Thursday, November 26, 2009

Why I do not cook down here:

This slop pile disappears for about 45 mins a week then magestically
reappears. To borrow an ochocincoism: child please! Smh

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Food For Thought

Those of you who know me well know that generally, when I wake up, my most pressing concern is trying to figure out what I am going to eat that day. This started about 5 years ago after I took a look in the mirror and was not happy with what I saw. Actually, my roommate and good buddy Vineet did me a favor and put a not so flattering picture of me on our fridge. It was a Sunday and I was carrying out my then routine, which was dominated by an NFL Sunday Ticket subscription, of starting the day off (at 11:00 am) with a fight against my resultant hangover from the prior night's evils. I poured myself a giant bowl of raisin bran and as I turned to the fridge to hydrate the flakes with some cold milk Sam's Adams Winter Lager (seriously folks, try it, it is amazing on every level), I noticed the photo on an otherwise barren fridge. I wish that I could reproduce that picture here. Sadly, it is long lost (the following is circa December 2002 but I think it serves the intended effect):

I made an instant declaration: that day would be the absolute last day that I would begin with beeraisin bran, followed by watching the 1:00 games, followed by a trip to Publix to grab an overstuffed hoagie, followed by the 4:00 games, followed by a trip to Chipotle/front door to collect some nasty Manny & Olga's pizza/kebab palace, followed by Sunday Night Football, followed by something disgusting, followed by TV.

Yeah, there is no way to just quit anything that delicious cold turkey (especially when there is cold turkey in the Publix hoagies). So, I began my journey to reduce my weight to a respectable level, and to get my fat ass in shape. I started working out on the regs and I gradually began to watch my diet. I even started reading about nutrition (okay, I just read the South Beach Diet) and I realized that if I was serious, I could no longer fill my body with crap. Thus began my problem of trying to figure out what I was going to eat each day. Since then, I have done a pretty good job of keeping myself in respectable condition, especially considering my affinity for the drink and my affinity for burgers - let's face it, they are the real NYC specialty.

There have definitely been a couple periods where I have recessed to old habits though - one troubled winter in NYC and this past summer leap to mind.

Okay - Where the hell am I going with this?

Succumbing to a bout of insomnia the other day, I watched a video essay (I refuse to call it a "documentary" as it definitely had a thesis) on the food supply and distribution network in the United States called "Food, Inc." It basically was watching my brain on film. There are several different themes covered in the essay, but the basic thesis is that the food supply and distribution networks in the US have been overrun by corporate interests and that corporate bottom lines have not been good for any of (i) human waistlines, (ii) human health, (iii) the environment, (iv) animals or (v) everyday farmers. I cannot tell you how much this essay resonated with my admittedly unresearched core beliefs about food.

My first trip to a grocery store in Brazil yielded the following immediate reactions: (i) Amazing! This looks exactly like a grocery store in the US - they have everything (I was even able to buy a towel there!) and (ii) Holy Shit! This crap is expensive. What I was looking at was a jar of salsa. It cost R$23 (US$13,50). I began to look at other staple foods and found them similarly expensive. I started to realize that my relief that the grocery store was better equipped than the franco-relics found in Madrid was quickly being replaced with dismay at the costs. Then I realized - everything I was looking at was processed food. I quickly high-tailed it to the produce section. Halleluja, I found the cheapness the Indian in me was looking for. I grabbed some delicious looking fruits and vegetables and made off for the proteins. OMG! Look at the seafood selection! AMAZING! The Meats were even more so. And everything fresh was so damn cheap! This is exactly the opposite of the United States where processed foods are cheap (because they are heavily subsidized) and fresh foods are expensive.

While Food, Inc. makes a heavy-handed point of criticizing mass Agri-business in the US, it does raise some valid points. Has anyone ever considered if it is actually a good thing to stuff cattle and farm-raised salmon with corn? Has anyone ever considered whether it is a good thing to stuff salmon into mud baths? Can eating chicken that comes from a modern, closed-in chicken house dangerous? What about e-coli? Who is in charge of oversight? And Most Importantly - WHY THE FUCK DO WE NOT CARE ABOUT OUR FOOD SUPPLY?

My guess to the last question is that it is certainly because our food is so plentiful and cheap. And because we have so little information about what is actually in it. One of the themes in the essay is that the Food Business has been so successful in fighting labeling requirements that people are simply incapable of knowing what they put in their bodies. I totally agree. Why withhold information? Oh, because "consumer will be too frightened if we have to put labels on the food." JESUS, frightend of what? You pompous bitch, provide the info and if the consumer doesn't like your product, then go sod off. That is what capitalism is all about right? Consumer Choice? Not out version of Capitalism - our version is all about protecting interests so that we can grow bloated systems that are doomed to fail (see, e.g. the American Auto Industry and the American Banking Industry).

For me, Food, Inc. is important because it highlights another way in which we fail to use democracy for our own benefit. We let tyrants grab the power and then let them control us by lining their pockets with cash while filling our pockets with shit. The answer is not to beg the government (we are the government in America, remember?) to put in place new policies (maybe adjust some current policies or remove certain ones), but to beat the corporations (Monsanto, Tyson, Smithfield & Perdue) at their own game. We need to show our love to farmer's and green markets and demand more transparency in the food production world. Why should there not be free viewing platforms for the public to view slaughterhouses at work (think glass-walled observation decks). Sure, it could make people a little queasy, but our current food supply makes me queasy.

Anyway, since being here and eating almost entirely only fresh foods, I have felt myself become healthier and happier. I am back on track to regain my respectable body weight and despite the fact that I am exercising on the regs again, I really think the food quality is playing a huge role.

So, since tomorrow is Thanksgiving, maybe now is the time to start thinking about what kind of food we spend our dollars on. One thing I know that I am thankful for this year has been the opportunity to spend time in three very different countries and cultures and to be able to compare and contrast them. There is no doubt in my mind that this continues to be the most educational year of my life.

Feliz Dia de Ação Everybody! (Now what the heck am I going to eat for dinner . . .)

Monday, November 23, 2009

Maracanã 5.0 and how I failed the USA

Last night was one of the most magical football environments I've ever experienced. 92,000 people packed into Maracanã to see the surging Flamengo take on Goiás in the third to last match of the 2009 Campeanato Brasileiro. Marcel, Gabor and I headed out on the subway mighty early to try and score some tickets from a tout as the match had long been sold out. Marcel and Gabor are both German, and if you're not familiar, Germans do not like to deal with touts. When I had an extra ticket to the Germany-Italy semi-final of the 2006 World Cup, I thought I'd be able to sell it a premium and secure a booty of bier tokens. Not. To. Be. Nobody would pay me more than face value (150 euros). When someone offered me 150 euros plus a ticket to the France-Portugal match, I gobbled it up faster than you can say Fahrvergnügen.

Anyway, as soon as we got off the subway, the swarms of Mengão fans around us went batty as Botafogo, one of Flamengo's inter-city rivals, took a lead against São Paulo. Going into the day, São Paulo led Flamengo by 2 points so a São Paulo loss coupled with a Flamengo win would see Flamengo go top with just 2 matches left. This was actually my first time arriving at Maracanã station as all other times I've been, the subway station has been closed for renovations. The view when you arrive is stunning:

From Drop Box

The immediate jubilation was short-lived as São Paulo quickly leveled. We found the touts easily enough and quickly parted with R$75 each to secure seats in the Arquibancada - the upper band of the stadium where the Torcedores (hard core supporters) are. We arrived about 1.5 hours early and with little refreshment and protection from the shade, our sweat glands were being put to the test. We quickly went Mike Mick on the situation and shed our shirts.

From Drop Box
(notice Barack Obama was there as well)

Getting there early turned out to be a great idea as the score reports coming in from the Botafogo-São Paulo match kept everyone entertained. São Paulo took the lead and then Botafogo duly levelled before Jóbson sent both the Engenhão and the Maracanã into complete pandemonium by knocking in a winner for Botafogo.

A number of the Torcidas (fan groups) of Flamengo organized the following tifo-mosaic display before the match. In a word, incredible:

The match itself was extremely frustrating as Flamengo were without key attacking midfielder, Claudio Maldonado, a Chilean international injured in a friendly with Slovakia last week. This left Flamengo to pursue a tired and predictable attack by driving down the wings and then forcing a cross to the double-teamed Adriano. Despite this, Fla managed a few quality chances and easily could have scored twice, but alas, frustration.

We had to make our best impression of lemmings as we made for the exits with the other 91,997 fans in attendance. An odd tradition is that members of the Raça, one of the torcidas, pretend that they in Pamplona and charge through the crowd like a pack of bulls to get to the exit quicker. Looks pretty hazardous on its face, but people get out of the way and seem to even have a laugh about it. I may join next time.

After the match, we met up with Sebastian and headed over to Baixo Tijuca for a massive chopp. This is where I embarrassed the USA. After several warm-up rounds, some Germans got to talking about how they are the best drinkers. Well, the Brazilians amongst us and of course the Americans took issue (there were two chicks who are studying abroad - one from the U and one from New Mexico). We went simple and kept it at a chugging race. In the first contest, I finished first or second to Pedro, one of the Brazilians. It was too close to call. In the second contest, another too close to call race between me and a Brazilian, this time Ben. In the final, the round of champions if you will, I was decidedly beaten by Ben. The Germans were nowhere to be found. Apologies USA, please let me back in. I will do better. I promise.

Here are some more photos:

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

World Cup 2010 Draw Anticipation


So, since I like soccer-football-fútbol-futebol, I thought I'd drop something to think about as World Cup qualifying comes to a close today. In a few hours, the field of 32 will be set. We are just waiting on France/Ireland (France carries a 1-0 lead to Paris) - Portugal/Bosnia (Portugal leads 1-0 but must play away) - Greece/Ukraine (0-0 with a match in Ukraine) - Russia/Slovenia (Russia leads 2-1 but must now defend away in Slovenia) - Uruguay/Costa Rica (URU defends a 1-0 lead in Montevideo) and probably what will be the most heated - Egypt/Algeria in a winner-take-all tiebreaker on neutral ground in Khartoum.

I am predicting that tomorrow's match's will have little impact on the draw which will take place on December 4. Why? Because only 1 seed is at stake and I am confident that Uruguay will not lose to the Costa Ricans, who have been in a free fall, going 1-1-4 since August. However, as you will see below, the Uruguay/Costa Rica match is the most important, and conveniently enough, will the last played.


1) FIFA does not change the past seeding criteria
2) NO 2 teams from the same confederation, except UEFA teams, will be drawn together (i.e. Brazil will not be grouped with Paraguay, Chile or possibly Uruguay and South Africa will not draw another CAF team).

So, the following picture is courtesy of Marca, the Spanish sports daily that loves to sensationalize everything. They are already fearing that Spain will draw Holland, the Ivory Coast and the US - and the US is the only team to defeat Spain in the last 3 years.

From American Fooligan

Pot 1 is set with the question of France. If Ireland knock off France, then Holland will be seeded and Ireland will be in Pot 2.

Pot 2 is set pending the results of the qualifiers tomorrow, but the places are locked with the exception of Holland/France.

Pot 3 and 4. Here is where things get interesting. I think the unseeded CAF teams will be grouped with the CONMEBOL teams as it will be easier to control for Assumption #2 above. Because we know that South Africa will be in Group A, FIFA can just pick from the CONMEBOL teams during the first round. Then, after Brazil and Argentina are assigned groups, FIFA can pick from the African teams.

The tricky part comes down to the Uruguay/Costa Rica match. If Costa Rica wins, then, in order to avoid violating Assumption #2 (and assuming there is no further re-jiggering wanted), we obviously can't have Costa Rica in Pot 3 if all other CONCACAF teams go to Pot 4.

What to do then if Costa Rica advances? Simple, move New Zealand to Pot 3 and Pot 4 is a combination of AFC and CONCACAF Teams.

Confused yet? Revert back to the chart.

What does this all mean for the Stars and Stripes? Well, if my Assumptions hold true (and they will - no two non-UEFA teams from the same Confederation have been grouped together since 1970 when hosts Mexico were grouped with minnows El Salvador):

If Uruguay win, we know a few things to be true:
a) No CONCACAF team will be grouped with an AFC team
b) South Africa will face at least one UEFA team and one CONMEBOL team
c) Brazil and Argentina will be grouped with one UEFA team and one CAF team.

Then here is how the rest computes:

The US (and each team in pot 4 for that matter) would have a 37.5% chance of drawing a Mixed group (one team from each of CAF, UEFA and CONMEBOL), a 37.5% chance of drawing a UEFA/CAF group (two UEFA teams and a CAF team) and a 25% chance of drawing a UEFA/CON group (two UEFA teams and a CONMEBOL team).

If Costa Rica win, then things get much more complicated because if my Assumptions are correct and Pot 3 consists of the 5 unseeded CAF teams, New Zealand, Paraguay and Chile, then there are more ways to avoid violating Assumption #2. For instance, South Africa would draw from a pot including New Zealand, Chile and Paraguay - while Brazil and Argentina would potentially draw from pots including New Zealand and the 5 unseeded CAF teams. It gets complicated because there will be more manipulating of the pots (Unless South Africa draw NZ and Brazil and Argentina headline Groups B & C or vice versa).

I am not a math major so I am not even going to attempt to try and figure out those odds.

But, I think it is a safe bet that Uruguay will hold serve at home tomorrow and then we will see these chances for the US:

37.5% chance for a CAF/UEFA/CONMEBOL group

37.5% chance for a UEFA/UEFA/CAF group

25% chance for a UEFA/UEFA/CONMEBOL group



By my understanding of probability and statistics, going back a full 11 years here since I scored well enough on the AP exam to avoid taking it in college, this is a question of compound probability because we are trying to calculate the probability that a series of random events will occur. The probabilities in Pot 3 change though because depending on which Pot 1 team we are dealing with, they are drawing from a different pool in Pot 3 (back to Assumption #2).

The Group of death is the phenomenon that there is usually one group that is so difficult that each team in it would be a sentimental favorite to advance to the next round. The first step in determining this probability is rating what would be GOD eligible teams in the first 3 pots. Let's call these "GOD" teams.

For simplicity's sake, let's assume both France and Uruguay do the business tomorrow.

I think it is safe to say that all the seeded teams should be considered GOD teams (since 1998, only 3 of 24 seeded teams failed to advance).

Out of Pot 2, I rate Holland/Ireland, Portugal, Russia and Denmark as GOD teams. Out of Pot 3, I rate Ivory Coast, Ghana and Paraguay as GOD teams. As you can probably guess - there is no certainty that a Group of Death even forms.

So, this means there is a 50% chance that any Pot 1 team will draw a GOD team in pot 2. It gets a little trickier for Pot 3 because per Assumption #2, South Africa will only be drawing from CONMEBOL teams and Brazil & Argentina will only be drawing from CAF teams. So from Pot 3, South Africa has a 33% chance of drawing a GOD team, Brazil and Argentina each have a 40% chance of drawing a GOD team and the UEFA seeds each have a 60% chance of drawing a GOD team. (those odds will dynamically adjust as the draw takes place of course and one team draws a GOD team or does not . . . think of it like the change in odds that occurs after the flop, turn and river in poker).

For Pot 4, I think only 6 of the 8 teams will have a chance at making the Second Round - Japan, North Korea, South Korea, Australia, USA and Mexico. I do not rate Honduras or New Zealand very highly here. So we have 6 GOD teams. So a 75% probability of drawing a GOD team from Pot 4.

So, taking into account the above, there is a 49.975% chance that a Group of Death forms.

Now, we have the last step of calculating the USA's odds of drawing that Group - 1/8 = 12.5%

One more compound probability calculation = a 6.23% chance of drawing the Group of Death.

Okay, piss all over me now. Let's face it - any group we are in will be tough. It will take all 23 men on the squad and we will have to fight tooth and nail for every half-chance on goal.

Boy, playing with numbers is fun. Please leave some comments with your thoughts - especially concerning my math if it is way off somewhere. I cannot tell you how entertaining this was for me.

Este Pássaro Pode Voar! (This Bird Can Fly!)

Okay, so here something that is actually fun again! On Saturday, I went hang-gliding. After a raucous Friday night out that included a trip to Rio Scenarium and which saw the night end with an early-morning dip in the ocean (see picture from last post), I woke up on Saturday to an email from Anita alerting me that I had 25 minutes to get myself together to go hang-gliding. I have been skydiving and paragliding before. When I went skydiving, it was under similarly hungover still drunk circumstances. After a late night out in Vegas during my brother-in-law's bachelor party, a few of us passed out at the Hard Rock pool around 8am. We were the only ones there and claimed the beach chairs that were on the sand next to the waterslide. I can't remember who woke me up, but somebody shook me around 12 noon and said "Dude, it's time to go get this parachuting hootenanny on." Oh wait, that could be no other than my brother-in-law. I sprung to action in the blinding sun and exclaimed "You want me to jump out of a fucking plane!" Much to my surprise and theirs, the pool was then crowded with revelers and everyone had a good chuckle.

Anyway, I scrambled myself together and raced over to the hostel to meet Anita and Elizabeth. We made our way over to São Conrado, about 10 km west of Leblon, and met our pilots. At first, the head of the tour company tried to talk me into paragliding as they did not have any pilots who could handle someone my size. Not because I'm fat you dicks - because upon takeoff, if the passenger stops running, disaster can ensue. For that reason, they prefer the pilot to be stronger than the passenger so that the pilot can overcompensate if need be. If I were to stop running, we would have made a pretty sweet impression of a tumbleweed rolling down the hill. Although I had my heart set on hang-gliding, the paragliding pilot one me over by telling me he was the best paraglider in all of Brazil and that he would let me steer. A chance to put my own life in danger! Sign me up! Just as I got psyched for this, a hang-gliding pilot came out of nowhere and told me he could handle me so long as I kept running. Mild emotional roller-coaster there but I settled on hang-gliding.

After a quick drive and a tiny, but invigorating set of steps up through Parque Nacional da Tijuca:
From Paragliding in São Conrado

We arrived at the takeoff zone to find a veritable taxiway full of gliders:
From Paragliding in São Conrado

My pilot and I:
From Paragliding in São Conrado

Me getting suited up:
From Paragliding in São Conrado

The launchpad - you had to run right off the tin roof:
From Paragliding in São Conrado
- You can see São Conrado beach below and the Zona Sul in the corner past the hills.

Anita, Elizabeth and I with our backs to the sky:
From Paragliding in São Conrado

Anyway, the flight was spectacular. You fly over some beautiful houses and the canopy below looks like little florets of broccoli. You hear nothing but the wind, or in my case, you also hear your pilot instructing you to crane your neck to smile at the on-board camera every 49.6 seconds. The flight takes you out over the ocean which offers amazing views of the sparkling blue water below. You can see all the way from Pão de Açúcar to Barra da Tijuca. Amazing. Only downer of the experience was the weak tactics of the pilots to sell the photos to you after landing. They wanted R$60 for a cd with 25 of basically the same photo on it. Apparently my pilot did not get the memo that I am now a cheap bastard. When I informed him that it was too expensive for my tastes, he muttered the following phrase under his breath: "vai tomar no cu" which literally translates to: "go take it in the ass." Dick, next time I'm gonna stop running!

Anyway, awesome experience if you ever get the chance. If you come down here, I will arrange it because I want to go back and go paragliding with the best pilot in Brazil (read: I want to steer the chute)

Monday, November 16, 2009

Revised Invitation

If this blog is the only virtual medium that you follow me in, you may not have received my open invitation to come visit me in Rio. I am able to so readily throw that invitation out there not because I am lonely, I do miss people but I am certainly not lonely anymore (more on that in a bit), but because I genuinely love Rio and I want to share my happiness here with anyone and everyone.

- quick side note about my initial loneliness: When I first got here, I was instantly taken with the city. It probably started with the fact that my now friend Erick, a friend of Hans from Chicago - offered to drive 2+ hours from the city of Macaé and collect me from the airport. An amazing gesture to welcome me to this amazing culture. As the first few days unraveled and I began to explore the city more and more, I realized that there was so much this wonderful place had to offer that I would so easily enjoy - the only problem was that I did not want to experience this alone. I wanted nothing more to share my everyday experiences with someone but I had no one. I had heard so much of the warm culture of Cariocas - especially towards gringos like myself - but I had yet to experience any of it. I suspect that I received a more latent welcome because I do not look like the typical gringo. Every Brazilian I meet thinks I am Brazilian until I open my mouth. But alas, this isolation was only temporary. I now have a solid cadre of friends that grows weekend by weekend. -

Okay, back to regularly scheduled programming. So, I am modifying the open invitation. In Rio, I am extremely happy. I have found peace in many parts of my life. In many ways, Rio is like the methadone to my vices. What it offers complements me in many ways. (Maybe Rio is my rebound?) Anyway, when I say I love it here, I truly mean it. And when I love something, I will defend it with passion and will readily castigate any undue critics.

So consider this a warning - if you are the type of person who surrounds herself with negative energy, you are not welcome to visit me in Rio (or anywhere for that matter).

Life need not be as complicated as many of us make it. Life is short. There is no need to let the bullshit control us. When you feel a victim to your circumstances, take control of them. None of us have done this before (in our present consciousness anyway), so none of us can expect that we or others will get it right all the time. But that is no excuse to shy away from taking responsibility for our decisions. By taking responsibility, I think we empower ourselves to overcome negative energy and leading happier lives. But then again, I am no Dr. Phil and certainly, I am far from perfect. I do accept and appreciate my imperfections though . . . Just try.

Anyway, if you are open-minded, optimistic and secure with your insecurities, please come visit Rio. Just don't bring negativity with you. The flight is too expensive so just leave the shit back home. Here, you will find a place and a people who do not judge you and where you feel the ideals of democracy permeate everyday life. By no means is Rio a bastion of equality, more so of inequality than anything else, but its culture forces everyone to deal with a common level of humility, on one level or another.

Here's a picture that summarizes my happiness (I'm the black speck to the right):

From American Fooligan

Monday, November 09, 2009

Chasing Rainbows

Since last Monday, the weather in Rio has been amazing. It started with an amazing beach day on Finados (the Brazilian holiday to commemorate the day of the dead), and the weather consistently got better. Each morning, the thermometers on the beach would read 31C degrees - about 88F - and they would top out around 36C - around 97F. It's November folks - just the beginning of the summer. Can't wait for those 40C+ beach days in a month or so.

So this weekend my friend Anita came into town. She arrived on Sunday and after dropping her baggage off at the hotel, we met up with a French-Belgian guy she met on the bus as he was headed to Maracanã too. The match this weekend was between Fluminense and Palmeiras. As I have become a firmly entrenched supporter of Flamengo, I could happily root for Fluminense here because Fla is fighting Palmeiras for the Championship.

We meet Christian and his two friends from São Paulo and headed to Porcão - an amazing churrascaria. We had a quick meat fest and then scurried off to the stadium. Anita and I had to separate from our new friends as they had tickets in the upper deck and we could only find ones for the cadeira comum - the seats behind the goal.

The match itself was amazing as Flu, heavy underdogs, took the game to Palmeiras at every chance. They had one goal mistakenly disallowed and Fred knocked in a scrappy header.

As Flu protected their lead and full-time approached, the disbelieving crowd could barley control their emotion. A win would keep their feeble hopes of staving off relegation alive and provide them with some positive reflections after a season spent dwelling in the cellar of the league as they have excelled in the Copa Sudamericana (equivalent of Europa League).

While not matching the intensity of Mengão supporters, the chants of "Nehhhhn-sayyy, Nehhhhn-sayyy" were amazing. An elder gentleman in front of us could hardly contain himself and he started jumping up and down with the exuberance of a 6 year old. I am shocked if he didn't soil himself. Here is a video of him:

WARNING, if crappy videos make you nauseous, skip this. My first attempt at using my iPhone as a video camera. I will get better -

The Flu win over Palmeiras coupled with a Flamengo win and a São Paulo draw midweek has Fla sitting just 2 points behind São Paulo and 1 behind Palmeiras. With 4 matches left, it's anybody's for the taking.

During the meatfest, Anita and I were talking about life. I mentioned to her that it has taken me 30 years to realize how rarely we have days where we get it all right - those days where you wake up the next day and wouldn't change a single thing about the day before. I think those days happen like 5-10 times a year if we're lucky. But those are the days we all want. I am convinced you can't put the pressure on yourself to have those days as their are way too many uncontrolled variables. Instead, you just have to do your best and just accept and laugh off the rest. I likened it to chasing rainbows. It's not every day that you see a rainbow - and their is always something majestic about them. You get lucky when they make an amazing view even that much more amazing.

This is the view that we had when we left Maracaña.

From American Fooligan

Friday, November 06, 2009

Thursday, November 05, 2009


I promised to update this more frequently and I am now going to promise to live up to that promise. Thanks Asher and Mick for reminding me that I am about as worthwhile as Barack Obama these days. Although you guys probably just wanted something to read whilst dropping a deuce, you have re-inspired me. Might as well give me a Webby right now.

What I can tell you is that I have been without a phone since October 12. That will all change tonight when I make my triumphant return to the first world and get back on an iPhone. That means I can post pictures and videos on the fly to this puppy. That much I can promise to do because there are many worthy "sights" in Rio.

So what's this First-World / Fourth-World nonsense you ask? Well, Rio is a very diverse place in all facets of life. At times, things are very First-World (1W) - meaning they are on-par or better than their corollaries in New York City. In stark contrast, there are times when things are more impovershed and make less sense than the way they did in the India I knew 10 years ago - Fourth-World (4W). And then there are plenty of things that fall in between. You guessed it: (2W and 3W).

Full credit for this rating system goes to Ranjan and his Blue-State / Red-State comparisons over on his excellent blog - which also does not get updated with appropriate frequency.

So let's kick this off (albeit a little slowly - twill be much better once I am phone in hand):

Rio de Janeiro Busses: 4W - most of these things are rickety old pieces of solid steel that burn wholes in the Ozone Layer with each press of the gas pedal. I think they do this to help Cariocas work on their tan. Each bus seems to be privately operated so the drivers have an incentive to pack as many people on as possible. This results in people being packed in the aisles and since you enter at the front and exit at the back, you are constantly forced to play a g-rated bout of tummy sticks with countless passengers.

Bus Efficiency: 1W - contrary to the buses and the ettiquete of driving them, the efficiency is amazing. Every driver thinks he (yet to see a female) is a formula 1 pilot (they don't call them drivers). They weave through traffic and have a jam on the breaks at will. I am pretty sure I have been involved in 2 or 3 power slides (not really sure what that is, but Hans used to say this all the time). You can also just flag a bus down in much the same way you would hail a taxi. Great because if there is no hail, the driver is going to fly right past a stop.

In a word, busses are a system of organized chaos. I have found that you can have a great ab workout by standing and trying to balance through the busts lane changes and jarring stops and starts. It's almost like surfing.

Pictures will start rolling in tomorrow!