Sunday, July 23, 2006

Popping in to say a quick hello...

Okay, sorry I didn't even get a chance to leave an "away" message, but as you may have gathered, I've been away.

Mom arrived on Wednesday and now we're in the middle of our quilt retreat. This time I not only have my lovely digital camera, I also brought my USB cable (forgot it last time) and the appropriate software, so I've downloaded some of my photos to Rita's computer and thought I'd share a few with you. (Thanks in part to Blogger's handy "forgot my password" button and the assistance it renders when clicked...)

Mom's flight got in pretty close to the scheduled time. I took the girls to the airport and let them stay home from school on Thursday to play with her. They made muffins, went for a walk and read about 68,000 books while I dyed a bunch of fabric to take to the retreat. They also helped her unpack her suitcase, in which they found quilts for each of them:

The rest of the ladies didn't fare so well...their flight got in a bit late--1:00 a.m. to be exact--so there was no hanging out and chatting on Thursday night. Friday was stay-in-and-quilt day, and yesterday we had our first outing. We went through the town of Grecia, where there is an interesting church. The town's first church was wooden and burned down. They rebuilt it in concrete and it promptly suffered an earthquake and fell down. So they decided they needed an even bigger challenge for the elements stronger church and they imported metal panels from Belgium and built this steel church a hundred years ago[as long as the big bad wolf doesn't hear about it...]:

Then we went on to Sarchí, which is a town known for its crafts. We visited the original oxcart factory, which still makes oxcarts, and also now makes lovely crafts inspired by some of the same tecniques. Clearly, these pieced wooden items were much appreciated by our group of quilters:

They also do some beautiful carvings on wooden chests:

This man showed us a photo of himself from 40 years ago, with the other founders of the oxcart factory. His grandson, a young man who speaks fluent English, also works there now.

This artist paints the traditional, intricate designs (check out the wheel in the background):

The artists at this factory decided to make the world's largest oxcart, which they recently finished. They showed us a photo of a car driving under the cart, and after visiting their workshop, we drove by the park where the cart is on display:

After leaving Sarchí we stopped by Zarcero to see the topiary gardens in the central square:

And we did other things too, but that's all I've got for you so far. Have a nice rest of the week!

Saturday, July 15, 2006

It's hard to buy a computer

I finally did all my research: visited about six stores in Heredia, called one in San José that someone recommended, and checked in at Office Depot, PriceSmart and one of those appliance stores that also carries computers.

I found that the big US stores were quite a bit more expensive, and that all the little local places had pretty much the same prices. Several of them said they would try to beat any other quote I brought in, and one even told me straight out that they all use the same supplier, which explains the similarities.

I ended up choosing the first one I had visited, where I liked the guy's manner and willingness to explain, and where they offered a 3-year guarantee, which beat any of the others. Apparently they offer it at their own risk, because it is longer than the factory guarantee offered by the supplier. They would be out the price of any component they had to replace after the factory warrantee runs out, but of course they probably sell more computers with a guarantee like that.

The second runner up was a shop in the mall, which I assumed would be more expensive, but which was actually quite competitive. The two advantages to them were that they were just one branch of a larger store--more stability than the Mom & Pop places--and that they offered a licensed version of Windows. (Some shops will offer to install a copy for you, but if you want the license it costs extra. Others only offer the licensed version and, of course, do charge for it, which makes their computers more expensive. It seems to me that the legal version could avert problems down the line, in terms of downloading updates and things, especially now that I know how much information about your operating system is communicated to every website you visit.) The disadvantage was that they only offer a one-year guarantee and, of course, their machines were a bit more expensive because of the Windows.

Anyway, I was pretty well decided on the little shop in town and stopped by on Wednesday to get one final price quote on the exact configuration I had chosen. They said they'd E-mail it to me that afternoon or first thing Thursday. Since it hadn't arrived by the time I left the house before business hours on Thursday morning, I decided to stop by the shop to get the quote and, assuming it was about what I had calculated myself, I would go to the bank to withdraw the money and hopefully be able to pick up the computer some time on Friday.

Except that the shop was closed when I got there at 10:30 a.m. I called the two phone numbers on their business card and one of them had a message giving a cellular number. But there was a "can't come to the phone right now" message on the cell phone too. Not terribly trust-inspiring, but I figured there could be an acceptable reason for closing the shop on a weekday, since it's a small business and all.

On Friday I made sure to take a change of clothes to the gym and after spinning class I called to see if the shop was open. It was, so I headed back to the dressing room to shower and change. Except that when I opened up my bag to get out my clean clothes, I found that I had somehow forgotten my underwear. [Or possibly dropped it out by the front desk when I got out the cell phone to call the computer shop? Oh, surely not.] I thought about putting the ones I was wearing back on after my shower, but couldn't get past the picture of myself talking to the computer guy while an underwear-shaped sweat stain slowly appeared across my butt.

I thought about how online stores are always so quick to point out that when you buy online you can "shop in your underwear!" and, although this particular activity has never held much appeal for me, I figured that if people are going to use their computers to shop in their underwear, I could darn well buy my computer without any underwear. I hoped that this (and some other minor setbacks I'd had that morning) wasn't an indication of how the computer-buying was going to go. A girl can hope, can't she?

So I went down to the shop, which was open. The guy working there said the owner had had some errands he had to do, so had opened late the day before. Okay, I can accept that, especially in this culture. But. The price quote wasn't ready yet. Wha...? I go in on Wednesday morning to ask how much something costs and they can't manage to tell me the answer on Friday? I explained that I was ready to go to the bank right then if I could just get the information, so that hopefully they could have the computer ready for me to pick up on Saturday. Well, the guy didn't seem to think that was likely in any case. The owner would get back to me as soon as possible with the quote, but the suppliers would not be open on the weekend, so I would probably be able to pick the computer up on Monday. Or possibly early Tuesday.

I thanked him and went home to reconsider the shop at the mall. I called them back to get the price on the exact configuration I had settled on. The sales person asked me for the number on the printout she had given me when I went in on Wednesday, then pulled up that quote and updated it to the specifications I gave her. She gave me the modified price immediately, and it was a dollar or two less than what I had calculated myself. I asked when it could be ready and she said later that afternoon or, possibly, the next day because they have to send out to one of their other branches for a copy of Windows in English. Being a mall shop, they're open till 9:00 pm, including Saturdays.

I told her to go ahead and she called me back a half hour later to say that it would be ready around noon today. Granted, when I called at 11:30 this morning she said it would be more like 2:00 pm, but I'm okay with that.

It's nearly 2:00 now and I still haven't heard from the other shop...the one I told yesterday that I would go withdraw the money right then if they could just tell me how much it was going to cost. I must say, I'm feeling pretty comfortable with my decision not to buy from them.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

See now, this is why I got Site Meter in the first place

I love being able to check the Site Meter stats and see that there are more people visiting this blog than it would, at first glance, appear.

But to be perfectly honest, what really got me to go sign up was seeing other bloggers mention that people had landed on their blogs after having searched for something surprising.

When I signed up, I discovered that Site Meter is cool enough on its own, so I almost didn't miss it when I didn't get any wacky Googlers dropping by because they searched for "paw prints in the chocolate chip cookies" or something. There have been a couple of searchers in the month since I signed up for Site Meter. But they were just people searching for the titles of kids' television shows that I've mentioned. Certainly nothing to write home blog about.

Anyway, when I look at the stats I usually go to the "Location" page first because it's the most interesting. Today I noticed that, for some reason, the city and state were blank for one of the United States visitors. I know there is anonymizing software that can do that, but most people don't bother to use it. When I checked the "Referrals" page to see where people linked in from, I found that this anonymous visitor had done a Yahoo search on the phrase "wife swapping party" and, in doing so, landed here. I always kind of liked that entry, but our anonymous searcher is down for having a visit length of "0 seconds" so I guess it wasn't quite what he/she was after.

Monday, July 10, 2006

I consider this a G-rated blog. Better go round me up some aliens.

My girls are (just ask them) the last two children on the face of the Earth who have not yet seen Cars. I guess I heard something about the film a while back, but I really didn't pay much attention until they started bringing it up on a daily basis.

So now I have to figure out if it's an appropriate movie for them. My barometer for that is generally the violence quotient. In theory, I disapprove of violence as entertainment. I figure, if it's not something we want them to learn or practice, why show them detailed, repeated examples of it?

Of course, it's all subjective. I really like Shrek, and they like it too, so I kind of just wince through the dragon chase and, especially, the brawl. Robin, knowing my views and the official policy on such things, likes to point out that she likes the whole movie except for that scene. (Perhaps it's a parenting tradeoff: you reign in the violence, you raise yourself a little kiss-ass...) (Oh, come on, you'd have thought the same thing if you could have heard her. You just wouldn't have said it out loud. I'm sure she'll learn the fine art of subtlety soon enough and then balance will be restored.)

It's rated G, which you'd think would count for something, but the Chicken Little experience cured me of making unsubstantiated assumptions about children's movies. You know the story of Chicken Little, right? The cute little chicken sits under an oak tree, gets conked on the head by an acorn and thinks the sky is falling. I believe it turns into something of a boy-who-cried-wolf scenario, although I don't know how the traditional story reaches closure: surely the sky doesn't really fall? (As usual, Wikipedia has the answer.)

Anyway, knowing what I did about the plot, and that it was rated G, I went ahead and rented the movie. It's Chicken Little. How bad could it be? I'll say this: the movie version of Chicken Little does adhere to the basic plot line. There's a little chicken. He's cute. He gets hit by an acorn. Everyone laughs at him for thinking the sky is falling. You know where it goes from there? It goes on a brief tour of school bullying and ends up with spider-shaped aliens that are as tall as buildings and shoot death rays. An entire fleet of them darkens the sky as far as the eye can see and sets about wreaking mayhem with intent to destroy the planet. I must have missed that page of the Little Golden Book. (Can you imagine if the Pokey Little Puppy ever hit the big screen?)

And yet? We ended up renting it again. I am having an awfully hard time finding the line here.

Anyway, at least I knew enough to do a little preliminary research on Cars, since it seems pretty clear that we'll be seeing it eventually. And it looks like it'll be fine. In the same way that Shrek is fine, which is to say: mostly fine. Actually, the first set of reviews I came across turned out to be on a Christian website. The reviewers there made the violence sound very mild to nonexistant, although they were concerned with jokes like "I'd give my two left lugnuts for a date with her" and a VW van who is clearly stoned (you'd think that would be the character voiced by Cheech Marin, but apparently it's not.)

From what I've read, the violence consists of crashes caused intentionally by a malicious competitor in a race. I probably read a total of 25 or 30 single-paragraph reviews (and some longer blog entries) by individuals who had seen the movie with their kids and you know what? Only one single reviewer mentions that there is also a dream sequence featuring gigantic spark plugs with long, spider-like legs walking over a city, shooting gigantic spark blasts into the city and blowing everything up, which is ultimately resolved by a missile-packed military helicopter, piloted by [the hero] and ends in explosions and destruction all around. Of course, it's rated G, so I'm sure it's appropriate for the kids.

I don't know. I know they'll see it all eventually but seriously. War of the Worlds in G-rated movies?

Friday, July 07, 2006

Let it be known

I think it's been made abundantly clear in recent posts that I was born 37 years ago last Monday. What much of the Internet doesn't know is that my sister Lisa totally copied me three years and four days later.

Here's a picture of Lisa as we experienced her today: on the phone. That is to say, this is a picture of Julia, and that's Lisa on the phone with her there.

Day in the Life: July edition

It's Day in the Life time again, courtesy of Paper Napkin.

To review: Robin & Julia are my daughters, José and Yolanda are my in-laws, and Alex is my husband, who has been working in the United States for the past year & a half, and who will be moving home again in about a month.

Thursday, July 6, 2006:

6:20 - Wake up to (my) dogs freaking out when the neighbors leave for work, the same as they do every morning. Dislike dogs. Robin & Julia join me in bed.

6:30 - Get up, open curtains in both bedrooms, turn on radio, make bed.

6:40 - Hold girls' hands, walk down stairs. Open downstairs curtains, open parrot cage, put coffee on.

6:50 - Wash the plates, cups & silverware that are in the sink. Leave pots, pans & storage containers for later. Move clothes from washer to dryer & start dryer. Refill washer.

7:05 - Decide to give girls bread instead of corn flakes for breakfast because they prefer it. Open bread bag to find that pre-mold smell. Slices look fine but probably have that pre-mold taste. Put back in bag and get out other kind of bread. Looks & smells fine. Butter two slices & call girls.

7:15 - Julia doesn't like the bread because it has discernable seeds in it. Offer her a banana.

7:20 - Fix my usual breakfast of granola & banana (out of raisins) with a glass of water.

7:21 - Julia is still hungry but doesn't want the bread. Wash an apple & hand it to her.

7:23 - Eat breakfast. Notice that Julia did actually eat some of the "yucky bread." In fact, she ate the entire crust, leaving the rest intact. Will these children ever like the same thing two days running?

7:30 - Tell girls to get dressed. Pour coffee and bring it upstairs.

7:32 - Dress in gym clothes, put change of clothes in backpack.

7:40 - Brush teeth, put parrot back in cage, stop dryer, find cell phone, wallet & keys, get sneakers on.

7:50 - Tie up dogs, get kids in car, back car out, untie dogs, lock gate.

7:54 - Try to call Yolanda to ask her to wait for me at the corner but the cell phone has no signal.

7:55,7:56,7:57- No signal.

7:58 - Call Yolanda using speaker phone feature of cell phone.

8:00 - Drop girls off at corner, give pre-mold bread to Yolanda for her chickens, head to gym.

8:05 - Arrive at gym but have to wait at corner because driver coming out of the tiny side street is busy gawking at the girls in the tae-bo class, which has already started. Hope he'll be embarassed when he realizes he's blocking traffic. Hope he notices that the person he's blocking is a girl on her way to the tae-bo class.

8:06 - He may or may not have noticed, but when I get to where he was I giggle because I realize he was probably gawking at Carlos, the tae-bo instructor. This is allowed because Carlos is built to be gawked at (you'll recall he's the tall, lithe, muscular black man with shoulder-length braids and a personality that can only be described as flamboyant) and, more to the point, today he is wearing a low cut, skin tight wrestling singlet that I really really thought I'd be able to find a picture of on the Internet but it turns out I can't. Suffice to say, it made me think of Asterix and--more particularly--Obelix, but I soon discovered that was only because of the stripes and the belt.

8:08 - Join tae-bo class.

8:40 - Leave tae-bo class when Carlos switches to floor exercises because there's a muscle in my back that has been bothering me and it hurts when I do those kinds of movements. Do part of my weight routine instead.

9:15 - 10:00 What I really came for: spinning class. Abel is in fine form today, lots of banter makes the class more fun.

10:05 - Call Yolanda's house to see if the girls want to come home with me or stay with her. José says Robin and Yolanda and the new dog left a little while ago to walk down to the butcher shop.

10:06 - Remember that I brought clean clothes and had considered going into town after the gym to look at computer prices, maybe take myself out for lunch. Too late now.

10:10 - Drive by butcher shop, then see them a couple of blocks away. Circle block & wait for them. Robin sees the car first. Yolanda seems confused to see me there.

10:15 - Robin and the dog sit in the car while Yolanda picks up the meat.

10:25 - Drive them home, pick up Julia.

10:40 - Stop at gas station. The dealer logo on the car ahead of mine is from Bill Rowe Nissan, Rocky Mount, NC. Ask for a gallon of gas for the lawn mower (about $4, although I don't know how close it was to an exact gallon, plus $0.30 for the container, which is simply a recycled gallon jug that probably originally had some kind of sauce or food product in it.)

10:50 - Arrive home, leave car outside of gate. Find that Joanna is there, cleaning. She hasn't been coming on a very regular schedule lately, and I hadn't expected her today. Good thing I did some of the dishes this morning - there were an awful lot and I don't consider it part of her job, although she always does whatever's there.

10:55 - Turn on Clifford computer game for Julia.

11:00 - Go over to see about Tina, who usually doesn't move more than ten feet from her doghouse, but who is now in the front corner of the yard. Wonder if she's lost.

11:10 - Cut grass.

12:30 - Talk with Joanna and make a note of her hours before she leaves. Arrange to have her husband house-sit during the quilt retreat later this month.

12:40 - Finish mowing, put away mower, gas and assorted planks and pipes found lying about the yard.

12:45 - Flea-powder Tina and scatter remaining powder in her dog house. Make mental note to buy more powder and do this regularly.

12:55 - Turn Julia's computer game back on - the power went off for a few minutes while I was mowing.

1:00 - Get the cordless phone and my book (To Have & To Hold by Jane Green), run a bath.

1:10 - Julia is hungry: tell her to get a banana & a slice of cheese, and that I'll heat up yesterday's homemade pizza after my bath.

1:30 - Emerge from bath, put two slices of pizza in the microwave. Julia wants to go to the restaurant across the street. Consider the options while she begs.

1:40 - Say yes. Eat my slice of pizza, put Julia's away. Turn off computer. Tie up dogs, drive car into gate, untie dogs.

1:50 - Call Yolanda to say that we'll be out and see if they'd like to come up. Yolanda says there's "something" she needs me to pick up at her house.

1:55 - Get Julia into the car. Re-tie dogs (notice that Tina seems to have found her way back to the dog house), drive car out of gate, untie dogs. Drive to Yolanda's house.

1:57 - Speculate that maybe Alex has come home sooner than expected and is there. Decide probably not.

1:59 - Speculate that maybe we won some money in the big "Christmas in July" lottery that was played on Sunday, and to which I, uncharacteristically, bought a ticket. Decide probably not.

2:01 - Speculate that maybe Yolanda made me a belated birthday cake and/or Robin has talked her into taking her shopping for a present. Figure that's probably it. Please, God, no ceramic figurines.

2:03 - Arrive at Yolanda's house to find store-bought chocolate cake with light & fluffy cocoa frosting. Cut cake, enjoy with José, Yolanda, Robin, Julia & Betty. (No ceramic figurines.)

2:10 - Betty leaves to walk home.

2:12 - Downpour seems imminent, so take the car over to catch up with Betty and drive her the rest of the way home.

2:17 - Return to Yolanda's house - still not raining - Betty probably would have made it. Chat for a few more minutes, decide to try and get home before downpour. Cut piece of cake to leave for Robin & Yolanda, take other half home.

2:20 - Ask who wants to come home: to no one's surprise, Robin wants to stay & Julia wants to come home. Get in car & drive home. Tell Julia we'll go to the restaurant another day because it's about to rain so she wouldn't be able to play on the swings anyway. Julia finds this unacceptable. Remind her that when we go at night or in the rain she doesn't like sitting at a table inside, doesn't like the food and always demands to come home before the others are ready. Julia finds this unacceptable. Decide that Julia's going to have to lump it because I'm really tired from my active morning.

2:30 - Arrive home, lie on bed & read.

2:40 - Julia's mad about the restaurant. Offer to read her a story. She chooses Whiteblack the Penguin. Read story.

2:50 - Go back to my book.

3:00 - Julia wants a bath. Start water running, go back to book.

3:03 - Help Julia into tub, put her hair in ponytail, go back to book.

3:10 - Julia says the water is "vewwy deep now" - turn off water, finish book, watch an episode of Friends.

3:40 - Julia wants to get out of the tub. Get her out, help her find her new pajamas - they're a present from Papi and were just delivered this week, so she's eager to get them on even though it's not bed time yet.

3:50 - Consider checking E-mail or blogs, or starting this post, but don't feel like turning the computer back on. Decide it can stay off today. Watch some more TV, feeling lazy and unproductive, but also tired and virtuous from all the exercise this morning.

5:30 - Julia is hungry again. Get the pizza back out, microwave a piece for each of us. Remember about drinking water and drink a whole bottle. Refill bottle and have some more with the pizza. Share pizza crust with the parrot, who is appreciative.

6:00 - Julia is still hungry but doesn't want more pizza. Offer popcorn while we watch a video. Of course that offer is very well received. Have her finish her dinner, clear plates, wash hands, etc.

6:10 - Feed pets, empty dryer, move clothes from washer to dryer. Take clothes upstairs and put with clean clothes from the rest of the week. Is it really such a pain to put clothes on hangers, that I hardly ever do it?

6:20 - Make popcorn, open a beer, change into sweats, get into bed with Julia.

6:25 - Watch Shrek with Julia. She stays awake almost until the wedding scene, so watch through to the end.

8:15 - Take Julia to her bed, rewind video, get some cookies and switch to Friends DVD.

8:20 - Phone rings - it's Alex. He says he gave notice today and that his immediate superior and some other in-charge guy both took it very well, appreciating the month's lead time and indicating that the door would be open if he wants to come back at some future time. Discuss some E-mails that need to be sent regarding an instrument needing repair and a potential survey client here in Costa Rica. Say good night.

8:35 - Return to Friends.

9:10 - Fall asleep, turn off TV, go back to sleep.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

I do love you, but I just don't feel THAT WAY about you

Robin has been spending a lot of time with the parrot lately, and has been excited to find that Loren will accept a lot more handling than she used to. That's good for both of them, but it's a little awkward for me because the bird keeps making inappropriate overtures to Robin, who is oblivious to Loren's ulterior motives. (Look Mommy! She wants to sit on me!)

The same thing happened a year ago, when I was the only one interacting with her, so I assume it's kind of a seasonal thing. Of course this burning desire nice, in that she is much more interested in being handled and petted, and makes the humans feel wanted and needed and all. Not to mention that she's less likely to bite the kids now that she wants them to pet her.

But I have to guess that it's not very fulfilling for the parrot. Who, by the way, could just as well be a "he" - when Yolanda first gave me the birds I looked them up on the Internet and was able to determine that they were Red Lored Amazon parrots. One of the things I learned about this species was that even an avian veterinarian can't determine the sex without genetic testing. So there you have it. I never knew whether we had a matched pair or a mixed set to begin with, and now that Rosita's gone I can't even watch their interactions to try and figure it out. We just called them both "she" because they both had girl names. (Hey, what if new parents had to just kind of guess the sex of their babies?)

Anyway, the girls have been enjoying Loren's crooning little songs and suave little dances. And her inclination to grasp Robin's arm with one foot, even if they don't understand why she almost never lifts the other foot to step all the way up. I guess we should be thankful that all her behaviors are relatively cute - I hear that if a bird is really in love, it'll pay you the ultimate compliment of throwing up on your shoulder. So there's that.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Happy Birthday, Sandy!

Today is my friend Sandy's birthday.

  • Sandy is a quilter, just like me.
  • When we met, she lived on Jennifer Drive (Street? Lane? Anyway.)
  • At that time, the name of her town was the same as the name of the child my sister used to take care of.
  • Her daughter's name is the same as my sister's name.
  • Her son (your son, right?)'s name is the same as my Dad's name.
  • Her middle name is the same as my Mom's name.
And her birthday is the same as mine.

Also today: my friend from college who I just looked up on the Internet. Turns out he's now a Solar System Ambassador - how cool is that?


As IF we needed more reasons to celebrate, every last one of the following people? Also born on July 3:

Not to be outdone, these people died on July 3:

I'm not going to give you the full list of July 3 historical events because a lot of them are war-related, boring or flat out depressing (the very last pair of Great Auks in the entire world? Clubbed to death on July 3, 1844.) But here are a few:

...and so begin the Dog Days of Summer

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Party photos

On the fly...

I'm on the way out the door to FINALLY meet Rita's new granddaughter (and spend the night!), but wanted to post some of these picture quick before I left. The girls were invited to a birthday party here today. There was...


And a game of Red Light, Green Light

Which Robin won

There was a tour of the park including turtles

And story-telling butterflies

And a playground

The likes of which you will never, ever see in the United States

And sunbathing iguanas

And music, dancing and traditional masks.

Unfortunately, my camera battery wasn't fully charged and I didn't get the picture I wanted of the three- and four-year-olds chasing each other around in papier-maché masks the size of a motorcycle helmet and shaped and painted into very creepy skull and ghoul faces. The birthday boy's Canadian grandparents were visiting and seemed a little taken aback - these kinds of scary masks come out at all Costa Rican cultural holidays, but I have to admit they don't usually surface at birthday parties. Okay, gotta go!

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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