Alligators 'n Roadkill

Alligators 'n Roadkill
On The Road


Monday, October 25, 2010

Breaking (beer) News for the Lake Arenal area.

"Without question, the greatest invention in the history of mankind is beer. Oh, I grant you that the wheel was also a fine invention, but the wheel does not go nearly as well with pizza." - - Dave Barry

(This may well impact all the Lake Arenal area, over to La Fortuna, on the east, and down to Los Angeles, to the west).

George Lin (aka Big Beluga), from Maryland, is the official Brew Master at Hotel Tilawa. He has told me just today that, after literally years of preparation, and seemingly endless paperwork, the first order of hops have arrived on site, and the first order of Malt is in country, expected to arrived at the hotel later today. He is planning to start out by brewing mostly Ales, and he will do his first run (three barrel capacity per run) within days. He said that they hope to be ready for paying customers in about two weeks. He will start with a blend of specially modified hops for a fruity, citrus-like flavor, and then will try a stout. I will try to post more as things develop, and will try to provide a review when there are products to talk about.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Is There A Doctor In The House?

To be stupid, selfish, and have good health are three requirements for happiness, though if stupidity is lacking, all is lost. - Gustave Flaubert (1821 - 1880)

A couple of the more tolerant/lame/PC/weak Costa Rica forums have a recurring theme, if you will allow me to label this particular phenomenon as such. That theme has to do with requests for referrals to various English speaking medical specialists. Now, as an experienced RN, I have always recommended that everyone should have a primary (as in family) doc. Let him or her decide if you have a medical need for a specialist consultation or not, and if you do need such a thing, then let your family doctor choose for you! How could you think to ask perfect strangers (the members of an online forum, a goodly portion of whom are just as phony as a three dollar bill), to offer you suggestions in an area that should be so personal, and important?! Worse, how dare you (or I) presume to know if or when we need to see a specialist?

Now, some folks will try to tell us that they have this need because they were under the care of such a specialist back in the states, so they want this for ongoing care. But, that's drivel. How did they come under the care of that specialist in the first place, if not through a referral from another doc? And, if they left the care of their primary physician simply because they gained a medical diagnosis of a heart condition, or diabetes, or whatever, then who the hell told them to do such a foolish thing (stop seeing their primary physician)? You can bet it was NOT that specialist, nor was it their family doc! You still need that primary physician!

Beyond that, if you are or were under the care of a specialist in the states, before you make the decision to move to a foreign country (actually, this should apply even if you're moving across town, or to another town or state), you should discuss the move with your specialist prior to making that decision. Ask them questions about what their recommendation is for your ongoing care. Ask them to make the actual referral for you! You might be surprised at the international contacts good physicians have. Ask them for a copy of your patient records to bring with you to provide to your new physician. Don't worry if they're in English, and you're moving to a place where Spanish is the preferred language. You'd be surprised how many English language Medical Texts are studied in foreign countries, simply because there is not enough market for publishers to pay for translations.

When talking about ongoing health care, the first step is always to choose your primary physician. If you are in the Caja, then let the doc you see at the clinic decide whether or not you need to see a specialist! Then, follow his instructions, and give the system a chance to work. Why complicate your life? If you do not speak adequate Spanish, then for cryin' out loud – LEARN! Or, take someone with you to translate (this is a courteous thing for you to do not just for yourself, but for the clinic staff) when you go to the clinic! And, please, please, please! Stop whining about they don't speak English! That is not their language, and this is – after all - their country! It is upon us to adjust to their ways, not up to them to accommodate our shortcomings.

Now, if you don't like the specialist they send you to see, go back and tell them so. But, remember, if you're part of the Caja, this will do you no good, because there are only so many specialists available to Caja patients, under the best of circumstances. So, once in a while, suck it up! Take it like a man (or woman). If all else fails, go ahead on back to the states, and find somebody there who speaks your language (like a doc from Pakistan, or India), and pay through the nose, if you can afford it.

But, whatever you do, please don't ask me – or any other stranger – to suggest or recommend any kind of specialist for you. I know the big advantage of doing something in this manner (asking strangers to guide your life) may well offer you the opportunity to evade your own responsibility for your actions, but that is just plain stupid. Oh, yeah, "I died because that stranger over there on the forum sent me to the wrong doctor"! Oh, no……I won't be part of that.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Blame Game

    If you have been paying attention, you should know that one writer I admire is a man named Fred Reed (there should be a link to his site here somewhere). Fred wrote for more than one nationally prominent publication in the U. S. before retiring to Mexico, where he still writes about whatever he wants to write. He is my ideal of a curmudgeon, and he could probably say all of the following much better than I, but he's got other fish to fry, so I'm going to tackle this one, with a salute to Fred, nonetheless. I should also note that the below has already appeared just this date on the website, Top 10 Costa Rica (, in a different form.

Some of you may remember an incident last year, near Playa Flamingo, when a 14 year old American girl, on vacation with her family, went over a cliff on an ATV, and died, tragically. Now, it should be noted that – as far as we know - this family had no previous history of ATV use in the U.S. (like, maybe driving lessons, or safety instructions). We also know that the family had already been in Costa Rica long enough to have found their way to whatever hotel they were using, and long enough to have booked a tour that involved riding ATV's on bad and/or nonexistent roads (hell, these were ATV's), and certainly long enough to be aware that there are no controls or regulations in place to help ensure user safety. Yet they felt it was OK to allow their 14 year old daughter, who had never ridden on an ATV, let alone driven one, to participate in this wild ride through the jungle. They even had two 6 year olds and one 7 year old along.

    As I said, this was a tragic event. But, the tragedy has been compounded, first because the mother of this child immediately was quoted in the news indicating that she was seeking someone else (other than herself) to blame for this occurrence. The above news report tells how she is still actively seeking others to blame for what (imho) was her responsibility – the safety of her child. ABC News, in the person of "Brian Ross Investigates" carried an interview with her this last Friday, and a new AMCostaRica report describes all of this for us (see page three of today's edition online).

    Personally, I am so tired of this American attitude of never accepting responsibility for our own actions. When did this start? Where did it come from? Why do we put up with it? And, what is wrong with our so-called media (ABC News, I'm talking to you) that they would dignify such goings-on by giving these people a platform?

I'm sorry for her loss, but it is NOT my government's responsibility to intercede for her with Costa Rica, nor is it the U. S. government's place to dictate to another country in situations such as this. Worse, why is it acceptable to use information about an incident in Costa Rica in a blatant attempt to influence U. S. lawmakers, and the citizenry in general, regarding ATV safety. For this lady's information, ATV use has been common for many, many years, and many changes have already been made industry wide, on an international basis, in an effort to make these things as safe as they can be. What's more, it is common knowledge that inexperienced persons should not operate any kind of machinery, let alone be allowed to drive such a machine. And, ultimately, it is the parent's responsibility to provide the necessary training, whether it be driver education, safety course, or whatever. Or, in the absence of such training and preparation, it is the parent's responsibility to deny the child the opportunity to participate in such an event as a wild jungle ride, in a foreign country, over unfamiliar terrain.

That means it is not mine. Not yours. Not the government's (why do people keep forgetting who the government really is?). Not the Tour Operator's. Not ABC News. And, definitely, not Brian Ross'!

Now, let me be blunt, and say this: Lady, you really need to get over it! Sure, you can reach out and try to teach people (maybe people like you were; who didn't want to be bothered, didn't see the need, didn't know better, whatever) to do better. But, do it from a position where you acknowledge your own part in this event, and accept your own responsibility for it. I bet you would be much more effective speaking as a mother who may have had a momentary lapse of judgment, than you do as a shrill voice of blame, one that sounds like they are desperately seeking to avoid responsibility.

About ATV's: Granted, these were first introduced as recreational vehicles, for fun, or sport. But, what they are, if we are going to be honest about them, is best left for experienced users, and their ideal role should be for them to be used as working tools. They are great for hauling loads on the farm or ranch, and for getting around in rugged terrain, while performing some sort of work. They are not practical for fun, because they are, quite frankly, too powerful, and it is too easy for someone lacking experience (and common sense) to lose control of them, and flip them, or drive them – at great speed – right off the road (like over a cliff). So, how could this mother, who called herself (last year, on AMCostaRica) "an extremely responsible mother," also say that "….had I thought there was serious risk of danger I would have never permitted my family to participate in this tour"? Does she wish us to believe that she was so completely unaware of the very existence of ATV's to the point that she did not know that they are not for beginners?

She went on to say that "We were never warned of any dangers, never signed a waiver, and the owner of the tour knew we had two 6 year olds and a 7 year old with us." And, I say, so what? Where did she think she was? The owner of the tour knew she had three kids along who were younger than the 14 year old? So what? Didn't she know that, too? Does she mean to tell us that she also allowed those three younger kids to participate in this tour? What the hell was she thinking? And, why is it now everybody else's fault?

Seems to me that if she was not asked to sign a waiver, nor was she warned of any possible danger, that should only have served to remind her to be extra vigilant of the welfare of her kids.  You want to take this tour as a family?  Then, remind the kids to stick together, and make sure you bring up the rear, just as you would when walking through the zoo, or strolling in the park, as a group.  How else do we watch over our kids, if not from behind.  If one kid lags, then we should be lagging, too, right?  Isn't this what she was already doing, since she was escorting an apparently large family on a trip to a foreign country?  Now, because she had a lapse of judgment, or whatever reason, she gets to spend the rest of her life bad mouthing Costa Rica, and everyone associated with her trip.  And, her other children are likely scarred for life by the event.  This whole thing stinks, and blaming anyone is not helping one iota.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Costa Rican Suburu owners: A new online forum

Hey!  A new forum in Spanish, BUT, you can also write in English if you like.  It is a site for the owner of the older Subaru who may be looking for parts, service, and other things related to older Subarus in Costa Rica.  As a Subaru owner for 31 years, the forum owner has seen the need for a central place where one can look for parts, put up photos, ask questions, etc. related to Subaru.  They don't plan on meetings, races, picnics, show offs (except for the photo section)... just a place for ideas and help.  If you are a lucky older Subaru owner or even a wannabe... Welcome, sign up and see what can be accomplished:

Saturday, October 16, 2010

A brief and personal history of ICE’s Kolbi 3g Internet service.

(Editor's Note:  A slightly different version of this article was originally published at

Never confuse movement with action.   Ernest Hemingway

          When I was first told of the availability of the then new Huawei 3g Data Card/Modem from ICE to be used with their 3g network for internet only service, I did not hesitate to sign up (this was just before Christmas last year).  It was explained by ICE, and understood by me, that this service was new, so there were still bugs to be worked out.  That was even the reason given for a low introductory price.  It was understood that the speed would be better within a month or so of initial release, and that the cost and speed would be go up together.
          The increase in speed did come, but much later (not until late April) than our local office had verbally told me, and it was not automatic.  I had to go in person to their office, after I learned that a higher speed was available, and formally request the higher speed, at which time, I began to pay a higher price as well.
          Since its inception, the connection speed has very rarely, and only for short periods of time, ever reached the originally promised 1.0Mbps speed.  Worse, the upload speed is still atrociously slow, and the overall connection is too dirty (too much ‘jitter,’ for one thing) to allow one to do some of the tasks normally expected over the internet (like, especially VOIP phone calls).  The operative word here might well be inconsistency, because the signal has never been stable.  Nor am I the only one with a problem.  Recently, there was a letter to the Editor of online newzzine, that was seconded by yours truly and another user down in the Osa area.
          Last week, after talking with some neighbors about how much worse things had been for the two weeks prior, I went to the local ICE office, where I spoke with Yurbin, a very nice young man (one of two front desk persons), to inquire about why the connection has been so bad of late.  He admitted to me that there was a problem with the Huawei equipment located in the local tower.  He stated that ICE’s technicians had already done all they could, and now they (ICE) were waiting for representatives from Huawei to come to town to address whatever problems are extant.  He didn’t know, but thought someone might come within the next two weeks.  He was unable to address the question of a possible refund to those of us who pay for the top tier of service, and who are not receiving same.  He did offer (and, this was not the first time that an ICE representative has made this offer to me) to change my account to the lower tier, lower cost, but did not understand why this is not acceptable to me (I can’t seem to make them understand that it is inconvenient to have to make two trips to their office to affect what should be done over the phone.  Nor can they understand the concept that maybe a company that gave a damn about its customers might voluntarily do something like this).
          Then, two days ago, I resolved to make yet another attempt to reach ICE’s tech support by phone (193 didn’t work, but the live person there was able to refer me to 115, where I pretty much got lost in the system of pre-recorded and very much disembodied voices that kept giving me teasing options).  I should note that I had already tried this once or twice before.  On one occasion, a techie was able to get me back online, by guiding me to change some settings in my software.  Then, the day before yesterday, I finally cut a techie off, and hung up after becoming frustrated by her attempts to have me do what had already been done, and her inability to address my specific concerns.  Those specific concerns had and have to do with the fact that the service has been even worse than usual over the last three weeks, and a (to ICE) strange desire to want to actually receive that which I am paying.
          Yesterday, while waiting online for yet another techie, I idly connected my Zoom Modem to the PC, and went online.  All of a sudden, after weeks and months of it not being there, I had a fast, steady connection!  A full 1Mbps per the most stringent speed test that I know, and that test gave me - for the first time in months of testing - three green lights signaling that I actually had a good enough connection to allow a VOIP call (not necessarily good enough for a video conference, you understand, but Skype should have worked).  I was amazed.  I tried out my Slingplayer program, and it was actually working for the first time in months, with a good download speed approaching 500Mbps (this is the minimum speed that Slingmedia software and equipment needs in order to function.  And, this is a phenomenon of the slingmedia concept:  Even when the internet speed test hits as high as 1Mbps, the slingplayer software drops that down to half, or less, thus rendering the software useless).  But, alas, this good connection was all too short lived.  It fell back to the normal, slow, unstable connection that I have come to hate these last months, within about fifteen minutes.
So, yesterday, while in town on other business, I made it a point to go yet again to the local office of ICE.  On this occasion I actually spoke to the local Gerente, Mario Murillo.  I asked him if maybe somebody had been working on the tower the day before, maybe during that brief time that I experienced the short lived good connection.  He did not know, but he did acknowledge that there is some sort of problem with the Huawei equipment in the local tower, and ICE is expecting someone to come to town within the next week to address whatever issue is present.  He also made me that same (in my opinion) empty offer to change my plan to the lower speed, lower cost tier.
So, here we are.  Living in paradise, far from the madding crowd, as it were, but also far from so many things that I used to take for granted.  Of course, in this case I am only crying over the lack of a high speed internet connection.  I think the frustration is that I made the mistake of believing the ICE was actually offering me a real alternative to dial up (OK.  It is a real alternative, but it is still too slow to be properly called broadband).  Who knows if or when they will get whatever is wrong fixed, but I figure they have come a long way to finally admit that there is an equipment problem.  But, you probably did notice that, true to ICE form, they are still not accepting the responsibility for any failure, since they are blaming Huawei’s equipment.
Meanwhile, a new problem has arisen.  For the last few mornings, when I first turn on my PC, I now notice that my internet connection is gone (I have a router that is on 24/7, mostly from habit, but actually for my Skype phone, which I can rarely use, anyway).  So, as soon as the PC boots, I have to reset the router each and every day.  Yet another cause for frustration..........And, so the continuing saga of my disillusionment with ICE and this Kolbi system goes on.  Stay tuned.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Come join a New Online Forum About Costa Rica

I would like to invite any and all interested to join a new online forum about, for, and involving living in Costa Rica as a non-citizen, but legal resident.  This group is being formed after years of frustration with existing forums that are too heavily moderated, politically slanted, exclusive of many who can be of help, and generally too much full of gossip, innuendo, and rumor.  This forum will exist for a free and open exchange of ideas and information about how to get here, what to do after getting here, and so forth.  Take a peek.

Group email address:


Thursday, October 7, 2010

Who’d a Thunk it?

"TANSTAAFL" (There ain't no such thing as a free lunch – from The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, by Robert A. Heinlein, 1966)

My favorite author is/has been/always will be Robert A. Heinlein. He was considered the "Dean" of America's Science Fiction writers for much of his lifetime, and you can easily find that title still in common use. He actively wrote from around 1939, starting out in the pulps, with mostly short stories, up until his death in 1988. He also wrote under a number of pseudonyms . I first became aware of his work sometime in the 50's, before I reached my teen years. This happily coincided with a period during which he concentrated on writing mostly juvenile SF novels. The above quote did not necessarily originate with Mr. Heinlein, but his writing certainly helped to popularize the concept, which, of course pre-dates his use of it by at least a hundred years. For those who may not be aware of it, back in the 19th century, bars used to provide a "free lunch" that was designed to entice drinkers into the bar, so as to whet their real appetite, which was expected to be for more and more beer, or other liquid refreshments. The practice, long dead in the states, lives on in Latin America, and is known as a botana in Mexico, and a boca (or boquita) in Costa Rica. Obviously, the quote refers to the thought that, despite the advertised 'free' lunch, sooner or later one is going to have to pay something for that free thing.

Now, all of that is neither here nor there, but simply a prelude to what I wanted to talk about today. As I said, I have read Heinlein for many years, and I think I have a copy of just about everything he ever wrote. I saved all of these books with the express purpose in mind that I was going to read them all over again, now that I'm retired. So, after more than a year here in paradise, I started in on Heinlein's books last week. I have my books arranged on the shelves alphabetically, by author, but I had forgotten that some of Heinlein's books are in a back row, and most of them are in a front row. Forgetting to look at the back row, which began with Assignment in Eternity, I instead began with Have Spacesuit Will Travel. Early on in this 1956 or so juvie, I noticed a reference to a book being read by the main character's father. The writer of that book was given as Jerome K. Jerome, and the book named was Three Men On A Boat. Now, I have to make a confession, and that leads to a very important discovery on my part.

All of the years that I have read Heinlein I have always assumed his mentions of obscure writers, philosophers, mathematicians, scientists, theories, books, and so on, were just padding of a sort, to help lend credence to his stories. I know that many of his referenced things were provided with dates that were yet to come, so I always assumed that he made up names, and so forth, just to add to his stories. This time, for some reason, I wondered, "What if there really is/was a Jerome K. Jerome? What if he really did write this book?" So, I did what I have by now learned to always do when seeking more information about anything. I went to Google. And, guess what I found? There really was a Jerome K. Jerome, and he really did write a book called Three Men On A Boat. It was published in 1889, and it describes a trip on the River Thames taken by these real life men. What's more, it is a truly delightful book, and I recommend it to anyone who enjoys reading. Just google it, and you will even find copies of it available online, for free!

    So, now I have another reason to re-read all my Heinlein books. I intend to mine them for whatever other treasures he left for me, that I ignored for all these years. Who knows what I am going to find? I will keep you posted.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

A Quote is a Quote is a Quote……

(Being a generally rambling discourse on pretty much nothing……………)


Have you ever observed that we pay much more attention to a wise passage when it is quoted than when we read it in the original author? - Philip G. Hamerton


For the inquiring minds out there, Philip Gilbert Hamerton (September 10, 1834 – November 4, 1894) was an English
artist and art critic and author. Editor's Note: Evidently, more of a critic and writer than an artist himself, because according to Wikipedia, he first tried painting, and then switched to writing.


You may have noticed that I try to insert at least one quote at the top of my various posts. I got the idea of doing this from a combination of things. One, it is pretty common practice in literature to see quotes as part of the preface to a book; Two, it's just kind of cool to see whether somebody way smarter than I might have said something sort of appropriate (and, that is not hard to do) to whatever rant I want to talk about, and; Three, iGoogle always has three quotes of the day on their site, and I have been saving them for a while OK, I suppose I could put a fourth reason here, and say 'cause I can put whatever I want since it's my blog! Oh, wait! I also have a collection of quotes that I found one day (on the 'net; where else?) specifically dealing with stupidity, and I just like to share.

    Well, when I saw this quote on iGoogle the other day, it actually gave me pause. First, I wanted to know when this was originally said, and in what context? Because it did occur to me that this might well be truer today than, say, ten or fifteen years ago. And, I say that because I believe that we (OK, I) see excellent famous and not so famous quotes from famous and not so famous people much more often today than ever before, simply because of the internet.

    But, my first thought was that this is simply not true, at least not for me. You see, I am a voracious reader (fiction for entertainment, mostly), and have been for all of my life. And, I cannot recall how many, many times I have interrupted my reading to cogitate on a particular passage, or statement that the writer has placed there (maybe just for me, who knows?). A very significant, poignant passage will cause me to put whatever book I'm reading aside for a period of time just to reflect on what I've just read. And, yes, to appreciate what has been written. This is actually one of the great pleasures of reading. You never know when you might just come across a gem, a sparkle, an idea so significant (maybe only to you, but that's OK) that you have no choice but to just look at it, pick it up, hold it a different angles, and downright admire it for what it is.

     And, now that I think about it, maybe this has a lot to do with how I've decided over the years who some of my favorite authors are. They're the ones who provided me with those sparkling gems, those ideas that moved me, that inspired me, that made me think more deeply. And, they're the ones whose words I remember longer, and take to heart. They are also the ones whose writing in one book hit me so strongly that I had to go out and find more things written by them, just so I could seek to repeat that experience by attempting to find even more gems. And, you know what? I have rarely been disappointed in that search. And, that explains why, if you look at my sparse book shelves, you will see a lot books written by the same few authors.

    So, I guess I wind up with this conclusion: the statement may be very generally true, because so many of us like to single out good quotes for use like I do on this Blog, but for me, I'll stick with my first reaction (usually a very good practice), and say that a great writer (or, sometimes, a great speaker) will inevitably sprinkle some gems over the material that he/she has written (or spoken) that will live longer than the whole of whatever has been written.