Feature and Department Links:

Broken News

Rumble Talk

¿Que Es Eso?

Tico Dentistry

Su Casa - Mi Casa

Robot Mania

What's In A Word

ROMEO Corner

Archived Editions

Topical Archives

Restaurant Archives


In This Issue:

  1. Broken News (New Health Credit for Coffee, Bird-Friendly Wind Power, El Chapo Lookalike, Keeping Up With the Cubans, Snowzilla Hitchhiker, Quepos Quickies - Bus Station Renovations, Marchamo Made Easy, New Year's Fireworks)
  2. Rumble Talk (Earthquake-Proof Bed?)
  3. ¿Que Es Eso? Department: "In Paris it's: Qu'est-ce que c'est?"
  4. Feature: Toothsome Tico Dentistry (Let Me See That Smile Please)
  5. Feature: Su Casa es Mi Casa (Professional House-sitting Made Easy)
  6. Feature: Robot Mania ("Good Morning Sir; Coffee, Tea or Me?")
  7. What's-in-a-Word (Answer to ¿Que Es Eso?, Vaccine Prevents Resurrection, You Know You're Becoming Tico If..)
  8. ROMEO Corner (Don Wang)

 

Wisdom of the Ages

“The only reason for time is so that everything doesn't happen at once."Albert Einstein

 


Broken News
(All the News That's Fit to Reprint)

New Health Credit for Coffee

GG has always been a devotee of the hot water extract of the roasted and ground berries of the coffea plant. Some call this extract coffee.

In the second half of the twentieth century there was almost endless talk of how bad coffee is for people. It still is for those who have a sensitivity to caffeine, such as those who have high blood pressure or those that may be pregnant (gratefully, neither of these do I suffer from).

In recent years, particularly in the last five, a significant number of studies have been reported stating that frequent consumption of the brew can be quite beneficial to people. Coffee is now purported to 1) reduce the likelihood of developing Type II diabetes, 2) significantly reduce the occurrence of stroke when taken in conjunction with green tea, 3) have a positive effect in helping long term memory and 4) even exhibits a beneficial effect in reducing some tumors in breast cancer. Read more here: Coffee as Health Food.

Now, an American Heart Association long-term study essentially confirms the above. Some 170,000 women (nurses) and 40,000 men were followed over a 30 year period and their coffee consumption evaluated every four years. The major conclusion:

“Regular consumption of coffee can be included as part of a healthy, balanced diet,” said senior author Frank Hu, a professor of nutrition and epidemiology at Harvard. “However, certain populations such as pregnant women and children should be cautious about high caffeine intake from coffee or other beverages.”

While I'm up amigo, can I get you another cup?

¡Pura Vida!

Bird-Friendly Wind Power

Wind Farm in Southern Nicaragua

Many medicinal drugs offer benefits to people but many also have negative side effects. It's the same with alternative forms of energy production. Two negative side effects associated with the power produced from wind turbines are noise and the killing of birds. Personally, I think they're also ugly as hell - hundreds of acres covered with giant pinwheels are not what I think of as "naturaleza" (Spanish for nature).

GG recently passed through a wind-power farm in Nicaragua (shown at left) and I listened intently but could not pick up any unusual whirring sounds that they reportedly cause but, of course, I was in a taxi and I don't live under them or nearby them. I also wasn't able to inspect the areas at their base to see if there were indeed any bird cemeteries.

New Saphon Energy Wind Machine

Now comes news of a new approach that may eliminate the negative effects mentioned. A new blade-less technology has come out of Tunisia of all places. GG and his fledgling family spent a couple of weeks in Tunisia in the 1970's on vacation from the job in Brussels. Even got a chance to ride a camel on the Sahara desert (GG of Tunisia? It just doesn't have the same ring to it as Lawrence of Arabia, does it?)

Designed by Tunisian engineer Anis Aouni, this new technology tries to emulate or take advantage of Saphonian movement, an ancient Greek name given to the figure eight movement that birds and fish make through air and water. The company is called, not surprisingly, Saphon Energy. Aouni claims he has already produced 1.7 times the efficiency of a wind turbine while reducing the noise and, since there are no blades, eliminating the bird-kill. And just to crown his achievement, the engineer claims a Saphon machine will cost significantly less than its wind turbine brother.

Now that's the kind of engineering that impresses GG. But wait, it seems that they haven't solved the ugly problem yet have they, if the picture above is any indication.

El Chapo Lookalike

Newly Captured El Chapo & Pres Nieto

All over the news last month was the recapture of drug lord El Chapo, the Mexican chap that was able to have a tunnel constructed from outside his prison to a point right under his personal shower (don't ask how a prisoner rates a private shower). When he was recaptured, the picture to the left was published showing Señor Nieto (in Spanish "nieto" means grandson), the president of Mexico along side El Chapo (that's El Chapo on the left). "Chapo" in Spanish means short - El Chapo is 5'6" and Nieto is 5'8".

Am I the only dude that thinks these guys could at least be first cousins if not brothers? Clean up El Chapo, lose the mustache and about 20 pounds, add 2" lifts to his shoes and El Chapo might have a new career as a double for El Presidente.

Keeping Up With the Cubans

First Cubans Arriving at Daniel Oduber Airport for
Departure to El Salvador

The Chronicles crack, non-award winning reporter (guess who that is) has been following the plight of the nearly 8,000 Cubans who found themselves caught in Costa Rica because Nicaragua would not issue them transit visas (see Cubans Dilemma). After much consternation among central American countries, it was decided that the resolution to this drama would be to airlift them to El Salvador where they could then enter Guatemala over land to Mexico then to the U.S. border where they could then enter the U.S. over land.

So, on January 12 the first 180 cuban emigres were put aboard a flight from Daniel Oduber airport (Liberia) and flown to San Salvador. They would not reach the Mexican border for four more days, ending up in the Mexican town of Nuevo Laredo.

Border Crossing at Nuevo Laredo

Evidently they encountered no resistance whatever on either side of the border at Nuevo Laredo, Mexico and Laredo, Texas when they walked across the international bridge. The first Cuban to emerge on the U.S. side of the border was a 29 year old man named Randy Cuevas. Practice your Spanish with Randy here.

Most of the new emigres are reporting their intention is to settle in the Miami area. With the "test" run successful, the rest of the emigres are planned to resume and complete the airlift beginning February 4. The Cubans themselves are being asked to pay for their one-way flights to El Salvador: $555 for adults, $350 for youngsters between 2 and 12 and $150 for those under 2 (GG can do the San José/Miami round-trip for less than that).

Meanwhile, there have been some interesting sidebar reports about this situation:

Several of us were lollygagging (that's Spanish for goofing off) on Manuel Antonio beach the other day when a young man approached us offering the usual activities like snorkeling, parasailing, banana boating etc. I noticed he did it with a little hesitation and a lot of hope. He was obviously new at the job. I talked to him a little in my broken Spanish and his broken English (he taught himself English watching English movies with Spanish subtitles) and learned he was Cuban and was hoping to move north at some point.

I didn't press him to know his legal status but simply wished him ¡Exito! (Success!).

Snowzilla Hitchhiker

Hitchhiking is as old as the roads even before they were paved. It can be an art form (see a Hitchhiker's Essay).

So the other day GG was watching reports rolling in about "Snowmaggedon" and "Snowzilla". My attention was centered on fine tuning the air conditioner and adjusting my sunglasses to minimize the brilliance they encountered, when I came across the photo at the right in an daily electronic newspaper I receive.

I get the sentiment amigos. What are you waiting for?

(Hold the poison pen letters please)

Quepos Quickies

Bus Station Being Painted (See the Safety Harnesses on the Painters, the Separation of Public from the Work Area - Nyah, Who Needs that Safety Stuff)

Bus Station Renovations. Downtown improvements in Quepos are continuing. The latest is a renovation of the bus station which is bordered by the new Plaza Bolivar (maybe we should call that a walking street rather than a plaza?). The station is constructed with a roof of corrugated aluminum over a steel superstructure housing five bays for loading and unloading busses. The roof has been replaced and the structure and benches have been painted. Nice improvement.

I hope the city planners (I'm assuming we have at least one) realize that the station is rapidly reaching its capacity. It's not uncommon to see seven or eight busses backed up around the five bays, even to the extent of blocking the entry way and backing up traffic on Main Street (Avenida Central).

The photo right shows a green bus trying to back into the last available bay while two other buses jockey for position and while a third (behind the yellow bus in the photo) is stuck in the entry way blocking traffic on Main Street. The photo was taken at 2 PM on a Monday afternoon early in December; not the busiest time of the day or season.

But where to build a convenient central bus station? How about that space behind the current station on the other side of Plaza Bolivar that's currently being used as a dumping ground for extraneous municipal materials. It's big enough for a sizeable expanded station and just as central as the current one. Am I being too logical again?

Maybe in the new station they could even point the bus bays in the same direction of the traffic rather than in the opposite direction. Then maybe drivers wouldn't feel as obligated to back their busses in for easy egress and that would eliminate the exhaust from the busses being discharged into the waiting room crowd. Also, visitors unfamiliar with our busses wouldn't have to walk around to the front of the busses, dodging other moving busses, to see if they can find the bus they're looking for. God forbid we would ever get an electronic display in the waiting area that showed the destination of each bus in the various bays, like the big boys do it in San José - or at least Tracopa does.

Not long after writing this we got a new Manuel Antonio bus that has a moving marquis on the back that overcomes the walk around problem but the other six or seven still have that problem. Sorry amigos, once a facility planner, always a facility planner.

Marchamo Made Easy. In the December Chronicle just passed we described the Marchamo, the annual liability insurance and registration tax that must be paid each year before December 31 for the coming year on every operating vehicle. A friend who house-sits for a seasonal resident here told me a story recently about getting a Marchamo. (Don't forget to read the second article below called "Su Casa es Mi Casa" about being a house-sitter for vacation properties)

Could This Be The Car?

One part of the house-sitting agreement with his client includes watching over the resident's car which sits in the garage but which my friend never uses. Nevertheless mi amigo heard that the Marchamo requirement needing to be fulfilled before year's end which would also be before the client returned. He gave ample warning to his client (like three months) that the car would need to get a new Marchamo sticker before they returned in late January.

The client finally got around to authorizing an update in mid-December and when my friend brought the car in to pay the Marchamo, he was told it couldn't be done until the Riteve inspection sticker was first updated (the connection between the Marchamo and the Riteve inspection was mentioned in the article referenced above). The problem was that the car is a little beat up (perhaps not as much as the klunker in the photo but bad enough), has bald tires and a rusting exhaust system. Passing Riteve would be highly unlikely in that condition.

But my friend had an enterprising Tico neighbor with a solution. For a small fee the neighbor would rent my friend new tires to put on the car for the Riteve inspection, add a chrome extension piece over the exit pipe and paint over a few rusty spots. Problem solved; the changes were made, the Riteve and Marchamo stickers purchased and the rented parts, except the paint, were returned. (No, that's not the reconditioned car on the right either, just joking)

Now that's enterprising neighborliness. But, take note that no names or places have been mentioned in the Chronicles at the discretion of the editor and for the protection of all concerned. What happens in Quepos, stays in Quepos.

New Year's Eve as Seen from GG's Balcony

New Year's Fireworks. Costa Ricans love fireworks. I mean most people on earth like fireworks but Costa Ricans really love fireworks. Beginning a couple of weeks before Christmas the "Polvera" signs magically appear at the front of many of the local neighborhood grocery stores announcing the arrival of noisemakers, rockets and assorted fun explosives.

Beginning a few days before Christmas and running right up to New Year's eve our neighborhood is treated to nightly attacks of whizzing, whirling and fizzling roman (or at least latin) candles. Included in these exhibitions, and despite a supposed law that's in place forbidding fireworks that explode, there are some very large bangs, sometimes so loud they can startle you. My friend says these are M-80's but I remember M-80's from my own misspent yoot and the local things in Quepos seem more like quarter sticks of dynamite. The exhibitions rarely start before 9 in the evening and often go to one or two in the morning. Par-teee amigos.

New Year's eve at dark sees an almost continuous exhibition among the locals and at midnight the show culminates in a major display of regular (large) fireworks put on by the City of Quepos at the waterfront (Malecón). I've always been impressed by the size of this display from a city that has a very limited budget. It's an almost continuous display of multiple rockets that lasts over 45 minutes. As I said, Costa Ricans love fireworks.

For the next two to three weeks after New Year's we got intermittent reminders of the season as the local kids used up their leftover M-80's. Feliz año, amigos.

Rumble Talk
(Shaky Happenings On or About the Pacific Rim)

The Wenxi Earthquake-Proof Bed

China has had numerous strong earthquakes over the centuries with many casualties and so it is not surprising, considering their experience and also their technical expertise, that a Chinese inventor would come up with an earthquake-proof bed.

The Chinese inventor, a gentleman by the name of Wang Wenxi, who received a patent on his device, believes this bed could save your life in the worst of terremotos (terremoto is the Spanish for the Chinese that means earthquake). See the animation of how the Earthquake-Proof Bed operates during an earthquake. Basically, the sleeper is dropped into a reinforced steel box and the sides of the bed flip over to protect the sleeper from falling debris.

But GG, and a few friends, have questions:

  1. At what Richter level, or other shaking metric, does the bed get triggered? What's the possibility that a heavy truck passing by on the street outside GG's apartment could trigger it?
  2. One pundit called the device the coffin-bed and wondered what a claustrophobic person would prefer in case of an earthquake – to risk dying under a pile of concrete or to be locked inside a frightening, tomb-like bed shelter indefinitely?
  3. What if you’re not lying perfectly straight on the bed when the disaster hits? Would the top door just cut your arm right off? Or a leg you have sticking out? (we might call this the Ford Pinto effect)
  4. Is there any ventilation system? Does it activate automatically (continued breathing should be part of the concept, eh what)?

Reportedly the base of the bed has space to provide a supply of water and food to be used until the rescue squad digs you out. How about a satellite phone hook-up? And what about a bathroom; dude, people my age always think about where the bathroom is.

I'm not sure what this thing costs but I think I'll wait for the answers to the questions above, and the improvements likely to be coming with version 2.0, before I look at the price.

Check Out Recent Earthquakes Around the World
Posted by the U.S. Geodetic Survey:
 Today's Quakes

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¿Que Es Eso? Department
(What is This?)

In Paris we would say: "Qu'est-ce que c'est?"

That's not a model of the Eiffel Tower in the photo amigos, it's the real McCoy (excusez moi, La McCoy réelle).

But what's the unusual blue lighting all about? If you can read the blue printing displayed at the first platform level up from the ground level, you might get a hint as to why it relates to Costa Rica.

Answer in the What's-in-a-Word section below.

 

 

 

 

 


Toothsome Tico Dentistry
(Let Me See That Smile Please)

Some people are born with ultra-hard enamel on their teeth and walk through life requiring only a minimum of dental repair and an occasional cleaning and polishing as an inconvenience. GG on the other hand was born with soft teeth and has made the acquaintance of a significant number of dentists over the years.

gtyI can remember when I was around the age of 11 or 12 (sixth grade) when I got my first filling. The dentist was a kindly old dude operating from a small, second floor office on Pleasant Street in Newburyport, Massachusetts. This gent benefited from our total family business, long before any of us had either private insurance or an employer plan. Both my father and mother had acquired dentures installed by him (hence, the explanation for some of my genes - I was just a chip off the old molar).

The process that the good doctor used involved drilling out the decay using what felt like a jackhammer (ouch!); today's "painless" drills had not yet been invented (the telephone had barely been proven as a useful device at that time, Lincoln was President... oh sorry, I get carried away). The hole was then filled with a lead-based amalgam, there being no concern about the possible side effects of a heavy metal in your mouth. A little more drilling to polish and smooth the surface and you were repaired. The fee was $20, a lot of money back then. As pointed out in last month's mini auto-biography called Morphology of a Golden Gringo, GG would, a few years later, make only $2.35 an hour working full time at the A&P.

Alberto at His Desk

Moving to Costa Rica, I had no idea what to expect of dental care. My plan was simple - I won't seek any dental care. My mouth was filled with so much plastic and several types of metal, including gold, that I believed tooth decay would have a hard time getting in. That strategy worked for a few years but then...

My first contact with Alberto Gonzales Chacón (he goes by Alberto or "Beto") was in 2012. I had managed to break a front tooth chewing the flesh off a mamone nut. It was either get it fixed or join the cast of Vampire Diaries on TV (what the hell are they all about anyway? We've come a long way from Gunsmoke, amigos).

Alberto offered me a choice of 1) a low-cost, less-than-forever guaranteed acrylic crown or 2) a higher-cost, porcelain solution that would virtually last forever. Knowing that the low cost solution would probably outlast the Golden Gringo, I chose it and have yet to be disappointed; if fact I've had two more teeth treated in a similar way to repair fillings that fell out.

Alberto is originally from San José, is 35 years of age and has been practicing dentistry for 14 years, since his graduation from University Latina in Heredia. Alberto offers cosmetic dentistry including partial dentures, full dentures, deep cleanings, crowns, porcelain bridges, whitening treatments, metal fillings replacement, white fillings and white bondings. He also does basic surgery such as soft tissue and wisdom teeth removal as well as dental repair and basic forms of prophylaxis. He opts not to do root canals and implants and for those purposes he refers to trusted colleagues in Quepos and San José.

It's easy for Alberto to find trusted colleagues. His uncle is a dentist who does orthodontic treatments and his female cousin does root canals; both of them work in the same building as Alberto (hmmm, specialization and division of labor, sounds efficient to this engineer). Alberto also told me: "I have two other cousins studying to be dentists too. It's a family thing". Incidentally, Alberto's English is excellent, much better than my Spanish.

This Really Won't Hurt - Bite Down Amigo

When I was a management consultant I always asked my client to give me a summary of their philosophy of doing business. So I asked Alberto the same question and he gave me this answer without hesitating: "I believe in being responsible, punctual and professional".

I can't argue with those guiding principles and I like someone who answers a simple question straightforwardly. GG can also confirm that he has fully lived up to those standards in his dealings with me. Add all this to the fact that he charges very fair prices for his work, prices that most gringos would find a bargain compared to typical charges in the U.S.

Alberto's office building is located about 20 meters north (west? - one is not always sure in Quepos) of Supermarket Jordix in the Boca Vieja barrio in Quepos. The operation is called Pacific Dental Clinic of Costa Rica. So if you find yourself in need of good dental work at a fair price, look no further than beautiful downtown Quepos and Alberto Gonzales Chacón. Here's his contact information:

Tel. (506) 2777-1069 / 2777-0634
Email: albertogch@hotmail.com
Website: http://www.pacificdentalcliniccr.com/

¡Buen trabajo, amigo Alberto! ¡Sonrisa (smile)!

¡Solo Bueno!  

TOP

Su Casa es Mi Casa
(Professional House-sitting Made Easy)

One way to obtain (relatively) free housing in beautiful areas like Costa Rica is to offer yourself as a house-sitter. I know of two people currently having lived some months doing this here and I also have a friend who has been more or less (I think more) a professional house-sitter for some years. In the article below he offers information about the process, the pitfalls and how to avoid the biggest problems. He first explains the vagaries and hassles of the rental market and then shows how the professional house-sitter comes to the rescue.

Enjoy the article, I did.

GG

Article by: Alexander Alberts (a pseudonym)
Edited by: GG (a nickname)

There are many individuals who own vacation homes around the world and those properties are often left vacant for extended periods of time. Often the homeowner will list the property as a vacation rental, which is where the horror story for the homeowner begins. Amidst this chaos and tumult; the dream of the ‘house-sitter’ or ‘caretaker’ blossoms.

Nightly? There's a Name for That

To the homeowner, the rental of the property appears to be the most pragmatic and practical strategy to take in helping to defer the expenses of maintaining the property. Even those with disposable income and vacation properties around the globe like to defer expenses from whence the disposable income is produced.

Homeowners spend much time finding an agent they are comfortable with to employ as property manager who then oversees the entire estate. Watching the watchers. Most homeowners also employ and develop long term relationships with trusted groundskeepers and loyal housekeepers, who they do not wish to lose or have to replace upon return. A professional house-sitter knows they themselves are also de-facto employees of the home owner on par with those others in the employ of the home owner.

Once a property is listed the homeowner then must conduct numerous interviews winnowing potential renters, many with questionable resumes. This is where the lid of Pandora’s box begins to creak open. One of the most unfortunate experiences in this situation is that the sanctimonious renter makes the determination that the groundskeepers and housekeeper are their servants and treat them as they imagine servants should be treated, as they themselves have never employed domestic workers.

It goes without saying that many wish to rent a vacation home and make a sojourn to Costa Rica to let their hair down, enjoy a tropical vacation and PARTY. During the interview process, most potential renters are on their best behavior, coiffed, well groomed, sanitary and swear that they do not smoke tobacco. (I believe there is a market for the rental of ‘smoke free’ wardrobes to be worn during such important interviews) Most applicants are not yet reeking of alcohol and marijuana smoke or sporting the tell-tale white powder of cocaine encircling their nasal passages. Many are disinclined to reveal that they intend to invite another couple or three to split the rent. Lies of omission.

"Let's Go See My Brother at the Beach"

The renter has created a world within their minds in which; if they can keep it together long enough to negotiate and maneuver a successful interview leading to a signed lease, they have acquired the keys to Ground Zero for the future assemblage of the great unwashed. No, I do not mean; ‘’your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,’’ nor the ‘’wretched refuse’’, nor ‘’the homeless tempest tossed.’’ I mean relatives. Lurking within the staging area of the renter’s brain pan are all manner of children, pets, relatives, friends and family making preparations to come to Costa Rica and set up camp on the grounds. KOA Costa Rica. Wooo. Woooo. Earl and Darlene already left Ashtabula, Ohio in their Winnebago a week ago.

As the new renters stand in the doorway with keys in hand bidding adieu to the homeowner as they depart, the familial congregation begins to emerge from the hedges and race with their luggage to the vacant beds, the rest of the swarm begin spilling immediately onto the couches and chaises and any available floor space upon which to pass out after a day at the beach indulging in the conspicuous consumption of copious amounts of alcohol and drugs.

Rental Owners Returning Home

Many who rent ‘vacation properties’ return to find their beautiful homes trashed, filthy and often many things broken and in disrepair. Bathrooms and toilets are often left in a state which defies discussion among polite society. There have been reports of appliances broken, dishes and glassware broken, items missing and in one case the door ripped completely from the oven and a toilet shattered. Many of you will live your lifetime and never see an oven door torn from its hinges or a toilet shattered. In fact, one would find it difficult to manage to cause such damage intentionally.

A Little Kitchen Clean-Up Needed

Just add alcohol. There are those who have returned to find their home scattered with empty liquor bottles and beer cans strewn everywhere, cigarette burns branded upon valuable hand-made wooden tabletops and nightstands. Cigarette burns in antique chairs or couches are not uncommon, in many cases even burns in the mattresses. There have also been cases reported where the renters actually burned the house to the ground. Welcome home.

In this article, we will not even begin to discuss those homeowners who are naive enough to include the car in the deal. Then there are the incessant telephone calls from the renters…the a/c is broken, the gas grille is broken, the washing machine is broken…a relentless stream of complaints. In another instance the renter called demanding a new gas grille immediately and went as far as to ask the homeowner to inquire with the neighbor if they could borrow the neighbors grille until the new one arrived. Funny thing is...the a/c, grille, washing machine, et. al., worked perfectly prior on the owner’s departure. Hmmm. the wifi isn’t working, the electricity is out, the water is not running.

It is following such an experience that an alternative to renting is sought.

Some Places are Incredible...

This is where the professional house-sitter’s dream world begins. The first requirement is that the house-sitter have a large portfolio of references and letters of recommendation including a criminal background check. Many homes contain valuable statuary and works of art, state of the art kitchens and cookware, top of the line appliances and valuable furnishings and tapestries and it is the caretakers responsibility to assure the safety and protection of all such valuables. Here are some characteristics that make a house-sitter a professional.

...and Some are Much Simpler

Most professional house -sitters and caretakers are conversant in the language of the host country. A professional house-sitter also understands the dynamic of the relationship. He/she knows that general repairs and maintenance are required and that one must deal with the regional utility, water and phone company. They understand that in developing nations, power outages and water failure are a common occurrence and are prepared to deal with it, usually already knowing the ins and outs of dealing with said utility companies.

There are many who pose as house-sitters seeking the same indulgence as the aforementioned renters, except they have been sly enough to discover a way to live on a luxurious estate rent free.

An experienced, professional house-sitter expects to pay a damage deposit. A professional should be prepared to pay for problems and damage and broken equipment immediately, then forwards receipts with photographic evidence to the home owner for reimbursement. As the transfer of funds is often required between homeowner and caretaker, a knowledgeable caretaker will already have a bank account for such purposes.

A professional also treats all of those employed in the service of the homeowner with dignity and respect, usually padding their salary with some display of appreciation and generosity. A professional also knows the laws of the host nation. For example, under Costa Rica law, receiving compensation for house-sitting services requires a work permit. The professional house-sitter makes an introduction and develops a relationship with the local police and fire departments and has knowledge of the oddities and quirks of the local bureaucracy.

House-sitting is ideal for a retired couple as a way to travel to the most exotic places in the world which would otherwise be unaffordable. A house-sitter or caretaker bears much more responsibility than a renter, as they must treat the property as though it were their own and maintain it so. If you are pre-disposed to think of house-sitting as a free vacation, you are wrong. Of course a house-sitter may avail themselves of the amenities and cultural events within the region, but the primary importance is the maintenance and security of the property.

Much of what are the duties and what is expected of the house-sitter as well as what is expected of the owner is usually covered in some type of written agreement. There are several associations and professional organizations that house-sitters can join that provide help in this regard as well as tips on how to do the job better. Among these groups, two of the best known are: trustedhousesitters.com and internationalhousesitters.com

The most common exchange for house-sitter services is that the house-sitter pays the utilities, water and housekeeper. In some cases the house-sitter is paid when the property requires extra duties such as housekeeping for temporary guests or the estate has more than one residence upon the grounds.

What the homeowner seeks more than anything is a visible presence and most professional house-sitters realize that they have already arrived at the tropical destination they seek and are quite content to be living in paradise under such extraordinary conditions in which common sense, courtesy and respect are the coin of the realm.

_ _ _

Thanks to Señor Alberts for an excellent summary of the house-sitting process and consideration of the things that are important. There good suggestions and the points of responsibility listed are for both the homeowner who is thinking of hiring a house-sitter and for the house-sitter who wants to be a professional.

¡Pura Vida!

TOP

Robot Mania
("Good Morning Sir; Coffee, Tea or Me?")

Modern technology is producing fascinating creatures through robotics. The levels of sophistication considered science fiction in the movies only thirty or forty years ago are now becoming science fact for both industrial and personal use.

The Golem of Prague (16th Century)
"Frankenstein"
(Boris Karloff)

Mankind has always had a fascination with infusing human life into inanimate objects. Classical literature as early as 600 BC from the likes of greek masters such as Homer, Plato, Pindar, Tacitus, and Pliny is replete with legends of bronze and clay statues that talked or came to life.

Later on, the Golem, an animated man of clay (16th century), is mentioned in the Talmud. And who doesn't know the artificial (technically speaking, it was actually re-animated) human-like creature by Mary Shelley called Frankenstein (1818). The movie industry beginning in the late 1800's offered a new media to bring these robots and creatures to life in a more dramatic and personal way.

Boilerplate (Steam Man)

In the late nineteenth century, during the rise and broad use of steam engines, a robot idea was invented called Steam Man who became known as Boilerplate and which also became the subject of a book. In its wake came Electric Man and Automatica Man and a slew of other robot-like creatures. In the 20th century, with the advent of motion pictures, imaginations quickly added new robots with new powers.

"Klaatu Barada Nikto"

GG remembers his first fascination with robots from the classic black and white movie, The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951, 20th Century Fox, Starring Michael Rennie, Patricia Neal, Sam Jaffe).

An alien named Klaatu from somewhere in space arrives in a flying saucer with a robot named Gort who is his protector. When the military tries to assault Klaatu and his ship, Gort simply incinerates them. Eventually, Gort receives a message ("Klaatu Barada Nikto") sent from Klaatu through Helen (Patricia Neal) that Klaatu is mortally wounded. No problem, Gort rescues Klaatu and repairs him using advanced Frankenstein medical techniques in time for Klaatu to deliver the message he came to Earth for; reform and put aside your warring ways earthlings or the planet will be incinerated. Woop, woop and away Klaatu and Gort fly in their classic wobbling flying saucer. GG was 8 at the time and I went around my school and neighborhood for two weeks repeating "Klaatu Barada Nikto" to everyone I met. (Strange kid that Bobby)

And who didn't fall in love with C3-PO and R2-D2 in Star Wars. It was the first time that distinct personalities were introduced to our personal robots. Carefully programmed to be totally not aggressive (except R2 could be violent in defense), they existed only to be of value to their masters, even if sometimes they were clumsy in doing so.

3-D Printed Auto-Parts

All through the 20th Century, robots were more and more employed in industry and with the advent of sophisticated computers, creative ideas came to fruition. For example, take 3-D printing (also known as additive manufacturing) which combines the power of computers with automated manufacturing that builds a solid product of almost any kind, layer by layer, from plastic, metal or other material and created at the direction of a computer file. The process is revolutionizing the manufacture of small parts (big ones coming later?) and prototypes, allowing extreme precision of very intricate parts.

Now imagine self-learning artificial intelligence with robotic mechanical capabilities.

Robotics and computers make some people nervous. When I was a wet-behind-the-ears process engineer (24-years old) working at my first job in a polymer production plant, I introduced a computer system that calculated process parameters for production runs that replaced the old, hand calculated ones (some guys were still using slide rules to do that at that time - if you're under 50 please don't ask what a slide rule was - just go to the Smithsonian). A production supervisor came up to me and said "the men are concerned that they're going to be replaced by computers". I assured them (correctly) that the only thing that would happen as a result of this change, employment-wise, would be the hiring of more dweebs in the computer department to monitor and improve the system I had constructed. Thereafter the guys in the plant called me Bobby Dweeb.

"Hi Bobby Dweeb, I'm Baxter"

Robots, of course, like computers have an equal effect at making workers insecure. Production robots that have been designed to do mechanical assembly historically have been extremely expensive (it's not unusual for them to cost $300,000-$500,000 each).

Now comes Baxter, a mechanical assembly robot from Rethink Robotics that not only is economical ($25,000-$50,000 a copy) but can learn how to do things from it's human workmates. It works side by side with humans and if it's not sure what you want , it displays a puzzled look on it's face screen; otherwise it shows you a happy face. Workers can move Baxter's arms independently and thereby "teach" baxter what to do. ("Thank you Bobby Dweeb, I enjoyed doing that!)"

But robots are not used just in production and manufacturing anymore. They are now being used as personal assistants. More sophisticated versions of robot humanoids are being invented every day. Take a look at Honda Corp.'s humanoid robot called Asimo below (no, amigos, there is no dwarf inside the suit, it's a true robot but I guess this one only speaks Japanese):

My last car was a Honda which I drove, mechanically problem-free, for 11 years before selling it to a teenager for 20% of its original cost. You don't have to convince me of Honda's technical prowess, I've been a fan for long time.

Nadia with Nadine on the Right

And at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, scientists led by Nadia Thalmann have come up with Nadine, an interactive robot that is used as a receptionist there. Here's how Nadine's creator (Nadia) describes her:

"She is friendly and will greet you back. Next time you meet her, she will remember your name and your previous conversation with her. She looks almost like a human being with soft skin and flowing brunette hair. She smiles when greeting you, looks at you in the eye when talking, and can also shake hands with you. Unlike conventional robots, Nadine has her own personality, mood and emotions. She can be happy or sad, depending on the conversation. She also has a good memory and can recognize the people she has met, and remembers what the person had said before."

OK, GG has only three questions for Nadine: 1) do you like old movies on the TCM channel, 2) can you cook and 3) what's your IP Address, I might be coming over?

¡Solo Bueno!

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Travel Quote of the Month

An actual drawing and note handed to a flight attendant
by an 8-year old girl on a Quantas flight

 


What's-in-a-Word

Answer to ¿Que Es Eso?

The message in blue lights on the first balcony at the Eiffel Tower that night in early December 2015 was "Pura Vida". It was done in honor of the chairwoman of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, Christina Figueres of Costa Rica (actually Karen Christiana Figueres Olsen) who organized the recent Paris summit on climate change.

Christina is the daughter of, José Figueres Ferrer, a gent who was  President of Costa Rica three times (1948–1949, 1953–1958, and 1970–1974). That 1948-49 stint, of course, was at the end of the Costa Rican civil war and the founding of the Second Republic, the one which led to a stable, democratic government here for the last 67 years. Nice tribute to Costa Rica, Christina.

Bon hommage, bien fait Christina.

Vaccine Prevents Resurrection

This falls under the Dumb Headlines Department: This one reads:

"Safer Polio Vaccine Prevents Resurrection"

I presume they meant to say "Reinfection" because the first line of the article read:

"Researchers in Britain have come up with a safe polio vaccine strain that would prevent polio reinfection."

Otherwise it might be an inoculation available only at Easter time.

You Know You're Becoming Tico If...

Readers can add to this list by emailing: gg@goldengringo.com

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ROMEO Corner
(Retired Old Men Eating Out)

Don Wang's, San José

Location: Calle 11, Between Ave 6 & 8, diagonal to the Theatre Lucho Barahona,
Hours: Mon-Thu: 11am-3:30pm & 5:30pm-10pm. Fri: 11am-3:30pm & 5:30pm-11pm. Sat: 11am-11pm. Sun: 11am-10pm
Parking: Good Luck, It's Downtown San José
Contact: Tel.: (+506) 2233 6484; Email: Via Website; Website: www.donwangrestaurant.com.

Reviewing ROMEOS: Bob N.

To Review Our Rating System and Procedure, go hereR.O.M.E.O. Rating System

These days GG finds himself in San José for one or two days almost every month for one reason or another (doctor's appointment, Writer's Group Meeting, book research etc.). It presents an opportunity to try out new restaurants and, of course, there are hundreds to choose from in a city as large as San José. I often stay at a hotel very close to the Teatro Nacional and Don Wang's an easy walk from the hotel as are many others. It's located on the same street in Chinatown as Tin Jo and an Argentine steakhouse called La Esquina de Buenos Aires.

Don Wang's is a Chinese restaurant with a main dining room that is quite pleasant with polished wood tables and chairs, linen table cloths, padded seats (GG thanks you) and subdued, indirect lighting which is adequate to read the menu. The furniture lines and art deco on the walls present a clean, modern chinese motif.

Four and a half sloths for ambiance.

 

The menu is extensive - they number their main dishes and I remember something like 139 possibilities. There are all sorts of variations on Chinese themes and a full range of fish, poultry, meats and combinations of all f these..

The night I visited Don Wang's I chose a simple fried chinese noodle dish with a mixture of meats and seafood (#100 - shown left). It arrived in a reasonable amount of time (there were few in the restaurant when I dined at 6 PM). It was fresh, tasty and the veggies were cooked "au point" like the French do, or just tender.

ggg
$$$$
Value Index = 133

For dessert I had an excellent cheesecake with a passion fruit sauce - outstanding. For quality of food GG (realize that this is based on only one meal) has to give Don Wang's 4.5 sloths.

Service, from a lady of Chinese descent was attentive and very helpful. One of the things the waitress was helpful with was the bill. She asked me if I would be paying with cash or by credit card. When I asked if it made a difference she said cash brings a 20% discount - I immediately pulled the colon notes from my billfold. There was also a small sign on the table that said use of a ScotiaBank credit card on Tuesdays and Wednesdays would bring a 30% discount. Four sloths for service and an overall rating of four sloths for ambiance, food quality and service.

The bill for the noodle dish, cheesecake, one diet coke and one coffee was a little over 9,000 colones ($18) but after the cash discount mentioned above, it fell to just over 7,000 ($13+). That's a three $ rating by ROMEO standards and yields a value index of 4/3*100=133, That puts Don Wang at the top of our value system.

This restaurant is easily put on the ROMEO approved list.


Golden Gringo Chronicles Novel and E-Books Now Available!

GGC Book CoverThe story of the Golden Gringo Chronicles is also available as a hard copy novel of 192 pages available through Amazon and all major online retailers. ($9.95)

Amazon link: GGC, the Book. (Kindle Edition available)

Follow GG through the first six years of his odyssey in making the decision to retire in Costa Rica, overcoming the trials and tribulations of moving and obtaining residency there and the fun and experience of actually living in Ticoland.

Ride along with the Golden Gringo as he learns about the rich, varied culture of Costa Rica, the incredible bio diversity, the charming nature of the Costa Rican people and the ease with which a sometimes clueless ex-pat can assimilate into a small southwestern town on the Pacific coast.

Whether you are already a Costa Rican resident, someone contemplating a move here or just a traveler who enjoys different cultures, you will find the Golden Gringo Chronicles interesting, entertaining and informative about Costa Rica.

Part 1-150 Part 2-150 Part 3 Light

A narrative version of the Golden Gringo Chronicles is now also available as a trilogy of E-books in formats compatible with virtually all electronic platforms.

Part 1: (FREE!)
Leaving the Homeland

Part 2: ($3.99)
The Early Years

Part 3: ($3.99)
Becoming Tico, Maybe

Click on Part Number above for E-book sample downloads or click the price above right for purchase. (The best price is on Part 1; it's FREE)


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The Golden Gringo
Pura Vida!

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