Fri May 30 07:23:15 CST 2008 Yesterday we went on a river tour of the Palo Verde reserve, and we had dinner at Spices. The last few nights I have had strange dreams, but I don't really remember what they were. There are all kinds of synapses firing in my brain. In the future, I would like to remember them.
Wed May 28 16:16:34 CST 2008 Cheap sandals suck. My footwear is not supposed to eat my foot. The restaurants are just a block from our apartment. When I got home I washed my feet and treated them with Neosporin.
Wed May 28 14:29:56 CST 2008 I had a missed connection with my wife today. After waiting well past the appointed hour, I left a note where I would be, and took off for Caracola. My imagination went wild, and I recalled a few incidents with my Ex. My Ex had abandonment issues, and we always had difficulty communicating. Once, when I went to the unemployment department, expecting to be about an hour, and I took three hours, a policeman intercepted me on the way back out of the building. He had found my Ex crying, in trauma, a few blocks away. She always knew I would leave her, and one day I finally did. I gave her plenty of advance notice, and made it as gentle as possible, but still, her abandonment became real. I only hope she found a way to relate to men better than she did to me, and that she has worked out those issues to find a happier, more secure life. Even though I left her, I always loved her and I always will. She could never understand that while we were living together. Just before I met Margaret, her mother was abandoned by a tour group in Jerusalem. Her mother had suffered a stroke, and the group left her at a Russian Orthodox monastery. Margaret was summoned to make the trip to bring her mother back to the U.S. I know Margaret is premium quality, a first-class woman. Even so, as I ate my lunch at Caracola, I watched to make sure she would be at her next appointment on time. I miss our cell phones, and I miss the internet. Watching this rain come down gives me plenty of time to entertain random thoughts. I did take the time to get into the Pacific Ocean this afternoon. The water is definitely warm here. It's fascinating how fast the sand drops off into the bay as it leaves the shore. The waves break right at the edge of the water. After her massage, Margaret shared all the news of the day, and she enjoyed feeding a cat little ham tidbits. The cat became our friend for the duration of the meal.
Wed May 28 10:59:50 CST 2008 --------------- Spirula Four stars * * * * --------------- This is a busy walk-in snack bar near the pool. They have nachos and hot wings out all the time, you just step up to the table and serve yourself. They also have tables, and you can order pizza, salads, and hamburgers here. Sometimes it's too busy to get a table, and at other times it's almost empty. Yesterday afternoon Margaret came home and decided that I needed a little fat to drive away the hangover. She took me over to Spirula, where we sat with some other people she knew. I ordered a personal pizza with bologna, pepperoni, and mushrooms, and she ordered the turkey burger. Tea for her, Coke for me. It was all delicious. The cheeze on the pizza was thick and stringy. The bologna and pepperoni complemented each other perfectly. While we were sitting at Spirula, I noticed a squirrel munching on the seeds of a tree next to the restaurant. It had a white face, a black spine, white down either side of the spine, and a soft light brown over its shoulders, legs, and belly. The black and white pattern extended down the tail. I knew we would see unusual wildlife, but to see a squirrel reinterpretd was an eye-opener. Even those things I think I know will be seen with a new twist here. --------------- Faisanela Five stars * * * * * --------------- A business associate made a reservation for 12 of us, at the early seating at 6 pm. The staff was ready for us at 6:05 pm, and five of us took a seat. The rest of the party was celebrating a birthday, and showed up about 20 after, when we were just giving up the wait and ordering our appetizers. The staff went along with all the changes in plan. My appetiser was a caprese salad, that is sliced tomatoes and cheese, with a basil leaf on the side. They had a little bit of pepper in the oil and vinegar, which added a nice touch to the flavor. For the entree, Margaret ordered veal scallopine, and I ordered the daily special, prawns on fettucine with "aurora" sauce, a mix of red and white sauces. Both the veal and the prawns were delicious, and the aurora sauce tasted terrific. I drank water for dinner, but Margaret enjoyed the white wine. The desserts we ordered were banana cake and tiramisu. Neither of them were variants that we recognized, but both of them were light and delicious. During dinner a character dressed as the Phantom of the Opera entered the room, slowly rounded the tables, and gave each woman present a rose. Conversation drifted between business and personal topics, and we chatted until 8:40 pm, when the waiter gingerly reminded us they had to clear the table for the second seating at 9 pm.
Wed May 28 09:46:11 CST 2008 It's raining pretty steadily this morning. A cormorant is resting in the pond in the middle of the resort. The hummingbird came by for his breakfast at our balcony around 8:00 am. The multi-colored squirrels are out foraging. Birds are actually entering the Mitra and picking scrambled eggs off the serving spoon. There is life all around us. The forest smells different with each mood. Yesterday, after a bright hot hour, when it started raining again, the forest smelled like vegetation. Rot, even. It was very heavy. This morning, with the wind up and the rain falling again, it smells fresh. Almost chlorinated. The housekeeper is busy cleaning up our apartment. She has come by every day, sometimes at nine, sometimes at noon. She is a very industrious lady. They speak a different kind of Spanish here, than is spoken in the Mission district in San Francisco. They use the diminutive familiar for everything except themselves. "Tocino" becomes "tocinetta." But they are formel when they speak to each other. I am Mr. Dull, and Margaret is Mrs. Dull, no matter how many times she reminds them she is a Shebalin. We are in Macho Country. The staff is very courteous, and as they shift around between their assignments, they remember us and greet us by name. When I shout across the walk, "Buenas dias," they shout back "¡La!" It took me a few times hearing this to understand they were saying "¡Hola!" The accent is properly on the second syllable. The bartenders at the Triton swim-up bar were at the company do the other night, and after one or two orders they knew in advance that I would be asking for a rum and Coke. A hostess that took our reservation at the Agave Azul the other night said "Good morning, Mr. Dull" to me at Mitra this morning. The croupier in the casino, seeing how inebriated I was the other night, warned me that the rules for craps can get very complicated. --------------- Jazz Casino www.casinojazz.com Four stars * * * * --------------- It's an intimate little casino down in the commercial area between the cabanas and the restaurants. Several blackjack tables, which are always busy, a craps table that is usually busy, a row of Vegas-style slot machines, and a row of Vegas-style videogame machines. There are couches and coffee tables, and there are restrooms inside the building. The staff is courteous, and when the change starts moving from your pocket to the tables or the machines, they make sure you have a drink in your hand. The first night we were there, the resort had a power problem. There were quite a few fluctuations, and on each fluctuation the videogame machines would blank out for a couple of minutes. When they came back on, they came back to exactly the same state as they had before they lost power. I can guess there are eeproms or asics in there, keeping track of every button push and display. --------------- Triton Bar Five stars * * * * --------------- This is the swim-up bar at the general swimming pool (there are reserved pools for people paying for Royal Service and Family Concierge elsewhere). The guys open promplty at 10:00 am, rain or shine, and handle all customers with ease. There is a set of seats in the swimming pool, and a set of seats on the deck. Always smiling, always hustling, the bartenders make sure everyone is happy. There is nothing quite like sipping on a rum and Coke and watching women in bikinis playing water volleyball. Once I walked up to the bar and asked whether they had any fresas. The bartender asked what I would like, and I suggested limon. "Just limon?" he asked, a laugh pressing up against his lips. Recognizing that I would have to specify suger, I switched tacks. "What do you have?" I asked. "How about fruit?" he suggested. When I approved, he made me a smoothie with pineapple and banana in it. It was, to say the least, delicious. Wireless; At breakfast this morning the couple in the timeshare across the walk told us about their internet access. It appears that she got a good signal last night, and that she was on the net for over an hour. After I got back from breakfast, I gave it a try. Although the net provisioned my laptop, there was no routing and no login page. I called the front desk to find out if there were instructions I hadn't received, and the clerk told me the net was down at the moment. That's 0 in 2 now.
Tue May 27 00:02:27 CST 2008 NUTS. You are not expected to understand this. I am in Central America, away from your petty standards and cultural biases. I am allowed to examine my culture extraculturally. Travel broadens the mind. I am busy discovering who I am, and if you think it has anything to do with you, you're wrong. Really. I am 56 years old. 56 trips around the sun, thank you very much. I have been insightful enough to arrive committed to my bride, and to look at what happens around me and within me. I spent the evening listening to the standard presentation of a group that is interested in investing. They are networking, looking for opportunities, going somewhere. Bottom line: they have to discover what they love. What the heck do I love? I'm not inclined to make ever increasing millions. I'm interested in personal relationships. So I am pressed to ask my beloved, what is in it for me? Where do these new relationships appear? Will we all be multimillionaires? Will we simply be a bunch of people who happened to be in the same place at the same time? Does net worth have any meaning in the scheme of Life? I want to relate. I want to know that I am meaningful. I want to know that when I am gone, someone will miss me. I want to know that my impact will last more than a generation. Is that too ambitious? What does it mean? I am NOT monogamous. I am NOT polygamous. I am NOT your label. No matter what label you approach with, hoping to apply it. I am NOT useful, funny, cool, monogamous, polygamous, polyamorous, romantic, stoic, pragmatic, democratic, republican, libertarian, your mother's maiden name, a duck, anything. I am me. I want to know what that means. Is there a way in which I can explore it?
Mon May 26 15:47:14 CST 2008 --------------- Nasua Convenience Two stars * * --------------- I know we're a captive market, but $26.40 for a 230 ml (10 oz.) spray bottle of Hawaiian Tropic Sport sunblock? That's not nice. Alkaline AA Duracells are more reasonable, though, at $3 a pair.
Mon May 26 09:43:47 CST 2008 The cabanas here have chains hanging from the roof gutters to the ground drains, instead of a pipe. My initial thought was that the chains must guide the water from the gutter to the drain, but upon watching the rain yesterday, I found they don't. The slightest breeze drives the water away from the chain, and even with no breeze the water falls randomly, mostly missing the drain. We learned a little Spanish at breakfast, even though we're not here to study it. We asked the hostess at Mitra the Spanish word for rain, and she told us it was "lluvia." Then she offered that "Lluviende" means "It is raining." At the table, when the waiter asked me how I was today, I said "I am happy." Then I asked if the Spanish word for happy was "alegre," and he informed me that it was "feliz." "Tengo feliz, or estoy feliz?" I asked. He said it would be "Estoy feliz." So, there is a metaphysical dimension to Spanish. They "Tengo hambre," but they "Estoy feliz." They do not identify with hunger, but they do identify with happiness.
Mon May 26 09:01:15 CST 2008 Another rainstorm started at 3pm, and the rain continued until this morning around 9:00 am. The resort has standard blue and white umbrellas for the guests, and at Mitra this morning there was a stand to store the umbrellas as we entered the restaurant. It didn't matter which one we picked up on the way out; they were all the same! --------------- Agave Azul Five stars * * * * * --------------- The web site and the handout materials from the concierge indicated we needed reservations at Agave Azul. They also had a dress code, which included trousers, but no bluejeans. Covered shoes were required. We are in the off season. When I arrived at Agave Azul, the restaurant was still empty. Even when we left two hours later, the restaurant was only half full. Men were seated with shorts and sandals. I turned out to be the best-dressed male customer, and Margaret overheard a woman at another table commenting on how "attractive" I looked. The staff was some of the friendliest and most accommodating I have ever seen. I was given a menu while I waited for Margaret to show up from the conference center; we were immediately handed a wine list when we were seated. My Lady ordered sopa de mare for her appetizer, and shrimp tacos for the entree. I ordered rib eye tacos for my appetizer, and shrimp tamarindo for the entree. The rib eye was grilled medium, and was as good as any I've had in San Francisco. The shrimp were slightly hot, with lime balancing the tamarind for a clean taste. The wine list had both premium wines that went up to $140.00 a bottle to the free stuff that came with the resort package. Since I had discovered Concha y Toro at breakfast, we decided to try their wines with dinner. We ordered their chardonnay with the appetizer and their merlot with the entree. The chardonnay was fruity, and the merlot was heady. Both were competent wines, suitable for table fare. The waiter recited the dessert section of the menu. My Lady selected flan, and I chose tequila pie, which the waiter had quoted as key lime pie. This wasn't any key lime pie I had seen before. It was a little cupcake of a pie, about 3cm across, with a flaky crust and a delicate cream topping. Margaret's flan wasn't like a flan we would find in San Francisco, it was more like a cheesecake. The staff neglected to bring us another glass of wine after we were finished with dessert, which we took as an opportunity to head for the theater nearby. We gave an "excellent" rating for the service, and a "excellent" rating for the food, to the hostess. Outside, the hostess invited us to do some infused tequila shots. The tequila came from Mexico, but the infusions were done here in Costa Rica. Margaret downed a glass of cherry tequila, and I slammed a coffee tequila. --------------- Theater Candil Four stars * * * * --------------- It was only 8:00 pm, and the "mini disco" for kids was on at the Paradisus Theater, a.k.a. Theater Candil. The emcee had the kids performing a kind of musical chairs, wherein the children were required to fetch something and bring it back to the stage. As the children were out finding things, a shoe, a watch, a napkin, the stage assistant would remove a chair. Each child was sent off the stage to a round of applause as they were eliminated. The emcee said everything in English and Spanish, interchanging languages sentence by sentence. When she was down to two children, a boy and a girl, the emcee changed the rules of the game. The boy and girl were outfitted with a pair of swim fins and a mask. Two tables came out, and on them 20 rubber fish were deposited. Two plastic buckets were placed at the edge of the stage. The children were told to start at the buckets, go to the tables, pick up a fish with their teeth on each pass, return to the bucket, and drop the fish in their own bucket. The game would end when all the fish were off the tables. The girl started with deliberation, keeping her fins flat, and immediately began to make headway. Nothing distracted her, she moved steadily until her table was cleared, and resumed when the emcee encouraged her to keep going. She started clearing the boy's table without further hesitation. The boy tried to run as if he were wearing shoes, and spent half the time picking himself up off the stage. Every ten steps or so he would fall over again. He kept smiling, and he kept rushing on. The girl won, 11 to 9. It was still only 8:30 pm, but we were tired. We went to bed, and missed the "Pura Vida" show for adults. This morning I heard some comments about a conference exercise yesterday, "Speed Networking." There were a lot of people who were presenting their projects, and trying to find investors. Margaret found that if she dropped the idea of trying to get investors for her project, and concentrated on being present and listening to the other person, she got a lot more out of the interview. I thought, perhaps most of the people had thought the rules had changed, and were trying to see who could collect the most fish. This morning, I woke up with Yelp withdrawal. My dreams were about Yelpers in San Francisco. I don't really have a personal relationship with them, in the classic sense. At most, I've had a few drinks with them at happy hour. Yet I found myself wondering how they were and what they were doing now. It's only been one weekend, they are probably doing exactly what they did last week.
Sun May 25 16:14:18 CST 2008 The thunderstorm that started at noon lasted until 2 pm. I met Margaret and her fellow conventioneers for lunch at Mitra, and they were happy to let me in without asking for my room number. The marlin was especially tasty today. --------------- Cafeteando Two stars * * --------------- Cafeteando is a concession on the resort that sells cigars, coffee, and internet access. Coffee was $2.50 for most drinks, and nobody in the cafe was drinking any coffee. It's free elsewhere on the resort. There are a lot of computers in here, and they have wifi. They have a regressive internet rent schedule, that starts at $2.00 for the first 10 minutes and slowly backs down to $5.00 an hour. It only took me $2.00 to figure out they don't have a reliable internet connection. Every few pages the network started reporting errors on all the computers in the cafe. I don't know whether I will try them again later in the week; it was almost empty when I tried them today. I also tried, just for curiosity, to get a page back at the room. There was a net, and it provisioned my laptop, but there was no routing and no login page. Later this evening Margaret told me the net went down at the conference center this afternoon, about the same time as the net was down at the cafe.
Sun May 25 11:27:11 CST 2008 --------------- Delta Airlines Three stars * * * --------------- OK, here's a birthday success story. Margaret noticed on our seat reservations the annotation, "silver elite." Neither of us knew what the privileges of "silver elite" were, so we let it slide. Now, the overnight flight had been pretty uncomfortable. At the gate, waiting for our flight to Costa Rica, we heard the clerk announce a business-class upgrade for $150 per person. "Now, this is not negotiable! I know that's going to be your next question," the clerk announced. After some debate, Margaret and I decided to buy the upgrade. When Margaret showed her seat confirmations, the clerk said, "Silver elite should have been upgraded automatically. You should have been upgraded in San Francisco!" Our upgrades to business class were free. We entered the 757, and I was sitting in my nice, wide, leather seat at exactly 9:39 am, my birth minute. We told the flight attendant about it, and she handed us both a mimosa. YES! I AM elite. In Liberia Margaret's bags were the first off the plane, and our driver was waiting for us right outside the terminal. We were at the resort in no time. Along the way, our driver offered us some refreshment, and I tried Imperial, "la cerveza de Costa Rica." Imperial reminded me of Tres Equis. I noticed that most of the houses and schools by the road were open, with open doors and windows. No electricity appeared to be used to cool the average home. Check-in at the resort was a breeze, and on a second check, the receptionist discovered that our room was ready. --------------- Caracola Four stars * * * * --------------- We decided to explore the resort a bit. Our first meal was at Caracola, an open-air buffet next to the swimming pool. I started with white rice and black beans, dished out separately. Some fresh shrimp and some baked sweet potato came next, and I added some beef and some barbecued pork. The sweet potato was very much like a regular potato, and the barbecued pork was perfect. The beef was too tough, at my first meal there, although it has been perfect since then. (Update: Mon May 26, 2008 The lamb stew was delicious. I tried the steamed carrots wrapped in bacon! DELICIOUS! Ed M. would be happy!) The staff was friendly, and spoke excellent English. I kept in mind that even though their English was better than my Spanish, this was their country, and I should do my best to communicate in Spanish. I regretted not picking up a dictionary and a phrase book before we left. After dinner, we tried looking around for the conference center. We had been given an old map at reception, and we climbed the hill to the old conference center location. The old conference center and the old casino had a beautiful view, but they were locked and full of furniture storage. We went back to the registration desk, and as Margaret registered for her conference, I picked up a couple of "new maps." We were just off the plane, and not ready for the heat. Wandering around the resort turned out to be exhausting. We knew that we would have to reserve our judgement of the place until we had been rested. I slept straight through from 5 pm until 7 am the next morning. In the morning the air was much cooler. We sat on the patio, and watched the birds. A hummingbird fed on the flowers by the front porch. A white egret wandered up the creek by the yard. A number of birds fed on a nearby hill in the golf course. --------------- Mitra Four stars * * * * --------------- Breakfast was at Mitra, another buffet that is one of the gateways to the restaurant complex. I had my first plate of pico de gallo, a mix of beans and rice. I also discovered Concha y Toro champagne from Chile was waiting for me. No need to make a mimosa, champagne is fine for me! We took a shuttle ride to the new conference center, and after I left Margaret to her business, I resumed my exploration of the resort. Back on the hill with the old conference center, I discovered that iguanas were quite common here. As I tried to photograph a noisy bird, I took care not to scare it away. I shouldn't have bothered -- the bird followed me all the way up the hill. Back at the swimming pool, I asked one of the bartenders for a Bavaria negra. After he told me they were out, he actually found "the last one" and gave it to me. On the side of the can was the following inscription: Bavaria Dark presenta una cuidadosa combinacion que equilibra perfectamenta las maltas negra y caramelo con el leve amargor del lupulo para crear una cerveza de gran atractivo visual y sabor. After clarifying the word lupulo with the bartender, this is how I think it translates: Bavaria Dark presents a careful blend that perfectly balances the dark malts and caramel with the flower of hops to realize a beer of great visual and taste appeal. I also took a walk out on the beach. There is a huge open-air bazaar that caters to the resort guests right outside the beach gate. A gentleman took a great effort to make sure I knew all his offerings, including horseback riding, ATV riding, a boat tour of a nearby nature preserve, and both deep-sea and half-day fishing trips. The beach is lined with trees, which shelter tents, roads, and the vendors' trucks. Behind the roads is the stone wall, just one meter high, delineating the boundary of the resort. After a couple of very hot hours in the morning, cumulus gathered overhead, creating natural shade in the sky. A thundershower broke out at high noon.
Sat May 24 07:31:03 EDT 2008 What a night. Even though the 767 had extra leg room, thanks to Margaret booking seats in the "premium seating" section, I still felt like I spent the night sitting in a dining chair. We made it in four hours, arriving just at 6:00 am EDT. In the middle of this short night we whiled away a couple of hours playing Inflight Trivia. It was a multiplayer game, in which we could see other players' guesses and scores, with a winner for each round of 10 questions. I found that not liking sports, not having a TV, and not keeping up with the music scene handicapped me severely. My correct answer rate was about 25%. There was another player, PAUL, about 12 rows behind us, who knew a good percentage of the answers, read the questions quickly, and responded fast enough to rack up high scores. I wanted to go back and congratulate him, but in the dark the aircraft aisles were full of feet, elbows, and shoes. --------------- ATL Five stars * * * * * --------------- Atlanta International had steamy windows; it was humid here. The airport was laid out in a long, straight line, with the concourses branching off like a giant fish skeleton. After sitting in a chair for four hours, we decided to walk the 4,000 feet from Concourse A to Concourse E. The tunnel was very sci-fi. The moving sidewalks sped things up a bit, but the last one, between Concourses D and E, was turned off. Anyway, the walk did us good, and we never had to go through a security checkpoint during our transfer. In Concourse E we found a big food court. We assembled breakfast from three concessions: Line 1: McDonald's. Egg McMuffin for $2.56. Line 2: Nature's Table Bistro. Side of scrambled eggs for $2.13. The menu looked a lot like McDonalds, but there was a steam table up front where they assembled the orders. Margaret's scrambled eggs came from this steam table. Line 3: Caribou Coffee. A single latte, a green jasmine tea, and a muffin for $7.00. --------------- McDonald's Two stars * * --------------- --------------- Nature's Table Bistro Two stars * * --------------- --------------- Caribou Coffee Three stars * * * --------------- The egg McMuffin was a little dry, even though it was cooked and assembled before my eyes. Margaret said the scrambled eggs tasted like they had been powdered. Her muffin was just wrong. The tea and the latte were perfect. Stick to the beverages. Oh yes! Happy birthday to me!
Fri May 23 21:31:28 PDT 2008 Today I canceled the GoDaddy domain for Optimystics. We don't need ambiguity around that name. The corporation has been dissolved, and it's time to do business under another name. After we get back from Costa Rica, I'll work out a new arrangement. --------------- GoDaddy.com Four stars * * * * --------------- GoDaddy has excellent service and great prices. A domain name costs $9 a year, and hosting with LAMP costs about $3 a month. Hosting with MS Windows costs a little more. Its front page and customer service page are hard to navigate, though. They try to put too many links in front of your face at one time, and it takes a Sherlock Holmes to find the one to cancel a service. They also have a telemarketing franchise that I find a little bit annoying. We're off! I hear that writing for 15 minutes a day will make me a writer, so here is my new fresh start. We are on a working vacation. Margaret will be learning about new investment opportunities, and I will be working on my tan. We're flying into Liberia international, in Costa Rica. Neither of us have been there, so it will be a new experience for both of us. We were packed and ready to go at 2:00 this afternoon. After lazing around a bit, washing all our clothes, and washing our dishes, and after Margaret had finished reading Eckhard Tolle's "New Earth," I invited her to go out for coffee with me. We dropped in at Starbucks across the street, and I recognized both the people behind the counter. It's a college hangout, and the staff turns over fairly quickly, but these two ladies have been here for over two years. I made sure they knew I appreciated seeing them. Starbucks has an eclectic set. If you go down to Cafe Abir, you will see Macs everywhere. At Starbucks each person is working on a different brand of laptop, and it is interesting to see how many different manufacturers are in business. Although Margaret and I talked a bit loudly, the students didn't seem to mind. Each was deeply involved in his or her own composition. For many of them, this is finals week, and everything has to be wrapped up immediately. We walked down to Divisadero and back, admiring the trim on the Victorians and noticing which buildings were for sale. It would be nice to own a bigger piece of San Francisco some day. I talked incessantly, and Margaret asked whether the coffee was taking effect. "Coffee? What coffee? I don't remember drinking any coffee," I rambled jokingly. --------------- ExecuCar Five stars * * * * * --------------- The driver for ExecuCar called promptly at 7:20 pm. He was waiting down the street. Most drivers have to learn where our front door is, because the address is misleading. The Town Car smoothly brought us to SFO, and check-in was a breeze. Dinner at Perry's! Margaret had a Cobb salad and chips, with green tea. I had spaghetti with meatballs, and a Coke. Margaret insisted I wear the napkin, and although I thought there was no splash, we did see some tomato sauce on the napkin when I was done. Good Margaret! We'll be in Atlanta tomorrow morning. I'll be in my original time zone for my birth minute. That's my 15 minutes for today. This will be just like going to the gym.