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(506) 223-1327         Published Thursday, Feb. 21, 2008, in Vol. 8, No. 37            E-mail us
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location of Diquis reservoir
Map by the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad
Arrow shows likely location of proposed dam in front of reservoir in blue.
Little action toward archaeological work at El Diquís
By José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
and the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A rich archaeological area of southern Costa Rica will be under water in a few years, and nothing concrete has been done about surveying the prehistoric sites or saving them.

The project is now called El Diquís, and the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad hopes to begin construction on a dam and related facilities by 2009.  Feb. 6 President Óscar Arias Sánchez signed a decree saying that the $1.8 billion project was in the national interest, a technical term meaning that nothing will stand in the way.

Francisco Corrales, director of the Museo Nacional and an archaeologist by training, said that the area to be flooded by the Los Diquís project contains much of the land that was in the original Boruca project. A survey connected with that project found walls, structures and cemeteries, said Corrales. He suspects that similar sites would be found on the new lands included in the current project. The national museum's role would be to supervise the work of private archaeologists if they are eventually hired to survey the land.

The area also is rich in petroglyphs.

The archaeologists have little time. A similar project, the McPhee Dam and Reservoir in southwestern Colorado, generated the largest archaeological project in U.S. history. The work took six years from 1978 to 1984, and scientists mapped 1,600 prehistoric sites. The result was the Anasazi Heritage Center Museum, a major tourist attraction constructed to house the 1 million archaeological pieces recovered in the work.

The McPhee reservoir covers 4,470 surface acres. The Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad said that the reservoir created by the El Diquís project would be about 50 square kilometers or 13,840 acres.

The Consejo Nacional Indígena, an Indian development organization, reported that there are many artifacts in the area that are the heritage of the various cultures that lived and now live in the area. Odir Blanco said that the Asociatión de Desarrollo de Térraba is in discussions with the Instituto de Electricidad on ways to save much of the archaeological artifacts and sites. In addition to the Térraba, the Boruca, Bribri, Cabécar, Térraba and Guaymí live in the area.
Blanco said that some Indians in the area approve of the project while others do not. But he pointed out that with the presidential decree there is not much that could interfere with the progress of the work.

The irony is that much of the 630 megawatts generated by the completed project will go north to the United States.  The U.S. Trade Development Agency has invested $500,000 in initial studies.

The money was for technical, social, environmental, financial and inter-institutional studies to complement those feasibility studies already conducted for the project, the agency said. No mention was made of archaeological work in a summary.

After meeting Costa Rica’s national electricity demands, the government company known as ICE will contribute excess power generation to the regional electricity market via the Central American Electric Interconnection System transmission line, which is currently under construction, said the agency, which added that its financing was part of the Central American Free Trade Agreement.

Elbert Durán, spokesperson for the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad, said Tuesday that the electrical and telecommunications monopoly was
working toward an eventual agreement with independent professionals, such as archaeologists and sociologists.

Although the project has been described as being on the Río Grande de Térraba, the dam would be well up the river from the coast. The reservoir would be entirely within the canton of Buenos Aires. From a map release by the institute, the bulk of the flooding would seem to extend northwest from the communities of Térraba, Florida and Brujo along the channel of the Río General. Rey Curré, a population center, would have been whiped out by the previous Boruca project, but now it appears to have been spared.

The proposed dam would be very close to the point where the Interamerican highway crosses the General. The proposed lake also would seem to be outside the existing Indian reserves, the Reserva Boruca and the Reserva Curré.

The Río Térraba is the source of the stone that ancient residents turned into the enigmatic stone spheres that are unique to southwestern Costa Rica.

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Intellectual property law
approved on first reading

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A special commission of lawmakers approved on first reading Wednesday night changes in the nation's intellectual property laws. Despite the title, the law covers the marketing of counterfeit jeans and CDs as well as written material.

Individuals still are able to photocopy material for their own use such as texts and CDs without penalty if there is no profit motive.

The changes approved Wednesday include lesser penalties than originally proposed by the executive branch. Violations now can result in jail terms of from two months to six years. The executive branch wanted prison terms of up to 20 years.

This is the seventh measure that is part of a package of about 13 legal changes that would implement the free trade treaty with the United States here. The measure also consolidates the nation's laws relating to intellectual property, including civil violations.

In order to help judges determine the correct penalty for punishment, the law contains a sliding scale. In addition the measure covers importation or fabrication of material that violates an author's or producer's rights.

The reforms have to be voted on again before they could go to President Óscar Arias Sánchez for his signature.

Highway marking project
to kick off before Holy Week

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Transport ministry officials hope to start a job of putting lines and reflectors on nearly 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) of the nation's highways by Holy Week, which begins March 17.

The project is being handled by a consortium of construction companies, and much of the work will be done at night, said a release from the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes.

The $4.6 million job will involve nine national routes, including No. 32 that runs from San José to Limón. The first batch of highways will be in San Ramón, San Carlos, La Fortuna, Ciudad Quesada, Aguas Zarcas, El Tanque and Chachagua and national route 2 from San Isidro to Paso Canoas. These all are highways used heavily by tourists.

Some 14.6 kms. (nine miles) of highway near Playas del Coco also will be marked as well as 32 kms. (20 miles) between Bribrí and Sixaola, said the ministry. A second series of contracts for other roads also are in the works.

Ex-pastor being returned
to face sex abuse count

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Police arrested a former Costa Rican pastor accused of sexually abusing a girl, said officials. Agents from the International Police Agency detained the man in New Jersey Wednesday, they said.

The man, Alberto Solano Cardenas, 51, was accused of abusing a minor in 1999. At the time he was a pastor at a church and thus took advantage of the situation and abused a minor, said authorities. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement worked with the International Police Agency to arrest Solano, said officials.

The Tribunal Penal de Puntarenas issued a notice of international capture for Solano. U.S. customs agents are holding Solano for violation of immigration laws and for pending cases with Costa Rican law officials. He will be deported in the coming days, said officials Wednesday.

Procter & Gamble adding
staff to its operation here

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Procter & Gamble will be looking to hire 150 more bilingual business experts to fill out the staff of its strategy center that it will open in San José.

The company already has about 1,000 persons working in supply, accounting and finance here for its Latin American operations.

In all, some 250 professionals will work in the new center. The company said it hopes to bring 100 from elsewhere. The purpose of the center is to come up with ideas to increase the efficiency of the company's operations on the continent, said a news release.

Heredia's utility company
reaches accords with ICE

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad said Wednesday it has entered into an agreement with the Empresa de Servicios Públicos de Heredia, S. A. to provide telecommunications services in that province.

This is the fifth such agreement for the company known as ICE. It has similar agreements with rural electric cooperatives and municipal service providers.

The idea is that the electrical institute can use the facilities of the local providers to extend the area where it can offer its services. The agreements allow the companies to design, finance and construct data networks and offer these services to local customers.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Feb. 21, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 37

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first lunar shot

From San Rafael Arriba

de Desamparados
second lunar shot

Full eclipse
from Tarbaca de Aserrí
third lunar shot
A.M. Costa Rica/José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
 As eclipse ends
  also from Desamparados

Despite the scattered clouds, viewers here get a good look
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rican moon watchers had a good show Wednesday night despite some pesky, streaky clouds.

The predicted lunar eclipse came off on schedule, and most Central Valley residents were able to see the event at least some of the time.

Viewers in French Guiana had the moon directly overhead. Viewers in Costa Rica saw the eclipse just before the moon reached Zenith. However, viewers here did not have the benefit of the magnification that the atmosphere provides at moonrise and moonset. Viewers in Europe and Africa enjoyed an eclipse of the setting moon. Viewers in the western United States and Canada enjoyed moonrise.
The full eclipse was between 9:01 and 9:51 p.m., and the shadowy moon had a rose color.

Staffer José Pablo Ramírez Vindas reported some clouds in Desamparados and also in Aserrí. He was seeking unsuccessfully a location above the clouds to take photos. However, there was sufficient clearing for him to get the photos above.

The eclipse is caused, of course, by the moon passing through the shadow cast by the earth. There was no danger in watching the eclipse Wednesday night. Unlike a solar eclipse when some viewers foolishly look directly at the sun, the moon shines with reflected sunlight.

The next full eclipse here will be in 2010.

Agents say most Internet thefts begin with trick e-mails
By Elise Sonray
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Officials from the judicial fraud department said they have evidence that thieves were using “keylogger,” a computer spy program, to obtain client bank information and passwords.

Thieves stole money from the bank accounts of at least 390 people, said the Judicial Investigation Organization. And they continue to do so, said officials. Technicians have found evidence of the keylogger virus on some of the victims' computers, said officials.

Friday, authorities detained 10 people charged with acting as front persons in the operation, according to reports. But the suspects aren't talking, said an official from the Sección de Fraudes in an interview Wednesday.

The front persons in the operation, allowed stolen money to be transferred into their bank accounts, according to officials. Thieves gave a commission to these front persons, many of whom were young people, said one investigator. In most cases, the front people were given a commission of of 20,000 to 25,000 colons ($40 to $50). They then withdrew money from their personal accounts and gave it to the leaders of the operation, said investigators.

The virus is transmitted through e-mails, said a representative of the fraud department Wednesday. The e-mail comes in the form of a text document and could have any sort of subject, he said. Once opened, the invisible virus enters the hard drive and copies all information typed into the computer. Thus the name, “keylogger.”

Officials have been following the case for over a year, they said. “Previous cases were simply friends or family members stealing bank information,” said one investigator. It was around 2006, when investigators began to see cases involving the keylogger program, he said. The case is a complicated one and still in investigation, according to the fraud unit officials. About 60 claims have already been filed this year, said an official.

“I personally don't believe it is an inside job, or anyone working in the bank,” said a high official in the fraud department. He asked that he not be named. He did say, however that officials are investigating bank employees from various banks in San José.

Keylogger software is available online. It listed on eBay for $9.99 Wednesday. It is easy to get and many obtain it for 
free, said one investigator. Keyloggers can also be  purchased as hardware. In hardware instances, a small adapter is attached to a computer's cable and copies information. That is why it is so important not to use Internet cafes for online banking or other personal accounts, said officials.

“Any one could install this type of device in an Internet cafe,” said a representative from the fraud department. He said however, that he had not yet seen this sort of case in Costa Rica.

The Judicial Investigation Organization only has five computer technicians, said an official.

“There are 400 cases, and many victims have two computers, one at home and one at work” said a representative. “We don't know which one is infected. We have to investigate both and that takes a minimum of two days,” he added.

Investigators said it is likely that numerous groups are using keylogging to steal money electronically. There is also another common technique called phishing, which tricks customers into logging into a fake account or a fake Web page, said officials. The program has also been used by electronic thieves in Costa Rica, said officials. Links to fake Web pages for Banco de Costa Rica and Banco Nacional de Costa Rica have been sent via e-mails to addresses.

The Judicial Investigation Organization arrested about 17 people last year for heading these sort of operations, said officials. However, officials have not yet searched the computers of these suspected for evidence, said representatives from the fraud unit. They repeated that there were only five technicians and they are busy investigating the computers of the hundreds of victims.

Officials advise computer users to maintain their anti virus and firewall programs. They also said not to open e-mails from unknown senders or input personal information at Internet cafe computers.

Clients from various banks have been targeted, said officials. More than $400,000 has been stolen thus far, according to the Judicial Investigation Organization. And the victims won't be getting their money back, said one investigator. 

However, an estimate by A.M. Costa Rica puts the amount stolen in the millions of dollars. One expat alone lost $215,000 in a series of computer raids.

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U.N. Children's Fund pushes for expanding Indian languages
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The United Nations Children's Fund is urging a major restructuring of schools in Indian areas so that the youngsters can learn in their own languages.

The message came from Nils Kastberg, the U.N. agency's regional director. He said the agency called on the region to celebrate its rich diversity, by also ensuring every child enjoys their right to speak their native language and to receive an education that respects their values, as defined by the Convention on the Rights of the Child. He was speaking on International Mother Language Day.

Although approximately 500 languages are spoken throughout the region, there is little linguistic diversity offered in schools, he said. The bilingual education which Indian people seek is scarcely offered and generally receives only limited budgets by governments, he added, noting that Indian communities also are the areas with the highest indexes of illiteracy, repetition of school years and drop-outs.

“How can an indigenous child learn math or science in a language that he or she doesn’t fully understand?” asked Kastberg. “By denying them schooling in a language they fully understand, what damage are we doing to millions of children, and to what extent are we making them feel like second-class citizens for speaking their native language?”
The year 2008 was declared the International Year of Languages by the United Nations, and the agency said that it is opportune to promote the use of Indian languages in all environments, not just in classrooms, but also in the media, health centers, in the courts and in other public offices.

A language is not only a communication tool, it is also a way to understand and categorize one’s reality, knowledge of nature, social relationships and emotions, the agency said in a release.

The United Nations Children's Fund said it is calling on Indian families not to give up speaking their native language, while also encouraging children who speak European-based languages to take on the challenge of learning an Indian language.

The United Nations Children's Fund said it supports the efforts of at least 15 countries in the Latin American and Caribbean region in order to guarantee a bilingual education to Indian children and recognizing children’s rights to an education in their mother tongue.

In Costa Rica there are 24 Indian territories, made up of eight tribes, the agency said. Some 58 percent of Costa Rican Indians (about 37,000 people) still speak their native language, the agency estimated. Only the Ngobe, Cabécar, Bribri and Maleku tribes continue to fluently conserve their mother language, the agency said.

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Magical finale finally arrives for millions of Spanish-speaking fans
By Helen Thompson
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Spanish-speaking world will finally be relieved from suspense today, as the final part of the Harry Potter saga is released in its Spanish translation.

The seven-part series about the young magician, his two best friends and their fight against the evil wizard Lord Voldemort has gripped the world for the past few years, and Costa Rica is no exception.

Costa Rica's Libreria Internacional claims that more than 500 advance orders were made for the book, and are expecting to sell over 11,000 more copies once the novel hits the shelves.

When the English version of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” written by British authoress J.K. Rowling, was released in July 2007, more than 2 million fans made advance orders, and bought 23 copies per second on its first day of release.

Translated as “Harry Potter y las Reliquias de la Muerte,” the final book will decide Harry's fate. Fans have watched him grow from an 11-year-old living with his neglectful muggle (non-magical) aunt and uncle and their obese son, Dudley.

After learning of his magical abilities from the friendly giant Hagrid, Harry's adventures mainly took place in the vividly-imagined Hogwarts School. The magicians' academy is presided over by the beloved wizard Dumbledore, who makes it his mission to keep Harry safe from his nemesis Lord Voldemort. Voldemort is out to kill Harry because he destroyed the wizard's power while just a baby.

Soul-sucking dementors, vicious dragons, Quiditch accidents and right-wing “death eater” wizards are all part of a day's work for Harry, who has enchanted readers of all ages, despite the books being aimed at children.

Costa Rican readers will have been lucky to avoid finding out the conclusion to the plot line before time, as the final book enjoyed even more hype than its predecessors. Speculation about the conclusion raged before the English-language release date, and since then even more revelations have come to light, most notably that Dumbledore was in fact a homosexual all along.

The novel recounts the events immediately after Dumbledore's unexpected death at the end of the sixth book.

Harry and his friends set out on a quest to finally destroy Voldemort, ending in the obligatory battle of magical might,

harry potter book cover
A.M. Costa Rica image
Cover of the English-language version of the last novel in J.K. Rowling's seven-part series

and rounding off with an epilogue recounting the fates of the protagonists 19 years on.

The popularity of the series has been such that it has been translated into 65 languages, including Spanish, Latin and ancient Greek, and over 400 million copies of the books have been sold worldwide. One and a half million copies of the Spanish version have so far been printed.

Today is the official launch of the Spanish version, and events will be held in Multiplaza Escazú, Terra Mall, Paseo de las Flores, Atlantis Plaza Escazú and Rohrmoser involving face painting, magic tricks, fancy-dress competitions, projections of the film Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, and other activities for children. Activities start at 4 p.m.

Art Galleries ....

Rembrandt exhibition opens to high acclaim in downtown San José

Rembrandt etching
Hailed as the most important exhibition of the year, a collection of the Dutch master Rembrandt's etchings opened amid much praise Thursday.

The 48 etchings usually reside in Amsterdam's Rembrandt House Museum, where the artist lived for about 20 years from 1620-40. They were collaboratively chosen from a wider collection by Dora Maria Sequiera, the director of Museos del Banco Central and Ed de Heer, the director of the Rembrandt House Museum.

Although now better known for his marvelous paintings that capture intense emotion, facial expression, and deeply contrasted light and shadow, the etchings that are now on show in San José are considered by art buffs to be just as important.

“Rembrandt was the most influential and original etchers possibly of all time,” said de Heer. “He is a shining beacon because he changed etching from a reproductive medium to a fully fledged artistic medium.

“He used all sorts of different techniques to get all the possibilities out of the medium — he printed on copper plate, parchment, even sheepskin to make luxurious editions of prints. He didn't want any two to be the same.”

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Chicken suits, foot photos brought to Galeria Nacional by art colony residents

nancy ennisThose with a sharp eye who look closely at Nancy Ennis' collages will find a man in a chicken costume haunting each one.

In some, he is the main focus of the piece, and in others he is as invisible as a smudge behind a layer of material.

“One of my kids gave me this photo of their Dad when younger,” said Mrs. Ennis, as she pointed out the eerie figure, standing amid her as-yet unhung exhibition in the Galeria Nacional. “I like it because my ex-husband was a very funny man, although very irresponsible.”

Mrs. Ennis, an American who lives in New Jersey, has been creating artwork on Costa Rican soil for the last six weeks, working in a private artists colony in Ciudad Colon.

She is one of several dozen who seek out Costa Rica's tropical climes each year to spend a residency in the Julia and David White Artists' Colony.

Read more - click here

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.

Read more - click here

Exhibit condemning illegal fishing would be better elsewhere

For a while now, a large marquee has been standing outside the Museo de Arte y Diseño Contemporaneo in San José.

In it hangs what has variously been described as an enormous bee hive, a throwback to sixties glow lamps or a swarm of schooling fish.

The last explanation is the one that the artists propound. Huge, blue, glowing and transparent, the structure extends almost four meters down from the ceiling, nearly equaling its height with its width. It tapers towards the end, putting one in mind of a chrysalis, and its outside is made totally of clear nylon wires.

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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

Festivals ...

Puntarenas Carnival a mix of the traditional and the modern

If you didn't know otherwise, you could be forgiven for thinking that Puntarenas Carnival is largely about scantily clad ladies fighting it out to be crowned queen of the show.

However, the organisers claim that the carnaval tradition that will fill Puntarenas with people dressed in luminous feathers, steel bands, and brightly-coloured dancers, has roots that go back for thousands of years, to pagan celebrations of Baco, the God of wine.

Over time the carnaval has become related to Christian tradition, the date changing with that of the Easter week, and always falling around the time that Lent begins.

Back in Medieval times, games, dances and a lot of banqueting was the indulgence to get people prepared for lent, before it was placed under strict prohibition by King Carlos I of Spain in 1523, and not restored until the reign of Felipe IV who came to the throne in 1605.

The tradition has certainly revived itself effectively, with carnavals now taking place all over the globe, and the Puntarenas Carnaval is Costa Rica's grandest party of the year.

2008's crowned carnival queen, chosen from a line-up of 10 girls in stringy bikinis, will parade through the streets to start off the celebrations on Feb. 14.

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Mini-mall comes to the rescue of the not-rich-but-hungry

food court

For those in the know, there is a clean, affordable, relatively quiet gastronomic surprise off the pedestrian mall in downtown San Jose.  Between Arenas clothing store and the Patio Restaurant, behind a perfume counter and a Pops Ice Cream sits a food court without a McDonald's, Wendy's, Subway or Church's Chicken in sight. 

Tropical Food is a counter selling relatively healthy food.  While their batidos aren't as delicious as the ones found at FrutiLand in Mall San Pedro, the water-or-milk-
blended-with-fruit drink is a refreshing treat to carry during your walk along Avenida Central.  A batido with the fruit of your choice mixed with water costs 650 colons, with milk, 750 colons.  That's from $1.30 to $1.50.

Adding honey or granola takes you up to a still-reasonable 900 colons ($1.80).  The store also peddles fruit salads, ranging from 700 to 1.600 colons ($1.40 to $3.20).

Marisqueria produces delicious looking and smelling seafood dishes.  A customer-friendly hanging chalkboard lists their menu and respective prices.  A small corvina ceviche will set you back 1,950 colons ($3.90).  Get a small rice with shrimp for 2.150 colons ($4.30), 2,800 ($5.60) for a larger serving.  Or try one of the fish filets prepared several different ways, the cheapest being with oil and garlic for 2,600 ($5.20) colons, the priciest fish filet dish is 3,600 colons ($7.20) for relleno with ham and cheese.

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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.

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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.

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Dramatic Arts...

Sunny days in San José complemented by free concerts

MAFconcert The hot dry days are being put to good cultural use by the Museos del Banco Central with a series of outdoor concerts in the middle of the downtown area.

Hundreds of shoppers stopped to lean over the balcony in Plaza de la Cultura for the first concert, when the Costa Rican singer MAF and her band played a sunny set of pop tunes outside the doors of the museum.

Although the series is named 'Conciertos en las gradas', fewer people sat to on the steps outside the Museo de Oro than stood around the edges, looking down at the stage.

Miriam Jaraquín and Blues Latino will bring piano and accordion, flute and saxophone to the stage at midday on March 2., with an acoustic jazzy sound.

The final concert of the series will be on March 29., with trio Villegas playing some classic Spanish rock from 2 p.m.

Cultural prizes handed out to 2007's cream of the crop

Premio Magón

maria eugenia dengoA woman who devoted her life to the improvement of Costa Rica's education system was yesterday announced as the winner of 2007's Premio Nacional de Cultura Magón.

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National Culture Prizes

Hot on the heels of the Premio Cultural Magón winner have come the announcements of the numerous other national culture prize winners.

María Elena Carballo, minister of Cultura y Juventud, read out the long list of Premios Nacional de la Cultura 2007 Tuesday, in a conference at the Centro Nacional de la Cultura.

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Books ...

Land use in Costa Rica documented by Fulbright scholar

Forty years of living in the jungle, moving between secluded forestry stations and research labs, has led Louisiana resident and NASA veteran
Armond Joyce
Armond Joyce
Armond Joyce to write a book about the changing uses of land in Costa Rica.

After winning a presitgious Fulbright scholarship in 1998, he came back to Costa Rica to revisit forest sites that he worked on over three decades earlier as a graduate student. 

Some of the earliest satellite technology available was used in 1966 to take arial photographs of Costa Rica's countryside, and the
book compares these black and white shots with up-to-date images.

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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.

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Size of bet should be inversely proportional to skill levels
In no-limit hold’em, much like video games and karate lessons, you need to master one level before you can move on to the next.  In karate, as your skill level increases, your instructor presents you with the next belt.  But in poker, only you can decide when it’s time to graduate to the next level.  That’s a tricky proposition for some players because it’s difficult to assess your own progress. 

In poker, you’ve got to start at the bottom level and work your way up.  This advice applies to the limits that you play and the sizing of the bets that you make.

All beginners should start out with a no-limit betting strategy based on making large-sized bets.  Then, as skills increase, bet sizing should decrease.  Here’s why.

When you make small raises before the flop, other players will simply be more likely to call those bets.  That means you’ll end up facing difficult decisions after the flop.  More post-flop decisions mean more variables to consider with more money at stake.  Advanced players excel in these situations. Beginners suffer the consequences.

Fortunately, there is a betting system that can help shift the advantage back to the novice player.  By making excessively large pre-flop bets, novices can force better players to lay down their marginal hands. 

But the question still remains:  What’s the correct amount to bet?  Well, bet sizing should be proportional to your skill level.

A rank beginner playing at skill Level 1 needs to make very large raises -- five times the big blind.  With blinds at 50/100, a novice who decides to play should bet 500.  This size bet will protect you against a looser and tougher opponent whose goal is to outplay you after the flop.  If you do make it to the flop, keep betting large with a pot-sized bet.

As you improve to skill Level 2, slightly reduce your pre-flop bet size.  With blinds at 50/100, bet out 450 pre-flop, and 90 percent of the pot size after the flop.

The trend continues as you improve to the third skill level.  Now, lower your pre-flop bet to 400, and bet out 80 percent of the pot after the flop.

When you reach Level 4, try betting 3 ½ times the big blind,

and then follow it up with a post-flop bet equal to 75 percent of the pot.

Congratulations if you’ve made it to Level 5!  You’re now an experienced and accomplished player.  Your bets and raises should adhere to the industry standards: three times the big blind pre-flop and 65 percent of the pot after the flop.

Note:  Too many beginners make the mistake of starting at this level’s betting scheme.  If you’re a beginner, start with Level 1 betting!

Okay, once you feel that you’ve mastered the game — you’d be wrong, by the way, poker is a game that can never be mastered — it’s time for an aggressive style of betting.  At Level 6, bet 2 ½ times the big blind, and follow up with a bet of 50-60 percent of the pot after the flop.  At this advanced level, you’ll need to rely on a set of multi-dimensional poker skills which includes the ability to read people.  Quite frankly, this level’s betting scheme is inappropriate for most players.  There will be far too many tough post-flop decisions and the risk of making costly errors in post-flop play increases significantly.

Without a doubt, the toughest part about selecting the proper bet size is that you must be your own harshest critic.  Swallow your pride and be completely objective about your own poker skill level.  Only then can you implement an effective betting strategy.

Visit for information about Daniel Negreanu’s new book, "Hold’em Wisdom for All Players."
© 2008 Card Shark Media.  All rights reserved.

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