Alligators 'n Roadkill

Alligators 'n Roadkill
On The Road


Thursday, December 30, 2010

A confession of sorts…….

"Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that 'my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.'" - Isaac Asimov

I confess that I read the online most every day. I know that Jay is not the world's most professional journalist, and he does not employ the most conscientious of journalists to write for his electronic rag, but where he really gets my goat is in his selection of letters from his readers, where they freely express their opinions. I know that he likes (as would any responsible newspaper person) to see controversy stirred up, so as to stimulate people's thinking and get them talking. But, from my perspective he has a tendency to publish the stupidest, most insipid letters, and then chooses not to publish the responses that you know he gets to those letters. OK, maybe this is my sensitive feelings because it seems like he pretty much ignores all of my responses, no longer publishing any of them, and only acknowledges my responses to these letter with an occasional email, pointing out where he thinks I have it wrong. Be that as it may, I no longer bother sending him anything, since it makes no sense to waste the time I spend on it.

However, just today I was going to really go off on a Mr. Colborn, because his letter is nothing more than a rant from a professional victim, but then I saw the second letter Jay published today, from an Alana Shaffer, of Sardinal. All bets are off. No contest, this lady's letter is screaming for somebody to try to set her straight, even though I know this is not a reasonable goal, since she is most likely a card-carrying, paid-up-member of the Flat Earth Society. But, here goes, anyway:

Please, lady, cite for us just one legitimate scientific study that supports your misinformed beliefs. I know that she likely does not believe in science, while she blithely goes on watching television, and movies, talking and texting, taking her medicine and her 'supplements,' and, of course, avoiding like the plague any food that is not organically produced. And, of course, she likely has no idea of where her food really comes from, and ignores the fact that science produced most of things that make her life easy and comfortable. She also probably believes that the gardener who weeds out his carrots, and removes the plants that don't grow quickly is not interfering with any "natural selection," but completely allowing God's plan to move forward. Likewise, she is blissfully unaware that the pig farmer and the cattleman have deliberately, for many, many generations, interfered with natural selection in order to produce more meat for less cost, with more disease resistance, and so on. All of which constitutes the oldest and simplest methods of genetic manipulation, but she would not see things this way. But, wait. She's probably a vegan or a vegetarian, so as not to interrupt any delicate balance of nature.

She says that genetically modified foods are "proving to be far inferior, severely allergenic, and sometimes even lethal to the consumer." Proven by whom? Inferior in what way? Where is her proof of these ridiculous charges? Give me a break! She obviously did not even read Jay's original article ( to which she made reference, did she? She believes that chocolate is a fruit of the Gods, "designed perfectly for our consumption," does she? I will bet dollars to donuts that she has no concept of just what goes into making that fruit of the Gods palatable for human consumption. I'll bet she also has no knowledge of just how the ancients first used this 'fruit,' either. She probably, in her total ignorance, believes that one just goes out and picks a Hershey bar off the tree whenever the mood strikes one. To get back to my request for her to cite any authoritative source of information to support her claims, let's be clear that it will not satisfy this request for her to do one of those loaded Google searches, either. You know the one. That would be the one where she inputs something like, "harmful effects of genetically modified food production," rather than simply inputting "genetic modification of plants." Unfortunately, this lady is like so many others who make up their mind with minimal information, and nothing, not Hell nor High Water, will change their minds, once they have committed to a life-long system of misguided beliefs and values.

I think that what bothers me most about people like this is that they are not satisfied with clinging to unreal ideas, but want to impose their skewed beliefs onto others. And, then, I fall into the trap of speaking out and trying to show them the errors of their ways, even though I know full well that their minds are closed to new information, or anything that does not fit their preconceived idea of what is right and proper. Oh, well, pura vida con o sin genetically modified food.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Tranquilo, Mae……..

Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity. - - Martin Luther King Jr. (1929 - 1968), Strength to Love, 1963

NOTE: this article has already appeared, in slightly different form, at

I recently posted a link on this Blog to the report of the study that shows people who watch FOX News are less than optimally intelligent. I believe that this explains a bit about why I get into so many pointless discussions online. Folks who do not expose themselves to more than one source for news tend to make quick judgments that are all too often incorrect. I, on the other hand, like to hear all the evidence, or points, or sides to a story before I make up my mind on a given topic.

This likely has to do with two major influences on my thinking. First, in order to function well as a Nurse, one has to be observant enough to catch what is going on, and then be able to report objectively just what it was that has been observed. This is very important in dealing with the care and treatment of all patients. Second, later in my Nursing career, I worked for ten years as an Investigator for The Texas State Board of Medical Examiners. I received further training during that time that not only reinforced my already acquired abilities in this area, but that taught me how to gather, preserve, and present evidence in a legal sense.

Another factor in the way I look at things is that, while gathering evidence, noting my observations, and reporting these faithfully, I had to strive to maintain objectivity, because my responsibility was not to provide my own opinions regarding what I observed, or what I uncovered in the course of an investigation. Nor was it my responsibility to offer any sort of conclusions (beyond the obvious summarizing of an investigative report to say that the contents either served as evidence of a violation or did not), recommendations for decisions based on the information thus gathered, or to offer any direction for continued care, or handling of a given situation. That is not to say that I was prohibited from recommending in certain investigations that further action may or may not be appropriate.

Now the folks with whom I have trouble seem to be those who form strong opinions based on little real data, or hard evidence. This either leads to a tendency to forget one of the most basic premises of our legal system, the concept that says all men are innocent until proven guilty. Or, more likely, this is simply indicative that some folks have already forgotten this all important principle. For some reason, a lot of people have trouble with that concept, and I just don't understand that. To me it is so simple. Hold off on reaching conclusions about any given situation until you have the facts – all the facts. Don't let others direct your decisions or let others do your deciding for you. I could go on and on, but I'm sure you get the idea.

Most recently, I got into it with some of my Facebook 'friends' about the Wikileaks things, not because I tried to come out in favor of the leaker(s), but because I supported a public announcement that someone famous (Michael Moore, actually) had contributed towards the bail for Mr. Assange. Then, when I was jumped on for simply saying that was a good thing, I further pissed them off by asking them what had happened to the ancient legal tenet of one being presumed 'innocent until proven guilty.' That really set them off, because a good number of them are convinced (based on the little real information that the world has seen to date on this matter) that Mr. Assange is guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors (some fools want to believe that this Australian gentleman is guilty of treason against the U. S.) as is the misbegotten U. S. Army PFC, who allegedly accessed and released certain videos and documents.

For those who might have a question about this, let me admit that there is nothing in the U. S. Constitution that says one is innocent until proven guilty, but this is such an ancient – as I said – tenet of law that it is commonly accepted to be as sacred as any other aspect of our legal system. And, it is contained in some actual statutes and written judicial opinions. It is expressed by one learned professional (whose name I did not get) thusly: "The mere mention of the phrase presumed innocent keeps judges and juries focused on the ultimate issue at hand in a criminal case: whether the prosecution has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the alleged acts."

Maybe what I'm trying to say here is that we can easily apply this thinking to a lot more than just trial law. Obviously, this is not to say that one should hold a thing up to a legal standard, but what is wrong with waiting until all the facts are in before forming an opinion? Beyond that, we all know very well that no one charged with any crime is supposed to be tried in the press, now don't we? So, why do we let the press continue to do just that? Especially certain networks, like that one that is turning some peoples' brains to mush………….? I'm just sayin'………..

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Seasons Greetings

I would like to wish everyone a Very Merry Christmas and a Most Happy and Prosperous New Year.  Thanks for stopping by, and thanks for hanging in there.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Help! There’s Wiki leaking all over my keyboard!

Human beings are perhaps never more frightening than when they are convinced beyond doubt that they are right. - Laurens Van der Post

    First of all, for those who might have a truly inquiring mind, and who are actually willing to take the time to read a somewhat less than flattering view of the somewhat odious, and ever ubiquitous FOX News Channel, please click on this link:

I just had to share that tidbit, hopefully with a few open minds. One major reason for wanting to share it would be that I suspect that all too many hotheads out there, especially some of those who like to get into heated arguments over Iraq, Bush, Obama, Wikileaks, etc. (always on the opposite side from me of course), have no other source of information. That explains why they seldom are able to muster any facts to support their blustering arguments, and why they inevitably resort to name calling, and threats of physical violence.

Having said that, now let me continue my diatribe about Wikileaks and government "secrets," and maybe a bit of history…..

Military Secrets, Treason, Espionage…….all of these terms are being bandied about in connection with the furor over the Wikileaks.

To my way of thinking none of these terms should be out there in connection with this current flare up in the war against the dissemination of information. Herewith, my further opinions and attitude about Wikileaks:

A military secret is something important concerning possible future plans, like where were the Allies planning to land when they launched their assault on the European mainland, or weapons development, like the Manhattan Project. Something so crucial that should it become common knowledge, as in the enemy finds out about it before it happens, it could truly screw things up for us. Treason would be if some pipsqueak, or even a General (like, oh, say, I don't know……..Benedict Arnold?) ran to the enemy and gave away one or more of these military secrets. Espionage would be if that pipsqueak provided classified/secret information over a period of time to an agent of a foreign power (the American is, of course, guilty of treason while engaged in espionage, and, as we all remember from James Bond movies, espionage is spying, and if one is caught spying, one is generally subject to execution out of hand). Releasing a video of a military action after that action has become history is not any sort of betrayal of a military secret. It is just embarrassing to the idiots who committed an atrocity, or outright murder of innocent civilians (like maybe My Lai, or this helicopter shooting civilians).

The argument offered on a recent Facebook 'discussion,' from one of these erudite debaters:

"It's not just the latest documents that I am concerned about. It's the one's that claim to show... US military shooting unarmed insurgents. Crap like that puts our soldiers more at risk...not counting the US civilians that are abroad. There were weapons behind the wall where they came out of. Remember, it's war and if you happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time hanging with the insurgents then so be it. You shouldn't be hanging with scum like that if you're innocent in the first place... and if you are then it's more than likely you deserve to have your ass blown off."

First of all, I believe this person was referring to some video that was allegedly accessed by that idiot PFC, in Iraq, or Afghanistan. And, here is my response: My understanding of the 'release' of this information/data/evidence was NOT to the Al Queada, or to the Taliban, or to the Insurgents, but to the world at large. That is because the America (speaking only for myself here) I grew up in does not kill innocent civilians, and if we do inadvertently harm civilians, we own up to it, instead of covering up our actions. Puts our soldiers at risk? How is that? Does he seriously think that the towel heads, of whom he apparently has so much fear, don't already know about this incident, and others, maybe worse? "There were weapons behind the wall where they came out of." ??? Huh? Whose weapons? What wall? Who came out of what? The wall? It was bad enough that his argument was based on fallacious data, but to be so incapable of expressing oneself clearly in presenting it, kinda destroys it all without me having to lift a hand to the keyboard here.

I won't even honor the rest of this semi-literate statement with a response, other than to say that the same idiot statement can be turned around, can't it? I mean, the enemy can say the same thing about any American civilians who are foolish enough to be over there.

Now, speaking off the top of my head, here, it seems to me that military secrets are not routinely found in any stack of I-don't-care-how-many Diplomatic Cables, nor would the release of the contents of I-don't-care-how-many Diplomatic Cables in fact, or in law, constitute treason or espionage. Again, this information that was given over to Wikileaks, and subsequently released to the world at large by Wikileaks, is simply embarrassing to those who wrote those cables because they obviously said the wrong things in the wrong places. The general proscriptions against revealing military secrets don't say that one should participate in any kind of cover up of the truth because that truth might be embarrassing to someone high up on the food chain.

I would like to ask some of those who are screaming for the blood of Mr. Assange, or that poor, befuddled U. S. Army PFC, where were you guys when Valerie Plame was exposed by members of the Administration of the former Prexy known as W? Were you not outraged when that scandal broke? You should have been, and if you were not, then shame on you. That was criminal, and who got punished for it? Remember 'Scooter?' Did he get executed? What a joke that was.

The facts are still these: we got involved in Iraq and Afghanistan because we were lied to by our own leaders. And, we let them get away with not only their lies, but their determination that our continued presence in those parts of the world is – or ever was - necessary. And, they are still busier than ever, doing all kinds of evil, while we are so busily distracted and picking at one another, fighting amongst ourselves, while they continue to further ruin our economy and our international reputation.

One of my Facebook acquaintances did acknowledge that some of the folks involved in the ongoing argument were ignoring due process, but then he blew his argument by going on to say: "I am sick of hearing how great these guys are when they are trying to destroy this country. The soldier that stole the documents committed espionage, and Assange did also by receiving the documents and them public. 18 U.S.C. § 793 : US Code - Section 793: Gathering, transmitting or losing defense information:"

First of all, to try to stand up for "these guys'"rights is not synonymous with saying anything about how great they may or may not be. The further fallacy in this argument is that the actions of the PFC were of course not intended to, nor were they capable of destroying this country. His citing of U. S. law does him no good either, because he is taking things out of context.

Another of my FB buddies said, obviously referring to Assange: "Innocent until proven guilty? He owns the website, he admitted he's leaking the documents and threatening to leak more... He's GUILTY....period!" He was, by the way, talking about treason on the part of Mr. Assange. And, this statement actually comes from a rational and generally articulate man, whose father I admire greatly. But, he, along with the others is crying for blood!

Yet another person over there on Facebook, who claims to be presently in the military, said, among other things: "Espionage, in the 'good ole days', carried the penalty of death. The solider and Assange should be executed. due process here is nothing more than procedure. This has nothing to do with 'W'." (The mention of 'W' was the result of my accusing these guys as being the ones who used to call anyone who questioned 'W' a traitor).

There were others. The entire argument got started, by the way, because I had posted a comment on a link about how Michael Moore had put up some money for Assange's bond, in Great Britain, indicating that I thought that was a good thing. This from a lady: "Michael Moore should've had his a$$ capped a long time ago!!!"

And, then, another lady said: "We would never have won WWI or WWII with the likes of Assange and his website around. We must have National Security!! Treason.....1. A crime that undermines the offender's government 2. Disloyalty by virtue of subversive behaviour 3. An act of deliberate betrayal. By Assange's on admission....he is guilty. Treason is punishable by death." Let's see. How many holes are in that argument? Website in WWII? Did I point out here that Mr. Assange's nationality is Australian? How could he be guilty of Treason if he had something to do with American information?

It generally went downhill from there. I would add that I asked them to provide me with some facts to counter my statements and to show me where Treason or even Espionage might be part of all this, but you know what? This is what I finally got, after a day or two of waiting, taken straight from Wikipedia, as were most of their arguments:

Bradley Manning was an intelligence analyst assigned to a support battalion with the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division at Contingency Operating Station Hammer, Iraq. Agents of the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command arrested Manning based on information received from federal authorities provided by an American informant, Adrian Lamo, in whom Manning had previously confided. Lamo said that Manning claimed, via instant messaging, to be the person who had leaked the "Collateral Murder" video of a helicopter airstrike on July 12, 2007, in Baghdad. Additionally, a video of the Granai airstrike and around 260,000 diplomatic cables were released to the whistleblower website Wikileaks. Manning was charged under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) with violations of UCMJ Articles 92 and 134, for "transferring classified data onto his personal computer and adding unauthorized software to a classified computer system," and "communicating, transmitting and delivering national defense information to an unauthorized source". While stationed in Iraq, Manning had access to SIPRNET from his workstation, from where it is alleged the leaked documents originated.
To which, I can only say:  and…………..?

Then, he said: "Anything not released publicly by the government is classified. Face it, your arguement on these fools innocence is fabricated at best. I am military and I can tell you with absolute certainty what they did was wrong and is considered espionge. Your take on it is irrelavent. THe Army trator is in jail and the only jackasses who are backing the other fool are extremeist nutjobs like Michael Moore. Does this clarify things?"

I never said these people were innocent. All I had asked was what has happened to the principle of 'innocent until proven guilty?' My take on it is irrelevant? My take on a statement that assumes that if it was not released by the government it is 'classified' is not remotely irrelevant. Where do you suppose he got such a strange idea? Why, because he is "military," and I am not? Horse Puckey! By the way, the misspelling was his; not mine.

Yet another response from one of them said, "Treason plain and simple -- there is a Federal death penalty on the books for that one last used for the Rosenbergs (and rightly so) for giving the H bomb to Stailn."

I did try to tell him that he was wrong mostly because he is comparing apples and oranges (the secret of the HBomb alongside a video that show us up), and that my take is most definitely not irrelevant. Again, I tried to point out that treason is not when you try to bring to the light a potentially embarrassing situation for some few high ranking individuals, but something much more serious. Of course, that effort went over like a lead balloon, as his response read:

John, all I can say to that is I know history, I know th military and I know the government. Embarrassing or not it was classified information. The only reason your ok with it is because it is about the Bush presidency. If it would have been about Obama you would have a different stance. It is not regime or partisan that ANY file released without the declassification of the U.S. Government is a crime. Your take is very irrelevant and the fact that others agree with you only shows an ignorance of reality. This reminds me when Bill got caught diddling Monica. All the sudden liberals wanted to redefine cheating. However, if there 'spouse' did the same thing he did it was cheating. Lets use an example: You son takes your videos of things you did in private. I'll let you create an example in your head, and sells them on the internet. Would you say, oh, its not important, it is just embarrassing. You'd beat his ass. If your neighbor took those video tapes and sold them to your other neighbors what would you do? Try to stop him? Go to the police? Think about it.

So, I had to ask him how he can equate the idea of a personally embarrassing video or Bill getting caught to this situation? I pointed out that, first of all, there are no videos for my son - or anyone else - to get hold of. I mean, just how stupid does he think I am? Secondly, this 'Liberal' (that term was evidently intended to be me) never - ever - considered any redefinition of cheating when Bill was caught with his, er, um, member in the cookie jar! This one (yeah, this is me) thought, "What a stupid thing to do!" I was taught not to do things that might embarrass me, like shoot a "private" video. As for me being "OK" with this wikileaks thing, I told him that has nothing to do with Obama or Bush. It has to do with reality, and the fact that some folks can't seem to remember what is real, and what is fake. And, btw, I served in the Army, too, and I know just how screwed up our government can be (remember the government is US, and if we have let it get so messed up, then shame on us - all of us!

Yes, just when I thought it could not get worse, it did, as he actually posted this:

When I said Treason I was referring to that PFC in the 10th Mountian division who gave him the materials. He took an oath and betrayed his fellow soliders. Ike had Private Slovak executed for less than that.

I then tried to point out that he was getting farther and farther from the truth and from reality, as I corrected the spelling of Pvt. Eddie Slovik's name, and pointed out that he was nothing more than a simple deserter! And, I again tried to point out that the oath taken by him, me, or any other private soldier doesn't say anything about letting in some light, where the higher-ups want darkness!

This was his response: The bottom line is you simply cannot have a functional military where information is allowed to be leaked.

And, I said that you also should not pick out a situation like this one – that did not involve true military secrets - and scream treason, espionage, or whatever, when it is not. Information of a sensitive nature, that might be threatening to the well being of the troops, maybe, but not information that reveals that those same troops have overstepped the bounds.

My main antagonist then came back with: They are one in the same. If you think war happens without someone getting killed that shouldn't get killed you are very naive. With Al Qaeda killing anyone indiscriminately we are the ones held to a moral standard. We try to maintain that ...standard to civilize and professionalize war, but reality is innocents die. Yes, it sucks. we as Americans find it repulsive, but it is a reality. Airing our dirty laundry does nothing but endanger our troops, the troops of our allies, and every American. This isn't utopia, and it will never exist.
John you need to read the UCMJ. There is no 'private' soldier. It is not a soldier's job or responsibility to shed light on anything. THe 'higher-ups' have a better image of the big-picture than a grunt who knows only his job. There are reasons generals get payed so much. They have huge responsibilities.This is about crime and justice, that's it.

All of that, while saying to the other poster, XXXX you are absolutely correct. The military is in the business of killing people and breaking things.

As I had previously stated to them, their responses were getting farther & farther from reality, and the actual topic under discussion. I pointed out the the proper English phrase is "one AND the same." And, I asked him "when did I suggest that I believe war doesn't involve killing?" And, "When did I say that it is a soldier's job to shed light on anything?" I also told him: "Don't try to tell me that I am supposed to be a perfect little sheep, and go along to get along, like the German people did under the Nazis, either. Yeah, that's right. Blindly follow where fools and a sick Corporal lead us? I am not concerned about "airing our dirty laundry" in front of others so much as exposing the truth to the American people, because (apparently y'all have forgotten) it is our country that has now earned this terrible reputation in the world community, and I - for one - did not ever vote for this crap."

Of course he wasn't through yet: I forgot. Farther and farther. Back to your original post, the above is what the fuss is all about. Michael Moore is an idiot. The two fellas responsible for this leak, should be prosecuted and punished according to the laws of the UCMJ and the U.S. Desoite what you think all the fuss is about.

At that point I broke it off, saying, "I'm sorry, but since you don't even have the basic facts straight, how can anyone have a discussion with you? Y'all have a nice day."

I think the next post came from a twitter: The great thing about Democracy is that we can even have this debate. At the end of the each election day all of our points of view are totaled up and reflected by the new Congress. I am sure you remember the "Pentegon Papers" an...d similar dirt from SE Asia back in the 70's. War is messy and the politics behind the war effort back in DC have historically been a messy business -- kind of like making sausage you really want to stay out of the factory and stick with the supermarket. We could have had the debate over Vietnam or even WWI with some of the leaks that happened back then in the traditional press. Some of us like myself were in the Army and that background forms our belief system on these sorts of issues -- disobeying lawful orders is very bad with severe penalaties and we had that drilled into our heads from day one at boot camp. I really do respect your point of view and at the end of the day can agree to disagree. Take care, XX

Well, what can I say? I do think that this wikileaks thing is less important than some would have us believe, and I think it probably helps those who want to keep us distracted from real issues that are really demanding our full attention. I don't like what is happening. I don't understand why we still have a presence in that part of the world, and I really don't like how it seems that we are our own worst enemy.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Dear Santa: What’s a Wiki?

Admin Note:  A shorter version of this piece has already appeared at

"I think that we have a classification system in this country that is in fact not even beneficial to the intelligence agencies," [because it keeps information from being effectively shared] - John Perry Barlow, founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, on NPR's On Point with Tom Ashbrook show, December 16, 2010.

What he said. And, much, much more! Not only do I agree with what Mr. Barlow said, but I believe it is just plain wrong for anyone to now come forward and use terms like treason, or espionage in connection with this latest tempest in a teapot. In the first place, please do not try to tell me that this thing involved "Military Secrets," or even seriously classified information. Maybe if we were in a real war, and we were talking about weapons, and plans and things like that, you could persuade me of this weak idea. What we have here (Iraq, Afghanistan, all of that crappy area) is a war started for only one reason. Well, all right. Two reasons: first, W's stupidity and W's buddies' greed for oil. We got a bill of goods called Weapons of Mass Destruction, and allowed that airhead and his buddies to send in elements of our "all volunteer" military to piss away as much of our national budget as they could.

I mean, come on. If this was a real war, and if we really needed to get involved in a real war, we would have allies, without having to blackmail, beg, or bully others into acting like they were helping us. We for sure would not have had to go it alone, which you know damn well (if you've been paying attention) is what has happened. And, if it was a real war, then we might have real military secrets, and the need to worry about their discovery.

As I understand it, the furor over this Wikileaks thing has come about 'cause a lowly Army PFC, assigned to an 'Intelligence' Unit in Iraq, somehow had access to a couple of (as in two) classified videos and to hundreds of thousands of State Department Cables. None of this crap can remotely be thought of in the same context as a true military secret, because all they are in fact is information that is embarrassing to the idiots that were responsible for whatever snafus that have now been revealed. Now, I already understood that the term Military Intelligence is one of history's most obvious oxymorons. So, I gotta ask, right up front, how the hell was a misfit, high school dropout assigned to Intelligence duties? And, exactly what are his qualifications to be an Intelligence Analyst?

Beyond that, what is all the huhu, anyway? Has everyone forgotten Daniel Ellsberg? What has happened to our nation, and to us, that we have reached a point where we actually believe in all these so-called 'wars'? The War On Terrorism…..The War On Drugs………..The War On Poverty……..Take all of these together and they turn out to mean nothing more than a War on our ability to think for ourselves, a War on sanity, a War on human intelligence (as in the ability to learn or understand or to deal with new or trying situations).

We all know that the War on Drugs has been a total failure, and a humongous waste of time and money, not to mention lives. The War On Poverty, in my opinion, cannot be said to have been any sort of success, if we still have it (poverty) with us. As for the War on Terror, the Terrorists won that a long time ago. Remember when we were told that if we let them cause us to change anything about how we lead our daily lives, they will have won? Well, remember also when airplane travel was fun? Ain't much fun anymore, is it?

If we have all this sophisticated technology, this modern equipment, that (according to Hollywood) is so precise as to pinpoint the exact location of a given individual wherever he is on the planet, at any point in time, why is it that we never found Osama Bin Laden? Why is it that we could not overcome a bunch of ignorant, dirty, towel-headed camel jockies in Iraq, Afghanistan, or Pakistan? How is it that we consider Pakistan to be our "friend," for that matter? Why are we now guilty of having made the same mistake that the Soviets did (remember how we laughed at them?) regarding Afghanistan? You know, the Q word, their huge Viet Nam style screwup! Yes, that's right: Quagmire.

What business do we have over there? What business did we have when W sent our Troops into Iraq? WMD's? What WMD's? I suspect that we are all agreed that the real (you know, the real, verdad, true) reason behind our involvement in the messed up Middle East is OIL, right? So, how come we haven't yet gained total and complete access and control over all that frickin' oil? What do we have to show for all these years of stupidity over there?

Our own country is a shambles, with a crumbling infrastructure, an insurmountable National Debt, a currency that has lost too much of its value, a healthcare system that is a joke, rampant unemployment, greedy politicians of whatever 'party' totally ignoring the needs, nay, the demands of their electorate………..should I go on? Look at us. Americans of every stripe, every social strata, every differing philosophy sniping at one another, arguing with one another over what is right, and what is wrong. On the one hand, we have the Republicans resorting to that old W stratagem (the one that was so effective in starting us down this wrong path), fear. "You're a traitor if you question the Administration's decisions and actions," was the cry of the Bush Administration. Now, on the other hand, we have the Democrats, looking like a bunch of inept, incompetent wannabes, accomplishing nothing. And, largely due to the Republican's intransigence, the President faces constant criticism for not doing something, because he is pretty much powerless to do anything, since he has no support from any quarter.

I have an idea. Pretty simple, too. What do you say, we pull out of the Middle East, entirely? No U. S. presence in any of those 'stans, or 'rans or 'raqs or whatever. Warn all Americans to avoid travel to that part of the world, 'cause if they do, they're on their own. That's not enough. Add to that no foreign aid for anyone over there. No loans. No 'international commerce' of any kind with anyone over there. No American involvement whatsoever. Then, stand back and let them kill each other, 'cause that's what they're good at. If we're not there at all, they can't justify any jihad, any mass hatred for the "Infidel," right? Sooner or later, one of two things will happen. Either one of them will emerge victorious, or there will be none of them left anyway. Then, if y'all really, really, really want to, go on back in and suck up all the oil, um, uh, oo, ah………pick up the pieces.

No huhu. No Americans getting killed for nothing. No more billions and trillions of Dollars poured down the black hole that is the Middle East. No more hate poured upon us by that part of the world. Oh, yeah, let me really piss off some of you who might have been leaning towards agreeing with my great idea: there will be one exception to those parts of the Middle East that we abandon, and that is Israel. But, our involvement with that tiny nation will be limited to assisting them to protect themselves from any overlapping of the bloodshed that will engulf the Middle East.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Can anyone tell me what this is?

I know it is a fuzzy image, but it was the best I could do with what I've got.  I can tell you that it is from the opening credits on NYPD Blue, and it has mystified me for years.  Anyone?

Sunday, December 5, 2010

A New Farce Unleashed

Ordinarily he was insane, but he had lucid moments when he was merely stupid.

Heinrich Heine (1797 - 1856)

NOTE: this was obviously written some weeks ago. I apologize if it is out of date, but I still wanted to get it out there (here).


Sometimes I feel like I'm missing something. One glaring situation where I get that feeling is the recent and current border incursion on the part of Nicaragua into Costa Rica's far Northeast area, around the Isla Calero. I had a very tough time finding a map or other image to show me exactly where this disputed little island is really located, but after finding it, I have to ask even more questions than the one I started out with here. When I said that I feel like I'm missing something, what I was aiming for was this: how in the world can a nation that is so poor that it cannot feed its own people – to the point that significantly large numbers of them have fled to Costa Rica, another poor nation, in an effort to find work, and thus feed their families – manage to support any kind of meaningful military? For those gringos who are not aware of it, Costa Rica actually serves the same purpose for Nicaragua that the U. S. serves for Mexico and much of the rest of Latin America. Ticos don't want to do manual labor anymore (even though there is not much else to do here), so you'll find – all over the country – that the most menial, lowest paying work is almost entirely performed by Nicas. Nicas, I might add, who are glad to have the work. They flock to this country in large numbers, and many of them are working here illegally.

Please understand that I have never personally visited Nicaragua, and have no plans to do so. But, I have talked to a number of folks who have been there, both Ticos and gringos. They all agree that very generally Nicaragua has better roads than Costa Rica. Also, please understand that I not only have no stake in this dispute, but I also have no claim to any particular knowledge of anything about it. So, whatever I say here is simply me, speaking my opinion on a subject of which I know very little. To further expand on my first question, however, I want to repeat that I can't understand how Nicaragua can't feed its own people, but can have a standing army, and decent roads.

What's more, I can't help but note that the actions being taken by that nation, and the public statements coming from their leaders sure sound familiar. Isn't this a typical socialist (Socialist in the worst way, as in Communist – Soviet Union, Red China, North Vietnam, Cuba, et al) move? I mean, they go into a place, and when caught, start out by lying outright, defying the world to do anything about it! In particular, this was always effective for the bad guys of the fifties and the sixties (up to the actions of people like that idiot in Iran, or Hugo Chavez, in Venezuela today) since their claims are so outrageous that the rest of the world is distracted from the fact that these lying thieves actually have their sticky little fingers in somebody else's cookie jar. And, worse, as in this present case, their move has been against a virtually defenseless little nation.

It is interesting to talk to people here of late, especially the Ticos, because no one really knows what to do, or what might help them. There are voices clamoring for all Nicas to be forced to return to their homeland, but RIGHT NOW! This is actually a pretty good idea, in my opinion, because it is my understanding that the numbers are so significant that the government of Nicaragua could well be overwhelmed in taking care of so many people all at once, and that would certainly generate some world notice and perhaps some action. To be honest, however, It is really a bad idea, though, because then the Ticos would find out just how much their precious little 'Switzerland of the Americas' has been infiltrated and even changed from what it used to be. There would be nobody left to empty the overflowing slop jars of a nation so beset by lassitude as to be incapable of doing such things by themselves, and Ticos would not react well to that.

Ultimately, though, as has long been the custom here, Ticos are looking for outside help, even if it means military intervention by a nation stronger than Nicaragua because their national psyche just cannot get around the fact that they are truly powerless, have always been so, and will always be so. They not only have no military, but they have told themselves (and the rest of the world) for so long that they are better off without a military, that they actually believe this. They cite a higher level of education and better health care, but ignore the realities of the fact that their universal health care system is fraught with gaps in care, lack of proper materials and even medications, and delays running into the years for certain treatments. As for their education system, I guess it is OK if your goal is to have a nation of semi-literate, untrained, stuck-in-the-19th-century inepts.

I know that the most recent speculation (and, actually, this is not at all recent, although previous versions have featured different players) has to do with a plot by Iran, Venezuela, and Nicaragua to create a new canal across the isthmus to rival the Panama Canal. (Maybe I just answered my big question, though: the reason Nicaragua can afford a military is that they have received aid from places like Iran and Venezuela). That may well be true, but this is a pretty underhanded way to go after such a goal. Why not come out into the daylight, and get the cooperation of those affected by such a plan, and turn it into a money-maker? Maybe that would solve Nicaragua's glaringly obvious poverty, and lead to them being able to keep their own boys home on the farm, as it were.

Then, the morning news brought the announcement that a small fleet of military vehicles, made in Germany (Mercedes Benz, no less) had been successfully imported into Costa Rica, via the Port of Limon, on the East Coast, destined for (drum roll, please) Nicaragua. That's right. They were, as I wrote this, on their only slightly delayed way up the east coast, bound for the very area that was currently under dispute! Say what? Talk about a comedy of errors! OK, maybe these trucks were not headed directly for the Isla, but there is no way that Costa Rica should have allowed the government of Nicaragua to save money by shipping through a port located in Costa Rica. Make them pay more, and use the Panama Canal.

Next, we got the news that the Fiscalia of something or other, here in Costa Rica, had issued an arrest warrant for the former Sandanista leader, Commandante Cero (General Edén Pastora) for charges having to do with the destruction of the environment. And, I believe there was also a scene played out in the border area, where reporters were massed together to interview him, but they were on the Costa Rican side of the border, and since he was aware that Costa Rican authorities were standing by, he stayed on his side of the border.

Well, who knows how this comedy will play out? Certainly not I. Whatever happens, I don't see any good here for either the people of Costa Rica or those of Nicaragua.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Just When You Thought I Have Mellowed.

"Strange as it seems, no amount of learning can cure stupidity, and higher education positively fortifies it." - - Stephen Vizinczey, An Innocent Millionaire


Some days I have to ask myself where do these people come from? I can't help it, but I read AMCostaRica every day, since it does seem to provide the most news, in one location, about this place. But, it seems that the strangest people in Costa Rica also read it, and what's worse, they have to write to the editor to express their self-centered opinions (much like me, huh?). Yesterday's issue, however, seemed to have reached a new level of ridiculosity, if there is such a word. Take the letter from a Tony McCeath, who says he lives in San Ramon:

Mr. McCeath's letter starts off with what appears to be a legitimate statement of facts as they may well apply to Costa Rica, but turns out to be just another rant about squatters.  How sad.  Personally, I am just a bit tired of all the whining about how poor gringos have been taken advantage of after having purchased land in a foreign country, and then – in essence and in reality – showing that they lacked the foresight to provide for its security in their absence!  Come on, folks!  All of us who have even visited one or two times were made aware that it is legal to obtain ownership of land here with simple possession.  In order to avoid any problems as an absentee landowner, all one has to do is make a few informed decisions:  First, don't buy land or property at all unless you plan to be here keeping an eye on it yourself.  Second, if you do buy property, with the intent of being an absentee owner, make arrangements with someone to care for it, and to watch so as to safeguard it from becoming attractive to a potential squatter.  Third, don't take trips without also arranging for someone to watch over your property.

As regards this person's complaint about having his passport checked as he travels about the country, I'm not really sure what he is saying.  He said that he has lived here for two years.  So, I would have to ask why is he still carrying his passport?  I put mine away the day I got my cedula, and haven't thought about it since.  I have encountered police and immigration checkpoints on rare occasions (well, actually, there is one on the road to Liberia, near Pijije, that is always active, and appears to be mostly checking buses traveling to and from Nicaragua).  On those occasions when the officials asked for ID, they did not actually ask for my passport, so I showed them either my Costa Rica drivers' license, or my cedula.  And, as for the complaint about Costa Rica being two-faced and having attempted to enter a 'Friend of the Court' plea regarding the U. S. State of Arizona's recently enacted law, the Editor has already provided the clarification that this was rejected.

And, finally, we get his complaint about how much money recent Court decisions in Costa Rica have cost a Canadian company.  Don't think he has much right to complain about this topic, and I don't think that I could care less either way.  Any business operating in any foreign country should know enough NOT to spend money needlessly, while learning how business is done in that country.  Essentially, therefore, the same simple warning that we, as potential property owners here should have heeded, applies to a company that wants to do business here.  And, he concludes with a suggestion that "we" ought to consider suing Costa Rica.  I have to say, What?!  Who is 'we?'  Now, I can't speak for Mr. McCeath, any more than he can speak for me, and, with all due respect, please consider this:  We are not citizens of this country.  We are merely (in my case, at least) temporary residents.  We have no franchise.  Isn't it just a bit presumptuous of us to propose to dictate to this nation how it conducts its business?  I mean, didn't you know any of this before you decided to live here?

And, then, I saw the next letter, and have to ask: Who is Ann Boyd, and where has she been hiding herself all her life? Who does she think she is? How dare she presume to judge the people of Haiti? She has written one of the most ill-informed letters to an editor that I think I have ever seen, that's who she is! Has she no sense of history? Why does she think that an entire generation, the world over, is known as the Baby Boomers? In the wake of each and every natural – or manmade – disaster in the history of the world, there has been an increase in births roughly nine months later! Remember the brown-outs and Black-outs that struck the East Coast back in the (what was it) the 70's or 80's? Population is affected, disaster strikes, and any number of people find that they are without lights, or TV, or any outside distraction. What do they do with themselves? One thought comes to mind right away: go to bed, early and often!

She castigates the people of Haiti, who apparently have nothing better to do with themselves, in the wake of that poverty-stricken country's recent disasters, than to procreate. Doesn't Ms. Boyd realize that this is indeed God's way to make up for any decrease in population, anywhere in the world, throughout written history? Does she actually think that life in that country was so good before their most recent disasters?

Well, I've got news for her: The world has more folks living in poverty than it does otherwise. More people go to bed hungry each and every day than otherwise. More people live without (oh, electricity, television, potable water, bottled beverages, frozen foods, processed foods, supermarkets, just to name a few things), than otherwise.

Get over it. But, also, take a look at a mirror – quick! You have the nerve to say that children are a gift from God, and to offer your wishes that God bless those children?! That would suggest that you have chosen to read your Bible very selectively, lady. That same Bible also says something about not judging others, unless you want to be judged yourself, doesn't it?

Meanwhile, over on another site, called, a lady recently wrote a story all about St. Mary's School Guachipelín, Escazú- San Jose, C.R., Says "NO" to FAILING 1st Grader who wishes to attend their school! ----

Do I need to mention that I got into it with the lady in question? The article is all about how her kid, with ADD & possible dyslexia, had failed first grade at an unnamed school. The family then reportedly began looking for a new school for his next school year, and one of those looked at was the above named school. She is upset because they told her that their policy is that they do not accept any student that has failed any previous grade. Now, she claims in her letter that the family's psychiatrist, who is in the process of evaluating the kid, has told them that he needs to learn in English, as this is his first language. She goes on to complain that the school also reportedly told her that they teach at least three classes in Spanish, so they don't feel that they could properly meet the doctor's recommendation.

Now, she is totally angry, going on about the kid's rights, and how she is going to sue this school. Personally, I don't understand this gringo attitude that says a private school cannot set its own standards, and I said so. I also said that it is not proper for us to expect government intervention into everything little thing that does not go our way in this world, but of course, I am just an evil, uninformed all around bad guy for having dared to disagree with her and her complaint. We have had too much back and forth on the above mentioned page, so I think I'll just let her go on ahead and pursue her legal case, while she will conveniently overlook what is important here. Like so many before her, she will follow a path where she has to place blame for all of life's blows elsewhere, dedicate her life to some real or imagined battle, and ultimately, the kid will end up suffering, because she can't help overdoing her battle.

What probably pushed my buttons in this situation was that the lady mentioned (in her first response to my admonition to get over it) how she and her husband are forced to live here in CR because he requires 24/7 total care for an undisclosed condition, and they can't afford such in the states. But, her article was all about how 'we' had been involved in pursuing educational goals for their child. How can someone who requires 24/7 total care participate in meetings at schools, and this lofty pursuit of education for 'their' kid? That information, coupled with her insistence that her child has 'rights' is what got me going.

In case I haven't mentioned it before, I have a real problem with this medical diagnosis of ADD/ADHD/and all variations thereof. I also have a real problem with the persistent overuse of Ritalin for kids with this diagnosis. And, I might as well admit it I have a real problem with all the un-intentioned aftereffects of the ADA, and all the bending over backwards that the PC crowd has force fed us for, what, a generation or more, now? I'm sorry, but I do not believe that kids with learning disabilities belong in a regular classroom. A good teacher knows that their teaching must be focused on the slowest learner, the dumbest student, if you will, in the class. That way, the teacher can be sure that all the students will get the message. When we force the teacher to constantly dumb down the teaching, what do we get? What we get, is what we got: more and more social promotions, more and more 'graduates' who are functional illiterates, ignorant, and unable to cope with the real world (maybe like this lady).

I am also, of course, less than impressed with people who somehow expect the "government" to provide for their every need. You know the ones. They resort to lawsuits at the drop of a coffee cup in their laps (sorry; couldn't resist). If all of the above is not enough, I also have a more serious problem with gringos who come to live in Costa Rica and expect – nay, demand – that they receive the same benefits they expected in the states. So, since all of this is true, and since I have a big mouth (as in, access to a keyboard), I have to speak up. That's enough for now, I guess. You all may talk amongst yourselves.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A very busy week

I guess it might be a good idea to acknowledge some of the pending/current goings on for the extended Dungan family about now.

This weekend just ended saw our daughter, Blanca, and her family traveling to Austin, from Arlington on Saturday. First, they picked up Andy, the oldest boy, at the airport in Austin, and then they all attended the UT vs. Florida Atlantic Football game. They then got together with Blanca's two brothers, who live in Austin (AD & Bucko), and partied.

This week will also mark these special occasions:

  1. 22nd – birthday of AD²'s bro-in-law, Gene Perez. Happy Birthday, Gene.
  1. 23rd – Anniversary of youngest brother, David, and his wife, Sue. Happy Anniversary!
  2. 24th - birthday of our favorite niece, Melissa. Happy Birthday, Meli.

    4. 25th – birthday of older brother, Dennis. Happy Birthday, Bro.

    5.   25th – Thanksgiving. We have a lot to be thankful for, here, and want to wish everyone a very Happy Thanksgiving. Hope to do what everyone else does, too, and watch football until I fall asleep in front of the TV.

    6. 26th – The most happiest of all occasions, a wedding! Big Brother Mike, and his lady, Miss CJ, will tie the knot in Virginia, which used to be known as the state for Lovers (lovers of what, I know not). Felicitations and congratulations to you both!

    7. 30th – birthday of our youngest, Andrew. Happy Birthday, Bucko!

    Hope everyone has a great week. We will try for one down here!

Monday, November 22, 2010

You (still) Can’t Fight City Hall

Problems with a local Water Authority……

Mr. Steve Doyle wrote a very long report/opinion piece for AMCostaRica the other day. He titled his piece "When the approval process runs into lack of accountability." He started out by explaining that he has purchased some acreage in the area, and has plans to develop all but three acres for sale to others. He claims that he has no expectation to make money out of this effort, but does expect to offset his own costs. And, then he talks about how he is planning to put in what he calls infrastructure, mentioning electric, water, and roads. He reports that all has progressed well since last year, except the connection of water to the property.

He makes reference to how "The Volio ASADA (which he identifies as his local source of water) consists of selected local citizens serving as a board of directors making decisions on the management of their water lines and sources," and other things. It does appear that, while he says he made serious effort to prepare himself for his project, that he is still ignorant of how things work in Costa Rica, and that troubles me. He should be aware, if he has indeed done his homework, that his local water authority is not "a selected" "board of governors." In fact, if this authority is anything like ours, these folks are elected, not selected (and, there is a difference), and while they make decisions, their function is not quite that simple. They are first and foremost responsible for maintaining the water system, and ensuring that the members of the water district (paying customers) continue to receive an uninterrupted supply of potable water.

He complains that these folks are "by no means professionals, nor do they necessarily have expertise in running a coop or any other business enterprise for that matter." Actually, I think if he was aware of how they come to serve on the water 'board,' maybe he would not have had such high expectations. They are NOT businessmen, nor do they pretend to be. He goes on to say that he had taken great pains to be sure that water would be available to him, but that appears to have centered on talking to folks, rather than getting anything on paper. Beyond that, after he gets done excoriating the local ASADA, he then takes on AyA (the common abbreviation for the Instituto Costarricense de Acueductos Y Alcantarillados, but he misidentified and misspelled the name of this agency), the federal agency that oversees water for Costa Rica.

My take on his explanation is that he did not adequately explain to the local water authority just what it was that he was expecting from them, and he may well have overestimated their ability to provide sufficient quantities of water to meet those expectations. He complains only that, after initial encouragement from the local folks, they pushed the final decision up to the national level. His apparent lack of knowledge of their proper name further suggests to me that perhaps he has not done his homework.

He complains that the local folks "could not make a move without the national water company providing their advice and counsel." Again, this indicates to me that he misunderstands this entire situation. The AyA is NOT a water company, but a government agency. The local water authorities around Costa Rica do indeed depend on AyA for their legal existence (I know that ours is inspected annually by the AyA, and cannot continue to exist without essentially renewing a license; incidentally, our local system always passes with flying colors, because we have some really good people running it). He talks about his project is going to require six water meters, and that right there suggests further complications. That's also interesting to me, because we don't use water meters up here in the boondocks, and we all just do fine.

OK, let me first provide some very general disclaimers: I know I am behind the curve on this one, as the guy wrote his piece in AMCostaRica some days ago now, and some folks, who are truly experts have already weighed in on this topic. I also know that I am not an engineer, not a developer, not a big land owner, not a 'realtor,' and I certainly have no dog in this hunt (or, horse in this race). But, I do live in Costa Rica, and I do know just a wee bit about how things are done here. I would suggest that one needs to fight fire with fire, and act as a Tico would act. I did not say to think like a Tico, but act like one. So, I have two scenarios for Mr. Doyle (and, yes, hind sight is always 20/20):

One, from the get-go, without ever mentioning that one is planning anything even remotely resembling any sort of 'development' (remember this is very likely to be a dirty word to a lot of people just now), only ask your local water authority for a water connection for your own three acres. You, to your ASADA: "One normal single household water hookup, please." Then, go from there. Go ahead and run whatever lines you think are necessary within the other seven acres, without hooking any of them up to anything. Wait for each new owner to seek his/her own hookup. Then, either share the cost, or pay their cost, or let each pay his own way (carry his own water, so to speak), whatever it takes to get the remainder of the properties hooked up as they are ready. This would have been the path of least resistance, also known as acting like a Tico.

Two, if you insist on doing everything on the up and up, aka gringo-style, you should have started with the AyA, and bypassed your local authority entirely. I say that because they obviously are not equipped to handle your needs on their own, anyway. Your engineer or attorneys should have approached AyA first informally, verbally, and then, as the need arose, submitted whatever written applications, requests for permits, etc., might have been appropriate. That way, they (AyA) could have come to your local people – on your behalf – and got things going much better.

Finally, when things go sour (and, they have a way of doing that in Costa Rica) do NOT resort to name calling, do not let anger take over your better judgment, and avoid confrontation (just like Ticos do). Yes, this means that I believe you have gone too far with your public slamming of AyA and the local ASADA (use of words like dysfunctional, poorly run, and unconscionable is very seriously counter-productive). Calmly discuss what needs to be done with your legal representative, your engineers, whoever is appropriate. Then, you might accomplish what you want. Also, keep in mind that all is not lost for you. This, too, shall pass. You will get what you need if you just patiently pursue it, one baby step at a time.

Oh, and I would avoid any reference to whatever good you think your project might do for the local community, whether you think you'll have a big economic impact, or provide lots of jobs, or improve the overall infrastructure. None of that really matters to your Tico neighbors. Just try to be a good neighbor, and avoid singing your own praises.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Polly wanna name?

They always talk who never think. - Matthew Prior

Well, it's a pretty nice day today in paradise, and just maybe it is past time that I remember (and share) just where and when I am/we are. Yes, we did after all, move here for a reason. I know I always harp about bad internet, spotty electrical service, poor phone connection, bad roads, lack of customer service, and on and on. But, you know what, I was at least semi-aware of most of that before I got here. What brought us here was obviously none of the above, but something else that I seem to always overlook, or fail to mention: It is freakin' beautiful here! Today, the sun is shining, the temperature is around 73 degrees Farenheit, there is a brisk wind blowing, and the sky is absolutely gorgeous, clean, crisp, with great big beautiful clouds.

We had a quick trip over to Tilaran late this morning (I had a dentist appointment at 11:00), and everything went well. Maybe that's one of the positives I could share. I got the last bit of work done in connection with a very important dental implant – one that started at least three years ago, believe it or not! You see, I really needed to have this work done, and it did begin. Unfortunately, I don't remember exactly when it began, but we were here on vacation, and on a Saturday, the specialist came from San Jose to Tilaran, where he placed the actual implant. The cost, as quoted at that time, was $1,500.00Dollars, half of which I paid then. I'm going with 2007 as the year I had this done, and I believe it was probably sometime in July.

Well, there would normally have been a follow up after about two weeks, but of course, we were back in Dallas by then. I knew that the implant wasn't taking, probably before we left to go back to Texas, because I remember the gum and jaw were still sore. At some point in time, I realized that the metal post was not exactly tight in my jaw, and sure enough, within a couple of weeks of our return to Dallas, that sucker popped right out. I communicated with both the specialist and my dentist in Tilaran, and they said that sometimes the metal in these things is rejected (boy, I'll say) and not to worry. We'd do it over again whenever I was back in Costa Rica.

We did return very briefly in 2008, but that was only one week, and the purpose of that trip was to look at – and, of course, buy, our lot. Then, we moved here in 2009, and for one reason or another, I didn't have time to set up the appointment to try for the do over. Meanwhile, I do remember that I had to have one bad tooth pulled right after we got here, then, sometime in January or February of this year, I went back in and had a new implant done. There was supposed to be a six month wait for this to take before proceeding to the next step, which would be the creation and placement of a crown over the implant. This was extended because I developed a very bad abscess to another tooth, near the implant, and that had to be pulled. Because of the proximity to the implant, of course there was some concern that this might impact that healing, but fortunately it did not. It did, however, create a further delay in getting the crown, because we had to wait for the area of the recent extraction to heal.

So, today was a for-real red letter day for me. Got the crown, it makes a huge difference to me, and the balance is paid in full. No work other than the placement of the crown was done, so no pain involved, and no healing time. I only had to wait for the cement to set, and now I can actually chew on both sides of my mouth for the first time in some years.

Now, we're up to date. The stereo is chuggin' out some Texas Tornados, and the silly parrot is making all kinds of strange noises. Oh, yeah, we now have a parrot. No name. Blanca wanted to call her Lola, but nobody (including me) likes that name. How do we know she's a she? Funny you should ask. We have no idea of the sex of this bird, and from my research it appears that there are only a couple of ways to know the sex of a parrot. One, take the bird to a vet, and have blood drawn for typing, or two, take the bird to a vet and have him open the bird up to see what kind of sex organs are present. Both of these seem a bit extreme to me, so we have gone with what the Ticos tell us, pending an opportunity to introduce her to another bird, so we could see if she catches or pitches.

How, you ask, do we know the sex of the bird, based on the ancient wisdom of the Ticos? Simple. A girl bird likes males (as in human type males), and a boy bird likes females (again, as in human type females). That is, providing, of course, that said bird is not either in a closet, or outright homosexual. This bird, after all that Blanca has done for her, obviously and blatantly prefers me to her. I mean, it was Blanca who spoon fed her as a baby, who cleaned up after her, made sure she had a nice, warm and dark place to sleep, who fussed and fretted over the poor thing until she was able to feed herself. But, if Blanca comes near when I'm around, the bird makes threatening (read, screeching) noises at her, while cozying up to me. She will ride on my shoulder, preen me, and generally jump towards me whenever I walk near, but none of that for Blanca, or any other female. So, that, my friends, is how you tell the sex of a parrot – at least around this house.

So, any ideas out there for a name for this bird? Whatever I decide on will NOT be a common, run-of-the-mill, ordinary everyday parrot name. So, please don't suggest Polly, or Paulie, or Lola or Lola, or any variations of same. Meanwhile, our little house is not so little any more, with the addition of a closed garage/workshop/storage space where the carport was originally placed, and a carport located to the back and the front of the house, respectively. We've overbuilt to the point that we now have no idea where we could stand to take a picture that will show the entire house in one shot. The best I can think of is to go up on the road, and take a series of shots, while walking down. So, that's what I did, and the results have now been posted on Facebook, as a video ( and now, I think I'll take a little break. Thanks for reading.


Monday, November 8, 2010

Did I ever tell ya about the time…………?

Way back in late 1965, while in Basic Training at Ft. Ord, California, I had the somewhat dubious honor to participate in a very unique experience. You see, I was drafted on November 9. Basic Training began a few days later, and the standard at that time called for our group/Company to be tied up with this very intense activity for a total of eight weeks. That would put us into about the middle of January, of 1966. Well, as it happened, Ft. Ord had been in the throes of an epidemic of Meningitis, or something of that nature, since about two years before (maybe more) and this had a real impact on how our Basic Training proceeded. One effect in particular that I can recall is that we had to sleep with all the windows open in our relatively new, cement block construction barracks.

But, the unique thing was that Uncle Sugar, as the Army was fondly referred to (This was only one of the euphemisms that we had for that patch over our left breast, the one with bright yellow letters on a black background that read):

, decided, from way, way up on high that all recruits were to be given some time off for Christmas. I believe that the thinking was that this time off, with deserted barracks all over the post, might help to break the spread of the Meningitis. So, while I no longer recall just how many days this amounted to, I do recall that we were given the opportunity to buy seats on the largest fleet of chartered Greyhound buses ever assembled for one mass movement (OK, I have no idea if this was the largest, but there were a hell of a lot of buses involved). The idea was that Greyhound was going to move however many thousands of us there were from Ft. Ord, all the way up and down the West Coast, and who knows how far inland just for those few days of Christmas holiday, that may have extended into New Year's Eve - but I just don't recall if it did - and, return us!

As I said, I don't remember how many days, but I know that I got back to Seattle on Christmas Eve, sometime after dark, and I think we were back in barracks before New Year's Eve. Now, I have to do one of those segues, sort of a flashback in time, so you can better understand a few things here. I was living in Seattle, with my oldest brother, Mike, at the time I got my Draft notice. By this time, late 1965, most of my high school buddies had either established themselves at various colleges, had jobs, or were otherwise getting on with their lives. Don't ask me how I got caught, but I'll give you a little hint here: I knew the Draft was out there, and I knew there was nothing that I could do about it.

So, even though I had finally gotten a job just days or weeks before the Draft notice came, that made no difference to anybody, except my employer, who was less than thrilled with me. I was able to get in touch with Jim Plante (for some reason, I remember we used to call him 'Plate,' no doubt thinking ourselves clever), one old high school buddy, still in Tacoma, still living with his mother, and working in Tacoma. I do not recall details, but I do know that 'Plate' gave me a very nice sendoff my last night of civilian life (I do remember that we drank what we called boilermakers, where we opened a bottle of Bud, took a healthy swig, and then filled the bottle with vodka). It was decided that I would leave my car with 'Plate' while I went off to the Army (a 1954 Ford like the red one in the ad, below, except mine was blue, and really needed a new paint job):


Jim was going to use the car to get back and forth to his work, and he agreed to fix a couple of things that we knew were wrong with it. First, just to clarify this, back when I bought it dirt cheap, earlier that same year, it featured a conversion from the original automatic transmission on the column, to a floor shift, aka as a "Hurst Kit." This was only a three speed, which was fine, but whoever had done the conversion had reversed the positions of first gear and reverse gear. So, Jim was going to get that fixed. The second problem was that a previous owner had taken out the original bench seat and put in homemade bucket seats, with a homemade center console. When I say homemade, I want you to think crude. So, Jim was to take those out, and find a bench seat.

So, flash ahead, to a day or two before Christmas. Along with a ton of other skinny GI's I boarded a bus at Ft. Ord, and we headed on up the coast. All the way through California, without a lot of stops, 'cause this bus was headed for Seattle, and points north. All the way through Oregon, through Portland, and Olympia, along Interstate 5, and somewhere along the way, it occurred to me that we would arrive in Tacoma just after dark (which occurs pretty early in that part of the world, at that time of the year). So, I asked the driver to let me off in Tacoma, where exactly I no longer recall, but I know it was not downtown, at the bus station. Somehow, I found a phone, and called Jim's home. His mother told me that he was at work, some distance South of where I was located, and I no longer recall how the hell I got to wherever he was.

At some point in time thereafter I did reflect on all this and realize that what I did to Jim was pretty crappy. I interrupted his work, and told him I was there for my car. He gave me the key without any problem, and I took off for Seattle. That means that I left him stranded at work right then, but who knows how he was going to get around once I left with his only wheels. But, I obviously didn't care. Hell, what did I know? I was 19, and free for a few brief hours. I did get some payback shortly thereafter, because I had a flat before I got to the exit for SeaTac Airport. I was able to find a gas station that had a used tire that fit my car, and actually had enough money to buy it and get it mounted (maybe it helped that I was in uniform), and continue on to my brother's house up on top of Queen Anne Hill (north of downtown Seattle). I had been able to call and let my brother know I was on my way. Upon arrival at Mike's, he let me put my car in his garage, and then we took off in his little Ford Falcon, along with his wife and dogs, and headed for "home" for an old-fashioned Dungan Christmas. Think of the old man – our father – drinking himself to oblivion, and passing out with his face in the mashed potatoes. You'd think my mother would have learned, but no, she kept on making mashed potatoes year after year. But, maybe, since this was pretty much the highlight of any family gathering – other than the old man's penchant for beating on her – she figured she didn't want to disappoint the rest of us.

This trip was another adventure after the one I had just completed. We headed over Snoqualmie Pass, through Ellensburg, headed for Moses Lake, where the folks were by then living. Actually, I remember that in the brief time that I had lived there myself, we called it Moses' Hole (don't ask). A blizzard came up, as we headed up the pass, and I remember we had to stop in the snow and put the tire chains in place in order to continue the journey. This would have been well before the summit, and I think we kept the chains on all the rest of the way. We had a mostly uneventful Christmas in Moses Lake, and then, back to Seattle in plenty of time for me to catch my bus to return to Ft. Ord to continue my torture/education/indoctrination more commonly known as Basic Training. I have no idea if this was the same bus, but it was only GI's headed back down the coast.

So, despite all the snow on the ground, off we went, down through Portland again, along through Salem (snow), Eugene, Roseburg (still snow), Grants Pass (lots more snow), all of which made for very slow going, with frequent stops for the road ahead to be cleared. This continued, taking all night, until we came into Medford, sometime in the early afternoon of the following day. At this point, our bus stopped at the little bus station, along with I don't know how many others. The drivers announced that they had all driven as many hours as they were allowed by law, and until or unless the company sent more drivers, we were not going any further. They needed rest, and I certainly can't fault that thinking. So, not knowing what else to do with us (busloads of young, impressionable GI's), they turned us loose on the town.

Literally, within minutes, the bus station was surrounded by carloads of townspeople, especially cars loaded with young, impressionable Medforites of the female persuasion, all of whom were friendly, and didn't mind chatting with us as long as we were willing to do so. GI's were invited into the homes of perfect strangers, where they were fed, and given warmth. Some of us just walked around, looking for a bar or restaurant. Now, I don't know about all of the other GI's, but you may recall that this one was barely 19, and you know that the drinking age on the West Coast was 21. Didn't make any difference, and we couldn't spend what little money we had. Everywhere we went, the locals refused our money. They bought us drinks in the bars, and meals in the restaurants. I personally do not recall ever hearing of any town putting itself out so much for so many GI's with no expectation of any return. This, remember, was late 1965, and vigorous protest against U. S. involvement in Viet Nam was in full swing (see the Wiki timeline here: GI's were generally looked down upon, and by this time were generally not showing their uniforms in public (we, on this merry trip, of course had no choice; we had no other clothing, for one thing) lest they be cursed or spit upon.

Well, the revelry continued into the night, until the drivers had gotten their eight hours of rest and a meal. Somehow, the word was spread and we all boarded our respective buses again in time to continue our journey back to Ft. Ord, where we then went back into training. For me, Basic Training lasted until sometime towards the end of January, 1966, or maybe early February. Then, I was held over for a number of days, waiting orders (I was to go to Infantry AIT – Advanced Individual Training – as a prerequisite for OCS – Officer Candidate School). The rest of my military history is best left for another tale, another time, like after y'all buy me a few beers.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Maybe I really do need to get a life (online)

Egotism is the anesthetic that dulls the pain of stupidity. - Frank Leahy

There is blog written by a Michael Alan who lives in La Fortuna. According to the hype (see: for his blog, he writes about vacation and relocation to Costa Rica, and is best known for videos that he has published on youtube. He also talks about (it says here) an investment experience gone bad. He links to another site, or is linked by that site, as do I. That site is, and what Daniel, the owner of that site, does is send an email each day to those who ask for it with links to the newest blog posts for those of us who have linked to him.

I have taken a look at this blog off and on over the last several months, just to see what is happening over on that end of our Lake. Never really paid a lot of attention to it, 'cause I am not all that taken with the writer's style. I do appreciate the fact that he does seem to try to tell it like it is, and not paint the tourism/expat worlds with rose colored glasses, if I may mix a metaphor here.

Recently, Daniel (USExpat….) linked to a new rant from Michael that described his strong dissatisfaction with an experience he had had with a company called Interbus. That rant may be found here:

Interbus, using mostly mini-buses, hauls folks all over the country, for what I consider to be a pretty steep fare. As I understand it, they haul point to point, and obviously depend on tourists for most of their clientele. We see their buses all the time on the roads around here, and folks we've talked to who have used their service describe a pleasant enough service, that, as I said, I consider to be pricey. However, that has nothing to do with Michael's rant. He was pissed because he claims they stranded him, his traveling companion (D'Angelo) and their dog (Pincho) half way through a recent trip. You can read his original rant for yourself, if you've a mind to. I did, just to see what the link from USExpatcostarica had to say. I was not impressed with his complaint. As a matter of fact, I thought it was pretty lame. The gist of it appears to be that he and his traveling companion had their passage booked for them by a friend, who just happens to be some sort of travel agent, which little factoid was definitely known to the nice folks at Interbus. None of the involved parties (Ranter, dog, travel companion, or travel agent/friend) ever took the time to read the Terms and Conditions that are clearly posted on Interbus' website, and I would bet, on whatever contract was ultimately created (as in, their tickets, or receipts).

So, when someone at Interbus became aware that this guy was carrying his pet, which is clearly against company policy (and, easily found under their policies, from the link on their home page - item #14, for his edification), he, his companion, and their dog were told that they would have to find another mode of transport for the return portion of their journey. Please note that his friend had booked a trip from point A, to point B, and back again, and that they were carried all the way to their destination (halfway through a round trip), even though he reported that an employee of Interbus became aware that they had an animal with them. So, it is not as if they never even reached their intended destination. As I said, I was not impressed with his complaint, and really did not (nor do I now) see what all the fuss is/was about. Yesterday, after reading his second rant, I went ahead and posted a comment to his blog for his consideration:

I read your first rant, and pretty much dismissed it for what it was. Most of the world has learned to live without allowing some little four-legged 3# yip-yip-gator-appetizer to dominate our lives, but apparently y'all can't take a crap without taking along your dependent. The simple fact of the matter is that y'all violated the policies of a legitimate company, and got caught. Get over it already. It was bad enough that you had to rave and rant, and use foul language that ill becomes an adult. But, now, after someone representing that company has taken the time to respond to you (very politely, I might add), you act as if you have been insulted. The only insulted party here is Interbus. As for you having been called a liar, I sure don't see that in the person's response to you. And to think that your latest tirade ends by indicating that you expect them to apologize to you. You got some nerve! If I was you, I would consider obtaining legal representation in preparation for their pending defamation/slander/libel demanda or denuncia, 'cause they certainly have grounds, under Tico law for one serious legal action against you.

    He then posted this response: November 1, 2010 10:49 AM

michael alan said...

John, you're as STUpid as they are. Take the cussing out girlie man and re-read the post. We didn't book it... if we were hiding a dog, wouldn't we hide it for the entire trip... good Lord man, READ. This was not professional by Interbus, JOHN, " you did hide that fact to Interbus". Obviously you don't believe us either...whatever. Slander? Defamation? paa...leeeez. Look up the words on WIKI and get educated John. Did you really think I expected or even want an apology... take the stick out of your ass and don't take it so seriously. For you or anyone else who believe I 'rant'.... this blog is strictly fodder for me... a little INFO and perspective and I try to make it a bit entertaining... but John, if '_ _ _ _' bothers you, feel free to stay off my _ _ _ _in blog. (Editor's note: blanks are mine).

Now, this is really weird. Interbus wasn't professional? In my opinion, the first driver could have left them at the side of a road, and Michael wouldn't have a leg to stand on! He seems to think that I have accused him of somehow contriving to hide his dog from the drivers. I never implied any such thing. It looks like he believes that once Interbus found him out, it was on them to provide alternative transportation for his party! Where did he get such an idea? Strikes me that this might be considered akin to the standard "no shirt, no shoes, no service" of American restaurants, or "We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone," also commonly found in U. S. businesses. What is particularly puzzling to me is that it appears that this guy wants to plead ignorance of the law, which I thought we had all learned long, long ago simply just don't fly!

As for my remarks about his crude language, and his absolutely outrageous attitude toward the folks at Interbus, didn't his mother ever teach him that you can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar? Then he says, "this blog is strictly fodder for me." What the hell does that mean? He tries to make it entertaining? Foul language sure wasn't part of entertainment where I grew up, or where I raised my family (other than watching George Carlin when possible). I guess he just possesses a sense of humor foreign to me and/or my nature, but I don't find this kind of rage at all entertaining, and it certainly is not funny. The word that comes to mind, actually, is pitiful. And, the reader will note that I said all this without calling anybody any names (bravely resisting the obvious temptations). The only foul language used, btw, other than direct quotes attributed to Michael, might be my use of the term 'pissed' in reference to his state of mind, at one point. It is actually very easy to avoid foul language, Michael. You might try it some time.

Oh, by the way, Mike. If I was inclined to look up the meaning of legal terms in Costa Rica, the very last place I would look would be Wiki. Can you say abogado, Mike?

I Want My MTV?

"Why do you sit there looking like an envelope without any address on it?" - Mark Twain

First, let me provide you with a statement, that is relatively current: According to figures by the Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Censos (INEC), 30% of Costa Rican homes are connected to subscription[sic] television (cable or satellite), which represents a market potential of 330.000 subscribers. - - - from Inside Costa Rica, July 26, 2010

Now, based on that statement, I have a rhetorical question for you (or, if you can answer it accurately, please feel free to do so): How many of those subscribers do y'all suppose are subscribed primarily so that they might obtain English language programming? Maybe 5,000? I doubt if the number is that high, but let's go with it. That's less than 1%, folks.

So, to the meat: I am going to try to avoid being behind the curve yet again, so this is written in some haste. Let me say first that it seems that all of a sudden certain online forums are full of complaints about Amnet and the recent changes that cable company has made to its channel lineup. This has now culminated (just this morning) with a letter to the editor of AMCostaRica, from a Mr. Barbour. Rather than be summarily dismissed by Jay Brodell, the editor over there, I figured I'd just create my own little editorial/précis on this subject.

On the one hand, we have the ostriches who have taken their heads out of the sand long enough to complain that these changes occurred without their knowledge (and, they imply, their consent). On the other, we have those whose primary concern is just that they feel that their access to English language broadcasts is of primary importance in the general scheme of things, and is now being further restricted than previously.

Well, guess what folks? No sympathy here. For the ostrich crowd, this was not a sudden, unannounced change. It was publicized everywhere that it was appropriate by the company in question, just as American cable companies and satellite providers do. As a matter of fact, the very forum where so many of the current complaints are now appearing contained information about the changes before they took place (most places would consider that advance warning). But, the ostriches live in such a tiny world, that they only notice change after the fact, when it pretty much smacks 'em upside the head. Actually, fyi, and for those who are always complaining about a lack of communication from ICE, CableTica, et al, they should know that there is communication from all of these entities on their various websites – in Spanish, the language of the country. Granted, there is not much back and forth, even in that language, but there is a lot of information available to customers, if they will just avail themselves of it.

And, for the others, why is there this constant whining about a lack of English language usage in a country that has Spanish as the official language, and where the percentage of non-Spanish speakers remains miniscule? Didn't anyone tell you this simple fact of life in Costa Rica before you came here? Do I have to repeat the numbers for you? Remember simple economics, or supply and demand, folks. How can it pay any provider to provide a service for such a small percentage of the market, at the risk of losing the majority, which would probably be where the money is, ¿que no?

First, how many of these same whiners complained at the number of Spanish speakers in the states, and thought it was wrong to cater to them, without taking into consideration how many more millions of them there were and are, than there are English speakers here in Costa Rica? And, second, why didn't y'all take some measures before arriving here to satisfy your need for English language entertainment? Ultimately, as my friend, Andy Browne is fond of saying, "It is what it is," and we all have to live with it.