Sunday, December 31, 2006

Happy New Year!

I don't care much for celebrating the passage of the New Year. For me it's just another day that passed, and nothing will be different on the next day just because there is a new calendar on the wall. And I haven't met anybody who became richer, found a new love, got rid of bad fluids or anything else that supposedly would be a result of performing one of the many rituals of passing the New Year. Do you remember the expectation for the turning of the millennium (which, by the way, was celebrated twice) ? Everybody had hopes that the year 2000, then 2001, would be a turning point, that the third millennium would bring the enlightenment of mankind, would bring Peace. However, these first years of the millennium were the worst in many decades...
But I recognize that this general engagement around the countdown to midnight is good to remind us to make our annual balances. What were the losses and what were the gains this year? What are our strategic plans for next year? What needs work in ourselves and in our relationships with others? What should we keep, improve, discard, modify, replace? And, on a higher plan, what do we wish for the world, not just ours, but the world of our children and grandchildren? And what can we and must we do to make this world concrete? Instead of jumping waves, eating grapes, dressing in white, etc, I propose we make better use of our time thinking about what we owe to the world and how we can pay this debt...
The only thing I don't give up is the champagne, after all, I'm only human!

Happy 2007 to all!

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Grandpa's trunk - one of the smallest books in the world

When I bought it, it was advertised as the world's smallest book, but since then smaller books appeared. Anyway, it's a little wonder. This book, sold at the Gutemberg Museum in Mainz, birthplace of the inventor of movable types (and if you thought Gutemberg was born in Moguntia, you are right too: Mainz is the German name of the Roman Moguntia), contains the Lord's Prayer in seven languages: American and British English, German, French, Spanish, Dutch and Swedish. The pages are 3.5 x 3.5 mm in size, and it is bound with a leather cover...
This was a good test for my Canon's super-macro feature...

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Meetings and farewells

This was our first Christmas with our grandson, and there were so many gifts that Santa even sent one of his helpers:

Uncle Felipe surprised us arriving on Christmas eve, he and the great-uncles and aunts finally met Guilherme, and Christmas day was as every Christmas should be, with a gathering of the family and much happiness.

On the following day my sister-in-law called early in the morning to tell us her grandfather had left us on Christmas evening, he was 96 and had been married for 73 (!) years. I didn't know him well, but I'll remember him as a happy person who enjoyed dancing on family events...

Inn the afternoon, I was working at my office and listening, without paying much attention, to some noises and talk on the street. When I decided to look through my window, I saw a fire truck parked in front of the house on the other side of the street, where the big mulberry tree on the front yard was leaning in a 45 degree angle.

Well, to make a long story short, the firemen brought a huge crane and lifted the tree almost to a vertical position. I thought they would climb and saw the tree crown branch by branch. But they chose the easy way, lowering the tree to the street. However, diligent and well-meaning, but without an engineer to advise them, the firemen cut other two trees on the sidewalk that were blocking the way. I can understand that firemen don't appreciate trees very much, due to so many incidents during rain season; but when you think of all the effort of so many people to keep the little green that's left on the city, it is sad to see two trees destroyed for nothing...
While the firemen were working, almost at sunset time, it started raining and the sun showed up among the clouds. I thought: there must be a rainbow! I went to my backyard and there it was, maybe the most beautiful rainbow I've seen in São Paulo. Too bad it is so difficult to photograph them...

I know that rainbows are the result of refraction and decomposition of solar light by rain drops:
but leaving science aside, they have something magical and a never cease to admire them.
And specially on this day, I prefer to think that it came to tell us everything is fine, that in paradise there is a happy man who likes to dance enjoying the shade of a beautiful mulberry tree and two smaller trees, and that this is life: babies that are born and grandparents that leave; trees that sprout and trees that fall.
Or, as the Brazilian lyricist Fernando Brandt says so well,

"To arrive and to leave
Are just two sides of the same trip
The train that arrives
Is the same train that leaves
The time of meeting
Is also a farewell
The platform of this station
Is the life of this place of mine"...

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Merry Christmas!

I wish you all a Very Bright Christmas!
(but watch your power bill in january...)
Music Video Codes by VideoCure

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Grandpa's trunk - coachman's license

A note in the papers informed that a new Portuguese law would make it easier for grandchildren of Portuguese citizens to obtain Portuguese nationality. I'm interested, of course, so I did a little research. Unfortunately, it's not exactly as reported. The new law only facilitated the naturalization of grandchildren, that now can request it even if they don't live in Portugal. As for Portuguese nationality, it is still given only to children of Portuguese citizens, and grandchildren can obtain it only if their parents do it first. And the bureaucratic requirements are many: for example, Brazilians must present their birth certificates authenticated by the Foreign Relation Ministry in Brasília...
Brazilian bureaucracy ir really inherited from our discoverers. And this reminds me of an item in my trink: my grandfather's Coachman License (I don't have the original one, this copy was gently given to me by my uncle):

Notice that:
  • The License is signed by the mayor of Campinas, Heitor Penteado. He's the same man after whom avenues in Campinas and São Paulo are named. You can learn more about this illustrious Brazilian here.
  • The License had categories already, like the current drivers' licenses. In this case, he could drive "any vehicle harnessed by two animals".
  • The bureaucracy was already very "advanced" at the time, what shows that it is really an historical characteristic of our society. Notice that each time he changed vehicles or bosses, the coachman had to register this fact on the License and pay 2 thousand reis of fees for the registry. Also, notice the well planned design of the form. For instance, the space at the end of the word anima_, to be filled with the end of the word in the singular or plural. I always say that American forms are usually poorly designed, with insufficient space for filling the fields, or not allowing for exceptions. This happens because, there, bureaucracy is not the rule, but the exception, as opposed to what happens here...

Wednesday, December 20, 2006


I was thinking about what presents I should give my grandson. Not specifically on his first Christmas, because being only 17 days old, it will be symbolic, and also because grandma has already chosen a gift that he will be able to use during next year. But in general: what gifts children like to receive, what gifts adults like to give, and how to conciliate both things to reach a result that will please both who gets and who gives the gift.
Which gifts did I like the most, which ones I still remember?

Flashback (time tunnel spiral spinning)...
Between Christmases and birthdays (that was a time when advertisers hadn't created Children's Day yet), I got many toys, many clothes and some gifts outside those two main categories.
No child (boys, at least) remembers clothes; quite the opposite, the look on a child's face when he discovers his gift is a piece of clothing is always a look of disappointment (on the other hand, parents love it).
Children love toys, of course - while they last, or while the novelty lasts. Later, when they don't break, they're left, forgotten, replaced by newer ones. One toy I remember dearly, which unfortunately didn't survive so many years in the hands of three brothers, was Mec-Bras.
This was an assembly toy, comprised of metal strips and plates with holes, screws, nuts, pulleys, etc. It came on several sizes of boxes, with growing numbers of parts (the largest ones even had an electric motor), and it came with a catalog with several projects for assembly. The dirty trick (applied to the children and their parents) was that the catalog showed all projects, from the simplest to those that could only be assembled with the parts of the largest boxes. My dream was to, someday, own box number 6... I found these pictures on an auction Web site, to give a better idea for those who don't know it and to remind those who do...

Besides the fact that it was possible to assemble several toys following the models in the catalog or inventing new ones, I think Mec-Bras is remembered because it was virtually indestructible, something unimaginable nowadays. And probably it would have benn pulled out of the market today, due to the danger of metal parts and small screws, nuts and washers. Well, I know that I never swallowed or inhaled any part...
Other toys I remember and used a lot were the pedal cars, tricycles and bikes. I had a Jeep and a Packard - this lasted until it was reduced to the chassis... They were also made of metal, and for a long time we played with the tin body torn out and with sharp corners: I think the guardian angles of that time were more competent than the current ones, we never cut ourselves...
There were the board games, some of which are still sold today. Monopoly, the never ending game - I wonder if today's children, with their short attention span dictated by TV, still play those games... domino, checkers, lotto, Chinese checkers...
But the first gift I remember is also one of my first clear memories. One day, close to Christmas (I was 5 or 6), my mother answers the doorbell and I see a man deliver two boxes: "Mom, I read it, it says Tesouro da Juventude!" And my mother, dissimulating, "no, it's just the box, this is something else"... But on Christmas day, the blue cover collection, brand new, 18 volumes!

It's hard to explain what the Tesouro da Juventude (Treasure of Youth) was. The closest analogy is that it was the Internet of that time. This collection talked about everything, from science to poetry, from geography to history, in an easy to read and well organized way. In its own description, "Gathering of essential knowledge, offered in a way suited to the benefit and entertainment of children and adolescents". Each volume in the collection presented varied subjects, divided in the following sections: The Earth, Our Life, Animals and Plants, The New World, The Old World, Fine Arts, The Famous Books, Poetry, Tales, Good Deeds, Things We Must Know, The Whys, Things We Can Make, Attractive Lessons and Famous Men and Women. This was certainly the gift I use the most, and I still have it. I got many other collections from my father, not only on special dates, but whenever he found a new one interesting. The book salesmen, this profession almost extinct today and that was the equivalent in annoyance at the time to the telemarketers of today, probably loved my father... The Complete Works of Monteiro Lobato (both children and adult works), Jules Verne, Malba Tahan; Barsa, Merito, Delta-Larousse encyclopedias; History of Brazil by Rocha Pombo, Pedro Calmon; Universal History by Cesare Cantu (32 volumes!); and many others.
Other gifts related to science: chemistry lab, microscope...

(Time tunnel spiral spinning backwards...)
Back from the past, I've decided at least on thing: that I'll do my best to awaken in Guilherme the love for reading and the curiosity for discovering himself the answers to his questions. But my memories confirmed to me that the best present I got was not the toys, the bikes, the games, the books. Behind them was the care my parents took, within their financial limitations, to choose gifts that would give me something more than just recreation, that would develop me, that would show me a way. I'll try to follow their example when choosing gifts for my grandchildren.
And I'll try to give my grandchildren the best gist I got from my parents and taht I hope I have passed to my sons: their role model of a honest life, without questionable shortcuts; the way they treated any person, even the humblest, with the same respect; the way they educated us, severe but always just. Finally, although I'm probably not a good example of a religious person, I'll try to show them the real meaning of Christmas, and what the man whose birthday we celebrate taught us and did for all of us!

"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."
(John 13:34-35)

Monday, December 18, 2006

First visit

Yesterday we had our "Pre-Christmas", that grandma is turning into a tradition. Some years ago she decided to invite friends and relatives to celebrate Christmas in advance, since on Christmas day everybody wants to be with their families. Our compadres Fróes and Lia, our long date (not to say "old") friends Bona and Ivalda, and the more recent friends ("just" 10 years, amazing how time flies!) Junior, Cris and children (our teacher of the art of being grandparents), and also Bel, a new friend and great artist and teacher. And the surprise gift was the first visit of our grandson Guilherme, who was very coll about the center of attention, and spent the afternoon very quiet, savoring his crib- playpen - recreation-center - etc, massage included!
It's no wonder he slept smiling!

Our thanks to our friends, not only for the visit, but for being with us every moment. Better than anything I could write, I dedicate to you 3 songs that talk about friendship: Canção da América, by Milton Nascimento and Fernando Brandt; That's What Friends Are For, by Burt Bacharach and Carole Bayer Sager; and Bridge Over Troubled Water, by Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel...

Sunday, December 17, 2006


Three friends told me they made or tried to make comments here in the blog, but thos comments never showed up. I don't know what happened, but if you don't see your comment here, please try again, and if you can't do it, please let me know by sending me an e-mail. Maybe the envelope icon that was displayed next to the comments was confusing, so I've removed it...

I can see from the site counter that I have received visitors from other countries, specially Portugal. To those unknown lusitan friends, a hug from this grandson of Portuguese grandparents, hoping that you will contribute with your comments!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Another one Over the Hill

We were in Jaguariúna today celebrating with cousin Silvio his 50th birthday.
Starting at Orkut, Silvio has been doing a great work in recovering the history of Liceu Eduardo Prado (the school where I studied and which growth and great fame at the time were the fruit of my uncle Alberto's work, Silvio's father) and in reuniting former schoolmates who haven't met in decades. Anybody who wants to see samples of this work, just visit the photoblogs: 1, 2, 3 and 4 (currently). This work was one of the inspirations for me to start this blog which, coming from a grandfather, certainly will recall thing from the past, too...
To cousin Silvio, a hug and thanks for the delicious lunch and for the good music!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Grandpa's trunk - matchbooks

Last week I opened my trunk for my grandson for the first time, to show my Matchbox cars. This week I'll stay on the same theme, except this time with real matchboxes, actually, matchbooks. Today's grandchildren may find it difficult to believe, but not so long ago smoking was "cool", and the advertising industry would use this charm to sell everything. Not so much here in Brazil, but in the U.S. every restaurant or hotel would have matchbooks all over the place, on the tables, in the rooms, on the reception desk, by the cashiers... Believe me, people could smoke even on planes, and the airlines would give matches and cigarettes to their passengers! On my trips, I've collected many matchbooks, and quite a few more in restaurants and trade shows here in Brazil (yes, because matchboxes were also given as souvenirs).
It's interesting to examine them today and find brands that are gone, airlines that don't fly anymore... And to remember places and happy moments, travels, tours, delicious meals...
Here are a few examples of this collection kept in grandpa's trunk:
Anybody remembers this likable VARIG toucan, which appears here in various Brazilian sites?

Other matchbooks of airlines: except for VARIG, which is under "intensive care", all others are gone...

These are very old. Notice, on the picture at right, one from Jânio Quadros' presidential campaign. And can anybody imagine nowadays using matchbooks to advertise milk or health checkups, or to request donations to build a children's hospital?

A series about the inauguration of Brasilia, and another one about the '62 FIFA World Cup:

Souvenirs of trips around Brazil and the world:

If I counted right, my collection has 411 different matchbooks. Today, it almost doesn't grow anymore: matchbooks are not so common, and my trips are even rarer...

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

My neighboors, the birds

I don't know how many of you had the curiosity of clicking on the animated frame to the left. When I created this blog, I uploaded to Flicker some pictures of birds that visit the feeder on my front yard.
I got this feeder as a Christmas gift from my family last year, and if you think this is a strange gift, let me tell you the story started sometime ago...
I was born and grew in São Paulo, and my ornithological knowledge was practically none, the only birds I could identify for sure were the sparrows... It was only after I retired and started working at home that I begun to notice the many birdsongs I could hear and to watch their singers. Since the large tree on my sidewalk is a stop for large groups of parakeets, I decided to try to attract them by putting sunflower seeds on my garden wall. Success came fast, in a few days they got used to it. I started offering some bananas from time to time, and this attracted the tanagers, too. By that time I had bought the book Aves no Campus (Birds on Campus, which can be browsed on the Web), an excellent source, since I live very close to the USP campus.
So, the feeder wasn't such a strange gift, but a aesthetic and hygienic improvement over using the wall. If anybody is interested in getting one like mine, you can get the details here.
As for the pictures, birds are the most difficult subject I've ever tried to photograph. They never stop, they're very fast and fly away when I get a little closer. Fortunately, the digital cameras liberated us from the limitations imposed by cost, because it takes scores of pictures to get just one that is usable. Until now, I got reasonable pictures of just a few species. There are many others that visit the feeder and my garden, and I hope I'll be able to add new pictures soon. And I'm sure I'll need a little help from my friends who grew in the country to identify some of those birds. For example, this one which started visiting the feeder this week: a chopi blackbird, maybe?

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

While daddy drools...

Maybe you're finding it strange that four days have passed and grandpa hasn't mentioned his grandson anymore. The reason is I prefer to leave this pleasant task for the proud dad. But he's still busy with his "training phase", and also he must wait until he can approach his keyboard without the risk of damaging it with so much drool (this will take a while)... Thus, and without asking for permission, I'll update you about what's been happening.
Gui is home and he loved his new crib. His grandparents, of course, are there every day...
Now, under a soft light, he opens his eyes frequently. Yesterday I thought he was following me and tested it (by "dancing"'from side to side), and I confirmed that he really is following movements with his eyes. And reacts to the sound of voices, too. A very smart boy, indeed! So much that he's already "baptized" his dad today...
Well, I'll let dad tell the rest soon. For now, here's a special pose for all of you:

One more thing: Gui is becoming famous on the Web! One of dad's friends has included him in his own proud dad's blog. I'll give him a chance, in spite of him calling the four time champion's uniform a "costume"...

Monday, December 11, 2006

It happened on December 8th

Wiki-grandpa researched to find who was born on the same day as his grandson, and found these famous names:
  • Mary Stuart, queen of Scotland (1542)
  • Cristina, queen of Sweden (1626)
  • Jean Sibelius (1865) - composer
  • Diego Rivera (1886) - Mexican painter
  • E. C. Segar (1894) - cartoonist, creator of Popeye
  • Lee J. Cobb (1911) - actor
  • Richard Fleischer (1916) - director (Tora Tora Tora, 20.000 Leagus Under the Sea)
  • Cláudio Villas Boas (1916) - Brazilian indianist
  • Oswaldo Sargentelli (1924) - journalist, samba person, promoter of mulatas
  • Sammy Davis, Jr (1925) - singer and actor
  • Maximilian Schell (1930) - actor
  • Alaíde Costa (1935) - singer
  • David Carradine (1936) - actor (Kill Bill, Kung Fu)
  • James MacArthur (1937) - actor (Hawaii 5-0)
  • Jim Morrison (1943) - rock singer (The Doors)
  • Kim Basinger (1953) - actress
  • Teri Hatcher (1964) - actress (Desperate Housewives)
  • Sinead O'Connor (1966) - singer
  • Dominic Monaghan (1976) - actor (Lost, Lord of the Rings)
Also on this day:
  • The United States declared war on Japan in 1941, one day after the attack at Pearl Harbor
  • Died: Golda Meir (1978), John Lennon (1980) and Tom Jobim (1994).
  • Avenida Paulista, one of the most famous avenues in São Paulo, was opened, em 1891.
In Brazil, it's Family Day.
Date of official creation of Soccer, in 1863.
On december 8th, the Catholic church celebrates the Immaculate Conception; for the buddhists, it's the date of the enlightenment of the Buddah.

Now, the story for the grandson: grandpa had a quick close encounter with one of the famous people born on December 8th. It was on the time when the company still paid for Business Class travel. Grandma and I were sitting on the first row: right in front and to the left, the restroom door, and right after it, the curtain separating us from First Class. In the early morning, suddenly the curtain opens and a small jumping figure gets in the restroom. I can't beleive what I see; I look at grandpa and my face says "is it really him?", and she looks at me with the same face. We wait, and soon the character gets out of the restroom and disappears behind the curtain: it's really him, Sammy Davis, Jr!
At that time there was a mandatory stop in Rio. When we got off the plane, at the end of the corridor, there he was , surrounded by two bodyguards, leaning agains the wall. Too bad the digital camera hadn't been invented yet... But I had pen and paper, and thanks to these two inventions I can show proof of this story, kept to this day in grandpa's trunk. I searched the Web for an autograph to compare, and found the picture on the right, with an almost identical one...

(I can't tell for sure the year when this happened. I think it was 1982, but I couldn't confirm it on the Web...)

Friday, December 08, 2006

Guilherme, day 1

Hi! Let me tell you what happened to me today, it was unbelievable!
I woke up early, in my nice dark place as usual, but I had a feeling that this would be a different day. I tried some kicks for exercise and to wake mom up (I wonder what she looks like), and soon I heard singing. From the talk I found out that it was Preta's birthday - I haven't met her yet, but from her name I picture her as a very dark little thing.

Then I felt we were going on a ride by car. But the shakes and turns indicated a destination different than the usual ones. We arrived at a place they said was "Pro-Matre". Nice name, this must be an interesting place.

We waited and waited, and in the meantime I heard grandpa Roberto, grandma Marisa and aunt Uli arrive, and later grandpa Geraldo and grandma Walkiria (I wonder what they look like). These people talk a lot! But I like to hear their voices! Then they came and took mom and me. Funny, we were not walking, we were moving but I was laying down, what could this be? Dad came with us, I could hear his voice. But not my grandpas and grandmas, and auntie, later I discovered that they were there, waiting.
I was a little scared, many different voices, somebody is doing something very close to me, hey, somebody grabbed me, they're pulling me out, mom, don't let they do it! What a bright light, what a loud noise, what is this? They cut the cord that brought my food, I'll be hungry! Buaaaaahhh!!!
I heard somebody saying it was 4:55 PM. I don't remember well what happened next, everything was so quick and confusing. They touched me, turned me around, put me in a strange thing and the lady said I weighed 4.510 kg. Everybody was surprised. All I know is I saw mom, she is beautiful as I imagined. And dad, a huge smile. Does he always wear these funny clothes? The lady gave me to him, now I feel safe. She pushed a button and an opaque window became transparent. High tech! On the other side, there were many people looking at me, who are they? They took pictures, I felt like a celebrity.

Oh, it's hard to be a celebrity... The lady pressed the button again and the magic window went opaque again. Then she picked me up from dad's lap and took me to a place where there were many babies, I think it's some kind of club. But she didn't leave me with them, she put me in another room where other people watched me.
A long time passed. I'm hungry, aren't they going to feed me? Another lady got me, hooray, she's taking me to the club. She put me on a table and is rubbing my head with something soft, warm and wet. I see, she's cleaning me! But what is this, water? I'm going to drown, I'm scared!

I'm glad it's over... She dried me, now I smell good. She touched my head and feet with something cold, then made some signs with her hands to the people who were watching, they're the same that were by the magic window. She said 52.5 cm, everybody was surprised. And I think I'm going to some party, she dressed me in a gala suit!

Now she's carrying me again. What a beautiful place, those babies pictures... And look at this door, all the little animals. Wow, it's got my name on it!

We're in. Somebody picks me up. Wait a minute, this smell, this voice I know. It's mom! Mom, please don't leave me, I want to be with you! I'm hungry!!! Yes, dad, help me!

Mmm, it's good to eat! Now I'm satisfied and I can examine better everything there is in here. Now I know who those people were. They're my grandpas and grandmas, and also uncle Fabrício! Aunt Uli has left, I think, and I heard uncle Wawá was here also...

Too bad I can't eat sweets, look how tasty! And the nice boxes are for my visitors, grandma Walkiria made them!

Whew! I think this was the hardest day in my life! It's hard to be a person! But I found how good it is to be part of a Family! I love mine!

Now I'm going to sleep, excuse me. And I'll dream those dreams that only babies dream, and then they smile... Good night!

It's good to be born a Four time champ!