Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Of course, I'm sure finalizing the inventory count will be fun too.

So, it's 9:30 p.m. and I just finished making Jell-O. Turns out Robin's class is learning about the circulatory system tomorrow, see, and...well, I can't claim to know the details, but apparently it requires Jell-O--which you can sort of see, right? I mean, it's red and all--and ice cream which, come on now. That's just pandering to the fourth graders.

I wanna learn about the circulatory system tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Little Bang Theory

Do yourself a favor and stop by my friend Ralph's to enjoy his fabulous photography and excellent writing.

And wish him a happy birthday while you're at it :)

Monday, September 28, 2009

Partial disclosure

So, the girls are back with me for the week. I showed them the expo pictures and gave them their little octagonal paper boxes of candies and let them each pick a promotional pen, and told them about seeing monkeys and a toucan and a morpho butterfly and a big red snake.

I didn't mention that I also put my business card in the box when they started giving stuff away, and won a door prize.

Our corner of the trade fair was focused on green and sustainable stuff, but the expo as a whole was for the tourism and hospitality industry in Manuel Antonio, one of the country's most popular (and highly developed) beaches. More than half of the other stands were hotels and tour operators, and the remaining ones were companies that want to provide products and services to the hotels, like orchids and tee shirts and water purifiers and security and fancy decorated cakes.

The guys in front of us in line at lunch time--when everyone went down to get free samples of Red Bull and steak and coffee and soda and juice (and, for those so inclined, several varieties of alcohol) from the food suppliers' stands down by the pool--were both tour operators - one does a dolphin-spotting day cruise and the other does ATV tours that sound like a lot of fun. (He said the other tour operators were all impressed because this was the first time they'd seen him when he wasn't covered head to toe in mud and dust.)

By the time we reached Manuel Antonio the day before the fair, I had already decided that Bob and I would have to take a trip in the near future. He's been here six months and has yet to A) Go to the beach and B) See a monkey. And the drive down was really pretty, albeit in a "Romancing the Stone" sort of way.

I hadn't been to Manuel Antonio for probably 15 years, and there are a lot of really expensive hotels down there now, but also a few that should be within reach for a night or two - for starters, there's the one our installer stays at when he goes down to work on our systems in the area. I took a walk around the expo at one point and picked up a bunch of hotel and tour brochures, just in case we did get the chance to go back.

And then when they started giving stuff away, I won the dolphin cruise (for two), so that's settled. We have to go back.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Two more pictures from the Expo and one from today

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Where I'm sitting

Friday, September 25, 2009

Hey from the beach

So, we got here just fine. The trip was scenic, although the phrase "very 'Romancing the Stone'" was uttered at least once, in conjunction with glancing out the window on the passenger side and seeing neither pavement nor guardrail (guardrail? Wait, I've heard of those...) nor, particularly, any sort of ground or stopping point on the downhill side of the car.

It's hot but pretty (see below - that's the view from our stand), the cabin we've borrowed from friends of the bosses is simple, comfortable, and also pretty, and the Expo is in the spot and at the time we were expecting, so that's all good. No Internet at the cabin, but we do have access here at the booth.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Off to Manuel Antonio

You know what's not that much fun? Packing.

Let's see. Two overnights at the beach (for work). Too hot for what I usually wear, dressier (Saturday at least) than what I'd normally wear at the beach, possible client visits outside the Expo's just so complicated.

I expect to have Internet access some of the time, so I'll probably be able to post a comment or photo or two (perhaps of the "enduring Cold War relic"), but if not, then I'll see you Sunday.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Six months? Really?

It's true. I looked it up. Bob came to Costa Rica six months ago today.

This afternoon, when he pointed out to me that it was the 23rd (because the power went out for several hours today, as it did the day after he first arrived), I thought it must be five months, but he assured me it was six and it turns out he's right.

Six months is a long time, isn't it? And of course, as these things always go, it feels like it's been both much less than six months, and also like he's just always been here.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Fall break

Sadly, that's not "Fall Break" as in the mid-year vacation, but "Fall. Break." as in, what a bunch of our stuff keeps doing.

I don't suppose we can count the hard drive - although crashing is like falling, right? - but aside from that we've had falling and breaking of a monitor, a coffee press, a (not particularly fragile) travel mug and, were it not for my quick reflexes, very nearly myself on three recent occasions. (Note to self: Crocs have lousy traction on mud. Rain causes mud. Step with care.)

I trust this won't continue throughout the fall season. Hopefully the gravity will level off and things will go back to staying on their designated horizontal surfaces sooner rather than later.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Yes, it's about the car again. I'll try to come up with a better topic tomorrow.

Fifty bucks later, we're back in business.

So, the mechanics made no move to cover the repair in conjunction with the work they've done previously but, to be fair, I could see from what they did and the parts they replaced that it was really a separate issue. And now it's fixed.

I still have a month to get the car reinspected, so I probably won't try to cram it in this week - there's a trade fair at the beach this Saturday, so I'll be out of town and working much of the weekend.

I'm really glad the repair was of the hour-and-a-half and not the day-and-a-half sort, because coordinating car repairs while out of town (and Bob'll be needing it to get to work) would have been pretty headachy.

And the final reason to be glad they were able to go ahead and repair it today: Whether it was the inspection guy under the car, the inspection process itself, or simple coincidence, whatever unleashed this leak, did so decisively; the brake light was on the minute I pulled out of the inspection bay, and the thing went through a half a bottle of brake fluid in a 24 hour period. If they couldn't have fixed it today, we'd have been adding fluid every time we drove it until they could.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

In a nutshell

We finally watched Monsters vs. Aliens and I've gotta say: Eh.

It was nice to see a strong, competent female lead, but other than that the whole thing was much, much more cartoony (in plot and character development, not graphics) than, say, Shrek or Monsters Inc. I mean, it was entertaining enough, but when the blue blob without a brain falling for the plate of Jello is a high point...

We had a nice picnic with friends today - including discovering a whole nother set of picnic shelters farther into the park than we'd been before. They were actually in the woods instead of around the edge of the big, heavily-populated playing fields, so that was nice.

The girls built a cool house out of some random scraps of wood we got at a woodworker's shop in Sarchi one time.

And, that's pretty much Sunday for you. Well, that and we're once again in the market for a monitor - hopefully Craigslist or the like will come through with something as suitable as it did the first time around.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

PHoL update

The car didn't pass the inspection, but not for any of the reasons I worried it might not.

The emissions were close, but the guy told me to hold it at 3000 rpms for a couple of minutes to get it running hotter, and it passed. The brakes apparently passed without a problem, but then the under-car guy found a brake fluid leak that is going to have to be dealt with. Oh well.

The nice thing is, the car is now legal (I get a month from the first inspection date to correct any failures), and the reinspection only costs half as much ($10 instead of the full $20).

I recently had the brake fluid drained and replaced, and also had some work done on the steering, which involved messing with the same area of the car that the leak was found. So possibly the mechanics will go ahead and fix it without charging me more - or not exorbitantly more.

Or, possibly, this will be the first of all those future times I was warned about with the last work I had done: the car has enough rust that if you're going to get into any given spot to fix things, you're probably going to have to repair or replace whatever the part in question is bolted to as well.

So I'm not sure what to expect with the repair, but I'm happy that the rest of the car passed, and also optimistic that getting the leak fixed will finally make my brakes feel like I think they should.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Again with the lists

  • I have an appointment for my annual car inspection tomorrow. I could've sworn it was due in September, but when I checked the sticker it turns out it was actually supposed to be done in August. Oops. I hope it passes; the brakes have been fixed and fixed again, but they still feel a little hard first thing in the morning (go ahead, Steve). Hopefully the drive over - and, for that matter, Bob's use of the car to go to and from work earlier in the day, will get them to their "normal," and even more to the point, hopefully their "normal" is, in fact, perfectly fine.

  • I've been putting the girls off watching Monsters vs. Aliens for days now - not because I don't want to watch it with them, but because I do and it's hard to work that out on school nights. We really must watch it tomorrow.

  • The four of us are going on a picnic with Jan and Dan and one or more other friends this weekend. I hear there's going to be a puppy!

  • I've been playing Scrabble online, via Facebook lately. It's fun and exactly the same as the table version, except for the ability to look every random word up in the dictionary instantly, leading to a higher proportion of stuff on the board that none of the players has actually ever heard of. Each player has up to 24 hours to complete a turn, so time zones aren't an issue. Yesterday I lost to a friend in Germany - curiously, and due to licensing issues, the game is avaialable to everyone in the world except those in the U.S. and Canada.

  • "The sauce of least resistance" is a good phrase. It's pretty self explanatory, and it's what we had for dinner.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

It's educational!

Steve buzzed me this evening to ask Bob and me to help another blogger out by filling out a simple online survey to help her kids' 3/4th grade class can learn about other communities, both in the United States and around the world. I did it, and I know they'd love to hear from any of you as well :)

Also, you know what's cool? Watching kids learn new concepts. I was playing cards with Julia this evening and she was keeping score. She generally adds up the points on the cards by counting the hearts or clubs or whatever on each card. But when it was time to add one hand's score to the running total, she couldn't do that. 29 + 13. She wrote the equation:


She thought about it, and was obviously starting from the left. I don't know if this is how they are learning to do it in school, or whether it's simply her instinct based on reading. So, she came up with "thirty-twelve" - now, she knows that's not actually a number, so she was really surprised when I told her she was right. She thought about it a little longer and determined that "thirty-twelve" is more commonly known as "forty-two."

Later on, she did the same thing again, getting "seventy-leven" for 58+23, and then parsing it to 81.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Oh, bother

This is just six kinds of wrong. Starting with, now I have to make sure not to load (or scroll) my blog while the kids are around for the rest of the week.

Tut, tut. Not funny at all. [snort]

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Something nice

Birds on the Wires from Jarbas Agnelli on Vimeo.

Alternate and links in case Vimeo doesn't play nice. Found via my cousin Sean, who found it at Stumbleupon and posted it to Facebook.

Monday, September 14, 2009

[It might as well be] Friday kitty blogging

No school or work tomorrow, as it is Independence Day. Ergo, it might as well be Friday. And this is my blog, and here is a kitty:

We won't discuss how many pictures of her back I ended up with, in the course of getting these.

The very definition of "good sport"

My sister read the following text (supplied by Robin) out loud, with startling accuracy, during her Skype call to the girls, just because they asked her to.

I'm told it's a lot more fun to listen to than to perform, and I believe it must be, because it's totally fun to listen to. It sounds like a turntable mix of the Swedish Chef.


Sunday, September 13, 2009

Minute 2:00 is the best part

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Today in things that make me want to look at a map to see if perhaps San Rafael lies on a direct line between Panama and Honduras

We've had rather more US Army AH-64 Apache* attack helicopters flying directly over the house this week than you usually see in a quiet suburb of Heredia.

* Or possibly AH-1 Cobras, which is Bob's theory.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Yup. I'm going to talk about the weather. Sorry.

I think the rainy season is finally back.

We're supposed to have two seasons: rainy for about seven months, and dry for the other five. And during the rainy season (Mayish through Novemberish), there's a two-week dry spell in July. It generally coincides nicely with the schools' two-week mid-semester break (their "summer" vacation runs from Christmas through early February).

This year, though, the "Little Summer of San Juan" never went away.

It's been fairly nice for day-to-day living (although it got really really hot for a while there), but I'm sure it's not at all nice for, you know, nature and farmers and stuff.

Anyway, things seem to be getting back to normal, which I can only assume is a good thing. We even had that tremor the other day, which tends to happen around season-changing times. I heard from someone recently that meteorologists or climatologists or whoever are saying this is expected to keep happening, more and more each year, until eventually we have four seasons per year here: two rainy alternated with two dry. Again, it's hard to imagine a sudden shift like that could be any kind of a good thing for the natural order of things.

I'll be interested to see what October is like; always the rainiest month, some years it's just a bit rainier than the other months, and some years you start googling for ark-building supplies by halfway through it. Will I manage an "I'm sick of the rainy season" post before the year is out? Only time will tell.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Let it be known

That on this day, the 10th of September, 2009, at 3:19 p.m., I did see the first Christmas tree of the season, and yea it was very large.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Twenty years ago today

September 9, 1989 was my first full day in Costa Rica.

I came here because, following my year in Kenya, Costa Rica seemed more manageable (read: closer to the United States, both geographically and culturally) than my originally-planned year in Japan. (A bit of backstory can be found here, for any what needs it.)

In other words, I came to Costa Rica more because of what it was not, than because of any particular thing that it was.

I'm not sure I actually knew much of anything about Costa Rica when I arrived, except that it was in Central America, and that the language was Spanish (of which I spoke 10 words).

Well, and I'm also pretty sure I knew it wasn't an island.

I certainly didn't expect to stay, settle, marry, divorce, have children here. Not that I had any idea about where, when or with whom I might eventually do those things, but I most definitely didn't think it would be here.

When people ask how long I've been here, and I tell them, they always ask if I "like it here," or remark that I must like it.

Which is funny. I guess some people do have strong feelings about where they live, but I tend to like some things about any given place, and dislike others, and you just live where you live. The various circumstances of my life to date being what they are, I happen to live here.

In today's world of relatively affordable air travel and email and VOIP and blogs and digital cameras and whatnot, the distance really isn't the thing. The culture is different, sure. Sometimes that seems like a non-issue after all these years, and sometimes it doesn't.

Culture was certainly an issue in my marriage, but not in the way you (any given one of "you") might imagine. There are ways in which it is easier to be with someone from another culture, because you don't expect them to share your assumptions or ways of doing things on every point.

On the other hand, some of those assumptions and ways of doing things may be deeply ingrained or very important to one or the other partner, and sticking points may crop up in unexpected spots.

I do appreciate the shared cultural cues and points of reference (and language) of being in a relationship with someone who grew up in the same country I did, but I think it would be a mistake to attribute too much significance to culture in either case.

Actually, assessing the affect of culture on relationships is rather like trying to express whether or not I "like" living in Costa Rica - no answer I would be inclined to give would do justice to the depth of the question, and most people who ask aren't looking for that much detail anyway.

(By the way, this year's post is all about me, but September 9 is still many things to many people. [Also, and unrelatedly, in looking for those two links, I happened across this post (and its follow up) from three years ago. It is amusing.])

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

This evening: A haiku in the present tense

Beat Bob at Scrabble
Protect pizza from the cat
Wait while Torchwood loads

Monday, September 07, 2009

Long day

It's been a long day - no holiday here (although we do have one next week); in fact I got wrapped up in a project and stayed later than usual today - enough to put me into horrendous rush hour traffic. And I've been busy at home as well, so I'll leave you with a quick "far from home" sighting of the day: A car with a dealer badge from "His & Hers Auto Sales, Zebulon, NC."

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Got one

Well, not a do-over, exactly, but the damage has been contained.

The drive is probably toast, but Bob's brother had made him a bootable Linux CD that saved the day. You can boot from the disc on any computer and try out the operating system without installing anything at all.

My HD-less computer was looking for things to boot from, so I fed it the disc, which booted up fine.

I didn't know when I tried it whether A) The hard drive would be accessible at all, and B) Linux would be able to see files on a Windows-formatted drive, but the answer to both questions turned out to be a very happy Yes.

And Bob has a 16-GB memory stick, and it only took two trips up and down with that, and now all my files are safe on a combination of these two computers - turns out this new one only has a wee little hard drive, so all my stuff wouldn't even fit on it.

So now I need to acquire a new hard drive - we've already discovered that I can get about twice the Gigs for about half the price if I bring one in from the States (assuming the bringing itself doesn't get too costly), but I can also get one here if I get too impatient.

So: Long day, happy ending.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

I want a do-over

So we had a massive lightning strike in the neighborhood and of course the power went out. The two computers downstairs just shut off, because they have surge protection but no power backup.

My computer didn't shut off, but my UPS only offers about a minute of power; just enough to save and quit and shut down, which I did.

Guess which one got fried?

Seems my computer no longer feels that it has a hard drive. Best we can figure, it was probably the cable itself. The Internet comes in by cable, and it goes through a modem and a router before it gets to the computer. But before any of that, there's a splitter to divide off the cable TV part of the cable. And that goes directly into the analog capture card so we can watch TV on the computer. Which I've done maybe six times, ever.

I don't rely on stuff on the hard drive on a day-to-day basis, but I had years' worth of old photos and documents on there. I know who to ask locally if they can salvage any of it, and of course we've got the new computer down here, but come on.

I guess it has been over two weeks since I had to spend any money on the car...

Friday, September 04, 2009

It's a bullet-point sort of evening

  • There is a plastic bag of orange plastic squares at work that looks so much like processed cheese that they decided to keep it in the refrigerator.

  • The virtual turtles on my iGoogle page love me. The virtual tree frog on my iGoogle page loves flies.

  • There's a tiny gecko in my bedroom. This makes me happy.

  • There's a new burger stand in the neighborhood, and we tried it today. It's a 5 minute walk away, very small, very clean, very friendly, with reasonable prices. The food was okay.

  • Julia picked the first guava of the year from the tree at school today. The principal turned it into a special event.

  • Robin got 104 on her Spanish test.

  • The joke of the moment is as follows:

    Q: Why did Tigger stick his head in the toilet?
    A: He was looking for Poo[h].

    You're welcome.

  • Special bonus joke (from a different moment):

    Q: What's brown and sticky?
    A: A stick.

Thursday, September 03, 2009


Letter to the editor titled, "Do something of importance instead of writing letters."

Alrighty then.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Twice is probably enough

Two days in a row, that is, of dropping the girls off at school in the morning and then not being able to start the car when I get back into it.

The first day, I messed with the battery contacts and it started up okay.

The second day I actually tightened the one contact that was loose to the touch, and then it didn't start. The "hey, Stupid, your keys are in the ignition and your door is open" chime came back on, but the car still wouldn't start.

My nice Nicaraguan neighbor who works on cars was dropping his son off too, saw me with the hood open, and came over to help. He messed with the contacts while I tried to start the car and it worked. (I do like me a small town.)

My working theory is that the loose contact prevented the battery from charging adequately while I drove the day before. I'm not sure how that theory fits in with the car-starting-on-the-second-try part of it, but I guess we'll find out tomorrow morning.

(Interesting side note: I stopped and started the car a bunch of times in the 24 hours between the two incidents. Maybe there's a force field around the school and I should just park around the corner.)

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

The neighborhood scoop

Our neighbor in the intervening house (between where we currently live and where we would like to live) knows the family that moved out and came back, and today I finally had a chance to ask her what happened.

She says the place they were all lined up to move into turned out to be horrible in an unspecified way; so bad that they turned around and came back. I gather the utilities were cut off (which is unusual here - water & power are normally in the owner's name and any quarrel over the bill has to be resolved or [not infrequently] absorbed by the owner when the tenants move on...but either way nobody would stand for moving into the place if the utilities are suspended because the only way to get them back would be to pay someone else's, probably considerable, bill.) And some other even less-specific things happened, including something possibly even vaguely threatening, and they turned around and came back. Happily, the landlord (who also owns the intervening house, which is its reverse twin) is a nice guy and had no reason to object to having the house inhabited for a bit longer.

My neighbor says the family is still looking to move, and is on a waiting list for some other place, so hopefully something suitable will open up for them, which will open up their suitable house for us. She'll let me know when she hears anything, and next time it looks like things might be moving, I'll go to the owner (who has a jewelry shop between here and town) and offer to put down a deposit so he won't be tempted if anyone else shows up.

I told the girls the whole story when they came back to me after school yesterday. Of course they recognize that it's another step for Bob and me, and that may take a little getting used to when the time comes, but overall they're very much in favor of it. The prospect of their own rooms and 24/7 access to the cat haven't hurt at all, and there's been lots of talk about who will get which bed and which room and what shelves and such.

It already seems very real to me; I can picture us all in there so easily (and I've never even been in farther than the living room) that I won't be surprised if it does come together in the fairly near future - a few weeks or a month or two, hopefully.

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