<![CDATA[Sabbatical]]>http://mysabbatical.rocks/Ghost 0.11Mon, 14 Nov 2016 22:55:50 GMT60<![CDATA[Forte de Copacabana]]>We went to Forte de Copacabana on one of our first days in Rio.

fort entry

When you go around Rio, you'll actually notice that almost every point includes some form of fortification with some big ass guns. The Army still runs many of these forts, so there are areas you can

]]>
http://mysabbatical.rocks/httpwww-fortedecopacabana-com/fc677af8-c7ba-42ec-877c-08f2f2499800Sat, 31 Jan 2015 17:36:26 GMTWe went to Forte de Copacabana on one of our first days in Rio.

fort entry

When you go around Rio, you'll actually notice that almost every point includes some form of fortification with some big ass guns. The Army still runs many of these forts, so there are areas you can visit, and areas that are still considered off limits for civilians.

This particular fort is at the end of Copacabana beach, and most of it is open to the public since it is considered a historical landmark of sorts. The Army still runs this fort, so there are areas you can visit, and areas that are still considered off limits for civilians. Soldiers are "guarding" or watching most of the areas. You can tell it's a pretty easy gig since most of them were trying to stay awake in their folding chair, messing around on their phone, or chatting with fellow soldiers in the area. The fort doesn't have a ton of visitors, and most seemed to be in their late 30's and older, so there wasn't much for soldiers to do outside of answer questions like, "which way do we go to see X?" or, "can we go over there?"

When you enter the fort, there is a guy on the left, who stands completely still like the Queen's Guard in England. The only difference being this guy is by himself, with an old bolt action rifle, and it's only really for show.

guard

Around the entry, there are generally a half dozen soldiers just carrying side arms.

The benefit of these forts being on the points are the amazing views of the surrounding mountains and beaches. They are sitting on some prime real estate.

copacabana 1

Here you can see Sugar Loaf in the distance.

copacabana 2

At the fort, they have a bunch of old military equipment, everything from cannons through more modern artilery on display. Inside the museum, they have small arms ranging from discovery of Brazil through the late 1800's.

artillery

The best thing about the museum is the air conditioning. It was about 95 degrees and the humidity was through the roof the day was there. We hung around the air conditioning units for a while before touring the museum.

museum

The big draw for me was the massive 305mm guns at the fort. The pictures really don't do this gun justice. The cool part about this place is that we could actually go inside and see all of the systems that support this massive gun. Here's the entry:

entry

Due to the low light levels, and the fact I had an iPhone to take pictures, the quality of my pictures are pretty bad of the inside. Here's the hydraulic lift that is used to actually load the gun when it's in use:

inside

We were also able to go on top of the fort to actually see this gun. Here's a picture with a human standing by the business end for scale:

big gun

Again, this is a big gun. Here's a shot staring down the barrels:

down the barrels

Inside they do include information on how they load the gun, how they calculate their shots, and they allow you to walk into the rooms that contain their hydraulic systems.

It was a nice way to spend an afternoon and learn a bit about Brazilian history.

]]>
<![CDATA[Back in Texas]]>I've been gad about updates over the past week since we were in Rio. Since we were in a hotel room in Rio, when we put the baby to sleep, I didn't have the time to blog. We are home in Texas and I'm going to play catch up in

]]>
http://mysabbatical.rocks/back-in-texas/2f2f81a9-d783-42ba-bab5-0cb9dafa1d74Sun, 25 Jan 2015 01:53:09 GMTI've been gad about updates over the past week since we were in Rio. Since we were in a hotel room in Rio, when we put the baby to sleep, I didn't have the time to blog. We are home in Texas and I'm going to play catch up in posting about all of the things we did and saw in Rio.

Reactions being back in the US

There are a few things that have surprised me after our six weeks in Brazil:

  1. Americans are always in a hurry. That's a double edged sword. Generally good for business, crappy for relaxation and leasure.
  2. Our glasses are huge. Just the 16 oz pint glasses we use for at home water are twice the size of the average glass in Brazil.
  3. I miss mass transit already. You get get around fast and for cheap. Take the subway to get far fast, and walk to your destination, or even take a bus. This feeling generally happens after visiting Europe as well.
  4. I miss pedestrian friendly cities. Rio and São Paulo are no where near as good as Edinburgh, but they are light years better than greater San Antonio and most US cities. Pedestrian friendly means more than sidewalks and cross walks, it's also how drivers treat walkers.
  5. Glad to be back in the land of abundant bourbon, craft beers, kolaches, and tex-mex food.
  6. Average food in the US is generally pretty awesome. We had some great food in Brazil, but we also had some really, really bad food by any standard as well.
]]>
<![CDATA[Maracanã]]>The Maracanã Stadium was originally built as the municipal stadium of Rio, meaning that any team in the city can use it, but no team can call it their home. It's the most legendary soccer stadium in Brazil, and one of the most, if not the most, famous stadiums in

]]>
http://mysabbatical.rocks/maracana/9eb09b30-27c6-4691-ab9f-c285e4dda8e5Fri, 16 Jan 2015 18:49:50 GMTThe Maracanã Stadium was originally built as the municipal stadium of Rio, meaning that any team in the city can use it, but no team can call it their home. It's the most legendary soccer stadium in Brazil, and one of the most, if not the most, famous stadiums in the world. It has hosted two world cup finals, Pope John Paul II, Queen Elizabeth II, and Pelé's 1,000th goal among other things. The stadium has been rebuilt several times. The capacity at one point was 200,000, and the capacity record for a single event was KISS, who managed to cram in 250,000 people in for a show in the 80's. Capacity of the stadium has been significantly reduced, it holds just shy of 80,000.

The name Maracanã comes from an indigenous bird that made a rattling sound when it would migrate into the area. The name came from natives of the area.

If you end up in Rio, you can get to Maracanã via the subway, there is a stop right by the stadium, so that's how we go there. You should do the tour if you can, they have bi-lingual tours in Portugues and English every two hours every day.

Here's a view of the stadium from the bridge that connects the subway to the station:

view from subway

In the lobby, they have a ton of stuff. In the interest of not turning this into a photo blog, I'll just say they have things marking the achievements of some of the best players in Brazilian soccer history, complete with castings of their feet. They have the stand Pope John Paul II used when he came through Rio, as well as the chairs that Queen Elizabeth II sat in when she made the trip decades ago. They also have quite a number of things from the Confederations Cup and last years World Cup, including the mascot:

mascot

The guided tour starts on the fifth floor with the press boxes. The first things you notice about the stadium is how wide open it is, there are no blind spots for viewers.

press box

They then take you down to the third level where they have the boxes and the celebrity seating. You cannot buy tickets for the celebrity area, you have to be invited to sit there. Generally it'll be people like heads of state, pop stars, actors, and former players that you'll see in that area. They have a nice big area behind there that's air conditioned with screens, couches, chairs, and little places to get away.

The boxes hold up to 40 people, and include seating in front of the box. I've been in a box at NRG Stadium in Houston (Texans vs Browns years ago), and the boxes here are at least three times the size. They are meant to throw a party.

box

On the second level, they have the places where the masses come in. They actually have a buffet that's offered as a part of your ticket price, so you actually get free food. We were advised that the area is generally not regarded as family friendly, and in rivalry games, fights can happen in the area.

On the first level is where most of the behind the scenes things are like the four dressing rooms (A-D), press rooms, etc. We went into the B & C dressing rooms. The C room included jersey's from some of the best players from last year's World Cup. I noticed they had as many German jerseys as there were goals against Brazil in that now famous game.

room C

Dressing room B had the jerseys of some of the best players from last year's Brazilian club teams.

room B

All dressing rooms have a room with turf to allow for stretching and warming up before going onto the field. From there, you can go out to the tunnel that takes you to the field. They have little speakers at the entry of the tunnel that are recordings from the last world cup that they play to give you an idea of what it's like to be a player standing in the tunnel and feeling the energy coming from the stadium.

tunnel

And of course, the field. As you could guess, we were not allowed to walk on it. We could go into the benches, and they had fences up to keep us from getting on the grass.

field

Lastly, they have five press rooms. Several small ones like the one in the following picture. And one large one that can hold up to 500 people.

press room

It's very interesting place with a ton of history. I almost think they undersell it. They are generally the place to be for the biggest and best events in town.

]]>
<![CDATA[Arrived in Rio]]>We were lucky in our flight from Campinas to Rio de Jineiro was only about 15% full. This allowed us to move a row back so we had buffer rows from all other passengers. This is handy with a 14 month old. There were about five empty rows behind us

]]>
http://mysabbatical.rocks/arrived-in-rio/c1187c14-b0f4-4fde-8f2b-782c086009eaThu, 15 Jan 2015 21:40:13 GMTWe were lucky in our flight from Campinas to Rio de Jineiro was only about 15% full. This allowed us to move a row back so we had buffer rows from all other passengers. This is handy with a 14 month old. There were about five empty rows behind us before you saw another passenger on either side of the plane. The flight itself flies east to just north of São Paulo, and then up the coast to Rio. The good news for us, is we were able to see splendid coastlines all the way up!

coastline

Note: The above picture is no where near Rio. It just shows there are a lot of great beaches here.

Arriving in Rio

We flew into the Santos-Dumont airport. It's named after the Brazilian father of flight mentioned in an earlier post. The cool part of this airport is:

  1. You can see Sugarloaf from the runway.
  2. It's on the same side of the bay as Copacobana and Ipanema, and a quick cab ride to either.
  3. When you get off the plane onto the tarmac, you hop on a bus to go to the terminal. The baggage claim is right there, so you get your stuff ASAP!

Here's a shot of Sugarloaf from the bus on the tarmac:

sugarloaf

The crappy parts of Santos-Dumont airport:

  1. They have cameras at the baggage claim so you can see workers load your bags because they've had problems with baggage handlers stealing things.
  2. The second you leave the baggage claim, which is a small room, you are immiedately in public. And there are crack heads walking through that area. We saw two crack heads before anyone else.
  3. It's near a rough neighborhood, lots of crack heads from what I'm told. Get a cab, don't walk to the Metro/Subway.

We fly out of a different airport when we fly back to the US next week. It's further from where we're staying, but it's bigger and nicer.

As a note on the Subway: We have used it from other parts of the city, we just didn't feel the walk was worth the risk with a ton of bags screaming "We're not from here!"

Copacabana

Copacabana is one big beach, and it's close to where we flew in. The roads from the airport to the beach go along the coast line, which is very pretty. I even snapped another picture of Sugarloaf on the way:

sugarloaf from cab

Sugarloaf is visible from Copacabana. The beach basically runs all the way to it. We'll be checking out Sugarloaf next week with Jenifer's sister.

The hotel we're staying in right across the road from the beach. This is a photo from our room:

room photo

We're on the 7th floor of our hotel on the side, so we only have this angle view of the beach. I'm not cutting anything off, there is no need for panoramic shots from our room.

So I figured with this little balcony with a table and two chairs, that it could be used for studying Portugues. So I hopped onto Rosetta Stone and took this picture:

rosetta stone 1

After struggling through one noise while fighting all the background noise, I realized this wasn't going to work. I was tired of yelling at my computer. Since the only time I can do this is when the baby is sleeping, I had to resort to my backup plan. The bathroom:

rosetta stone 2

This is a perfect, "How I think I'm going to study," versus, "How I'm actually going to study," representation.

]]>
<![CDATA[Cachoeira de Emas]]>Cachoeira de Emas is a very tiny town. The one bridge over the river in town is a single lane, and there's a light on either side of the bridge letting traffic know when it can go over. We've been through the town a few times, and I don't know

]]>
http://mysabbatical.rocks/cachoeira-de-emas/15c4178b-e006-45fa-bdca-9c66333885eaMon, 12 Jan 2015 19:53:52 GMTCachoeira de Emas is a very tiny town. The one bridge over the river in town is a single lane, and there's a light on either side of the bridge letting traffic know when it can go over. We've been through the town a few times, and I don't know that we've seen more than three or four cars wait to cross the bridge.

The only reason you'd go to this town is to swim and hang out under the dam. I'm told that since this area is under a severe drought, that the current flow is "almost nothing" compared to what it normally is.

dam picture

There is more dam to than I could take in a single shot, but the above picture at least shows you about 75% of it. Living in central Texas, that's more water than I've seen flowing in a very long time.

A little further down, there's a little river beach area that has a bunch of small restaurants lined up along side it. It was very hot when we went, so the number of people out there was less than normal.

beach area

And just to put in a few more photos, here's a shot of me and Zoey looking up from the beach towards the dam, and a picture of some of the buildings along the river.

up from beach

I believe the white building in the next picture provides hydro electricity to the town, I'm not sure what the brick building on the left provides.

buildings

Being that it was very hot, we went to the one restaurant in town that had A/C, had an appetizer and a beer before heading home.

]]>
<![CDATA[Academia da Força Aérea]]>We visited the Brazilian Airforce Academy, which is known here as Academia da Força Aérea, with a Brazilian Air Force veteran. He was involved in an explosion about 35 years ago that left him badly burned on his lower body. The burns and injuries were so severe, that he spent

]]>
http://mysabbatical.rocks/academia-da-forca-aerea/8c315812-3063-45c7-a2a4-9fb3c865c57cMon, 12 Jan 2015 18:13:52 GMTWe visited the Brazilian Airforce Academy, which is known here as Academia da Força Aérea, with a Brazilian Air Force veteran. He was involved in an explosion about 35 years ago that left him badly burned on his lower body. The burns and injuries were so severe, that he spent a full year in the hospital before he was able to go home. As a part of his injury and medical discharge, he was promoted and deemed to be of a hero status. Even though he's been out of the Air Force for over 35 years, younger generations at the base clearly knew who he was as they walked by they'd stop by, salute and say a few words. He is a very nice, laid back, and very respected guy.

By the way, he won’t talk about the accident, his rank, or anything else. Jenifer’s father has known him for 30+ years, and even he doesn’t know the answers to these questions.

A Different Father of Flight

A guy I had never heard of named Alberto Santos-Dumont is considered the father of aviation in Brazil. From what I can tell, his first heavier-than-air flight was in 1906 (Wright brothers flew in 1903). In doing some research, it looks like he gained most of his fame in 1901 when he rounded the Eiffel Tower in a balloon and won the Deutsch de la Meurthe prize. This showed that controlled flight was possible. Even before his 1901 event in Paris, he was a popular fixture in his work with balloons and dirigibles. Vanity Fair even had a caricature of him in an 1899 edition of their magazine:

vanity fair

Of course, since we're in Brazil, his bust is featured in many places, including by the academy barracks:

bust

From what I've read and been told, he did a lot of things that took existing technologies and made them more widely used or popular. One story Brazilians tell me about with him is how he changed how people told time from using pocket watches to using wrist watches. Even though he didn't invent the wrist watch, he showed it's practical use for keeping track of time while tackling his aviation endeavors.

The Academy

Entry took a little while, even with our guide, largely because of my American passport. We had to spend a few minutes at the check points on the way in to gain and verify clearance. It wasn't a huge deal, I never had to get out of the car or even talk to anyone. They just ran my passport, came back, and we continued our journey inward.

Once you get past the check points and you get into the base, you get to see a bunch of retired equipment. I don't know why, but seeing old tanks and helicopters is always cool, no matter how many times you see them.

heli

a damn tank

This facility is frequently visited by Brazilian presidents, and it is considered the flagship base within the country. Since we went over the Christmas/New Years break, a lot of people were still on vacation, and some of the areas were still closed. Ironically, defense spending is very low in Brazil, however the presidents always complains that roads within the bases are crappy and that many of the planes aren't ready to fly. Since they don't have the money to repave roads, or buy new parts for the planes, they let the roads deteriorate and scrap old planes for parts when they can. This is so they can keep their higher priority items attended to.

We spent most of our time in the area where cadets live and learn how to fly. We did not go to the part of the base where actual fighter jets are located, so don't expect to see any live weapons, just aircraft used for training, as well as some old combat aircraft that are being restored for various museums.

They have some pretty cool artwork around the campus. Here's a piece where they mounted an actual prop on the wall, and painted a plane behind it:

plane with prop art

They had a few older engine designs sitting around as well. The man in the striped blue shirt was our guide for our day. He also smoked on campus, which is strictly prohibited. But hey, he's a hero there, so they'd probably ask him to make sure no one else sees and put it out.

engines

I've never been inside any military academy before. The closest I've been is by driving by the US Air Force Academy in Colorado, so I'm not sure how academies celebrate graduates. Here, they celebrate graduating cadets with large plaques that are mounted on the pilars of the walkways that list out all graduating members of a class, as well as the commanding officers. There are cases where cadets do die during training. Fortunately, those cases appear to be rare, since only a few of the plaques include "In Memorian" where they honorarily graduate the fallen cadet. This plaque, for example, has two who died during training:

class plaques

Being this is the Air Force, they also include some of the planes, missiles, and bombs that they've used in the past for display purposes. Here are a few examples:

missil

guided missil

bombs

cadet entrance

fighter

fighters

Being this is the military, there are lines and instructions everywhere, even on the hangar, you'd see painted hand prints that clearly show where to push when closing the doors:

hangar doors

Once in the first hangar, we received a walk through of how cadets train from an active duty officer. Jenifer was translating in close to real time, so I'm doing my best in recalling the process for a new cadet, but here we go:

  • 1st year: Classroom Training/Flight Theory
  • 2nd year: Simulators
  • 3rd year: Gliders
  • 4th year: Prop Planes

They don't even get into jets until sometime after the forth year. Just to re-iterate, we didn't go into the part of the base with the jets. That would have been cool, though!

The officer also broke down the maintenance schedules for the training planes. The schedules, as you can imagine, are quite rigorous. They completely disassemble the plane every couple hundred hours and rebuilt it, replacing any faulty or broken parts. Here's a plane that was getting serviced when we walked in:

serviced plane

These training planes have two seats, one for the instructor, and one for the cadet. All controls in the plane are on both sides of the cockpit and mechanically linked, so if the cadet turns the plane to the right, or adjusts the prop, the controls on the instructor side will both reflect those changes at the same time. These planes are almost 100% mechanical, there are very few things outside of the radio that rely much on electronics. Here's the left side of one of the cockpits:

cockpit

The good news for me, is all dials included both Portugues and English, so it made it very easy for me to figure out what everything was. I should have taken a video to show how all of the controls were mechanically linked, but I didn't think about it at the time. Here's a picture of Jenifer and Zoey in the right seat of the cockpit:

jenifer and zoey

Regarding maintenance, when planes are rebuilt, there are times where they don't have all the parts, so they move those planes to another hangar and hold onto them until another plane comes down that they'll then rip apart to try to fix another plane. The two planes you see at the back of this picture have both been down for over a year, so they only have nine active training prop planes. They normally have 10, so being down a plane, means that the other planes are used about 10% more, meaning that the required maintenance on those planes happens more frequently and it makes it tougher for them to train new pilots.

down planes

Since we started with prop planes, and year four, we'll go backwards through the cadet's career. In year three, they start flying with gliders. The glider is hooked to a tow plane, and when they are at the right altitude, the pilot of the glider pulls a lever to release it from the tow plane and they are off. Here's one of the three tow planes we saw:

tow plane

The officer also said that the guys who stay on base over the weekends take the gliders up to have fun on Saturday mornings. They'll go up from about 7am to noon. Here are some of the gliders:

gliders

The officer decided while walking us through the cockpit of a glider, that Zoey should get a closer look:

zoey in glider

She was not happy when we took her out, and tried to climb back in until he finally closed the cockpit.

Finally, they did have some very old fighters that they are preparing to go to museums. Here is one that is almost ready to be shipped:

old fighter

They do have a museum on campus, but it's closed until February, so we were lucky enough to get the "insider's tour," which is really the tour you want!

]]>
<![CDATA[Sugar Cane Everywhere]]>Almost all the farms in this area only grow sugar cane. From what I understand, most of it is grown to make alcohol. We pulled off the road yesterday to snap a quick shot near the entrance of a sugar cane plantation.

entry sign

The plants are still relatively small, they are

]]>
http://mysabbatical.rocks/sugar-cane-everywhere/869df220-d09b-4933-a554-2a63fb2d4d52Sat, 10 Jan 2015 12:52:09 GMTAlmost all the farms in this area only grow sugar cane. From what I understand, most of it is grown to make alcohol. We pulled off the road yesterday to snap a quick shot near the entrance of a sugar cane plantation.

entry sign

The plants are still relatively small, they are mainly leaves. They will continue to gorw until the roots/stalks are roughly my height. They get one harvest every year. The plants themselves are used for four years, and then they are dug up, and new plants are put in their places. Here's a shot of some with a 6'3" fat American for scale next to some young sugar cane:

young cane

And when I say everyone grows sugar cane here, I mean everyone. Even when you are on the Air Force Academy base, you'll find that much of the outer land is used to grow sugar cane, that is then sold. There's a department within the government that farms government land and sells the crops for extra money.

air force cane

]]>
<![CDATA[A Real Brazilian Steakhouse]]>A Very Favorable Exchange Rate

For those watching the international markets, you've probably noticed that the USD has been incredibly strong in recent months. This holds true when looking at the Brazilian Real (BRL). The current exchange rate from USD to BRL is 2.70. That means for every one

]]>
http://mysabbatical.rocks/a-real-brazilian-steakhouse/3d83ac07-b094-42d7-83e2-537a0ff09d50Thu, 08 Jan 2015 15:02:27 GMTA Very Favorable Exchange Rate

For those watching the international markets, you've probably noticed that the USD has been incredibly strong in recent months. This holds true when looking at the Brazilian Real (BRL). The current exchange rate from USD to BRL is 2.70. That means for every one USD, it translates to R$2.70. Or if you want to look at it the other way, R$1 buys $0.37.

The good news for us is that the rate has improved significantly for people with USD in the last half of 2014, so it's making things significantly more affordable. Here's the five year history of the rate:

exchange rate

If you're using credit cards that have no foreign transaction fee (see my post on Personal Finance Abroad), you are able to make purchases at the rate listed in the graph without additional fees.

A Real Brazilian Steakhouse

meat

The two biggest food things I wanted to see in Brazil were feijoada at Bolinha, and an awesome Brazilian Steakhouse. We missed out on feijoada in São Paulo since Zoey was sick, but we did not miss out on a great steakhouse.

We went to a place called Coxilha dos Pampas in Ribeirão Preto. Ribeirão Preto itself is a pretty good size town/city, with over 600,000 resident's. Jenifer's brother, Jair, attends a university there. So, after stopping by his place and running other errands, we hit the steakhouse, which was only a few blocks from his house. Jair has lived in Ribeirão for four years, and had never been to this place. This place is not just another rodizio style steakhouse in Brazil. This is one of the best places in town, and some of Jenifer's relatives go as far to say it's the best restaurant in all of Ribeirão Preto. Here are ratings from a few places:

Those are very impressive ratings across the board.

How Coxilha dos Pampas is different than US Brazilian Steakhouses

The US steakhouses are generally run by a healthy population of Brazilians. Many servers, parts of the management, and generally a majority of the ownership is Brazilian. They know what the name implies, and they offer a decent assortment of meats, good drinks, and great service. You can pick up dinner at most for about $50-60, not including tips or drinks. How much we paid here is at the end of the article.

Drinks

Everything that can be made table side is done so at Coxilha, including drinks. So when I ordered a caipirinha, a drink cart headed right over, and began freshly preparing my drink. He started slicing the limes, mashing them with sugar, and then introduced the cachaça with a slow pour as folded in the alcohol into the muddled lime and sugar. This, as with almost everything else, is part of a show.

table side caipirinha

Lets say you prefer a beer, they send over the guy who is carrying around bottles of all beers they have available. They'll spin the tray around, show the ones hidden in the middle, and answer any questions you have. There is no need for a drink menu, they will roll everything right up next to your table and chat with you about it.

For anything that you ordered that was not made table side, such as water, or a beer that they'd grab from the refrigerator, someone would come running to your table with your drinks. I'm not talking a fast walk, I'm talking about running with a tray full of drinks being caried high above him as he ducked and juked between tables and other servers. I did not once see one of these guys bump someone or lose a drink. They are so fast, there was no chance of me getting a video of them running between tables without having it staged.

Salad Bar

As with everything at this place you have options. Some things you won't see in the US include of all things, sushi. That's right, sushi. They have a place at the back of the salad bar that's dedicated to raw seafood. They do have some things like Philadelphia rolls and other no-fish rolls for the faint of heart.

salad bar

Don't be fooled by this photo, every inch of the bar is packed with things. When you're standing at one place, there are normally a good three things sitting in front of you, as opposed to your standard one thing at most US establishments. I nabbed this photo from their Facebook page, it shows you how food goes well back into the bar:

many options

Here were Jair and Jenifer's plates after the first run to the salad bar. Zoey couldn't wait for the picture to be taken before she decided to steal Jenifer's roll.

first trip

Things on Skewers (Non-meats)

There were quite a number of things that we had that weren't meat that were cooked the same way as the meats. These things included:

  • Garlic Bread - Small pieces of bread stuffed with garlic butter and grilled.
  • Mozzarella Cheese - Little torpedos of grilled joy.
  • Pineapple with cinnamon - This stuff is awesome.

We got there right when they opened, so some of these things only started coming out as we were winding down. I am sure they have other things as well. Here's a shot of the Pineapple, Zoey's face is priceless:

pineapple

Meats on Skewers and Carts

Everything you have in the US, you have here. The Picanha served is actually quite large. Here are some of the things I've never seen in the US that came around:

  • Ostrich Leg
  • Buffalo Steaks
  • Ram Picanha
  • Salmon
  • The back hump from a male cow (fatty, and amazing)
  • Kobe beef Picanha
  • Hot Pepper Steak - a hunk of meat marinated in hot peppers
  • File Mignon or Picana served with butter
  • Several types of sausage

Things like the beef ribs, salmon filets, and other very large pieces of meat came around on carts.

beef ribs

These guys move fast, and my focus was on eating, so I do not have very many photos of the meats.

Dessert Cart

This was the only spot where I wasn't impressed. As with everything else, they bring all the desserts table side on a large cart that I believe has ice or something in it to keep the cakes and other desserts refrigerated. There is a large plastic top that hinges when the server opens the case to present it. They had a few cakes, but I would argue the presentation you see in the US for desserts is much better. They did have chocolate lollipops and things for kids on the cart as well.

Zoey's Favorite

Zoey's favorite part was definitely the white pebbles around the base of the palm trees in the bar. I guess that means this place is truly for all ages:

zoey palms

The Service

Everyone was friendly, they worked with a smile, and would poke at Zoey to get a rise out of her. Everyone had fun. Since we got there early, there was no wait, and we used the empty front bar area as Zoey's playground whenever she would get cranky.

More than anything, everyone was hustling. Whether it was the guy running through with people's drink orders, the servers, or anyone else, people were moving at a good clip.

The Price

All of this can be yours for $19 USD per adult. This includes gratuity, but excludes drinks and desserts.

Thank you awesome exchange rate.

]]>
<![CDATA[Beer in Brazil]]>Most people in Brazil drink the standard Adjunct Light Lager much like most Americans drink (Bud Light, Miller Lite, etc). You see Ambev beers like Antarctica, Brahma, Bohemia, Skol, and Stella Artois almost everywhere. Ambev itself is owned by InBev, the giant that owns Budweiser. This is the status quo

]]>
http://mysabbatical.rocks/beer-in-brazil/2ce7b76d-4118-472f-b4bc-580a6a9b4c42Wed, 07 Jan 2015 16:19:19 GMTMost people in Brazil drink the standard Adjunct Light Lager much like most Americans drink (Bud Light, Miller Lite, etc). You see Ambev beers like Antarctica, Brahma, Bohemia, Skol, and Stella Artois almost everywhere. Ambev itself is owned by InBev, the giant that owns Budweiser. This is the status quo of beers, any beer that doesn't fit this mold gets a questioning look from many people.

Being that I love beer like I love food, it means that I like different types. When I bring up things like stouts, barleywines, and rye ales, I get some weird looks.

Craft Beer is Growing Here

The craft beer scene here is around where the US was probably a decade or two ago. Selection is limited, brewers create their own Pilsner to help drinkers transition, and they are clawing to grow market share. It hasn't boomed yet. With that said, we did find a decent selection of Brazilian craft beers at a place in Ribeirão Preto. The top two rows are all Brazilian:

brazilian craft beer

Home brewing is starting to become a thing here. Wages for Brazilians have continued to slowly climb, which means people have a little more disposable income. But look, we're not dealing with the US here. The big beer stronghold here is incredible. I don't know how long it will be for this scene to take off here, but I wish them all the luck in the world.

I will say this, some of the brewers up here are taking some big chances. I stumbled across this beer that is rated at 1,000 IBU (International Bittering Units)

1000 IBU

I didn't buy it. I've made a beer that was 250+, and that was rough. 1,000 is just nuts. It's fitting that it's a fist punching the drinker in the face.

Lund Cervejaria

Before Jenifer's appointment in Ribeirão Preto, we went by the Lund brewery:

outside the brewery

They weren't open to the public, but since they had a door opened, and we walked in, one of the proprietors began chatting with us. Right now they are making four production beers, and they will be moving soon to a larger building to increase production. Their current facility only has four refrigerated fermentation tanks, which explains why they only have four beers:

the beers

I bought their Dunkel earlier in the day, and plan on sampling it soon.

Lund has tastings every Saturday, but we probably won't make it back to partake. The proprietor's interest in us increased as we talked about the breweries around us, what they are doing, and some of the things we do back in the states. Events that we consider pretty standard, like parties with food trucks were completely new ideas to her. Some of the things I've done like barrel aging beers were very impressive to them.

jenifer talking

During all the talking, Zoey decided to give herself a brewery tour while everyone else was talking:

zoey tour

What's in the fridge?

Here's a snapshot of what we have in the fridge right now to sample:

beer haul

I have a week to knock these out. The cans are 1L, and I plan on sharing these with Jenifer's brother.

If you are interested on my thoughts and ratings of individual beers, friend me on Untappd, my username is 'brint'. Most of my Brazilian check-ins have been of the pilsner variety, but expect a lot more variety in the very near future.

Current Rule #1, 2, and 3, it MUST be cold

Like with food, temperature makes a huge difference when it comes to flavor. When you go to restaurants, food is cooked to and served at different temperatures. We know this so well, that we do it automatically without thinking about it. We know when our beef is done, we know when pork is done, and we know when chicken is done. Not only do we know when they are done, we all know they are done at different temperatures, and going over that will cause undesired effects such as charring or drying out. Beer is the same, Guinness even publishes their recommended serving temperature.

Here the rule is to serve the beer as cold as possible, without freezing it. Here's a bar we were at yesterday that serves beer below 0 degrees C:

cold beer

The left tap is Guinness. It is served below the freezing point. That's a big no-no.

If you make a stout or just about any dark beer too cold, it makes a huge negative impact on the flavor. The cold dulls your taste buds, and to me, you end up with a little bit of a bitter after taste. If you're going to drink good beer, you need to treat your beer like your wine, and store it at the proper temperatures.

How to drink a beer at home in Brazil

Here are the steps, in order:
1. Putting the beer, and the glass you are going to drink it out of, into the freezer.
2. Wait for everything to get near freezing.
3. Pop the top, pour the beer, and enjoy.

These are the same steps you may take with a Bud Light in the states. Great for the super light beers, bad for everything else.

Beer is shared in Brazil

The glasses that people drink from are about 8 ounces. The beers are about 12 ounces or larger. If you have more beer than you can fit in your glass, then it must be shared, right?

Most bars serve bombers, so you'll see a couple guys around a table on the street sharing the bottle. If it's a big group, you'll see two bombers.

I think this is cool. It makes an already social substance, more social.

]]>
<![CDATA[Authentic Italian Food in Rural Brazil]]>On Sunday, we went to an Italian restaurat called Romeu E Julieta in Porto Ferreira. Porto Ferreira is a small town about 20 minutes from Santa Cruz das Palmeiras. The reason for this choice was Jenifer wanted seafood, so her father recommended this place the next town over.

The Owners

]]>
http://mysabbatical.rocks/authentic-italian-food-in-rural-brazil/b30b2964-15f2-4855-976f-39149d953b48Wed, 07 Jan 2015 15:04:53 GMTOn Sunday, we went to an Italian restaurat called Romeu E Julieta in Porto Ferreira. Porto Ferreira is a small town about 20 minutes from Santa Cruz das Palmeiras. The reason for this choice was Jenifer wanted seafood, so her father recommended this place the next town over.

The Owners

The owners are a married couple who met in Italy. The wife is from Santa Cruz das Palmeiras, the husband was born, raised, and learned to cook in Italy. Portugues is his second language. They moved to Brazil when the economy in Italy went down the toilet about five years ago. They moved close to the wife's hometown and opened this restaurant

Amazing Food in Massive Quantities

The restaurant is a decent size for a place in this area. There were only a couple tables seated (3 total) when we were there because the prices are higher than most place you'd see, and they are only open for lunch on Sunday.

All food is made to order and the seafood is incredibly fresh, so when you order, it may be up to an hour or more before you get your food. This is the type of place you go to have a gathering with family and friends to eat great food. Time cannot be in your vocabulary when you're at Romeu E Julieta. We were there with Jenifer's parents and Zoey, so the five of us chatted and had a number of beers.

Since there weren't too many tables, the wife came out and chatted with us for quite a while. Since she knew Jenifer's father from growing up in the area, we were an extension of the family that day. She had a barrel that her brother makes as a hobby that he builds and char's himself. She takes un-aged cachaça and ages it herself in the restaurant. I had consumed a few cachaça's that were aged in used Scotch whisky barrels prior, but I'll tell you, the fresh barrel makes it much smoother. She even offered to make a caipirinha with the stuff!

What the menu doesn't tell you is how absolutely massive the portions are. Here's an example of the two dishes we ordered, with humans for scale:

big portions

The amount we took home fed us again for dinner. Each dish said it was "for 2", when really, you could probably feed at least five. But like I said, everything is incredibly fresh, so the quality was amazing.

Not Service, Family

I was told that service in Brazil is crappy, and that appears to be incorrect. This is one of several places I've been to that provided fantastic service. I think this place under sells it's ability to serve. Yes, some places have crap service, but I would say that a majority of places we've gone to have been attentive and on point with their service. The biggest difference from typical US establishments, is here you need to call the waiter to get what you need, they generally don't bug you very much. They'll stand off to the side of their area and survey it like a hawk, looking for a glance, hand, or anything that looks like you need something. Once they see the sign, they get there quickly.

The hospitality at this place was as good as you can get. After the big lunch and a few digestives, we paid the bill. Tip is included in the bills, so you do not pay any extra gratuity. Remember, the bill is now paid.

The chef started talking us through some of the special alcohols that the Italians are noted for since they were about to close for the day and they were done serving. He walked us through every piece of their collection, and then we began sampling/drinking with the chef:

sample alcohols

Since we were very impressed with one of the digestives, we made a comment, and they gave us a bottle to take back with us to the US. Please note, our bill has already been paid. I tried to offer for them to take more for the additional drinks, and the bottle of booze, but they flat refused any additional payments. So we ate, drank, and paid. And then the billing stopped, and we continued eating and drinking with the owners.

owners

After this photo, we said our good bye's and headed home. I even made a comment that with the quality and quantity of food, they could make a killing in San Antonio. He handed us a few cards to take back with us.

Lunch, by the way, took about 3 hours.

]]>
<![CDATA[Daddy would you like some Sausage?]]>I never thought Tom Green was very funny, but the bit he did in the movie Freddy Got Fingered was, in a twisted way, very funny.

In my current situation, I'm not sure if I'm in sausage heaven, or if someone is trying to kill me via sausage. Three days

]]>
http://mysabbatical.rocks/daddy-would-you-like-some-sausage/d13f9646-c96d-4f55-b05d-a55351a1d673Sat, 03 Jan 2015 12:45:47 GMTI never thought Tom Green was very funny, but the bit he did in the movie Freddy Got Fingered was, in a twisted way, very funny.

In my current situation, I'm not sure if I'm in sausage heaven, or if someone is trying to kill me via sausage. Three days ago this showed up:

sausage #1

This is a cured batch of beef sausage with hot peppers, garlic, and basic seasonings (mainly salt & pepper). It is hanging on the clothes line in the back yard. Since it has peppers, no bugs mess with it. This represents the second sausage blessing/threat in the past week. The previous batch was uncured and included some standard sausage that we pan fried and got fat on.

Then yesterday this happens:

sausage #2

This time, more sausage. Third time in a week. This is fresh with an even better quality of beef. It, too, is now hanging in the same spot on the clothes line. I'm not afraid to say it: That's some beautiful sausage right there.

They made about 660 lbs of sausage before Christmas, and apparently they make and sell 250-300 lbs of sausage in the average week. That is a lot of sausage. It doesn't look like I'm going to get to help make sausage while I'm here. They make the filling on Monday's and fill the casings on Tuesday's. We have some paperwork we have to do next week, and the following week we fly out.

We do swing by the shop every couple days while we're going around town. Here's another piece of meat porn, real smoked bacon, not the chemically smoked stuff you see in most stores:

smoked bacon

If you're not buying bacon like this, you're only cheating yourself.

Making a hot pepper hotter

We grow a few types of peppers at home. Generally we'll grow jalapeno, serrano, and habanero. Jenifer's dad grows one pepper, and it's this bad boy:

pepper plant

I'm still working on getting the English name for it because it has a nice flavor, and I'd like to grow it. The heat level when picked fresh isn't as high as a habanero, but it does have some kick to it, probably a little under a serrano level. The flavor is different from any pepper I've ever had. It is a little difficult to tell, but this little bush is covered in little green peppers.

Eating these peppers fresh or cooking with them creates a nice flavor. What I didn't realize is how much more potent the pepper can be if it's aged in olive oil for a while. Holy crap. This stuff will light you up, so you have to be careful with how much you use:

pepper oils

You can see in the jar on the left a clove of garlic towards the top. Generally it's garlic, olive oil, and as many peppers as you can fit in the jar. I had some from the one on the right, and was too generous in my portion. My face almost re-configured itself.

Despite this firey experience, I like this idea as another way to preserve peppers. We don't eat much in the way of fresh peppers because Jenifer doesn't like spicy food, so most peppers get dried, and tossed in something here and again. Now I have another way bring heat to a weekday dinner, and being that it's in oil, it makes the heat linger quite a bit longer.

]]>
<![CDATA[Zoey digs the Imperial March]]>If you have a kid, you know that you sing and hum some random stuff to keep both yourself and your child entertained. I started doing the Imperial March for the heck of it. And we've found that it may be her new favorite song.

I just hope she chooses

]]>
http://mysabbatical.rocks/zoey-digs-the-imperial-march/61a41ae5-c628-4dbb-bfbc-4dc5b05fa426Fri, 02 Jan 2015 16:58:33 GMTIf you have a kid, you know that you sing and hum some random stuff to keep both yourself and your child entertained. I started doing the Imperial March for the heck of it. And we've found that it may be her new favorite song.

I just hope she chooses the right side.

We've been able to get her dancing when music is on pretty easily now. It's pretty funny and cute at the same time. She's added spinning to her routine now. So we have the head bob, knee bend, and spin in a circle moves.

Reminder: Don't drink the water

The water in this town is treated, but it is not filtered, so you may notice a light brown tint and slight odor to the water. Here is a picture for proof:

brown water

Many houses have a filtration system that's connected to the city water. Jenifer's family has one as well. The water in this picture was pulled from the city directly.

I'm not sure how common it is, but the water is turned off here during the day due to the drought they are experiencing. Houses generally have a reservoir that they keep filed so they can use water during the day. Jenifer's family has a reservoir under ground, and two water tanks in the roof. So water comes in from the city, it's filtered, put into the underground reservoir, and then pumped into the tanks in the attic. This allows them to use water throughout the day.

In this town, it's currently illegal to use water in your front yard for anything. There are very steep fines if you are caught, and neighbors will even report you.

Drinking water can either be purchased at a store, or through a water service. This house doesn't have gas lines, so they also get their tanks through the same company.

water & gas home delivery

The water is obviously on top, the gas sits in the bed of the truck.

Random

As of January 1, 2015, several new laws came into effect around Texas, among the most notable being the "hands free" laws for both drivers and cyclists. With this in mind, I saw a guy riding down the street on his bicycle with one hand on the handle bars, the other hand feeding his mouth a beer.

I've been told it's legal to drink on the streets here. So we've done a lot of that while walking around the neighborhood.

Learning a Second Language

Since getting into Santa Cruz das Palmeiras, I've spent 1-2 hours every afternoon using Rosetta Stone. One very weird thing about their website, especially since they offer language training, is that you can't change the language you see on their website. They use geo-location to point you to the country specific instance of their website, and there's no button to go to another version of the site. What?!

The process of picking up a second language is very tough. What I've learned so far is that you have to have complete discipline when it comes to learning. Similar to body building, you have to hit the gym every day, even if you don't feel like it. Every day, you are either getting better, or getting worse, there is no middle ground, so you must make a conscious descision to learn.

The way the Brazilian Portuguese lessons are setup are pretty strait forward. Everything is in Portugese, you will not see a single word in English during your lessons. They show images and boxes over the images, and there are exercises that give you repetition with the words and phrases you learn. Here's an example where you're going through a conversation:

Rosetta Stone Example

There are parts where you select the right phrase, some exercises require you to actually type out the right word or phrase, and other exercises require you to actually say the right thing. Now that I've been using it a while, I have Google Translate up in the next tab at all times. Occasionally with phrases or words, I'm not completely sure what the difference is.

I do have a good escalation point for language questions. Jenifer is who I ask when I can't completely figure it out. The gap of just using the course, is some of the pronunciations are very subtle, and it's really hard to pick it up. Here's an example that I'm still having some trouble with:

  • avô - grandfather
  • avó - grandmother

If you slightly mispronounce that last letter, you may call a man a woman, and vice versa. There are a number of words where the accent changes the word significantly. Some are so drastic that one version of the word is a common item, and the other version is incredibly insulting.

Rosetta Stone does offer 1:1 sessions with native speakers to help with these types of things, but I don't know that it's enough. There are some things where you just need a human to fully get it. I'll share more as I get further into this. It's clear that this will be a very long process to learn a language, and I just have to make it a priority for it to happen.

Note on How I'm blogging

So I'm using a self-hosted installation Ghost for blogging. My quick pitch on node: It's a Node.js application that allows you to blog entirely in Markdown. It is just for blogging.

Since the internet here is very flaky, I have to deal with losing connectivity on a very frequent basis. How bad is it? It's bad to the point where I now have a continuous ping hitting 8.8.8.8 to see if things are just slow, degraded (packet loss), or down. Today, I'm looking at roughly 30% packet loss, which include stints where the DSL goes down for ~40 seconds or so every couple minutes

--- 8.8.8.8 ping statistics ---
1661 packets transmitted, 1159 packets received, 30.2% packet loss  
round-trip min/avg/max/stddev = 189.007/337.812/20317.912/1421.915 ms  

So with that fact, I actually don't use the Ghost editor. I'm actually using Atom editor, which comes with a built-in markdown preview utility.

My use of Atom over the Ghost editor is not to say the Ghost editor isn't good, I think it's great! When you're scrolling through your Markdown, it will automatically scroll the preview along side, which makes for quick checks very easy. Within Atom, I scroll the Markdown preview and the actual markdown code separately.

The benefits to Atom in my situation are two fold:
1. Automatic spell check (GitHub issues exist, were closed as "Won't Fix")
2. Offline saving of drafts. There's no real way around this one.

Here's a snapshot of what the side-by-side Markdown editing in Atom looks like:
atom markdown editing

I think the Ghost team needs to allow the browser spell checkers to work. If you are using Ghost, at a minimum, you should copy/paste your entry into some editor that will allow you to perform a spellcheck so you don't look like a dummy.

]]>
<![CDATA[How would you like your bacon?]]>How would you like your bacon?

I'm pretty sure if there is a heaven, this is the type of question you'd be expected to answer. As I've mentioned before, Jenifer's dad owns and runs a butcher shop, so naturally he brought forward the question, "How would you like your bacon?

]]>
http://mysabbatical.rocks/how-would-you-like-your-bacon/e2a8ffa8-e26a-4405-9c8a-5778468fee10Wed, 31 Dec 2014 14:06:28 GMTHow would you like your bacon?

I'm pretty sure if there is a heaven, this is the type of question you'd be expected to answer. As I've mentioned before, Jenifer's dad owns and runs a butcher shop, so naturally he brought forward the question, "How would you like your bacon?" I was in shock with the question, not because it was asked, but because of all the possibilities. I could get bacon any way I wanted. Let me repeat for emphasis:

Any. Way. I. Want.

I don't know what the founding father's of the US meant when they said freedom, but I think this was a part of what they were thinking in founding our great country. So what shows up the next morning? This:

raw bacon

No sticker, no packaging, no price, just a bag of meaty, thick cut bacon, with the skin on. I've only bought bacon in stores where they are pre-packaged, and you can only really see one of the end pieces. There's a lot of fat, and the pieces shrink up when cooked. These meaty thick cuts don't have near as much fat, so when you cook them, they only get slightly smaller. Additionally, since they are thick cut, you can't eat an entire piece in one bite. At home, even a piece of the HEB thick cut can be crammed into my garbage disposal of a mouth quite easily. The lack of fat also means that you have to add oil when pan frying, there isn't a lot of fat that will render out of the bacon. This makes for very crisp bacon. Here's a shot of the finished product:

cooked bacon

I haven't looked for bacon in the store here, mainly because I don't have to. I will provide more bacon reports next time we go to the store. Maybe it's sold here similarly to the bacon you buy in most grocery stores, I'm not sure. All I know is bacon and coffee make for the perfect breakfast.

This place may turn me into a meat snob.

Netflix International

This was news to me, but you will see different titles when you are in different countries, even if your account wasn't created there. We've had Netflix's streaming service for a very long time, and I noticed that the trending and popular films were very different than when we left the house. I can now watch some of the greatest films of all time! Here are a few examples of things you can't stream in the US that you can stream in Brazil:

  • The Shawshank Redemption
  • The Godfather (all three)
  • The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
  • Training Day

Just so I don't put this in the same grouping as "greatest", these titles are also available for streaming here:

  • Inglourious Basterds
  • Blow
  • Safe House
  • Transcendence
  • Ender's Game

More than 95% of movies show up under their US title, which makes things easy to find. There are some that are translated. Here are "Lets Go To Prison" and "13" under their Brazilian titles:

Example Titles

The only tradeoff is that a vast majority of films have no option for no subtitles, so we have to subtitle it in either Portuguese or Spanish. The only time that stinks is when there are actual subtitles in a movie where someone is speaking Chinese or something, instead of seeing it translated into English, it's into Portuguese.

Hola (VPN)

I have played with Hola a bit over the past few days. It's a free VPN service that allows you to connect to end points in almost any country in the world. This is useful for getting around geo-location restrictions on many websites. I did pay the $5/mo price for the unlimited "full pipe" VPN service. Here are the quick points of what I've noticed:

  1. The US L2TP service is seriously over-subscribed
  2. The US PPTP service seems the most stable
  3. Browsing is meh, streaming is sub-par.

The way I can tell the US L2TP endpoint is over subscribed is pretty strait forward. I can't authenticate a large portion of the time. When I do connect, I get some pretty serious packet loss when hitting Google and other sites. When I connect to the PPTP service, I'm able to authenticate everytime, and the packet loss goes away.

I look at Hola as an option for connectivity into the US. For most things, I setup a SOCKS proxy through a SSH tunnel to my house. The benefits to using my house:

  • I control the end point, so from a tin foil hat perspective, that's good.
  • I also know exactly how much bandwidth I'm using, and how much I should have available.
  • In San Antonio, I have Time Warner Cable, so if a site/service has provider specific filters that block VPN providers, I can get around those

My performance through the house has been on par with Hola, largely because the DSL connection we're using here is pretty crappy.

Hola, overall, offers a tremendous amount of flexibility that I will never be able to match by proxying through my home. I can VPN in via L2TP or PPTP across a bunch of different countries, so when things like the Olympics come around, or other major events in other countries, I can connect to an endpoint in that country to bypass the geolocation filters. I would recommend trying to find a legitimate way to access what you're looking for directly before using Hola, or any other similar service for best results.

SOCKS browsing through the House

To start, you should monitor your home usage before you start proxying through it. This will help you in the event of performance issues, and you can track usage over time. This will also give you a better idea on if you need to upgrade your internet package through your ISP. I have a Cisco ASA 5505 at the edge of my network. I monitor the interfaces on this device to track how much usage is coming from my home network. Below you can see my usage from the past couple nights:

texas bowl

The spike you see is from me using the connection to stream the Texas Bowl where my beloved Longhorns got killed the other night. The consistent outbound traffic reflected in the blue line is from the Dropcam's running at the house.

If you're running a SSH server at home, and you have the proper firewall rules and port forwarding setup, you can easily proxy your traffic through your house. I put a link in the previous section, but here's the syntax I use to setup my client connection:

ssh -l <USER> -f -N -D 2023 <HOME IP>  

The flag breakdown is simple:

-l: Login as this SSH user
-f: Put this session in the background, so it stays up even if your terminal session is closed
-N: Do not execute a remote command, just connect
-D: Local port to bind to

You can use any port over 1024 to bind to. I used to use 2022, but boot2docker binds to that port as well (took me a while to figure out why it wasn't working...), so I had to move the port I'd bind to for my SOCKS proxy. Double check all listening ports on your system before selecting your own port.

As a note, I use SSH key based authentication when connecting. This means that I'm not prompted for a password as a part of the connection, once I run the command, it connects and returns me to my lovely zsh prompt:

➜  ~  ssh -l brint -f -N -D 2023 home
➜  ~  

The last step is to configure whatever you're using to use the proxy (browser, VirtualBox, ssh, whatever). Personally, I only setup one browser to use the proxy, in my case I setup Firefox to use the SOCKS proxy, and I use Chrome (my default browser) for everything else I'd like to access directly.

If you have a similar approach to mine where you always have one browser configured to use the SOCKS proxy, it means that you only need to run your ssh command to get everything up and running, once that configured browser if fired up, you're proxying through your house!

Google Drive != Dropbox for syncing

I have noticed that things I push up from my phone to Google Drive, don't always show up locally on my Macbook. I haven't really dug into the nuts and bolts of Google Drive to figure out why things don't always get synced, the FAQ was no help in this case. I've resorted to the "just restart it and see if that fixes it" approach to get around the failure of things to sync to my Macbook. Restarting Google Drive has been the cure to date. Immediately after starting it up again, the files begin syncing.

]]>
<![CDATA[Personal Finance Abroad]]>Do research well ahead of time

We spent about much of the early part of this year researching credit card options. We were looking for options that included no foreign transaction fees (which is huge when you're making multiple purchases a day for 1.5 months), and some form of

]]>
http://mysabbatical.rocks/personal-finance/fec82655-e5a3-495a-9cf8-9cee3443456bFri, 26 Dec 2014 15:17:14 GMTDo research well ahead of time

We spent about much of the early part of this year researching credit card options. We were looking for options that included no foreign transaction fees (which is huge when you're making multiple purchases a day for 1.5 months), and some form of cash back rewards. We don't do travel rewards since we're generally not huge travelers. Cash back helps almost immediately, so that's the decision we made.

If you travel a ton, a miles reward card may better fit your other rewards programs. My personal sentiment is that the benefits are harder to realize with milage cards since you can only spend them on plane tickets, hotels, and rental cars. I don't feel we travel enough for that type of card to really work for us. If I end up living out of my suitcase for work at some point, I'll go back and do the math to see where it puts us.

Annual fee doesn't mean avoid it

Everything with any form of finance is just a big math problem. If you know how you spend, how you want to spend with the card, and what the other benefits are, an annual fee may be okay. We do have an Blue Cash Preferred from American Express that I think comes out to $75/year in fees. The way we did the math was it pays us back 6% for groceries (up to $6,000) and 3% for gas. We spent about $6,000 at grocery stores this year, so we did get $360 back. If we subtract the $75/yr fee, that comes out to $285 cash back. Compare that to our 1.5% card, we only would have gotten back $90 for the same activity. For how we use it (gas & groceries), the annual fee on the AMEX passes the math test.

There are other things you can get through the card including things like very cheap rental car insurance that costs nothing unless you actually rent a car. I consider these minor benefits that wouldn't sway my purchasing decision. Depending on your circumstances, these additional benefits may be a part of your math problem.

The AMEX in this example does have foreign transaction fees, so we're not using it internationally, this is just an example of why it's worth looking into cards with an annual fee. It may more than pay for itself.

Get your card well in advance of the trip

When you find the card that fits your needs, get it ASAP (at least 6+ months ahead), don't wait until a few weeks before your trip. This will allow you to build a credit history with the company to display spending habits, and it'll also allow you to potentially bump your credit limit on the card. This will make life easier for any potential big spending items, such as if there are billing issues with hotels or other things that may cost thousands of dollars. An additional bonus with this approach is the increased credit limit will improve your credit score.

If you are turned down for a credit limit increase, call in. We were denied with our Quicksilver card, and calling in turned into a "re-evaluation" and within a week, a credit limit increase.

Notify all banks that you're traveling

Some banks and credit card companies do not require this (ie. American Express), however I recommend doing this anyways. Even when you notify a bank, don't be surprised if their automatic fraud prevention systems still shut you down. I had Wells Fargo shut down all my cards in Scotland a few years back for "suspicious charges." They had a note that I was traveling, but cut me off anyways. After three phone calls and about an hour of back-and-forth, I got them turned back on.

Getting cards turned back on can be tricky

Depending on the bank or credit card issuer, it can be tough to turn cards back on. I recommend taking multiple cards, but only using one card at a time. This does a few things:

  • If the card is stolen/cloned, you only have to shut off that one card.
  • If the card is suddenly shut off, you can roll to a secondary card.

To finish the idea of "tough to turn cards back on," with Wells Fargo, they asked for the exact dollar amount of my last deposit. I didn't have data where I was at on my cell phone, so I couldn't easily look that up, and I sure as heck didn't have that number committed to memory. I could provide every other piece of personally identifiable information they could want, but not that. I had enough personal information to open a new account, but that wasn't enough to turn the card back on. I eventually ended up with a sympathetic operator who accepted that I was who I said I was and flipped the bit to get me back online.

What to carry

We only carry copies of our passports, visas, and a single credit card when going about. If we get robbed, or lose something in the course of corralling the baby, we're only out copies of our documents and a single card. We can cancel that one card, and move onto the next. The other cards are stored in a safe in the hotel room generally. The less we carry, the less risk we take. Getting stuck without a way to pay for things would be a terrible problem, and I don't want to have to go through getting cards replaced in another hemisphere.

Our primary card of choice

For this trip, we're using the Quicksilver card from Capital One. It's the one that has the Samuel L. Jackson commercials. It's 1.5% cash back on all purchases, no annual fee, plus no foreign transaction fees. That's a big swing in terms of our pocket book, and it will save us a few hundred on this trip alone.

The Samuel L. Jackson commercials had nothing to do with us getting the card. We used credit card comparison tools through Mint, Credit Karma, CreditCards.com, as well as through individual banks to compare cards available that fit what we needed. Since the 1.5% cash back is greater than the base 1% we get on our AMEX, we use the Quicksilver card for every purchase that isn't gas or groceries.

Keeping track of your accounts

We've been using Mint for about as long as it's been around. I've looked at other options as they've come along, but for what we're looking for Mint has fit the bill.

If you're not keeping track of all of your accounts in one place, you should! As an example, just a few weeks before leaving, I noticed a $400 come out of nowhere on one of our Visa cards that we very rarely use. Since it's not used frequently, I typically don't check for balances. Since Mint gives you all of your accounts in a single pane of glass, I was able to quickly see the transaction, determine it was fraudulent, and immediately contact the bank to kill the card. This was a card I had used at Home Depot earlier this year. The charge was for a $400 gift card at a Best Buy in San Francisco. I have never been to San Francisco.

We try to check in through Mint every couple days to make sure we stay on top of things like this.

Paying Bills abroad

We have auto bill pay setup for internet, cable, and credit cards. We receive e-bills for all utilities. So for water and electricity, we just pay online when we get the email.

We were already paperless for our bills before leaving since we always forget to check the mail anyways.

Disable Unused services while gone

We scheduled our DirecTV service to be disabled while we are out of the country. We cannot consume any services online, so we may as well save $100+ bucks! The cool thing is they are setup to have your service scheduled for suspension, and it will automatically turn on for the date you specify. You do need to call in to set this up though.

We kept some other services enabled like NetFlix, and we've actually used it a few times here already. Take a look at your recurring charges to see what you can cut.

Mistakes so far

I have used our Wells Fargo debit card once to pull cash, and I was hit with a $5 ATM fee. You can make cash withdrawls using the Quicksilver card, however, I forgot the PIN.

We should have canceled our YMCA membership while gone. That would save ~$59/month. I thought about it, but just never got around to doing it. Even if we had to pay the application fee to turn it back on, we'd still come out ahead.

We've only been here two weeks so far, I'm sure we'll make a few other mistakes that we'll share as well.

]]>
<![CDATA[Santa Cruz das Palmeiras]]>Santa Cruz das Palmeiras is my wife's home town. It's home to about 30,000 residents, and it's in the middle of miles upon miles of sugar cane fields. The town now has two stop lights! Santa Cruz das Palmeiras is in the state of São Paulo, Brazil. Here's a

]]>
http://mysabbatical.rocks/santa-cruz-das-palmeiras/e6526ba5-68e0-4eb7-89eb-1a16192fe510Wed, 24 Dec 2014 14:44:27 GMTSanta Cruz das Palmeiras is my wife's home town. It's home to about 30,000 residents, and it's in the middle of miles upon miles of sugar cane fields. The town now has two stop lights! Santa Cruz das Palmeiras is in the state of São Paulo, Brazil. Here's a google map so you can play with the location relative to other points you may know within Brazil. I assure you, it's close to none of them.

Describing it's location

When Jenifer has described the location of her hometown to Brazilians, there are two places that come up that are within about 20-30 minutes. The first is the no. 51 distillery, which is the largest producer of cachaça in Brazil. We drove by it on the highway, and it looks like it could be an oil refinery with the size of the tanks around the compound. It doesn't look like the cleanest establishment, I'll tell you that much.

no 51

The other frame of reference for people is that it's near the Brazilian Air Force Academy.

air force

The Town

The town is known as the home of the "red feet," due to the high levels of iron oxide in the red soil. You can find similar soils in the Carolinas and northern Georgia as well. I hope to have more of the history of the "red feet" name in a later post.

The town is very compact. One thing about Brazilians, is they build on top of each other. The entire town looks like a bunch of town homes, since the houses oftentimes walls with their neighbors. There really isn't any open space within the town itself.

The roads are primarily brick throughout the town, and they are heavily crowned since this place does get quite a bit of rain. There are almost no gutters in the street to collect rain water, they use the magic of gravity to drain the water out of town. Additionally, since the roads are made of brick, much of the rain is absorbed directly into the ground without much run-off.

road in town

Even though everything is pretty closed in, and everything is build on top of each other, you can sometimes get a good view of the surrounding terrain from people's homes. The shot below is from one of Jenifer's grandparent's homes, where you can see the rolling hills and sugar cane fields that surround the town.

home view

Most people who live in a second story home, are usually living on top of a shop.

How people get by

People who move into the town who cannot find the job will open up a small shop if they have any extra money. The lower level of all buildings downtown has shops of just about every kind. Shop sizes vary from the size of a bedroom, to what you'd expect if you walked into a shop in a typical American strip center.

Jenifer's father runs a butcher shop in town. Most of what he sells is of the pork and beef variety. The meat counter here as well as in the local store both do what he's doing here and display the meat hung from hooks.

meats

In the next picture, you see Jenifer's dad behind the counter chatting with Jenifer, and her brother Jair. The trophies to the left of the picture are from fishing. The two picture frames are pictures of Zoey that we've sent over the past year. He has them both facing behind the counter and says they are "just for him."

more meats

Since he is in the food industry, he also has access great cheeses, fish, and pretty much anything else you could want. On Sunday, he decided we needed a fresh cheese, so he left the house, headed to the shop and brought this fresh natural cheese home:

natural cheese

The cheese was only a few days old, and was very creamy.

The Family

The family is sprinkled all over the town. We've visited some of Jenifer's grandparents, aunts, uncles, and several family friends. We see a few new people every day. Here are a few pictures with Zoey's great grandparents from this past weekend:

great grandmother

great grandparents

Jenifer has scheduled a photo shoot to get a four generation shot with everyone sometime next week. That's going to be an awesome thing for Zoey to see when she's older. Due to deaths, at no point in my life could I have participated in a full three generation photo, so being able to go four generations deep, and have everyone there is amazing.

]]>