Monday, October 25, 2010

The Kaleidoscope that Wouldn't Go Away

I was contacted a week or two ago by the owners of a blog called Quilt Inspiration, asking if they could feature one of my quilts on their site. I said yes and provided them with some additional links, and they published it today.

The main page of the blog is here: Quilt Inspiration
The article featuring my quilt is "Straight piecing patterns that appear curved: Snail's Trail and Kaleidoscope."

It's a very pretty blog that (surprise!) features lots of quilts that appeal to my personal taste. Do stop by!

Cats meet goat

"I really don't think this is supposed to happen. They didn't say anything to me about goats."

"Me either. Go tell her to move on."

"Why don't you tell her?"

"I told the doves."

Friday, July 02, 2010

41 = Idiosyncratic

So, my birthday is tomorrow and so far I've been given (in addition to a carrot cake and a pineapple upside down cake, both homemade):

  • A massively large, unripe avocado
  • Two broken solar panels to make into coffee tables, and
  • A coolant temperature sensor for the Purple Hatchback of Loveliness
I'm figuring the 41st year must be "idiosyncratic gifts".

It made me curious, so I looked up what the gift category is for a 41st wedding anniversary. It's land.

And then 42 is improved real estate, 43 is travel and 44 is...groceries. Alrighty then.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Couple photos

Here are a few pictures I've taken around town.

Fog at my place:

Kitty (and distant puppy) at Michelle's:

And the Irazu Volcano, seen from San Rafael:

I started carrying my camera around again because one day last week I was dropping the kids off at school and I saw a column of something rising, not from Irazu, but off to the left/north of it. It looked like a volcanic eruption of some sort - for starters, it was white not black, and the column rose straight up and then just sort of hung there in a cloud.

As you can see above, I can see the top of Irazu pretty clearly, so I could tell it wasn't Irazu that was erupting. And I didn't think we could see any of the others from here.

So, I did what anyone would do, and phoned the morning show DJ to see if she knew what was going on. She didn't, so she put my call on the air and asked around. A few minutes later a guy called up to say it was just the Turrialba volcano erupting again. The DJ's final word: "Hey, this jungle phone thing really works!"

The next day, I thought I could actually see a bit of the summit of Turrialba (the first day all I saw was the steam/gas). It's been hazy ever since then, but today it was clear and I took the photo above. I believe the small bit that seems to be set off from the rest of the mountain on the far left there is actually the other volcano, farther in the distance.


And finally, a bit of a warning against future disappointment:

My college is looking to expand its online presence and take advantage of social networking and all that good stuff, so the next post you see here is probably going to consist of a few photos & links for them.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Thoughts on an ER

I spent last night with a friend at the ER. It was a long, long night, but a good experience overall.

I've lived here for 20 years, but have had very few experiences with the public health system. My poor friend M. was immersed in it less than a month after her arrival. It was a valuable experience for me because it helped demystify the system, to which I am entitled to full access, and of which I would like to avail myself sometime this year to get a long-term, non hormonal birth control solution, in addition to catching up on routine preventive care.

Of course, this won't take place through the ER, but I spent many many hours inside the hospital and got a feel for what it really means to go through the system.

The first impression is not a good one. M. had been there since about 6:30 pm (having spent several hours at the smaller local clinic earlier in the day). I was able to go down to the hospital and find her around 8:00 pm. The waiting room was crowded with the usual cross-section of humanity: many parents with young children, a few non-catastrophically injured adults and a lot of people who clearly just felt like crap. The benches were hard, the room bright but shabby, and there was an actual (if small) smear of blood on the wall behind my friend. There wasn't room to sit together (and M. really didn't need to be getting up and moving around the room), so I sat on the floor while we waited for her name to be called.

When she finally was, we figured out where to go and were briefly questioned by the security guy at the door - only the patient is supposed to go on through, but I told him she didn't speak Spanish and he let me go in. I was allowed to stay with her almost the whole time.

Back at the nurses' station, there were six gurneys lined up in a space designed for three, with people who had apparently been admitted lying there trying to sleep. More patients in hospital garb (either blue or salmon colored, it was more like scrubs than johnnies, with a wrap-around robe style for some of the women) were seated in a row of chairs, and two (three?) more gurneys were crammed in behind the nurses' station.

We approached the desk and said we had been called, and the guy who was standing there turned out to be the doctor. He motioned us and the other patient he had called toward a tiny room that had one desk and two gurneys (these divided by a curtain) . One was occupied by a bleeding man with an IV and the other by a woman with a persistent cough. The doctor took the other new patient first, while we stood in everyone's way. I found M. a chair.

...okay, if I keep going like this, this post could get epically long, and I'm not sure I'm up to that. Let's see if I can switch over to general observations.

The place was crowded and we would be told things like, "go to _____" without it being clear where _____ was. Asked for clarification, most of the time people would point. It was quite a small space, but with so many people between "here" and "there" it still felt overwhelming.

The space was shabby and obviously too crowded (and, to a lesser extent, understaffed) to adequately handle the demand they were facing. We kept getting told where to go, and then (except for the reception desk, which we revisited several times over the course of things) finding just a muddle of people instead of a line, so you had to kind of push for your turn.

The people on the gurneys were lying there, suffering whatever brought them to the ER in the first place, in full view of everyone (not that many people were paying them any attention). They were so closely packed the doctors and nurses had to push them apart to get close enough to give any care. If someone needed a shot in the butt, a shot in the butt was administered then and there.

Those were the first impressions.

The doctor who saw M. around 9:00 pm was friendly and asked the right sorts of questions, and had a computer into which to enter the answers. The examining room was, as I said, already occupied and privacy was simply not a consideration. No one was asked to disrobe, and for the most part nobody was paying attention, but I heard plenty of peoples' conversations with the doctors, saw the (clothed) exams, and watched the bleeding guy trying to get someone's attention. Our doctor was interrupted several times by other personnel needing him to do something for them on the computer.

Something I already knew about the public health care system here, is what I decided last night to call the "brute force" approach. It's kind of a "broad side of the barn" thing. Almost everyone is entitled to care, and the system is operating with limited resources. There are a few standard treatments and most people receive them as an initial measure. I can't tell you how many little plastic bags filled with cards of acetaminophen and penicillin I have seen in my Costa Rican families' homes over the years.

In the ER, the "brute force" approach consists of either oxygen or an IV. Almost everyone I saw had one or other - or had already gotten past that stage, as almost all the patients had an IV stent in the back of one hand. Medications were administered via those two means as well, either in a small IV bag or injected into the nebulizer.

I've always heard, and I think last night bears it out, that the Costa Rican health care system improves, the sicker you are. You're in the ER for a minor injury or sudden illness, you're going to get the "brute force" treatments, no matter what. But if you need actual surgery or advanced care, there is some highly specialized expertise out there that will be made available to you.

Our initial experiences were more of the former sort. M was uncomfortable and needed some attention to her IV, and the answer was basically, "that kind always hurts" and, later, "she's already had some pain medication, and we only have so much we can give out."

Those were some of our second impressions.

Things that you don't immediately notice in the confusion and overwhelmingness of a foreign ER, but which we did eventually pick up on make up my final impressions:

  • There was no particular smell. It didn't smell unclean or even medicinal.

  • There was a sign up in the initial waiting room, saying "If you have two or more of these [flu] symptoms, use the facility around the corner." There were lots of people there, but hardly any of them appeared contagious.

  • The personnel seemed to have a good rapport with each other. They spoke casually as well as professionally to each other, asked for and received help. They touched each other supportively.

  • In nearly 10 hours, the most overt sign of frustration I saw anyone exhibit toward a patient was an eyeroll, which the patient (who was reluctant to be moved to make room for someone else) did not see. An elderly man who was there the whole time became noisy and then disruptive, and he was verbally rebuked and physically removed, but in appropriate ways.

  • Everyone was at least civil and often cordial in their treatment of the patients, including the security guard asking family members to leave the nurses' station which is meant to be for patients only.

  • Although I felt at first that my requests for some additional attention to my friend were probably being perceived as Gringo Entitlement, when they learned more about the nature of her discomfort and reached a probable diagnosis, the level and quality of care she received improved noticeably.
...There's probably more, but I've had two two-hour naps today and I can't think of it now. All in all, a good experience to have had for me, as a consumer of this system, and for M., who is satisfied with the results she obtained, and knows what she wants to do next in pursuing her own care.

Oh. That's right.

As someone who has no coverage whatsoever, M received a 2-hour IV drip, four different medications, an x-ray, and was seen by two different doctors (one of them twice) and countless nurses. Nobody asked until we went to leave if she had coverage. In fact the final receptionist, who appeared to be new, appeared to assume she was covered, and I had to ask her if M owed anything.

She was charged $20.

In addition to fixing a couple of typos above, I've remembered a few more things I meant to include on the bulleted list above:
  • There were very few bodily fluids to be seen. Not that there weren't any being produced, but cleanup was called for and provided.

  • We were there for about 10 hours, and many of the people we saw toward the end had also been there early on. Apparently this is just how long it takes to go through the system.

  • Most of the patients seemed...content? accepting? resigned? I heard no complaining about the wait from anyone around me. There were plenty of children, but none of them were whining or fussing.

  • It wasn't noisy. There were a few crying kids, mostly in the oxygen room, and one crying mother whose child was in an ER operating room, and who was subsequently whisked away by ambulance (with his mother).

Sunday, April 25, 2010


The field that runs alongside our gravel road is mainly used to intermittently house horses and, on weekends, people who come and ride them for the day.

Last week, someone came along and dumped a truckload of construction rubble at the end of it that the horses don't really use. We wondered if accepting construction debris might be another way for the owner to make money from the property, and then Bob noticed that the debris seemed to contain a fair number of bricks.

Our front, umm, area is tiled where the car goes, poured cement leading up to the door, and semi-cemented/semi-hard-packed-dirt in the remaining wedge-shaped space, backed by an untreated cinder block wall. Yeah, it's about as attractive as it sounds.

We'd like to fix it up a little, but there's no real danger of anything actually growing there, since the dirt is so packed and part of it is actually concrete anyway, and all our "it really belongs outside" stuff ends up leaning up against the wall.

I thought if we could loosen the soil just a bit along the bottom of the wall (and find another spot for all the junk), maybe we could get some sort of climbing vine to go up the wall at least. And when Bob saw the bricks, he suggested asking for some of them and stacking a couple of rows up to maybe hold in some additional dirt, in which perhaps something might one day grow.

I asked about the bricks yesterday, and the guy said he'd actually brought them to "load" the horses. Not sure if that means he's going to train them to carry loads, or build something up which they might walk when loaded into the trucks, or ... well, anything really.

But he also said we could take some, and when I got home from dropping Bob off this morning (he has to leave the country every 90 days to renew his tourist visa), the same guy waved me over and said he'd pulled some bricks aside, and that I should leave those and pick what I wanted from the rest.

So that's what I did, using a couple of the cat litter buckets and making ... well, I didn't count at the time, but about nine two-bucket trips based on the number of bricks. They're homemade adobe bricks, clearly from an old house that was demolished, and a decent number of them were relatively whole.

I found a little chunk of broken cinder block with which to knock bits of mortar off the bricks, and now we have a pretty little dry-stacked wall into which we may eventually place some dirt:

The whole thing probably took an hour and a half or two. Then when I was done the kitty got up from her nap, strolled over to the door and said, "Dayum. How long was I asleep?"

And then she said, "Okay. Nuffa dat."

The end.

Monday, April 19, 2010

In which I feel like a foreigner. Or a liberal. Or something.

They had a parents' meeting at school today. Usually I find them A) Boring, because they address all the same stuff every time, and B) Encouraging, because they reinforce that the school has a positive, caring approach to education.

Today was all of that and more, where "more" is comprised largely of pretty basic psychology with which I don't disagree ("It's not your job to make your child happy, it's your job to provide your child with the tools with which to build his/her own happiness!"), but which I don't really need to sit in a very hard, too-small chair to nod along to.

There was also the requisite head-shaking at Society Today (TM) where, it seems, children think they can have it all and parents want to give children everything they, the parents, didn't have as kids. Except, of course, for those of us who had more growing up than they can currently provide to their children. Really I'm okay with it; we do have what we need and some extras, but I don't really need to be preached at about buying kids All The Latest Gadgets and watching them go un-played-with, TYVM. On a tiny, hard chair.

Plus, while I generally consider the school to be fairly progressive, we did hit a couple of snags this evening. It seems Society is in transition from a sexist society to...umm. NOT a feminist one, certainly not! But, well, something else anyway. It's very conFUsing, apparently. Do boys open doors for girls or do they don't? Do they pick up the tab on a date or will they get the evil eye for suggesting it? Apparently these are still Very Difficult Questions.

I had the unanticipated opportunity to make my own small pitch for Feminism and Fairness today, when the ballet class was discussed and I suggested that, next year, the girls be allowed to wear the same "uniform" as the boys. Currently, the girls are required to buy $25 worth of leotards and tights, plus the shoes which I don't even know how much those are because Julia's still fit. Plus a bun. The bun is very important.

Boys wear tank tops & shorts.

I suggested that girls are expected from a young age to invest time and money in their appearance, and that for the purposes of the dance class, what is really required is freedom of movement, which might be afforded by, say, tank tops & shorts.

The response was twofold: But it's ballet. So the ballet clothing Must Be Worn. However, of course we aren't going to be putting leotards on boys. Heavens no. Either the boys (in some cases) or their parents (in others) would never stand for that. The end.

There was also a question from the mother of a boy with shoulder-length hair, who has apparently been spoken to about Personal Presentation. This was answered with appropriate discussion of general personal grooming and such, but there was also a bit of "well, as long as it's not too long. I mean, it's not like we've had a boy who wanted his hair down to his waist."

I rather hope they get one. Or that Phillip becomes one.

Anyway. I still like the school very much and I think it is more progressive than most, (especially around here and within my budget). But jeez. Between the dumbed-down, feet-on-the-ground "it's okay to have your own needs" psychology (Which, again--not disagreeing, just been there and back and had other things to do this evening and softer chairs to do it on) and the not-quite-there-yet with respect to certain elements of feminism (like, for instance, being comfortable with the word "feminism"), I guess even in a parents' meeting at a Montessori school I'm The Liberal One.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Some favorites

Now that the new hard drive is running and trustworthy and everything, I finally got my massive backup file of photos off of Bob's computer and, at Lisa's suggestion, installed Picasa to help me deal with it. I had used Picasa before, but hadn't kept up with it.

Now that I'm starting fresh (and Picasa has more features), it seems to be a handy thing. I've spent a lot of these vacation days organizing the folders on my computer and eliminating duplicates, and checking Picasa's face recognition picks and adding ones it missed so that the "sort by people" feature is pretty well set up. It's very cool.

Yesterday I stuck a bunch of my favorites into the screensaver file, and I thought I'd share a few particular favorites here. There are still several CDs of photos that were backed up in a different place and haven't been restored to the new computer, but these are some of the best photos from the batch I've been working with this week:

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Curses, missed it again!

And this time by over two weeks.

March 13 was the fifth anniversary of this blog :)

For the benefit of those who aren't reading along on the Facebook side of things, all is well. My sister came for a visit last week, and I took the whole week off and yea we did have fun. We took the kids to the amusement park, did a puzzle, played a lot of cards and did a bunch of baking.

Then I had three days of work and now it's that most significant of Costa Rican holidays, Holy Week. Thursday and Friday are national holidays and we also have Monday off at my particular workplace, so now I have five days off to recover from my vacation last week :)

After that, though, it gets serious. Rather than a 4-day week following the Monday holiday, I have an 11-day one. There's a trade fair from April 8-11 and being A) The closest, B) The most bilingual and C) Happy to have the extra hours, I'll be covering the whole thing. The others will be in and out as well, but I'm on all four days.

So if you need me between now and Tuesday, I'll be sleeping in a lot, playing a lot of cards (Lisa reintroduced us to Hand & Foot, and kindly left her Rook deck when she left, so now we're playing both of those) and watching a lot of downloaded TV (currently Ballykissangel and WKRP, with episodes of The Big Bang Theory as they become available and Fawlty Towers for when we get tired of WKRP).

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Oooh! Oooh! She posted!

Okay, I didn't expect it to be this long between posts, but there you have it. Facebook is really well suited to my online needs right now; I get to remark on the minutiae of my day and the issues of the day at will, and also keep up with many of my friends' goings on. And the commenting is much more interactive, and more of my friends are on there than ever read here.

That said, this is not an abandoned blog. I do expect to post here from time to time, especially when there are photos, because they're more accessible here than on Facebook. Well, kind of. Facebook is way better at providing access to all the photos, but the blog is available to anyone, even if they're not a Facebook friend.


What I came here to post was, my sister is in town and we discovered Ze Frank's Young Me / Now Me site, and we got Dad to scan some family scrapbooks, and here's ours:

Us in 1978

Us in 2010

Think he'll pick us for the book??

A click a day for good causes

The Hunger Site The Breast Cancer Site The Child Health Site The Literacy Site The Rainforest Site The Animal Rescue Site

Added 6/12/06

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