Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Rachel Carson Homestead

Rachel Carson was a pioneer in the fight for the environmental movement in the United States. She was born in Pittsburgh, PA and her book Silent Spring is considered a milestone in the environmental movement in which we still are aware of today. Her house known as the Rachel Carson Homestead is still preserved in the suburbs of Pittsburgh and I had the opportunity to visit this place where time seems to stand still.
Although its exterior blends in to the surrounding houses, its interior stands out for its preservation of an early 20th Century style house. The furniture reflects the style which was prevalent in that period of time. The beds were supported by ropes and not springs, the kitchen was extended outside the house, the stairs were narrow and the ceiling was low so it would provide a warm environment for those who lived there.
Though the house brings you back in time, Rachel Carson's ideas remain applicable to our own issues concerning the environmental movement in the present time. Her book Silent Spring ushered in the basic principles in the fight for environmental protection in the United States. She focused her research on the dangers of using pesticides on crops to prevent insects from destroying the farmer's harvest. Without her work the laws against the use of certain pesticides might not have come to light.
Her groundbreaking work still heavily influences the environmental movement today. Although the issues are not the same her pioneering spirit inspires people to continue the fight for the protection of our natural resources. As the first Latin American visitor of the Rachel Carson Homestead it was a great opportunity for me to get to know the work of such an influential Pittsburgh native.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Groundhog Day

The groundhog is a member of the squirrel family that normally weights from 12 to 15 pounds and is 20 inches long. It is covered with coarse grayish hair, has short ears and short legs and it is surprisingly quick. Groundhogs are one of the few animals that truly hibernates.
According to American folklore, every year on February 2nd the groundhog in Punxsutawney, PA wakes up from hibernation and can then forecast how the rest of the winter is going to be. If it sees its own shadow that means the winter will last for six more weeks. If the sky is cloudy and the groundhog cannot see his shadow that means spring will come early and the second half of the winter will be mild.
Groundhog day is so popular that thousands of people go to Punxsutawney every year to participate in the festivities that lead to the prediction of Puxsutawney Phill (as they named the groundhog). It is even the title of a movie in which Bill Murray plays a weatherman who wakes up and lives Groundhog Day over and over again.
Today, February 2, 2010 Punxsutawney Phill saw his shadow predicting six more weeks of winter. That was frustrating for me as I was expecting better temperatures for the next two weeks here in Pittsburgh!

Monday, February 1, 2010


Cultures are different in many aspects. Some cultures are strict about punctuality while others are more relaxed about it. In some countries it is hard to develop friendship while in others people are more open to build relationships. The same happens with humour. A joke that Americans find funny might be viewed as offensive or impolite to Brazilian people and vice versa. Humour in the United States tends to be rather sarcastic. Celebrities and politicians are constant victims of an ironic and sharp sense of humour that is spread by radio and television shows. It is interesting to see how Americans are comfortable enough to make fun of congressman or even the president and yet maintain the respect necessary to their public functions. Brazilians tend to be very sarcastic as well and humour there can very often be inappropriate.
In spite of this similarity, Americans created a genre of humour that is not familiar to Brazilians. TV sitcoms portray funny daily situations that happens to a certain group of people. This kind of show was spread around the world and inspired Brazilians to produce their own sitcoms. However, the success of this genre in America was not the same in Brazil. Sitcoms were unfamiliar to the Brazilians, they viewed it as artificial and not many of them became big hits.
All things considered, it is fair to say that Brazilian humour tends to be more ironic and sarcastic than American humour, sometimes even a bit exaggerated. Americans on the other hand seem to have a better grasp on humour when portraying the daily situations that can happen to specific groups of people in a natural way. Overall, they have a similar taste when it comes to humour and the same joke can be sidesplitting to Americans and to Brazilians.