September 30, 2009

Cool Video

Maybe one or two of you remembers when I reviewed a JEM album (damn, that must have been way back in aught-six). In any case, I liked her first album, "Finally Woken," and it appears that sometime between now and then, she released another, and it's got a cool video. You can check it out below. Evidently, it's made entirely of photographs (approximately 25,000 of them). Enjoy!

Technology is smart.

Sometimes, that is. If you can't see the video, you can try to watch it at JEM's website or youtube.

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September 29, 2009

Getting Trashed: ¡Ay, Que Pereza!

New on the scene: A Berlín "Trash Cage"

STARDATE: Tuesday, September 22, 2009 (Last Tuesday): It appears that Berlín just got garbage service! For the developed world, this isn’t that much of a coup, and I don’t want to seem like some imperialist diva bitch trying to impose my native values on my new country. It’s just that all the communities surrounding us have had garbage service for years and years, but the trucks never came up the extra three or four miles. Instead, the people of Berlín were condemned to burn our trash in smoky piles, like post-apocalyptic refugee extras from a Mad Max movie.

We were suspecting that the service may come at some point; in the last week or so two metal containers (not really garbage cans, but rather a sort of “trash jail”) have appeared on the road to San Ramón. And in fact the speculation seems to be true. My sister-in-law Teresa, whose brother-in-law works for the San Ramón municipality, called Angela this morning to tell us the news: the garbage truck will drive by at 5:00 am on Tuesdays. Cool, right?

Not so fast there, Skippy, let’s take a closer look at this. Based on an informal poll conducted by Angela (she called her mom, sisters, and sisters-in-law), this service isn’t wanted in Berlín. Excuse me? Yep, it turns out that with the exception of Angela and Teresa (who apparently managed to miss the trash man this morning, since she was combing her hair to look nice while giving him the garbage), people aren’t interested in garbage collection.

When Angela called her family members, they all said some variation of, “Que pereza,” which has recently become my catch-all for all that is frustrating and mind-boggling in this two-coast land. Basically, it means “what laziness,” but it really translates to, “Sorry, but I’m too lazy to even contemplate, let alone accomplish, what we’re talking about right now.” It’s somewhere along the same sentiment fault line as the British “can’t be bothered” in terms of the bafflement and aggravation it causes me when I hear it. This lousy pereza may turn out to be the bane of my Costa Rican existence (although to be fair and balanced, I have to admit that the positive upshot of this whole phenomenon is that I can happily work my 20-hour part-time job, and everyone seems to consider that to be a quite full and satisfactory workload).

What was I bitching about? Ah yes, the garbage. So, que pereza, right? I guess I could understand that sentiment if you had to pay extra money for this service, or if you had a 5-km-long driveway; but in fact the service is one of the services –and possibly the only one-- that is apparently included with our miniscule property taxes. And as for the 5-km driveway, forget it. People in Berlín just apparently don’t want to walk a bag of trash 50 steps out to the road, and would instead prefer to burn it in a hole in the middle of a coffee field. And I could understand that sentiment if it were based on good, old-fashioned pyromania (after all, it is fun to burn trash, even though you smell like shit and burnt plastic afterwards), but the fact that it’s based on laziness and resistance to change, especially positive change, has caused me to end this post before my eyeballs explode.

UPDATE!: STARDATE: Today: Well, we're officially in week two of Trashgate, and it seems to have gone better this week. Apparently the priest made an announcement about the garbage at mass on Sunday (hmm... that clause can be read in a few ways... the priest evidently explained that the truck would be picking up the garbage on Tuesday mornings). As a result of the announcement, metal trash jails and sawed-off tin trums appeared all around the village, and people seem to be buying into the trash collection idea... slowly but surely.
Twenty years after the original Berlin Wall came down, Berlín's Wall of Trash is also beginning to tumble.
So, now to the question on everyone's mind: Who shall be our Hasselhoff?

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September 23, 2009

Eliminate Prejudice: Be Color Blind!

(Click play on video to get in the right mood for this post):


We all know that the primary colors—so called due to the fact that you learn about them in primary school—are red, yellow, and blue. According to Timnath Elementary School lore, all other colors are made by mixing certain proportions of those three colors. Fair enough.

So why is green such hot shit, then? Did you ever think about it? When we think of colors, sure, we think of the primaries, but next we think of green, but not orange or purple. Why the bias? Here’s the sad truth, folks: green is just yellow mixed with blue, while orange is yellow and red, and purple is simply a splash of red mixed with a dash of blue.

Together we can stop this. Instead of greenery, ask your landscape designer for some purplery! Don’t be green with envy; instead, be orange with anger! Why ask your electric company to use green energy when they could be using mauve energy! And finally, stop eating collared greens and start eating collared ochres!

We’re coming for you, green.

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September 21, 2009

Meet The New Scratch, Same As The Old Scratch

The other day people in my office kept calling my name. The same thing happened at my in-laws’ house, when my sister-in-law said my name a few times. When I looked up, she wasn’t looking at me, but she was frowning and pointing at a dinner plate. Has the world gone nuts?

Yes, it has gone nuts, but as it turns out it’s not my fault. It just so happens that I’ve got a weird name for Spanish speakers. As I wrote a while ago, my name has caused some trouble here (and God forbid we get my last name involved). Even after I introduce myself, most people here still call me Brian, and even the best spellers usually land somewhere between “Brayan” and “Raian” when writing my receipts, which for some reason almost always have to carry a name. In an attempt to avoid confusion, I’ve taken to calling myself “Angela Jimenez.” That hasn’t worked so well, though, since people don’t always realize that I’m giving them my wife’s name to make things easier, and instead they often think I’m saying “Ángel Jimenez,” which would be a guy’s name. I guess I don’t look like an Ángel nor an angel, so that tends to confuse things just as much. But we’re getting off track; why was my sister-in-law invoking my name to scold the dinner plate?

I'm not sure how it’s possible that this didn’t occur to me in the three years I’ve lived here, but “rayan” actually means “they scratch.” My sister-in-law was pointing at the glass plate and explaining why she didn’t use certain types of scrubbing pads, and in turn the staff at my work were saying that some people were scratching out something in writing. Hence, “rayan”… “they scratch.”

Now that I think about it, I had a similar problem while living in Germany. The “ai” plus the short “i” diphthong sounds in my name seemed to cause the Germans just as much trouble as the Costa Ricans, but instead of making my name longer, the Germans would usually shorten it. The R usually converted into a guttural scratch (in the north) or a slightly trilled R (in the south), and somewhere in the process my name got downgraded to one syllable. As we all know, the Rhine flows through Germany, and so does the Ryan (at least when I’m floating down a river on my raft made of sausages).

To add confusion to that, “rein” is also a word in German, and it sounds the same as “Rhine”; rein can mean “pure” or “clean,” but it can also be used to mean “in” or “inward,” as in Komm ‘rein! (“come in!”). One of the host families I lived with in 1998 always loved to say “Komm ‘rein, Ryan!” And I can’t really blame them as long as I keep saying “No way, José.”

Obviously, this is meant to be humorous --oh shit, you’re not laughing?-- but it can have some serious implications when it comes to child naming. Angela and I half-joke that we’ve not had any kids yet since we’re not sure of 1) how many last names it would have or 2) what name wouldn’t be difficult to pronounce or sound ridiculous in one of our native languages. This concern came about after meeting a nearby auto mechanic named “Limber.”

If and when we do have kids, we’ve got to get something that can be easily pronounced, or else just pronounced with a different accent without making our kid sound like a tool. Some names we like so far are simple ones like Julia, Isabel, or Benjamin (although the shortened “Ben” sounds like ven, which is a command meaning “come here”). In any case, we’ll have to make sure our team of Naming Scientists are staying abreast of the situation. And like I said, kids aren’t in the works for the imminent future anyhow. But until then, we’ll keep our minds limber (and keep Limber on our minds).

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September 19, 2009

R.I.P., Patrick Swayze

How come nobody told me Patrick Swayze died? What are friends and family for, if not to notify you of events like this?

I'm not sure why, but I liked Patrick Swayze's style. I'm not sure if I've seen any of his movies (except Ghost, which I hated). Even looking at his profile on IMDB, all I could think was, "WTF?" I think the only things there I may have seen are Donnie Darko and Point Break. But still, there was something about him that made him seem like a nice guy, and that counts for a lot.

In any case, it's too bad that he'd gone, but now I realize that at least he's got Kitty to keep him company. And, we can always remember his with the following strange clip from Mystery Science Theater 3000, circa a decade or two ago (what a flashback, eh?).

Enjoy (if that's the right word):

So, Rest In Peace, Patrick Swayze.

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September 18, 2009


On the way down the mountain just now, I accidently roadkilled a big lizard. I thought it was a leaf, so I tried to drive directly over it (there are both big leaves and big lizards on the road down to Palmares, and if they don't move, they look remarkably similar). Suddenly, it moved and ran right under my car tires. Yech, gross. Sorry there, lizard.

The weirdest thing about it all: Literally two seconds before hitting the lizard, I changed songs on the ipod. I didn't want to hear Danzig's "Bringer of Death," so I skipped it, only to ironically land on Def Leppard's "Bringin' on the Heartbreak." So, I'm sorry for the heartbreak I brought to his little lizard family.

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September 17, 2009

Costa Rican Cookin': Chorreadas de Elote

Hello everyone! I've got a tasty bit of Costa Rican cuisine for you today. If you remember, I recently wrote about recipes involving flor de itabo and guineos; however, if you don't happen to have a itabo plant or a mini banana tree in your yard --and many of you don't-- then the recipes are more like armchair cooking than anything that can be pratical in your kitchen. For today's recipe, though, most people back in the states can play along... all you need are some fresh ears of corn, a pinch of salt, a hot pan, and a dream (dream optional).

Chorreadas de elote means, more or less, "poured corn" (elote is the local word for fresh, sweet corn as opposed to maíz, which I believe is usually dried corn). To start off with, you just need a couple of ears of fresh corn:

Here is my mother-in-law Cecilia with the corn.

Cecilia looks on as Angela cuts the corn from the cob. Gotta make sure she's not slacking. By the way, Angela's St. Regis basketball sweater reflects her passion for and commitment to both St. Regis and the sport of basketball. I once asked her why in the world she had that sweater, and she told me she got it at a second-hand store, and that she didn't like basketball at all. I thought that was interesting, since I also have a basketball T-shirt (Boulder Valley YMCA) that I got at a second-hand store, and I hate basketball. Just another reason our love was meant to be!

Pretty easy: just scrape the corn off the cob. Don't worry about the little corn hairs; they supposedly make the finished product taste better.

Next you've got to grind it. This is the hard part if you live in the U.S. and you're not into things where you need grinders and old kitchen supplies, like casing homemade sausages or making your own shotgun ammo. However, you can always use a blender or food processor, but you may have to drain a bit of the liquid a few steps from now.

Work it! As you see to the left, there's a little trickle of "corn milk" coming from where the base of the handle meets the grinder. That's being collected below the wood block, and will be added in a step or two.

I even got in on the fun.

Here's where you add the "corn milk": that's what was being collected separately below the grinder. If you do the grinding in a blender or food processor, you may actually have to drain some of the milk off, as opposed to adding it in. It just depends on how the grinder works.

Then, you gotta mix it to the consistency of a tapioca or a thick pancake batter. At this point, the rest of the process is basically like making pancakes:

Spoon some of the mixture out and spread it around. Let it cook in either an oiled or a non-stick pan for about 2 minutes, or until it can leave the bottom of the pan and be flipped.

Here's a flipped chorreada.

Cecilia's a good sport letting me photograph her, so thanks again to her for putting up with my questions and the constant flash bulb!

Dinner --or, more often, coffee-- is served! One person can usually eat about two or three of these things for coffee time, or as a sequel to dinner. The traditional Costa Rican way of serving chorreadas is with a fresh cup of coffee and some natilla, which is like a heavy sour cream. That's surely the most difficult part of this recipe for the people in the U.S. to acquire, but you could use American-style sour cream, or possibly crème fraiche or even yogurt. And, I've been known to sneak one of these beauties topped with butter and maple syrup, which makes it like a pancake-y type of cornbread... just don't tell the Costa Ricans!

And finally, how you eat it is just as important: you have to use your hands, since utensils are only for panty-waists!
Oh, and this is the lovely Angela with her newly-painted fingernails. She's really getting into painting nails, and if we ever go to the U.S., she's trying to get a client list ready (we told her that some people pay upwards for 40 bucks to get finger or toenails painted!). Also, I included this picture because she is clearly wearing her wedding ring on her right hand, like I do, so I wanted to prove I'm not the only weirdo!

Anyhow, thanks for tuning in, and if you happen to try making the recipe, please chime in with any comments, tips, or any other comments!

Buen provecho!

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September 14, 2009

R.I.P., Kitty

Last Friday our little cat—the tiny black and white one we called “Kitty”—died suddenly. The circumstances of her death were sad and strange.

As you may remember, we had taken her to the vet to get spayed about a month ago, only to find that she was already pregnant. She was also quite sick, and with the medicine and other vaccinations, her litter of kittens didn’t survive. She was mopey and seemed depressed for a bit, but a month after she lost the kittens, we once again took her to the vet to get her spayed once and for all.

Apparently, during the surgery, she had a sort of heart attack or seizure, or else her body just stopped working. The vet was alarmed, so she performed an autopsy, only to find that Kitty barely had had any lungs (apparently they were about the size of a dime), and that she also had no diaphragm. The vet said she’d never seen anything like it in her years of practice and surgery, and that the fact that Kitty had even been alive in the first place was a sort of little miracle. In fact, the vet said Kitty didn’t even have the necessary organs to be alive. So, it also explained why the cat always had such trouble breathing, and why she remained stationary most of the time. In any case, the vet was very considerate and compassionate, and explained the surgery and autopsy photos to Angela, who had gone to pick up Kitty and was somewhat in shock.

So, we were a bit down this past weekend. It’s surprising that despite the fact we had had Kitty for a very short time, we had grown to care for her very much. She was an incredibly sweet little thing, and she only seemed interested in giving and receiving a bit of love here and there. If you sat on the steps, she’d come and collapse into your lap, and just stay there till you made her get off. She also had a penchant for trying to fight with our other cat Cucho (see picture above), which, given her medical condition, age, size, and gender, seemed quite strange, but we didn’t mind since Cucho’s haughtiness probably could have done with an occasional ass-kicking by a sick, little girl cat.

Kitty’s life was quite intense, now that I think of it. She seemed to have been sent to us in order to “live fast, love hard, die young, and leave a beautiful memory,” in the words of the Faron Young song. Angela and I are certainly sad that she’s gone, but we also now consider her stay here to have been a sort of test. Maybe we’re given chances in life to see how we treat the most feeble, weak, and desperate creatures, to understand what our moral fiber is made of. Perhaps Kitty knew she was not meant to be on this world for more than a few months, and maybe she was sent to us or came to us instinctively, hoping to find someone nice to take care of her in a sea of hostility, in a mean world. We also hope that we passed that test.

So, Kitty, hopefully you’re in cat heaven with my old cat Pussypie, playing together with a catnip mouse, or maybe just casually kicking his ass a little bit.

Either way, we’ll miss you.

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September 9, 2009

Colorado Pictures + Running Commentary!

I've finally got a bit of extra time to put up some pictures from our Colorado visit, complete with captions and smart-ass remarks. I'll also put up some more pictures from Costa Rica ASAP so that you can see what we've been up to here, but in the meantime, enjoy these!

Angela at a liquor store with a big gold (-colored) statue. Looks like the old perv is trying to steal my woman.

Everything that makes America great: BBQ, root beer, regular beer, flip-flops, Michael Jackson, and Dustin Colburn! (You can find the various elements in the picture, just like Where's Waldo?)

My mom and Angela with some huge flower planters.

We got to visit Dustin as well as his wife Samantha in the respective schools where they teach. It was quite a different experience for Angela, who'd only seen Costa Rican schools, and even for me it was a bit of an eye-opener. I guess I had forgotten what it was like to go to school in Colorado. Here's Dustin teaching a math class. Look at the kids: they're being polite, paying attention, participating, and none is just walking around the room aimlessly. Weird.

Samantha, my mom, and Angela at a Japanese restaurant. Every time we go to Colorado I make sure we hit up all the ethnic joints that we don't have in Costa Rica. At first Angela was sort of annoyed by it all, but then she learned to use chopsticks.

Speaking of ethnic food, here are some delicious Mexican nachos and a tamal. You can tell it's Mexican and not Costa Rican 'cause the tamal has sauce that's vaguely spicy and the nachos feature neither ketchup NOR mayonnaise, which are part of Standard Operating Procedure when it comes to Tico Nachos.

Speaking of Costa Rica, we saw this vehicle in Estes Park. I think it was the result of thousands and thousands of prayers from the people of Berlín, Costa Rica: An enormous, mid-80s, 14-passenger Land Cruiser! Unfortunately, God sent it to Colorado instead of here.

On the day we arrived to Colorado, we visited my grandma who's in hip rehab. (That sounds strange, but "rehabilitation center" sounds pretty druggy.) In any case, she had a hip replacement replaced, so she was staying there to get physical therapy. The ladies in this picture are wearing aprons that Angela sewed for them: My aunt Kathy, my cousin Kiersten, Angela, my grandma, my mom, and my cousin Katie.

We also visited my other aunt, Kris (left). My mom's looks like she's in a Ghostbusters tribute band because she's wearing a beekeeping uniform (Kris has a ton of bees).

Angela in the beekeeping jacket. She sort of looks like a fencer with a swollen head. And as for why she decided to tuck her pants into her socks... well, I got nothin'.

Kris with a honeycomb.

Kris, mom, and Angela checking out bees.

A family portrait, and also a preview of this year's Christmas card (which will arrive to your mailbox around January 12th, 2010): my dad, Angela, sister Di, mom, brother Paul, Paul's dog Iris, and me.

Speaking of Paul's dog, here she is with Angela and me. We are on the way to Estes Park, in the Colorado mountains just outside of Rocky Mountain National Park.

We're one of those families who tends to have tons of dog pictures.

Angela (the scared one in red) and I on a gondola.

A chubby-cheeked chipmunk. This is the part of the show where it's like Kill Bill, and things suddenly go black and white for a bit.

Nice tree.

Di, Iris, and Paul.

"One with just the kids." Paul looks like he's got one of those fauxhawks in this picture but don't worry, he doesn't. He has in fact rolled up his pant legs, though, and I'm not sure what's going on with that Tom Sawyer shit. Also, we decided that Angela's hat makes her look like Blossom, but she didn't know who Blossom is/was. And as for a sarcastic comment directed at myself, well, it's hardly worth the effort. I'm a tool and we all know it.

Anyhow, thanks for looking, and hopefully there was something interesting. Stay tuned, since I've got some good --and tasty!-- material coming up!

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September 5, 2009

Scary Saturday Night Video

Quite possibly, this is the freakiest thing I've ever seen:

Enjoy, if that's possible.

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September 3, 2009

Preview: Colorado Pictures

Well, it's been a pretty busy time since we got back from Colorado last Friday (Season 8 of Smallville doesn't just watch itself, you know!), so I've not been to the internet café till now. I've been working on getting some photos and blog material together but in the meantime, if you're bored, you can check out my and Angela's Colorado pictures on my flickr account (just click on any of the links in this sentence).

I had almost forgotten that I had a flickr account, but I recently have been getting back into the swing of updating it. I'll try to give notice if there's ever something interesting there. Don't worry, though, I'll also put the "highlights" of those pictures up on this blog within the next few days, complete with the smart-ass commentary you've come to know and expect from Sitzblog.

Till then, happy viewing!

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