A Seca Em São Paulo: É Culpa de Quem??

Who is to blame for the drought in Sao Paulo??

Como é época de eleições no Brasil, escreverei esse post em português.

Acabei de retornar do pais que me deu vida e da cidade que eu tanto amo, provavelmente na época que eu menos gosto: Eleições presidenciais, para governadores e deputados. Tem pessoas que dizem que, para conhecermos uma pessoa, temos que viver com elas… mas conhecemos muito mais sobre elas quando o assunto e política ou fanatismo político.

Dado esse fanatismo político, eu encontrei um conflito até que interessante nesse tempo que passei no Brasil. Como a maioria da população sempre tenta achar um culpado para os problemas, mas tendo um pouco de preguiça para sentar e analisar a fundo o caso, sempre culpam os mesmos seres: Seres Políticos… e se não chove e os reservatórios secam, bem, e culpa dos políticos. Mas é culpa dos politicos mesmo? Esse problema é tao preto no branco assim? Bem, vamos analisar um pouquinho a situação em que a grande Sao Paulo se encontra.

Hoje, o sistema Cantareira, que abastece a Grande Sao Paulo, atingiu record histórico de 3% da sua capacidade total. Isso é culpa de quem?? A resposta que sempre vem na boca da grande maioria da população é que a culpa é do governo, que o governo não faz nada como medida preventiva para casos assim. Então, vamos analisar a culpa do governo em situações como essa.


O país inteiro no dia das eleições

Culpa do Governo do Estado de São Paulo.

O governo de São Paulo tem culpa? Claro que tem, afinal, a SABESP é do governo estadual! Eles são os únicos culpados? Não! Mas darei um passo de cada vez. Existe uma lei universal chamada “lei da continuidade”. Em palavras para todo mundo entender: Se pegou aqui, tem que sair ali. Nada é perdido, nada é criado. Se água está saindo dos reservatórios, ela está evaporando, indo para os comércios, residências, indústrias etc. Mas depois de abastecida para as casas, evacuadas através de banhos de horas, descargas de 10L, arroz e feijão, resfriadores de caldeiras… para onde essa água vai? Para estaçōes de tratamento de esgoto, é claro! E essas estaçōes de tratamento de esgoto desaguam onde? Logicamente, deveriam cair de volta, tratada e limpa, no sistema de abastecimento de onde a água inicialmente saiu. Isso acontece? Não! Se isso acontecesse, o Rio Tietê, Pinheiros etc estariam limpos e pelo menos 60% da água que usamos estaria retornando para esses desertos. Isso não acontece e é culpa de quem? Do governo, sem dúvida! Mas não vou culpar o governo de um partido ou outro, pois o Sistema Cantareira foi idealizado nos anos 60. Planejamento urbano, sistema de esgoto e saneamento básico etc são todos responsabilidades do governo. O Governo do Estado tem culpa? Sim! Por não ter feito um sistema sustentável que retira e devolve a água limpa e tratada para o sistema de abastecimento, afinal, quase tudo o q consumimos volta para o esgoto (com uma pequena porcentagem parando na cintura, claro… mas isso não e culpa do governo! hehe)


O Rio Pinheiros, em 2014… aceitável?

Variações Climáticas.

A atmosfera tem culpa? Claro que tem! Mas isso é uma culpa coletiva. Existe um consenso de 99% dos cientistas que mudanca climatica existe. Culpa do governo (nāo só local, pois mudança climática é um fenômeno global) por só ouvirem os 1% (pois é mais leve nas contas publicas a curto prazo), mas também da população que polui de todas as maneiras possíveis e acham que é responsabilidade do resto do mundo limparem por elas.

Quando se ouve no jornal que choveu X% da média do mês de outubro, a média é feita da seguinte maneira: Pega-se a média de chuva dos últimos 40 anos e se compara com o que caiu no mês do ano a ser comparado. Estamos no dia 24 de outubro de 2014. Quase 80% do mês já passou, mas só 20% da chuva esperada para o mês de outubro caiu. Já é um mau sinal. Precisa chover muito até o fim do mês para compensar essa falta de chuva e tentar encher, mesmo que parcialmente, os reservatórios. Mas então a culpa é da mudança climática? Sim! Mas em partes, pois mudança climática só acontece por causa dos…..

Seres Humanos (Excluo Políticos)

Cortem todas as árvores, pavimentem toda a superfície da terra e continuem poluindo para verem onde chegaremos! À lugar nenhum! A Grande São Paulo tem uma área enorme… ãrea tão grande que consegue gerar seu próprio microclima, i.e. o clima da Grande São Paulo e mais quente e seco que seu arredor, verde e arborizado. Não é impressionante que São Paulo está seco, mas qualquer pingo de chuva que cai alaga metade da cidade? O Rio Tietê foi retilineado, assoreado, poluído com tudo imaginável… mas não foi a natureza. Tudo isso terã um efeito no clima local. São Paulo é um tapete de concreto, não existe lugar para a pouca agua que cai ir. Quase não existe área verde para vazão de água, os poucos bueiros que devolvem a água para o sistema de abastecimento estão entupidos com sujeiras que nós, seres humanos, jogamos pela janela do carro (sim, carro, pois ninguém mais quer andar de transporte público…). Todos esses fatores fazem com que, se a chuva não cai diretamente sobre a represa, nunca chegará à ela.

Antes de culparem alguém, parem pra pensar se você nâo tem um pouquinho de culpa também! Todos os problemas estão interligados, seja você ser político, ser humano ou parte da natureza… A mãe natureza pode ser boa, mas pode ser cruel para quem não a respeita. Se essa seca não é prova disso, difícil saber o que é!

Four Countries, Two Days

Hi all!

Sorry for my absence! I have been away for the past few days and I am now going away again. Crossing four countries in two days. It sounds way better than it actually is! I left Ireland towards the UK. After that, I took the boat and needed to cross the beautiful country of Wales until I arrived in England. Now, I am just a couple of hours away from flying to Brazil.

It’s quite tiring, but I am not complaining! Just posted this quickly to let you guys know I am still alive and will post some new stuff very soon!

The Day I Thought I Had Received my Last Rites

After a long trip to Brazil, back in 2004/2005, I returned home to Ireland and, as I still had 6 months with nothing to do, I decided to get a job.

There is nothing more rewarding than getting a job, right? So people say, anyway, so I became a bartender at a local hotel.

On the second day of the job, as I was pulling a pint, I felt the strongest, sharpest pain I had ever felt in my entire life. I spilled beer on the costumers and all, it was a massive mess, I tell you!

That pain didn’t go away! It was sooooo bad and no position I tried to be in felt comfortable, just more and more pain. Well, what else could I have done? So I was brought to hospital. I had no idea what was going on with me, I thought it was appendicitis, but I was wrong… it was kidney stones.

My mother was there with me and I could see she was in pain from seeing me in pain. They tried three different types of painkillers and none made the pain go away, so they had to bring out the big guns: Morphine. Still I am not sure what I felt, but the pain went away almost instantaneously, but also my blood pressure, which dropped down to 73 by 31 (This is really, really low blood pressure). I am not sure what had happened, but I couldn’t speak and could barely understand what the people around me were saying.

Out of nowhere, I see a priest lean over me, puts his hands over my forehead and says something, which for me sounded like Charlie Brown’s teachers. As I couldn’t speak, I started struggling, well, I wanted to know what was happening! “Why the hell is a priest talking to me?”, I thought… maybe I should have just given up, really… at that stage, I thought I was dying and the priest came to give me my last rites. As quick as he appeared, he disappeared and, slowly, I became more alert and asked why the hell was he giving me my last rites? I heard a wave of laughter from the nurses and from my mom… I felt so embarrassed! It turned out that my mom was the priest’s hairdresser and he just came in to say hello.

Yeah… and that’s how you feel like a fool.

Couchsurfing… a Long Overdue Post Of Frustration…

If my profile gets deleted, you guys can be witness to their censorship! And my BeWelcome profile is available on the sidebar of my blog. I really hope BW won’t disappoint me the same way CS did.

I was part of couchsurfing since I started university in 2005. My initial profile was deleted in 2006, together with other thousands (server crash or something). For a while, I stayed away, just sharing my floor and couch with friends and friends of friends, kind of having my own couchsurfing through my connections. I came back in 2009, didn’t remain active and made a new profile in 2011. Since then, I have organized events, sang praises about the community, hosted several people in my house, showed the places I have lived (and not lived) to strangers I couldn’t host. It’s been great.

Since the very beginning, I have donated quite a bit of money to the place and gained the “pioneer” badge… donated money to a community that, at the time, was non-profit and had no intention of making money out of it. Well, who needs hotels when you can have the kindness of some amazing people?

When I rejoined in 2011, as usual, I got that nice welcome email, showing how great the community was etc. And it indeed was a great community. Soon after, I got another email, saying that couchsurfing was no longer non-profit, but it didn’t mean it was for-profit. Quite a heart-warming email from the co-founder.

Here is a copy of the main point of the email that still shocks me:

“….

Just because we’re not a non-profit doesn’t mean we’re actually “for” profit. CouchSurfing is not for sale, and money is not our goal. We recognize that the community is what makes this movement real and supporting it is what our organization is here for. Everyone on our staff is a CouchSurfing member, and we want to keep it that way.

…”

Well, fair enough… since thousands of us donated money, I am ok with no one capitalizing from our donations.

Again, not soon after this email was sent, this time with no email sent to members, CS became a for-profit company.

In my view, this is what happened:

  1. While still a non-profit, they accepted donations, both through money and goodwill of people, and managed to build quite a big operation;
  2. The non-profit, which was built with donation money and marketing done with its thousands of ambassadors/users who dedicated their time to organize events etc, became full-on for-profit and got massive injections of capital from venture capitalists;
  3. They ruined the website and absolutely destroyed community.

Ever since these changes happened, CS has been accused of censorship (don’t you mention BeWelcome in their website, otherwise you will have your account deleted!), amongst several other things.

I am still part of the community… but bringing my business elsewhere. I don’t think it is fair for a company to capitalize on the kindness of others. Take your favourite charity: Would you be ok if, after years of service, it got privatized and made a fortune?

Lessons From Musical Instruments

When I am happy, sad, alone, with friends, at home, travelling… my instruments are always with me. The cavaquinho, the small brazilian instrument near the Ukulele, has gone through some very hard times. It was bought by my grandfather in 1978, it has been broken, thrown away, picked up from the garbage, rebuilt… and still sounds amazing! It will never leave my sight again, that I can tell you!

I think everyone goes through hard times from time to time, goes to hell and back, but can we manage to come out of it much better than before? Well, from the lessons from my cavaquinho: Yes, we can, but we can never do it alone. There are people who will break us and throw us away, but there will be others who will pick us up from the garbage in pieces, help us heal bit by bit, until we can be put back together to bring joy to everyone.

The cavaquinho is full of scars now. With each of these scars comes a story, which all together, comes out beautifully with a unique tone.

Maybe there is a lesson there for all of us…

Weekly Photo Challenge II: Zig Zag (Quilt)

Published as part of the Weekly Photo Challenge

Before the week is up, I’d like to publish a photo of my quilt. Why?

When I graduated from University, my grandmother gave this quilt as a gift, but it’s a special type of quilt. Not only my grandmother made it, but it has a piece of clothe from most members of the family. Parts of my great-grandmother’s dress, of the dress my aunt left maternity with my cousin, a pocket from my uncle’s first pair of pants, my mom’s dress when she was 15 years old… well, you get where this is going.

It’s more than just a quilt… it is a quilt that my grandmother made that tells the history of our family! Pretty neat, isn’t it?

That’s Where Increased Life Expectancy Was Born

Or with the Oxford group… depends on who you ask!

Due to power failure, I had to walk along Praed St from Edgware Road to Paddington Station and, along the way, this little gem of a place can be seen.

Sir Alexandre Fleming is the person mostly known for the discovery of penicillin,  but the debate that comes with it can be long…. very very long, so I will let you look it up at your own leisure.

The Conundrum of a Below-Average Guy

I was just reading with a friend a debate that I am sure has crossed everyone’s minds. I have mixed feelings about the subject and I will try to stay out of controversy! You don’t do whatever you want! It’s mostly a free world after all! But I have two different opinions on the matter… but it’s my personal opinion and maybe it’s not worth the kbs it’s written on! I will carry on anyway.

I am a skinny guy who always carry my luggage on the overhead compartment and hardly ever check-in a bag. I only check-in my luggage when I have my tent, sleeping bags and camping equipment. I am a relatively active person, like going hiking, camping etc and as some of you know, these equipments can be very heavy. Depending on the airline you travel with, the allowances for long-haul flights vary, from a single 20kg luggage (cough cough air france cough cough) to two 32kg. These restrictions are getting stricter and you are being allowed less and less every year.

I am a 65kg average guy who usually carries a 10kg overhead backpack with me. That holds everything I need for non-adventurous trips. When carrying equipment and going for very long holidays, the checked-in luggage can easily surpass the 20kg allowed, which is a problem, as the fees for luggage are out of this world! That’s the time that I starting putting on layers and layers of clothes until my luggage comes down below the threshold of that single bag. What’s the difference? I am not carrying that weight in my checked luggage, but I am carrying that weight on the plane anyway……. so…. what’s the problem?

This is the part that confuses me. The problem with overweight luggage is saving fuel and, in turn, reducing carbon footprint etc etc, so that airlines look that they care less about money than they actually do (with the environmentally friendly label attached!). The truth is, it’s all about maximizing profit, it’s a business after all. So, with the $greens$ in mind, the aim is to reduce the OVERALL weight of the aircraft, not the luggage only. It’s a hard subject because it can invade people’s privacy, personal problems and put them on the spot in public. This is something that none of us really like, to be honest. But anyway, since the point is to reduce costs and maximize profits, here is where my thoughts split.

  1. Luggage allowance should be based on the total weight of luggage + passenger

Well, as I explained above, I can wear layers and layers of clothes on me and have a checked bag that’s under the weight limit. I can then, as I board the plane, throw all those really large jackets and take over more than my allotted overhead space.

I have travelled once beside a bodybuilder and we had this very same discussion with him. He weighed 200kg and was carrying his 30kg (20kg checked + 10kg overhead). He had then, in total, 230kg on board. I weighed 55kg back then and had a 20kg checked bag only (from which I had to remove a jacket), nothing else. Total: 75kg and a bit? So, his combined weight was roughly three times my combined weight. I told him about it and asked, with the fear of being punched in the face and dying on the spot, if he thought it was fair that I should have to pay overweight on my luggage. He said that he was carrying about 155kg more than me and had to pay nothing and there I was, roasting due do the extra layer. This made me think about another way to think about the subject…

  1. Pay-by-Weight (passenger + luggage)

Nothing in the world motivates people more than the fear of overspending (for us poor folk of course). I always travel on a tight budget and I’d love to be able to save a little more and enjoy the place without thinking too much about if I will be able to eat the next day. Again, the overall fuel consumption of an airplane is directly related to the weight of the aircraft. Hey, aerodynamics is a very VERY exact science, so attaching a number of fuel consumption to the average passenger+luggage is not so hard to do, if you are interested in the details. The average passenger + all luggages weighs roughly 110kg. If the fuel consumption, and plane ticket (excluding the taxes that we can’t control) as a consequence, are valued per kg of total mass, you’d see two things happening: People bringing less luggage and using the local launderette at their destination OR filled gyms and parks to work on their bikini bodies more often.

In relation to this last topic and being a less-than-average guy who prefers to remain active, I do feel that I help pay for everyone else’s ticket, since I don’t require as much fuel to be transported as a 230kg bodybuilder+luggage. Assuming that I paid the same for the ticket as he did, in a pay-by-weight system, my ticket-ONLY was three times more expensive than his.

Thinking about it, he didn’t even thank me for the almost free ticket!

Pesto, anyone?

I like to take pleasures from simple things in life, at least I like to think that! And seeing how my basil seedlings are coming along just gave me a smile! Future pesto! I can’t wait for them to fully grow so that I can use it for several things… including mixing it with ravioli, one of my favourite dishes!

“Still” a Very Nice Cachaça Story – Perpetuating Old Methods

Get it? Get it? Well, bad jokes can be made from time to time, but that’s beside the story.

My family comes from a place in Brazil where they are very proud for traditionally producting the best Cachaça (brazilian native spirit drink) in the country, and rightly so! Some places have modernized the production, making everything precise and what not, some other places remains with production just as it was done back a few decades ago. My granduncle used to be one of them.

No, no… my granduncle is fine! Still alive and well, but this still not so much. My grandaunt and himself had to move away from the farm… and people took advantage of that, unfortunately. Since stills are made from now very valuable copper, they managed to beat down an one hundred year old still and take the metal away while no-one was minding the farm. Sad…

Back a few years ago, I managed to take one single photo of the process of fermentation of the sugar cane juice. It was a highly unscientific process which worked I guess, but no-one understood why. After I decided to take up homebrewing, I started to put the pieces they explained to me together in an attempt to perpetuate old methods.

The sugar cane was extracted from the farm itself, which grew organically (very refreshing to drink the ice-cold juice from them!). The juice was extracted from a mechanical mill.

The juice from the sugar cane, without the addition of water, has around 20g of sugar per 100ml. In brewing terms, this adds to around a specific gravity of 1070, with a potential for 10% ABV (Alcohol By Volume after fermentation). The fermenting bin took 1600L of sugar cane juice.

Time to pitch the yeast, right? Which yeast? All I saw was him generously sprinkling unbleached corn flour on top of the juice. I couldn’t understand for the life of me why that was necessary (Hey, I was young, give me a break!). Later I found out that the corn flour, together with the sugar from the juice, acts as a culture for wild yeast present in the air. A somewhat similar process to how lambic beer and sourdough starters are made. (The photo below shows the fermentation at full steam). From day to day, corn flour would be added to keep the yeast going until the fermentation was done, which took about one week.

The most (fermented alcoholic solution) would be tapped into the still, all the 1600L of it, and heated up. I also never understood why they never let the most boil. The point of distillation is to transfer the alcohol with as little water as possible. As alcohol has a lower boiling point than water, keeping the most from boiling avoids a lot of water being fractionally distilled in the final product. Every time the liquid was about to boil, they would cover the fire with a piece of stone, which slid back and forth just under the bottom of the still.

Quick maths now: 1600L of most at 10% has a potential for 160L of 100% alcoholic solution, so any volume above 160L would just be water. If you have 320L as the end volume, your spirit would be 50% proof. Easy!

Alcohol was produced very nicely… but which alcohol??? I saw the first 5L or so being discarded and throw out… why???? I didn’t get an answer from them, apart that the first 5L could impair your sight. Why? Those first few litres of alcohol were methyl alcohol, or methanol. Methanol has a lower boiling point than ethanol (the good stuff) and comes out first. Our body metabolizes methanol into formaldehyde (taxidermist’s dream fluid!), which damages several parts of the body, mainly the eyes. The rest of the alcohol was ethanol and was saved.

The end volume was 250L of Cachaça. This corresponds to about 73% proof Cachaça, who would drink that, right? Well, from there, it would be put in for storage in barrels. They are not completely sealed and alcohol would evaporate slightly, so the end product would have a lower alcoholic content. Still pretty strong, but ah well!

In order for the alcoholic proof to be brought down before bottling, it would be slightly diluted with water. How much alcohol was in the final product? Well, the final product was tasted and green flagged… that’s how much alcohol there was! As you can imagine, this means that the proof was highly variable from batch to batch… but still, it is very nice to have these memories and know that a piece of history can be preserved!