Saturday, October 26, 2013

São Paulo and Tokyo

Sao Paulo and Tokyo are more than 10 thousand miles apart. Their language, diet, and people couldn’t be more different. Still, these two cities have many things in common such as: size, skyscrapers, immigration, and even the love for food.

The first difference we notice is the language; however, there are similarities. While Japanese is spoken in Tokyo, Portuguese is the language in Sao Paulo. It’s a surprise when we learn that many Japanese words were invented by Portuguese influence like: kappa (raincoat, capa in Portuguese), koppu (cup, copo) and pan (bread, pão), just to name a few. On my last visit to Japan I was startled when I understood the word “metoro”: subway. Subway, in Portuguese, is metro.

Another difference is the people and I’m not just talking about looks. I’m talking about friendly and helpful people. I feel sorry for people who get lost in Sao Paulo because they are not going to be helped in any way. Paulistas (how people born in the city are called) are very busy people who don’t stop what they are doing to help in anything. On the other hand, people in Tokyo are very friendly and helpful, even though it’s obvious they are busy and in a hurry. I can’t count how many times I was offered help in Tokyo without even asking for it. Also, a couple of times, people just stopped what they were doing to walk with me to my final destination. That would probably never happen in Sao Paulo.

One more difference is in the diet. While people in Tokyo eat a more balanced meal every day, in Sao Paulo the meals are heavier and high in protein. Even though Sao Paulo has many vegetables and fruit farms, beef is the prefered food. On the other hand, beef is very expensive in Tokyo, but vegetables and fruit are more affordable.

Despite all these differences, Sao Paulo and Tokyo share important characteristics.

Both cities are huge in size and have high in density. There are people every where, every time of the day and night. Neither city seems to stop: there is always an open shop, a late night snack bar, and a taxi waiting somewhere.

Similar are their skyscrapers. When walking on the streets and looking up, they seem like giants surrounding you. They are also similar in modern architecture and style: big glass windows, elegant elevators, marble entrances, giant doors.

Who would know that pizza in Tokyo tastes as good as in Sao Paulo? Although there was no big Italian immigration in Tokyo, pizzas are as good as the ones in Sao Paulo, which received an Italian mass immigration for almost one century. Also, the Japanese restaurants in Sao Paulo are very similar to the ones in Tokyo; maybe because their owners are of Japanese ancestry. Both cities have high-end local and international restaurants spread around the most expensive neighborhoods.

Speaking of immigration, Tokyo and Sao Paulo share a history. The first Japanese arrived in Sao Paulo in 1908 to work at the coffee plantations. Almost 80 years later, Japanese-Brazilians started making the journey back to work in industry. Sao Paulo is home to the biggest Japanese community outside Japan; it concentrates in a neighborhood called Liberdade, which means freedom in English. Tokyo, on the other hand, has few Brazilian markets to make Brazilian immigrants happy.

Sao Paulo and Tokyo are so different, but at the same time they share a positive history of immigration, love for food, and similar modern architecture that created a bond between these two cities.


 São Paulo

Monday, October 21, 2013

Advice to my son, Nicolas

Keep playing with your friends as much as you can. Pretend you are pirates on a mission, car drivers on a race, or paleontologists on a dinosaur quest. You are going to learn that being able to work with other people is an important skill in life. Team work makes pirates listen to one another and find their treasures; car drivers negotiate race tactics to win competitions, and paleontologists can transform pieces of bones into dinosaurs.

You should listen to your friend’s ideas with an open mind and a compassionate heart. When you are sympathetic to others, people are sympathetic to you, too.

You have been negotiating with me since you were a baby. That was easy, of course. Negotiating in real life is not going to be as easy, but if you learned to listen, you will be able to negotiate anything you want.

Then, you are going to see how easy your ideas, and your dreams, can become real.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Five Senses of a Book Loving Story

Being a librarian makes people think that I like reading, and books. Of course, I do. However, people have know idea how much I indeed love books. Besides the stories, books please all my senses. To the sense of sight, there is the pleasure of looking at the beautiful covers, the fonts, the binding. Then, the sound of the pages turning is a delight to my sense of hearing. Next, there is the unique smell of every book. Lastly, the flavor of the pages on my tongue amazes my sense of taste, while my sense of touch likes to play with the weight of the books and the texture of the paper.

For instance, just to see a beautiful cover is enough to make me run to the book. I’m not ashamed of that and I guess the publishers are right to spend thousands of dollars in cover art. It pays the price! It’s the first thing that attracts people to the books at the bookstore. A good cover gives you a hint of the plot, without spoiling the story. The binding tells you a lot about the price of the book: if it’s a collector’s item or if it’s just a paperback. When I browse its pages, I like to look at the fonts, the special capital letters that, sometimes, start a new chapter, the arrangement of the page numbers. The English edition of 1Q84, by Haruki Murakami, plays with the page numbers. In each page, the number is in a different part: at times on the top, others in the middle or at the bottom. Sometimes it’s reversed: a clever detail that makes sense with the plot.

Also, I like the sound of pages turning; either browsing the book slowly or turning the pages very fast, all at once. The sound of a hard cover closing suddenly can scare me. However, the best sound of a book comes from reading it out loud. I love reading to my son, to his friends and to some of my friends. Reading out loud with my friends it is a special moment.

Even more, how I love the smell of books; it doesn’t matter if they are new or old because each one has its special aroma. At the bookstores, I always try to be very discreet while smelling books. I pretend I’m so farsighted that I have to touch my nose to the pages to be able to read. Oh, how good is the smell of paper! The smell of old books tells many things. The books of a used-book store are capable of telling the personal short stories of its previous owners, if you can smell them. You can tell the book belonged to a cigar smoker or a lady who loved strong perfume.

Furthermore, it’s a pleasant sensation to touch a book. One can feel the detailed work done to the binding, the special textures applied to new editions of art books, or even play with the pop up drawings of children’s books. The quality of paper gives different sensations to one’s fingers. Good paper, that makes books more expensive, is smooth and shine, making turning pages more slippery. Low quality paper, used on paperbacks or pocketbooks, are rough and yellowish, making turning pages easier. However, those books can discolor and even disintegrate over time. I like to pretend I’m an archaeologist when touching such fragile books.

Finally, have you ever tasted a book? I have. If you turn the pages of a book with a slightly wet finger, you can taste it. Of course I would have died if I had done that centuries ago when monks would make copies of secret or dangerous books and poison the pages to stop people from learning the truth. Am I confusing reality with fiction or Umberto Eco was right when he wrote about that in The Name of the Rose? Did the monks really poisoned their books’ copies so people would not share the knowledge obtained through the reading? There are books that one can’t put it down. They are so involving, intriguing, captivating, and consuming that by the end you feel fulfilled as if you had really eaten the book.

When I choose a book, before reading about the plot, I like to try connecting with it at a deeper level. Looking at the covers, smelling its pages, listening to the pages turning and trying to taste a little bit of them. I need to know if they are going to be worth it to take home. After all, loving my books so much, sometimes I even take one, or two, to bed with me.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Some reasons to abolish Capital Punishment

There are many reasons for capital punishment to be abolished. For instance, the wrongful execution of an innocent is a barbarity that can never be corrected. On the other hand, there is no evidence that the fear of the death penalty stops or even discourages crime. Also, all the money spent on capital punishment could be better used towards the families of murdered victims.

The most common causes of wrongful execution are eyewitnesses’ errors, false confessions or fabricated stories told by fellow prisoners who want to lessen their own penalties. All these examples can be called “human mistakes”. Society can’t afford this type of mistakes when lives are being considered.

Murders are still being committed; therefore capital punishment doesn’t seem to be a fear not to commit those crimes. I don’t believe people who will commit a murder, or when committing one, stop to consider the death penalty as a consequence of their actions. The homicide rate in the United States is five times bigger than in any Western European country, where there is no death penalty, for example.

Instead of spending money to punish murders with capital punishment, it would be more efficient to use these resources towards the victims’ families. To explain, money could be used towards therapy for the family members, tuition for the victims’ children and other things to help people put their lives back on track. In addition, money used in death penalties could be used for unsolved crimes and education programs about non-violence, for example.

In conclusion, capital punishment is not a real solution. It doesn’t heal the victims’ families, doesn’t prevent crime, and it absolutely doesn’t deter the criminal.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Breve guia de Napa - meus lugares favoritos

- Bottega. Sem dúvida o melhor restaurante italiano da Bay Area que já fomos. O chef é o famoso Michael Michael Chiarello. O restaurante é super chique, mas mantém um ar de aconchego como uma cantina italiana. As massas são feitas na casa, o vinho vem direto das vinícolas da região, os legumes e frutas das fazendas de Napa. Além de tudo isso, tem um ótimo custo benefício. Um almoço para dois que inclui: entrada, prato principal, sobremesa e duas taças de vinho sai por volta de U$ 120,00. Not bad at all.

- Morimoto. Outro restaurante de chef famoso. Comparável ao Nabu de Nova Yorque pela sofisticação, cuidado com o cliente e qualidade dos ingredientes frescos. Lugar para comer sushi sem medo, tomar saque, e experimentar os pratos inovadores da casa. Salgado no bolso, mas vale a pena como um evento especial.

- Bouchon. O restaurante é muito bom, mas a padaria é muito melhor. Não se assuste com a fila enorme na porta. Vale a pena esperar 30 minutos para comprar macaroons. Então, já que ficou na fila todo esse tempo, compre um sabor de cada um (e traga um de chocolate pro Nicolas e um de pistache pra mim). Aproveite e compre uma baguete e um sourdough.

- Dean e Deluca. Mercadinho para se abastecer antes de degustar vinhos. Só lá você encontra presunto de Parma, presunto Pata Negra e outras maravilhas da Europa. Compre pão, presunto, queijo, água e vá para a Chandon! Atenção: não se aproxime da vinícola do outro lado da rua! É armadilha para turista desavisado.

- Chandon. Gosta de champagne? De sofisticação? De romance? Essa vinícola é o lugar perfeito para uma tarde romântica, degustando "bubbles" que você não vai achar em outro lugar. O lugar é lindo, coberto de plantas verdes, pássaros, esculturas de pedra. Recomendo fazer o tour, que além de informativo é super divertido. Tem o cliché de abrir a garrafa de champagne com o facão, mas ainda assim é surpreendente.

- Cheese tasting. Degustação de queijo é muito divertido. Você pode visitar as fazendas, ver como o queijo é feito e comer, comer e comer. A única coisa que oferecem, porém, são umas bolachinhas de água e sal safadas. As degustações estão disponíveis em diferentes meses, então para saber qual fazenda visitar é melhor checar esse site:

- Fábrica de chocolate? Sim, senhor! Há vários lugares para comprar e experimentar chocolates. Eu gosto muito da Anette, mas nunca fui na fábrica. Quem disse que chocolate e vinho não combinam?

- Old Faithful Geyser. Lembra do Zé Colméia voando num jato d'água? Aquilo era um geyser. E um dos mais antigos da Califórnia, que ainda avisa quando um terremoto esta vindo, fica no norte de Napa Valley. Passeio interessante, melhor aproveitado depois do verão, que vale a pena por conta das fotos e do aprendizado sobre terremotos. Cuidado com as lhamas! Elas cospem mesmo. E levem um picnic. Da última vez que fomos, eles ainda não vendiam comida.

- Petrified Forest. Outro passeio ecológico. Floresta de redwoods que foi petrificada por um vulcão há mais de 3 milhões de anos. A temperatura muda muito dentro do parque, então é uma boa idéia levar um casaco. Ah, cuidado com as cascavéis que passeiam pelas trilhas; nem sempre elas fazem barulho.

- Wine train. Don't take it! Não vale a pena. A rota é super curta, o trem balança pra caramba, faz um barulho desgraçado e a comida é caríssima.

E as vinícolas? Bem, se só um de vocês pode dirigir ou se vocês não querem beber muito mesmo, é melhor focar nas que são mais bonitas.

1. Sterling. Tem até bondinho que leva para o topo da montanha! A arquitetura é linda, a vista relaxante, e o vinho é bom. Fica em Calistoga, norte de Napa. Bom para combinar a visita com o geyser.

2. Artesa. Uma das primeiras vinícolas na rota de Napa. O lugar é lindo, cheio de obras de arte, tem uma vista espetacular e um salão de degustação com cheiro delicioso de madeira. Eu não gosto de vinho branco, mas o Chardonnay deles é um dos preferidos do Breno.

- Museus? Bem, só se for o Museu do Snoopy. Não é museu para crianças, apesar do Nicolas adorar, mas a gente volta a infância ao ler as histórinhas que ficam expostas na parede. E ninguém resiste não compartilhar um cookie de chocolate com o beagle. Saindo do museu, não vá embora. No jardim tem um labirinto em forma de Snoopy e do outro lado da rua tem a pista de gelo e a loja de presentes.