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(506) 223-1327         Published  Wednesday, March 19, 2008, in Vol. 8, No. 56            E-mail us
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Adding eighth digit is Semana Santa topic No. 1
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The addition of an eighth digit to Costa Rican telephone numbers is prompting discussion and even minor fears.

The Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad will make the switch in the early minutes of Thursday. Land lines will receive the number 2 as an additional prefix. So the telephone number of A.M. Costa Rica, which now is 223-1327 will become 2223-1327.

Cellular numbers will have an 8 placed in front.

One problem developed when phone customers learned that the telecommunication agency had not updated its billing software. The company froze its accounts this week but promised not to cut off users for non-payment until after the computers recognized eight digits.

Some customers were unconvinced.

The company known as ICE has put a detailed explanation and a series of frequently asked questions on its Web site. There is an English version. It also has established a help line, 115, which is supposed to be staffed through 5 p.m. today.
Curiously, ICE will not staff the lines after the changeover is made. Most employees are off for Semana Santa Thursday and Friday, which are legal holidays.

The country added a seventh digit in 1994, and ICE said that eight digits should handle all the lines needed for at least 30 years.

Operators at the help line said there were not a great rush of calls this week. Several callers asked if they had to turn off their cell phone by midnight tonight.  (Probably not since the changeover is all software at the telephone computer end.)

Technicians at several large hotels with a number of incoming lines said they were not expecting problems, although one said an extra person would be on the front desk in case of unexpected developments.

The biggest discussion among expats has been how to speak the new eight digits. Will it be 22-23-13-27 as is the signals of a football quarterback. Or maybe 2223-1327.

The phone company's three-digit information numbers, such as 113, are not changing. Incoming international callers will have to use the eight digits, but most 800 lines will not change.


Noxious fumes at volcano prompts official warning
By Elise Sonray
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Don't look at the volcano crater for more than 20 minutes. That's one of the tips the national
hankerchief at turrialba
emergency commission advised visitors to the Turrialba volcano.

Turrialba has been showing higher activity in recent months, and although the emergency commission said the activity is still considered normal, the agency did release some precautionary advice for visitors.
In early February, scientists documented an increase of activity in gaseous emissions in three areas of the mountain. Researchers also noticed severe burns in the tree canopy to the lower west and north west of the volcano, according to the Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico de Costa Rica. The volcano has been expelling gas for months. Feb. 22 a large plume of steam rose high from the volcano, worrying residents. The seismology observatory reported that the column was more than 2 kilometers long and that dwellers  between Volcán Turrialba and Volcán Irazú smelled strong fumes.  
The Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias said visitors to the volcano should use handkerchiefs or cloth to cover the mouth and nose and carry water. Visitors are recommended to change positions while at the lookout point in order to stay away from oncoming winds. If an observer inhales gaseous fumes, he or she should leave the area immediately and go directly to a Cruz Roja representative, said the agency.

In the case of an eruption, the emergency commission advises visitors to follow the instruction of park officials, walk slowly on indicated paths and board vehicles. Visitors are also asked to wet a cloth and hold it on the face.

This week is expected to be a busy one at popular destinations like volcanoes and beaches. The Cruz Roja announced Monday that the agency will provide additional presence in these areas.

The Instituto Meteorológico Nacional predicts weather conditions will be warm and partially cloudy for vacationers around the country. Isolated showers are possible Wednesday and Thursday in the Pacific and Central Valley. Dry trade-winds will make Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday the warmest days of the week, said the institute.




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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, March 19, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 56

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3437-4/1/08
Public bus takes tumble;
One passenger, 17, dies


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A bus carrying 25 people rolled over numerous times down a slope Tuesday afternoon in Pérez Zeledón  A 17-year old-boy died in the crash, and others were injured, according to the Cruz Roja.

The bus was on its regular route from San Isidro to Quepos, when the accident occurred, said Eduardo Valverde Salazar, a Cruz Roja employee. The bus hit a sharp curve, which is probably the reason for the accident, said Valverde.

The victim, Adrian Navarro Blanco, died on the scene, said the Cruz Roja worker. Four victims were in critical condition, including one who was flown to San José by plane. Eight passengers suffered semi-serious injuries, according to the medical services. They were transported to Hospital Escalante Pradilla in Peréz Zeledón.

At least one tourist was on the bus, said Valverde. The man, Tony Oslear, 44, whose nationality was unknown, was in good condition after the accident, said Valverde.

Six ambulances responded to the accident, said Valverde. The bus was about 15 meters off the road when it stopped rolling, he said. It landed on its roof at the bottom of a steep grade.

Quakers here to demonstrate
on war, uranium at embassy


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Today marks five years since the U.S. invaded Iraq. During the day protesters will gather and in the evening candle-light vigils will be held around the world.

In Costa Rica the Centro de Amigos Cuáqueros Para la Paz will protest the war and its side effects in front of the U.S. Embassy, they said.

Since the commencement of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003,  4,462 U.S. soldiers have been killed, according to the Washington Post.

A study administered by the World Health Organization estimated a range of between 104,000 and 223,000 violent deaths of Iraqis from March 2003 to June 2006. 

The Centro de Amigos Cuáqueros Para la Paz (Friend's Center), will hold its anti-war protest at 10 a.m. today. The group will not only be protesting the war itself at the embassy, but the aftereffects of nuclear product, depleted uranium, which will last long after the war ends, they said.

This year's peaceful protest is not expected to be nearly as big as the event last year, but the group still wanted to do something, said Isabel Macdonald, coordinator for the Quaker organization.

The group has held an event on March 19, each year since the war started, said Ms. Macdonald. Last year, the center held an event in Parque Morazán with speakers who talked about the harmful effects of depleted uranium, which is being used in weapons in Iraq, they said. Similar to the aftereffects in Hiroshima, the product harms young and old, according to the group. Their claim is not universally accepted.

Depleted uranium is now used to make modern projectiles because of its molecular density. Opponents claim that the uranium and dust containing the material have harmful effects on veterans and victims of war. 

Amigos Para la Paz is a member of the International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons, an organization including members from 25 countries, “working to achieve a global ban on the use of uranium in all conventional weapon systems.” The group will host the world conference in November with the support of the Costa Rican government, said Ms. Macdonald.

As to how the embassy may respond to anti-war protests, Ms. Macdonald said,  “There is never a reaction. But that is not the point.” She emphasized the group's hope for a new U.S. administration that would better handle the situation in Iraq and the hope that the people and governments would begin to acknowledge the effects of depleted uranium.

Dry law effort begins at 8 p.m.

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Fuerza Pública starts at 8 p.m. tonight to seal bars and other places where alcohol is sold. This is the annual effort to prevent alcohol sales on Holy Thursday and Good Friday of Semana Santa.

The police agency is fielding 2,508 officers to work with officials in the country's 81 municipalities. Anyone who breaks the seals on doors or places where alcohol is stored can face a three-month to two-year jail term.

The Fuerza Pública said the law will be enforced vigorously.

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It looks like a melon but the instructions call for a hammer to prepare it for the table.

It's the chiverre, a traditional Semana Santa sweet treat.

In photo are three different ways to serve it: chiverre with pink sugar, with black sugar cane or con tapa de dulce de caña and finally by using a trapiche or small mill to create a conserve.
 

semana santa vegetable
A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas

A  treat that requires a hammer to prepare
An A.M. Costa Rica encore

Chiverre is squash that looks like a watermelon, but the shell is very hard. Inside, the texture is similar to that of a pumpkin but colored white.

The season for collecting this member of the cucurbit family (Cucurbita ficifolia) coincides with Holy Week and Easter, and hundreds of roadside stands have them available. It is a Semana Santa staple.

Costa Ricans use them in many ways, mostly sweet and based on brown sugar, white sugar, in conservas and the famous miel de chiverre or chiverre honey.

You can mix prepared chiverre with coconut and you can put in tamarindo seeds, but the basic preparation is the same.

Miel de chiverre

Ingredients.

A lot of patience
A big chiverre 
Dulce de caña in (2) tapas or 1 kilo of granular brown sugar
cinnamon 
cloves
250 grams brown tamarindo seeds 
if desired, coconut pieces or flakes

(Tapas of dulce de caña are the little circular blocks of brown sugar available at every market.)

Preparation

Make a fire or use a kitchen burner to char as much as possible of the shell of the chiverre. 

When done, hit the shell with a hammer to expose the contents that looks like Chinese spaghetti or fine hairs. Chiverre, by the way sometimes is called spaghetti squash.

Now the contents must be dried. You can use the clothes drier to reduce the moisture. A clean pillowcase can be used to protect the chiverre. 

When the chiverre contents are drier, cook it in a big pot on low heat. In the pot put your preferred sugar, white or brown. Cover the entire flesh of the chiverre with sugar, tamarindo seeds, cinnamon, cloves (called clavos de olor in Costa Rica) lemon or orange peel and, if desired, coconut. The chiverre will produce enough liquid for this process.

Cover the pot and let it cook slowly and reduce for 90 minutes. Don't forget to stir often.

This delicacy is available in most of the country's supermarkets if you are not handy with a hammer. Also available is chiverre en conserva (about 800 colons for a 500-gram bottle). That's about $1.70 a pound. 

This product is used like jelly in empanadas and other dishes where a touch of sweetness is desired.


 Written by Saray Ramírez Vindas and originally published April 7, 2004.


Mass tree planting planned in Guápiles and Turrialba April 2
By Helen Thompson
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Thousands of trees are set to be planted around the Guápiles and Turrialba area in a mass student attempt to help save the environment.

Students of EARTH University will be celebrating the institution's 18th anniversary April 2 by planting 8,250 new plants.

All of the University's 400 students and 350 staff members will help to fill 12 hectares of land, both inside and outside of the campus.

Melina and pilón trees will be planted within the EARTH University campus in Guácimo, Limón, while a variety of other species will be sown on two hectares of land in a biological reserve around the Río Pacuare, Turrialba.

The melina tree (Gmelina arborea) was imported to Costa Rica from Asia within recent decades, and is popular because of its rapid growth and ease of adaption to foreign environments.

“Asking our students to plant trees on this day is a symbol of hope for the future, a symbol that we want to save our
environment for future generations,” said Karla Mena Soto, the project coordinator.

Each student will be expected to plant between 10 and 15 trees during the morning, with cultural activities taking place in the afternoon.

EARTH University teaches a small student body, largely made up of foreign scholarship students, in subjects such as agricultural engineering and natural resources.  After their training, the students, who often come from developing countries, are expected to return to their own lands to help their own communities in agricultural development.

The activity “Hijos de la Tierra” will allow them to contribute to the Costa Rican community while they are here, with workshops set to take place with the local community. These will involve the students teaching local families in the best ways to produce their own foodstuffs, such as fruits and vegetables, in an inexpensive and sustainable manner.

EARTH has been organizing anniversary events for years, but this is only the second time that it will be planting trees outside the campus, and the first time that there will be interaction with the local community in the form of workshops.


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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, March 19, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 56


Full review ordered of maintenance records of U.S. airlines
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The U.S. aviation agency has ordered a review of maintenance records at all U.S. airlines after safety violations were reported at Southwest Airlines.

The acting head of the Federal Aviation Administration, Robert Sturgell, Tuesday said the recent lapse at one airline prompted the decision to confirm that all other carriers were in full compliance.

Sturgell said an initial review would be completed by March 28, and the full audit would conclude by the end of June.

Earlier this month, the Federal Aviation Administration
proposed leveling a more than $10 million fine against  Southwest Airlines after determining the company flew 46 planes without required inspections.

In other industry news, Delta Airlines has announced it is offering voluntary severance payouts to more than half of its employees as part of a plan to deal with soaring fuel prices. Delta says its goal is to cut 2,000 jobs.

Delta said today that 30,000 workers are eligible for the job departure packages, excluding pilots.

The No. 3 U.S. airline says it also plans to cut 5 percent of its domestic flights by August because of record high fuel costs and the weakening economy. But Delta says its international service will continue to expand.


British judge reverses $12 billion freeze on Venezuelan funds
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A British judge has lifted a court order that froze $12 billion in global assets belonging to Venezuela's state oil firm in a dispute with U.S. oil giant ExxonMobil.

Judge Paul Walker ruled against ExxonMobil Tuesday, signaling that its dispute with Venezuela's PDVSA over a seized oil project has no connection to the United Kingdom.  The judge also ordered ExxonMobil to pay an interim payment of $760,000 in legal fees to PDVSA within 21 days.

ExxonMobil says it will not appeal the ruling, which
Venezuelan Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez described as "a 100 percent victory" for his country. 

ExxonMobil, however, said the decision had no impact on its claim for compensation for seized assets in arbitration.

Last month, courts in Britain, the Netherlands and the Netherlands Antilles granted ExxonMobil's demand to freeze Venezuelan oil assets.  The company is challenging Venezuela's decision to nationalize a large oil project in which ExxonMobil had a large financial stake.

The judge said he would release a more detailed version of the ruling Thursday.


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U.S. Supreme Court hears landmark gun possession appeal
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The U.S. Supreme Court has begun examining the constitutionality of the U.S. capital city's long-standing ban on handguns. Justices heard impassioned arguments

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on the issue in a landmark case that could impact the right to bear arms nationwide.

Ratified in 1791, the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution's Bill of Rights states, in part, that "the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed." But for generations, Americans have argued whether the amendment provides a blanket authorization for citizens to possess the weapon of their choice, or whether the full language of the amendment ties the right to keep weapons with the establishment of citizen militias, which were common in the early years of the republic.

To date, the U.S. Supreme Court has not definitively or comprehensively ruled on the right to bear arms. But that may soon change.

In the 1970s, the District of Columbia, in an effort to fight crime, banned residents of the nation's capital from possessing handguns. Although many U.S. municipalities have restrictions and stipulations on firearms, only Washington maintains an absolute prohibition on handguns.

Gun rights advocates are challenging the ban. Tuesday, the case reached the Supreme Court. For more than an hour, justices heard arguments not only on the merits of Washington's gun law, but also on the meaning and intent of the Second Amendment and those who crafted it more than 200 years ago.

Justice Anthony Kennedy seemed to take a dim view of the handgun ban when he stated that the Second Amendment provides "a general right to bear arms." Justice Stephen Breyer, on the other hand, asked why it is unreasonable for a city with a high crime rate to ban handguns.

Afterwards, attorneys and others for both sides of the case spoke with the news media. Robert Levy, an attorney for those seeking to overturn the gun ban, gave his reasons for pursuing the case.

"This case is about self defense," he said. "It is about the right to keep and bear arms in the context of one's home. This is not about prohibiting Washington D.C. from regulating firearms. They can craft reasonable regulations."

"But an outright ban on all handguns in all homes at all times for all people is not a reasonable regulation. It is a prohibition. And we are hopeful that the court will find that to be unconstitutional," he continued.

Washington Mayor Adrian Fenty has a different view of the matter.

"This is a public safety case," said Fenty. "Handguns represent a disproportionate number of crimes in the District of Columbia: everything from homicides to robbery to rape."

"The fact that we have had a handgun ban has significantly curtailed the number of violent crimes in the city. More guns anywhere in the District of Columbia is going to lead to more crime, and that is why we stand so steadfastly against any repeal of our handgun ban," he added.

A Supreme Court ruling on the matter is months away. Legal observers say the eventual decision could impact gun control laws across the nation. 


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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, March 19, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 56


Costa Rica's cinematic heritage shared with all at public libraries
All over the country, film lovers are being given the chance to learn a bit more about Costa Rica through cinema screenings in public libraries.

Viewers will probably be surprised to find out there are so many Costa Rican films in circulation, and although none is famous, they deal with issues close to the country's history.

Subjects range from the nation's love of guaro and documentaries on influential figures such as Francisco Amighetti and Juan Santamaría, to racial issues, lighter animated films, and even how to fish shrimp responsibly.

Margarita Rojas, director of the Sistema Nacional de Bibliotecas, initiated the project, making copies of the works that she considers essential to Costa Rican cinema to send around the country.

Documentary is the most common genre, and Ms. Rojas has said that in future she hopes to amplify the collection to include at first Latin American works and then cinema from all over the world.

A total of 23 libraries will be taking part, and each is adapting the collection to its own needs. Limon's library will be taking the show to the Centro de Admisión de Sandoval in April, in order to share the cultural event with the prisoners there.

Santa Ana already has its own cinema forum, but will be adding an extra showing each week to the usual Friday performances. The project is also stimulating donations of better facilities to libraries, largely after complaints were made that television sets were not big enough for this activity.

Palmares' library is to receive a new multimedia suite, donated by the  Asociación Palmareña para el Arte y la Cultura, which will include a projector, a portable computer and a projection screen, which will allow the library to show the films at night in the town's park.

The Desamparados public library at first received few participants for the showings, but this has not dampened the spirit of the director, Cira Monge, who said that the project would develop little by little.

Other libraries involved include Cartago, Cañas, Montes de Oca, Ciudad Colón, Moravia, Nosara, Guadalupe, Heredia, Liberia, Tres Rios, Turrialba, Tibás and Siquirres.

Some of the movies to be shown are documentaries "Santa Rosa," "Mujeres de sal,"  "Para qué tractores sin violines," "Un costarricense llamado Don Pepe," and animations called "Anna," "Mito" and  "Al & Compañía." Showings are every Thursday afternoon at 2 p.m. More information is available by calling 256-7814.

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.”

There is no sheepskin involved in this exhibition, as some of the finer materials are too fragile to export for exhibition in humid tropical countries like Costa Rica. The collection does, however,  but include something from each of Rembrandt's main themes.

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.

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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

Food...

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.

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.

Click here to read the full review


Dramatic Arts ...
Brazilian flavors to entertain diners at Women's Club fundraiser

Brazilian musicians will be the guests at the Women's Club of Costa Rica's next fundraising night, filling the El Rodeo Country Inn in San Antonio de Belén with exotic sounds and dancing. The Fiesta Brasileña offers a full night from welcome drinks and dinner to dancing and a silent auction.

Dance group Bailando Brasil will be in charge of the entertainment, dressed in elaborate costumes and dancing to the rythms of bossa nova and samba played on traditional Brazilian instruments.

Proceeds from the $30 (15,000 colons) tickets, the raffle and auction go to scholarships for economically disadvantaged high school students and to the development of libraries in public and primary schools in Costa Rica. The event takes place on April 5, at 6 p.m. For tickets and information, call 285-1276.

Sunny days in San José complemented by free concerts

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.

The final concert of the series will be on March 29, with trio Villegas playing some classic Spanish rock from 2 p.m.
Festivals ...
Flamingo Beach to be filled with magic this Easter

Easter celebrations will take to the beach on Easter Saturday as Playa Flamingo is filled with bonfires, BBQs and art.

An event called “Magic Playa” will be held by Asociación CEPIA, as a follow up to events it has held on the Guanacaste beach for the last two years running.

More than 400 people are expected at the event, where the summer delights of slightly charred BBQ food and outdoor drinking will be complemented by music, dancing, and a fire show.

Decoration is also not forgotten, with art group JAGUART putting on a display of local artists.

The charity that is putting on the show works with  children in the Guanacaste area, giving them the chance to participate in cultural and educational activities that they would otherwise not have access to.

It has held a circus and a fashion show in past years in order to raise funds.

It is hoping to raise $10,000 from selling the $20 entrance fees ($25 on the door) and fundraising during the evening, which would represent almost a tenth of the charity's annual turnover.

Read more - click here
International acts to make rare festival appearance in Costa Rica

Excitement is rising over the announcement of headline acts for Festival Imperial, Costa Rica's most highly anticipated music festival of the year.

Costa Rica is often missed off the list when world-famous bands are compiling their top international touring spots, but the second edition of the beer-backed festival is set to attract a few top names.

Two years ago, the first Festival Imperial brought Sting and Jamiroquai to Costa Rica, while also promoting national bands such as Gandhi and Malpais, and April 2008's edition of the event promises similar quality.

Read more - click here

Duran Duran in concert

British group Duran Duran will headline Festival
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.

Click here to read more

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

Playing from the small blind can be tricky
Playing correctly from the small blind can be frustrating and confusing.  On the one hand, you already have half the bet in the pot which should entice you to play more hands.  On the other, you’ll have to play out of position on every street which suggests that you should actually play fewer hands.

So what are you supposed to do from the small blind?

The answer depends on several variables including the size of your stack, the strength of your hand, and the type of opponent you’re facing.  In this column, we’ll focus on two of the most common situations you’ll face from the small blind.

Many players make the mistake of acting too aggressively in this situation.  They end up bleeding away their chips against a more experienced player in the big blind -- a player who will use his position to steal pots after the flop. 

In this situation, unless your opponent is a passive, conservative player, don’t raise too often.  Even a hand like Ac-6d won’t fare well when played from out of position.  That’s because experienced players will defend their big blinds with a wide variety of hands.  They understand the power of position and will usually try to exploit that advantage.

Skilled players will play a hand like Ac-6d with caution from the small blind.  Despite what you hear on television, it’s normally best to just call from the small blind.  Remember, though, you can’t do anything the same all of the time in poker.  You’ve got to be prepared to change gears.

If antes are in play in addition to the blinds, you can act a bit more aggressively from the small blind -- but not much.  Raising from the small blind with a marginal hand only invites the big blind to call, or even reraise.  Antes act to increase his pot odds and create a greater incentive for him to play.

The best advice when playing from the small blind is to mix up your play.  The general rules are to fold garbage hands, limp with marginal hands, and raise with hands that are strong enough to play big pots with.


Don’t allow your opponents, however, to pick up patterns in your play.  Occasionally call with pocket aces and raise with hands like 5s-8s. 

If another player has opened the pot with a raise, ignore the fact that you already have money in the pot.  Against a raise, play only those hands that you would stay in with if you were seated outside the blinds. 

This situation calls for tighter play than in any other position at the table.  If you do find a hand strong enough to play from the small blind, your best choice is usually to reraise before the flop in an attempt to neutralize your opponent’s positional advantage.

The position of the raiser is another determining factor in deciding how to play your hand.  For example, against a player who raised from early position, you can safely call with hands like 7-7 or Ah-Qh.  However, if the raise came from late position, there’s an increased chance that he’s attempting to steal the blinds.  If that’s the case, lean towards making a substantial reraise with most hands you’d be willing to play.

Special note to beginning players:  In this particular situation, if you don’t have a hand that’s strong enough to reraise with, you should fold before the flop.  A call from the small blind can prove troublesome.  If you do choose to play, your limited poker and people reading skills will be severely tested in post-flop play.

Visit www.cardsharkmedia.com/book.html 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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