Robert Gentel’s Blog

My uncle passed away…

January 31st, 2008

My uncle Roger passed away today, he was not in good health after years of abusing his body but I wasn’t expecting it. RIP Roger….

Went to the dentist.

January 31st, 2008

I finally went to the dentist. I’d been needing a filing for a while and my fiancé got sick of hearing me say I was going to go and scheduled me a visit. It was quick and uneventful. The prices are charged per visit ($50) for most dental work here and they divide big work into different visits. I have a follow up next week and I’m just glad someone’s finally forcing me to take care of details like this that I tend to put off.

Nicaragua as expected

January 13th, 2008

Our stay in Managua, Nicaragua was uneventful. We stayed at the Best Western across from the airport (literally across the street). We went to the “Metro Centro” which was little more than a mall. I was disappointed in the difficulty in finding a decent restaurant. We ended up eating Pizza Hut there!

From there we went to some other commercial centers and to Managua lake, but there’s really no center of activity in Managua. So we stayed in the hotel most of the time, enjoying the pool, bar and restaurant.

Our exit was problematic, with Taca airlines taking 40 minutes to check us in but at least I renewed my Visa and can put all that behind me.

Pet Hotel

January 8th, 2008

Damn, I left Harry and Fiona at a pet hotel today, as we are leaving tomorrow to Nicaragua for a few days. I didn’t think I’d miss them but I’ve grown accustomed to Harry’s furry little face and have come to look forward to greeting him when I get home.

Coming home after dropping him off, I caught myself calling for him as I walked through the door. He looked so damned sad as I left him, probably more to do with having vomited from motion sickness than knowing that we were leaving him but that’s still the last I remember of the cute lil’ bastard.

I’m off to Nicaragua tomorrow, but can’t wait till it’s all over and we are all back home.

I am Legend

January 5th, 2008

Ok, so we went to the movies again and saw Will Smith’s new movie I am Legend. I had heard good things about it but was a little disappointed (not much since I expected to be).

The story was not very compelling and the climax was anticlimactic. The only good thing I can really say about it is that it wasn’t that boring. At least the “dark seekers” were freaky looking. For someone less jaded with Hollywood than I it might actually be a decent film but for me it was just good enough for me to stick around till the end.

Prehistoric Dragon Goby, Ghost Glass Cat, and Large Female Guppies

December 27th, 2007

I bought a Prehistoric Dragon Goby (see a picture of this freakish species here) from a store where I also found the first large female guppies for sale in Costa Rica.

The Dragon Goby is very interesting insofar as appearance but he spends all his time hiding in the dense plants I setup for small fish so I almost never see him. I may end up getting another so that the sightings are more common.

I also bought a Ghost Glass Cat from the same store, whose transparent body is very unique. I’ll probably get him some tank mates soon.

I setup a smaller tank with the new female guppies and 2 new male guppies and have started to breed them. I moved some of the larger fry from a fry tank into my community tank but my angelfish ate them because they refused to hide in any of the planted areas and just sat there waiting for him. I tried to get them to go toward any of the aquarium corners, where there are rocks and dense plants but these fry just didn’t seem to be afraid of big fish and were eaten one by one.

Nicaragua and Visa Problems

December 26th, 2007

As I previously wrote, I was planning a trip to Panama in December, as I have to leave Costa Rica every 90 days for 48 hours as per the requirements of my tourist visa. My fiancé was waiting for her passport to arrive, and it arrived late which ruined our plans for Panama so in my haste to get out of Costa Rica before I’m illegal I booked a trip to Costa Rica’s other neighboring country, Nicaragua.

I bought two plane tickets to Managua and then looked into the visa requirements to enter Nicaragua. I had heard visas were necessary but all the information I saw online indicated that Nicaragua had done away with the requirement to foster tourism. There were a couple of countries (e.g. “Palestine”) that Nicaraguan government websites listed as needing visas but neither the US nor Costa Rica were on those lists so I figured we’d be ok. For good measure I called the Nicaraguan consulate in San Jose, Costa Rica but despite trying 5 different phone numbers over several days was never able to get anyone to answer.

So on Christmas morning we dragged ourselves out of bed and took a taxi to the airport (a friend, who didn’t sleep all through Christmas Eve to take us), paid the airport taxes and were ready to go.

At the TACA desk we were told that US citizens don’t need visas but Costa Ricans need a visa to enter Nicaragua and we were not allowed to board. Furthermore I was told that my tickets were non-refundable. I was so upset that upon leaving the airport I tried to kill myself by eating Denny’s food (just kidding, their breakfast isn’t that bad even if it has enough grease to make someone not on an American diet queasy).

I’m not sure why Costa Rica nationals are required to have a visa to enter Nicaragua, but I suspect it’s some sort of reciprocal action based on the immigration tensions between Costa Rica and Nicaragua. Costa Rica has many Nicaraguan immigrants, with some estimates putting it as high as 25% of their population and there are some resulting tensions. I think all this kind of crap is just slightly-modernized tribalism. Countries are just lines in the sand and one should be able to go anywhere they want on this planet if you ask me.

Anyway, I’m now trying to figure out what to do next, and I’ll probably pay $100 to reschedule our flights in order to lose the least amount of money. My buddy Tri had agreed to house sit for our pets and came over on Christmas Eve and I’m a bit pissed that he made that sacrifice for naught.

Happy happy joy joy…. I may even hasten my marriage to get residency so that I’m not forced to make inconvenient trips outside of the country every 90 days.

Right-brained or left-brained test

December 26th, 2007

Someone sent me this interesting Left Brain versus Right Brain test. Look at the image below, if you mainly see the dancer turning clockwise you use more of the right side of your brain, and if you mainly see the dancer turning counter-clockwise you mainly use the left side of your brain.

Right or Left Brain?

uses logic
detail oriented
facts rule
words and language
present and past
math and science
can comprehend
order/pattern perception
knows object name
reality based
forms strategies

uses feeling
“big picture” oriented
imagination rules
symbols and images
present and future
philosophy & religion
can “get it” (i.e. meaning)
spatial perception
knows object function
fantasy based
presents possibilities
risk taking

I have always tested nearly equally for right-left brain use and this test is no exception. I’m no closer to deciding which side the pea is on. In this case, I initially saw the dancer spinning clockwise while her shadow spun counter-clockwise, but can make either spin in either direction.

There are others discussing the Right Brain vs Left Brain Test on Able2Know with various tricks for making her spin in different directions.

GPS maps for Costa Rica!

December 20th, 2007

Yes! I’ve always been a fan of satellite navigation and the use of the GPS (Global Positioning System) with cartography to provide routing.

When I moved to Costa Rica, where there are is not an address system, I felt the need even more as I knew nothing about the country’s roads and without names it’s pretty hard to learn. Given that the traffic is also pretty bad in many areas it can often take an hour to go 10 miles and if you don’t know different routes it can be quite daunting.

Upon arriving in Costa Rica I’d intended to build a car computer with the usual GPS and the like but was dismayed to not find any Costa Rican GPS maps. Hell there wasn’t even a decent web-based map to use and it was hella frustrating.

Anyway, the other day I was stranded with car problems and the only good thing to come of it was that I noticed a Costa Rican car rental agency that had GPS units available to rent with their fleet of cars.

Today I drove out to their offices (having to pay a taxi for the last leg of the trip in order to find them) and bought their Garmin-based solution. I’m using it with Garmin Mobile on a Windows Mobile 5 device (Samsung Blackjack) through a bluetooth GPS receiver (Garmin GPS 10) and am pleased to report that it works as well as can be expected without addresses to input as destinations.

Coming back from picking up my fiancé in Heredia it came in handy as I was able to use a much better route that I hadn’t known that skips downtown San Jose and is much shorter. It used to take me up to two hours each way to go the 15 or so miles and this should only take me about 25 minutes in the future.

The routing works great and the cartography is solid, it had small streets and though it didn’t always know things like bridges being out I haven’t found any streets it doesn’t know. The points of interest are fairly solid, and they have pretty much any franchise in the database. Mom-and-pop joints aren’t always there, and there are more of those businesses than franchises (thank goodness!) so it’s not too great but the franchises are important for use to get where you need in lieu of addresses the country uses “directions”. These directions can be as cryptic as “200 meters north of where the old oak tree used to be” but more often they reference businesses like McDonalds, Pizza Hut and other franchises as franchises tend to have stronger display marketing than mom-and-pop joints.

So while it’s not perfect it’s flaws rest in Costa Rica’s lack of an address system and it works as well as can be expected. I’m more than happy with this solution and it’s going to save me lots of money (from paying taxis to follow when I’m lost) and time.

For the locations it doesn’t already have, I will input the coordinates and save them for future use and I hope that Costa Rica adopts an address system based off of longitude and latitude one day to make it all easy. Right now, there’s not much hope that all houses can be assigned numbers and that all roads will be named so for the tech-savvy it’d be good enough just to have people start learning their geographical coordinates.

Anywho, it’s enough of a godsend that I will try to convince my tech-savvy friends here to jump on board. If they get the same setup as me, they can text-message their coordinates to me when they want to meet and don’t have to bother with the million phone calls it takes to get me anywhere.

I have a bad sense of direction (don’t pay enough attention) and this is one of those things that will make a big difference in my day to day.

My kitten beats up my dog… more funny pet videos.

December 17th, 2007

Ok, so I became the doting pet owner/parent who can’t help but rant and rave about their kids/pets. So sue me, it’s my damn blog and here are more funny pet videos courtesy of the two lil’ furry bastards we feed: Harry and Fiona.

They are fighting again, and as per usual Fiona wins. This time Harry fell off the bed.