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February 17, 2007

switching off of bloglines

when i'm doing one of my internet cafe check-ins, reading my email and updating my blog (along with uploading the latest pictures to flickr and downloading any new Lost episodes), if i have any time to burn i usually read my latest RSS feeds on Bloglines.

however... bloglines has gotten pretty stodgy lately for me. no new features have emerged that have significantly improved my experience with their product, i hate having to log into a 3rd site beyond yahoo and google every time i go to an internet cafe computer, and so i finally started checking out my feed-reading alternatives from yahoo and google.

first off, i tried out the new Yahoo! Mail beta with built-in Yahoo! Messenger (VERY handy for those cafes that won't let me install the Yahoo! Messenger application... i'm very grateful that they added this feature) and RSS feed reader. after i added all of my favorite feeds into it, i gave it a try. it's really convenient having my RSS feeds and email in one place, but the lack of ability to organize my RSS feeds, and the plane-jane appearance of the RSS feed content in the reader didn't get me very excited. but still, better than bloglines. so that was nice.

secondly, i tried google reader. the last time i tried this product right after it came out, i thought it was one of the worst products that google has ever shipped. it felt clunky and awkward, and just not a very fun user experience. it actually felt like made reading RSS feeds LESS efficient than just going to the websites themselves and reading their content. so i abandoned it and never tried it since that first initial exploration.

when i went back to use google reader this time, i was shocked at how much it had improved. it's an elegantly designed web application with a lot of thought given to just making it simple and easy to organize my feeds, and really dedicating itself to presenting the content i want to see in the best possible way. when i checked out the google reader team's blog, it's very clear that they're strongly committed to continuing to add lots of cool features to this product.

the end result of all this? i'll never use bloglines again, at least until they do a major redesign of their product. and even then, the hassle of having to log into Yet Another Site is another hit against them. i'll start using yahoo! mail more for light feed reading and the HTML version of yahoo! messenger. and i'll start using google reader every time i go online to check my RSS feeds. if you're using bloglines now, definitely give google reader a try!

settling into rio de janeiro

its all caipirinhas, late nights (and later mornings), and exploration here in Rio de Janeiro.

i arrived in the fairly run-down rio international airport after my two flights from chile, wondering if customs still photographed and fingerprinted visitors from the USA in reciprocity for the USA doing the same thing to Brazilian visitors. luckily this wasn't the case anymore, and i quickly passed through immigration to enter the country.

despite the fact that i'm staying in 13-bed dormitory room for a week and a half (and paying US$60 per night for 7 of those days because its Carnival), the people in my dorm are remarkably quiet at night and snore-free, which means i can ACTUALLY GET A GOOD NIGHT'S SLEEP for a change. my hostel (aptly named Walk On The Beach Hostel) is only a few blocks off the beach in Copacabana, is run by a really friendly bunch of people, and most of the people staying at the hostel are a good bunch of people.

the first few days in rio i spent doing my usual settling-in routine for a new country: exchanging the money from the last country, withdrawing enough money from an ATM to cover me for several days, buying a SIM card for my phone so i can make calls locally (i choose the Oi network for their nifty little orange blob logo), taking my laundry to the local laundromat, and dealing with any other pressing issues (which for me meant getting a haircut. haircuts overseas are always fun for me because i insist on getting my hair cut where the locals go, which means minimal communication at best, and lots of questions as we go, but i usually end up with a pretty good haircut when it's all done).

crime is definitely an issue here -- i've already had people try to pick my pocket several times in the last few days, including a quite sketchy attempt this morning by two favela kids to actually stop me in the street and grab my arm out of my pocket where i was hanging onto my (nearly empty) wallet. i got out of it without losing anything, but it's definitely a sign of the amount of opportunistic crime in rio. but i'm preparing to have my pockets picked at some point - i don't carry more than enough money than i need for the day with me, but it does mean that i won't have that many photos of rio, since carrying my camera around with me entails a fairly high risk that someone will steal it (especially when going out at night). one of the girls in our hostel has already had her camera stolen by a pickpocket, so it's not uncommon that these things happen, especially with all the chaos of carnival. from what i've been told, the key is just to not bring anything of value with you when out on the streets, keep your hands on what you do have to avoid pickpockets, and if you get threatened with a weapon, give them whatever they ask for.

after that it's been pretty much nonstop parties with the good people of rio and the other folks staying in my hostel. you can definitely feel the pressure for carnival building up, even in just the 3 days that i've been here for. today the streets were thronged with the first people selling masks and costumes for carnival, and trucks blasting out samba music are rolling down the streets. last night we were up until dawn partying in the streets of Rio, and i'm sure tonight will be more of the same. and carnival hasn't even started yet!

February 20, 2007

exhausted and happy at carnival

i wish i had some witty and insightful thoughts to give you in today's blog entry, but what few brain cells are actually alive and functioning today (i just stumbled out of bed at 3pm) are in desparate need of a hamburger and a "bomba tropical" juice drink at the local juice bar. after that i'll spend time on the beach until it starts getting dark, and then meet up back at the hostel with my friends to figure out which parties we're going to tonight, the last night of the carnival festivities.

parties run hard, long, and late here in rio for carnival. besides the two nights of parades in the sambadrome, there are the blocos (what essentially end up as block parties), with vendors selling ice-cold cans of skol and antarctica beer and freshly-made caipirinhas to the many brazilians dancing and socializing in the streets.

i can't emphasize the delightful debauchery that i've been enjoying for the last week. thanks to the urging of my good friend marshall (who in turn was urged by aaron), i made a last-minute plan to come out here to rio and attend carnival while i was in south america. this has been one of the best decisions of the trip. the people staying at my hostel have been fun people to head out on the town with, the parties have been absolutely nuts, the brazilians are extremely friendly (and the women here are some of the most beautiful in the world), and i've basically been having one of the best times of my life.

but all good things must come to an end, and so tonight is the last night of the carnival parties, and the regular day-to-day life of rio will begin again tomorrow (albeit with a whopping hangover). and so tonight my hostelmates and i will head out to stay out until all hours -- there are more balls tonight, no doubt there will be more street partiers, and i'm sure that at least half of us will be contendly watching the sunrise on copacabana beach once more tomorrow morning.

a little side note: before i left to go to rio for carnival, i'd heard a story the carnival in rio wasn't a "real" brazilian carnival anymore because many cariocas (residents of rio de janeiro) didn't stay in town for the actual week of carnival, preferring instead to go to nearby beach towns to celebrate carnival. however, some brazilian friends have told me that in recent years the beach towns have gotten far too full, so cariocas are again remaining in rio for carnival. from my point of view, i saw far more locals than tourists here during carnival.

uh-oh... one of my friends at the hostel has just brought me my first beer of the day (a can of antarctica, my favorite brazilian beer). this means it's time to wrap up this blog entry! hope you're all having a great Fat Tuesday wherever you are -- i know i am!

About Brazil

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to gone living in the Brazil category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

Australia is the previous category.

Brunei is the next category.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.