The title pretty much sums it up here. Because life has been pretty quiet here lately, I thought I would just talk about walking. It’s something that I like to do, it’s healthy and can be pretty interesting, especially in a new place (this really isn’t that new to me any more). I’ve got three days left in Brasil. On Friday, I’ll be back at work.
Behind our house, there is a walkway that joins our cul-de-sac with the neighborhood down the hill. It’s made of concrete. It’s pretty steep, and the walk switches back on itself due to the steepness. When I’m walking up it with Monica, we have to take little steps. At the curve of the switch back are some concrete benches. If it isn’t raining, you can usually see two lizards just to the right of them. These two little guys have been here for years – Vagabond Dog used to chase them. I always look for them just to the right of the concrete benches.
At the bottom of the path is a mango tree. It’s just a mango tree – nothing special about it. You can see some fruit on it – they’re in season now. If I go past that tree and turn right at the next intersection, I have to walk down another big hill to the main street in Retiro, Avenida Savio Gama. Our neighborhood is pretty hilly – we live on a street that runs along the top of a hill.
I mentioned the recent rainstorms in my last post. We had a bit of a mudslide – looks like a brick wall came down the hill. This photo was taken from the street on the way down to the main street. This street was closed for a few days, but it’s open now. I think it’s open because somebody got tired of it being closed and just moved the temporary barriers – nobody’s done any work in the area of the slide yet. The slide really didn’t reach the street, anyway. I took this picture of the fallen block wall. It’s hard to make out the wall in this picture – it’s leaning against the tree halfway down the hill. The structure at the bottom of the hill looks unfinished. I’ve been walking past it for over two years and I’ve never seen any signs of life there. Last year, there was a “Se Vende” (for sale) sign posted on the block wall. I remember remarking to Monica that nobody would want to live in such a place. It’s just a few brick walls with a metal roof. To the right, you can see a blue water tank, so there must have been some plumbing. Looks like a prison more than a home to me. In any case, it’s going to have to be removed. There is already a bunch of hill sitting on the metal roof. Oh, and that house on the right at the top of the hill has a room in the back that is hanging in the air – at least part of it. I sure wouldn’t want to be sleeping there…. Maybe it’s a mother-in-law suite.
Just past that doomed structure at the bottom of the hill is Avenida Savio Gama. If you turn left, you will go through the heart of Retiro. It looks like a US town of the 1960’s. Storefronts with little stores, bars and shops. There are little used car dealerships, places that do car repairs, banks, a couple of supermarkets, etc. Not a WalMart or discount store to be seen. You can find almost anything that you might need there and it’s all within an easy walking distance. There is a bank about a kilometer or so down the street from the bottom of the hill whose ATMs will accept my PNC card. I’ve been there once or twice. There are plenty of counters where you can get a snack or a quick lunch, but no real sit-down restaurants. In the late afternoons, the sidewalks can get crowded as folks wait there for the onibus. It’s a busy place most days, although except for the bars and supermarkets, everything is closed on Sunday.
I often pass a store that sells electronics and appliances. It’s nice to walk past there because they usually have their air-conditioning cranked up – it feels nice even on the sidewalk. The store is called Casas Bahia. They’re a very successful chain of stores here. According to the linked Wikipedia article, the store finances about 80% of its sales. The chain is teamed up with a bank here called Bradesco. I took a photo of a TV placed next to the sidewalk. It’s on sale for R$699 (US$320). That’s not so bad, really, given the taxes that folks pay on manufactured goods here. It seems that the government has some sort of truth-in-lending legislation, because in very small print at the bottom of the sign, it says that the total you will pay after 20 payments of R$56.85 is R$1132. It also states the interest rate – it’s 46.1%. If you make a purchase there, you will have to walk to the back of the store – past all of that stuff – to make your payments. So if you’re poor and you can’t afford to pay cash for a TV, Casas Bahia will happily sell you one and charge you almost 50% interest a year. If a poor (but patient) person put that R$56.85 in a savings account, he could buy that TV in a year. Financing it, it means 20 months of payments – 8 more than saving. In Brasil, it costs a lot to be poor. We really need a Dave Ramsey type of person here. Somebody needs to wake these people up.
There are a number of small used car dealerships in the area. It’s fun to walk by and see the cars and their prices. There is a car dealership near here that has a 1995 Mitsubishi Eclipse (an imported and thus unusual car here) on their lot. Unfortunately, this is one of the few places that doesn’t post their prices, so I can’t tell you what they were asking for it. It’s weird – this Eclipse actually looked like a large car in the lot with the others. Cars are so much smaller here. I took a few pictures of the Eclipse in the lot, but it was after the place was closed. The gates were shut and I couldn’t get a good angle to show the difference in the car size. Bet it’s expensive, though.
We have a new president. In his first few days, he has removed a long-standing provision that eliminated international aid funding for abortions. It seems that some folks strongly object to their tax money being used to kill unborn babies. Obama doesn’t care.
I have a difficult time complaining about Congress. After all, they were duly elected (well, all but Al Franken – his seat was stolen). Watch the circus as the democrat leadership loads up the “stimulus package” with all sorts of liberal goodies in the name of helping the economy. Nancy Pelosi actually tried to defend millions of dollars in spending on contraceptives as “good for the economy” on TV yesterday ( link is to Michelle Malkin’s Blog). Keep in mind that these folks are spending our grandchildren’s money for this idiocy and that the interest we spend on that borrowed money means that our future taxes will go to enrich bankers and international investors – not be spent on our citizens or their defense. Look, the government doesn’t have enough money now. So later, we still won’t have enough money, but we’ll have all of these interest costs, too. For what? Free contraceptives? These people have no shame. The best thing that the politicians could do is to leave things alone and take a long vacation. What they are doing now is going to make things worse.
I also read that Obama will allow California to legislate reductions in greenhouse gas emissions in their new cars. Detroit has been fighting this idea and the Bush administration took the auto industry’s side. We’ve got automakers teetering on the brink of bankruptcy and living on government handouts. If they want to sell cars in California now, they’re going to have to invest billions to come up with a new car that will meet California’s new requirements – despite the fact that there is NO GOOD REASON to limit carbon dioxide emissions. Carbon dioxide is a TRACE gas in our atmosphere. It’s about 370 ppmv. It’s also necessary for life on our planet – if we had no CO2, we would all die. Global warming is a hoax, but it’s about to cost people their jobs (nobody will want to buy these new and expensive “green” cars) and ultimately may cost some folks their lives. The new cars will need to be much lighter and smaller – no way will they be safer. Big trucks that share the California freeways will remain the same size. Another reason to leave California. Want to make some money? Invest in companies that produce parts for older cars – I suspect that we’re going to see older cars staying on the road much longer in California. That will sure help the economy…..
The President’s New Cabinet
Eric Holder, our attorney-general nominee was partially responsible for the abominable decision behind Bill Clinton’s pardon of the FALN terrorists as well as his pardon of Marc Rich (fugitive finaincier whose ex-wife contributed $400,000 to the Clinton library and slush fund). His law firm represents murdering terrorists at Guantanamo. We’ve going to have an attorney general that has a history of siding with terrorists. My kind of guy. Bet he wants to prosecute President Bush’s administration for keeping us safe war crimes, though.
Our nominee for Secretary of State is a political hack carpetbagger who’s only real political experience before being awarded a Senate seat was that she was married to the President. She replaces Condoleeza Rice, one of the most intelligent and experienced people ever to hold that position. The family of the nominee has a history of receiving large amounts of money from foreign contributors for Bill’s library and their foundation. At least she’s not the President.
And our nominee for Secretary of the Treasury had a problem paying his self-employment taxes for four years despite being given the money by his employer for just that purpose. This is all over the news – no need for a link here.
Is this the hope and change that we were promised? We’re about to get a larded-up and ineffective “stimulus” bill rammed through our Democrat-led Congress. It’s purpose is to expand government and pay off influence groups – there’s precious little economic stimulus in the bill.
Would ANY of President Bush’s cabinet nominees have been confirmed if they had similar flaws? Is this going to be the “most ethical” administration ever? Does it look like it?
Joe Biden was on TV yesterday saying that we should expect to have more soldiers die in Afghanistan. Where are the protesters now???
I just get upset when I think about this stuff…
Enough for now,