Saturday, January 31, 2009

The continuing stoooooOOOoooory

So, I go in to the transmission shop to get my car and the transmission guy says, "Here you go. Your transmission is all set."

"Excellent," says I.

"Now, I did drive this car myself, and I noticed that you have a little issue with the engine that you're going to want to get checked out..."

*Sigh*, says I.

It does actually feel noticeably better than before, although it's just as noticeably not completely better. I topped off the tank on the way home, so we'll know in a week or two if the mileage has improved at least.

Friday, January 30, 2009

The Denouement of My Complaint

...That was a very good phrase that I came up with today.

Sadly, my complaint is nowhere near being finished, so this is probably not the denouement of it.

Silly me, calling the shop twice yesterday and at noon today, and believing them all three times when they said the car would be ready at 3:00. Huge thanks to my boss, who drove me all the way to the shop after work, saving me at least two hours on buses and probably half a mile or more of walking.

Fewer thanks to the mechanic guy who showed me the part that's still broken, and explained how heroic he was for not letting his minions put the broken part back in my transmission, but demanding that they obtain a fixéd one and install it instead.

Silly minions, not calling me to let me know.


I hope it really is broken, and not just a story to make the mechanic look good for not having my car ready when he said he would. Because if it's really broken and they fix it, maybe my car will run right.


See? This is so not a denouement.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Need your sleeves lengthened? Come on down.

It's not going to be any time soon, but someday when I don't live in Costa Rica anymore, here's what I'm not going to miss:

Washing machines.

Costa Rican washing machines:Your clothes::Kitty cats:Ball of yarn

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

I'd like to say it's worth commuting two hours each way to a part time job, just to see this mural every day. But now I have a picture, so...

Respect for diversity: it's the new sane.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Maybe they learned it on The Google

I left the house at 6:30 instead of 8:00 this morning, in order to take three buses in to work, arriving at the usual time of 8:35.

I only had to wake up about half an hour earlier than usual, and now that I've done it once I think I can do the whole thing about half an hour later tomorrow, since my workday officially starts at 9:00, even though I usually get in earlier than that.

Not so bad, overall. They said my car should be ready on Friday. Possibly Thursday.

So, most buses here have those vertical bar things with light sensors or whatever, to count the passengers and thereby keep the drivers honest about how many fares they've collected. Of course, this makes the drivers grouchy because people who take buses every single day and should totally know better, still stop between the bars while waiting their turn to pay the fare, thus presumably messing up the count.

So, of course, most buses also have signs that say Don't Stop Between the Bars.

One of the ones I saw today seemed determined not only to keep people from stopping between the bars, but also to wow the masses with Sooper Amazing Technology-Fu, because the sign read, approximately, "This bus is equipped with bar sensors and counts passengers by means of GPS satellite tracking."


Technology: Ur doin it rong.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Rest easy

I know. It's been weeks since I reported spending any money on my car and you're probably concerned that I don't love it anymore. Well, don't worry. I'm spending more on it this week than I probably have, cumulatively, since I bought it.

And I really don't want to talk about it except to say: This. Better. Work.

That is all.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Mother of the Year (For the three o'clock hour, that is. I believe the title passed to someone in Minsk around four.)

Robin was busy with friends most of the weekend so Julia and I went over to Jan's and out for pizza yesterday, made scones today, and watched three Wallace and Gromits and every Shrek movie there is, including the Christmas special.

Julia did almost all the baking herself. They didn't have any chocolate chips at the store, so we bought two bags of chocolate candy and chopped them all up.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

What, do they import the stereotypes along with the brand names? And how is CAFTA going to affect this?

I wonder what it is about our local combination Burger King/Papa John's.

Most anywhere I normally go with my kids, the girls blend in and I guess I stick out a little to anyone who's paying attention. And of course even those who aren't really looking still notice that we're speaking English, if they happen to hear us talking to each other.

Sometimes people ask me if the girls speak Spanish.

But for some reason, at the Burger King/Papa John's play place, people seem to skip the asking step and go straight for the assumptions, telling their own children, "that little girl doesn't understand you," and leaving me to clarify, yet again - this time on behalf of the other kid - "Yes, actually. She totally does."


"Really really."

Friday, January 23, 2009

Evolution of a concept

"I have some time while the kids are playing on the computer."

"I'll straighten up the bookcase."

"I'll pull out the kids' books to make room for my own."

"I'll make room for their books on the shelves by their beds."

"I'll just stand these magazines up."

"All these pony tail holders should be in one place."

"That shirt/shorts/socks/underwear can go in the laundry/closet."

"A cereal box would hold all these random drawings and construction paper thingies."

"Wow. Parents really never get to throw anything away, do they?"

"Well, maybe fossilized Play Doh and random snips of paper under three inches."

"It would take like 30 seconds to fold all the pants on that shelf."

"These beds look so much better when the covers are straight."

"I'm glad raw beans don't attract insects."

"Of course there's more under the bed."

"I should have taken a 'Before' picture."

Thursday, January 22, 2009

A breakfast lesson in lactodynamics

Julia: It's hard to push all the Cheerios to one side. The other ones keep coming around.

Me: That's because when you push the milk away with the spoon, the other milk comes around the side to fill in the space. You can't make a hole in milk. And the Cheerios get pulled along with it.

Julia: [Immediately starts pushing Cheerios carefully along the surface of the milk instead.]

Now that is a child who gets physical concepts. You should see the stuff she builds out of cereal boxes and masking tape.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

In which, by the purest of coincidences, I turn around on Inauguration Day to behold the following sight:


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Breakfast Invocation

Dear Robin and Julia,

I imagine that "change" isn't your favorite concept right now, and I get that.

Some kinds of change, though, are well worthwhile. Remember a couple of months ago, Election Day? I hope you do. I tried to show you that it was important in ways that you would understand. Eating pizza and staying up late to watch the early returns. Getting up even later to see the speeches. Ice cream for breakfast the next day - if that doesn't say "this is a big deal" I don't know what does.

Today is just as big a deal.

* * * * *

...So, I wrote that some time last week, and intended to expand it into a whole big Thing for Quaker Dave's Alternative Invocation. But you know how life is. It tends to be like this, a lot of the time, right?


The girls know what today is. Not to put too fine a point on it, I've told them it's "one of the most important things that has happened since either of you was born."

We talked (well, okay. It was 7:00 a.m. I talked and they ate their Cheerios) about Barack Obama and how he is different from the man who is president for a couple more hours.

About how, 200NINE for cryin' out loud, there are STILL people who think women and girls are somehow less than men and boys. And how there are people who think men should only be allowed to fall in love with women, and women only with men. ("Why, Mommy?" ... "I have no idea, sweetheart. It makes no sense.")

And also about how I'm not going to like everything Barack Obama does. I already don't like everything he's done, but the man has pledged to listen, even when we don't agree. Especially when we don't agree. I can't conceive of a more important thing.

And, the logical question when I said that: "What has he done that you already don't like?" So we touched on Rick Warren and why that was a bad idea. Showing you're listening to the other side is one thing. Giving someone who stands in opposition to basic rights, acceptance and diversity - who, for crying out loud, thinks his personal brand of religion should, quite literally, take over the world - is really not the person to call on and give an international platform at this particular moment.

* * * * *

So, anyway, girls. All of that.

I'm sure you'll come to understand the importance of today. Hopefully with the help of some creatively deployed pizza, ice cream and after-the-fact YouTube coverage, I can help you remember the day itself as well.

See you after work.


Monday, January 19, 2009


I picked these kids up not five hours ago and already I'm wiped. But we're having fun. We brought the turtle (not the hamsters - whose family went from two to eight this week) home with us, parked the car, then walked into town to buy some more yarn for the week's artistic pursuits. While there, we picked up an extra kid who came home to play with Robin while Julia tried out the Magic Jack on Lisa. It wasn't great but, unlike my first test call to Mom last week, it was at least functional and we chatted for a while. Then I sat outside and froze with Julia while Robin and her friend played in traffic the street (it's a cul-de-sac), and then we headed back to town to take the extra kid home at sunset. On the way out of the neighborhood we found a neighbor and her daughter just getting home, so naturally the child got out of the car to join us for our walk. We dropped off Extra Kid #1 and returned to the neighborhood (beautiful sunset), where Julia disappeared off into Extra Kid #2's house while Robin came home to take her turn on the Magic Jack. She called Dad, but between them they quickly agreed to switch to Skype for a nice call that lasted...exactly the amount of time till Julia and Extra Kid #2 showed back up, having decided that they needed to play Pajama Sam. Leftovers and quesadillas were had and then it was now. I'm sending Extra Kid #2 back across the street in 15 minutes, getting mine into pajamas and hoping they're half as beat as I am. I have to say, though, it doesn't particularly look that way.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

In the mood for donuts? Choose carefully.

Now, I have a soft spot in my heart for Krispy Kreme. But I think even if that were not the case, I might still find this a teeny tiny bit absurd.

It seems that Krispy Kreme, as is its wont on certain occasions, will be giving away free donuts on Inauguration Day. See, here's their press release:

Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, Inc. (NYSE: KKD) is honoring American's sense of pride and freedom of choice on Inauguration Day, by offering a free doughnut of choice to every customer on this historic day, Jan. 20. By doing so, participating Krispy Kreme stores nationwide are making an oath to tasty goodies -- just another reminder of how oh-so-sweet "free" can be.

How subversive is that?


You don't see it?

They're celebrating freedom of choice. By giving away a free doughnut of choice.

So, naturally, the American Life League responded (in part) like so:

The next time you stare down a conveyor belt of slow-moving, hot, sugary glazed donuts at your local Krispy Kreme, you just might be supporting President-elect Barack Obama's radical support for abortion on demand - including his sweeping promise to sign the Freedom of Choice Act as soon as he steps in the Oval Office, Jan. 20.

I mean, in my opinion it would be good if they really did mean that. Well, a rational version of that. But from what I've heard about Krispy Kreme and its corporate philosophy...not so much.

(Total kudos to Bob for the title. Nicely done.)

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Much less photogenic, but in fact decidedly more delicious

Steam the broccoli (it was actually a very pretty green. Something about that sheen broccoli gets made it look all grey like that). Boil the pasta. Combine lots of pressed garlic, a bunch of shredded ginger, and varying dollops of the other stuff* in a bowl. Toss together when pasta is done.

* Where "other stuff" = Peanut butter, sesame oil, soy sauce, honey and vinegar.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Top of the head

(Which, incidentally, is not at all what you want to be typing with.)

I just realized, consciously, that the inauguration is taking place at noon (11:00 a.m. to us) on Tuesday. I had already done the math and was glad that the girls would be with me. But they won't be. They'll be home with a sitter or a neighbor and I'll be at work.


We can watch it online in the evening, I guess. Hope it's nearly as good that way.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Have some Shakespeare. Sort of.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Because I like when Ralph does it

Sauté the stuff in the front there (garlic & raisins) in the oil and like 1/4 of the little bottle of curry. Add garbanzos (drained) and simmer. Add "spinach" (don't get me started) and simmer. Cook couscous. Serve the former over the latter.

My word. I am as good as it.

Thanks again, Campbell's.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

I bet they were sitting on their sunglasses the whole time

So, I'm a fairly considerate driver.

I know you're shocked.

Especially at certain intersections, I tend to stop and let some or all of the left-turning folk get on with their lives. People do the same for me, and the little thank-you waves or beeps or ... actually, Costa Ricans have at least four different ways of thanking people who are generous drivers ... are a nice little bonus.

The road I take home from work has that most un-Costa Rican of features, the turn-only lane. It actually works relatively well, considering it's such a rarity here. It does get used, of course, as a passing lane and, sometimes, as a skip-the-traffic-jam lane. But a lot less than you'd think; it's usually available when one needs to turn left. But that's not what I came to tell you about.

I came to talk about karma.

Today I paused at one of those intersections to let four or five folks in the oncoming turn-only lane cross my path, per their stated intention. There were a couple of late-arriving cars still hoping to make it across before my generosity expired, when a big new SUV came riding up in the turn-only lane to my left, pulled in front of me and cut off the remaining left turners.

I'm sure it was the purest of coincidences that I was listening to Bad Karma at the time.

(The first big grey button at the link will get you your very own helping of Bad Karma, should you be so inclined.)

Monday, January 12, 2009

I write letters

Dear Mr. Sanzio,

I understand that Campbell's is receiving complaints related to its ad in The Advocate, featuring a lesbian couple.

I would like to express my appreciation that you would run such an ad, and my hope that representations of alternative family structures in advertising become more common, entering mainstream publications as well, over time.

I am a single, straight woman, mother to two young daughters, and it is my desire that they come of age in a world that recognizes the full range of human diversity, not just traditionally scripted roles.

Thank you and thanks to Campbell's for taking this step toward an inclusive world.

I live outside the United States, so imported Cambell's products are expensive enough to be considered a luxury item on my budget, but I will be buying some the next time I have the opportunity.

Thank you,
Jennifer Tucker

Thanks to Liss at Shakesville for the heads-up.

Here's the ad in question. It was run in The Advocate - a gay publication. Nevertheless, the company has been deluged with complaints, largely coordinated by the conservative Christian American Family Association.

If you'd like to take a minute to offer some positive feedback, you can contact Anthony Sanzio, Group Director for Corporate/Brand Communications for Campbell's, by email or call 1-800-257-8443.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

It's like Little House on the Prairie in here. But, with email.

As previously noted, Bob's mother gave me a knitted dish cloth when I met her at Christmas time.

Robin was quite taken with it, asking if I had thanked her very much, and if I was sure I had told her it was very very pretty.

One thing led to another, and I ended up emailing her to find out some additional details, and Friday after work we walked into town to see about buying some yarn and knitting needles. Except, they don't sell knitting needles in San Rafael and, with my car in the shop, we weren't really in a position to venture into the teeming metropolis of Heredia.

We went ahead and got the yarn anyway, and I came home to see if I could find some knitting needles I was pretty sure I had...somewhere. (It's a small apartment, but it does pack a surprising amount of somewhere.)

I didn't find the needles, but I did come across a crochet hook or two.

Or nineteen.

So, plans were modified and I re-Googled the dishcloth instructions in our new favorite technique.

Julia ended up spending the day with a neighbor on Saturday, so Robin learned first, picking it up so fast she was learning new stitches and simple patterns within the hour. I found instructions for an additional, ultra-simple yarn craft thing I'd heard of but never tried, and ended up teaching that to all three girls on Saturday night (Julia came home with a spare).

Julia got her crochet lesson today, and picked it up quickly as well.

I'd forgotten how much fun it is to do. I just wish I liked crocheted things more than I do. (Liking crocheted things made of cheap-ass yarn in the girls' favorite colors is probably asking a bit much.)

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Because it's only a meme if we all do it

Via Bob, later picked up by Steve, originally by way of Dr. Monkey von Monkerstein, etc.

It's an Obamanation...

I'm ready for the future now, Mr. Obama...

Friday, January 09, 2009

Stay classy, Spirit

We get subscriber emails from Spirit Airlines at work. It's one of those ultra low-cost airlines and its shtick is to sell you a membership through which you're eligible for their periodic $9 fares.

It's not particularly useful for the destinations I tend to travel to, but I know people who have gotten good fares on Spirit.

Anyway, I usually file them away as quick as they come in, but it's nice in theory to have access to the members' newsletter.

Today, though, I had a bit of a WTF moment on the way to getting the newsletter filed away. Seems they're rerunning a popular sale/ad campaign:


(For anyone unfamiliar with the American Pie mentality, "MILF" is adolescent boy shorthand for attractive mothers of schoolmates. "Mothers I'd Like to F....")

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Ricther 6.2

That's an earthquake. Not as violent as the one (7.5) in 1991, but no little tremor either. It's one of those "on the news the rest of the day" things.

Roads are closed by landslides and people stranded in the province of Alajuela. The news is reporting broken glass in the city and structural damage to homes, and at least one house was buried. I've heard of two casualties so far: two girls aged 7 and 9 years old were buried in a landslide.

Six English students and two Costa Rican scientists were working down in the crater of the Poas volcano - practically on top of the epicenter - and they've been heard from and are fine.

That's all just 10 miles northwest of here, but there's no damage anywhere I've been or seen.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009


You know what's harder than you might think?

Explaining to a kid why a talking carrot that says, "Property is theft, man" is funny to grownups.

"Well, different people have different ideas the world should be run. And some of those people think that most things shouldn't belong to one person, but should belong to everybody. So to those people, if something belongs to one person, it's like stealing it from everybody else."

...There's nothing like having inquisitive kids to show you precisely when your attention wandered, back in high school.

I guess there's always, "It's a carrot! With a goatee! And it's talking! In that voice!" But then you'd get, "What about the voice, Mommy?" followed by, "What's a hippie, Mommy?" and potentially, "What's 'high', Mommy?" And then you're pretty much back at, "Well, different people have different ideas about..."

I start a lot of explanations that way.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Property is theft, man

At least according to Karl the begoateéd carrot in the kids' Pajama Sam computer game. Now that's some entertaining background noise, right there.

This is the same game with the big, red flashing notice proclaiming "Gratuitous Educational Content" when Otto the rowboat starts talking about geysers. And then there's the toaster with the rural southern accent, who likes to talk about cheese. You should hear him say "Neufchâtel."

Monday, January 05, 2009

The things I miss, living where I do

I know of Ann Coulter, but I've never actually seen her on TV or read anything she's written. But I know her by reputation and she, apparently, has a thing or two to say about me.

And my kids.

Shakesville's Paul the Spud cites a Media Matters post that runs down a few of the more charming passages in Coulter's upcoming book.

Most intriguing to me, of course, was the fact that choosing to leave a relationship that wasn't working did not, in fact, result (as I believed) in me being happier with myself and my life, and consequently being a better parent to my kids (among other things).

Not at all.

Coulter calls children whose parents divorce "future strippers" in a chapter titled "Victim of a Crime? Thank a Single Mother":
"In any event, divorced mothers should be called "divorced mothers," not "single mothers." We also have a term for the youngsters involved: "the children of divorce," or as I call them, "future strippers." It is a mark of how attractive it is to be a phony victim that divorcées will often claim to belong to the more disreputable category of "single mothers."* [Page 36]
Later in the chapter, Coulter writes: "Single motherhood is like a farm team for future criminals and social outcasts." [Page 38]

Apparently, it was all about career advancement for the girls.

It's a perplexing world, where a book such as this (if you liked the single mother bit, you should see the excerpt on which Democratic presidential candidate was the biggest pussy -- to say nothing of the Nazi parts*** -- it's all really rather stunning) is destined to become a New York Times Bestseller, rather than (well, okay - perhaps in addition to) garnering the ridicule it deserves, or simply being dismissed out of hand by, one would have assumed, most rational adults.

* So the simple, factual term "single mother" is disreputable. Bummer. I guess I could switch to "divorced mother whose children Ann Coulter has determined are to become strippers** and/or criminals"...but that's so very cumbersome.

** I suppose any discussion of "stripper" as a potentially legitimate and profitable profession is a bit beyond the scope of this post.

*** There's actually a passage reverse-conflating**** Nazi Germany and the writers of Murphy Brown. I kid you not.

**** Presumably to nullify Godwin's law by preemptively assuming that the other side will be making the Nazi comparison...I have to admit, I got a little lost at the end there.

Sunday, January 04, 2009


Robin: Lisa's the best.

Julia: Yeah. She knows all about us. She gets us the best stuff.

No offense, Mom - they liked yours too! They're so into what they've opened so far that they don't even remember they have gifts from me they haven't even seen yet!

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Not ready

Leaving for the airport in about three hours. Turns out Steve can't come up and play with me in Newark, and Julie's too far away to try to visit, so everybody please wish flight CO1762 a slight delay - say half an hour or so, so I can maybe possibly catch it instead of waiting for the flight I'm actually scheduled on, nearly 10 hours later. Gotta say, getting home around 1:30 or 2:00 in the afternoon instead of 10:30 p.m. wouldn't bother me a-tall, even if I do have to go back to the airport for my luggage later on.

UPDATED(by Bob): Dateline Newark

"Please go in & update my post to add-thanks for all your help. Flight 1762 was delayed by almost exactly half an hour. Next time we'll focus on them letting me on." (Bob says: Luggage must travel with ticketholder, thanks to the Patriot Act II) 8:47am (EST)

"Am now familiarizing myself with mall Concourse C. Highlight to date: man with 2 dogs on long leash fails to notice baptism of pillar." 9:15am

"Have completed initial circuit of Concourse C; most noteworthy occurrence -- absolutely no one takes note when fire alarms sound for approximately ninety seconds." 9:54am

"Have thoroughly window shopped the kiosk of Obamaphenalia (got my eye on the 'Yes We Can' collage magnet, complete w/fist jab) & found a lost neck pillow." 10:36am

"Highlight of the ten o'clock hour: Carol Steinel sings 'Bad Karma' on my mp3 player. Yes, that's right. I've got Portly Dyke pontificating in my ear buds." 10:49am

"I began to question my own karma when I discovered that the neck pillow was not so much 'lost' as it was 'feral,"' having been returned to the wild after what must have been a traumatic encounter with a cigarette. It was disgorging tiny styrofoam balls by the score, despite a piece of provisional tape." (Question is, will she remember she has needle and thread?  And is the neck pillow worth saving?  Stay tuned -- or keep reading, as the case may be) 12:48pm

"Credits:   Today's airport blogging brought to you by the letters M and P, and the number 3 (thanks, Sandy), cargo pants with lots of pockets (thanks, Lisa), chocolate covered sesame seeds (thanks, Mom) and potato chips (thanks, Dad), a phone with text messaging (thanks, Bruce & Gerarda), and more than a little help from a friend (thanks, Bob).
Boarding in 30 minutes...everybody may now focus on me being able to open my garage doors when I get home. There was an...issue...the day I left." 4:20pm

Additional Addendum and Errata:  Please add good karma (thanks Carol) and redomesticated feral neck pillows (thanks Anonymous Gate 92 Traveler). 4:45pm

Friday, January 02, 2009

Updates various, updates sundry

Got my Magic Jack all set up today, so now when I get home I can pick up a phone (Hmmm. Guess I'd better get a phone...) and, through the magic of the Internet, have a US dial tone on the other end of it and free unlimited calling to the US & Canada. My friends can call me by dialing a North Carolina number, and my phone (should I in fact obtain one) will ring in Costa Rica. That's technology I can get behind.

Also, we saw John Edwards at the post office this afternoon, and restrained ourselves with difficulty from yelling out, "Melissa McEwan" and seeing if he looked around.

And, it seems the DMV computers are extremely anal and will not process renewal of a driver's license that is more than six months from its expiration date. Even if "more than" means, as in my case, a mere 12 hours. Ah, me.

Kay. Time for chili.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Famous last words: Chili edition

"I didn't put that much [cayenne pepper] into it. Only like a teaspoon."

Now, I haven't tried it yet, but if Bob and I don't blog anymore, it's because the chili killed us both.

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

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