July 31, 2011

Quotes From "Under a Cruel Star"

A few of the books I read in May and June. The one mentioned here is the purple one.

In my Sitzbook project I recently read Under a Cruel Star by Heda Margolius Kovály. It was really good, and I actually had already read it about 5 or 10 years ago. It's a memoir written by a Czech woman who survived the concentration camps. Later in her life, she got married, only to have to suffer while her husband was wrongly accused and put on trial by the later Communist government. That's the two sentence synopsis that doesn't give too much away so if I'm not making it seem like a great book, that's completely my fault.

I've gotten a bit behind on Sitzbook reviews and commentaries, and I can't write a review for each weekly book, but I wanted to at least put up some quotes from this book. Maybe they'll entice you to check it out:

p. 52: “It was becoming evident to many that while evil grows all by itself, good can be achieved only through hard struggle and maintained only through tireless effort, that we had to set out clear, boldly-conceived goals for ourselves and join forces to attain them. The problem was that everyone envisioned these goals differently.”

p. 68: “In order to be able to live and work in peace, to raise children, to enjoy the small and great joys life can offer, you must not only find the right partner, choose the right occupation, respect the laws of your country and your own conscience but, most importantly, you must have a solid social foundation on which to build such a life. You have to live in a social system with whose fundamental principles you agree, under a government you can trust. You cannot build a happy private life in a corrupt society anymore than you can build a house in a muddy ditch. You have to lay a foundation first.”

p. 131: “She was young and pretty and she accepted life with all its trials cheerfully, like a bird in the sky. She was yet another proof to me that nothing limits a person more than what was then called “a clearly-defined world view.” The people who, in my experience, proved the most astute and dependable in a crisis were always those who professed the simplest ideology: love of life. Not only did they possess an instinctive ability to protect themselves from danger but they were often willing to help others as a matter of course, without ulterior motives or any heroic posturing.”

So, that's all for the moment. Angela and I are back in Costa Rica catching up on stuff, but I'm hoping to put up some Colorado pictures soon (there are some on flickr already, but it's a process, you know). And it seems that I've gotten almost two months behind on posting Pictures of the Day! How is that even possible?! Plus, I've got to do a few posts for Sitzman ABC and Sitztoast, so I'm keeping busy!

Thanks for reading; have a good one!

365: Picture a Day Project    365 Leftovers    All My Pictures    Sitzbook

July 27, 2011


If you've been following this blog--or me--then you know that Angela and I went to Colorado for a week or two to visit my family and some friends. So, I've been a bit behind on blog posts. I'm still catching up with things I need to do here in Costa Rica, but to tide you over until the next post, here's a cool retro video about Copenhagen, a city which everyone should see at least once:

It's a bit short on historical, geographical, and a variety of cultural information, but it sure talks a LOT about bikes!

365: Picture a Day Project    365 Leftovers    All My Pictures    Sitzbook

July 18, 2011


Check out this great video:

It focuses a lot on the caffeine aspect of coffee, but it's also got some good stuff about how coffee develops, and how it gets from the plant to your mug. If you want to see the process up-close, come on over and visit us.

If you just can't get enough, you can check out my extensive coffee picture collection on flickr. It's about the only show in town here in Berlín de San Ramón, so there are a lot of pictures. I've also made a page on ryansitzman.com detailing the whole coffee farming and production process in pictures and words, so check that out here.

Have a good one!

365: Picture a Day Project    365 Leftovers    All My Pictures    Sitzbook

July 14, 2011

This Totally Eclipses The Other Eclipse Videos

After Angela saw my recent post about the eclipse from 20 years ago, she showed me this video, which must be one of the most bizarre music videos I've ever seen:

The acting is quite horrible, and even if you don't pay attention to the meaning of the lyrics (think Shakira), it's still very difficult not to get distracted by the cheesy, over-the-top, melodramatic acting. Especially around 1:30, when an eclipse starts.

And then, around 2:35, we get what we've all been waiting for: The ladies stop yell-singing at each other about the brunette's lost love, and they stop the entire dramatic narrative of the video to put on Ray Charles sunglasses, look at the eclipse, and continue singing about love.

I've said something similar to this phrase before, but if you don't watch this video, you're truly missing something. If you do watch this video, your life will be a little bit more complete. Check it out! In short, this about sums up my thoughts on this music video:

Thanks for reading, and have a good one!

365: Picture a Day Project    365 Leftovers    All My Pictures    Sitzbook

July 13, 2011

"Hey, I Can See My Ma From Up Here!"

A couple of years ago I worked outside of San Jose, just on the other side of Juan Santamaria International Airport. From my house in Berlín de San Ramón, it took me at least an hour and 10 minutes to get to work by car, and significantly longer if I tried any sort of scheme involving buses. As it turns out, I should have flown, since I would have gotten there in about three minutes instead.

Every time I've left Costa Rica by plane in the last 5 years, I've tried to find Berlín when looking out the airplane windows. I know that from my house I often see a lot of planes flying low, close enough to even see the airline's logo. Plus, our town has a lot of really distinctive towers, since it's really high up and apparently a good place to transmit all sorts of things from, such as radio signals, microwave internet service, and anger at the inefficiency and corruption of the government. Still, even with all that equipment providing prime landmarks on the ground, I'd never seen the town from the air--until today! Surprisingly, it was really cool, in a nerdy way!

I think the trick was that I started looking immediately after takeoff. Before, I'd always waited about 10 or 15 minutes, and it seems that Berlín would have been long gone by then. But after what was about two or three minutes, sure enough, I saw a cluster of antennas that looked like Berlín's. I thought I must be seeing something much closer to San José, and until I'd identified Palmares, San Ramón, and the Pan-American Highway, about 30 seconds had passed. I then found La Berlinesa, a famous house in Berlín (famous because it's big and no one knows who lives there or what goes on inside...basically the town's crown jewel). From there I quickly traced the road to our house's roof, got nerdily excited, and notified Angela. 

All that means that I didn't get a picture of much in the town except the one above. It was just a bit too late, but I was able to get a good picture of San Ramón, which you can see below, with all the famous sights marked:

Anyhow, has anyone else seen their house from the air? Google Earth doesn't count, by the way, although it is cool, too. 
Thanks for reading, and have a great day!

365: Picture a Day Project    365 Leftovers    All My Pictures    Sitzbook

July 11, 2011


Today while eating lunch, Angela's parents kept talking about how today was the 20th anniversary of some huge total solar eclipse. "Hmm," I thought, "I don't remember any solar eclipse in 1991, and if it was in July, then I would have been out of school, specifically looking for fun summer things to do, like damaging my eyes by watching solar eclipses."

So when I got back home I did a bit of research on the internet and it turns out that they were quite right, of course. You can check out this article if you want more info. Interestingly, most of the pictures in the article are from Guanacaste, a province here in Costa Rica. It seems that this was prime eclipse-viewing real estate, and that my dumb 11-year-old, dirt-bike-riding self may not have gotten that much of a show from Colorado.

You can also watch this video a guy took of the eclipse as viewed from Mexico. It's a bit long, but it's worth it in the parts where the eclipse fans go nuts... this was like the early 90s' version of the "Double Rainbow" video:

Of course, that's all well and good, but I'm saving up my enthusiasm for February 11, 2013, which will mark the 30th anniversary of Bonnie Tyler's "Total Eclipse of the Heart"!

365: Picture a Day Project    365 Leftovers    All My Pictures    Sitzbook

July 10, 2011


I made this thing from old wood and the leftover PVC lattice thing from the Formerly Crappy Casita. I also used some little wood border-thingy pieces, nails, bolts, sawdust, primer, paint... I'm actually impressed I made it myself! I'd say it's the nicest thing I've ever built, but I think it's the ONLY nice thing I've ever built. It's both superlative and singular.

I'm just not sure what it is, though.

365: Picture a Day Project    365 Leftovers    All My Pictures    Sitzbook

July 8, 2011

Weekly Picture Project Wrap-Up: X, Y, Z

Well, my weekly picture project is officially over, but I've been a bit slow getting the pictures posted. This is mainly because I'm a bit embarrassed about the "Z" week, which made the project go out with more of a whimper than a bang. See for yourself:


For the X pictures, I just decided to find things that looked like the letter "X," since there are so few words that start with X.


"Y" fared a bit better. Here's "Yum!" I made these pecan pancakes for brunch one day.

This one is "Yellow tones." I was going to do just a bunch of pictures with yellow tones, hence the next one, but I was able to actually find a few more "Y" pictures, so it's not all yellow journalism today.

The other "Yellow tones" picture. This is Olman stacking bottle caps.

And finally, "Yuck!" This is what was in our gutters.


"Zacate," Spanish for grass. Stretching a bit, but OK.

Um... "Zoned out?"



Well, that's it for the weekly, letter-based picture project. I originally started it with my aunt and her friend Janey, but since I was the only one to actually finish it, I guess at least I've got that going for me. And I've still got my Pictures of the Day, right?


365: Picture a Day Project    365 Leftovers    All My Pictures    Sitzbook

July 6, 2011

Blog Log

As you may know, I juggle a couple of blogs, so I thought I'd mention what was going on with a few  of the other ones I administer. 

First of all, there's Sitzman ABC, my language learning blog. I recently posted an article about the differences and similarities between German and English. It may not be for everyone who reads this, which is why I didn't re-post it here, but it may be interesting for some of you. If so, check it out here!

Also, you may have heard about toast. In fact, some of you may have even tried it before. But have you heard of SITZtoast? If not, then today's your lucky day because I just started a blog about my favorite food, toast! It's called Sitztoast, and it's yet another bus stop on my ego trip; you can find it here. You can even become a fan of it on Facebook! And if you have any toast anecdotes ("toastecdotes") or original, unpublished scholarly papers related to toast, we're currently accepting new submissions!

So, that's it for the moment here at Sitzblog, but as you can see, the Internet's truly hopping on other Sitzco Amalgamated Enterprises-owned websites! Thanks for reading, and have a great day!

365: Picture a Day Project    365 Leftovers    All My Pictures    Sitzbook

July 4, 2011


I know that for a while now, many of you have been asking--well, "shamelessly begging" is probably a more appropriate word choice--for me to do a blog post about Shakira. So, here you go.

After living in Costa Rica for almost 5 years, I should probably understand Shakira's Spanish lyrics better, but I don't. My only consolation is that I can't understand her English lyrics very well, either. I'm wondering, though, why she makes English and Spanish versions of much of her material (yes, I know the answer is "more market, more money," but artistically, I don't really get the point).

I remember 11 or 12 years ago, when I was an exchange student in Germany, we saw the video for her song "Wherever, Whenever":

I've got a couple of things to say about this video:
1. Sure, she's very pretty, but I guess I'm one of those guys who's just not turned on by those weird gyrations. To paraphrase Seinfeld, it's like a full-body dry heave.
2. "Lucky that my breasts are small and humble / So you don't confuse them with mountains" may be some of the stupidest lyrics ever sung in English, and I'm including songs by Raffi here.
3. No one likes the pan flute.

Still, after seeing this video, I believe I had a conversation with my friend Christa, who assured me that both Shakira and Ricky Martin were much more sophisticated and "deeper" in Spanish, but something had gotten lost in the translation. I had to listen to them in Spanish, I was told.

And I think she was right; Shakira is better in Spanish, especially if you don't understand Spanish. Maybe it's something about her beats or rhythms that loan themselves to being accompanied by Spanish lyrics, but it just seems better. Check out these two recent examples, "Loba"/"She Wolf" and "Rabiosa." First, the Spanish version of "Loba":

And now the English version:

Do you see what I mean? In the first one, you're somewhat distracted by a pretty girl, and you quietly wonder to yourself if she'll accidentally snap her spine dancing like that. But in the English version, you can understand the lyrics, and you just think, "Hmm, this song is kind of stupid."

Let's look at Exhibit B, "Rabiosa":

And here it is in English:

So, yes, exact same video. The weirdest thing about this song is the lyrics; they've translated "Rabiosa" as "Rabiosa," "boca" as "boca," and "Oye mami" as "Oye mami." Maybe someone's taken the hint that her songs are better in Spanish, and so the English versions are just gradually becoming Spanish versions, one word at a time.

In any case, here's my favorite Shakira song and video, which as far as I know, is only in Spanish:

So, there's your Shakira post. Now shut your bocas.

365: Picture a Day Project    365 Leftovers    All My Pictures    Sitzbook

July 1, 2011

Since the Costa Rican Currency is the "Colón," is This Picture Technically a "Colonoscopy"?

They've been introducing new bills here gradually, and I got a 2,000-colones bill the other day (worth about 4 dollars). I like the new, blue design a lot, especially since they ditched the hammerhead shark; we all know they're the losers of the aquatic kingdom. If I get any more new money, I'll keep you all posted.

365: Picture a Day Project    365 Leftovers    All My Pictures    Sitzbook