected to succeed George W. Bush.

sexta-feira, 25 de setembro de 2020

Version 2.144

It has been raining for two days and I do not recall September being this dreary in Memphis, but I am not that fond of this month anymore. Julian and I did manage to walk this morning as he would not let me work; luckily the rain had stopped momentarily. The evening walk was aborted. As soon as he realized it was raining, he refused to go out. It is always amazing how effectively we train animals to enjoy the finer things in life.

The most interesting event of the day was President Trump saying that, should he lose the election, he will refuse to step down because he believes the election is rigged against him. To this Mitch McConnell, who is the GOP majority leader in the Senate, and other GOP notables responded that a peaceful transition of power is the backbone of democracy. It's what makes America America, and not Belarus, as Mitt Romney put it.

Ever since the impeachment, my impression is that the GOP wants to get rid of Trump, but they need to do it in such a way as to not throw the baby with the bathwater. Their main strategy is to alienate Democrats as much as possible, so as to incentivize election participation. They will help Trump finish the term, but they will not help him win the election. The Democrats play their part in the game.

For example,a massive stimulus to help with the pandemic was passed ealy on in March, not only to prevent the economy from sliding too much, but also to give ample time for it to run out ahead of the election. Now some, including Fed Chair Powell, argue that more fiscal stimulus is needed, but Congress cannot reach an agreement: Democrats in the House of Representatives want well over two trillion dollars, which would add quite a bit to debt; Republicans in the Senate only allow less than a trillion dollars, so a skinny bill was voted on and it did not pass; the President would settle for something in between, as long as it included more checks to be sent out with his name on them to help him win the election.

The strategy is to not reach an agreement, blame the other party for being too resolute in their stance, while both parties swear that they want what is best for the country, but disagree on what is best for the country. It is all theatrics, especially now that they know the pandemic can be managed, as New York, which was the hardest hit state as had relative sucess after starting off witha a massive failure.

We are back to what is essentially America: the reason why you pay less in taxes here is that more of the burden of managing risk falls on the individual. At this point there is enough information for people to make informed decisions; if they ignore the information or make poor decisions, there is no one to blame but themselves.

quinta-feira, 24 de setembro de 2020

Version 2.143

Well, if we can be sure of something is that Americans are preparing for the worst come election day. I keep getting messages on my cell phone asking me if I will vote Democrat in TX or if I'd like to donate to the party. Nobody cares about my vote in TN. I will not be donating any money this year, as I do not believe Joe Biden is a worthy candidate, but not voting or voting blank would clearly favor Trump. Thus I am under the same reasoning that made Álvaro Cunhal cover the candidate's face in the ballot while voting for Mário Soares.

I had a disagreement this week with a friend -- well, it's an ex-friend now, but that was not my decision --, whom I accused of not knowing mathematics. The issue at hand was Chega and André Ventura. My personal opinion is that people give André Ventura too much credit and he rejoices in being the center of attention. As they say in show business bad publicity is good publicity.

But, as I said, my point is pure mathematics: the importance of Chega is amplified by the size of the abstention and also by blank votes, thus it makes no sense for people who abhor André Ventura to not vote in another party, as that would dilute Chega's results. If you want a ratio to come down, you have three options: reduce the numerator, increase the denominator or both. Reducing the numerator is out of your hands, since there will always be people who will vote for him, thus you are left with increasing the denominator, i.e. voting for someone else.

That people choose to stay home and not make their voices heard when they supposedly view the country in eminent danger because of Ventura says a lot about how much faith they have in elections. Or maybe people are not that concerned about the threat of Chega. Or even still they actually want Chega to succeed, but don't have the stomach to vote for the party. Portuguese history teaches us that change is effected by a very small minority, so it is only a matter of time until that minority appears. (My phone keeps chiming tonight on account of riots in Kentucky over the Grand Jury decision to not prosecute anyone on the death of Breonna Taylor. Two police officers were shot. Now we know what that Second Amendment is for.)

quarta-feira, 23 de setembro de 2020

Version 2.142

I am still wondering how I forgot to eat dinner this evening. I remember working until 5 PM, then Julian decided he would not let me work, so I took him on a walk. Upon our return, I went upstairs and worked some more. A couple of hours later, it hit me that I had not eaten. 

For the second day in a row, I have worked into the evening. I am trying to make progress toward a Monday deadline, but everything feels like it multiplies at the rate of mushrooms after a good rain. Tomorrow, I will try to slow down. I did eat a can of tuna and drank bone broth, not the most exciting food.

One of the friends that I visited during my vacation is coming to see me in October, which I am happy about. She and I have lots of stories together, like the one time when I went to pick her up at the airport and the radiator of my car broke at the door to the airport, in Houston, TX. I remember her walking so happy toward me, since this was her first outing after retirement, as I looked at her in disbelief, horrified with what had just happened. 

Since I have roadside assistance through my car insurance company, I called them to get a tow truck. I specifically said that I needed a flatbed truck because my car at the time required one, but they sent a different kind. I called again to rectify the issue to no avail. The airport security and the police were telling me I needed to vacate the premisses, but I could not get help to do so.

Finally, a police officer came over to talk to me and my friend. He was very shy, painstakingly so, and I was very riled up and ready to take on the world. I have no idea where these moods of mine come from, but they do. He gave me the business card of a man that had a flatbed tow truck, who I called and the man showed up. His name was David, my friend reminded me this weekend, and he was in his sixties.

David arrived and I went to the back of my car to get the hook to connect the front of the car to the cable. Then he told me that someone needed to steer the car and so I hoped in it and steered it into the flatbed as he pulled the car onto it. I got out of the car in my flip-flops, with a sense of accomplishment on my face, and this woman looks at me with her jaw dropped because I can steer a car into a flatbed truck in flip-flops. Then David commented how impressed he was with me.

My friend and I got into the cabin of the flatbed and sat next to David. Since I am short, I went in the middle, right next to him. It was a surreal conversation because he is a Trump supporter and this took place a few months right after Donald Trump got into office. The portion of the conversation that is still vivid in my mind is that David mentioned that he had a former boss who liked to take the employees to strip bars. 

Now, I have no problem with strippers or talking about strippers, but David was not attracted to strippers, which he felt the need to let me know. One thing that I dislike, though, is when men badmouth strippers, so I tend to defend them, which I did. My friend, who mostly stood quiet, tugged at my arm and tried to shut me up for fear that the Trump supporter would kick us out given my blatant disagreement with the man over strippers and other issues. 

The most tense part of the conversation happened when he asked me where I was born and, after I answered, he told me that Trump did not like foreigners and could try to kick me out of the country, so I'd better watch it. "I am American," I said, raising my voice. I ain't going anywhere and if anyone tries to kick me out, I'll raise hell, which I was doing come to think of it.

Our trip back to Bellaire from Bush International Airport took over an hour through dense traffic and there was never a dull moment, but the ebb and flow of the conversation landed us on what is the best place to get barbecue in Houston. David was very keen that I try his favorite restaurant, God knows why. 

We  finally arrived at my mechanic and David asked me if wanted to write my credit card number on a piece of paper that he would process the payment later.  I declined the offer and asked to speak to the administrative assistant over the phone to giver her the number. That I said no to the offer also seemed to impress him. 

Finally, we were done and ready to say goodbye. I was so ecstatic that, not only did I thank him profusely, I also gave him a hug, which left a puzzled look on his face, but I was on a roll. If it were today, he could sue me for sexual harassment over a hug. I locked my car and dropped off the keys in the mechanic's after-hours box and we called an Uber to take us home. 

Thinking about this adventure now is funny, but at the time it was a big hassle. I hope David has not died of Covid-19.

terça-feira, 22 de setembro de 2020

Version 2.141

I suppose it feels good to return to work and get a Skype message from one of my coworker saying that their glad I am back. For a Monday, today was not too bad. This is going to be a busy week, though. When I interviewed for this job, one of my future coworkers asked me if I would not be bored of doing the same thing over and over. 

One could say I do the same thing over and over, but I actually don’t, since market conditions are always moving, so I have to form a mental picture of how the system works and how it’s evolving, what information is available and when, what revisions of that information are likely, which sources are more reliable, how the different variable affect each other, etc. Some people find this boring; I find it exciting to try to model how the world works. I know that I am always wrong, but every mistake I make is a learning opportunity. 

My first day at home after my trip also felt good. I had organized the house before I left and the housekeepers came while I was gone, so the house was very inviting and relaxing. One of my American friends feels inspired when I post photos of my house and while I was visiting she and I brainstormed ideas on how to make her sunroom more inviting. 

I absolutely adore sunrooms and I have always wanted one, but have never been fortunate of living in a house that had one. This house is close enough; there are 14 windows on the ground floor and some of them almost occupy whole walls of rooms. The only non-glass exterior door is the one that goes to the garage.

Although I brought gifts for my neighbor, I have not gone to see her. On one hand, I was busy with work, but I also don’t want to talk to her because I’m afraid she might mention RBG. There are many horrible things about Trump, but the one that touches me more closely is the fact that I see first hand that some of the people that vote for him are good, decent people, who would help anyone in need, and yet they vote for a selfish man, who only helps himself and spares no effort to wreak havoc in the world. But it is not news that those who are more trusting are often the ones who more easily fall for con men.

segunda-feira, 21 de setembro de 2020

Version 2.140

 I drove back to Memphis today. I had meant to leave mid-morning, but lingered too long chatting with a friend in Fayetteville and it was a bit after noon when I left. Perhaps because it was Sunday and traffic was not as bad between Little Rock and Memphis, I managed to cross the Mississippi River by 5:30 PM. I only stopped once to get gas. 

Julian was super-excited when I picked him up and would not stop snorting. I think the pet hotel staff may have gotten him riled up on the way out. He calmed down later and it was funny to see him lie around his favorite spots around the house. This is truly his house. 

Since I did not stop the mail, my mailbox was almost full. I was very happy to find my updated voter registration confirmation, since I had asked for my address to be updated. Early voting starts October 14 and runs until October 29, so I will try to vote as soon as possible, although I may skip the first couple of days just to escape the crowds. 

Both in Oklahoma and Arkansas, I saw tremendous support for Trump. I did not see a single Biden sign in Stillwater, OK, which is a college town, thus tends to be more liberal. Payne County went for Trump in the last election and I do not expect anything different this time. Even in Oklahoma City I saw no support for Biden. 

Fayetteville, AR, also a college town had lots of signs supporting Biden, but the surrounding towns are more conservative. The rest of Arkansas was full of Trump signs along the highway. It did make me feel rather hopeless, but I suppose the Senate election will be even more important now.

domingo, 20 de setembro de 2020

Version 2.139

 It is almost midnight and while I do not expect to turn into a pumpkin, I am very tired. I started my trip back home and stopped in Fayetteville, AR, to visit friends and to get some plants for the garden that a friend of mine had set aside for me. 

My girlfriends are still hurting over the loss of RBG and the generation older than me feels vulnerable, which I thought interesting. That generation has the least to lose, reproductive rights are not an issue, workforce equality is irrelevant for those that are retired, and yet they feel vulnerable, as one of my friends told me. 

I feel mostly sorry that we have to go through this, but I have not doubt that we can continue fighting for change to continue. And now some sleep...

sábado, 19 de setembro de 2020

Version 2.138

We have lost an icon: Ruth Bather Ginsburg has died. Without a doubt this election is about to get uglier and the next four months, at least, will be even more divisive for the country. However, it is necessary to go through this so that we may come out stronger in the end. The only unknown we face is how long we will have to continue this fight.

I have serious doubts that Joe Biden will beat Donald Trump in the election. The economy is flooded with money, many people are better off during the pandemic than when things are normal. The ones that are indeed in dire straits do not vote, so their discontentment will bear no weight on the outcome.

But things will not settle there. If the Democrats gain the Senate, they will impeach the President. In fact, I would not be surprised if several Republicans vote to impeach the President. Nixon survived the election, but he did not survive his second term.

Over the near future, we will be consumed by the attempt to fill RBG's seat in the SCOTUS. Mitch McConnell, the leader of the Republican majority, has already announced that they will go ahead and try to vote on a nominee. Senator Lisa Murkowski, Republican from Alaska, has said that she will not vote, but who knows if she will follow through or if other Senators will follow suit. 

sexta-feira, 18 de setembro de 2020

Version 2.137

 After my hometown in Portugal, Stillwater, OK, is the place where I have lived the longest. Coming here 25 years after I saw it first does feel a bit strange. There is so much space and, especially now that more people are working from home and school is less full, it feels really bare. The city has developed more toward the west side, so the east part of town feels aged and half-abandoned. 

In front of the Post Office downtown, the grass has not been maintained, so I wonder if the city has been cutting back on services to make up for lost tax revenue due to the pandemic. I have made quite a few purchases, so my ex-father-in-law says that for sure the economy will recover after my visit.

I drove to Oklahoma City this afternoon and, to be on the safe side, I turned on the GPS on my phone. I don't know what is wrong with OKC, but the Maps app on the iPhone was constantly changing routes and trying to send me to the strangest places: first it told me to go through I-35, then it told me to exit on Memorial, after which it tried to send me to I-35 again. I finally just gave up on it. 

One of the consequences of having lived in so many places is that you tend to forget directions over time. I even forgot how far everything was. OKC is 70 miles away and it is common to drive that far just for work or, like I did, to have dinner with a friend. Many people gripe at Facebook, but I have to say that it has allowed me to stay in touch with or even find many of my old friends, like today's dinner date, who I had not seen in over 20 years. 

Hurricane Sally finally made landfall. The hotel where I was supposed to stay had minimal damage, but the front door got knocked down by the strong winds. The pier that had been recently rebuilt and was to be inaugurated yesterday was severely damage, with half of it breaking off. Tropical storm Vicky has been named, so the next storm to form will be called Alpha. 

quinta-feira, 17 de setembro de 2020

Version 2.136

 This morning, I went to the Balanced Coffee Co. downtown and had the most delicious vanilla latté with almond milk. I was surprised to find so many people inside, many of them without masks as they were eating or drinking. I just grabbed my drink, which was in a glass and sat outside. The doors were open and the space was rather open and large, so I am hoping that people were safe. 

My personal philosophy is that as long as we control the amount of time one spends in places with other people and keeps those encounters to a few short minutes, the risk of getting the virus is pretty small. Plus, I always have a mask on when around strangers, especially in enclosed environments. Once the temperature cools off, I will stop going to places like this; not that I go this much these days. 

Afterward, I stopped by the bookstore and found a few interesting things--I even bought a José Saramago novel, in English, of course. The bookstore was very quaint, and very pleasant to visit. Next door, there is an antique mall and I also stopped by. The strangest thing happened: while I was going around the different spaces, the store cat showed up and just threw herself at my feet. I confess that I am so used to having Julian do this that I forget other animals also do it.

For dinner, I visited with a friend and the more I talk to people, the more I am convinced that Mr. Trump will win gain. Nobody is enthused about Joe Biden, I have not even seen a single Biden sign, but on Perkins Road, there are a bunch of Trump make American Great signs. Needless to say that both my friend and I felt pretty bummed out that he may win again, but that seems to be the most likely scenario. He does not need that many votes, as he has the advantage of the geographic dispersion of the vote. 


quarta-feira, 16 de setembro de 2020

Version 2.135

 That hurricane Sally is a little beast. It has been parked on the Gulf for hours, movig at 2-3 miles per hour. If I had to guess, I'd say that Mobile, AL, will flood massively, but at least it has a much smaller population than Houston, TX. And to think that I was planning on being in that same area right now, but changed plans a day and a half before leaving. How many people in the past drove into hurricanes and lost their lives? I think of them,

My day was spent visiting Stillwater and it turns out that Garth Brook's old house was demolished, which made me sad. The city is almost an exercise of extremes, with very modern stuff sharing space with very old things and buildings. The Hideaway Pizza is still around and I really love their Mediterranean pizza, but I cannot have it because of the gluten. Hideaway has some of the best pizza in the world.

I also stopped by the Stillwater Mill and got some birdseed, a new feeder, and some phosphorus fertilizer for my hydrangea.Spent $147, but this kind of spending on birds only happens once a year, Tomorrow, I am planning on visiting a bookstore I found today, I an very psyched about it,

terça-feira, 15 de setembro de 2020

Version 2.134

 I left Memphis at 1 PM and drove about 800 Km west in less than 8 hours. I only made a couple of short stops for gas and a bathroom break in a rest area in AR. From Braga to Faro it is 600 Km and it takes a bit over 5 hours, so it seems to be pretty comparable in terms of speed. The speed limit in Arkansas has just been increased from 70 to 75 mph, so every time I saw a sign, I felt like I was driving in TX. Of course, TX has just increased their speed limit from 75 to 80 mph. Oddly enough, the Apple map did not show the updated speed limits.

Driving between Memphis and Little Rock is usually the most boring piece and this time was no exception, but even from Little Rock to Fort Smith was wicked this time. It’s unbelievable the amount of traffic across AR and then you get to Oklahoma and it’s like you’re in a different country. Well, technically, you’re in a different nation, the Cherokee Nation, which is a 7000 square mile territory in northeastern Oklahoma. Funny enough, during this trip, I noticed how many Native American names there are in OK. 

The sky was a weird shade of blue during the day and some of the people with whom I spoke suggested that maybe it was because of the fires in California and Oregon. It’s hard for people to understand just how massive the U.S. is, especially the bigger states. 

I feel extremely dehydrated, since I did not drink that much, just 24 fl. oz. of tea. Tomorrow, I must do better than that. 

segunda-feira, 14 de setembro de 2020

Version 2.133

I am on my one-week vacation, although I still have to take another six weeks of vacation before the end of May--it ain't gonna happen. It also does not feel very "vacationy" considering that my plans got cancelled, plus I don't feel comfortable traveling to big cities as of yet. Well, the glass is half-full: I am safe, which is something that the people on the path of hurricane Sally cannot be certain of. Tomorrow I will go west, to Oklahoma, so I will not be in the way of the storm and I will even skip the rainfall. Today I should have packed, but I just procrastinated and decided to cook instead.

My second package of Portuguese books arrived from Wook. It left Portugal on August 20, so it took about three and a half weeks. That's not bad at all, I suppose, considering that the first package took five weeks. Speaking of buying books, I think that on my trip, I may swing by Half Price Books in Oklahoma City. There used to be a bookstore that I really liked called Full Circle Bookstore, across from Penn Square Mall. I remember buying a Richard Feynman book there.

During my last year of the Ph.D. program, we had an apartment in OKC for a few months. I used to stay at the apartment during the weekends and stay at my in-laws, in Stillwater, during the week. I did not even finish unpacking the apartment, which was for the best, as I ended up moving to Fayetteville, AR at the end of May to start working June 1. Our favorite restaurant in OKC was La Baguette Bistro, which is owned by two French brothers. It has the best chocolate cake in the world, not that I can have any now. Well, I suppose I could, I'd just be sick after. We always had brunch on the weekend at La Baguette and there was this amazing waitress that we adored and we used to give her at least 30% tips.

One summer we went to the film series at the Oklahoma City Public Library and one of the films we saw was "The Stone Reader." It is still one of my favorite documentaries, even though I never got around to reading "The Stones of Summer," the book that it is about. But there is time, as I own the book and the documentary. I really enjoyed that summer and all the cultural activities we did.

domingo, 13 de setembro de 2020

Version 2.132

A few days ago, I booked five nights at the Lodge at Gulf State Park, in Alabama. The room was supposed to have a balcony with a view of the Gulf of Mexico, the park had walking trails and one could ride a bike. I figured that, since it was right after Labor Day, there would be fewer people than during the summer, the water would be a deep blue, I could have my meals outside or order room service and eat in the balcony, and since it is a state park, there were no commercial areas nearby, no noise, no unnecessary distractions. I could spend my days reading and staring at the horizon until I were utterly bored out of my mind.

There is a hurricane headead to my slice of paradise. Well, it will be a tropical storm when it lands and it's only a category one hurricane, but that's what it says now. What it said a few days ago was that there would be up to 50% chance of rain and that was it. So God knows what Hurricane Sally might end up being. I actually considered going until late this afternoon, but then my girlfriends freaked out that I'd be driving into a hurricane. Plus, I started thinking that my car might flood and my car is kind of new, as in a few months old, so I best not press my luck. Then there is also the color of the water: the Gulf will be brown, so the chances of me staring out into the deep blue are nil. And so I cancelled.

I tried looking for other places to go; places that had lots of water and were within reasonable driving distance, but there is nothing outside the hurricane area. I could make it a road trip and drive six hours, get a hotel room spend the night, then drive another six hours to get to a place on the Atlantic, spend a couple of nights, then drive back again in two days, but I don't want to do it because there's a pandemic and I don't really want to be around a bunch of people in a a bunch of places I have no desire to visit--at least not at this time. All I wanted was a few days to get my mind completely numb from being too bored.

I don't know where I am going. Not that that's any different from the rest of my life.

sábado, 12 de setembro de 2020

Version 2.131

One of my friends is very depressed, which I found out today, as I listened to a description of some of the same feelings that had assaulted me last May. I was lucky that my depression and anxiety manifested itself in physical ailments, like silent acid reflux and tightness in my back, so when I went to the doctor thinking that I was having heart trouble, as part of the initial check up, I was given a test to check on my mental health.

My physician diagnosed depression right away and I was imediately enrolled in a temporary counseling program that accompanied me for six sessions over the course of almost three months. It really helped me and I did not have any out-of-pocket expenses, as this was covered by my insurance. When the pandemic started, my employer ramped up the mental healthcare coverage of our insurance.

As I was thinking about my own depression I opened up my healthcare app and looked up the notes that my physician and then my counselor made last May and June and it looks pretty bleak: "anxiety with depression" and then "episode of recurrent major depressive disorder, unspecified depression episode severity." It is hard to read this and think that it applies to me, as it looks like a death sentence and I suppose that for some people it is.

The brain plays tricks on you because in order to know that your brain is not working well, it would be helpfult to have a brain that worked well enough to recognize the problem, but therein lies the rub. It's not like when one has an unwell arm or leg that your functioning brain recognizes right away that there is something amiss. The unwell brain is a totally different animal. I am still digesting my friend's condition and how I can help or at least suggest help.

On a more cheerful note, I finished Esther Perel's "Mating in Captivity," which led me to think about all the books that I have read this year, plus the ones that I have started. I suppose my main problem is that I am a grazer, I always start a bunch of things and so it takes time to finish when your always starting on something else. But I have been trying to improve and if I feel like I am too stuck on fiction, I move on to non-fiction, which I can read faster.

My year so far:

  • Bettencourt, Pedro Alves. "Telefona-me Porque Não Tenho Saldo"
  • Dacosta, Fernando. O Botequim da Liberdade
  • Hammersley, Toni. "The Complete Book of Home"
  • Henry, Veronica. "How to Find Love in a Bookstore""
  • Perel, Esther. "Mating in Captivity"
  • Schiele, Egon, Arthur Roessler. "Egon Schiele en Prisión. Notas y Dibujos"
  • Santos, Hugo. "O Resto do que Ficou"
  • Scharer, Whitney. "The Age of Light" (Audiobook)
  • Torga, Miguel. Diário III
Currently Reading:
  • Correia, Natália. "Não Percas a Rosa"
  • Shafak, Elif. "The Forty Rules of Love""
  • Soares, Bernardo. "The Book of Disquiet" (Audiobook)

sexta-feira, 11 de setembro de 2020

Version 2.130

With the Labor Day weekend last Monday, many things got delayed one day, including trash pick up and the weekly export sales report. I am curious about the numbers tomorrow, but soon enough they'll be out. Another thing that is out is Rage, the new Bob Woodward book. I have not read it, nor do I plan to read it. It is too depressing, plus I already know the President is unfit.

I wasn't expecting another book after Fear, but I suppose that one did not have the desired effeect, so he wrote another one. It will not make a difference; people are too set in their ways and they rationalize. Plus, they also have selective memory: they conveniently forget how big the deficit is or that debt was already increasing before the virus. But the ultimate goal of this new book is certainly to influence the upcoming election. I suppose that from now until the election, a lot more books like this will come out. What a weird reality we live in...

quinta-feira, 10 de setembro de 2020

Version 2.129

After a hiatus of about 40 years, I played pinball today. Rah-rah, yay for me! My neighbor has an old 1964 pinball machine that she had repaired and it was delivered today, so I took a coffee break after lunch and she let me play. I told her and her husband that the last time I had played had been in Portugal, when I was a child and my parents would go to a restaurant in Bairrada where they had roasted suckling pig, with really crisp skin. Her husband was very interested in trying out leitão. I should have showed them a picture, but it looks kind of weird.

I don't know of any Latino grocery stores around here, like real ones, where they sell prepared meats. They usually have roasted pig, but it's not the same as leitão. For starters, there is no crackling and the seasoning is different. Still, it is quite good. I used to buy it all the time when I lived in Houston because my house was within walking distance of a Latino supermarket.

The campaign for the Presidential election seems to have started in Portugal. It is absolutely appaling how the media carries Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa. This is not free press; it's a Public Relations machine. Then we have to put up with the public displays of affection between the Prime Minister and the President. Do they jack each other off during their meetings? If they don't, they sure look like they'd like to.

I would like Portuguese women to explain to me why they vote for socialists. I say this because the Socialist Party still has not supported a woman for President, but I suspect it must be the same reason why American women vote for Donald Trump. When I say that I'd like a woman President, many of my friends always ask if a competent man isn't better than an incompetent woman. The underlying bias of that question is that men are competent by default, but women have to prove that they are competent to get the job. I present you evidence otherwise: Donald Trump and Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa. I rest my case.

quarta-feira, 9 de setembro de 2020

Version 2.128

I have been thinking about an episode that happened a couple of days ago. At the insistence of my dog, we extended the walk a little bit longer and we ran into one of my neighbors, who happens to have a crush on me. And is married. In the beginning, I thought that maybe I was being overly sensitive, since I have a bit of paranoya about misleading people, so I tend to be very cold when in person. But then I showed the messages that I had received to a friend and she agreed with me that they were inappropriate. For the most part, when talking to the gentleman in question, I pretend to be stupid--well, I am sure that there are plenty of people who think I am stupid, so I am just being purposelly so.

So my dog and I were walking and we run into the neighbor, who I had been avoiding, not even replying to his messages. He asked me how I had been, since he had not seen me in a while and I said that I had had surgery, so I had stayed mostly home. This is very much true because after my surgery, I was not allowed to brush my teeth for three weeks, so I had to use a powerful desinfectant that killed all the bugs, but also made my teeth completely stained. So I did not seek social engagement with everyone, although I still walked my dog every day and even went to a neighbor's party, when my face was all bruised and my teeth stained. By chance, I never ran into this particular neighbor, which was just as well.

After I told him I had had surgery, he told me he hoped that I was doing well and then asked me if I had lost my mean streak. I played stupid and said that I did not understand, although it seems that he thinks that I am being mean by not replying to his messages. He jokingly asked again if I had lost my mean streak and then added 'Oh, I'm just kidding."

This is the part about social interaction that completely passes me by: the need to do small talk. I mean, I love to talk and sometimes I can't keep my mouth shut, which is saying something, but my conversations are driven by curiosity. Like when I talk to the Uber or Lyft drivers, how they started, what they did before, how they like it, their relationship with Uber/Lyft, the kind of music they listen to, etc. But I don't like the "how's it going. It's a great day. I haven't seen you in a while. Your dog is cute. Can I pet him?"

Luckily, my dog goes bonkers if people get too close to me and so he had just started to jump up and down to make himself appear larger that what he really is. Julian thinks that he has to protect me and I need to backoff so that he can take care of the threatening person or dog, so there's a two-way dance that he does: jump at me, so that I can stand back, and jump at the potential aggressor so that they keep away. This is kind of handy because that way, I have to keep a safe distance from other people and I also cannot linger too long.

And that's exactly how this conversation ended: my neighbor asked me if he could pet my cute dog and I told him no because my dog was too protective. And then I dragged my dog out of there and finished the walk. I was basically a bitch or mean. Whatever...

terça-feira, 8 de setembro de 2020

Version 2.127

 Today was Labor Day, but it actually felt more like a Sunday than a holiday. There were lots of people out shopping and enjoying the long weekend, which marks the end of the summer vacation season. Tradition says no white clothes after Labor Day, but that has gone out the window. 

Things are lopsided anyway, for example, lots of businesses have filed for bankruptcy, but my neighbor is the manager of a brand new discount store, which is officially opening on the 10th, but has had its doors open just for the sake of employee training and they were really busy today, despite no advertising that the store was open. People just see the parking lot full and customers walking in and they decide to check it out. And even though unemployment is high, it is hard for him to fill the open positions at his store because so many people apply, but do not show up for the interview.

On the election front, without the rallies, there isn't much visibility on what the candidates are saying, but what intrigues me is that I don't see much support for the President from the big GOP figures. It's as if there isn't much interest in helping Trump win. 

Twelve years ago, toward the end of the second Bush term, which also marked the beginning of the financial crisis, the White House staff just threw in the towel. The Bush Administration were so eager to leave, that they even discussed whether Obama could be sworn in before January 20. I have a feeling that something similar will happen after this election. 

Of course, one does not know who will win yet, but Trump no longer has the advantage of the surprise factor and now people  consider him a credible candidate, not just a joke with very little chances of winning. The last three Presidents all enjoyed two term appointments, but it is not the rule, so statistically speaking it would be a very long shot to have another second term. But who knows, 2020 vision isn't what it used to be.

But I am not complaining. Clorofila Azul will soon release a new album, so I will have something with which to entertain myself for a while.

segunda-feira, 7 de setembro de 2020

Version 2.126

The first notification I received on my phone today was a recommendation to read a tweet from a young man who says that, as a general rule, women in their 40s who are single or divorced and are alone are clearly alone because nobody wants them. Sometimes I wonder what the artificially intelligent think of me to send me this type of information, but I went ahead and read the discussion. After all, it's Sunday: some people read the Bible, I read Twitter. 

In the replies, quite a few women were upset that this guy would say such a thing; then there were the nice men who thought he was a fool. Both these two groups sounded like they were trying to convince the young man that he had made a mistake.

I thought it was really nice of the young man to state his opinion and quite useful to society. Of course, the one group who did not need the information were the women in their forties. It seems like they have been steering away from him already, which is probably best for both parties.

The rest of my day was full of ideas about finishing the decoration of the house. I hung two curtain  panels that I purchased yesterday at Pottery Barn, but I still need some hooks to hang the other two. I also decided to wash the curtains that Julian had marked and was really happy to have them come out perfectly clean. The only issue I ran into was that, after washing and drying, I had the lovely idea of using the steam cycle to remove wrinkles and I ended up shrinking them about 4 inches. Oops...

My industrious Sunday did not end there. I finally decided to put the collection of nudes on the east dining room wall. I went up and down the ladder to measure everything so many times that I kept thinking that that was a pretty good workout--my walls are slightly over 3 meters tall, which is about two Ritas. There is one piece that is probably one centimeter off, which I measured and then tried to eyeball a slight adjustment, but it is hardly noticeable.

What a difference it made in the space! I cannot stop looking at it and grinning because I am so happy. To kick it up a notch, I went on the Pottery Barn website and bought a leather covered bench to put under the dining room window. There was a 20% off coupon, but I still managed to spend almost $700 after tax and shipping and handling. It will be here late November/early December. Needless to say that I completely forgot about the virtual tour of the Dixon at 2 PM, which was rather unfortunate, but I will try to not miss the next one. I'll ask my artificially intelligent phone to remind me.

I barely read today, so my goal for tomorrow is to settle down and focus on my reading. Still, I got a few pages in of the Mating in Captivity, which I am reading on the iPad. As I started and turned the page, the iPad congratulated me for achieving my daily reading goal, which I assume has been set at three quarters of a page. I know that sometimes I get distracted, but even my most distracted self would not set such a low goal for myself. If anything, I would err on the side of being too ambitious, rather than self-condescending. 

Then a notification on my phone popped up saying that I had increased my screen time for the week in about two hours a day--that's because I've been reading a lot this week and it's an e-book. Little does Apple know that my job is all done on the computer or I'd blow the fuse on their artificial intelligence. 

domingo, 6 de setembro de 2020

Version 2.125

The U.S. seems to be open for business. Every time I venture outside, there are more people shopping. Even restaurants with patios are at full capacity, which I find surprising. The last time I ate in a restaurant was in March. My Memphis girlfriends had their monthly dinner a few days ago, but I skipped it again. The restaurant they went to had plastic bubbles surrounding the tables. I suppose that it's part novelty, part necessity, but it's amazing how quickly people adjusted and how swiftly all these products appeared.

Anyway, I went to thee Dixon Galleries and Garden today and really enjoyed the exhibit of the National Academy of Design collection. It was also nice to see the permanent collection, which is probably my favorite here in Memphis. A few days ago, the Dixon called asking if I was interested in renewing my membership, which I did, since I sometimes am a bit lazy and let it lapse. The museum is open to the public free of charge for a while, as a way of giving back to the community. On Sundays and Tuesdays, they also have virtual tours online, which I will try to do tomorrow. 

sábado, 5 de setembro de 2020

Version 2.124

Friday before Labor Day. We are all tired and concerned with the upcoming election. There is are many clouds hanging over us, as people have realized that we are in a catch-22. If Trump wins, we have four more years of demented government; if he loses, he will refuse to step down. 

One of the things that Americans are most proud of is the peaceful transition of power. That will become a myth after this year.  It it is too soon to fold, as anything is possible in America. Maybe the whole cabinet will resign before the election and spill the beans, who knows... Americans do the right thing, after they’ve tried everything else.

What is surprising is that one does not hear that many Republican politicians supporting the President. Today, I saw a Biden yard sign in my neighborhood, it was the first political sign that I have seen for this election. The cherry on top is that the neighbors are white. I will not be putting any signs up, but I’m curious to see who will. 

sexta-feira, 4 de setembro de 2020

Version 2.123

My neighbors had their yard sodded. I am hoping their underground irrigation system is operational now because twice I have had silt accumulate on the sidewalk in front of my house from them trying to figure out what’s wrong with lots of water coming down the sidewalk. 

They’re very nice people, but the silt is a bit of a pain. I don’t really want to complain to them about it because, a few months ago, they gave me all their hostas, which were probably worth several hundred dollars if I were to purchase such mature plants. 

On a whim, I bought trees for the garden: two dogwood and a mock-orange shrub. I really need to get my ducks in a row and do something, since the current garden layout stresses me out. I also need to call someone to redo the half bathroom, since it is still all torn up from the pinhole leak that was repaired in April, I think. I can’t believe it’s been that long...

I have been seriously thinking about taking a vacation sometime this month—I do not particularly care for September, so maybe a vacation will help it go away faster. At this point, my destination of choice would be the Alabama coast. I have never spent any meaningful time in Alabama, so it would be nice to learn something new. Plus, seeing the ocean again, even if it were just the Gulf, would be good for my disposition. 

During the week that I spent recovering from surgery, I managed to read a book, so I think I could probably read a couple or finish a few that I have started if I took some time off. My iPhone has such low expectations that it congratulates me on the first page I read, saying that I have met my reading goal for the day. Somehow this does not feel like artificial intelligence; it’s more along the lines of artificial naïveté. The other advantage of a vacation is that I really need to do something because, if I don’t, I start to have anxiety attacks, which reminds me, I need to schedule an appointment with a psychologist. 

I am looking forward to tomorrow, since this weekend will be long on account of Labor Day on Monday. It marks the official end of the summer season, the time of year when people start to focus on work and leave their white Summer clothes in the closet.

quinta-feira, 3 de setembro de 2020

Version 2.122

Yesterday, I was mean to someone named Walter. Walter is volunteering for the Democratic Party, sending messages to potential voters, so he sends this upbeat SMS asking if they can count on me to vote Democratic all the way down the ballot. I reply “No. Biden sucks.” Of course, he was volunteering on behalf of Texas and I’m no longer there, so my answer was very accurate: no, I will note vote Democratic in TX and, yes, Biden sucks big time. Then Walter asked if this was Rita and I replied “Rita is no longer in TX. An old white man is not a progressive candidate.” 

Later on, I realized that I need to be more careful with these messages because two of my girlfriends in TX are volunteering for Biden and, if I happen to be on their roster, I shall get in trouble. But it is true that I dislike candidate Joe Biden: it feels like I’m back in 1985, but there’s no cute Marty McFly to look at. Heck, I’d settle for Doc, at least Doc doesn’t come across as someone who is about to fall asleep. Which wrong turn in the universe did we take to end up here?

Anyway, since it is election season over here, I went and checked the election calendar for Portugal. It says that in September, we elect the “Conselho das Comunidades Portuguesas.” What the heck is that? We’re in September and I don’t see any news about it. How much money do these people cost taxpayers and who’s running? If only Portugal were a democracy with freedom of the press...

quarta-feira, 2 de setembro de 2020

Version 2.121

 I was born at the perfect time to know of the Carnation Revolution, but not really know the revolution or the period right before it. I was not taught about it in school because it was too recent and the dust was still settling. Every time my father and I broached the subject, he just thought it impossible that I knew nothing and he got very frustrated. 

There were several books about topics of the revolution at home, but I was never interested in reading them, as memorizing pop music lyrics, names of bands, actors, films, i.e., Anglo-Saxon culture was much more to my liking and I was very good at it. Then, with my mother, I never talked about politics. When I lived in Portugal, after I was old enough to vote, I forced my parents to vote in every election. “If you don’t vote, you don’t get to bitch,” I would tell them. Sometimes, they would vote for people I did not care for, but that’s how democracy works.

Lately, I have been more interested in the revolutionary period, but not in the sense of learning the official version, the one that gets printed in the history books. I am curious about what society was like, how good were the media, were the most educated people deferential and submissive, how did people rationalize the political context in which they lived, etc.

Perhaps my interest in these topics stems from a certain incredulity regarding the amount of idiotic things that Portuguese media do and transmit—the President of the Republic reduced to a pauper and lifeguard comes to mind. How can a society that is more educated, supposedly knows how to read and write, uses the Internet, manage to come across as utterly naive? 

I know the answer: look at America and Trump! Yes, let’s look at America and Trump. I have lost count of how many lawsuits have been brought against Trump and his businesses. The media has been relentless in criticizing him, people have taken to the streets to demonstrate against him. 

Well, people in Portugal also demonstrate against Trump. Why? Do the Portuguese not have their own causes to demonstrate against? Aren’t there people suffering with the pandemic? I could swear there are people needing urgent medical care whose name is on a waiting list that is several months or years long. What about those who get harassed by telecom companies? 

Ah, that reminds me. Today I got a postcard in the mail regarding a lawsuit in which I am a plaintiff. It turns out that one of my banks overcharged on ATM fees when people asked for their balance and I was one of those people. I actually remember that happening  so the card said there was a settlement, I was entitled to some money, and I did not need to do anything to receive it. It will come my way.

terça-feira, 1 de setembro de 2020

Version 2.120

As luck would have it, I found a miniscule caterpillar dangling from a tree, holding on from the tall branches by the thinnest silk thread. What a strange sight. I watched it contort itself, as if it were a circus trapezist, trying its best to climb up the thread, but it did not seem to be making much progress, although there was a little skein of white thread on its chest--do caterpillars have chests? 

I ended up grabbing the thread and carrying my newly found friend to the trunk of a tree, where it started to make its way up, treading quickly. It is a comforting thought to think that one of these days, the butterfly that crosses my path might be today's caterpillar.

The other exciting part of my day was working on the monthly supply and demand for Bangladesh. Sometimes I get mesmerized by the numbers and how well one metric corroborates another. It feels like you are looking at some dark secret of the universe that things do need to make sense. 

While reminiscing about my academic life in high school, I was reminded that in ninth grade, I did a vocational test that indicated I should go into accounting. I have no idea why that would be the case as, when I did take accounting, I did not find it particularly appealing. 

Yet, I do enjoy plugging numbers into tables and just staring at how they fit together. The big disadvantage of accounting is that it is pretty much repetitive and not that creative -- I suppose I am being unfair as tax law and tax evasion seem to be rather creative endeavors and lucrative, too. I do enjoy my work though, although I have been told that it seems pretty boring.