• Tag Archives Brazil
  • System D Economics

    Winter                                  Moon of the Winter Solstice

    (San Blas woman selling mola’s in Panama City colonial district. cbe)

    System D economics.  Never heard of it?  Read Wired magazine’s print edition this month. System D economics, named by an economist who studies system D, are the economics of the gray and black markets.

    “System D is a slang phrase pirated from French-speaking Africa and the Caribbean. The French have a word that they often use to describe particularly effective and motivated people. They call them débrouillards. To say a man is a débrouillard is to tell people how resourceful and ingenious he is. The former French colonies have sculpted this word to their own social and economic reality. They say that inventive, self-starting, entrepreneurial merchants who are doing business on their own, without registering or being regulated by the bureaucracy and, for the most part, without paying taxes, are part

    (Panamanian vendor along ocean. cbe)

    of “l’economie de la débrouillardise.” Or, sweetened for street use, “Systeme D.” This essentially translates as the ingenuity economy, the economy of improvisation and self-reliance, the do-it-yourself, or DIY, economy…

    The total value of System D as a global phenomenon is close to $10 trillion. Which makes for another astonishing revelation. If System D were an independent nation, united in a single political structure — call it the United Street Sellers Republic (USSR) or, perhaps, Bazaaristan — it would be an economic superpower, the second-largest economy in the world (the United States, with a GDP of $14 trillion, is numero uno).”  Freakonomics, quoting the Wired article.

    Visiting South America introduced us to System D economies, especially in Ecuador, Peru and Brazil.  The most memorable instance was the shuttle service to the Rio International Airport.  As soon as we began moving away from the beaches, vendors began to show up.

    At a particularly valuable location, a small v of land jutting out into two streams of traffic, four lanes on one side, four on the other a man stood with cups and bottles of an orange drink.  He sold cool liquid to drivers and passengers of vehicles slowed or stopped by rush hour traffic.  He was doing very well.

    As we moved further away from the city, the action got stranger.  On the divided highway
    (seaweed collector, Trujillo, Peru. cbe)

    (at least 4 lanes each way) leading directly to the airport, kids sold popcorn and nuts.  They vended their goods by standing in the small shoulder between the lane closest to the concrete divider and the divider itself.  As traffic came to a standstill from time to time, they would dart out into the traffic and sell a bag of colorful popped corn.

    There weren’t just a few of them either.  Perhaps the oddest part of this came when Kate leaned over and said, “Look, there’s a guy a wheel chair over there.”  And, sure enough, there was, a vendor in a wheel chair.

  • All Visas All the Time

    Lughnasa                                                  Waxing Harvest Moon

    Visas.  All visas all the time.  Got a fluttery batch of e-mails and phone messages, all received after Travisa’s office’s had closed.  OMG.  We won’t get the documents to you in time.  OMG. Solved by reminding them that we sail on Oct. 16th, not Sept. 16th.  Oh.  All better now.

    Mark and Saudi Arabia.  A police clearance popped up as a new piece of paper.  How to get it?  Lots of opinions.  FBI background check?  BCI state level clearance.  Will this torpedo the application?  Looked like it for awhile, then a phone, again, to Travisa in D.C.

    A local police clearance?  Plenty good enough.  Mark now has a Good Neighbor certificate from the Anoka County Sheriff stating that he has committed no crime since he got here.  Good to know.

    In in the interim Mark had discovered that the Saudi Embassy closed this week to celebrate Eid, the end of Ramadan.  But. Travisa again.  Nope.  We can get it done in time.  Send us the material by Friday and we’ll get it done.

    A series of this’s and that’s, frustrating, but not impossible.

    International travel, all fun, all the time.

  • Please Let Me In

    Lughnasa                                                              Waxing Honey Extraction Moon

    Mark went to a hospitality industry job fair in St. Louis Park.  I took him, then went on out to Minnetonka Travel in Wayzata.  I picked these folks almost at random to help with the cruise, but I gotta say, they’re pretty damn good.

    Today we set up the processing for our Brazilian visas.  The visa process has taken almost the same effort as booking the entire cruise.  When I first learned that each visa would cost $160, I had sticker shock.  This was what we would have to pay to get off the ship in Rio and then take a taxi directly to the airport.  $320 for passage from one form of transportation to another.  Of course, this is not the intent of the Brazilians.  They just want reciprocity for the way the US treats their citizens coming here.

    Still, for us, whose 37 day cruise ends in Rio, it creates this very expensive transfer with no additional benefit.  So, we changed our minds and added two days in Rio after our cruise.  At least we’ll see a little bit of Brazil for our money.

    Our travel agent has been to Rio and says it’s a beautiful, vibrant city, but also very dangerous.  I’m a bit dubious about how others see foreign cities since I’ve been many places considered dangerous and never had a problem, even so it’s foolish to ignore advice from someone who’s been on the ground there.  She recommends staying in the Ipanema Beach area, a redolent name for this of who grew up in the 60’s.  We’ll go to Sugarloaf and a Mardi Gras themed evening.  Which, Lori, the travel agent, said, “All the men will enjoy.”

    The visa is the last difficult piece of business necessary to make this cruise happen.  The rest, checking out clothes, buying new luggage, deciding what books to take along (on the Kindle) do not require new skills.

  • Ancientrails in Exile

    Ancientrails in exile (I crashed my own website.  Geez.  Wrote this while it was down.  Thanks againn to Bill S. who undid whatever I did.)

    August 7th, 2011  5:05pm

    Lughnasa                                                   Waxing Honey Extraction Moon

    Got a passport photo for my Brazilian visa.  Looks like a booking photo.  You can’t smile during these sessions.  Why?  Facial recognition software struggles with recognizing faces anyhow and anything that distorts the face makes their task even harder.  A great article in Wired talks about this problem and argues that the solution (if we want one) lies in the work of the caricaturist, who emphasizes the unique aspects of a person’s face.  This is the way our brain recognizes faces, but is very difficult for algorithms to master.

    Now.  If you’re a terrorist, please don’t smile for your passport photo because we may not be able to recognize you.  Gives you confidence, doesn’t it?

    Last night I made an attempt to increase my computer literacy by upgrading my WordPress software on my own.  Note to self.  Don’t do that again.  The result has been a database connection error.  As near as I can tell, I’ve succeeded in taking down my own website.

    Mark and I have been rereading the Go handbook.  It’s a bit confusing, at least to me, but we’re going to get to playing anyhow.  This is a sophisticated, yet simple seeming game.

    On to Tai Chi tonight.  I feel like I’ve made real progress over the last week.  Slow.  But progress.


    August 7, 2011 10:30 pm

    Lughnasa                                                 Waning Honey Extraction Moon

    We learned a new move tonight.  The instructor, Cheryl, said I had the basics of it after our first independent practice.  “Gotta be a first time.” I told her.

    It felt good to get something other than correction.  It’s been a tough slog so far, but I’m gradually pulling myself into the physical world, uniting mind and body.  At some point I want to learn the Taoist thought behind it all.  But not quite yet.

    Not having ancientrails to post in feels pretty weird to me.  I miss the familiarity of it.  Posting on the blog remains one of the more steady tasks I have in my life.  Fortunately, I don’t need the program to keep writing.



    August 8  2011   1:55 pm

    Ancientrails is still down though the error message has changed.  That must mean Bill Schmidt, good friend and cybermage, has made some progress.

    China scolded the US for “gigantic military spending and bloated social programs.”  That roused a patriotic wait just a minute reaction.  On several levels.  The military spending is high, but it has been high for some time as the US, the current and still reigning world hegemon, has many enemies and self-interest spread over the globe.  No matter what those of us who prefer peace or other foreign governments like China might want, the military spending reflects our status as the only ever global hegemon.

    Bloated social programs.  Only if you’re not poor, old, disabled, a veteran or a person who wants at least some security in old age.  Bloated is the wrong word, a Chinese mimicry of our own Tea Party.  How ironic is that?  The Chinese Communist Party lining up alongside the Michelle Bachmanns and Ron Pauls of American politics.

    Do they need reform?  Oh, yes.  Will it happen anytime soon?  I hope so, even though the result might negatively affect Kate and me.

    What the Chinese could have scolded us for, what would have bit harder than hackneyed bumper sticker critiques, would have been questions about our love of democracy.  Democracy as it exists in this country today no longer solves problems.  It creates them.  Why does the nation of Madison, Monroe, Adams, Jefferson and Hamilton find itself broken down into the politics of faction?  Military spending and misshapen social programs are the not cause, they are the symptom of a nation no longer able to make its own form of government work.

    Now, there’s a critique.