Friday, October 31, 2008

What would you bid?

This is somehow relevant to Halloween. Right? Sort of? Maybe?

Members of my family, I ask you. Does the one on the right here:

And the one on the left here:

...make you think of anyone? Or is it just me?

Supporting evidence for Halloween relevance: Umm. Ghosts, I guess. Or maybe it's all in my head after all.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Think, baby, think

Palin spoke after touring Xunlight Corp., one of a handful of solar technology startup companies in Toledo, a struggling industrial city in this swing state. The city's leaders are hoping that the solar companies will create jobs to replace some of those lost by downsizing in the auto industry.

But Palin made only a passing reference to solar power in her speech and instead renewed her call for more drilling in U.S. coastal waters. She repeated her signature anthem, "drill, baby, drill," which seemed to fall a bit flat on the audience at the plant even as it's become a popular chant at her rallies.

(AP, via Crooks & Liars)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Overall, I'll take today, thanks

So today, (this is as opposed to Monday) I shut down my computer, locked up the office, set the alarm and was just closing the first padlock on the security gate when the phone started ringing inside.

I unlocked the lock, disarmed the alarm, hastened back to my desk, dropped whatever I had in my hand, and got Mr. B. before he finished leaving his message. It was good that I talked to him, 'cause he does have an issue that demands attention.

Then I erased the half-message from the machine, reset the alarm, pulled the gate back down and re-locked the padlock.

...Any guesses as to what was "in my hand" when I ran back in? Yeah.

Fortunately I carry a spare car key in my wallet, I had already opened the padlocks that would allow me to leave the premises, and I still had the house keys on me. I called our installer guy, who will drop the spare office keys off here in the morning.

So then I headed back to the house, stopping, as I did on Monday, at the grocery store. There were no untoward bumper sticker sightings, but it was no golden hour, what with the looming clouds and spitting rain.

(This is not an I'm Sick of the Rainy Season post. It's actually lifting early this year, so even if we get some more heavy rains, the end is in sight.)

The guards in the parking lot were, variously, ignoring or ogling me. The other shoppers seemed preoccupied and in the way. This one guy kept telling his son to shut up (which can actually be said much less harshly in Spanish than in English, but still), and the checkout lady and bagger boy were so deep in conversation about how nobody likes Raul that I couldn't even get him to put all my purchases in a single bag.

Pedestrians, drivers and bicyclists alike were being heedless on the road, and there's a really big hole and an unreasonably steep curb in the middle of the supposedly correct way to get into and out of the grocery store, which isn't accessible from the main street in the direction I travel after work.

...All potentially irritating.

And yet. (Some of) the news items that have come to my attention lately are this:

And this.

And this.

Both of those "this" links are way worth clicking. You really should.

...Balance is good.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

And today in the best news ever

Please take a moment to join me in wishing the very best to Ralph, his daughter Meredith, and her partner wife (!!) Shannon.

Today in better news

And furthermore

One of the things I was shopping for was breakfast cereal. The various multi-mixed-multiple-muesli-grain cereals are all overpriced and frequently oversweetened, but they're a little luxury I indulge in.

The one I've been buying recently* had a thing where you get a Tai Chi DVD in the box. We ended up with like two each of Levels 1, 2 and 3 of that. Maybe we'll actually watch one someday.

(* It's Kellogg's Komplete. There's another brand called All Inklusive. WTH?)

Another one I like is a German brand that tends to be slightly cheaper than the ones put out by the big US conglomerates, although it's not available in the little corner grocery stores where I often shop.

The grocery store I went to yesterday was larger than the ones I normally frequent, and had a nearly US-sized cereal aisle, so I looked at a couple of additional brands before making my selection. I picked up a box of Nestle Fitness cereal that was on sale and checked the ingredients to make sure it was free of the dreaded aspartame.

You know what is huge business? Marketing products to women because women don't look good enough. I could link every word in this paragraph to a different example. Without trying very hard.

So, this cereal's whole existence revolves around the slogan, "Get it off, keep it off." The back of the box is jam packed with health tips in two languages. You know, things like, "the whole world is a gym" and something about great looking legs. With a close up of the great looking legs, so people (uh, I mean women) whose legs are genetically predisposed to look like that can feel great about their legs (while still buying the cereal to help them out with whatever their problem spots may be, naturally), and the rest of us can buy the cereal thinking that somehow it will change the ... ugh. I didn't really mean to turn this into a rant.

But you either get my drift, or it would take a lot more than I'm prepared to write at the moment (online spades awaits, after all) to convince you.

What I came here to say was, that I don't need that. I'm actually buying this product because I want some calories, some carbs, some protein, some fiber, and a little fat to keep me going till lunch time. I don't need every square inch of its packaging to tell me how much of my day should be spent focusing on how unsatisfactory my body (apparently) is. Actually, I rather like my body.

And with the added issues on my mind yesterday, it was pretty much a no-brainer. Buh-bye Nestle. I bought the German cereal with the multi-racial couple on the package, thankyouverymuch.

Monday, October 27, 2008

This is not an upbeat post

I stopped at the store on the way home from work today.

The guards in the parking lot were being nice to a developmentally disabled man they seemed to know. The young woman who gave me a receipt for my returnable beer bottles gave me an exceptionally friendly smile. An older woman was singing as she mopped the floor, the woman at the checkout was not only agreeable but appeared downright happy to pack some of my purchases in my cloth bag, and I ran into a friend and chatted for a while.

Golden hour was coming on as I drove the rest of the way home and a view I've always liked turned out to be a great sunset vantage point as well. There were even a couple of angles along the way where the view could pass for Italian or Greek hillsides.

I got back to the house in time for this:

...All very nice.

And yet, when I got home, this was still the world, and a point in time, when two white supremacists allegedly plotted to go on a national killing spree, shooting and decapitating black people and ultimately targeting Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama.

Shooting and decapitating black people. They wanted to kill 88 black people in all, beheading 14 of them. They were going to start at a high school.

The fact that they may well be a pair of incompetent assholes who wouldn't have managed to commit even the first heinous crime without being caught and/or killed doesn't ... well, yes. It does make it better because, well duh.

But even if they were incapable of bringing their desires to fruition, this is still the world, and a point in time, where it is conceivable to a couple of kids that this is somehow the right thing to do. And they didn't come up with it in a vacuum.

Sure, they're shocking. But they're hardly the first or the only ones to hold that kind of hate, are they? That kind of thing is Learned. From. Others.

...I read the news about those ones before leaving work today.

Thousands of miles away from the United States, I shut down the computer, locked up the office, got in my car, and drove to the grocery store.

Ahead of me on the road was a Ford that looked like a cross between a Land Rover and a Humvee. Along with a morass of stickers representing the vehicle owner's deeply held beliefs and preferences regarding brands of surf gear and Costa Rican soccer teams, it sported a confederate flag and a "United States Terrorist Hunting Permit" sticker.

Lunch break update

I work at a solar company. One of the things we sell is a battery backup system that looks like this:

It's a little complicated.

Our installer guy knows a lot about solar stuff and electricity, but doesn't speak much English, so I'm sometimes asked to translate key parts of things like the manual that tells how to put that-there E-Panel together right.

Today I was translating the sheet that tells which screws are meant to go where. Each screw, washer and bracket is identified by a part number, a diagram, and its size. The most wonderful line on the page was this:

06-015-1 Qty 4 M6-1 x 10mm Pan Head Philips Taptite (Looks like a 1/4-20 x 3/8" for you rednecks that don't do metric) For attaching wall mtg brackets to E-Panel

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Uh oh

You might not get an "I'm sick of the rainy season" post this year. AND it's getting down to where it might not be news when I finally hear a Christmas carol in a store.


*Goes back to playing Spades online*

Saturday, October 25, 2008

"Treat yourself like you deserve to be treated," it says. I'm game.

When Sandy was here in July, she brought a special gourmet cake mix because our birthday (hers and mine) had just been and gone, and was to be celebrated.

Except, my oven wasn't working, so we didn't make it.

My oven's working now. And, in fact, I'm currently house sitting for someone who also has a working oven. So I made it.

Turns out, it's not a standard cake mix, but a "hot fudge pudding cake" mix.

I'm okay with that.

The thing goes together differently than a regular cake, though. You mix the contents of the Large Packet with milk and melted butter, spread it in the pan, then sprinkle the contents of the Small Packet on top of that, and pour hot water (I used hot coffee) over it all, don't stir, and stick it in the oven.

The three layers--identifiable batter, followed by a fine powder, and topped with liquid--are each about equally deep and I have to say, my main thought as I put it in the oven was that whoever invented this recipe has a lot of self-confidence. It did not look like something that was ready to be baked.

Interestingly, there's no nutrition information on the packaging, so I guess I'll just have to use my best judgment to determine what is supposed to constitute "one serving."

Friday, October 24, 2008


Seriously. Every single one of them said to say hi.

Today is Steve's birthday, a fact that means so much to me that I will sit here, at a computer not my own, with a keyboard that has somehow transposed the Y and the Z (Seriously. How is that even possible?), in addition to losing various and sundry apostrophes and other necessary punctuation, and composing a post all about Steve (and not at all about my keyboard woes), since it is his birthdaz (See? With the Y? I left that in just so you could see.)

Happz Birthdaz, mz friend. And manz manz more.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Two things

One: I think the recorder might have gotten left somewhere off-site. I'm not positive, but until I verify it, I've called off the search.

Two: I really wonder what the people who Googled "owen pizza second hand" and "johnny-jump-up polyphony" were looking for, and if they found it here.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Caption This Photo

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


I hate the recorder.

Julia hates the recorder.

The damn recorder is lost.

I am not buying a new one, so it better show its sorry yellow self up sometime in the next 24 hours. (Dad, they think they had it while you were here, which means it has to be in the apartment somewhere. Can you confirm that it was here at some point while you were?)

That is all.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Oh, I don't know.

Now that I've driven home, I guess it's not quite as bad as I said. But it's still not as good as it should be.

I'll just shut up about it and see how much mileage I get out of the tank of gas I bought today. We'll know in a week.

Yeah, never mind

Having driven my car the 10 miles to work, I can now confidently state that the tune up made somewhere between "a slight" and "no appreciable" difference. Good thing I enjoy spending $100 to $150 on my car every few weeks.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

What dreams are made of

This is the climbing vine in the light shaft at the back of the apartment. It's really digging the rainy season, and has grown a lot in the past couple of weeks. It's beginning to poke in the laundry room and bedroom windows, which is cool (except that that's how those ants got in that time).

Most homes in Costa Rica - city homes anyway - are contiguous with the next house. Houses are frequently built right up to the property line on each side, with any outdoor space either between the house and the street, or in a patio behind the house (or both). This apartment is built that way, so there are no windows on the side (or back) walls, but in fact the houses to each side don't have second floors, so there's nothing on the other side of any of the walls.

That's nice, of course, since it means less noise (and less worrying about making noise).

It also means that the apartment is exposed to more of the weather than most houses are. The landlady has struggled with leaks in the kitchen and living room (which are on the same outside wall), and is working, again, to fix them this week.

The water comes in at the roofline and runs down next to, or possibly through, the breaker box (I know, right?) and, as we discovered when repairing the stove, along the conduit within the walls as well.

A lot of it seems to remain within the cinder block wall and behind what is apparently weatherproof paint, because instead of soaking through the paint and running down the wall, a lot of times the paint blisters out, but keeps the water behind it. It has split open in a couple of places, but not many.


So, last night I dreamed that there was this vine that had grown into my house, burrowing like a mole just under the surface of the walls, peeking through in places. It had spread through several rooms, kind of following the electrical wiring, and was starting to interfere with the computer, and I was telling someone that, while it would be impossible to pull it all out, all we needed to do was cut out a section at the point of entry, and all the vines inside the walls would shrivel up and stop growing.

Now that I think about it, it could have been downright creepy, but fortunately it was more of a repair issue than a Vine That Took Over The World kind of thing.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Nothing witty. Just my day.

Looks like a tune up finally made the difference with my car. I've only driven it a few miles so far, but there's definitely a difference. Not having to put an automatic into second and floor it to get up the hill to my town? A good thing.

After we got the car, I took the girls to the thrift store that has regular (thrift) priced ($1-$4) stuff all sorted and hanging up downstairs, and then the special unsorted bulk department upstairs. They have these eight-inch high borders to hold things in general parts of the room, and the bales of clothes are opened and dumped in there, getting waist deep toward the middle. You just wade in and look for stuff.

They just tripled their prices. Well, maybe not tripled. I guess the price used to be 200 colones per item upstairs, but I've been there on whatever day you can get ten pieces for 1000, so today's "normal" price of 300 colones seemed high to me. But? That's $0.60. We didn't hold back too much.

I wanted to get them each some sweat pants for after school and pajama wear, as well as picking up whatever additional items might present themselves to us. We got 20-some things for about $12. You have never seen that much pink and purple stuff in one shopping bag before.

My favorite...well, my favorites are the things I got for myself. But the best one to tell about is the Julia-sized hooded, fuchsia, zipper-front sweatshirt with a dragon embroidered on the sleeve in silver thread.

Friday, October 17, 2008

LOL my undercooked eggs

My eggs have been sulky and recalcitrant ever since we fixed my stove.

I've never made altitude adjustments for anything but spaghetti (pasta of any sort takes fully twice as long as it says on the package), but then again, I never made hard boiled eggs till I moved down here, which coincided with the stove issue, so maybe I just never knew.

My 220V stove made the best of its 110V wiring by taking a very, very long time to do anything.

The eggs don't seem to know what to do with water that goes from zero to boiling in three minutes flat. I think they miss the 20-minute ramp up...rather like the frog of legend.

Hey, it's a theory.

And any post that requires me to Google the phrase boil frog is a post that needs to be written.

Now I'm off to microwave egg.

Update: Raise your hand if you're surprised that hard boiling eggs is not a microwave oven's forte. I'm shocked, shocked I tell you.

*Goes back to spooning deviled egg yolk onto little piles of half-runny 'sploded egg white*

Thursday, October 16, 2008

You know something about this time zone?

Four a.m. comes really early here.

We're in the middle of some sort of tropical storm or depression in the middle of our rainiest month, in the middle of what is already one of our rainiest years.

We got Dad to the airport almost his full two hours ahead of the flight, and for the first time ever, I tracked an outgoing flight. It left two or three minutes late, and I've already got the "home safe and sound" email, so I guess Rainy Season 2008 is now free to do its worst.

And, yes. You can expect my annual "Enough with the rain already" post in 5... 4... 3... 2...

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Wrong number...good sign

So I just got a phone call.

It was a wrong number, but it was an interesting one.

It was someone calling from the US, trying to reach a US citizen (but not me) to encourage her to vote before...whatever the deadline is.

Overseas voters are, as a demographic, overwhelmingly Democratic.

I've lived outside the US for (almost) my entire adult life. Never before have I received such a call. I was happy to receive it today, though.

The Children's Museum

For a total of $8 (plus a reasonably-priced lunch), two kids and two adults can spend eight hours doing things like:

Stepping on a frog mosaic (actually, this you can see for free, in the sidewalk outside the front door).

Putting together a magnetic undersea puzzle, too hard for a lot of kids but, needless to say, not too hard for mine.

Practicing basic hygiene.

Taping your own television show in a real TV studio.

And then watching the show.

Learning about optical illusions in the tilty house.

(Note: This is the best part.)

Contemplating emus.

Playing chess.

Being mum.

Making lightning.

And other lightning-like things.

Getting faces painted.

Being encouraged to read.

Shopping in a child-sized model grocery store, and then going through the checkout to see if you've stayed within your assigned budget.

(Okay, y'all. There may be a genetic component to some behaviors.)

And playing in/on two different airplanes, a fire truck, a train and a big-ass helicopter.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

I ♥ Snowball

Sneaking a post in because Blogger has a scheduled outage and I don't feel like editing all the pictures from the Children's Museum, which was tonight's scheduled post. Especially if doing so would put me into the outage and I'd have to sit here waiting till I could publish.

So, go. Watch the dancing birdie. Come back tomorrow for...well, that's the debate, so I can't promise the pictures then either, but we'll get them in eventually.

Monday, October 13, 2008

And then we went to the zoo

It's not a big zoo, and it gets some flak for the size of the habitats and stuff, but we were prepared for much dismaller than it was. The landscaping was especially nice. Of course, here, "landscaping" is often a matter of "not preventing things from growing," but still.

This is a very bendy-nosed coati (called pizote in Spanish):

This is a pretty flower:

This is a picture for Steve:

And this is a pile of turtles:

Somehow this one ended up in a whole separate pond off to the side:

Sarchí, part 2

A couple of blocks from the Eloy Alfaro e Hijos (in case anyone Googles it) workshop, there's a town park, the centerpiece of which is the World's Largest Oxcart - made and painted by the guys at the shop.

Naturally, we had to stop by for some pictures before leaving town.

This is a mural at a souvenir shop near where we had lunch:

We got to Rita's for coffee just as Alanna was waking up from her nap:

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Plus this one makes...hang on. Lemme do the math.

I figured, Bob and Steve were all busy having milestones, I should probably have one myself.

This is my 1000th post.

Saturday, October 11, 2008


I've been to Sarchí a number of times now because it's part of the retreat, but Dad and the girls never had. It's a nice little half-day trip.

We went to the oxcart factory to order a chess set for...umm...what was his name again, Sandy? Anyway, for him.

This is the oldest, or the original, or the some-other-really-authentic-superlative oxcart factory in Sarchí, the town known for its oxcarts and other crafts.

It was established in the 1920s, and most of their tools are still powered by this waterwheel:


Guido is our favorite artist there. Here he is with the chess board in question. He hasn't put the legs on it yet, but the top is all finished.

And he got out the pieces for us to see as well. They made those too. (That's a different board they're set up on, by the way.)

I wrote down all the different kinds of wood - the board includes Melina, Cenízaro, Nazareno, Guanacaste and Ronron, and the pieces are Cocobola and Guaichipelín. (Aren't you glad I asked?)

Guido was really nice to the girls, and we came away with a plastic bag full of wood scraps for them to play with at home.

Friday, October 10, 2008

220, 221 ... whatever it takes

This is the inside of my breaker box:

The stove breaker is the one that's turned off - lower left.

See those two black wires coming out below the breaker? That's what you want to see. The big heavy-duty white one going into the grounding strip at the left is also all hunky-dory.

Take a peek behind my stove's 220 outlet:

That white wire going into one of the hot positions instead of the ground position? A lot less hunky, and not even a little bit dory.

Seems my 220 volt stove wasn't damaged in the move after all. My apartment was wired wrong and the poor thing has been working on 110 volts all this time.

That won't happen again.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Dad's joke

"OCD? Not at all. I'm CDO. The symptoms are the same, but the letters are in alphabetical order, like they should be."*

* No, he's not. But let's just say it's a joke that resonates with more than one member of our family.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

In which I like the Internet. Again. Or, still. Or something.

That's Dad there. About two hours out, as long as it's not too foggy to land when he gets here. And if it is, hopefully they'll revise the ETA within 30 minutes of his arrival time, which is when I'd probably head out myself.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Things I said during the debate just now

The guy in the green shirt cracks me up

Wait. Is that McCain decrying cronyism? In DC?
He's funny.

[It was about nuclear power]

He's gonna start smacking them soon
[Brokaw, trying to keep the thing running on time]

Guessing: education as a whole, healthcare in general...
[M on the sacrifices that will be needed]

I wonder if he thinks "transparent" means "invisible"

"my first term" sounds nice.

"Not too popular with my own party, much less his"
So, nobody likes him.


he's basically saying small businesses shouldn't have to insure their employees.

He's multifaceted
Or wishy washy, one

Think O will work in a ref to "bomb Iran"?
/Needs a bingo card/

People are living normal social lives in Iraq today?
That's good news.
Sorry about the sarcasm. Did I get any on you?

Oy with the preconditions already

You know, Tom Brokaw does not look completely unlike my grandfather
Well, except he hasn't been dead for 14 years.

Monday, October 06, 2008

It's all Steve's fault

...that I almost forgot to post today.

So, I'll just refer you to his post blaming me for stuff and call it even. (Here's the post of mine he's talking about.)

It's all very meta.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Friends achieving milestones

Happy one year of blogging to my friend Steve. Head on over to enjoy pictures of his adorable nieces and wish him a happy globoversary (he's flexible with the spelling).

I take partial credit for the very existence of that blog, but I do have to credit Shakesville as the venue that brought Steve into what has become my circle of friends, as well as the platform from which we gently persuaded* him to begin blogging.

And, as it happens, Shakesville itself is turning four today.

Congratulations all around.

* My blog, my euphemisms ;)

Saturday, October 04, 2008

This just in from my subconscious

I woke up with the chorus of this song in my head this morning. I didn't consciously know the rest of the lyrics, and I'd never seen the video, but they're both nice.

Suddenly I See
- KT Tunstall

Her face is a map of the world
Is a map of the world
You can see she's a beautiful girl
She's a beautiful girl
And everything around her is a silver pool of light
The people who surround her feel the benefit of it
It makes you calm
She holds you captivated in her palm

Suddenly I see (Suddenly I see)
This is what I wanna be
Suddenly I see (Suddenly I see)
Why the hell it means so much to me

I feel like walking the world
Like walking the world
You can hear she's a beautiful girl
She's a beautiful girl
She fills up every corner like she's born in black and white
Makes you feel warmer when you're trying to remember
What you heard
She likes to leave you hanging on her word

Suddenly I see (Suddenly I see)
This is what I wanna be
Suddenly I see (Suddenly I see)
Why the hell it means so much to me

And she's taller than most
And she's looking at me
I can see her eyes looking from a page in a magazine
Oh she makes me feel like I could be a tower
A big strong tower
She got the power to be
The power to give
The power to see

Suddenly I see (Suddenly I see)
This is what I wanna be
Suddenly I see (Suddenly I see)
Why the hell it means so much to me

Friday, October 03, 2008

Vote for Change? We'll see.

Stopping by grocery store on a rainy evening,* I find that my beloved Rock Ice:

Has undergone some sort of procedure and is now curvier than a New Beetle:

The big question is, of course, whether she's different on the inside, and that, of course, is a matter that can only be determined by means of painstaking hands-on research. It's a good thing I'm free.

* I don't know if I've ever mentioned it before, but October is our rainiest month.

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

  © Blogger template 'Personal Blog' by 2008

Back to TOP