Carpe Diem – On Strike, Shut It Down


There was an impromptu trucker’s strike blocking many of the major highways in Costa Rica. Usually they announce well in advance the stoppage so people aren’t surprised.

Not today.

The Autopista Del Sol, the major highway from the Pacific Coast to San Jose was shut down. It was reported that the alternative West/East highway, Highway 3 was also blockaded.

So this meant that people wanting to get to the coast to San Jose could drive on Highway 707, the dirt road we live on and then catch other roads, missing the roadblocks.

Not today.

The people of Guacimo decided that this was the perfect opportunity to get the attention of local elected officials. They blocked the road with tree stumps, boulders – decorated with the Costa Rica flag.

I had the car at home and was supposed to meet Nancy in Atenas after a knitting shopping trip she took with friends. I made it about 500 meters from our gate until I hit a traffic jam!

Drivers that were turning around said the roads were blocked “everywhere.”  So I parked and walked up into Donwtown Guacimo. That’s when I saw the “bloqueo” (blockage)

I saw a lot of neighbors – including our housekeeper milling around the roadblock. But I couldn’t speak Spanish well enough to figure out what was going on.

A friend who is fluent in Spanish soon arrived and told me that the people of Guacimo knew the autopista was closed and seized the day to block our road in protest of its poor condition.  They contacted a local official and supposedly s/he was to arrive on the scene to hear the protests.

Maybe today.


UPDATE: It was an entirely peaceful and quiet protest. No chanting, no marching, no turning over of cars. Just people milling about sharing their frustration with the government.

Communicating With The Dead: The Hand On The Mirror


The question of what happens after we die has always challenged us. The topic makes us uneasy. Here we are, living active and full lives. Why do we even want to think about death? Then it strikes. We lose someone we love and we are faced with contemplating death and the afterlife. Scientists, theologians, writers, musicians, poets, and artists have all addressed the question directly or indirectly. (sponsored by Grand Central Publishing)

I spent my entire career around skeptics. After all that’s what you learn in the newspaper business. Trust but verify. If your mother says she loves you, get a second source.

It’s a burden. Many people are capable of just taking things at face value and don’t think twice about alternatives.

When I heard of a boomer newspaper woman who believes she is communicating with her dead husband, I thought it would be an interesting story.

It is.

the-hand-on-the-mirror-coverThe Hand on the Mirror is her story.

Janice Durham and her husband Max Healy were a California power couple. She was publisher of the Sacramento Bee, the fifth largest newspaper in California. The newspaper won two Pulitzer prizes when she was publisher. He was a powerful political consultant.

He died in May 2004 of cancer just short of his 56th birthday.

And her story began. CBS Sunday Morning reported:

Max Besler died, and that, Janis says, is when things started getting weird: Lights in her Sacramento home would flicker; clocks would stop at the moment Max died.

But then, on the anniversary date of his death, Janis was stunned by something she saw as she stood in her bathroom washing her hands.

“I looked up at the mirror and I saw a hand print,” she told Smith. “A perfectly formed, powdery hand print. Large, on the mirror. It was the right hand.”


As a hard-core skeptic it took Durham a whole lot of investigating and researching to be convinced that she was in touch with her departed husband.

There were other unexplained occurrences:

  • footprints
  • moved throw rugs
  • more handprints
  • flickering lights
  • clocks stopping exactly at Max’s time of death

handprint2Things have stopped now, but Durham is convinced she was in contact with her dead husband.

“I think Max was trying to tell me that there’s more to life than the physical form, the physical reality we live in. I’m not saying that these experiences made me feel less sad about the fact that Max lost his life at 56. But it makes me able to live with it better.”

As a skeptic, I’m not convinced, but I can keep an open mind when reading such books as The Hand on the Mirror.  If you’re capable of doing the same – or if you are a true believer in the possibility of communicating with the dead, then you will find this book very entertaining.


Take the advice from the author who writes in the introduction:

The most compelling motivation for writing The Hand on the Mirror was the potential to encourage people to talk openly about their experiences of communicating with a loved one after the loved one has passed. I also hope this book will provide readers with not only an emotional framework but also an intellectual foundation of legitimacy for those conversations. These discussions should be out in the open, free of constraint. As a society we could benefit from eliminating the stigma associated with sharing personal stories about the afterlife, including those that involve the supernatural, as mine do.

READ AN EXCERPT: From “The Hand on the Mirror” by Janis Heaphy Durham

For more info:

“The Hand on the Mirror: A True Story of Life Beyond Death” by Janis Heaphy Durham (Grand Central Publishing); Also available in eBook,Unabridged Audio Download, Unabridged Audio CD, and Large Print Hardcover formats

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Boomer Mailman Doug Hughes; Non-violent Civil Disobedience Hero


To a lot of Baby Boomers who grew up in the times of non-violent civil disobedience, Doug Hughes maybe a hero.


  • Boston Tea Partiers
  • Susan B. Anthony
  • Martin Luther King
  • Rosa Parks

Can’t compare, you say? Consider Doug Hughes point of view.

Voters are going to quit being played like suckers with divisive hot-button issues and come together on a single issue. Honest government. Congress won’t start working for you or me when their big paycheck is from big business. Lobbyists, Special Interests, Unions. We have to make this happen. The political parties won’t. Congress sure won’t. Lobbyists love the status quo. The mainstream media (not the local media) is making a financial killing with mega-elections. It’s up to us.

He honestly believes that if campaign finance reform is not embraced and enacted, the democracy is threatened to become an oligarchy – where the rich rule.

The conversation he started has centered around the lack of security in what was supposed to be the most secure airspace in the world. But over time, the conversation must move to his motivation.

In 2013, Hughes began talking and writing about how he could get his reform message across in a way that couldn’t be ignored. He bought a 250-pound gyro-copter — a mini-helicopter that carries a single person for relatively short distances — and began planning how to fly it to Washington so he could deliver letters to all 535 elected members of Congress.

The operation, which he called Freedom Flight, was no secret.The post on The Democracy Club announcing the scheme is dated Sept. 16, 2013. He told The Tampa Bay Times all about his plans — and the Secret Service said Wednesday it even visited him at his home in October 2013.

His goal is campaign finance reform.

As I see it, campaign finance reform is the cornerstone of building an honest Congress. Erect a wall of separation between our elected officials and big money. This you must do — or your replacement will do. A corporation is not ‘people’ and no individual should be allowed to spend hundreds of millions to ‘influence’ an election. That much money is a megaphone which drowns out the voices of ‘We the People.’ Next, a retired member of Congress has a lifelong obligation to avoid the appearance of impropriety. That almost half the retired members of Congress work as lobbyists and make millions of dollars per year smells like bribery, however legal. It must end. Pass real campaign finance reform and prohibit even the appearance of payola after retirement and you will be part of a Congress I can respect.

Read the entire letter here.

He non-violently performed an act of civil disobedience to draw attention to a threat to the democracy.

The least we can do is move the conversation from the failure of security forces around the Capitol to the failure of Congress to reform.

Gringo Grocery Grab: One Small Box: $80

We made a gringo grocery grab today… do you know anybody that likes grocery shopping? Especially grocery shopping at the chain warehouse store?

Ugh. But ya do what you gotta do.

Pricesmart is the Costa Rica Costco… owned by them and spread throughout Latin America.

We made the run today… and this is what we got for our $80. Total bill of $100 (50,000 colones) includes a six pack of electronic bug repellers. Probably a dumb move and a scam, but with bug season right around the corner, I figured it was worth the $23 to give them a try. Also the Force Field promises to repel, mice, spiders, ants and roaches. Available exclusively through Costco. Of course, our electric bill may go through the roof (they plug in) and we may drive ourselves mad (madder) because they emit ultrasound. Can’t research them because we’ve learned that if you see it and want it, buy it. It may never be available again! Please stand by for a report…

Here’s what we got for our $80:


  • Carrot cake instead of my usual six muffins
  • 4 boxes of spaghetti
  • bag of tangerines
  • 8 cans of mushroom soup
  • 1 box of yummy Chocolate Eclair dessert thingies
  • block of cheddar cheese
  • gigantic can of Planter’s roasted peanuts
  • 6 cans of mixed vegetables
  • 6 cans of mushrooms
  • Sugar

OK, OK, OK… I told you this is Gringo Shopping. Lots of people brag about how cheaply they can eat in Costa Rica.

This is fairly typical of these frugal shoppers…

This is my advice: Start with the Friday Feria. There is a free bus at the park. What you can’t get there, get at the municipal market. That’s all your fruit, vegetables, eggs, meat at very reasonable prices. Get cleaning products and such at El Rey. Then go to the grocery store for your beans, rice, oats etc. Eat local cheese instead of European cheese. Whole wheat bread is very expensive but we buy it anyway. Kleenexes etc. are very expensive so we just try to be more careful about their use.

Yeah, be careful with your use of facial tissues.


Nancy and I are not whizzes in the kitchen. We are not cooks, we are assemblers. Open up a can of this, add some of that, warm up a side of this, and serve with that.

Kitchen assemblers.

Here’s our $80 box:


Hey… at least we drew the line and resisted the $18 bag of Hershey’s chocolate miniature candy bars… (but we ate the free samples!)



Next stop for the day was McDonald’s… seemed right – topping a shopping chore with a trip the Mickey D’s… Two cajita feliz (happy box aka Happy Meals) $10

mcds1 mcds2

I added the ball point pen to the bottom picture so you can get an idea how tine the portions were. Maybe 10 french fries, 6 ounces of Coke, and of course the normal flat cheeseburger. Nice touch to add a baggie of pineapple chunks. Haven’t had a Happy Meal in the U.S. in a long time, but I know for $10, I could get two large hot-and-ready (no assembly required) pizzas at Little Ceasers!


UPDATE: Costco no longer owns PriceSmart, they are separate companies, although Costco is a supplier for PriceSmart.



Dust Control In Costa Rica – Postre para Las Vacas (dessert for the cows)

We sit high above the road

As a country boy, I can remember the good old days when a dusty road was controlled by spraying used motor oil on it.

In eco-friendly Costa Rica, they banned this practice because all the oil eventually ends up in the rivers which lead to the oceans.

Our house sits about fifty feet above the a dirt road. As you can imagine during the dry season the few cars and trucks that do pass by can raise a pretty good cloud of dust.

This year has been unusually windy – there are seasonal “Winds of Christmas” that normally start Mid-December and end Mid-January. This year they are still blowing.

In the past, we have gutted out the inconvenience of having dust blowing in and covering everything. But this year it’s different.

When we first moved here, the contractor that build our home-addition said that they former owners put “honey” on the road.

We asked the gringos around if they had heard such a thing, and most responded like we had two heads. (Of course they all live on paved roads/streets.) Our spanish was no where good enough to ask a Tico.

Honey. It just didn’t make sense… even though honey is sold everywhere so there must be a lot of hives, but how much honey would it take to fill a 55 gallon drum? Plus honey has some value so it just seemed silly to put it on the road.

But Molasses! Now there is the solution! Molasses made from sugar cane. Tons and tons of sugar cane is harvested this time of year.

Honey? Molasses? Sweet sticky stuff. Now we know what our contractor was talking about.

Our friend Pat found this great story about a Costa Rica town where the business pay to put honey on the streets.

One quick search on Facebook and I made contact with the woman in the story and she gave us the low-down.

And our lawn-care guy, Mario, knew just the place to find a good supply of molasses. He arrived this morning bright and early with his crew, two 55 gallon drums full of molasses and another empty drum for diluting the molasses 50/50. (In case you need a weekend DIY project.)

Local cow

Local cow

Mario said he brought the “postre para las vacas” (dessert for the cows.) We wondered if the cows that wander up and down our road from farm to pasture… maybe some “dulce leche” (sweet milk) will be in the offing?

They had a large bucket in which they had punched multiple holes in the bottom to make a giant sprinkling can.

In a matter of a few hours they had done the stretch of road in front of our house and the dust is gone.

We’re not sure how long it will last. Seems that in Playa Guiones the molasses is effective until the first rain. I’ll keep you posted!

Meanwhile, we already know the molasses on the road is working.

Now if we just can find a way to get rid of the dog hair!

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