Archive for the ‘happiness’ Category

Bike stories

It was my last day of work in Costa Rica yesterday, and while surfing around, I found a couple of stories that include bike themes. One is in Vanity Fair and features Arnold Schwarznegger tearing around Santa Monica on his bike, reminiscing. It’s mostly about California’s economic decline and has an almost upbeat ending. The other is in the New Yorker and takes place in Africa, where the economy is in even worse shape, but a bike will take you far.



The photo is of the historic lava slab sidewalk, ubiquitous in the Costa Rican central valley towns. I’m including it just because I had a photo of it before, but now I have a better camera.


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I’d seen this odd looking fruit in the grocery store a few times and was intrigued. It looked like a cross between a pineapple and an entire branch of bananas. Ileana said she’d tried it once and it wasn’t good, but eventually, we asked the produce guy and he said it was good. The ones on display that evening looked nice and ripe, and the grocer confirmed it.

Pitahaya fruit

Pitahaya fruit

We took it home and cut it in half. Inside was translucent with a bunch of little seeds, like black sesame seeds but more crunchy and less oily.

Pitahaya inside

Pitahaya inside

We scooped it out with a spoon and ate it. It was really good, sweet like a berry or a kiwi, but with much less acidity.

Then, today, Boing Boing had an article about something really similar:

Their review wasn’t so great, said the flavor was bland, but you know how difficult it is to get really good fruit. You have be in the right season at the right time.

We have just arrived in cantaloupe season here now. Finally!

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Yellow sky, pink clouds

Yellow sky, pink clouds - Heredia, Costa Rica

A reader commented that this is an awesome photo, and I guess it is, for a dinky 640×480 phone picture. What was really awesome was being at the hair salon near Palacio de Deportes waiting for Ily’s six hour hair appointment to end, and seeing this amazing light out in the street. I bolted out the door and the whole street was filled with radiant pink-orange luminescence as the sun went down over Alajuela to the west. In the east was this perfect wash of glowing pastel yellow. I’d never seen anything like it in my whole life.

The best place to see the sky is a block from our apartment at Parque Embarazada, Pregnant Park (not its “official” name, just what everyone calls it). Ily says it used to be very romantic, with lots of trees and little private spaces, hence the name. Lots of girls used to get pregnant there, or so goes the story. Then the city cut down the trees and it’s not so romantic anymore. But still, there are kids kissing on the benches. There is a good view to the south and west. We sat and watched lightning flash over the mountains above Escazú for awhile not too long ago.

Parque Embarazada, Heredia, Costa Rica

Parque Embarazada, Heredia, Costa Rica

Parque Embarazada, Heredia, Costa Rica

Parque Embarazada, Heredia, Costa Rica

Parque Embarazada, Heredia, Costa Rica

Parque Embarazada, Heredia, Costa Rica

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This sounds like a place I could live:


Grow crops, enjoy life, get ready for winter. Buy a raccoon carcass from a truck driver (feeds a family of four for $12).

I like the part about no protests at city hall, because everyone knows city hall won’t do anything, unlike in other cities, where city hall will not only listen to protesters, they will also thwart people who want to do interesting things, like build a two-story beehive.

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I had never heard of http://cafe-de-flore.com/ before I received their email yesterday. I made a web site for my friends, never thinking a small cafe in an obscure city in Costa Rica could be mistaken for a world-famous location thousands of miles away in Paris, France.
(Though their fame may be a result of believing their own hyperbole. They claim to be the birthplace of surrealism, but all through my education in Modern Art History, the name Cafe de Flore was never once uttered. The events at Cabaret Voltaire, birthplace of Dada in Zurich, Switzerland, however, were described in at least one, and very likely two lectures. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cabaret_Voltaire_(Z%C3%BCrich) )

Apparently, there has been a practice of buying a domain name similar to another more famous one, in hopes that the owners of the famous one will want to buy it. This is called by the ICANN “bad faith” or “cybersquatting” and sounds very much like extortion or piracy, something it would never cross my mind to engage in. If I were that kind of person I would already be rich and wouldn’t need to extort the owners of a little cafe, no matter how famous.

It was never my intention to sell cafedeflores.com, not to the owners of Cafe de Flore, or anyone else. I guess that was another part of my motive for taking the site down, to demonstrate my non-attachment to the name or the website. If ICANN says I have to hand it over, I will. But certainly not at my own expense, without due process.

Gina, the owner of Cafe de Flores in Heredia, also urged me to remove her site. She said we could find another name.

But then I think, if the owners of cafe-de-flore.com (registered in 1998) had wanted to purchase cafedeflores.com (registered 2007), they had nine years to do it. It almost seems like they were waiting for someone like me to do it, so they could get it at no cost. This seems now, with a bit of time to think about it, like a predatory threat, a cheap scare tactic to get me to give something up for free that I worked and paid for. In that light, the principled thing to do would be to wait to take any action until the ICANN ruling. But yesterday I let my fear rule me. How sad.

It wouldn’t really bother me except that by making this allegation, they are forcing me to link the two websites in my mind. In turn, this linking wouldn’t bother me if their website didn’t look like it needs redesigning in a more down-to-earth postmodern style that acknowledges with some humor its own commercial roots. That’s right: the “com” in dot-com stands for “commercial.”

The designers have succumbed to the depressing trend that requires one to download “plug-ins” to view the site. Some designers seem to imagine a website is an actual geographical location, a place to do things, rather than what it actually is: an advertisement.

This is the main difference (among several) between cafedeflores.com and cafe-de-flore.com: the website at cafedeflores.com professes to be nothing other than what it is, an advertisement for a small neighborhood cafe in Costa Rica.

There is no boasting of being the birthplace of anything or having a long and colorful history. It is just a cafe, with excellent coffee, food and service, in a friendly atmosphere and at reasonable prices. The site does not teem with the names of living and dead celebrities, who come “to see, to be sawn, but discretion was very important for them.” (It must be hard to be discrete when you are being sawn.)

The other differences are subtle, but important:

One cafe is in Paris, France, the other is in Heredia, Costa Rica.

One has hyphens in the domain name, the other does not.

One has an ‘s’ at the end of the name, the other does not.

One appears in first place when you Google “cafe de flore,” the other does not appear at all.

One is in both French and English, the other is in Spanish only.

One requires plug-ins, one does not.

One is made with frames, the other is not.

One is all about Paris, the other never mentions that city.

When you type “cafe-de-flore.com” into the address bar of a web browser, you get a username and password login box instead of a web page. If you don’t have the username and password, you get a hostile warning in French.

When you type “cafedeflores.com” into the address bar of a web browser, you go directly to the website.

If I had been trying to confuse people and make them think the two sites were somehow related, I might have added “cafe de flore” to my keyword meta-tags in the head. I did not, because I never heard of Cafe de Flore until this morning when their email appeared in my inbox. In fact, there are no keyword meta-tags in the head of any of the documents making up the Cafe de Flores website.

My way of marketing is to let the advertising illustrate the product truthfully, then let the customers decide what they like without force-feeding them a tasteless diet of history and celebrity name-dropping. Sending threatening emails in a pathetic attempt to acquire a $10 domain name for free also seems like a poor way to win customers.

If I had done the design for cafe-de-flore.com, I would have asked my client if they wanted to purchase as many other similar domain names as possible, within the limits of their budget. If they had said “No, it would be better to wait until someone else buys one, then try to scare them into giving it to us free,” I think I would have passed on their account.

People go to cafedeflores.com to find the phone number and address of the actual cafe, not to play games with plug-ins or read self-aggrandizing history tracts dotted with celebrity names like raisins in an otherwise bland and bloated confection.

If the designers of cafe-de-flore.com really thought “discretion” was important to their customers, would they be using their customers names as a marketing device? And do their famous customers really want their names linked to an establishment that hires lawyers to threaten people for little or no reason? Someone needs to think through all or many of the possible consequences of their actions before sending random email threats to people who have done nothing wrong.
End of rant.

Now I’m putting Gina’s website back on line and waiting for a complaint to be lodged with ICANN, as should have been done in the first place, if there really had been a problem.

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Trip to San Jose

Friday, October 12, 2007

This morning we had coffee, tortillas made with cuajada, and some other food.

We washed the dishes and set out on the bus for San Jose. Ily’s friend in the Teatro Nacional (National Theater) gave her free tickets to a dress rehearsal of Oscar Wilde’s ballet, “El Cumpleaños de la Infanta (The baby girl’s birthday).”

The building was a gift to Costa Rica from France in 1897, a beautiful beaux arts, baroque piece of architecture, all made of different colored marble and lavishly trimmed in gold-leaf-covered twining vines representing coffee plants.

The ballet was fine as far as I was concerned, but Ileana, having helped direct many such productions in this very theater, was much more critical. She kept nudging me to point out defects in the performance, and after it was over, she even wanted to speak about it to the director, but decided not to. The one outstanding performance was a guy who played a hunchbacked clown, who could really jump and twirl.

Then we went to the Balmoral Hotel café and had chicken lasagna and salad, with guanábana juice to drink. For only 2900 colones (less than $6). The place was really nice, teaming with gringos (my “compatriotas” as Ily calls them, whether they are Europeans with suits, middle-class U.S. tourists, or drunk hippy college kids).

After that we went to the Casa Amarilla (Yellow House, government buildings) to have our marriage license translated for Costa Rica. It cost 23000 colones ($50) and took an hour while we waited down the street in a park. When we got back to look at the translation we found lots of typographical errors and the poor guy had to do it again three times.

By the time we got out, rush hour was starting to peak. Ily said yesterday never to go to San Jose on a Friday for this reason, yet here we were in the middle of it. We walked downtown in the rain to wait it out over coffee. It was wall to wall people on the street and in the cafe. I thought we might as well be on the bus, so eventually, that’s where we went, along with lots of other people.

The way home was choked with cars. At one point in the middle of the busiest intersection in the city there were several accidents in progress at once, with ambulances stuck in traffic, police, and a sudden close crunch that suggested possible impact with our bus. Fortunately this wasn’t the case, only another nearby collision. As it got dark and the windows fogged up, it seemed like we were inexplicably stopped. It appeared our bus was been examined by the transit police for being overloaded.
Eventually we got home, in time for “Destilando Amor,” a novela about a corrupt family of tequila makers you can watch on Univision.

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I’m soaking now in warmish rain, down by the coast in Puntarenas.
We are at a big ClubMed-style place with wrist-bands and everything included (except internet), with Ilys mom and step dad. My punctuation is weird due to the Spanish keyboard. I’m paying $4 an hour for this connection, in town it is $1.

Food is great and cheap everywhere. Plants with exotic fruit grow everywhere, more lush than Hawaii. Coffee Trees too. It rains everyday, wherever we are.
The beach has a nice churning coffee-colored surf. Someone died in it the day we arrived. The guy who died saved a baby.

Heredia, where I live with Ily, is a beautiful small city, 3 hours by bus from this beach (1 hr by car). There is a cafe near the university that is really nice, and a bunch of other nice places as well. Also near the college I saw a line of leaf-cutter ants, called Sompopas. I need to look closer to see how they carry the leaves. Ileana tells me at this moment that they are sweet and delicious, but not many people eat them.

Since arriving, Ive been adjusting slowly, quelling my feeling of disorientation by eating and sleeping quite a bit more than usual. Today I went to the gym in this complex (my first time in any gym) and I feel much better. I’m going to start going to the Palacio de los Deportes in Heredia on a regular basis. I’m going urban!

This started as an email to Arthur that I recycled into my blog, I don’t know if that is cheating or just efficiency.  Repurposing, that is the word I was trying to think of from my corporate days.

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