Monday, January 31, 2005

Beat me?

I am nerdier than 62% of all people. Are you nerdier? Click here to find out!

Who is nerdier? I dare you. Post a comment. Do it.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005


Frat boys are funny. Tonight, walking home at about 11pm, I saw about twenty of them gathering in the middle of campus talking about something. They were pretty loud, and eventually, they started jogging down towards kirkwood shouting (like a marines' cadence) "I'm a little tea pot short and stout. Here is my whistle, here is my spout..." over and over. It was rather funny. They marched right up to La Bamba's where another twenty or so were waiting on the terrace outside.

Little Teapots, huh?

Monday, January 24, 2005


This makes me laugh every time I look at it...


This seems to me to be the epitome of all Windows XP error messages. I have the joy of doing work in many different operating systems (Unix, Mac, Windows...) and XP takes the cake with error messages. The only OS I've used with better error messages is BeOS (God rest its soul) with its haiku errors. Go make your own (Link).


As you've probably noticed, I've discontinued posting my costa rica travelogue. I don't think anyone's reading it, so it's not worth the typing (currently it's written in a hand-journal).

Anyway, let me know if you want to see more and I will post more.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

costa rica travelogue (6)


It was the day of ultimate relaxation. We woke up and spent some time reading before heading to the lodge restaurant for our complimentary breakfast. It was raining when I woke up. Its still raining as I lay down for sleep.

Breakfast was festive -- the waitstaff remembered us from yesterday and joked around a bit. It was a buffet style meal, but there were six types of fresh fruit juice and one of the waiters made us omelets while the other cheered him on. It was hilarious!

After food, we went back to the room and watched the wet birds fly around restlessly. My favorites are the scarlet-rump birds. While birding, a little black weasel-looking thing started trying to get into the restaurant (just a few meters away). Poor little thing had bags under its eyes! I suppose I would too if I lived underground and it was raining.

A short while later, I heard some screeching outside my door, so I went out to investigate. A pair of parrots (big ones, Macaw sized) had flown into the overhang to perch on a limb out of the rain. They just sat and cuddled, vocalizing a bit at passers by.

Shortly after noon, we caught a taxi to Tabicon Resort for the hot springs experience. This magical water park is just high-flow natural springs flowing through human-coerced lava rock channels. But there are tons (> 15) pools and waterfalls, only two are cold. The brochure says that the springs top out at 102°F, but I think it gets hotter!

The buffet dinner leaves something to be desired but five hours in the springs & pools (with two bars, one you can swim up to!) made me very relaxed. Unfortunately we didn't have time to try out the spa services (Facials, massage, etc).

Mmmm.... Sleepy time.

The red-rump bird was called a "Red-rump Tanager."

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

sharks with frickin' lasers on their heads

Apparently the latest in high-tech anti-aircraft weaponry is, that's right folks, lasers. The FAA is cracking down on people who shine lasers on airplanes, possibly blinding the pilot. They claim it is a terrorist threat.

"... [the FAA] recommends that pilots immediately report any unauthorized laser events to air traffic controllers ..." (Link) A laser isn't a threat, a BOMB is a threat. A laser is something you can buy for $24.99 at Radio Shack (Link).

I'm beginning to think they're winning: our country is freaking out about every last thing! Isn't that the point of terrorism? Not killing, that's massacre, but instilling fear? Damn, we suck.

costa rica travelogue (5)

Happy New Year!


I greeted this morning with a lonely but submersing hike on some trails behind our lodge. I got the full feel of a rainforest today (sans wild animals) since it was raining as I trudged down the muddy paths. Along the trail, I saw some damp butterflies and giagantic trees. The cloud forest really is beautiful on the ground and in the air.

Our time at the cloud forest lodge outside Santa Elena came to an end as we finished our coffee, checked out, and caught our 4wd ride towards Arenal. It took about two hours to go 50km -- up and down crappy pock-marked muddy roads. Luckily we had someone else driving (I would have quickly grown impatient) so after just a couple hours we arrived at a boat dock on the only lake in Costa Rica. I stepped out of the jeep and removed my two-hours-of-bumping-on-the-seat wedgie before we boarded the boat that would take us to our next stop: Arenal Lodge.

Throughout the whole 45minute boat ride, we were heading straight for the Arenal Volcano, but it was overcast so I could only see the bottom third most uninteresting parts. That's okay. We have 3 days in Arenal, hopefully one will be clear.

We got out of the boat on the other side of the lake after waiting for the people blocking the public landing to move. It was interesting how our tour boat was empty except for the two of us, the guide & driver. I think the boat could comfortably fit fifty. Unusual. Anyhow, once we were back on land, we were greeted with a pleasant surprise: a paved road!!! Haven't seen one of those in days.

We waited a few minutes for our next ground transport to arrive. It would take us the three kilometers up the mountain to our next abode. A roadside vendor had a huge knife and a truck full of fresh coconuts, so we bought one to drink. He whacked a small hole in the top and it was completely full of water! What a nice treat to suck down the natural canteen's contents after a long trip.

Our ride arrived and took us the remaining distance up past an entry gate really far up a long suspenseful driveway to the Arenal Lodge. The scenery was beautiful (again). I can't really say much other than we ended up with a marvelous room with french doors, a couch, coffepot, double sink and a private deck with rocking chairs to sit on while enjoying or own personal view of the volcano! It was just all right there: our room with a view. Awesome.

Through a bit of exploring, we really began to love this place. The restaurant had excellent food. I had a twelve dollar fillet that was HUGE and very melty. Not bad, considering my other steak encounters in this country have been quite disappointing. We found a little comfort in great wait-staff and receptionists.

Walking around the property, we discovered a butterfly garden and a mini-zoo. The zoo had a family of boars, some deer and a pair of lazy Pacas. We decided to save the hiking trails for sunnier times.

While in the remote edges of the property, we found a strange clearing that plateaued on top of the hill and housed three italian-style fountains. The area seemed to be perfect for weddings and stuff of the like since it was flat, remote, not too windy and had a breathtaking view of the lake and volcano.

All in all, today was exciting. I can't wait for the volcano to reveal itself. I've heard a few rumbles but not seen anything yet. Meanwhile, I will settle for the churps, burps, and squeels of the nighttime jungle outside my bedroom window.

I heard you can see the lava flows from the volcano at night... nifty.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

costa rica travelogue (4)



Today we took a trip to a butterfly farm. I learned a lot about insects, bugs and arachnids--and I got to play with a praying mantis. The mantis is really a cool insect. I played with a (large) female and I was amazed at how her head could move: she followed my finger as it circled her head just as a cat might. During the pre-tour info session, I learned that cockroaches are actually very clean. they spend a lot of time cleaning themselves, much like cats. I also learned that they're only two percent water, so you can microwave or freeze them and they won't die.

Anyhow, the point of the tour was to see butterflies, and that we did! I got photos of transparent ones, striped ones, owl-looking ones, and iridescent blue ones. Butterflies are really neat -- we saw one who just finished coming out of its' chrysalis and the wings were still wet and unfolding. It's amazing how fragile these bugs are. On a side note, I learned that moths BUILD their cocoons from other materials (like the log-cabin moth that makes a cocoon out of sticks that looks like a log cabin) whereas butterflies grow a chrysalis like shedding skin. Anyway, I got some good pictures and walked away with lots of new knowledge.

The farm was run by a US citizen and volunteers from the states, so the tour was speckled with humor that made me feel right at home.

After the butterflies, we caught our ride back towards the lodge, but asked our driver to let us out early so we could explore the town nearby a bit. We had to verbally wrestle with him since he spoke absolutely no english at all, and eventually I had to open a door to show him what we wanted to do.

When we got out of the jeep, the coffee shop from yesterday was so close that we had to stop in for some coffee. There we saw a couple from our butterfly tour group and some of the zip-liners from yesterday (the Israelis). We sat and chatted for a while, and I decided I don't like Carajillo. Stick with coffee, Sid. Also, while we were there, I nerded out for a bit (ten minutes) and sent some emails from an internet station in the cafe. Only a dollar for ten minutes, not bad.

Afterwards, we proceeded on a hike to the bustling town of Saint Elena (really quite built up around a cobblestone road) and found a quaint little restaurant for lunch. The family-owned establishment had a huge menu, and mom and pop quickly fixed us up with some flat-fried chicken, rice, beans and pickled veggies that their six-year-old daughter served us with gusto. An amazing meal with huge portions, a glass bottle of coke and a banana smoothie (fruit, ice, water) all for about eight bucks. I have a new favorite place for tico food. After lunch we waddled down the road a bit to a second coffee shop where we played cards and drank extremely strong coffee. On our way out I picked up some cigars to celebrate the new year.

We passed a grocer on the way back, so we stopped in and bought some wine and an apple to go with the fresh loaf of bread (US$0.35) we bought from a bakery. Fully loaded for a party, we slowly began our uphill trek of about 4km (very steep) back to the lodge. We took about an hour to do it, mostly because half of the road was on at least a thirty degree incline.

Back at the lodge, we made "reservations" for dinner and plowed through the wine, bread and apple over two more hours of card games.

We were the only guests left for the night, so we had the whole restaurant/bar staff waiting on us. I kind of felt bad that they couldn't take off and go celebrate with everyone else, but they seemed pretty happy to serve us.

After dinner, we played more cards (I'm beginning to think it's a compulsion) until we grew weary, then listened to a fireworks display before hitting the sack. We had a long day ahead of us: we were to set out towards Arenal to see a volcano the next morning . . .

Santa Elena is really a neat town, not as touristy as many of the other towns in Costa Rica.

Monday, January 10, 2005

costa rica travelogue (3)

In the Cloud Forest (Continued)
. . . Shouting "Adios!" I was projected out and into whiteness, although looking down at times, I could see the treetops 421 feet below me (honestly that far). Landing on the other side, water streamed out of the corners of my eyes -- I couldn't tell if it was tears of excitement, my eyes watering, or just water from the rainy mist I had just penetrated.

The next line, not quite as high (but close), supposedly propelled us at up to 40 miles per hour. I could believe it. This was rapidly followed up by the longest cable: 2500 feet long. That's about half a mile! We figure it took us about 35 seconds to go all the way across.

Our guides paired us up to go across with a bit more weight. That was a fun bonding moment with Mom. Unfortunately, we did not weigh enough! We stopped moving about ten meters from the platform so we had to spin around and pull ourselves the rest of the way -- this was surprisingly easy.

After our marvelous adventure, we were given free coffee and a chance to mill about in the souvenir shop. In our group of people, there were some interesting personalities. one older couple from Israel braved the speeds and heights so they could brag about it to their grandchildren. A lone guy (with a loud Hawaiian tee shirt) took hundreds of photos and talked smart the whole time. There was also a father with his daughter (he reminded me of someone from Back Home). I found out during the milling that he and his wife had their first date on a skydiving expedition! That's amazing.

I was a little disappointed that we did not get to see any wildlife on our tour, but it was neat to get a hawk's eye view of the cloud forest.

This was a Sky Trek tour (Link). I'll post some of my pictures later.

Friday, January 07, 2005

costa rica travelogue (2)

In The Cloud Forest

Last night, the wind hissed through the forest with an intermittent comforting for sleep. The rain pattered down with the wind, but more lightly like in a cloud.

I woke this morning to a dog crying. Our neighbors (the cabins are duplex) had brought along a dog and had apparently left him alone while they ate breakfast. I felt bad for the poor little guy (alone in heavy wind and an alien place) but they came back after breakfast and all is well. The shower at our cabin is amazing. Water must be cheap here, because the shower pours out probably a gallon of water every five seconds for the drain to happily gobble up.

We went to the restaurant at the lodge for coffee around 10am, but they were closed so we took a fifteen minute walk to a coffee shop I saw on our way up. We sat and read, enjoying fresh coffee and treats, and soaked up the clean forest air.

Our next adventure was a canopy tour of the cloud forest. We caught a transport to a remote location where a company had set up towers and ziplines for people to fly through the canopy.

We strapped on harnesses and helmets then went outside to a fifty foot tower. After a dizzying spiral staircase climb, one by one we attached our pulleys to the line and zipped across to the first stop. On the other end, our comical guide said we had only five more "training" lines for practice.

After more hiking and more ziplines, we ended up zipping
the trees. Our guide called those two in-tree zips the "George of the Jungle" lines!

"George, George, George of the Jungle,
Strong as he can be!
George, George, George of the Jungle,
Watch out for that tree!"

It's truly a marvel to zip at thirty miles per hour past tree limbs that are less than a foot away.

The eighth and ninth lines were the most intimidating. It started to get cloudy, which meant (being in a cloud forest) we walked inside the clouds. After ten minutes of hiking, we reached a seventy foot platform. It was at the peak of a mountain. The climb up the platform had me unnerved since we could feel the clouds whizzing through us and the wind trying to push us around. At the top, all you could seed was the 415 meter cable disappearing into the clouds. Freaky. I stood bracing myself against the rail of the tower, resisting the urge to look down -- propped up to fight the ripping power of the wet winds. I was next . . .

To be continued . . .

Thursday, January 06, 2005

apple flavored monopoly?

Apparently someone is suing Apple because they can't play their iTunes purchased songs on non iPod MP3 players.

Honestly, I think this is rather odd that they're suing Apple. If they were too worried about this, they could subscribe to another service like Microsoft's music store. It's not like Apple is the only company that sells music you can play on your MP3 players. Apple does sell music with copy protection built in, but this is mentioned to all users when they sign up for the service. My MP3 player can't play the Microsoft WMA format stuff, so screw them.

If this is a huge concern, try this: use iTunes to burn the crap to a CD, then rip the CD to MP3 files. You haven't broken any laws (except maybe copy protection evasion, but you're not doing it with criminal intent) in doing this, and now you have the files in MP3 format and also in the purchased AAC format.

I haven't heard whether Apple has released information on decoding their AAC copy protection, but I think it's up to the 3rd party MP3 player makers to support this format if they can.

Finally, it's not really a huge deal. You can still play the music for free once you've bought it. The iTunes software is free. Don't bitch. Although there might be a case about not being able to play the music without iTunes. It might be a problem that you can't export the songs if you reinstall iTunes, but I believe they've fixed those two problems.

I'm not a legal authority of any sort, but these are my two cents. It'll be interesting to see how this turns out.

(Link - BBC)

costa rica travelogue

This is the first in a series of nine sequential journal entries written while I was in Costa Rica. I'll post one per day interleaved within my other posts (if I have any).


Today we began our travels to Costa Rica. Arriving at the airport in San Jose was unique -- this was the point at which the Spanish letters became the ones on top, instead of the English ones.

The travel company who picked us up from the airport did an unfathomably good job of finding us: we didn't even have to think. Our driver (who took us on our first modest adventure) was eager to meet us.

"Welcome to my country!"

Our first destination was a cabin in the Monteverde cloud forest, and our driver said that it would take us maybe four and a half hours -- depending on traffic.

We pulled off the road about thirty minutes into the trip, and he said, "My friends, this is the best place to eat. You love it." And we did. They had awesome local 'tica' (Costa Rican) food at a great price (US$1.50 per meal).

We reached our lodge after just three hours of travel (traffic was good) although two of those hours were spent on rocky, potholed dirt roads. Our driver navigated these roads like a pro, even though most of the time there was barely room for one car, though it was not a one-way road. Along the way we saw some beautiful sunset views of a bay and mountains, making it hard to misunderstand the majesty of the Costa Rica countryside.

The lodge we stayed at has a restaurant and bar (limited in spirits, though with some local rums) and we ate a mediocre dinner of tough steak. I guess I should expect no less -- the steer they raise here have to graze on steep inclines -- the ones too steep for farmland.

Stay tuned for more!