Tuesday, November 4, 2008

After a long sabbatical

Rather timely, yesterday was the anniversary of this....

Friday, July 25, 2008

Why are the Brits so good at satire?

Great satire piece from across the pond. You don't like it, take it up with Gerard Baker of the TimesUK.

He ventured forth to bring light to the world.

And it came to pass, in the eighth year of the reign of the evil Bush the Younger (The Ignorant), when the whole land from the Arabian desert to the shores of the Great Lakes had been laid barren, that a Child appeared in the wilderness.

The Child was blessed in looks and intellect. Scion of a simple family, offspring of a miraculous union, grandson of a typical white person and an African peasant. And yea, as he grew, the Child walked in the path of righteousness, with only the occasional detour into the odd weed and a little blow.

When he was twelve years old, they found him in the temple in the City of Chicago, arguing the finer points of community organisation with the Prophet Jeremiah and the Elders. And the Elders were astonished at what they heard and said among themselves: “Verily, who is this Child that he opens our hearts and minds to the audacity of hope?”

In the great Battles of Caucus and Primary he smote the conniving Hillary, wife of the deposed King Bill the Priapic and their barbarian hordes of Working Class Whites.

And so it was, in the fullness of time, before the harvest month of the appointed year, the Child ventured forth - for the first time - to bring the light unto all the world.

He travelled fleet of foot and light of camel, with a small retinue that consisted only of his loyal disciples from the tribe of the Media. He ventured first to the land of the Hindu Kush, where the

Taleban had harboured the viper of al-Qaeda in their bosom, raining terror on all the world.

And the Child spake and the tribes of Nato immediately loosed the Caveats that had previously bound them. And in the great battle that ensued the forces of the light were triumphant. For as long as the Child stood with his arms raised aloft, the enemy suffered great blows and the threat of terror was no more.

From there he went forth to Mesopotamia where he was received by the great ruler al-Maliki, and al-Maliki spake unto him and blessed his Sixteen Month Troop Withdrawal Plan even as the imperial warrior Petraeus tried to destroy it.

And lo, in Mesopotamia, a miracle occurred. Even though the Great Surge of Armour that the evil Bush had ordered had been a terrible mistake, a waste of vital military resources and doomed to end in disaster, the Child's very presence suddenly brought forth a great victory for the forces of the light.

And the Persians, who saw all this and were greatly fearful, longed to speak with the Child and saw that the Child was the bringer of peace. At the mention of his name they quickly laid aside their intrigues and beat their uranium swords into civil nuclear energy ploughshares.

From there the Child went up to the city of Jerusalem, and entered through the gate seated on an ass. The crowds of network anchors who had followed him from afar cheered “Hosanna” and waved great palm fronds and strewed them at his feet.

In Jerusalem and in surrounding Palestine, the Child spake to the Hebrews and the Arabs, as the Scripture had foretold. And in an instant, the lion lay down with the lamb, and the Israelites and Ishmaelites ended their long enmity and lived for ever after in peace.

As word spread throughout the land about the Child's wondrous works, peoples from all over flocked to hear him; Hittites and Abbasids; Obamacons and McCainiacs; Cameroonians and Blairites.

And they told of strange and wondrous things that greeted the news of the Child's journey. Around the world, global temperatures began to decline, and the ocean levels fell and the great warming was over.

The Great Prophet Algore of Nobel and Oscar, who many had believed was the anointed one, smiled and told his followers that the Child was the one generations had been waiting for.

And there were other wonderful signs. In the city of the Street at the Wall, spreads on interbank interest rates dropped like manna from Heaven and rates on credit default swaps fell to the ground as dead birds from the almond tree, and the people who had lived in foreclosure were able to borrow again.

Black gold gushed from the ground at prices well below $140 per barrel. In hospitals across the land the sick were cured even though they were uninsured. And all because the Child had pronounced it.

And this is the testimony of one who speaks the truth and bears witness to the truth so that you might believe. And he knows it is the truth for he saw it all on CNN and the BBC and in the pages of The New York Times.

Then the Child ventured forth from Israel and Palestine and stepped onto the shores of the Old Continent. In the land of Queen Angela of Merkel, vast multitudes gathered to hear his voice, and he preached to them at length.

But when he had finished speaking his disciples told him the crowd was hungry, for they had had nothing to eat all the hours they had waited for him.

And so the Child told his disciples to fetch some food but all they had was five loaves and a couple of frankfurters. So he took the bread and the frankfurters and blessed them and told his disciples to feed the multitudes. And when all had eaten their fill, the scraps filled twelve baskets.

Thence he travelled west to Mount Sarkozy. Even the beauteous Princess Carla of the tribe of the Bruni was struck by awe and she was great in love with the Child, but he was tempted not.

On the Seventh Day he walked across the Channel of the Angles to the ancient land of the hooligans. There he was welcomed with open arms by the once great prophet Blair and his successor, Gordon the Leper, and his successor, David the Golden One.

And suddenly, with the men appeared the archangel Gabriel and the whole host of the heavenly choir, ranks of cherubim and seraphim, all praising God and singing: “Yes, We Can.”

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Festival de Inverno

Festival de Inverno (Winterfest) started on Thursday here, and it is by far the biggest event for the city. To give you an idea, the population here is appox. 130,000, and for the 10 days the festival lasts they estimate over a million people visit the city. It is pretty much a music and arts festival. The acts are mostly well known in Brazil. They have a nice mix, and it works out that each night has a "theme" depending on the type of music. They have several "stages" around the city, and there is something for everyone. For a few years now they had a stage in one of the parks where a DJ played Cuban Music for "Noite Cubana", and this year they have a band appearing on the main stage (Sonidos de Santiago). I am working in the main plaza, so I need to be there from about 5 in the afternoon to 5 in the morning. Really tiring but I get to see much of the festival. What surprised me is that while we get a lot of tourists from around the region and Brazil, a lot of Europeans, especially Germans, Austrians, and Swiss visit tooo. Garanhuns is known as "A Suiça Pernambucana" which must strike the Swiss as weird, cause apart from a cool climate and hills, I do not see any resemblance. Anyways, I need to go home and rest up for tonight, so that is all for now.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Mohammad Asif, have you heard of Steve Howe?

Mohammad Asif tested positive yet again for banned substances. Mohammad could learn a lesson from Steve Howe, who was given chance after chance till MLB had enough and banned him for life. After being reinstated, he returned with the Yankees but was released shortly thereafter. He returned to his bad habits and was killed in a car accident, his autopsy showed signs of methaphetamine. Hopefully Asif learns now before it is too late. King Cricket puts it best here.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

36 years ago

36 years ago today, the Watergate break in. My earliest memories are of the hearings, news reports, I can remember the news reports of the Saturday Night Massacare. I remember hearing the names, watching the hearings with my grandfather. I can't say I remember the details, understanding what was going on, but some of it is there. I am putting together a more detailed post on Nixon for the future, but wanted to mention it today because of the date. Here are three very interesting links for Watergate info:

The "official" story as The Washinton Post sees it.

And two "alternative" theory sites:

The Nixon Era Center

Silent Coup, which is based on an excellent book of the same name

Saturday, May 31, 2008

New PSA Link, The Breast Cancer Site

Added a new link, just under the Free Rice banner. The Breast Cancer Site sponsors mammograms for clicks on their site. I checked it out on Snopes and it is true, you can read their fact finding here. Hat tip to my mom, who sent me the email on this one, as well as Free Rice.

His name is Ulrich Rosenzweig

Sad links I provide today. Rachel, who is an American living in Rio writes on her blog today about Ulrich Rosenzweig, a elderly gentleman who lived in her building and was murdered. Rachel touches a bit about violence in Brazil and writes a nice tribute to Mr. Rosenzweig, recounting his story. Mr. Rosenzweig was a Holocaust survivor who came to Brazil after the war and established a new life for himself and his family. Very sad albeit interesting reading.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Pics of the "lost" Amazon Tribe

Got some emails about the Indian tribe found in the western part of the country close to the Peru border. BBC has a few photos here, and here is a good shot that details what the items are in the photo. Here is National Geographic's take on the story. Keep in mind that while many articles are saying "uncontacted" that may not be entirely accurate. It's not like they have never encountered life outside the tribe. Many of these tribes have come in contact with rubber trappers, loggers, etc., but for the most part have kept to themselves and decided not to organize with FUNAI which is the Brazilian government's National Indian Foundation

Monday, May 26, 2008

Updates, Updates, Updates

Well, I want to start off by saying sorry I did not update for a while. After the season ended a lot of things came up and I truly did not have the time. I thought the season ending would mean a lighter load, and nothing could be further from the truth. Let me recap the situation with the team. It won its final game and we got the result we needed in the other game, and Sete stayed in the first division. It went down to the wire, but the balls bounced our way. We are already working towards next season, and hopefully we can do better.

On the family side, I had to play a huge "daddy" role today. One of the dogs that lives at the stadium had puppies some time back, and little by little they went missing. One day when I went to take food for her, I found the head of one of the puppies. I don't know what was worse, the fact that I found the head, or the fact that I did not find the rest of the body. Their pen is separated by fences from the rest of the stadium, but I thought maybe the guard dogs, real mean pitbulls, found a way in and got to them. I took the remaining puppy home for the night to clean her up and keep her out of the cold (winter is starting here, more on that later). The next day I took her mom up to one of the press boxes where I know the other dogs could not get to them and put the puppy with her. The kids enjoyed taking care of the puppy for the night, and they took turns staying up and holding her so she would not be cold. Today, when I went to take food for them I found the puppy in bad shape. It seems it was their mom who was the guilty one. The puppy had some bite marks, but she wasn't bleeding or anything and was whimpering. I carried her back home but I knew she would not last long. I thought maybe we could make the last few moments a bit calmer. The kids laid her in a basket and wrapped her up. They started to pull some fleas off her. In about half an hour she just gave out. The kids of course were sad, but I explained about the circle of life and The Lion King and how nothing lasts for ever, but the important thing was we helped the puppy when she needed us. After some crying and a talk about doggie heaven they felt better.

In regards to Garanhuns, winter is starting to creep in. People joke that Miami has two seasons, Summer A and Summer B. Well, Garanhuns has two seasons, Summer and Winter. No in-between changes at all. One day the sun is blazing close to 95 F, the next it is raining, the wind is blowing and you can kiss the sun goodbye. I happed to love winter here. The rain is usually a fine mist, sometimes heavier, and constant. The wind blows hard, and since the city is tucked into 7 hills, it can be pretty hard at times. During the day the temperature is in the mid 50s and at night it is in the 40s. Never freezing but it can feel very cold at times. Some days it rains for 24 hours. You have 3 or 4 days of light rain and then all of a sudden you have a whole day which is beautiful, only to have the rain start up again once the sun sets. A curious thing is most of the people who have lived here all their lives never seem to get used to it, they all bundle up looking like something out of Nanook from the North.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Bad Buddhist Radio

I want to write a review for a really interesting podcast I found called "Bad Buddhist Radio". Now the subject of Buddhism always interested me since I took a class on world religions. I approached the subject several times, just to abandon it after a while. Some things made perfect sense, while others were so wrapped in mystical mumbo-jumbo that it left me scratching my head. Earlier this year though, I found a podcast that explained it in perfect "American" English. No BS, just straight to the heart of what the Buddha meant when he said what he said and did what he did. The guru of Bad Buddhism is a guy name Ryu Cope. Ryu seems to be a pretty talented guy, he is an actor, a designer, created a role playing game, bunch of stuff. His name pops up in a bunch of places on Google, so check it out. Back to the podcast. Ryu handles the material like if he is your buddy, drinking a beer, explaining to you what Buddhism is all about. Don't worry about karma or zen or beams of light, "Buddhism is about being fully in the moment and seeing the world as it truly is. The here and now. This life, not one to come, not one that has already been. Buddhism is practical, the ordinary world, human nature and what we struggle with. Buddhism is moderate, the Middle Way, walking the fine line between extremes." Now, that is an explanation of Buddhism I can understand and relate with. I am sure "traditionalists" will have more than a few bones to pick with the way he deals with the Buddhist ideal of karma and rebirth, but then again, Ryu approaches them as the Buddha said one should: He studied, he reviewed, he contemplated, and Ryu made up his own mind on the subject. Right now, there are 57 episodes, and trust me, each is worth your while. The first 16 episodes are an introduction to Buddhism, who was the Buddha (he was just some dude who was awake), what Buddhism is, what it isn't, and explains the Four Noble Truths and the Middle Way, which lay the groundwork for the path to enlightenment. The next 29 episodes Cope did "Buddhism A to Z", one letter and how it relates to Buddhism. He also did some Q & A episodes, and the last few episodes continue explaining Buddhism and the day to day. That is what I like about his podcasts: he includes stories we can all relate to. He talks about his office, but it could be anybodies coworkers. The dude is funny, belligerent, arrogant in a way you can appreciate. It's like a friend smacking you upside the head saying "Dude, wake up. Open your freakin eyes and ears and pay attention." I recommend downloading the first few episodes, and if it clicks with you, take the time to download them all. Well worth your time.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

god Is Dead

As a kid, one of my favorite movies was "Oh God, Book II". A line I remember is when George Burns appears to the girl, and she says she expected long flowing robe and beard and Burns replies "You're thinking of Charlton Heston". It is with sadness that I pass this along:

Statement by the Family of Charlton Heston
Saturday April 5, 11:24 pm ET

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif., April 5, 2008 /PRNewswire/ -- Legendary actor, civil rights leader and political activist Charlton Heston passed away today, at the age of 84. He died at his home with Lydia, his wife of 64 years, at his side. Mr. Heston was loved by his two children, Fraser Clarke Heston and Holly Heston Rochell, and his three grandchildren, Jack Alexander Heston, Ridley Rochell and Charlie Rochell.The Heston family issued the following statement:

"To his loving friends, colleagues and fans, we appreciate your heartfelt prayers and support. Charlton Heston was seen by the world as larger than life. He was known for his chiseled jaw, broad shoulders and resonating voice, and, of course, for the roles he played. Indeed, he committed himself to every role with passion, and pursued every cause with unmatched enthusiasm and integrity.

We knew him as an adoring husband, a kind and devoted father, and a gentle grandfather, with an infectious sense of humor. He served these far greater roles with tremendous faith, courage and dignity. He loved deeply, and he was deeply loved.

No one could ask for a fuller life than his. No man could have given more to his family, to his profession, and to his country. In his own words, "I have lived such a wonderful life! I've lived enough for two people."

A private memorial service will be held. The family has requested that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Motion Picture and Television Fund:

22212 Ventura Boulevard, Suite 300
Woodland Hills, CA 91364

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Chelsea : Snappy Answers To Stupid Questions

Chelsea Clinton came up with a "snappy answer" to a "stupid question". Stupid question because anyone who really wants to know already has an answer in mind before asking. From the NY Post:

Chelsea: Don't Ask!

March 26, 2008 -- INDIANAPOLIS - Chelsea Clinton had a quick retort yesterday when asked whether her mother's credibility had been hurt during the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

"Wow, you're the first person actually that's ever asked me that question in the, I don't know, maybe 70 college campuses I've now been to, and I do not think that is any of your business," Clinton said to a male questioner during a campaign visit to Butler University for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.

D. B. Or Not D. B.?

The New York Post comes through with another fine headline, this time on one of my favorite mysteries, D. B. Cooper, which I wrote about before.

D. B. Or Not D. B.? FBI eyes Chute

March 26, 2008 -- The FBI is analyzing a torn, tangled parachute found by kids in southwest Washington state to see whether it was used by legendary skyjacker D.B. Cooper when he jumped from a commandeered airliner 36 years ago.

The kids found the chute earlier this month sticking up from the ground while they were playing outside their home in the area where Cooper probably landed.

FBI Agent Larry Carr said the children pulled on the fabric as much as they could, and then cut the ropes.

"It's fragile to the touch, and it's obviously been in the ground for some time," Carr told KOMO-TV in Seattle.

On Nov. 24, 1971, Cooper - not his real name - boarded a Northwest Airlines flight from Portland to Seattle and seized control of the plane, claiming he had dynamite.

He demanded and received $200,000 and four parachutes and then ordered the pilots to fly him to Mexico.

Somewhere over southwestern Washington, he jumped from the aircraft's tail exit with two of the chutes and the money strapped to his body.

He was never seen again.

The FBI first said that Cooper was an experienced jumper, but has since concluded this was wrong and he probably didn't survive the leap.

With Post Wire Services

Black Sheep Of Cuban Exile: El Hebreo

Via Review of Cuban American Blogs I found a very interesting post about Jews in Cuba, one transplanted Cuban Jew in particular. Black Sheep of Cuban Exile writes about his relationship with Chaim, and how he saw Castro for what he was, even in the early days. The post is old, but its words still hold meaning.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Rio Through The Eyes Of A "Gringa"

A fellow ex-pat American, Rachel, has used words to paint a picture of what she sees in Rio. While it is not fair or accurate to compare life in Garanhuns to Rio, there are many things she touches upon which I see on a day to day here, albeit a much smaller scale. At some point I will get around to doing a write up on Garanhuns, but for now, be sure to check out her post on Rio.

The Brazilian Economy

The Economist, which while I can read online is one of the things I miss about being able to buy when I was back in the States, and probably the best magazine out there, has an interesting article on the state of the Brazilian economy.

TAKE two neighbouring economies, both heavily dependent on commodity prices to make their trade figures look good. Give one an orthodox monetary policy, watch it embrace foreign investors and float its currency. Hand the other over to mavericks who have resorted to fixing prices, banning or taxing some of their own exports and baldly lying about the inflation rate. The result? The rascal—Argentina—continues to grow at a blistering 9% clip, while by contrast well-behaved Brazil plods along (see chart). Is it time to rewrite the economics textbooks? Argentines would like to think so. But there are signs that Brazil may yet come out ahead.

Check out the full write up here.

"I Made A Lot Of Phony Dough"

You just can't beat The New York Post for pun filled headlines and articles:

I Made A Lot Of Phony Dough

March 20, 2008 -- Any way you slice it, the dough cooked up at a Westchester pizzeria was bogus.

And yesterday, owner Frank Donato pleaded guilty to trying to get his piece of the pie by making counterfeit $50 bills in his back office at The Brick Oven Pizza Shop on Main Street in Dobbs Ferry.

In exchange for his plea to one count of first-degree forgery, a felony, in Westchester County Court in White Plains, the 39-year-old father of three will serve five years' probation.

He'll officially be sentenced June 18. According to prosecutors, Donato forged 16 phony 50s in his busy office at the 12-year-old pizza parlor.

He also owns Frankie's Homemade Ice Cream next door.

Both businesses are near the village police station.

Donato was busted Oct. 9 after a three-month undercover probe by the Greenburgh Drug and Alcohol Task Force, Secret Service and Dobbs Ferry detectives.

Neither he nor his lawyer, Bruce Bendish, would comment outside the courthouse after yesterday's hearing. But a call to the pizzeria last night found employees just a tad crusty over the matter.

"We're workers - we don't know anything," a peeved staffer said before abruptly hanging up.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Darrell Hair Reinstated

Actually first heard this while listening to BBC World Service on shortwave. The Pakistani's are not pleased at all.

Darrell Hair will return to umpiring in Tests and ODIs after the ICC decided that he had successfully completed a six-month rehabilitation period. Hair has not stood in a major match since the Oval Test between England and Pakistan in 2006 when he and Billy Doctrove penalised Pakistan for ball-tampering, which led to the game being abandoned.

It seems unlikely he will be given matches in Pakistan.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

5 Cuban Soccer Players "Missing"

This is when I do my "happy dance".

Five Members Of Cuban U-23 Team Missing From Hotel

TAMPA, Fla. -- Five members of the Cuban Under 23 national soccer team left their hotel Tuesday night and are unaccounted for, raising the possibility they may be trying to defect.The players were discovered to have left the team hotel hours after earning a 1-1 draw with the United States in the Pre-Olympic tournament.

"Jose Manuel Miranda, Erlys Garcia Baro, Yenier Bermudez, Yordany Alvarez and Loanni Prieto left the hotel", Raul Gonzalez, coach of the Cuban national team, told ESPN reporter Fernando Palomo.

Miranda started at goalkeeper and Bermudez captained the team on Tuesday night, when Cuba was able to hold on for a surprise draw in Group A action.

Together with Mexico, the U.S. starts the tournament as a favorite to win one of the two berths for the Beijing games in August.

Freddy Adu scored for the U.S. after 14 minutes, but Roberto Linares equalized shortly before halftime. The Cubans then were able to hold on for a draw despite ending the match with 10 men, as Linares was sent off with a red card in the 82nd minute.

"Cuba has plans to keep playing in this tournament and we don't want to forfeit our next two matches," said Gonzalez.

If the five players do not return, Cuba would be left with a 13-man squad, but only 12 would be available to play their next match, as Linares is automatically suspended one game for the red card.

Cuba is scheduled to face Honduras on Thursday, at 5.30 p.m. ET at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.

CONCACAF officials were to meet with the Cuban delegation later on Wednesday to discuss the situation and they could ask Cuba to forfeit the tournament. Cuba was scheduled to train at 4 p.m. ET on Wednesday.

Gonzalez also confirmed that there was no security plan in place around the Cuban team to avoid defections. The team was staying at the Doubletree Hotel Tampa Westshore Airport.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Sangakkara smashes 285

Haven't blogged much about Cricket after the matches at the beginning of the year. I tried to follow those matches closely but with work and the time differences, by the time I got to the news most of the blogs from Australia/ India, and England already had plenty on it. I do want to pass this along, because it involves Kumar Sangakkara which is probably my favorite active Cricketer.

Leading the run parade was top-ranked Test batsman Kumar Sangakkara who carved out the season's highest score of 285 for Nondescripts against Moors at Maitland Place. Sangakkara tore into the Moors bowling which comprised two bowlers in the national squad for the series against West Indies - Chanaka Welegedara and Rangana Herath - hitting 31 fours and three sixes in his 292-ball innings. His knock improved on team-mate Chanaka Wijesinghe's 250 made against Tamil Union which had stood as the season's highest since January. Thanks to Sangakkara's exploits Nondescripts recorded their second win of the season beating Moors by ten wickets. Despite their second defeat of the season, Moors held onto second place.

If Cricket is your cup of tea, no pun intended, check out the article here.

Clinton Link in Brazil Ethanol Probe

Is this getting much press in the States, cause it is making the rounds here in Brazil. I found this article in English:

Clinton Link in Brazil Ethanol Probe

SAO PAULO, Brazil (AP) — A team from Brazil's Labor Ministry found "degrading" living conditions for 133 sugarcane workers employed by an ethanol company whose investors include former President Clinton and other high-profile financial players.

At five sites inspected, workers "complained they were suffering from hunger and cold, and all of the locations were overcrowded and with terrible sanitary conditions," according to a statement issued Friday by Jaqueline Carrijo, who led the inspections last month.

The target of the probe, Brazil Renewable Energy Co., known as Brenco, apologized over the weekend and said it is fixing the problems at its rural operations, which turn sugarcane into ethanol.

Clinton's connection is via an investment in Brenco by The Yucaipa Cos., a U.S.-based fund in which Clinton was a senior advisor until last year. His investment in Brenco is valued between $15,001 and $50,000, according to a financial dislosure report submitted last year by his wife, presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Yucaipa, whose chairman is prominent Democratic billionaire Ron Burkle, holds an overall 2.8 percent stake in the initial $200 million raised by Brenco last year to start up operations in Brazil's booming ethanol sector.

Bill Clinton spokesman Matt McKenna said that the former president's investment made via Yucaipa was small but that he had been assured Brenco was "committed to the highest ethical standard with regard to the treatment of its workforce and of the environment."

"The president finds these allegations deeply troubling and expects Brenco to move swiftly to ensure that those responsible are held accountable," McKenna said, adding that Clinton is "taking steps to ensure that there is an appropriate transition for his business relationships should Senator Clinton become the Democratic nominee."

The Brazilian labor probe focused mostly on living conditions for the workers, including 17 who were paying rent to live in housing overrun by rats and cockroaches, Carrijo said. In addition, trucks lacked special seatbelts for workers who ride atop the vehicles as they throw sugarcane seedlings to the ground, she said.

Brenco chief executive Henri Philippe Reichstul traveled Monday to personally inspect the living arrangements of his company's workers. He said in an interview that the 17 workers cited by Carrijo were not living in company housing, but that the company agreed with labor inspectors that there were housing problems for the remaining 116 workers.

No workers are "in this situation any more," he said. "If there are fines to pay for it, we will pay the fines. We are not breaking the spirit or the confidence that we got from our shareholders to start a project of sustainable growth."

Details of the investigation were first reported Saturday in the newspaper Folha de S. Paulo, Brazil's largest.

Reichstul, the former chief executive of Brazil's state-run oil company, said the problems happened while the ethanol company was mobilizing 3,500 workers to plant sugarcane on 86,500 acres in three central Brazil states.

Many of those hired had to be recruited to move near the sugarcane plantations because they live far away, and the scramble to erect and set up living quarters coincided with weeks of torrential rainstorms.

Brenco's investors include Vinod Khosla, a venture capitalist who was one of the co-founders of Sun Microsystems; America Online founder Stephen Case; Hollywood producer and Democratic fundraiser Steven Bing, another close Clinton ally; and former World Bank President James Wolfensohn.

The company is run by Henri Philippe Reichstul, the former chief executive of Brazil's state-run oil company, Petroleo Brasileiro SA.

Yucaipa spokesman Frank Quintero characterized the fund's investment in Brenco as small and said it has no management role.

"Newspapers report that Brenco has taken immediate action to remedy the situation," he said in a statement. "If that is not the case we will sell our shares in the company."

Brazil is the world's second-largest producer of ethanol after the United States, but is the No. 1 exporter. Experts say Latin America's largest nation could become an ethanol superpower because its sugarcane is more efficient for ethanol production than the corn used in the U.S.

UNICA, Brazil's association of sugar and ethanol producers, has acknowledged that working conditions in Brazil's cane fields have caused an image problem that could hurt exports.

While cane cutters receive good salaries by Brazilian standards, they spend long hours in the hot sun and suffer a litany of bone and muscle injuries and machete cuts. Their eyes and lungs are punished by ash from working in fields recently burned to facilitate cutting and to kill off rats, snakes and scorpions.

Most of Brazil's sugarcane-ethanol operations are owned by Brazilian individuals and companies, but foreign investment is increasing rapidly.

Reichstul said Brenco is committed to providing decent living conditions for workers, and that their quarters include dormitories and restaurants with areas set aside for sports fields and game and television rooms.

Associated Press writers Devlin Barrett in Washington and Peter Muello in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, contributed to this report.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Just How Did The Colombian Army Find The FARC Base?

Yesterday I linked "Swimming Against The Red Tide" when they posted about a possible shipment of Brazilian arms to Venezuela. Today Luis Alfonso writes about FARC spokesmen Raul Reyes location being exposed during a phone call. Want to know who the call was from? Anyone want to guess? Click here to find out.

Brazilian Arm Shipment Coming Up A Bit Short?

Yesterday I posted about a possible shipment of Brazilian arms ending up in Venezuela. I received an email from a blogger (Mike) who did a bit of checking into it and seems the shipment came up light, when you take into account the the total weight (31.5 tons) and the number of arms mentioned (50,000-70,000). Mike says:

Not saying that Brazil is not transferring arms to Venezuela, just that the numbers in this report don't make sense, and therefore, I question the accuracy of this specific allegation. On the other hand, Mini-me Chavez may be arming his supporters for a wild Saturday night.

Mike is not a Chavez apologist, just questioning this new allegation.

Police Blotter, Brazilian Style

A really popular type of regional show in Brazil are the "police blotter" programs. They are on the radio and on TV. If you are from South Florida or are familiar with WSVN and the sensationalistic style when Rick Sanchez was there, you have an idea of what I am talking about. Think of it as the "morning drive" program, although a similar program will run around lunchtime as well in some places. On the radio, the host will talk about all the crimes registered with the police the night before. Murder here, robbery there, man beats his wife, guy drinks at bar and tries to leave without paying, etc. Whatever happened in the region. They will have a reporter at the jail who will interview the accused for their style of the story. Many times the person will fess up, on tape, with the whole city listening. They usually blame their behavior on alcohol. Every once in a while you will hear about someone stealing a donkey or a cow. The show is also used as a public forum. People will call up to say "my neighborhood has been without water for a week" or "I pay the tax on my light bill, but the street lights in front of my house have not worked in ages". Sometimes a girl will call up saying "So and so is a skanky ho who is messing with my husband and if I see her I'm going to smash her face in". People call in with complaints about noisy bars with "working girls" that are causing trouble in the neighborhood. Everyone has "Right of Reply" and you will get the other side of the story. It's hard to keep from spitting up your coffee when you hear some of the stories they tell.

The TV shows are really something else. People complain about violence on American television. In Brazil, they show the results. They show the bodies lying on the floor, the blood dripping down the street. They show mangled cars. They show wailing, crying relatives over a cloth draped body. Sometimes they interview crime victims, usually from behind and the voice altered to hide their identity. Then, you get the type of video I included below. This is a clip from the actual type of program I am describing. In this clip, the girl is accusing the elderly gentlemen of "not paying for services rendered". I am not going to translate it because it is pretty tedious due to all the slang, or "girias" used. It is easy to follow if you speak spanish, becuase many of the words are similar, and you can figure out more or less what they are talking about. Suffice to say the girl says she is a "professional" in the S-E-C-K-S trade. I spell it out because that is the equivalent of how she mispronounces it. The man says she doesn't even deserve one cent. He offered to pay R$5 (less then US$2.50) and she took it as an insult. The reporter asks the man if she "did her job" and he replies "no, not at all". "She sucked my thingy, wanted me to stick it up her ***, sucked my thingy for over an hour, wanted me to stick it up her ***." The host asks him if he ejaculated and he says "well I stuck my thingy in there for a while, then I took it out and she sucked it for a while till she got tired". The host asks him if he thinks she deserves at least R$30 (30 reais, less than US$15) and he replies "I give R$5.00 and that is as an act of charity." By the way, this program is on in the daytime, during lunch, when the whole family can watch the fireworks.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Breaking News: Brazilian Arms secretly flown to Venezuela

From "Swimming Against The Red Tide" I copy and paste this item of note. The post seems to have an error in formatting, and the link carries over its frame so I copied over here. Great blog with informative posts on South American news/ happenings/ political coverage, with a emphasis usually on Brazil.

Breaking News: 31.5 tonnes of Brazilian Firearms Flew Secretly to Venezuela!

A friend of mine just send me this: Where are all those who claimed Lula was a "counterbalance" to Chávez in Latin America?
Lula is the creator of the Foro de Sao Paulo, the evil organisation behind the "return of the living dead"-commies to power in the region and the most perfect imposter of Brazil´s history, pretending to be "not a leftist" anymore while helping his friends in Cuba, Venezuela, Nicarágua, Colombia (FARC), Peru and Bolivia. Here you can see him in his utter ugliness, just like an uncovered "Portrait of Dorian Gray".

Many people in North America fell into this trap so naively that it is difficult to explain. Only their wishful thinking could explain such distorted opinions on Brazilian president while he always said one thing but acted otherwise.



Financial Crime Consultant, for World-Check
More about the Author
Yet another high-risk indicator for Venezuela surfaces
2 March 2008
If you remember the chaos that surrounded the Lebanese Civil War (1975-1990), you know that financial institutions simply cannot operate under conditions of street violence. The tenuous situation in Venezuela could soon reach that state, in light of disturbing new developments that have come to light. Read the details below, and decide for yourself whether a civil war is on the horizon in Caracas.

Here is what we know so far:

a.. Four secret flights are scheduled into Venezuela, on TAM Brazilian Airlines, transporting 31.5 tonnes of firearms made in Brazil. The first flight has already arrived, carrying 1.5 tonnes of weapons; each additional flight is scheduled to bring in ten tonnes each.

a.. Whilst the exact types of weapons are unknown, one can safely estimate that between 50,000 and 70,000 weapons will be contained in these shipments, which are not consigned for the Ministry of Defence, but are to be quietly delivered directly to the Miraflores Presidential Palace, on the orders of Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez Frias. Why all the secrecy?

a.. In a country where the armed forces and the police are already well-equipped, these weapons can only have one intended use; to arm civilian supporters of the current regime, who will use it upon the opposition in an expected violent confrontation that could degenerate into a civil war.

A civil disturbance would result in the complete shutdown of the financial system in the capital. Watch for any preliminary signs of organised violence, closure of shoppes and businesses, and attacks upon civilians.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Symonds Takes Out Streaker

Andrew Symonds took out a streaker with a major league tackle. Pics and article here.

Venezuela: History Tends To Repeat Itself, Or I Hate To Say It, But I told You So

When Hugo Chavez first came into power I remember hearing a joke. The joke is not particularly funny, but it says a lot about what most people, mostly Cuban Americans, thought at the time. The joke goes like this: Two Venezuelan businessmen are discussing Chavez's rise to power. They are discussing the future of their respective businesses and one says to another "I am considering moving all my operations to Cuba." "Cuba!?! Why in the world would you do that?" says the second. "Because Communism is ending there, but it is just beginning here."

It has been quite sometime since I first heard that joke. Communism is still going strong in Cuba, Raul taking the helm notwithstanding. However, the sharp turn left (south?) for Venezuela continues. Isben Martinez writes the following in the Library if Economics and Liberty:

I live in a Latin American neo-populist petrocracy.

For the last decade, my government's economic officials have pledged themselves to the "comprehensive, humanist, endogenous and socialist development of the nation", whatever that means.

Perhaps that gobbledygook just means that in Venezuela it is much easier to fetch a bottle of premium Scotch whisky at any low-income neighborhood's supermarket than a bottle of milk, a pound of sugar or a dozen of eggs. Paradoxically, the local branch of Audi set an all-time Latin American sales record during 2007 by catching a 22% share of the region's luxury cars market.

He goes on to say:

Consider breakfast. My breakfast, to be exact. It's been months since I have had an oatmeal breakfast or a nice cup of espresso with a drop of milk because coffee and milk has literally vanished from supermarkets' shelves since last November. And that includes "Mercal", the government's supermarket network where the poor are supposed to buy food at subsidized low prices

The reason? Stiff price controls, of course, and fixed currency rates that have been going on for 5 years, too.

Be sure to read the full article.

I'm Back

Sorry for being away without sending news or word. I had a pretty busy week and just no time to blog. We now return to our regularly scheduled programming.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Finally, "Peperone" Pizza.

If there is one story my father told me about his adjusting to life in the States after leaving Cuba sticks out in my mind, it's the "Pepperoni Pizza" story. My father told me how he loved it, but he did not know what it was called. He would go and ask for a slice, but he never got what he wanted. He would try to describe it, but he would get ham. He tried translating it (I guess he thought it was 'salsicha', but he would get sausage. One day the person at the counter walked away with a slice and he said "That. That is what I want". At the time, I never thought I would live in another country, and go through a similar experience. Obviously, my adaptation is "not the same" as his. For one, I "wanted" to move to Brazil, and was not forced to leave because of a revolution. I was already fluent in Portuguese, enough to go around the country being able to communicate most requests. Still, there were words I did not know, mostly names of specific foods. I repeated a lot of meals because it was all I knew how to say. Early on when my accent was thick, I got a lot of orders wrong. With time things got better and today it is pretty rare when I encounter a similar situation.

On to the pepperoni pizza. First, you need to understand that Brazilian pizza is very different from pizza in the States. The dough is thicker, more so than deep dish style. It is loaded, I mean loaded with toppings. The very first time I had a pizza here I grabbed it with my hands and it was so thick and full of toppings that it fell apart. They usually do not use tomato sauce. It is common to see people put ketchup and mayonnaise. The toppings are VERY different. These are a few pizzas on the menu:

Tomato sauce, tuna, 'palmito' (palm heart), peas, onions, mozzarella
Note that they specifically mention it has tomato sauce, and despite the fact that they say this is an "American" pizza, the only toppings I have seen on a pizza in the States from that list is the sauce, cheese, and onions.

Strombolli type, stuffed with ricotta, escarola, mozzarella, garlic, anchovies, parmesean, and oregano

"Carne Seca"
Tomato sauce, dried beef (kinda like beef jerky), mozzarella and oregano

They even have dessert and sweet pizzas:
"Romeu e Juieta"
Mozzarella cheese and Guava (no sauce)

"Pizza Doce"
Bananas, sugar, and cinnamon

"Chocofesta I and II"
Chocolate and your choice of strawberries or coconut.

Despite all this choice of toppings, I could not get pepperoni pizza. Not because I did not know how to say it, it just was not a common topping in this region. The closest thing is "calabresa" which is like salami. I would try and describe it, but most people had no idea what I was talking about. The pizza was good, but it really wasn't what I wanted. I swear I thought about my father every time I went to have pizza and could not get pepperoni.

Not too long ago one of my favorite bars closed and a pizzaria opened up in its place. Saturday night I went with Adriana to try it out, and much to my delight I read:

"Peperone "
Molho de tomate (Tomato sauce) mussarela, peperone e oregano

I was so friggin happy. I could not believe it. The waiter even asked me if I wanted it with tomato sauce (OF-FRIGGIN-COURSE). Much like my father must have been that day, I was so happy to finally be able to eat what I wanted in the first place.

All this being said, anyone comes down to Garanhuns and we can go down to "Pizzaria Due Fratelli" for some really interesting pies!!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Brent Bozell Sticks It To The MSM On Castro

Brent Bozell says it better than I could, and without resorting to obscenity and name calling either!!

Castro: Not a President

"Fidel Castro Resigns." That's a fantastic headline, and should be cause for celebration. But just because the doddering dictator is stepping aside doesn't mean that Cuba's abandoning tyranny. And just because he's leaving doesn't mean the media are dropping their fictions about Castro, the Cuban "president." Glancing at a TV set, I caught this CNN screen graphic: "Fidel Castro Resigns: Cuban Pres. Rejects New Term." Where on Earth is the media's regard for accuracy?

A "new term"? This murderous despot has only had one long, abusive term, and it's lasted 49 years. Anyone who says otherwise, that the Cuban "parliament" would be setting another "election," is not just a useful idiot. He's simply an idiot.

AP reporter Anita Snow suggested using the word "dictator" to describe Castro is tantamount to mudslinging. While "Castro's supporters admired his ability to provide a high level of health care and education for citizens," his "detractors called him a dictator." The American media was absolutely allergic to words like "dictator." Rudy Giuliani can be routinely attacked by liberal reporters as "despotic," "authoritarian" and "totalitarian," but Fidel Castro is just a "president" or a "Cuban leader."

For decades, this has been an easy display of the media's foreign affections. Every right-wing dictator, like Chile's Pinochet, is a "dictator," while every left-wing dictator is merely a "leader" or, in Castro's case, a "dashing revolutionary" and a "rock star." That was ABC's Diane Sawyer on the morning of Castro's abdication announcement.

It was nauseating to watch ABC's Robin Roberts assert that so-called "Cuban President" Castro was stepping down, and then see reporter Jeffrey Kofman suggest that the "so-called" sneer should be leveled against his opponents! "The fervently anti-Castro community of so-called Cuban exiles here in Miami erupted in celebration" when Castro grew ill in 2006.

Cubans living in Miami are "so-called exiles"? They traveled on "so-called" boats, risking "so-called" death at the hands of a regime that promised to "so-called" kill them if they were caught escaping, too.

Kofman added insult to injury by dragging out the ancient trope that Castro outlasted our pathetic presidents and their bungling attempts to damage him: "The world's longest-serving political leader is leaving on his own terms, having survived efforts by 10 different U.S. presidents to bring him down, including a disastrous CIA-backed invasion in 1961 and a missile crisis that brought the world to the brink of nuclear war in 1962." Everything wrong with Cuba-U.S. relations is the fault of American presidents.

How, to a media that would claim to favor democracy as a political ideal, is it a virtue to "outlast" freely elected presidents who have submitted their office to the people by killing or imprisoning all your political opponents?

Throughout Castro's long history of dominating Cuba, he has also dominated the American media, who have covered him with a sickening parade of ardor and accolades, even after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Consider these morally bankrupt valentines:

1. Barbara Walters on ABC in 2002: "For Castro, freedom starts with education. And if literacy alone were the yardstick, Cuba would rank as one of the freest nations on Earth."

2. Dan Rather on CBS feeling all warm after Elian Gonzalez was ripped away from those "so-called Cuban exiles" in 2000: "There is no question that Castro feels a very deep and abiding connection to those Cubans who are still in Cuba."

3. Katie Couric applauding communist achievements on NBC in 1992: "Considered one of the most charismatic leaders of the 20th century. … Castro traveled the country cultivating his image, and his revolution delivered. Campaigns stamped out illiteracy and even today, Cuba has one of the lowest infant mortality rates in the world."

4. Peter Jennings on ABC in 1989: "Castro has delivered the most to those who had the least, and for much of the Third World, Cuba is actually a model of development."

5. Even sportscasters darkened their reputations. In a 1991 special covering the Pan Am Games, ABC's Jim McKay could have been speaking for the media in 2008: "You have brought a new system of government, obviously, to Cuba, but the Cuban people do think of you, I think, as their father. One day, you're going to retire. Or, one day, all of us die. Won't there be a great vacuum there? Won't there be something that will be difficult to fill? Can they do it on their own?"

Castro has announced his retirement. I'm happy he'll be gone, and hope he'll spend his final days on Earth contemplating his eternity in hell.

L. Brent Bozell III is the president of the Media Research Center. To find out more about Brent Bozell III, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Everything You Needed to Know About Communism You Could have Learned From Lego's

To quote Dave Barry, I swear I am not making this up. It seems "Lego Time" turned into a lesson on Lenin and Marx. And let me say upfront, if my kids were in that class, I'd have yanked them out of there so fast heads would spin, preferably the teachers. Funny how they can impose THESE values on the kids, but others are legally prevented from even being mentioned in schools. Here is a capsule, which I found on the Mises site:

From Legotown to Communist Utopia
Jeffery Tucker

A commentator on this blog draws our attention to this piece on the site Rethinking Schools. It is called "Why We Banned Legos." It is indeed an amazing piece of work, a perfect distillation of the romantic attachment that bourgeois educators in a prosperous society have for a communist ideal they have never experienced or seen or, apparently, read about.

In the short version, the teachers allowed the children in an after-school program to build a massive and growing Legotown. As kids will do, they students tended to homestead certain pieces and structures, and then barter them. Eventually resentments over who owns what emerge, and, after some inadvertent destruction of some buildings took place, conflicts arose.

The teachers then used the occasion to teach a lesson straight from old-time communist ideology, bringing the kids around to the view that all structures must be public structures, that nothing can be owned but by groups, and that all structures will be standard sizes.

It is an engaging if very alarming read! I would be curious to know to what extent the kids absorb the "lesson" they were given, or, if their heart of hearts, they really do miss the excitement and beauty of the real Legotown.

In any case, reading this piece, you can understand how it is that Castro's resignation has unleashed mind-boggling statements about the glories of the society he created, and its "immense achievements in terms of healthcare, poverty reduction and education."

The link to the article is here. Now you really need to read and follow the piece. Early on:

"I'm making an airport and landing strip for my guy's house. He has his own airplane," said Oliver.

"That's not fair!" said Carl. "That takes too many cool pieces and leaves not enough for me."

"Well, I can let other people use the landing strip, if they have airplanes," said Oliver. "Then it's fair for me to use more cool pieces, because it's for public use."

Never was a fan of Eminent Domain. It "was not fair" to use the "cool pieces" for a private house or structure, but for public use, it was OK. It seemed there was hope for the kids:

Children dug through hefty-sized bins of Legos, sought "cool pieces," and bartered and exchanged until they established a collection of homes, shops, public facilities, and community meeting places.

Barter and exchange. Sems to me to be the cornerstone of a free economy. After all the piece one kids values may mean nothing to the kid that has it and worth a trade. He may want it more than the pieces he has. I remember learning about trade with baseball cards.

Legotown grew and grew. Space and lego pieces grew scarce (and more valuable and desirable):

Occasionally, Legotown leaders explicitly rebuffed children, telling them that they couldn't play. Typically the exclusion was more subtle, growing from a climate in which Legotown was seen as the turf of particular kids. The other children didn't complain much about this; when asked about Legos, they'd often comment vaguely that they just weren't interested in playing with Legos anymore. As they closed doors to other children, the Legotown builders turned their attention to complex negotiations among themselves about what sorts of structures to build, whether these ought to be primarily privately owned or collectively used, and how "cool pieces" would be distributed and protected. These negotiations gave rise to heated conflict and to insightful conversation. Into their coffee shops and houses, the children were building their assumptions about ownership and the social power it conveys — assumptions that mirrored those of a class-based, capitalist society — a society that we teachers believe to be unjust and oppressive. As we watched the children build, we became increasingly concerned.

Kids being kids, tragedy struck. I remember making huge Lego layouts and playing Godzilla (rahr, rahr) or some other freak force and destroying my towns and meek residents. Loads of fun. Despite the article saying it was an "accident", I kinda like to think some kid played Godzilla like I use to and smashed that town to bits. So now, like Katrina, devastation leads to rebuilding:

When the children discovered the decimated Legotown, they reacted with shock and grief. Children moaned and fell to their knees to inspect the damage; many were near tears. The builders were devastated, and the other children were deeply sympathetic. We gathered as a full group to talk about what had happened; at one point in the conversation, Kendra suggested a big cleanup of the loose Legos on the floor. The Legotown builders were fierce in their opposition. They explained that particular children "owned" those pieces and it would be unfair to put them back in the bins where other children might use them. As we talked, the issues of ownership and power that had been hidden became explicit to the whole group.

We met as a teaching staff later that day. We saw the decimation of Lego-town as an opportunity to launch a critical evaluation of Legotown and the inequities of private ownership and hierarchical authority on which it was founded. Our intention was to promote a contrasting set of values: collectivity, collaboration, resource-sharing, and full democratic participation.

Again, who are they to decide WHAT VALUES will be taught? What separates "social" values from "religious"? The next part of the article goes on to say "how" Legotown was rebuilt, the new "rules" the kids had to abide by in rebuilding Legotown. The missed good opportunities to teach how the free market works. They decided to turn it into a lovefest, everybody shares, everybody happy, everybody wins. It is one of my biggest complaints about AYSO and youth soccer in the States, where "everybody" hasd to get a chance to play, and "everybody" wins, you can't have a losing team because it leads to hurt feelings. Kids need to learn the reality of life, and the sooner the better.

Here are "the themes" the teachers and kids learned from each other in the "new, better" Legotown:

  • Collectivity is a good thing:

"You get to build and you have a lot of fun and people get to build onto your structure with you, and it doesn't have to be the same way as when you left it.... A house is good because it is a community house."

  • Personal expression matters:

"It's important that the little Lego plastic person has some identity. Lego houses might be all the same except for the people. A kid should have their own Lego character to live in the house so it makes the house different."

  • Shared power is a valued goal:

"It's important to have the same amount of power as other people over your building. And it's important to have the same priorities."

"Before, it was the older kids who had the power because they used Legos most. Little kids have more rights now than they used to and older kids have half the rights."

  • Moderation and equal access to resources are things to strive for:

"We should have equal houses. They should be standard sizes.... We should all just have the same number of pieces, like 15 or 28 pieces."

You wanna know why things are so f'd up just look at who and what they are teaching kids today. Yes, in playtime it may have made for a wonderful solution, but in the real world history has shown us it is a failed experiment.

On Fidel "Stepping Down"

Quite a bit on the web and news about Fidel "retiring". In this post here I have links to a few articles I found via my Google Reader. For Cuba related news, you can find plenty at Babalu Blog and Review of Cuban American Blogs. I may not always agree with the positions and views they take, but there is news and conversation a plenty there. Two more articles/ posts I want to call attention to is this one, from The Economist, and this one, at Marginal Revolution. What does this mean for Cuba? Probably nothing. At least not now. Raul is in charge. There is still a dictatorship in place. There are political prisoners and no civil liberties. Until that changes, same shit different smell.

Assortment Of Links and Articles

Here is a collection of stuff that popped up on my "Google Reader" rss feed thingamajigger:

From The New York Post:

Cuba Libre, Someday

Fidel Steps down

A hero's welcome for Dubya

From The New York Sun:

Farewell to Fidel

On Cuba Policy, Copy Poppy

From Fidel, a farewell or a fraud?

From The Washington Times:

Castro, Cuba, and the future

Economic Duldrums

From Little Green Footballs:

Castro Bails

From Google Blogoscoped:

Really interesting post about lost and found on Google. Searches people have typed looking for, or saying they have found certain items:

Google's Lost and Found

The price of a can of Pepsi? 10 gum balls and 5 chocolates.

There is a coin shortage in Brazil. A big problem for stores, bars, businesses in general is getting change from the banks. A common practice is rounding up or down 5 cents: sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. I really don't have a problem with that. I figure on average it all balances out. There are even times where I come up 5 or 10 cents short and the keeper just waves me off and rings up the purchase. But there is a really weird practice of giving candy and the like as "change". At most registers and counters you will see types of candy, chocolate, gum, etc for sale. There are times, when the register just does not have enough coins to give change so they "offer" the candy. Supposedly this practice is illegal. The curious thing is, if a store does this, then the store "is required" to accept the candy as payment, even though the issuing of the candy as change is not permitted in the first place. This is supposedly "law" but no one can point me to the statute. I have seen customers at the counter make a point about it, and the person at the register backs down. (Both ways, I have seen a person refuse the candy, and the coins that the store "did not have" magically appear, and I have seen people say "you gave me a 5 cent candy 10 times as change, so here they are in lieu of 50 cents") The problem is I cannot use the candy on the bus to pay the fare, use it to pay a light bill, etc. You can only "do this" at the same place that did it to you. And I really have a problem when they do it to kids. Despite Brazil's reputation for violence, it is very common (at least where I live, and have seen) to send kids over to the store to buy bread, milk, eggs, etc. They even sell cigarettes and alcohol (although it is against the law) to them, if the store keeper knows the kid and the family, and know it is for an adult. Of course a kid is going to accept the candy, and I am sure this has caused problems at times. Brazil!?! I love this place, but this is one of the many things that makes me scratch my head at times.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

SSEC Roundup

It's been a while since I wrote about the team, and a lot has happened. Results were just not positive. We played well, but ended up a little short each time. The second round of the first phase has us grouped with Nauticio, one of the "Big Three" in the state, Petrolina, and an old rival, Centro Limoeirense, which we faced last year in the second division. In our game against Petrolina, even though we were the home team we had to play away, in Ypiranga's statdium, due to problems with our stadium and the Federation. We got an early lead, but ended up giving points away on a late own goal. Our next game was against Nautico in Recife. Again, we played great. We fell behind 1-0 but kept fighting. We tied it in the 44th minute, and when it looked like we would secure a tie, Nautico nailed a free kick and got the victory 2-1. This brought a major change. Our old coach was brought back. Last year we had an Argentine coach, Marcelo Neveleff, who led the team into the first division. He left at the end of the season. After the poor results, many fans asked for his return, and finally a deal was worked out. Everyone was happy to see him back. Yesterday was his first game since his return. Our old friends Centro. Last year in four games we took 3 wins and a tie in hard fought matches. We fell behind early but managed a tie. 1-1. In the first half we had to use our 3 substitutions due to injuries, and lost a player to a red card. Before the half ended, Centro scored and the score was 2-1, a man down, and no substitutions left at the half. It looked grim. Sete played like champs. We tied it, only to fall behind again, 3-2. We tied it again, 3-3. Each time we fell behind, the team played with more heart. With about 5 minutes left we grabbed the lead 4-3, and thats the way it ended. Our first victory of the season. It gives new blood and hope for our chances of remaining in the first division.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

What's In A Name

When I first got to Brazil, I kept another blog, and made a post with the same title. One of the things in Brazil that fascinates me are the names parents give their kids. Another is the nicknames people have, and the way they are used in day to day life here. There are two main "types" of names here. One is the "family tradition", of naming all your kids with the same type of beginning. For example, my wife (soon to be, whenever we get around to it) has three kids from her first marriage. They are named Erito Junior (who goes by Junior, I will explain that in the nicknames), Ericka, and Eric. All start with "Er". There are familes with 10 or more kids, and all start the same way. It is common to see something like a set of kids named like this : Jose, Josefa, Jomilson, Joelma, Jonara, Josantos, etc. The "start" of the name is usually taken from either parents name, or a combination of the two. There is also a fascination here with "pop culture" or "historical names". US Presidents as names are extremely popular. The most common are Jackson, Jefferson, Lincoln, Adams, Kennedy, and Washington. Sometimes, this leads to another phenomena, misspellings or misunderstandings. Now, illiteracy is a common problem here. Sometimes parents go register their children and when they give the name, either they, or the person registering the child may not know how the name is spelled. You might see someone named "Washington" who spells his name "Uashinton". Sometimes, a name is misunderstood, and the kid gets a name you never wanted in the first place. Pop culture names are popular. Micheal Jackson is a popular name, commonly seen as "Maicon". There is a family in my neighborhood with four boys named : Jonleno, Paumacatiney, Joeharrison, and Hingostarre. Hingostarre is curious one. In Portuguese, the "R" is mostly silent. Soccer player "Ronaldo" is pronounced "Honaldo". When "Hingo" was registered, either the parent or the person at the registry didn't realize there was supposed to be an "r" there. There is a soccer player whose name is "Creedence Clearwater" (like Dave Barry says, I swear I am not making this up, his full name is Creedence Clearwater Couto). There is another player named "Olywood". In the town where I live, there is not one, but two guys named "Moshe Dianne".
Another popular tradition here is nicknames. There are three very common ones that are actually part of the name. "Junior", "Neto", and "Sobrinho", which mean "Junior", "Grandson", and "Nephew", and are used appropriately. So if a guy named Paulo names his son Paulo, he is known as Paulo Junior. Paulo Junior names his kid Paulo, he is known as Paulo Neto. and if either of the first two Paulo's have a brother, and he names his kid Paulo, he is Paulo Sobrinho, since his uncle is also Paulo (confused yet?). Despite all the thought and originality that goes into these names, it is common to know someone for years and not know their real name. You might be known by your appearance, or your job. It is almost like a mafia gathering. Pedro da pipoca is Pedro, the guy that sells popcorn. Felipe do cafe is Felipe, the dude that works at the coffee factory. Manoel da fuskinha is Manny, the guy that drives the Beetle (Beetle Bugs are known as Fusca in Brazil). "Magro" is a skinny person. Sandro Pequeno is a short person named Sandro. Sometimes, you are known by the city or place you are from. You know Saul Caricoa is from Rio, because people from Rio are known as "Carioca's". Paulista is from Sao Paulo. Some of the players I work with have no idea my name is Daniel, they just know me as "Cubano" or "Cuba". When the team has closed door practices, there is a list of certain fans that are allowed in. When they put the list together, some didn't know the name of others. The list said stuff like "Joe, the guy that sells peanuts" or Franklin (another historical US name) the guy that roots for Flamengo (a popular team in Rio, in fact, the most popular team in Brazil). And these are people who have known each other for years, they get together everyday to watch the team practice. Without a doubt, this is one of my favorite parts of life here in Brazil.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Recession? What Recession?

Location, location, location goes the saying. All politics is local is another. This article from The Economist shows how some areas of the US are in a boom, and others are a bust:

YOU won't hear the
R-word much in the modest governor's mansion in Helena, Montana. The occupant, Brian Schweitzer, insists that Montana's economy is in better shape than it has ever been. It has had one of the fastest rates of job growth in the country. The state is prospering on the back of booms in mining and farming, as well as steady growth in tourism. Paul Polzin of the University of Montana forecasts that the state's economy will grow by 4.1% this year, the fifth consecutive year of growth above 4%. “We've been searching for realistic doomsday scenarios,” he says, “and we just can't find any.”

Go to Michigan, by contrast, and it is hard to find anything but gloom. The collapse of America's car industry, coupled with a nasty subprime mortgage bust, has left the state reeling. It has the highest unemployment rate in the country (7.6%) and the third-highest foreclosure rate, and was the only state to lose a large number of jobs in 2007. In the run-up to the state's Republican primary (which he won) Mitt Romney traversed Michigan, promising to save voters from a “one-state recession”.

The infographic they have is pretty interesting too. Miami and Tampa among others have a more than 10% drop in housing prices, while others have zero or even positive growth. Unemployment rates are varying as well.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Bernard Hopkins Thinks Obama May Be Assassinated

Boxer Bernard Hopkins thinks Barack Obama may be assassinated if he is elected President

"If he gets the nomination they won't let him become president, but if they do, it will be for a short time, maybe less than a month or two," he said.

Philadelphia-born Hopkins, known in the ring as The Executioner told the Independent on Sunday newspaper in Britain that he did not think the US was ready for an African-American president.

Sadly, I agree with the part of the US not being "ready" for a black President. I don't think it is ready for a woman either. I have been away from the US for almost three years now, but I do not think the landscape has changed that much. There are still pockets of deep prejudice. Remember, David Duke got elected, and everyone knew his background.

IPL Puts The Pressure On The Aussies

IPL says "sign up, or else" to the Australian players who want to participate:

Australia's cricketers have been told to join the Indian Premier League by Sunday, even if it means defying their own board, or face a three-year ban from the tournament.

Interesting to see the IPL being the one making threats now.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

BCCI, CA, and Most Any Other Cricket Body vs the IPL

Plenty of articles all over the net on the governing cricket bodies versus the IPL. You can read some here, or here. You can read about the IPL player auction here. Now, what I want to know is, why the cricket bodies get all worked up over the IPL, which so far seems to be working in the interest of promoting the sport, but let things like the Bucknor/ monkey, he said-he said, controversy slide.

Ricardinho Adjusts To Life In Detroit

Article on Brazilian soccer player Ricardinho adjusting to life in a new country, and a different version of "futebol", indoor soccer in the MISL.

So Good It's Illegal

Hat tip to George the "pitbull" over at Babalu Blog for this piece on "illegal" bacon wrapped dogs in Los Angeles. I understand that the crux of the problem is sanitary cooking conditions, and not so much the health aspect (from a fat content point of view) like the transfat or smoking controversies, but when will people say "enough is enough". They regulate the small stuff and turn a blind eye to real problems.