Alligators 'n Roadkill

Alligators 'n Roadkill
On The Road


Thursday, April 28, 2011

Now, if I can just have your attention for a moment or two……..

There are people who, instead of listening to what is being said to them, are already listening to what they are going to say themselves. - Albert Guinon

A new study has come to the attention of the fine folks over at NPR (up at NPR?), and I just have to share. It seems, after all these years, that ADHD may not actually be a true medical diagnosis in the sense that it defines a specific medical condition that might be susceptible to a specific medical treatment or regimen. "ADHD, it's just a couple of symptoms — it's not a disease," Dr. Lidy Pelsser of the ADHD Research Centre in the Netherlands told All Things Considered weekend host Guy Raz. As a matter of fact, the study suggests that some simple, but restrictive dietary changes may be of most benefit to kids who are considered to have the manifestations of hyper activity.

While the study, published in The Lancet, the well regarded British publication, does show that diet changes will not necessarily help all kids with these outward symptoms, they do help the majority, so now the issue becomes one of educating physicians to recognize the symptoms and learn the correct ways in which to change the diets. The study showed that it only take about five weeks to affect a marked change in most kids, and that certainly would be a time well spent, especially if it could mean getting away from the overdependence on drugs.

Taken together with other recent studies about homeopathy, CFS, and others, this also illustrates another very significant point. As has been said so many times before, we are what we eat. And, let's face it. While it is true that the diet we follow today might resemble the diet we had as kids, or even the diet of our parents, that is really all it does: resemble the diet of yesterday. Today, we don't make much from scratch anymore; instead, we buy a package that contains a mix that has been pre-prepared, so all we do is assemble the ingredients. Those mixes are not the same as what mom made. Likewise, everything we eat today has had more preparation done before we pick it up off the shelf at the supermarket, or even from the refrigerated display case in the store, than what mom bought.

Likewise, even when we buy fresh fruits or vegetables, except in rare cases, those items are not as fresh as the ones mom bought from a fruit stand along the road, close to home, now are they? So much of the food that today's working mom provides to her kids has changed, that it was inevitable that those kids would start to show some effects. And, here is one that – in my opinion – should relieve a lot of anxiety on the part of a lot of moms. The fact is that this condition (and who knows how many others?) is not the fault of the parent, not a genetic disorder, and more importantly, not something that requires more and more medication.

Now, don't get me wrong. This published report of the study does not specify what dietary changes are needed, but I will bet money that the new diets will focus on more natural things, and fewer prepared and processed foods. And, that is not a bad thing, is it?

And, by the way, please don't bring up any ideas about genetically modified foods, or organic products, or any of that other crap. My point here is the same point I have tried to make before: just eat a balanced diet, whoever you are, and you will most likely be just fine. Or, as my father used to like to say, "Don't do as I do, do as I say."

Please take the time to read the report (I was going to include it here, but decided it is much simpler for anyone interested to just go to this URL):

Friday, April 22, 2011

That beautiful view shown at the top of this page could be yours.

      For Sale:  This Piece of Paradise

The nearly new (move-in was late August of 2009) 2 bed, 2 bath cement block home sits on a secluded plot (2166 sq meters, or about ½ acre) on a very quiet road that actually runs all the way down to the water’s edge of beautiful Lake Arenal.  (The water is just 500 meters from the front door).

There are presently no neighbors between this home and the Lake.  There is a heavily wooded, deep gully on one side (the Ticos refer to this as a montaña, or a quebrada), with a little stream at the bottom.  This ensures a nearly constant, fresh breeze.  Water is paid through the end of the year, and currently is only about $72.00 per year, with no meter.  The water is cold, and crystal clear, with nothing added.  There are two septic systems (aguas negras, for toilets, and gray water, for washer, showers, and sinks).
The house will sell with Kenmore washer and electric dryer, Whirlpool Gas Range,

Maytag refrigerator, and a 2005 Suzuki (pictured below) Grand Vitara, XL7, with current Marchamo and Riteve.  Also included will be one queen size bed, with frame and one King size bed, with frame.  Additional furnishings are negotiable, including wall-mounted Samsung Plasma TV, Sharp Surround Sound system, and small appliances, including Sharp Microwave.   
Part of the Living Area is pictured above.
Ceiling fans are installed in both bedrooms, and in the living area, plus two more are on the front porch, which is completely screened.  Also included on the front porch is a round concrete table, with three concrete benches, covered with ceramic tile.

Front of the house features a recently completed and oversized carport, and there is an enclosed (screen, metal, and wooden bars) garage cum workshop attached to the back of the house.  
This is the workshop/bodega, at the back of the house. The car is

no longer parked there.
One dusk to dawn yard light is attached to the back garage, and motion sensors are mounted at opposite corners of the dwelling itself, plus another on the new carport.  The floors throughout the house, and also in the garage and on the front porch are ceramic tile.

Solid wood doors, and beautiful wooden kitchen cabinets are featured.  Windows are all protected with iron bars.  The ceilings throughout are high, with beautifully stained wooden beams.
 Asking price is $245,000.00 cash only.  Please don’t ask for any kind of financing, or other consideration.
Contact Blog owner, John for more information, and photos.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Do you suppose school board members ever went to school?

For every person who wants to teach there are approximately thirty people who don't want to learn--much. - W. C. Sellar and R. J. Yeatman, And Now All This (1932) introduction

You may have read recently that I've been watching local TV news from Austin, TX, via my slingbox here at home in Beautiful downtown El Aguacate. Lately, the news is full of a new and urgent financial crisis facing the Austin Independent School District (AISD). It seems like every school district of any size up there in Texas (and, I'm sure all the other states as well) gets into trouble once or twice every decade. Big, big financial trouble. And, they always act like it is a big surprise! No one saw it coming. No one predicted it, expected it, was prepared for it, can handle it.

Yet, they have these top heavy administrations – every damn one of them – and a big part of their administrations includes bookkeepers and accountants, and payroll, and folks like that. Yet, no one seems to be sharing information, or some damn thing. How could they not foresee a crisis? Long before a crisis becomes a crisis? Especially, when anyone who has ever been associated with a school district can tell you that there are no entities out there capable of wasting more money faster than a school district (OK, the federal and state governments do a pretty good job of this, too).

Speaking from personal experience (I was a school nurse for two years, and my wife is a retired classroom teacher) I can tell you that the amount of waste on any given day on any given public school campus is nothing short of disgraceful. The campus where I worked actually had a walk-in safe, just like a bank. This was an older building, so by extrapolation, I would surmise (or, I did some time ago) that it is not at all uncommon to find a walk-in safe on a public school campus. Do you know what was in that safe? Expensive items that were either stockpiled, or just too expensive to be left out where anyone could grab them. This was around 2003 – 2004, OK? Included in that safe were things like Sony digital cameras (the very best ones, but already obsolete), the campuses supply of walkie-talkies and chargers, cassette recorders, blank tapes, blank CD's, spare batteries, reams and reams of copy machine paper, spare ink cartridges for copy machines, and just tons and tons of things that nobody used, and that was mostly obsolete.

Now, this of course goes along with something else I noticed years earlier, in connection with my wife's classroom materials. The stuff that really gets used in a given classroom is usually the stuff that was purchased by the teacher her/himself. As far as I know, the districts still provide computers and equipment to classrooms, but you know what? If a working computer finds its way into a classroom, the odds are that it will not be accompanied by a working printer, or any kind of internet service/connection, or up to date software, or adequate hardware. Going back to the first computers we saw coming into the classroom, I clearly recall mostly Mac products, that were obsolete the day they arrived in the classroom, and that were never put to any use due to know one knowing how they operated, but also to the simple fact that a computer is no good without up to date software that can be routinely and periodically updated via the internet.

Something else, just as an example of campus waste that I recall was this: My wife's classroom was provided with a very new and fancy giant laser disc player. These first disc players were developed after the VHS and Betamax tape formats had already been in common use for some time. They featured discs that were even bigger than the old vinyl LPs for music, and they did provide for a much better quality video than any tape format. My wife's classroom also had a television monitor, on a very large, and complicated metal stand, with wheels. But, try as she might, she was never able to acquire a simple cable to connect that fancy movie player to the monitor, so despite the fact that she even had a couple of movies for showing in the classroom, her students never saw scene one.

I also clearly remember one year, just before the start of the school year, my wife asked me to help her set up the classroom, because that particular year she was to have something like half a dozen computers in the room, all to be put on one or two tables, so that they could be networked to one printer. What a sorry mess that was. There was no equipment provided for networking, some of the computers were MSDOS systems, some were MS Windows-based systems, and some were Apple products. But no two computers had the same operating system present, since even though there may have been more than one Windows PC, they each had different versions of Windows, at different stages of upgrade (that's right: Win 3x, Win95, Win98, and none of them with any updates since date of installation). And, of course, since the classroom had no connection to the internet there was no way to update any of the Operating systems, even if one had the time and patience to make the attempt.

This was what I saw in her classrooms each and every year – obsolete equipment that was never complete. She was lucky to have one working computer capable of being connected to the internet, in all the years that she taught. And, she usually had to bring that one home in order to connect to the 'net.

So, now we see on the Texas news that Dallas is offering a $10.000.00 cash incentive to any teachers who are willing to resign voluntarily, and then, a member of the school board in Austin suggested that Austin do the same thing. I listen to these idiots making these proposals, and I have to shake my head in wonder. If y'all are so hard up that you have to cut jobs, where the hell do you think you are going to get the money to payout that much money to those poor bastards that are stupid enough to accept your offer?! Meanwhile, of course, parents are protesting at every school board meeting, and on the streets in front of various schools, screaming "Don't close OUR school!" But, one has to ask, where were those parents before the school districts got in trouble? How many of them have even bothered to look into what was happening at any campus near them prior to this 'crisis?' How come they stay away from their District Board meetings in droves, and fail to watch what their Boards are doing? I'm just sayin'……….

Monday, April 4, 2011

I Fear That The Blush Is Off The Rose……..

For what is the crime of burglarizing a bank, compared with the crime of building one?"
Bertolt Brecht

Rule Number One: The House Always Wins.

OK, here's the thing: As most expats who retire in Costa Rica learn, sooner or later, there is no easy way to ensure that we can receive the money from our pensions or other income when we live here. I (quite possibly due to serious naiveté on my part), used to believe that this was mostly due to international banking laws that prevented easy bank to bank transactions. For ourselves, we decided to open an account in our local branch of BNCR some years before we actually moved here. This was handy, and – at the time – it was not too difficult to do.

After obtaining our cedulas (legal residence) we knew it was also a good idea to have a banking presence here to (if nothing else) more easily prove to the Costa Rican Immigration people that we were indeed bringing in the minimum required amount of dollars each month. When we applied for pensionado status the requirement was that we change at least six hundred Dollars per month into Colones. That amount is almost laughable now, when you consider that our electric bill for the month of January was already in excess of $400.00 (and, no, we do not have the air conditioning running; haven't used it for more than a year)! Yes, that's right – over $400.00 in one month's time! And, we really don't know why this has happened, but we had become used to paying over $200.00 per month. Oh well, that's another story and will no doubt be related at a later point in time.

I started out here to relate a really crappy occurrence that has caused us a certain amount of harm, a lot of discomfort, and tremendous inconvenience. But, I'm still setting this up so that you can understand what happened (God knows why). After we arrived here, I had to figure out a way that would be most economical while being the least wasteful of time. After all, we do have monthly obligations/bills to pay. After a certain amount of trial and error, here is what I had become accustomed to doing each and every month:

First, a couple of years before we moved, I opened an account with a bank in the states that allowed me to have our pensions and social security deposited directly, provided me with a way to pay bills online, and reimbursed me for any and all ATM charges worldwide. Sounds good, right? At first, after moving here, I would go into the local bank, present my Debit card to a teller, and ask to have $1500.00dlls moved from my American Bank to my checking account at BNCR. There was a fee (1.75% of the total?) for this, but I guess I didn't really pay attention to that, as I was thinking about convenience. Then, at the end of our first year here, I received notice from my American Bank that Visa had set new, lower limits on the use of their debit cards. The new limits were set at $1,000.00 per transaction, and per day, where the limits used to be $1500.00.

This had the immediate effect of telling me that the sort of movement I had been doing was too costly (yeah, yeah; I know; it was already too costly). So, I tried to think of an alternative. Here is what I came up with, after thinking about it. I decided to hit the ATM (right outside the front door of the bank, after all) as many times as it would take to hit my daily limit, as many days as it took to meet my local needs for one month. I found out, by trial and error, that I could get up to ¢200,000.00Colones per transaction, with no fee charged by either my American Bank, or BNCR! So, I then asked for that amount, got it, and then immediately fed my card back into the machine, and got another like amount, and then, decided to press my luck, and did it a third time. This worked! Then, I took the cash inside and deposited it to my BNCR account. So, this meant that I could make one trip to the bank each month, and get enough money to cover my needs, without paying that local fee, and at the same time get around that daily limit imposed by Visa.

So, this became my routine. Up until March 1, that is. When I put my card in for my first of three transactions, I got all the way up to completing the confirmation of the amount of cash that I wanted, then a message popped up on screen saying that the ATM had lost contact with the Central Computer. I did get my card back, thinking that the first transaction was a no-go, so I then tried to do my normal three quick transactions. I only got receipts and cash on two out of the three, and on that third attempt I saw the message saying that "that's all, folks," indicating that I had reached my daily limit.

So, worried that maybe my U. S. bank had paid, but not me, I immediately went into the local bank to report this, and to ask for their assistance in recovering (if necessary) my money. (Time out for a little aside here):

Now, here may be where I got off on the wrong foot, but I'm not sure. My thinking went like this:

  1. I May have a problem with an ATM.
  2. Said ATM belongs to BNCR (says so right on the maquina, and all around it, and even outside the little booth).
  3. Said ATM lost connection once. Paid out and printed those little receipts only twice, even though I completed – on my end – the steps for a third pay out.
  4. Just to be very clear here, their ATM did not dispense money or receipt on one out of three attempts.
  5. It is my money. It is their ATM. It is their responsibility. (Sound reasonable? I thought so).
  6. Their responsibility so they (BNCR) owe me that money.
  7. It is their ATM, so they have to have access to it and to its records.
  8. It is their ATM, so their camera will show that I inserted my card and my info three times, but only got paid twice.
  9. I only have two receipts showing that I only got money twice.
  10. Their records should immediately show that I did not get my money. Or, at worst, at the close of business that day, they should easily see that they have got more money than they should have, right?


Well, I guess I was wrong on all counts. The young man at the 'information' desk told me that there was nothing that the bank could do since I was using an international debit card. This was strictly an electronic transaction between two banks, and this local branch (which accesses the ATM from within the bank, by the way) cannot access the ATM records. He said I had to contact my bank (in the states) and report the incident to them, and then wait for them to submit a claim to BNCR. He did say that I could talk to the Branch Manager if I wanted, but he knew that there was nothing that could be done.

I figured that this should be a relatively simple thing, quickly resolved, so I came home and got on Skype to call my U. S. Bank. The young lady in Phoenix to whom I spoke said, "No problem. I will credit your account."

Next day, I checked my bank online and found nothing had been done, so along with my wife, I returned to BNCR. This time we did ask to talk to the Manager, who told us essentially the same crap the guy had told me the day before. The transaction involved an international card, was strictly electronic in nature, they could not access their own ATM's records, and they could not do anything until they received a claim from my U. S. Bank.

When I called my U. S. Bank that day I was given information that differed significantly from what the lady had told me the day before. Now, I learned that the Bank had turned my call into a dispute that had been referred to the Dispute Resolution Team, who now had ten working days to review my complaint and decide what action to take. Then, it would take who knows how many more days for any resolution of my dispute!

So, we gave them six or seven (working) days, and returned to BNCR yesterday, after seeing online that we are still missing that money. Again, we were stonewalled, as we learned that the person in the local branch, to whom we witnessed the Manager assign this for follow up was not only not present, but had done nothing by way of follow up. The Manager did take the time yesterday to place several calls to various people at the main bank in San Jose, spent a lot of time on her computer, but ultimately told us we still have to wait for our U. S. Bank to submit a claim.

According to her, BNCR cannot check their ATM records for any overage until and unless they receive a claim. I am sorry to be so dense and so obtuse, but I cannot understand how this could be. I used to be a bookkeeper many, many years ago. So was my wife. We both recall how the books/accounts had to balance each and every day, one way or another or they could not be closed! So, I guess this means that BNCR does not really care from day to day whether or not their accounts are in order. I wonder what they would do if I had somehow managed to abscond with this much of their money?

Do you suppose they would let me tell them that they must submit a claim, and then wait while I process their claim? Do you suppose they would wait for me to make up stories to justify my dragging my feet? Do you suppose they would let me give them their money whenever I felt like it, without gouging me with late charges, interest, and handling fees? But, wait. Since it is their ATM there is no way it is ever going to pay out more than I ask for (remember rule number one?) is there? I mean, there ain't no way an error in my favor is ever going to happen!

Ultimately, my U. S. bank did make a provisional credit to my account, as of March 10. That did not become permanent, however, until the end of the month. As far as I know, they are still waiting for BNCR to give the money back to them.