The Final Post

Note: The blog stopped but the Learn Portuguese ebooks (sidebar) are still available, and will continue to be.

The Final Post has been viewed many times since I posted it and I feel like I need to say a little bit more…PS – You can still find me on Eyes on Recife, a side-project of mine started in 2012. Also, this site’s url will be eyesonbrazil.wordpress.com for a short time.

I started studying Brazilian culture at a time in my life when I was really in need of something meaty enough for me to grab onto with both hands and not let go, something I could count on to keep giving for a long time to come. Brazil was large enough to meet that need, even to the point that I still find myself wanting it to remain my teacher. I stopped blogging about it here, after many years, and yet I still find myself wanting to be taught more and, in turn, to be able to teach more.

What is of most interest to me these days is the Northeast because it’s so diverse and culturally rich, and full of lessons to be learned. It’s where tradition has long met, and even clashed with, modernity. As Clarice Lispector once said,

“(I grew up in Recife, and) I think that living in the Northeast or the North of Brazil is to live more intensely and closer to the real life of a Brazilian..”

These days, though, I think it can be said in another way as well. As a smart friend once explained to me one night in Natal, the Northeast (and, as an extension, Brazil) is not about the old meeting the new or, for example, the Amerindian coming face-to-face with the branco. Brazil isn’t a battle of “us vs. them”, it’s a single entity being confronted with its own inner dualities.

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In any event, a large part of the reason I stopped blogging is that I want to do something more, something better and more focused, something…professional. Phrases like “go big or go home”, “do it well or don’t do it at all” come to mind. If I could have my way, I’d want a magazine or a travel documentary series, something fina that digs deep and where the inclusion of every detail is well-thought-out (a humble Brazil-focused Monocle-like publication, perhaps?). Not saying it’ll happen but it’s possible at some point Eyes On Brazil will get the word “blog” on the end, while Eyes On Brazil proper will become something more ambitious.

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The Original “Final Post”

I started learning about Brazil when I was 22 and started this blog when I was 27. Now I’m 32 and also no longer going back and forth to Brazil like I did between ages 24 and 31. My interest in the country and culture remains but I’m looking to keep the written expression of that interest to current and future work. Plus, since I left Brazil almost 9 months ago, readership has fallen by over 50%, going from 20K views per month to under 10K (btw, unique visiters usually come out to be about half the view count).  I attribute a lot of it to the plethora of sources for Brazil news out there today which didn’t exist when I started. Large, US and multinational news companies (not to mention many other blogs) are covering even the smallest of occurences and cultural aspects. This means what I do has to be done creatively or simply in a different manner, and I need to reserve that for paid work.

After sharing 5.5 years, or 65 months, of posts, this will be my last here. That being said, I will continue to update the films list and write at Street Smart Brazil if you’d like to keep reading my stuff. ; )

PS – A quick note on the stats. It’s possible my montly stats are more like 15K-20K but I just don’t know it, since WP doesn’t allow blog owners to know if an email subscriber has looked at a post. With 350 people receiving every post, it’s possible a day of 500 views is really 850 views, and so on. In any event, this remains my last post. Thank you for reading!

A Brazilian Brain-Machine Interface

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This year, scientists at the International Institute of Neurosciences of Natal (Rio Grande do Norte) teamed up with their counterparts in a lab in South Carolina in order to conduct an interesting experiment. The results are an initial step towards collaborative organic networks, albeit in rats.

A rodent in an enclosed space in Natal was equipped with neuro-sensors, as was a rodent in a duplicate enclosure in the US. When a hole in the wall was created for the Natal-based rat, it had to use its whiskers to sense if the hole was narrow or wide and then step on one of two levers corresponding to the two sizes. Picking the correct lever meant a treat for the rat.

The neuro-sensors come into play when the Brazilian rat, having started its test slightly earlier than the American rat, would effectively communicate over the internet (via the sensors) to the American rat telling it which lever was correct. Sixty to seventy percent of the time, the tests showed that the rats were working in tandem to solve their shared problem. As a reward for the American rat’s success per test, the Brazilian rat got an additional treat for sending the right information.

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One of the main authors behind the study, the Brazilian neuroscientist Miguel Nicolelis, hopes that by improving on the “brainet”, as he calls it, individual brains will be able to do a myriad of tasks that previously weren’t possible. As to what those tasks are or could be, he wouldn’t say.

Possible future use cases, if used in humans, could include telepathy between humans, animals and/or machines. The study, though, seems like the first stages of such a process so I wouldn’t hold your breath for something like this hitting the market in the next decade. Though I must say, if you think about it, communication over the centuries has been increasingly shortened and these days we can communicate with anyone, anywhere, effortlessly and instantaneously. The logical next step after wearable tech (which happens to have been all the craze earlier this year at the CES trade show event in Las Vegas) would be biotech. Get ready…

Below is an explanation of the “brainet” (skip to minute mark 5:50 for the experiment)

Imagina na Copa

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“Imagina na Copa!”, loosely translated as “Imagine it during the World Cup!” is a phrase that has been oft-repeated in Brazil in the last year or two. For most of its lifespan, it has been used to refer to something that doesn’t work the way it should or to something that will worsen (such as traffic congestion) during a mega-event such as the World Cup. But what if the phrase was transformed into a force for good? That’s the hope of the site Imagina na Copa which is posting, week by week, 75 stories of how young people are improving their own surroundings.

“Every week, we’re going to post stories of young people that are transforming the country for the better. These stories will serve as inspiration and will show that it’s possible to make a difference with the resources that we have. The idea here is also to facilitate the interaction between the visitors to the site and the young people behind the initiatives.”

The site will also sponsor workshops for up to 25 young people in the 12 Brazilian host cities. The objective being to help those interested to better understand the project and plan their own involvement. By combining theory, design and practice, the team behind the site hope to generate interest as well as new ideas.

As part of week 9, the story revolves around two social entrepreneurs who are transforming their city of Porto Alegre. They decided the 5,000 bus stops in Porto Alegre needed some sort of sign that indicated which bus routes passed by that location. The way they went about it was to create large stickers with white space where bus riders themselves could write in the bus routes. The collaborative effort was vandalized more than once and now the governmental entity in charge of transportation in the city is working in conjunction with the entrepreneurs to implement the project in the best way possible.

If you’d like to see the other 8 stories (thus far) from Imagina na Copa, you can do so on their site or via their Youtube channel.

The Red Cross Brazil help button

It’s a nice idea but it’s a faith-based donation. There’s no proof that the money sent is actually going towards something concrete, real and immediate. Better is to find out, via the news, which organizations are on the ground helping people and to contact them to figure out the best way to contribute. To compare on a micro-scale, a homeless person needs a place to sleep, a job, and/or a warm dinner…not spare change.

 

Google Maps removing favelas

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Via Reddit Brazil, I came across an article (PT) about the virtual removal of favelas from Google Maps. Apparently, this was news two years ago (though I never heard about it) and was republished due to an ‘update’ to the article.

In the photo above, you can see the area around Rio Comprido, between Tijuca and Flamengo, and how the word ‘favela’ has been taken out. Despite the virtual removal, I was in this area several times in the last several months and, last I checked, those favelas are still there (big surprise…).

As one Brazilian commentor on the original article mentions, in some instances, the removal is reasonable due to technical (cartographical) reasons. There are examples where favelas are mentioned on the map, yet in reality there are only a handful of favela-type houses in that area. The argument, in these cases, then becomes one of relevance and whether a grouping of houses should be mentioned alongside an entire neighborhood. The same commentor also makes mention of the negative connotation that “favela” carries and suggests another word, “comunidade” (by the way, residents of favelas refer to where they live both as “comunidades” and “morros”).

Translated from the article,

“After the Mayor’s Office asked Google to reduce the presence of favelas on the Rio de Janeiro map, the word “favela” was practically taken out, substituted with “morro” (hill)…The image compares the Rio Comprido region between 2011 and 2013. The virtual removal is part of a project that is trying to make poverty and the poor invisible, both via virtual removals and forced physical ones.”

The government wants tourists who are planning their trip to not be frightened by the number shanty towns on Rio maps. Having lived in several of these (newly-pacified) favelas, especially those closest to the Rio which the gov’t promotes, I don’t see anything to be frightened about.

103 Tricky Verbs in Brazilian Portuguese ebook

 

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With Eyes On Brazil turning 5 years old, I’m really excited to introduce my first ebook (PDF), 103 Tricky Verbs in Brazilian Portuguese for sale, priced at US$4.99. It is based on content I created for this blog several years back, though I’ve reworked and improved it, in addition to having it edited by native Brazilian Portuguese speakers. As a PDF, it can be viewed (via Apple’s iBooks app) on iOS devices as well as on Amazon’s Kindle devices. The ebook is aimed to make Brazilian Portuguese easier for those of you who are finding yourselves unsure of when to use one verb over another. As the title states, there are 103 Tricky Verbs, spread out over 47 Verb Sets (groupings of verbs that have similar meanings) which include example sentences and, in many cases, additional information on the verb(s). The actual Verb Sets you’ll learn about in my e-book: Screen Shot 2013-05-26 at 11.50.49 AM After countless attempts, using various formats, to prep the ebook for the Amazon marketplace, I’ve decided instead to sell it using PayPal’s Online Invoicing, which allows you to pay with a credit or debit card on PayPal’s site (even without the need for a PayPal account). Click on the button below and, once you’ve paid, PayPal will tell me so and then I’ll send you the ebook!

 

 

Don’t forget to check out 150 Tricky Words in Brazilian Portuguese!

Bypassing Oglobo Sign-up

Oglobo has created a ‘sign-up wall’ where, if you have read a certain amount of articles in a month, they try to make you sign up (includes giving them your CPF and ID numbers). You literally won’t be able to read anything you click on. The way around it is to clear your browser cookies, if possible (and it should be possible for all modern browsers) you should be able to do it just for the site in question.

For Chrome, enter Settings (drop down menu to the right of the star in the address bar) or Preferences (via the main menu), as they both lead to the same location. Click ‘Show advanced settings’ at the bottom of the list, then ‘Content settings’, then ‘Manage exceptions’, at which point you will be able to type in which sites you wish Chrome to clear cookies on, as well as select “clear on exit” (which will clear the cookies for Oglobo every time you leave the site).

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Youtube Captions now in Portuguese

“In 2009, you first saw a feature that automatically creates captions on YouTube videos in English, and since then we’ve added Japanese, Korean, and Spanish. Today, hundreds of millions of people speaking six more languages—German, Italian, French, Portuguese, Russian, and Dutch—will have automatic caption support for YouTube videos in those languages. Just click the closed caption button on any of these videos to see how it works.” – Youtube blog