Saturday, June 25, 2011


After N.Y. Senate Vote, Governor Cuomo Signs Gay Marriage Bill

Nathaniel Brooks for The New York Times
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo of New York signed a gay marriage bill into law in his office at the state Capitol in Albany, N.Y.

Nathaniel Brooks for The New York Times
Senator Stephen M. Saland explained his vote to support legalizing same sex marriage on the floor of the New York State Senate on Friday night.

The bill was approved on a 33-to-29 vote as 4 Republican state senators joined 29 Democrats in voting for it.

As the Senate debated the measure, supporters and opponents from around the state packed into two small galleries overlooking the chamber. When the final vote tally was read, the crowd screamed and hollered, began to chant “U.S.A.! U.S.A.!” — and to yell “thank you.”  A minute or two later, when Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo entered the chamber, the crowd cheered again, rushing the edge of the galleries and chanting the governor’s name.
Senate approval was the final hurdle for the legislation, which was strongly supported by Mr. Cuomo. The Assembly approved changes made by the Senate, after passing an earlier version last week. Mr. Cuomo signed the measure late Friday, and the law will go into effect in 30 days, meaning that same-sex couples could begin marrying in New York by midsummer. “I am very proud of New York and the statement we made to the nation today,” Mr. Cuomo said.
The bill’s passage followed a daunting run of defeats in other states where voters barred same-sex marriage by legislative action, constitutional amendment or referendum. Just five states — Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont — permit same-sex marriage. It is also legal in : the District of Columbia.
The approval of same-sex marriage represented a reversal of fortune for gay-rights advocates in New York State, who just two years ago suffered a humiliating and unexpected defeat when a same-sex marriage bill was easily defeated in the Senate, which was then controlled by Democrats. This year, with the Senate controlled by Republicans, the odds against passage of same-sex marriage appeared long.
But the unexpected victory had an unlikely champion: Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat who pledged last year to support same-sex marriage but whose early months in office were dominated by intense battles with lawmakers and some labor unions over spending cuts.
Mr. Cuomo made same-sex marriage one of his top priorities for the year and deployed his top aide to coordinate the efforts of a half-dozen local gay-rights organizations whose feuding and disorganization had in part been blamed for the defeat two years ago. .
The new coalition of same-sex marriage supporters brought in one of Mr. Cuomo’s trusted campaign operatives to supervise a $3 million television and radio campaign aimed at persuading a handful of Republican and Democratic senators to drop their opposition.
For Senate Republicans, even bringing the measure to the floor was a freighted decision. Most of the Republicans firmly oppose same-sex marriage on moral grounds, and many of them also had political concerns, fearing that allowing same-sex marriage to pass on their watch would embitter conservative voters and cost the Republicans their one-seat majority in the Senate.
Leaders of the state’s Conservative Party — whose support many Republican lawmakers depend on to win election — warned that they would oppose in legislative elections next year any Republican senator who voted for same-sex marriage.
But after days of agonized discussion capped by a marathon nine-hour closed-door debate on Friday, Republicans came to a fateful decision: the full Senate would be allowed to vote on the bill, the majority leader, Dean G. Skelos, said Friday afternoon, and each member would be left to vote according to his or her conscience.
"The days of just bottling up things, and using these as excuses not to have votes — as far as I’m concerned as leader, its over with," Mr. Skelos, a Long Island Republican, said.
Twenty-nine Democrats voted for the measure, joined by four Republicans: James S. Alesi of Monroe County; Stephen M.. Saland, from the Hudson Valley area; Roy J. McDonald of the capital region; and Mark J. Grisanti of Buffalo.
Just one lawmaker rose to speak against the measure: Rubén Díaz, Sr. of the Bronx, the only Democratic senator to cast a no vote.
“God, not Albany, has settled the definition of marriage, a long time ago,” Mr. Diaz said.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Sao Paulo-The big "CLEAN UP"

"Nova Luz" is one of the largest re-urbanization projects the city of Sao Paulo ever saw. 
It includes the expropriation and demolition of hundreds of buildings, many of them old sky scrapers from the past century that are in poor condition and accelerated process of disrepair.
The city plans to widen sidewalks, build new green areas, new parks and squares. There is R$150 Million Reais for public improvements, the idea is less space for cars, more space for pedestrians.
Large public and private parking garages, several commercial enterprises catering to entertainment and leisure.
If you are not familiar with this part of Sao Paulo, let me introduce it to you.

Typical street of this section of Sao Paulo downtown

This area of downtown Sao Paulo has been degraded for many decades, here is where you find the infamous "Boca do Lixo" which means "Trash Mouth", a street famous for the large concentration of drug dealers, in later years, it became the place for crack addicts, where they purchase and consume the drug on the sidewalks. Social workers even take them clean seringues trying to curb down the spread of diseases.
Another infamous street in the area is called Aurora Street, which has been Sao Paulo's "red light" district for over a century now. Rua Aurora is a part of many books with stories that include Prostitution and brothels in the city of Sao Paulo. Young wealthy sons of farmers have flocked to Rua Aurora street looking for Prostitution for over a century.

The ground floors are occupied by commerce but some of these buildings look horrible above the ground

The large movie theaters of the region lost their public in the 70's and 80's with the proliferation of Sao Paulo Malls that offered smaller cinemas with free easy parking in the Malls and a much better option for Sao Paulo's middle class. In the Malls you didn't have to worry about parking, or if it was raining, there are no safety concerns. The old traditional movie theaters downtown Sao Paulo didn't stand a chance and the ones from this specific area were the first ones to go.
After loosing their middle class audience, most of these gigantic movie theaters started featuring Porn movies and some even became places for "Live Sex Shows" and "Strip Joints" and attracted the anonymous blue collar men from the downtown area. It was a sad combination with the existing concentration of prostitution and the presence of drugs in some of the streets nearby, the whole area went down hill very fast.

Typical street of the Nova Luz region

This project brings a lot of hope, think "Time Square" and the big clean up "Mayor Giuliani" was able to implement in the 90's. Time Square today resembles a mix of Disney and Las Vegas downtown. There are families with children, M&M flagship store, Toys R US flagship store and other similar attractions.
New York was very successful in expelling the strip clubs, sex shops, drugs and prostitution from the area.
I just hope Sao Paulo can be as successful with this ambitious project.
The city has been restoring parts of downtown Sao Paulo since the mid 80's, so now is the time for this section of downtown. Here is also where you will find the famous "Santa Efigenia street" where you can find hundreds of hardware and software stores that caters to the electronics industry. My brother goes to Santa Efigenia street and buy all the parts he will need to assemble his own laptop at his living room. He has done it more than once.
So the biggest opposition this whole project is facing so far is the UNION of the "Electronics Stores" from Santa Efigenia street. Many of them are in very old and semi abandoned buildings, see, some of these buildings might have 10 or 15 levels but only the ground floor is occupied by an electronic store, the rest is either empty without any maintenance or is inhabited by prostitutes, drug dealers and very poor people that have no means to keep up the proper maintenance of this structures. 

Buildings with very poor maintenance

The city has had to build a protection around some of these building because bricks are literally falling down on pedestrians at the sidewalks.
This situation has to change, so the city is negotiating with some business owners promising them a spot in the new areas designated for commerce.
There will be better, easier parking and certainly more patrons once the area is cleaned up and safer. 

New Fatec University Campus building

Some new construction has already hit the area and cranes can be seen working at full force.
The picture above is the new FATEC University building, downtown campus, next to Sao Paulo's Central Police Station downtown, which is the round, concrete and black glass building across the street from Fatec.
Below is a great map of the region which highlights the changes:

1-The buildings in dark and light GRAY color are the ones staying. The colored areas are the buildings being demolished and replaced with the new proposed plan by the city of Sao Paulo.

2-The buildings in RED are the areas designated for NEW commercial enterprises.

3-The buildings in BLUE are the designated areas for office space.

4-GREEN areas are parks and squares.

5-The PINK areas are designated for entertainment such as Cinemas, Bowling Alleys, Candy and Ice Cream Shops, Fast Food plazas and such.

There are also plans for new public schools, public health clinics and plenty of parking garages to attract people from the suburbs who will be able to park their cars and walk around the new pedestrian friendly areas.
It is a very ambitious project, but I think this is the perfect time for big "clean up" projects like this, when the city has large budgets, the economy is red hot and there is a lot of consumer confidence to incentive new investments in these kinds of projects.
The critics are saying the project will make "affordable" rent scarce in these areas of downtown. I think they have to find a happy medium.
New apartment projects will blossom in the area when the middle class feels safe to move back downtown.
This part of Sao Paulo already has a great infrastructure with many subway stations, decent option of roads nearby, Hospitals and Schools, once the "clean up", the most important attractive factor will return to this part of downtown, which is "safety".
People want to live in a safe area and they will move in the minute you provide peace of mind.
Ask New Yorkers if they would rather have Time Square back to what it was in the late 80's!
I don't think so, no regrets, moving forward.
Sorry, but the prostitutes, the drug dealers and the crack addicts will have to leave.

PS: By the way, I am not against prostitution. I think it should be legalized and organized like it is in some European countries. Perhaps drugs like pot should be legal too, that would be a low blow to organized crime, but that is a whole other discussion. :)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

My personal battle against Cholesterol!

So, after a visit with my doctor about 3 months ago, she told me my "cholesterol" levels were "borderline" high, not high yet, but getting up there.
She told me out of the 8 possible heart attack risk factors, I "almost" had one. :(
I was a couple of months short of completing 40 years of age and I guess little pest things like cholesterol can't be played with anymore.
No, I am not a fast food lover, I hate fast foods and I can't stand fried foods. My problem has always been dairy, I love milk, creams, cheeses of all kinds, ice cream, pastries, you get the picture.
To make matters worse, I enjoy the fattiest dairy there is, triple cream brie, Haagen Dazs ice cream, home made stroagnoff with filet mignon and heavy poor arteries never had a chance...!
Now, my doctor gave me a couple of months to loose weight and drop all the super fatty stuff, forced me to see a nutritionist and I started to take things seriously.
I dropped real Haagen Dazs ice cream for low fat or fat free sorbet, stopped buying my so beloved triple cream brie, replaced Mozzarella for low fat Mozzarella, bough low fat Parmesan, replaced 2% milk with Fat Free milk, all this sacrifices for 2 months, plus a minimum of 40 minutes of a brisk walk daily.
Did another round blood work and to my surprise, after dropping all the real fatty dairy my bad cholesterol shoot up like crazy, at least my good cholesterol also went up.
I was still super confused.
My doctor was ready to put me on Lipitor or any other equivalent to reduce cholesterol.
I am strongly against taking medication if I can avoid it, and to take this medication for me was accepting defeat, and I am not one to accept defeat, I will tell you that much!
I got really upset with this freaking cholesterol situation, after watching everything I ate for 2 months, I see the reversed results, WHAT! It sounded like a bad joke!
Gil spoke with his mom about it and she told us a BRAZILIAN NATURAL recipe to DISSOLVE CHOLESTEROL FROM YOUR ARTERIES!! TAKE NOTE!

I introduce to you!!!!!!
My new best friend: THE EGGPLANT! :)

My newest BFF!! The Eggplant! :)

Super simple, wash it well, slice it up and throw it in the blender whole, add some water, if you like add some Orange juice to improve the super veggie taste, come on people, I am not a vegan :)

Don't Peel it, just throw it in the blender and juice it up!

You have to do this 3 times a day.
I know, it's a pain in the butt if you have to go to work, you can't just take your blender and your Eggplants with you.
Just prepare it in the morning and drink your morning dose before breakfast, take the one for your mid-day lunch break with you to work, and take your third time when you come back home at night.
If you do this for 3 months, the cumulative effect of the Eggplant in your system will make you start loosing weight! YES, you heard me right, loose weight, not only you will burn that nasty cholesterol from your arteries, you will loose weight like crazy.
One simple effect from drinking this VEGAN Eggplant juice 3 times a day is that I really feel full, and only eat about one full meal a day.
The darn juice really curbs your appetite.
Hey, it's not as tasty as a milkshake, but I will take Eggplant juice 3 times a day and preserve my liver from being bombarded with Lipitor or it's competitors, THANK YOU VERY MUCH!
NOW, I can't wait to go see my doctor again in 2 months.
I will post the results for your appreciation.
Let's see how good this Eggplant diet works.
You can also eat Eggplants cooked in every different way, it helps.
Well, I mean, try to avoid Eggplants like my mother makes them a Milanese, loaded with Mozzarella, and ground beef in between, yes, my mother makes an Eggplant Lasagna that is to die for, literally.
Not me, I am drinking my Eggplant juice and can't wait to go have my labs done again and share the good news with you all.  :)
Oh, Gil is doing it with me, just for the hell of it. He is enjoying it.
He is a great husband and wants to help me out with this battle.
He is doing a great job and I am proud of him.
We have both been doing the Eggplant diet for 2 weeks now and both have lost 10 pounds each, we feel less lazy and more energetic.
We have been looking for some of our old jeans and having a blast seeing that they fit again. HA!
Thank you Eggplants! You are a kind gift of nature!
NO JOKE! I say it's working already!

Eggplant FEST at Ray & Gil's everyday, 3 times a day!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Shame on ICE! :(

The text and video below were originally published at BRASCHECK

Welcome to America

No legal protection for non-citizens

Theoretically, there are legal protections for people who visit the US.


But the theory goes out the window if one of the little ICE dictators decides they don't like you. "Rule of Law? What's that? You're a non-citizen on US soil. You don't have no stinking rights." And that's how they play it every day all over the Land of the Free.

The story of the cruise ship full of elderly Brits abused at the hands of ICE in LA was unusual - because it was reported. Apparently elderly people aren't subjected to collective punishment back in the UK. Backward place really. They need to get with the program.

Seriously, how many hundreds of billions - trillions? - of dollars have these federal shit heads cost this country over the last ten years in discouraging travel, discouraging trade, loss of good will. (They were behaving this way long before 9/11 by the way.)

And for what? Greater security?


The country was raped and pillaged in broad daylight by a handful of banks causing exponentially more economic damage than ten real armies could inflict on the US and no one's even been brought to task, let alone indicted.

But by God, if a handful of cranky elderly people object to the way they're treated by the steroid pumped morons brigade, we're going to hold up everyone on the boat with them - all 2,000 - for seven hours and show them who's boss.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

NY Archbishop vs. SAME SEX MARRIAGE!

Op-Ed Columnist

The Archbishop vs. the Governor: Gay Sera, Sera

With his cigars, blogs, Jameson’s and Irish affability, New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan prides himself on his gumption.
Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times
Certainly his effort to kill the gay marriage bill, just one vote away from passing in Albany, shows a lot of gall.
The archbishop has been ferocious in fighting against marriage between same-sex couples, painting it as a perversity against nature.
If only his church had been as ferocious in fighting against the true perversity against nature: the unending horror of pedophile priests and the children who trusted them.
In the second-generation round of the Church vs. Cuomo, Archbishop Dolan is pitted against Andrew Cuomo, the Catholic governor who is fiercely pushing for New York to become the sixth and most populous state to approve gay marriage.
Governor Cuomo was already on the wrong side of the church for his support of abortion rights, his divorce and his living in “sin” with the Food Network star Sandra Lee. He was accused by the Vatican adviser Edward Peters of “public concubinage,” as it’s known in canon law, and Peters recommended that Cuomo be denied communion until he resolved “the scandal” by ceasing this “cohabiting.”
And therein lies the casuistry. On one hand, as Peters told The Times about Cuomo and Lee, “men and women are not supposed to live together without benefit of matrimony.” But then the church denies the benefit of marriage to same-sex couples living together.
Dolan insists that marriage between a man and a woman is “hard-wired” by God and nature. But the church refuses to acknowledge that homosexuality may be hard-wired by God and nature as well, and is not a lifestyle choice.
Dolan and other church leaders are worried about the exodus of young Catholics who no longer relate to the intolerances of church teaching. He dryly told The Times last year that when he sees long lines of young people on Fifth Avenue waiting to get into a house of worship, it’s at Abercrombie & Fitch, not St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
The church refuses to acknowledge the hypocrisy at its heart: that it became a haven for gay priests even though it declares homosexual sex a sin, and even though it lobbies to stop gays from marrying.
In yet another attempt at rationalization, the nation’s Catholic bishops — a group Dolan is now in charge of — put out a ridiculous five-year-study last month going with the “blame Woodstock” explanation for the sex-abuse scandal. The report suggested that the problem was caused by permissive secular society rather than cloistered church culture, because priests were trained in the turbulent free-love era. It concluded, absurdly, that neither the all-male celibate priesthood nor homosexuality were causes.
In another resistance to reform, the bishops voted on Thursday to keep their policies on sexual abuse by the clergy largely the same, with only small revisions, ignoring victims’ advocates who were hoping for meaningful changes.
At their meeting in Bellevue, Wash., one retired archbishop from Anchorage actually proposed an amendment to get rid of the “zero tolerance” provision on abuse so some guilty priests could return to parishes. That failed, at least.
If God and nature are so clear about what marriage is, why do the well-connected have an easier time getting the church to sunder their marriages with annulments? (Yes, we’re talking about you, Newt Gingrich.)
In his blog, “The Gospel in the Digital Age,” Dolan invokes not just God but Orwell, denouncing the “perilous presumption of the state” in reinventing the definition of marriage, which, he says, “has served as the very cornerstone of civilization and culture from the start.”
The Starchbishop noted with asperity that “Last time I consulted an atlas, it is clear we are living in New York, in the United States of America — not in China or North Korea,” where “communiqués from the government can dictate the size of families, who lives and who dies, and what the very definition of ‘family’ and ‘marriage’ means.”
Yeah. Not like the Vatican.
In the same blog, Dolan snidely dismissed the notion that gay marriage is a civil right. “We acknowledge that not every desire, urge, want, or chic cause is automatically a ‘right,’ ” he wrote.
“And, what about other rights, like that of a child to be raised in a family with a mom and a dad?”
And how about the right of a child not to be molested by the parish priest?
Dolan acts like getting married (when done by gays) is a self-indulgent act of hedonism when it’s really a leap of faith and a promise of fidelity.
Worn out by the rampant sexting of Anthony Weiner and the relentless blogging of Archbishop Dolan, I’m wondering if our institutions need to rejigger: Maybe pols should be celibate and priests should be married.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Padre Landell, Father of Radio- originally posted at Deep Brazil

Dear fellow blogger Regina Scharf from DEEP BRAZIL kindly invited me to write a post on the life of the Father of Radio, Brazilian scientist Roberto Landell.
It was a great pleasure and an honor to write for Regina's blog, she is super smart, creative and fun to work. 
You can also read the result of our joint post and other great posts at Regina Scharf's blog at DEEP BRAZIL .

Roberto Landell de Moura in 1898
How a Brazilian priest – accused by the Church of devilish practices, and considered insane by president Rodrigues Alves – patented the first wireless telephone and radio wave transmitter
by Ray Adkins, from American Heart, Brazilian Soul blog
Roberto Landell de Moura, a priest born in Porto Alegre, Rio Grande do Sul, in 1861, is among the biggest inventors in the field of communications. He was a key inventor of radio, being the first to accomplish the transmission of the human voice by a wireless machine, that is, by irradiating an electromagnetic wave, modulated by an audio signal.
It was common for traditional Brazilian families at the time to have at least one son in the military and one in the priesthood. So, Landell, one of 14 children of a family with Scottish roots, made his early studies in Rio and São Paulo and was later sent to Rome to prepare to become a priest. There he studied Chemistry and Physics at the Colegio Pio Americano and at  Universidade Gregoriana. On his return to Rio de Janeiro, he met emperor D.Pedro II, a good friend of Alexander Graham Bell, whose work he helped finance.

Patent registered in 1901
Landell exchanged many ideas with the emperor, who was fascinated by communications. He was later transferred to Porto Alegre, then to the state of Sao Paulo, where he worked at several churches in the cities of Santos, Campinas and  São Paulo.
At the time, the only available means of communications were the telegraph invented by Samuel Morse (1837), the telephone by Graham Bell (1876). The next great challenge was to transmit an audio signal without the aid of wires. Several scientists were trying to accomplish this at that time, but Father Landell was the first one to succeed. He built his first wireless device and conducted a public experiment on 1894, witnessed by journalists and the General Consul of Great Britain, C.P. Lupton, in São Paulo. The points of transmission and reception were a hill in the northern suburb of Sao Paulo called Santana and Paulista avenue, close to downtown, 8 kilometres apart.
Father Landell had no official support and faced fierce opposition from the Church, that considered that the priest´s work contradicted  the Christian teachings, insinuating the existence of life in other worlds. They just could not understand how someone could communicate at such a distance without wires. His laboratory was destroyed more than once by religious radical groups who believed he was “playing” with the devil and going against the teachings of the Church.
Tired of the lack of support, he asks his friend, the British Council, for help, but at the time the British bureaucracy was as sluggish as the Brazilian one, and the papers requesting for a patent sat on someone’s desk for many years.
Failing to get support for the mass production of his invention in Brazil, Father Landell left for the United States in 1901. The New York Herald described him as ” a gentleman of about forty years old” that reached the pinnacle of his genius. He was well received by American scientists and was successful in obtaining patents for all of his three inventions – the wireless telephone, the wireless telegraph and the wave transmitter.
The Brazilian Father of the Radio had a hard time to prove his inventions to the US Patents Office in Washington. It demanded practical demonstrations of all his theories and drawings, which took time. Finally Landell obtained all his patents by the end of 1904 and returned to Rio de Janeiro.
Upon his return, he decided to seek help from the Brazilian president at the time, Rodrigues Alves, but he was convinced by his secretary that Father Landell was crazy and his inventions were excessively revolutionary. Then, the inventor destroyed all his “devices” and picked up all his books and notes and moved back to his hometown of Porto Alegre were he found consolation in his works at the Monastery.
Monsignor Roberto Landell de Moura, the forgotten pioneer of wireless transmission, died anonymously, at 67 years of age, on 1928, in a modest hospital room in Porto Alegre, surrounded only by his relatives and a half a dozen faithful and devoted friends.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Eco-friendly Party Supplies in Brazil :)

Great news!
After reading about all the recent posts on Brazilian birthday parties in our favorite blogs, this post came in a very appropriate time.
I just read on my great friend Ana's Blog "BOLO, BALAO, DIVERSAO" Eco friendly ( Green Line ) party supplies now available in Brazil, the flatware, straws, plates, and cups are made from cool eco friendly materials obtained from the left overs of the Sugar Cane Industry and the by products of Corn, they will completely dissolve after 180 days in the land fills, great news, we do need all the help we can get in my humble opinion :)
You can find it at Walmart, Pao de Acucar and Extra Hipermercados ( Sao Paulo), please check your local retailers for further availability.
Take a look at Ana's GREAT blog below or you can reach her thru the link above:

Dica EventoVerde: Descartáveis Eco

Finalmente temos aqui no Brasil uma linha de materiais para festas que atende a um dos requisitos essenciais do conceito EventoVerde.

A Regina Festas acaba de lançar a linha Green Line, com pratos, copos e talheres descartáveis feitos de matéria-prima compostável, à base de bagaço de cana e amido de milho. Isso significa que ao final da festa poderemos descartar esses itens diretamente no lixo orgânico, sem peso na consciência. Em contato com o solo eles irão se decompor em até 180 dias.

Eu os conheci no WalMart da Granja Viana, mas sei que estão à venda em lojas das redes Pão de Açúcar e Extra (em São Paulo).

Por ser uma novidade, o preço ainda não é muito convidativo. Mas, se a ideia é realmente tornar nossas festas mais sustentáveis, acredito que vale a pena o investimento. E, quem sabe, com o aumento na demanda, logo venham a tornar-se mais acessíveis a todos que desejam festejar com responsabilidade ecológica.

Leia mais:


Sunday, June 12, 2011


If you are from New York city and live in Sao Paulo or Rio de Janeiro, I know you will feel just at home, as much as I am born and raised in Sao Paulo and LOVE New York, I totally am in my element in this crazy awesome city.

I felt in love with London head over hills, I would live in London in a blink of an eye, if my family was there, off course, once they are not in London, I will be happy visiting London as often as I can.


One of my best friends lives and works near Tokyo and that city is on my bucket list for sure, hope I get there soon. I grew up with a strong Japanese influence in Sao Paulo and would love to visit Japan.

I found an awesome video that proves why if you are from Sao Paulo you will feel just at home in the big apple! ;)
Check out this fun and informative video produced by Ronconcocola below:


Now, let's just thank the sweet baby Jesus New York city doesn't have as many motorcycles as Sao Paulo or we would be in serious trouble people, I am not kidding, it would be real insanity.
I just really love big cities, when we first moved to the suburbs we were afraid of the dark, the peace and quiet, the wolves and even freaking skunks and I have to be honest, the overly friendly folks in Dallas raised suspicions too, Paulistas are in a way like New Yorkers, we tend to be bluntly honest and sometimes are misunderstood as being rude or cold, but we are just pragmatic and objective, so those nice always smiling Texans raised a few eyebrows, but it grew on us quickly.
I have to say I learned to appreciate the South and it's great people, we made friends for life in Texas.
However, our hearts are definitely in the real big cities, we desperately miss the crazy busy life of cosmopolitan city living.
I know a quaint coastal New England town sounds wonderful and even romantic, and it really is great, but our hearts are calling out for big city living, not to mention our family and many of our dear friends are in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.
We travel to New York often for work and for fun, and we can't get enough, I am seriously looking forward moving back to a big Brazilian city and so is Gil.
Hope you enjoyed the video.


Thursday, June 9, 2011

Are you fluent in Portuguese? Test yourself! :)

Song- Eduardo e Monica ( Legiao Urbana - Renato Russo) 
Renato Russo was a great Carioca, who lived in Queens, New York and then came back to Rio with his family before they moved to Brasilia.
Renato Russo and his band Legiao Urbana were definitely one of the biggest talents in the Brazilian music world.
This song tells a great love story between a young Brazilian couple called Eduardo and Monica.
If you are no longer a beginner in Portuguese, you will be able to understand the love story and enjoy it.
If you miss parts of it, I think this video is a great practice to improve on your Portuguese, it is very well done and very visual, everything being described in the song is directly related to the video you are seeing.

Enjoy! :)


After reading an INTERESTING POST ( titled C for corruption ) on fellow German expat blogger in Sao Paulo, Neven, from "Brazil Country of the Present?", I decided to comment and my comment turned out a little long and made me think about the main differences between corruption in the US versus corruption in Brazil.

Below is the post text, and my comment:

Saturday, May 28, 2011

C is for Corruption

Let us hope he showered
 Transparency International publishes an annual corruption perceptions index, where "the degree to which corruption is perceived to exist among public officials and politicians" ( is measured. A non-corrupt country gets a 10, a corrupt country gets 1. In 2010, ranked first in the list is Denmark with a 9.3. Last on the list is Somalia with 1.1. Brazil is 69th, between Romania and Bulgaria, at a 3.7... improved from 4.0 since 2002.

A lot has changed, especially in the private sector, with more multinationals coming into the country, bringing higher compliance standards in and with Brazilian companies also adapting, often because of compliance codes, but also because of better fiscal controls, such as with the electronic centralized invoicing system nfe: nota fiscal eletronica.

In politics, corruption still is a major issue, such in the Escândalo do Mensalão no Distrito Federal, where the then governor of Brasília José Roberto Arruda was accused of (and subsequently arrested for) siphoning off on significant sums of governmental funds to companies and political companions. What made this case spectacular is that Arruda filmed several of these money hand-overs (as depicted above) - but it is not singular.

But also in the private sector, corruption is still a problem. Having been in Brazil for a few years now and never having lost contact between the early 90s and now, when I was out of the country, I have several accounts of corruption cases which have not made it into the media (yet), which I will post in the next few weeks.

But let us start with a juicy one - to protect those involved, I have anonymized each case:

The Paper Company

A major paper company wanted to install a new factory in one of the poorest states in the Northeast of Brazil. Because the company wanted to have the local political buy-in, they decided to meet with the governor to discuss the licensing and subsequent construction - for this, the president of the company flew in. In the first meeting, the governor clearly stated that no license would be emited unless an upfront payment would be made. This upfront payment was to be a deposit into a personal account of the governor and the value was a significant 6-digit value. Infuriated, the paper company president left the governor's palace and instructed to shutdown all non-crucial activity in the state immediately. The new factory will be built a few kilometers down the road... in the state next door.



Ray and Gil said...
Neven, I totally agree with you, Brazil has improved a lot regarding corruption, it still has a good way to go. I found your perception interesting, you are under the impression that more foreigner companies would bring more "strict" or "higher" standards regarding compliance, I feel the exact opposite. I have worked in banking and compliance with the financial services industry for 19 years now and always noticed much higher compliance standards in Brazilian companies, for the exact reason of the culture of corruption in Brazil, companies are much more regulated and have always had higher standards of compliance in general. When the events of September the 11th forced a wave of radical changes in the American financial services world, ( hence the Patriot Act ), Brazilian banks and financial services companies had absolutely nothing or very little changes to make, because they already had very tight checks and balances in place. My experience is that "corruption" is a very relative term, principally when you are talking about Brazil and the US. Many practices that are considered "corruption" in Brazil are perfectly legal and common place in the US. Lobbying for example, is practically illegal in Brazil, with very feel exceptions, but it is common place in the US. Powerful industries in the US that have money to PAY politicians to vote in favor of their businesses, do so, and it is perfectly legal. K street in Washington DC is a LOBBY firms Mecca, it is where the American Congress is defined. In Brazil, it is a scandal for a company to give money to a certain politician to "force" him to vote in favor of a certain project that benefits that company directly, in the US, it is perfectly legal, it still doesn't mean it is moral or even ethical, but it is done all the time and it is not considered corruption. Long story short, in the US, if something is illegal, they pass a law to make it legal, end of story, no longer considered corruption. American politicians still approve huge salary increases for themselves, they still have a shamefully fancy health care benefits, and so forth and so on...we could frankly write a book about it. The good news is that Brazil is improving, most people get mad when they see political corruption scandals on TV, I get glad, because it means they are getting caught. When you don't hear anything on the media, it only means they are getting away with it. ;) Ray

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Sao Paulo "Cars X Rivers"

This is a fantastic documentary that explains exactly why, how, and where the floods happen in Sao Paulo, long story short, there was a big debate in the 1920's, some smart politicians wanted to keep a 1 kilometer area around all the rivers free of "urban" development, so the rivers could be "RIVERS" and flow as nature intended, with vegetation and areas that could flood without causing any harm to anyone.
The city tried to mirror itself in large American cities such as Chicago with large Avenues and giving total preference for an "INDIVIDUAL" mode of transportation ( CAR ) versus trains, subways or buses.
The idea was to built roads and avenues so they could SELL, SELL, SELL more and more cars and fuel the beginning of the Brazilian industrialization process.
The bad guys won, Mr. Prestes Maia ( Sao Paulo's mayor in the 1930's) was one of them, he thought the river basins should be used to built the city's many avenues, because it was a cheaper area to built the avenues, they didn't have to buy too many properties, just follow the valley and built the avenues along them.
Sao Paulo became a city of underground rivers, there are hundreds of small, medium and large rivers that have been paved over and sealed deep underground, but they still exist and are still running under the city.
So, next time you are driving in and around Sao Paulo and it starts to rain, STAY AWAY FROM THE RIVERS, avoid MAJOR AVENUES AND ROADS, its the time to literally run for the hills.
Like I have written before in another post, I usually go into a Mall, catch a movie or have dinner, by the time you are out of the Mall, the floods are usually over and you can go home.
Now, this video is a great Geography class if you are interested in learning about Sao Paulo and understanding the city, why it is the way it is, and you will understand why it floods where it floods.
The documentary is in PORTUGUESE, however, the narrator has a very clear Portuguese and it might be easy for you to understand if you have a basic Portuguese, not to mention it is very visual and fun to watch.

Enjoy :)

"ENTRE RIOS" - a urbanização de São Paulo

Friday, June 3, 2011

Initiatives that make my American Heart beat Strong! :)

The Grand Rapids LipDub (NEW WORLD RECORD)

A young executive producer read an article that his hometown in Michigan was among the 10 top dying American cities, so he decided to make an inspirational video about his town, Grand Rapids, in Michigan.
Not surprisingly, when people heard of his initiative and that his idea would require some help, 5000 Grand Rapids volunteers showed up to help, including the mayor, the entire police and fire department, all 3 TV stations, the high school band, Football team and many other great Americans from Grand Rapids, you have to watch it to understand what I am talking about and why I think this video is indeed inspirational.
Oh, by the way, they beat the WORLD record for a continuous video shot, it took them only 5 takes to complete the task and accomplish what you will watch on the great inspirational video below, not to mention, I love the song of their choice.