Thursday, August 16, 2018

More Fishing at Gravelly Point and More Celebrating of Little Victories

Last night we spent a delightful couple of hours fishing over at Gravelly Point. Of course my Dad caught the first fish, a decent sized catfish, as well as the second, an eel. I didn't catch anything, but had a few micro successes, including using a variation on this technique to use hot dog as bait and the fact that every time I went to use a uni-knot I did so with success.

This was B.'s first time fishing and I was hoping my Dad's knack for finding fish would increase her odds of also having her first catch. Alas, it wasn't meant to be. She did have a few micro successes as well, including: having the first strike of the day, though she wasn't able to land the fish; catching a Mystery Snail, which according to the Washington Post is edible ("The snails are native to East Asian rice paddies, where they are snatched up for the dinner table."); and learning how to cast a line using a spinning reel.

Good times!

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Review: The Vor Game

Take James Bond and remove his suave exterior, Gregory House and his bitter core and Jack Reacher and all traces of brawn and technophobia and you'd end up with an unlikely hero: Miles Vorkosigan. Miles is the main character in my latest read: The Vor Game by Lois McMaster Bujold. While this is the 8th book in the series, it was my introduction to the so called Vorkosigan Saga.

As introductions go, it was a delightful one. I started the book cold and enjoyed getting to know the characters through the clues Bujold laid for me. Looking back at the description of the book, I see that nearly the entire first act is revealed, which truly a shame. I can imagine publishers feel the need to reveal some of story to pull in readers, but my gosh, what a way to ruin a story.

I can't recall a book that features such a physically challenged character in such an inventive way. Yes, Miles is forced to compensate for his lack of physical attributes by using his brain and wit. But it's more than that, he manages to use his physical features to his advantage at times and at other times he reveals his frustration and disappointment with his stature. This depth of character makes for a richness that a Bond or Reacher miss out on.

I found the tone of the Vor Game to be especially interesting. For reasons I can't entirely say, it has an old school Sci-Fi feel to it. That is, it's clearly written about the distant future, but it seems to be imagined in 1950's terms. Perhaps it's all the references to vidplates and communication consoles and such; terms that conjure up 1970's Star Trek more so than a modern the-computer-is-invisible approach we're experiencing even today. Yet, the Vor Game is a decidedly modern book as the author grew up in 50's and 60's versus being published in the 50's and 60's. Perhaps I'm reading into something that's not there, but I for one enjoyed the retro style. The awkward technology seems to pair well with our awkward, yet lovable, hero.

If there's one complaint I could level against the book it's that the story-arc was so long and impossibly chained together that I eventually gave up trying to predict where it was going. Yet, there was also a certain pleasure that came from sitting back and watching the story unfold.

Next time I get a craving for some good old fashion spacey Sci-Fi, I know where I'm headed: the Vorkosigan Saga.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Costa Rica Adventure - Day 5

Today was all about relocating ourselves from La Fortuna to Jaco Beach, a mere 3½ hour drive away. While packing up was exhausting, the kids helped out and before we knew it, we were on the road.

We didn't over-plan our road trip and had some pleasant surprises along the way. Our first treat was buying Rambutan fruit from a brilliantly placed fruit-stand camped out at a one lane bridge. The half kilo of fruit was the cheapest and tastiest thing we've bought in Costa Rica so far. Then we came upon Loveat Restaurant, a fully vegetarian restaurant run by a patient Israeli woman. Fluffy pita, perfect falafel and the tastiest tacos I've ever had made for a memorable lunch. And of course, the drive delivered view after view.

As I mentioned after the first day, the roads and driving haven't been much of a challenge. As we made our way towards Jaco I couldn't help but wonder aloud what everyone was so hyped up about. And then we made an impossibly sharp left turn onto Route 3. For the next 6½ miles, we drove on some of the steepest, twistiest, one-laniest roads I'd ever been on. Thankfully, we didn't encounter another car, much less a tour bus coming the other way. Looking back, it was a fun stretch of road. But seriously, if Costa Rica wanted to humble me with its driving terrain, the short trip on Route 3 was all it took.

As we finalized our gear for Costa Rica I eyed the 48lbs of food and kitchen equipment we'd packed and looked for ways to lighten our load. One obvious candidate: leave the paper guidebook at home and opt to use a digital one. I came pretty close to doing this, as I've had such great success switching to digital maps. Ultimately, I brought the book along: we'd used it to help plan our trip, so it seemed only right to have it while on our trip. And besides, I figured I'd used the trip to prove to myself that I didn't need the paper version and would count this as the last time I schlepped a dead-tree version along.

And yet, even with near constant 3G or WiFi Internet access, I found myself referencing the book a number of times. And so it was last night as I finally looked at the area we'd be driving through and was able to use the paper guidebook to check to see if there are any fun sights along the way. I'm sure I could have gleaned this same information from a Google search, but in this case, having a curated book to work from was far easier; especially after being exhausted from running around with the kids.

In fact there was at least one must see site along our way: the bridge at Rio Tarcoles, aka Crocodile Bridge. As the name suggests, the bridge serves as a viewing point to a multitude of crocodiles who live in the river below. We parked, hopped out of the car and shimmied our way to the middle of the bridge. And there we were greeted with a dozen sun-bathing crocodiles. This was a fun treat and a great way to break up the last leg of the trip. It didn't hurt that it was free, too.

After our crocodile viewing session, it was a relatively short drive to Jaco Beach. We made it to town at about 4:45pm. The Kosher restaurant in town closed at 4pm on Friday. However, I was able to chat with the owner over WhatsApp and she was glad to make our food available for late pickup. The result: we had a delicious Shabbat meal of kabobs, fish cakes and falafel.

We arrived at our next AirBnB and were immediately impressed. Walking out on the balcony we could see the picture perfect pool below, followed by the beach in the near distance. Our location, at the extreme North West end of Jaco was far from the rest of civilization; but was also perfect for giving a sense of seclusion. Like our experience at La Fortuna, we felt like we had hit another AirBnB home run.

Despite spending most of the day in the car today, everyone drifted off to sleep easily; no doubt dreaming of our upcoming beach and pool time!

Monday, August 13, 2018

DC United - New Stadium, Dry Seats and A Sweet Finish

We temporarily interrupt this stream of Costa Rica Adventure posts to bring you something local: our first DC United Game in their new stadium.

The at times heavy rain and the 2 hour late start weren't the best omens for a night at the soccer pitch, but I'm glad we ignored them and met our friends Eric and Laura at the game. What we found was a new stadium that was sized far better than RFK, with a selection of interesting foods to eat, and best of all, covered seats. Our seats, section 125 a few rows from the top of the stadium, were not only sheltered from the rain, but had easy access to bathrooms and the food standing serving arepas. Yum!

The game flip-flopped back and forth, with DC United scoring, following by Orlando, and repeating this until it was tied at 2 apiece. It was however, in extra time, that things really got exciting:

Acosta's game-winner came just seconds after Rooney sprinted back to stop an Orlando City breakaway at midfield with the D.C. United net empty. Rooney then spun around and booted a long crossing pass to Acosta, who headed it into the net from the left corner of the six-yard box for his fourth goal of the season.

Rooney stopped certain disaster and created the game winning play all in a few fleeting seconds; it was an amazing bit of action to watch.

Much of the stadium is a vast improvement over RFK. Though, I do partially miss sitting a section over from the fan clubs, which beat drums and chanted the entire game as the stands unnaturally gyrated. They're still beating drums and chanting, we were just sitting a safe distance away from them. On the other hand, I didn't get showered with beer, so that's a plus.

I was only partially prepared for the clear bag policy, which meant that I had to make do with a ziplock bag rather than a more-robust clear plastic shoulder bag. At least I can use this as an excuse to buy another bag, albeit one that's single-purpose.

What really gets me, however, is the insanely high food prices. I know stadium food is expensive, but c'mon - $10 for a pupusa? And, the rules strictly prohibit bringing in food, so you've got no choice but to pay the price. Still, that's par for vending at professional sports events, so I can't really complain.

Because of the rain, I held off on bringing my DSLR. Next time, I'll come better equipped to capture the action. Enjoy a few cell pics below, I certainly enjoyed capturing them!

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Costa Rica Adventure - Day 4

Yesterday's focus was on the jungle, while today was all about the nearby looming peak. And best of all, this was no ordinary mountain, but a real volcano! Today we tackled the 1968 Arenal Volcano Trail, so named because it tours the area impacted by the 1968 eruption of Volcan Arenal.

There are two trails in the area, and I naturally insisted we do the longer of the two. This turned out to be a smart move, as it let us see a number of distinct ecological zones, from thick jungle to lava scarred terrain. At only 4.7 kilometers, it doesn't sound that long, though there's quite a bit of steep uphill. The kids came through the hike with flying colors, though D. definitely lead the way, not complaining once.

We saw some interesting wildlife, including lizards, butterflies and a grumpy looking frog. T.'s big find was a Central American Montane Tiger Beetle; it's a speedy little bug, so grabbing pictures of him (or her?) were harder than you'd expect.

The weather truly cooperated today, giving us pleasant sunshine the whole way and even letting the clouds part a bit when we had views of the volcano's summit. Once the hike was finished, it started to rain a bit and by the time we got home it was coming down in buckets.

We had planned to do a hot spring in the afternoon, but between how tired we were and the rain, we were fine with swimming in our own pool. The water was a bit cold for my taste, but didn't slow the kids down one bit.

After hot dogs and hamburgers for dinner, everyone hit the sack early (8:30pm!). Climbing volcanoes isn't easy. And besides, tomorrow we say goodbye to La Fortuna and hello to Jaco Beach. Big adventures ahead!

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