Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Just scroll down and play that Kinks video again

Only this time it's not because of Alex and his career illusions.

This time it's because tomorrow is November 1 and that can mean only one thing....

Yes, folks, it's that time of year again. Who's in? (Pidomon, I'm looking at you!)

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Something for everyone

We rented Deck the Halls this week. And by "we" I mean "Alex" of course - not that I wouldn't have rented it myself, but I probably would have waited until at least November.

Now that is a movie that has really got it all.

It's a Christmas movie, and pretty standard in that respect. People losing track of the Christmas spirit, alienating their families, regaining the Spirit and reconciling with their families.

What stood out to me, though, was the fact that the writers of this film chose to insert almost every known stereotype into the movie, without any of them contributing in any material way to the plot.

The movie opens with a woman whose face we can't see, remarking that glasses would make her look old. The optometrist swings his instrument out of the way and OH MY GOODNESS, she is old! How funny is that??? C'mon, let's all laugh at an old lady who cares about how she looks! HA! HA HA!!

Then we have the local chief of police. Matthew Broderick's character, Steve, hears a rumor that the police officer is a cross dresser. Clever foreshadowing, it turns out, for the time when Steve drops by the station to file a complaint and catches a glimpse of some women's underwear under the uniform. Steve runs out the door as soon as the man's back is turned!! Because he is different!! And being scared of people who are different (friendly ones who are trying to help) is just a hoot! HA! HA HA!!

It's not only men in women's underwear that freak Steve out, though. Funny, funny Steve falls through the ice on a pond, and when he regains consciousness, he finds that his neighbor has stripped them both down and zipped them into a sleeping bag together to warm him on the way to the hospital. Does hilarity ensue? Indeed. The old camera-zooming-in-on-screaming-mouth shot is always a crowd pleaser. Because life-and-death situations need not detract from the hilarious homophobia! HA! HA HA!!

Let's see. Then there was the whole "dumb blond" thing. Twin dumb blonds, described on the movie's official website as Buddy's "sexy, dim-bulb twin daughters." Awesome. They are redeemed at the end when the smart and (I think intended to be) less attractive neighbor girl gives them a book of poetry which, one of them said, "doesn't even make my head hurt." HA! HA HA!!

Wow, I'm getting tired here, and we're nowhere near done.

Hey, you know what I found particularly hilarious? The non-Caucasians in the film! Here, I'll introduce you to every single one of them:

  • We had a female Asian TV reporter - although she was playing herself, so I'm not sure if she was supposed to be funny or just authentic.

  • Then there was the Indian (like from India) computer geek with no social life.

  • And my personal favorite, the Latino selling illegal items out of the trunk of his car in a back alley. Now he was a scream.

I'm not sure it's even worth mentioning when Steve's family gets sick of his attitude and moves to a hotel for a few days, and Steve's reaction is, "But. What will I eat?"

There's more, but I'm done.

Anyway. Deck the Halls. A nice little Christmas movie with something for everyone. You know, unless you're one of those humorless types who tries not to be sexist, racist, ageist, homophobic, transphobic, and whatever the word is for judging people based on their intelligence and/or career choices.

I take requests, but I take no responsibility for the results.

Peter Fonda (62%)
Gerard Depardieu (59%)
Lance Bass (58%)
Jeb Bush (55%)
Diego Maradona (53%)
Kirk Hammett (51%)
Colin Mochrie (49%)
Eddie Cibrian (49%)
Anatoly Karpov (48%)
Rick Schroder (47%)

Harold Wilson (66%)
Josh Duhamel (63%)
Ricky Ullman (61%)
Pharrell Williams (60%)
Rowan Atkinson (57%)
Howie Dorough (57%)
Jim Carrey (57%)
Heath Ledger (57%)
Sarah Jessica Parker (54%)
Drew Barrymore (54%)

Kim Jong-il (52%)
Steven Spielberg (52%)
Alan Greenspan (51%)
Juan Antonio Samaranch (50%)
Wen Jiabao (49%)
John Pople (49%)
Jon Voight (48%)
Adrien Brody (48%)
Hu Jintao (48%)
John Williams (48%)

Updated to add, by popular (Dad's) demand:

Morten Harket (70%)
Nicky Hilton (59%)
Oded Fehr (56%)
Vytautas Landsbergis (56%)
Larry Flint (56%)
James Spader (54%)
Jean-Bertrand Aristide (50%)
Madeleine Stowe (49%)
Bae Yong-jun (47%)
Courtney Thorne-Smith (47%)

Monday, October 29, 2007

Let no one be left out

In an effort to make sure that Alex is not left out of the celebrity look-alike game, that Dad feels more included because he's bound to recognize a few more names, and that Phydeaux has some company in the "looking like dead people" department,* here are a few more.

Grigori Perelman (70%)
Edsger Dijkstra (68%)
Peter Weller (64%)
Kevin Kline (61%)
Billy Bob Thornton (61%)
Aristide Briand (60%)
Ernest Rutherford (60%)
Antonin Dvorak (58%)
Felix Klein (57%)
Vytautas Landsbergis (57%)

Howard Dean (66%)
Sharon Stone (62%)
Jesse L. Martin (62%)
William Shatner (62%)
Hayden Christensen (62%)
Carson Daly (51%)
Suzanne Vega (49%)
Brittany Murphy (49%)
Janeane Garofalo (48%)
Jean Seberg (47%)

That second one is from a portrait that Alex and I had taken about 10 or 12 years ago. The system automatically recognized both faces, so here's another one of me. (It didn't recognize the dog that was in the picture with us though.) This time neither Alexis Bledel nor Topher Grace showed up, but I did get a second Hayden Panettiere, for what it's worth.

Judy Garland (68%)
Hayden Panettiere (68%)
Mark Feehily (66%)
Courtney Thorne-Smith (66%)
Lindsay Lohan (63%)
Tea Leoni (62%)
Mandy Moore (61%)
Sophie Ellis-Bextor (61%)
Jodie Sweetin (60%)
Kate Bosworth (60%)

*Although Robin did get Anne Frank yesterday.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

I'm just not seeing what it's seeing

Thanks to Phydeaux for getting me sidetracked over at

Alexis Bledel and Topher Grace? Wouldn't they have to look like each other for that to make sense?

Alexis Bledel (64%)
John Edwards (64%)
George Galloway (62%)
Topher Grace (59%)
Rebecca Gayheart (57%)
Katherine Heigl (57%)
Shiri Appleby (57%)
Jericho Rosales (57%)
Jamie Bell (57%)
Lothar Matthaus (55%)

(Only eight celebrities fit in the collage, but it lists the top ten - hence the extras.)

Hayden Panettiere (75%)
Bebe Neuwirth (74%)
Alexis Bledel (74%)
Danii Minogue (72%)
Kristin Davis (72%)
Elijah Wood (71%)
Ronan Keating (68%)
Topher Grace (68%)
Eliza Dushku (67%)
Gerard Butler (66%)

Zoe Tay (72%)
Dakota Fanning (71%)
Rachel Stevens (70%)
Sammi Cheng (68%)
Kylie Minogue (68%)
Nick Lachey (67%)
Miriam Yeung (66%)
Daveigh Chase (66%)
Vivian Hsu (66%)
Aya Matsuura (64%)

Lisa Kudrow (60%)
Seiji Ozawa (58%)
Agam Rudberg (58%)
Kristine Hermosa (56%)
Siti Nurhaliza (56%)
Nancy Sinatra (56%)
Francois Truffaut (55%)
Anne Frank (54%)
Kate Winslet (52%)
Angus Young (51%)

Saturday, October 27, 2007

The fruits of my labor. No, not the apples.

Okay, I will admit that I opened the floor for suggestions right before leaving the house, so I bought the costume stuff before actually reading any of the comments.

A little over ten dollars at the thrift store, a little over ten hours of my life, and we have a family ready for Halloween. Two large pirates, one small gypsy, and one artiste.

The only pre-existing items seen in any of these pictures are Julia's jeans, the scarf on Alex's head, and Robin's two shakiras (the jingly things). Everything else is new, new, new, and every item except for the hats and my pants was altered in some way.

I think I'll stick to quilting, thankyouverymuch.

That can not have been easy.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Now Accepting Suggestions

We've been invited to a Halloween party, so I'll be going to the thrift store today to pick up costume items.

Robin wants to be a gypsy and Julia wants to be an artist.

Alex wasn't supposed to be in town, but will apparently be joining us after all (see any number of previous "Car Trouble" posts). He hasn't been terribly helpful in terms of coming up with costume ideas ("Adam and Eve!" "A plug and an outlet!") but he did mention a pirate last week.

So what do you think - could I pull off "wench"?

Thursday, October 25, 2007

A Kinks Moment

No, not kinky. Kinks.

There's a song in my head and it is this:

Lyrics for those with slow connections.

Video for the lucky ones:

What Mr. Davies is telling us here is that Alex kept asking me how I was doing today. I noticed, but didn't really think anything of it until he asked if I "had a minute" while we were both sitting quietly on the couch drinking coffee.

Seems he's been corresponding for the past couple of days with a manager at a company that "use[s] sound waves to image the subsurface of the earth for the purpose of locating hydrocarbon reservoirs." In, needless to say, quite a few countries worldwide, none of which are Costa Rica.

The conditions & salary seem worth considering and he is, as always, intrigued by the opportunity for new experiences and professional development. I'm a little concerned about the "hydrocarbon reservoirs" they're so keen on "locating."

For my newer readers, see this pair of posts for, if not context, at least an inkling of why I have that Kinks song in my head.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Gratuitous Cuteitude

Robin tries on some frosting while Julia sports the latest in multiple tooth loss and Loren gives her wingpits a quick sniff to make sure she's Internet-ready...

Public Service Announcement

Happy Birthday St...uh, I mean Pidomon!

I've consulted with The Elders and although 46 does qualify you for "big boy" status, they've confirmed that there's no need to start acting like a grownup just yet.

Hmmm, what's that I smell? Could it be a cake on the way??

Ah, there it is. With many thanks to the (unwitting) original chef, snoozinsukie.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Vehicular Fubariness*

I guess we're overdue for a "Car Trouble" post. I mean, it's been three whole weeks since the timing belt went out on the red car.

So naturally on Wednesday the black car had to throw some sort of bolt or belt in the engine, which in turn did plenty of internal damage before Alex was able to bring the car to a halt. He had it towed and fixed (including a new timing belt...I swear they might as well be siblings) and we got it back on Saturday.

Yesterday Alex insisted we use the newly repaired car for all errands, so that if something was going to go wrong, it would do so before he headed back out to the provinces.

As you can tell by the fact that this post is still ramping up to some sort of punchline, he was wise to so insist.

This time he was within spittin' distance of the house, so he called me and I went down and towed him back here.

See, Alex went out and bought two lengths of this super-heavy rope a few weeks ago, and put one in each car. I really couldn't see us actually using one car to tow the other, but fortuitously opted to keep my trap shut, because since then we have towed each car with the other. Twice, if you count towing the respective disabled vehicles to a suitable overnight location as one, and then getting them each down to the mechanic's the next morning as another.

I'm just worried that the cars have got rivaling crushes on the mechanic. Not that he's not cute, if you like the (probably slightly more than) 17-year-old ragamuffin eyebrow ring type, but frankly I could do with seeing less of him.

* Thanks to Phydeaux for the phrase

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Officially old

Well, it's official.

José won some money this week and wanted to spend a chunk of it on the girls, so I took them all over to the mall after school yesterday.

Someone (probably Alex) had the sense to impose a "no toys" rule, so he got them shoes, clothes and some music CDs they wanted.

Alex put on one of the CDs for them while we had breakfast this morning, and by the time the corn flakes were gone, he and I were in complete agreement:

The stuff kids call music these days? It's just a bunch of noise.


Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Letting the Internet down. Repeatedly.

Two searches that have led to my blog within the past 24 hours:

booger slime cake

wife swaping site
Not "swapping," mind you. "Swaping." Fortunately for our searcher, Google did in fact direct (I'm guessing) him to a post of mine that mentions wife swapping. Unfortunately for (presumably) him, it was a post, not unlike this one, about people finding my blog by searching on the phrase "wife swapping." The post itself did not, in fact, have anything to do with wife swapping at all.

In an additionally unfortunate turn of events for (we figure) him, (let's just say) he never even made it to the almost two-year-old post that originally mentioned a wife swapping party. Although even then it only raised the issue in the context of a short story I was reading at the time.

Well, I guess you could say that the post does kind of discuss wife swapping beyond the scope of the short story. In a way.

But one can still very safely assume that it's not what our Googlers were actually seeking.

Of course, this, today's entry, amounts to yet another layer of frustration for those seeking posts that actually deal with the topic of wife swapping, rather than meta meta analyses of Google results.

Sorry (still assuming) guys. Try, try again.

Monday, October 15, 2007

A drop in the booklet

I didn't sign up for Blog Action Day, but this does seem like an appropriate time to tell you the best recycling idea I've had all year.

Prior to shifting the center of the universe, I went through the file drawer in my desk and got rid of things like the 25-page Terms & Conditions for a lease on an apartment we moved out of four years ago. No offense to the fine folks at The Villages, but their no doubt painstakingly photocopied document is pretty much gonna end up with large hearts drawn on it in red crayon.

Another thing I figured I was ready to let go of was the half-inch thick book of instructions for filling out the 2005 1040. I didn't request or willfully obtain this book, of course; it arrived unbidden on my doorstep (well, gatepost) sometime in early 2006. Its fleeting usefulness has long since fled, so onto the pile of recyclables it went.

Until I had a better idea.

Loren (the Red-Lored Amazon Parrot) spends a lot of time up here in the office with me, most of it sitting on the conveniently perch-shaped back of a barstool I brought up for her. Since the floor is tile, the inevitable evidence that accumulates below her is easily dealt with, usually with a swath of toilet paper.

Or so it used to be. Now, I simply open the IRS publication to a random page and lay it below the stool for her pooping pleasure. When we go back downstairs, the book is sanitarily shut and saved for next time.

Unfortunately, the stool does allow her a rather *ahem* wide stance, and aim is still a bit of an issue, but all in all I'm quite pleased with the results.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Sunday transformations

We started out pretty low-key, with a length-preserving trim for Robin. You can hardly tell the difference, and that's the way she wanted it.

Next up was Julia, who wanted an actual cut, involving shorter hair.

Our final transformation of the day was one that rocked the Universe to its very core, if I do say so myself. If you felt a little off balance today, well, now you know why.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Clown car indeed

Things I have found on my Journey to the Center of the Universe:

  • Two boxes of white baker's chocolate, expiration date: July
  • One box of cinnamon incense
  • Two incandescent light bulbs
  • Ten strings of Turkish evil eye beads
  • One cell phone (okay, that was in my pocket)
  • Six pairs of headphones (five airline, one regular)
  • Five membership cards to establishments located over 2500 miles from here.

*Dives back into the void*

Bonus Anecdote for a Rainy Saturday Night

Alex found it amusing to drop coins down the back of my pants while I crawled around on the floor looking for the source of a leak in his office.

Guess whose job it is to fish the 50 colon coin out of the toilet?

Rain, Clutter, Fashion

I was going around the house closing curtains just now, when I happened to glance at the digital clock and notice it was only 4:30 in the afternoon.

October is our rainiest month, oh yes it is.

So rainy that thick, slimy mold grows on sidewalks outside of gyms where the owners should know better. Thick, slimy mold that shrugs off Crocs like...well, not unlike water off a duck's back, to be honest with you.

I fell on my butt so hard my head hurt for half an hour afterwards. I've never gone to a chiropractor, but if I ever do someday, I bet she says "it looks like you had some sort of a blow to your pelvic region at some point."

In other news, my sewing table has been identified as the new center of the universe, an irresistible gravitational force to which all other objects are drawn. The rest of my office; indeed, the rest of the house, is in fantastic shape, but that poor table is taking the hit.

And finally, the girls just got home with their hair parted on the side, and I have been informed that this is news and must be posted on the Internet.

That is all.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

I am mesmerized

By this picture.

I won't post it directly because that would mean that Robin might see it, and that would mean the end of the world as we know it.

Don't click through if you're squicked out by creepy crawlies, but I just can't stop looking at it. I am enthralled.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Well. It's about TIME.

You know, it's almost surprising, when PriceSmart put up their Christmas aisle the first week of September, and then a week later the ATMs went to green welcome screens with snowflakes and candy-cane lettering proclaiming "December is Here!", that it wasn't until today, *checks calendar* October 10, that I heard a Christmas carol in the grocery store.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

One more thing my kids won't remember that they didn't used to have

So we got Teh Skype.

Internet telephony has come a long way since we first experimented with the big bad hand-held microphone and the green-text-on-black-screen interface of Freetel, lo this long decade ago.

Bought the $4 clip-on mike this week, along with a $20 monitor-top VideoCAM Eye. Downloaded Skype and gave my Dad a call.

The video transfer is about what you'd expect - quality is meh, and movement is blurry and choppy. But it'll be enough to thrill the kids, and we've already figured out that you can pick the thing up and point it at something you want to show the other person - your monitor, for instance, to compare notes on the Skype interface, or the camera's User Manual (no mirror handy and they wondered what the thing looked like), or the view out the window, or the mess on the table behind me, or a nearby parrot.

But the voice quality is better than many of the phone calls we've settled for in the past. Figuring the price was right (¢9/min), we would put up with choppy calls or the occasional delayed transmission, to say nothing of the pain in the arse of actually managing to get through in the first place.

Well, all that is in the past now. Onwards and upwards to free hour-long calls any time. The kids won't be in bed when they hear their stories anymore (hey Mom - once you get a camera, you can show them the pictures...), but I think we can all live with that.

Note to Lisa: You should go back and look at how much you've been spending on your calls to the girls. I wonder if the cost of your calls plus the cost of your dialup might not get you someplace in the general vicinity of the cost of a high speed connection?

Saturday, October 06, 2007

I spy a nascent vegetarian

I'm not a big salad maker. I believe in salads, and feel oh-so-virtuous when I do manage to put one together, but it's certainly not a habit.

Today I had to bring a salad to my quilting get-together, and there weren't that many of us there, so I had leftovers. Yolanda gave me some vegetable soup when I picked up the girls, so I put together the rest of the salad makings to go with it.

I enjoyed it both times, and Alex seemed fine with it. Julia left most of hers.

Robin felt sorry for the sprouts.

Friday, October 05, 2007


Tonight, the Internet sings. We seem to have bullied pidomon into starting a blog.

(Don't mind Kona, BTW. He's harmless.)

(No offense, Kona.)

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Somebody cover me, I'm going in

We've talked about separate rooms for the girls for a long time now.

I had Robin start sleeping downstairs in the playroom (where there's already a guest bed) a few weeks ago, to see how it went, both for her and for Julia.

Julia complained a little that she didn't want to be alone, but in fact did just fine, so the intention has been to make the switch permanent by moving Robin's things downstairs and dividing up the playroom toys between the two rooms.

Thing is, there's so much crap down there that I really wanted to do it myself, when neither of them was home, so as to cull out the lone Barbie arms, legs and torsos, broken plastic bits and stray game pieces that no longer have games to go with them.

Not that I haven't done this before. It's just that when I do, I put everything in a box and keep it for a while, in case something important comes up missing. Then, once a couple of weeks have gone by and everything has been cleared for deletion, invariably some other member of the household spies a box of "toys" in the closet and pulls it out as a diversionary tactic, neatly returning us to Square One.

Anyway, I bought some of those great wire cube shelves at PriceSmart so each of the girls will have a nice, new storage system to go along with her freshly organized and pared-down playthings. A single shelf just for puzzles! Each puzzle in a box! Or plastic bag! As the case may be!

I've been putting off doing it because...well, I doubt anyone needs an explanation. But also because there's some furniture that will need moving, and while I could do the little chest of drawers and probably even the beds by myself, there's one item, made of particle board and taller than me, that it would be foolish to try to do unassisted, what with the plate glass window right at the turn in the stairs.

So Alex is home today, and has one of his helper guys here as well. At the moment the helper guy is scraping rust off the front gate, but clearly the time has come.

I'll be sorting puzzle pieces and Barbie shrapnel today. Anybody care to join me?

Monday, October 01, 2007

A truncated post that is, nevertheless, reasonably complete

Just a quick update - it was, in fact, the timing belt.

I stopped by the shop this morning and the mechanic called his partner to come watch the shop while he came with me up to the restaurant where the car spent the weekend. On the way up, I told him I was taught that the timing belt is something you want to replace on a regular basis because when it goes, it takes other things with it.

He said that it's true a broken timing belt (such as ours) can (and did) cause costly damage, but added that, here, most people (like, apparently, ourselves) don't replace it until it breaks.

People do change their oil here, but other kinds of routine maintenance are, I think, a little less routine. Part of this may be cultural, although I can't really put my finger on what it says about the culture.

One thing that is interesting to me is that I heard once that Costa Rica is one of the most (I think it was the third most) expensive country in the world in which to own a car. If that's even close to being true, the ratings are obviously calculated relative to the local economy or the most expensive countries overall would also be the most expensive in which to own a vehicle.

Anyway, my point is that it is, in fact, very expensive to have a car here, in the sense that our gas is around $4/gallon (while an average income is something like $300/month), the annual vehicle tax is very high, and imported cars (the only kind there are, since they don't make 'em here) are taxed close to 100% duty upon entry.

On the other hand, car insurance and maintenance are both less expensive than in the US. I don't know why the insurance is so reasonable, but the repairs are reasonable because labor is inexpensive here.


I took a few minutes off from writing that to read an E-mail and check in on a comment thread and now that I'm back I have completely lost interest in pursuing that line of thought any farther.

Oh well, I think that was most of what I was going to say anyway.

I'll add only that this is the second time that living on a mountain has worked to our advantage, in that the various mechanics we frequent have their shops downhill from us, which saves on towing if you're willing to be a little inventive and/or brash; two categories into which many Costa Ricans do, in fact, fall.

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