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(506) 223-1327         Published Thursday, Jan. 17, 2008, in Vol. 8, No. 12             E-mail us
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Ministry survey shows differences up to 2,433%
Parents face a price jungle for kids' school supplies

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Parents sending their youngsters off to school next month are getting hammered by the prices for school uniforms and other articles. But some really are getting pounded if they shop in the wrong store.

The Ministerio de Economía, Industria y Comercio did another of its consumer studies and reported that parents can pay 400 percent more to outfit youngsters with the same or similar items.

Ministry surveyors in the San José metropolitan area found differences in price of similar school items that ranged up to 2,433 percent.

Prices for obligatory school uniforms differed by as much as 555 percent, they said.

The cost of outfitting an elementary student differed by 392 percent for boys and 356 percent for girls. The cost of outfitting a high school student differed by 435 percent for boys and 366
percent for girls, according to the survey.

The survey compared the prices of 20 different school products. All are obligatory for certain students.

For example, a student Larousse Spanish dictionary ranged from 2,200 colons ($4.40) to 3,360 colons ($6.72) depending on the store, the survey found. That is a difference of 1,160 or more than $2.

Store prices for the uniform parts, including shoes, also were highly variable. 

The ministry said that to outfit an elementary school youngster with two sets of a uniform, a parent would pay on the average 41,020 colons ($82) for girls and 35,521 colons ($71) for boys. The average for outfitting a boy or girl for high school is about 39,000 colons ($78), although parents could pay much more or much less for about the same sets of clothing and school items, said the ministry.


Paquera ferry operation deflects attempt to close it
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A judge said Wednesday that a ferry service identified with residents of Paquera could continue.

A competitor, Naviera Tambor, sought in court to have the Asociación de Desarrollo Integral de Paquera stopped from offering the service between Puntarenas and their town on the Nicoya Peninsula.

The press office of the Poder Judicial reported the decision in the Tribunal Contencioso Administrativo. The hearing only required the morning to present the facts.

The press office noted in an e-mail that the case decided Wednesday was in the works just five days, thanks to a new Código Contencioso Administrativo that seeks to speed up certain court procedures. In the past the case would have taken six months to reach court, said the e-mail.

Still, Naviera Tambo, which operates two larger,
more modern ferries, has the right to appeal the decision by Judge Otto González Vilchez.

The Asociación de Desarrollo Integral de Paquera quickly weighed in with its own interpretation of the case. The organization, which operates the Ferry Peninsula, characterized as vital testimony by Héctor Arce Cavallini, director of Transporte Marítimo for the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes.

Arce said that the route from Puntarenas to Paquera was not exclusive to Naviera Tambor, said the association. Naviera Tamor won the bidding to run the ferry service. But the Paquera association obstructed the dock and forced the ministry into allowing it to run its ferry, too. The court session Wednesday was an effort to get an injuction keeping the association from servicing the route.

The ferry route is important for those who wish to get to the southern part of the Nicoya Peninsula because roads there are mostly gravel.


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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Jan. 17, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 12

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Ex-police officer held in U.S.
for shooting of suspect here


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers arrested a former Costa Rican Fuerza Pública officer in New Jersey on a murder charge Wednesday, said officials from the International Police Agency here. 

The former police officer will go to trial for shooting a fleeing house burglar.

The former police officer, Carlos Alberto Fernández Mena, 40, is accused of shooting the victim in 2002.

Fernández and his partner received a report of a house robbery in the La Unión neighborhood of Tres Ríos, according to officials. Upon arriving at the home, the Fuerza Pública officers saw doors and locks which had been forced open, and a car containing three men, in front of the house.

The vehicle began to move away when the police officers arrived. Fernández and his partner fired 17 shots at the car. Two of the bullets hit and killed a man riding in the back seat, said officials.

Fernández was arrested Wednesday morning in Bloomfield, New Jersey, about 10 miles (16 kms.) from Newark, where he lived.

The Tribunal Penal de Cartago issued an order of  international capture. Fernández faces 18 years in prison. The international police agency worked with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement on the case.

Caribbean coast yields
fastboat loaded with cocaine


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Authorities seized a boat carrying more than 300 kilos (660 pounds) of cocaine near Penshurst, Límón, on the Caribbean Wednesday, said officials. 

The Fuerza Pública center in Límon received numerous calls Wednesday reporting a ship accident, said Chief Luis Hernández. A plane from the Servicio de Vigilancia Aérea was sent to offer help to the ship and possible victims. The plane reported seeing a large canvas, covered in various packets, floating near the beach.

Later members of the Servicio National de Guardacostas discovered the fastboat carrying the cocaine. The boat, apparently abandoned, was near the coast in Playa Penshur, they said. The boat is thought to be Columbian, said a Fuerza Pública official Wednesday night.

This is the largest seizure of cocaine this year said officials. The seizure follows an interception of a truck, made by Policía de Control de Drogas. The truck carried 100 kilos (220 pounds) of cocaine at Peñas Blancas near the Nicaraguan border, said officials.

Fight at club results
in shooting of one man


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A man was shot in the mouth Tuesday night at a popular night club in Barrio California, said officials.

Two men began a fight outside of the club, El Sultán, said officials from the Judicial Investigating Organization. During the struggle, Dennis Acosta Delgado was shot once in the mouth and transported to Hospital Calderón Guardia. “He is in delicate condition,” said a hospital spokesperson Wednesday afternoon.

The assailant fled the scene after the shooting, and the case is currently being investigated, said officials. El Sultán, is a night club and hookah bar popular with young Costa Ricans.

Tamarindo drug arrest
nets suspect and drugs


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A man suspected of selling drugs to tourists in Tamarindo was arrested after months of investigation Wednesday, said officials.

The suspect, Erick Ledezma Rojas, 26, was being watched for months by agents from the Judicial Investigating Organization, said officials. He faces allegations that he sold drugs to many people in the center of Tamarindo. Customers included tourists, said officials.

At the time of his arrest, Ledezma had 100,000 colons ($200) and $80 in cash on his person, a total of $280, according to the Judicial Investigating Organization. Agents also seized one kilo (2.2-pounds) of marijuana and 50 doses of cocaine, they said.

Martin Luther King Day is Monday

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The U.S. Embassy staff reports that the diplomatic mission will be closed Monday in honor of the birthday of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. The day also is a legal holiday in the United States. King, the major figure in 1960s civil rights struggles, died from an assassin's bullet in 1968. 

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Sala IV ducks a decision on newspaper use of minor's photo
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Thanks to a Sala IV constitutional court ruling, El Diario Extra and other Costa Rican newspapers will be able to continue to publish photos of the dead, near dead and the criminal.

The court ducked a ruling sought by a minor who said he had been maligned when the popular Spanish-language newspaper linked him to a series of murders and other criminal acts Oct. 11.

The minor filed a request for help or amparo with the court, claiming that the use of his image was protected by the Costa Rican Constitution.

The court ruled that the newspaper did not fully identify
 the minor because, despite using his last name, editors put a black band across his eyes.

Costa Ricans are more sensitive about names and photos of faces than persons in other countries. For example, judges have ruled that photographs could not be taken of court defendants until the time they are convicted.

An adverse ruling by the Sala IV would have crimped the La Extra operation which depends on sensational photos, mostly of crime and accident victims.

The summary of the Sala IV decision did not fully identify the photo that was the basis of the complaint.

A review of the online Oct. 11 edition of the newspaper did not provide clues.


Signatures being collected to get legislature moving on water
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Groups concerned by the possibility of water shortages in Costa Rica have taken it upon themselves to gather thousands of signatures in order to push a water reform law through the legislature.

After seven years of waiting for the Ley del Recurso Hídrico to be approved by the government, members of the Alianza Nacional para la Defenza del Agua have decided to gather the 150,000 signatures necessary to start a popular initiative.

Although Costa Rica has the highest potential water supply in all of Latin America, biologists fear that the country faces a water crisis due to the poor management of the resource, which could lead to contamination by chemicals, waste-water and salinization of coastal reserves.

Any project can be presented to the Asamblea Legislativa,
providing that a minimum of 5 percent of Costa Rica's registered voters (constituting about 132,000 people) have signed the measure.

Once it has been accepted, politicians have only two years to consider and vote on the law.

Members of the alliance hope that this will speed the bill's way through the legislative process, bringing better water management into reality sooner.

Too much fragmentation of responsibility among various agencies has led to water-use conflicts that cannot be resolved under the existing laws.  A new law would provide for better management structures for river basins and better hydrological and meteorological monitoring.

The association is asking for people to help out by forming groups to gather signatures. More information can be found at http://porelagua.blogspot.com.


Politicians will take advantage of a photo opportunity at start of new autopista
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Government officials, not being of a mind to miss a photo opportunity, will be inaugurating the San José-Caldera autopista today with a 10 a.m., ceremony.

This is the highway that still is not complete after 30 years of planning and building.

The event that will attract Óscar Arias Sánchez and a host of his ministers will be in Siquiares de Alajuela, which is
 between La Guacima and Turrúcares. This is the location of the Autopista del Sol headquarters and yard.

The biggest part of the job is in constructing a finished roadbed from the end of the current Autopista Próspero Fernández and Orotina, although bridges have been in for six years. The company is supposed to complete the job in 30 months and then offset its investment by collecting tolls.

The road is expected to reduce dramatically the travel time from the Central Valley to the Pacific coast.


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Some backsliding reported in evaulations of world's freedom
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The independent Freedom House rights organization says political freedom is on the decline in large parts of the world, including Russia, Egypt, Iran, Kenya, Nigeria, Pakistan and Venezuela.

The democracy watchdog group, based in New York, said the results of this year's annual survey point to a disturbing deterioration of freedom worldwide, with less than half of the Earth's population living in places that can be called free.

Freedom House has been around for 30 years, measuring the levels of political freedom and civil liberties in the world's 193 countries. The group's director of research, Arch Puddington, said 2007 saw profound setbacks for freedom.

"If you look at the record for the past two years, it represents the first time in the past 15 years that freedom has actually declined over a two-year period," said Puddington.

Freedom House says the decline in freedom was most pronounced in South Asia, but it also reached significant levels in the former Soviet Union, the Middle East and North Africa, and sub-Saharan Africa. The report says many of those countries with declines are large and
geo-politically significant countries. Some of them, it says, like the Philippines, were once considered an inspiration for freedom movements.

Puddington cited another alarming trend.

"We have also seen what is called a 'pushback' against democracy," he said. "Again, this is very often something you see with big, energy-rich countries like Russia, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Venezuela, also China, where you have got regimes that are worried about popular movements for democracy. They are taking every sort of measure, ranging from imprisoning dissidents to using the tax police and regulations to smother the work of NGO's."

Freedom House labeled 90 countries as "free", 60 countries as "partly free", and 43 countries as "not-free." The Palestinian Authority declined from "partly free" to "not free."

Latin America is largely governed by parties that have demonstrated a commitment to the electoral process, freedom of expression, and a broad range of civil liberties, said Freedom House. However, the survey judged that freedom in Venezuela remained under duress, and Nicaragua also suffered a decline. On the positive side, Haiti showed signs of modest progress. Both Costa Rica and the United States received the best possible rating in both political liberties and civil liberties.


San José plans major effort against garbage this weekend
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The San José municipal council has allocated 80 million colons ($160,000) to pick up an estimated 700 tons of trash that is littering the city.

The action Tuesday became necessary because only four of the municipality's 16 garbage trucks are in operation, according to officials.  Mayor Johnny Araya said that the appropriate equipment to collect the trash is not available in the marketplace.  In addition, the city is having trouble with
a plan to seek bids on new trucks, officials have said.

City officials said that a contributing problem is that citizens have discarded material that the garbage trucks cannot pick up. This includes old beds and mattresses, tree branches and appliances.

WWP, the trash firm, has been hired to make pickups of heavy items this weekend.  City officials also said that some 50 employees would be assigned to trash pickup this weekend.


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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Jan. 17, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 12



Marathon and half marathon at Caribbean beach is Feb. 23
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Puerto Viejo de Limón hosts the 5th annual Jungle Man Marathon Feb. 23.  This Caribbean coast marathon, aside from the usual 42 km (26.1 miles) distance, has an added degree of fun: Most of the course is run on the beach. 

Organizers hype the “natural” aspect of the off-road marathon. Not a single part of the race is on a paved surface.  Just nine miles of the total distance take the runner off the beach and along a shaded trail. 

Despite the fancy footwork involved, one serious advantage the Jungle Man has over the hilly Boston Marathon is the
elevation.  The race starts and finishes at sea level, with no elevation gain throughout the course.  It begins and ends at Playa Negra.

Racers are recommended to carry their own water supply because the mapped course runs through Cahuita National Park where littering, including the usual water cup mess that typically accompanies marathons, is not permitted. 

A half-marathon Jungle Man will also take place, also starting from Playa Negra, but ending in Cahuita National Park.   The fee for foreigners is $50. Interested runners can apply online at:

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Jan. 17, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 12



48 etchings by 17th century master Rembrandt to be displayed here
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

San José will receive a visual treat from the Old World when 48 original etchings by Dutch master Rembrandt van Rijn will go on public display.  The “Grabados de Rembrandt” exhibition opens Feb. 8 at the Museos del Banco Central.

Rembrandt is best known for his dramatic and lively yet compassionate handling of various subject matters, particularly Biblical scenes and portraiture.  The heightened emotion accompanying his work is aided by his famous use of chiaroscuro.  Rembrandt's diverse thematic range will be represented in the exhibition. 
The exhibition will occupy the gallery space on the first level in the Museo de Numismática because of its high security and better exhibition environment. 

The works are on loan to Costa Rica from the Rembrandt House Museum and the Embassy of Holland. 

The exhibition runs through April 6. 

The Museos del Banco Central is open from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.  Admission is $7 for tourists and 1,000 colons for citizens.  Wednesdays and the first Sunday of each month have free entry for nationals with identification. 


Art Galleries ....

Imagen V show has a few gems but a pack of clinkers, too

videoartshowNew media art is always a bit hit and miss with the potential to come across as a foundationless piece of pretension if it is not done well.

The Bienal Iberoamericana Inquieta Imagen V, a competition for video artists from across Latin America, is a good example of this, containing a few pieces that engage well with the subject and make the most of their medium, but many that leave the viewer cold.

Most of the works are video projections, some as short as a pistol shot and the flight of birds and some as long as a didactic letter that teaches about identity, isolation and fuschia flowers.

Other media range from photography and animation to Internet blogs and ancient video games.

Out of almost 200 entries from 13 different countries, 37 were chosen to fill the spaces of the Museo de Arte y Diseño, and some of them leave a viewer wondering what was so awful about the rejected works.

The vast majority of entrants were Costa Ricans, and works were chosen for show to create a panorama of Spanish-American works that is accessible to both the public who have engaged with technolgical art before and those who are encountering it for the first time.

Five works won cash prizes, including an undeserving triptec of photographs showing poor Nicaraguans searching through a dump to find articles that give some beauty to their lives.

Not an original idea nor interestingly photographed, the series was praised for using the presence of children to humanize a degrading situation.

One projection's entire focus is a sequence of slightly blurred changing Christmas scenes, seemingly chosen only for its fittingness to the season, and several others that were too bland to make any sort of impression on the memory.

Read more - click here


Mistaken identity? No such thing, says new exhibition

historiaoficialCosta Rica is a land of volatile volcanoes, orchids, coffee fincas, Catholicism and Ticos.

Or you could say it's a country of wide seashores, football stadiums, fast food restaurants and beach towns overtaken by Gringos.

Some are clichéd symbols of a tourist nation, while others are part of the country's changing culture, but all are involved in Museo de Arte Costarricense's new exhibition that challenges viewers to reconsider their own perceptions of the nation.

Read more - click here

Oriental engravings brighten up Semana
Japonesa
in Calderón Guardia

Japanese artOriental engravings that have travelled half way across the world from Japan have ended their journey in Museo Calderón Guardia, where an exhibition of 75 works was inaugurated Thursday.

Subjects from autumn trees to high-rise apartments chart the growing influence of the West and development on post-war Japan.

Read more - click here

Banco Central exhibit brings out the animal
in art

free standing art 200The Museos del Banco Central de Costa Rica is running "La Animalística en el Arte Costarricense" in its temporary 
exhibition space below
the Plaza de la Cultura. The collection presents the varying uses and depictions of animals by Costa Rican artists throughout history.

The exhibition signage placed at the entrance said that the presented works depict animals from two perspectives.

Read more - click here

Festivals ...

In review...

Young rockers forge cultural links, even if no one was there to see it

defectobandCross-cultural dialogue is not confined to the United Nations. 

It can occur anywhere, with anyone, in any medium and Quepos proved this last weekend at Costa Bazooka, an international music festival.  18 bands from the United States, Costa Rica and Mexico jammed until five o´clock in the morning, beginning Saturday at 2 p.m. The virgin music festival is the brainchild of Bruce LaPierre, a concert promotor from Boston.  He recruited many of the American bands himself and said, "The best part about this whole thing are the friendships with the Costa Rican musicians.  We´re intertwined now."

Mauni Villa, a 21-year-old guitarist of San Jose´s own Akasha, also emphasized this. "We´ve made a lot of friends," he said.

The talent was young, fresh, unfettered with record deals and excited about the opportunity to play an international scene. 

It wasn't uncommon to hear the exclamation "We just got our passports!" emanating from backstage.

Over half of the band members of Street Circus Symphony, from Savannah, Georgia, and one member of Endway from Boston, Massachusetts, received expedited passports in 24 hours. 

"We didn´t actually believe we were going to be playing in Costa Rica until we were on the bus here from San Jose," explained Ben Bowne, bassist for Street Circus Symphony.

The musicians´ collective excitement was palpable.  Most of the bands began playing as soon as they hit ground in Costa Rica and weren´t planning to stop until they left.

Gino V., guitarist and vocalist from Before the Fall, said after their warm-up performance, "We did a show in San Jose, we did one in Quepos last night and we have another one in San Jose in a couple days."

LaPierre explained that the collection of bands had
already played eight shows in the week they had been in Costa Rica.

"We´re going to a bar after this and we´re going to play all night long!" proclaimed Bowne from Street Circus.

To read more click HERE!


Upcoming...
January
Palmares fiestas provide family fun, and plenty of beer

The new year arrives, and Palmares gets ready to party.

This year makes no exception, with the official countdown to the start of Fiestas Palmares reaching the 00:00 mark at 1 p.m. Jan. 17.

A line-up of international music acts, traditional spectacles and sports events usually pales into significance behind the main activity of drinking as much as humanly possible, turning the streets of the town into carnage for almost two weeks.

Read more, click here

Welsh festival brings stars of the page to Colombia

There is a town in Wales that is full of books. On every corner of every cobbled street there is a store with second-hand books spilling from its wooden shelves, and often several on the stretch in between.

Each year, this little town in the foothills of the Black Mountains — usually a haven of peace for a quiet cream tea down by the river — becomes a pilgrimage for the literary, intellectuals and people who just love a good read as it holds Britain's greatest festival of books, the Hay Festival.

Read more - click here

February
First International Blues Festival

Texas blues bands are heading down to Santa Ana for an afternoon of live music. BBQ's and cold beers will accompany artists including Smokin Joe Kubek & Bnois King and Robbie Clarke & the Live Wire Blues Band.

Two stages at Motorpsychos Bar and Grill will host a total of seven bands during the afternoon of Feb. 9. Tickets cost $25 and can be found by contacting www.bluesdevilsband.com.

Identidad Art Festival

Fifty artists will have the enviable job of displaying their work on a warm beach in Guanacaste this February, as part of the Identidad Art Festival.

Hosted by Playa Conchal Reserve, the festival aims to revive the cultural values of the area, promoting local art as a tourist attraction.

Painters, sculptors and musicians are all welcome to participate and show off Costa Rican talent to the high season tourists during Feb. 2-4.

 Interested parties should visit the site www.myspace.com/identidadartfest.
Food...

Festive season proves troublesome even for established restaurant

vealBeing a chef in a busy kitchen must be a pretty stressful job, but around Christmas stress is something any successful restaurant should factor in as inevitable.

On a second visit to well-reputed French restaurant Le Chandelier, it soon became obvious that the staff were poorly equipped for the onslaught of Christmas party diners on a Tuesday night, leaving the usually decent food to deteriorate into a procession of almost inedible starters and bland entrees.

Set in an old San Pedro house with brick ceilings and wooden beams that was converted into a restaurant around 15 years ago by Swiss owner Claude Dubuis, Le Chandelier purports to offer French cuisine that has been developed over generations of experience.

Click here to read the full review

 


A great meal is not all in the presentation

musslesandfondue120407With a vaulted glass ceiling, palm trees lining the pathway and posh lighting, one would not expect Saga restaurant to be settled behind a dull parking lot in Escazú.

Although this restaurant may look out of place, it doesn't deviate much from the norm in Escazú, an area many would classify as suburban sprawl.


The majority of the cuisine at Saga seems to fit with the setting: classy presentation, yet lacking any profound flavors. Although the restaurant boasts itself as an “international food restaurant” on its Web site, much of the inspired cuisine is lacking the depth which would be found in authentic dishes. There is no direct theme and the menu seems somewhat scattered.

Click here to read the full review


Dramatic Arts...

Minotaur theme wins contemporary dance festival

bull headed manThe search for happiness within ourselves rather than in superficial external objects was the theme of the winning dance at the 24th Festival de Coreografos this weekend.  A bull-headed dancer took the centre of attention of Antonio Corrales' piece “Solo sueña un minotauro,” presented in front of an international board of judges Sunday.

The judges said that the composition stood out from the other nine contemporary dance acts for its "good choreographic approach, good line, good idea, excellent lighting design,  continuity with symbols and finally poetry.”

Corrales was both the choreographer and the dancer of the piece, which is the first entry he has made into the competition as a choreographer.

Four other acts were also chosen to participate in the opening night of next year's festival: “Imágenes imaginadas para imaginar, serie I,” by Rogelio López, “Mil kilómetros” by Nandayure Harley, “MIA ZOI,” by Iréni Stamou and “4 a.m.” by  Silvia Ortiz and David Hernández.







Symphonic Conductor is a big supporter of music education

A mugging at gunpoint could have robbed Costa Rica's Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional of its new conductor just as he was beginning the job, but the conductor, Chosei Komatsu,
did not turn his back on San José, and now the next generation of musicians is feeling the benefit.

Eating ice cream in the same hotel outside which he was mugged in 2004, the sweet-toothed conductor recounts how the media assumed that he would flee the country immediately.

"I told them I would fulfill my job," he said. "Musical education conductor Chosei Kamatsu can help to abate the rising violence in this country. I want to put violins instead of guns into the hands of the children."

Last month Komatsu saw a big step forward, as the government of his home country, Japan, finally agreed to a $500,000 donation to the Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional and the Instituto Nacional de Musica.

The money, which Komatsu asked for when he was appointed in 2003, has gone towards replacing 25-year-old tubas and other important instruments for the orchestra, as well as getting better facilities for the educational institute.

Komatsu said he knows that it is important to get children interested from a young age, as he first became determined to follow a career in conducting as a 4-year-old watching Austrian conductor Herbert von Karajan in action on television.

Read all of our interview with Chosei Komatsu here
Books ...

New book dwells on the social aspects of food

Food is not just a selfish pleasure or a way to stifle hunger, but is central to the evolution of art, according to a new book published by Museos del Banco Central.

Artworks by Costa Rican painters are the main content of the hardback book, “Imagenes para Comer,” which follows the representation of food in art since still life painting became popular in the Renaissance.

Full-color pictures of both traditional and modern works are far more common than recipes, as the author Marjorie Ross only provides seven recipes within the book.

All are traditional Costa Rican dishes showing influences from different sections of the community, such as corn fritters, white beans and chorizo and fruit salad.

The book focuses on the meanings that food has within society, and how these are portrayed by art.

Click here to read more


imagenesparacomer

Front cover of art cook book

When would it be smart to fold your hand with three queens?
I recently played in a $25-50 no limit hold’em game online.  The hand discussed in this column was interesting because it taught a valuable lesson regarding position, the board cards and reading betting patterns. 
 
At a full table, the first player decided to limp in (call the big blind rather than raise) from under the gun.  The button also called.  I was in the small blind holding Qh-8d.  I called, too, since I already had half the bet in the pot.  The big blind checked.

Four of us took the flop: Qh-Qd-4c.  Bingo!
 
Hoping to pick off a bluff, I tried to disguise my trips by checking.  The next two players also checked but the button bet $150.  I didn’t raise.  Instead, I just called so that I could gauge the interest of the other players.

The player under the gun also called and that had me worried.  Yes, I flopped trips but my kicker wasn’t very good.

My thinking was that the original bettor could have had a wide range of hands and might have been trying to steal the pot.  Also, the other player probably had a strong hand because he called the first bet even after I had called.

The turn card was the 10s.

I checked again.  The players after me also checked, so I felt like there was a decent chance that I had the best hand.  I’d know soon enough if the limper was planning to check-raise the turn with a better hand than mine.  He didn’t.
 
The river brought the Js.  That card filled the straight for anyone with A-K. 

The good news, though, was that the jack nullified my kicker.  My hand was now Q-Q-Q-J-10 rather than Q-Q-Q-10-8.  Still, I took the cautious route and checked. 

The first limper bet $400 and the button folded.  With $650 already in the pot, I was getting pretty decent odds on my money, about 2.6-to-1.

What’s the right play?

Well, most players in this situation see only the strength of their own hand and think, “I have trips. I have to call.”   They act on impulse.

That’s not the right way to act in this situation.  It’s much better to break down the hand in a way that allows you to



make an educated decision.  Take the time to ask yourself two key questions.

Could my opponent have the same hand as me? 

Not likely.  Remember, he called from first position.  Most players under the gun act conservatively.  If he had a queen, he’d likely have a ten, jack, king, or ace to go with it.  So, a split pot is extremely unlikely.

What hands would my opponent play in this manner that I can beat? 

First, try to determine the premium hands that you can beat.  Maybe he was slow playing pocket aces or pocket kings before the flop.  Those would be the only two big hands that you can beat.  On the other hand, if he limped in with big slick, the river card made his straight.   
 
Next, try to figure out how likely it is that your opponent has one of the hands you can beat.  If, for example, you think you’ll have the best hand about 40 percent of the time, then the pot would definitely be laying the right price for you to call.
 
But that wasn’t the case in this hand.  In fact, based on the information available, I thought my chances of winning were closer to 10 percent.  So, I folded my trips.

The other player, incidentally, had A-Q and would have had the winning hand, but that’s irrelevant.

The important lesson is to slow down, and collect and analyze the available information before you make critical poker decisions.  There’s just no need to act impulsively.

Visit www.cardsharkmedia.com/book.html for information about Daniel Negreanu’s new book, "Hold’em Wisdom for All Players."
© 2007 Card Shark Media.  All rights reserved.


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