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(506) 2223-1327         Published Friday, April 18, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 77          E-mail us
Jo Stuart
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Their arrival has not been announced formally yet, but the bomberos, the firemen, have two new trucks. Both are on Freightliner bodies and made in the United States. One truck is for Pavas and one for Guadalupe, said firemen.
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A.M. Costa Rica/Elise Sonray

3,000 to 4,000 casino workers may lose their jobs
By Elise Sonray
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

From 3,000 to 4,000 casino workers will lose their jobs if the new government decrees become official, said a member of the casino association.

Most casino owners are not mad about the new government decrees just worried, said Adriana Campos, the manager of Concorde Casinos. Among other things, the new decrees released by the Ministerio de Justicia y Gracia and Casa Presidencial, say that casinos can be open only from  6 p.m. to 2 a.m. That's only eight hours a day. For 24-hour casinos, this translates as major losses.

“So many people depend on the workers. The women who work here have sons and daughters,” said Ms. Campos, who is a member of the Asociación de Casinos. Concorde Casinos has 150 employees alone in its San José casino at the Irazú Best Western, said Ms. Campos. That does not include their casino in the Double Tree Hilton.

“We are totally in regulation with the current casino laws,” said Ms. Campos, referring to association members. She said she had no problem with the regulation that casinos must be inside of hotels, because that was current law. “The only real problem is the scheduling,” she said.

As to why the government decided to do this now, Ms. Campos said it seemed to her that it was to block the new Russian company, Storm International, from entering the country. “We think it was very abrupt, an emergency decision,” she
 said of the government's decrees. There were already similar laws awaiting in the legislature, she added, but this was very fast, an emergency plan of action.

“People are very scared of this situation,” she said, referring to how the government feels about the Russian company. 

The governments feelings about the foreign company, which plans to invest $5 million to refurbish a downtown hotel, are no secret. In late  February La Nación quoted Laura Chinchilla, minister of justice and vice president, as saying, “This news makes me sick. They are not welcome. It's as simple as that.” Storm International's proposal would just meet the decreed requirements. The project will include a 60-room hotel, said the company at the time they made the proposal.
Ms Campos said she knew little about the company, but that in general casinos are looked down upon. “People have a bad image of casinos,” she said. “It isn't a real image though.” She added that negative publicity had made it worse. “People see one casino associated with prostitution, for example, and assume that all casinos are like that.”

The casino association hopes to talk with government officials soon about the decrees, said Ms. Campos, especially about the new hours. As most casino representatives have said, Concorde Casinos received no information or warning whatsoever from the government about the decrees, said Ms. Campos. The association will wait until everything comes into light before making any major decisions, she said.

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Agents uncover stash
of drug boat gasoline

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Agents found more than 500 gallons of gasoline which they suspect was used to fuel drug-smuggling boats, said a judicial spokeswoman.

Agents from the Judicial Investigation Organization in Quepos found the containers hidden in a mangrove off one of the canals near Estero de Damas Wednesday afternoon, they said.

Authorities suspect that the gasoline was used to fuel speedboats loaded with cocaine, said the judicial spokeswoman. The cocaine was most likely brought from Colombia and then sent to the United States and Mexico, said the spokeswoman.

The gasoline was stored in 28 containers. Each held 18 gallons, said the spokeswoman. The containers were tied up and hidden under brush, she added. 

On March 13th agents seized a boat in the same canal carrying containers of gasoline and 2,000 kilos of cocaine, according to the Judicial Investigation Organization. Agents suspected that the canals were being used to fuel drug-laden boats and continued to investigate the case, said the spokeswoman.

No arrests were made in the recent seizure, said the spokeswoman.

Former owner of The Pub
opens Sámara restaurant

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A Canadian who formerly owned the busy Gringo hangout The Pub in Escazú has uprooted to Playa Sámara, and recently opened a new restaurant along more relaxed lines.

Just as in the Escazú bar, the new Lizie's Lounge and Eatery has an extensive menu and an equally well-stocked bar.  Owner Christopher, 45, said that he had had enough of San José:

“I moved to Costa Rica to get away from the cold, and from big cities. Then I ended up in San José because it was easier to start out as a business owner there. The attitude of this restaurant is pretty much the same as The Pub, but the menu's a bit bigger!”

Christopher, who says he uses just one name, described the fare as self-indulgence food, and said that he wants every plate to have something surprising about it. He added that 40 percent of the food is vegetarian, and the veggie garden burger is going down just as well as its bacon and ham stuffed counterpart.

The eatery opened in March and seats 45. Customers are welcome to come and play the wide selection of board games, watch TV in the gazebo or use the wireless internet connection. Christopher said that the restaurant will be open year-round, and will be serving food past 9 p.m., one of the few places to do so in the small town.

Although the restaurant is more expensive than many places in Sámara, he said that he expects to cater to local Ticos as well as tourists and the many foreigners who live in the hills behind the beach. “We want to be part of the community, and to be a place where everyone can come and hang out,” said Christopher.

Just delete that statement
about Google coming here

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Casa Presidencial stepped away Thursday from its claim that the search engine company Google would open an office here. The presidency had announced Wednesday that such an office would become a reality soon.

In a "clarification" Thursday afternoon, the office of the president said that Google executives had talked to President Óscar Arias Sánchez and Marco Vinicio Ruiz, minister of Comercio Exterior, in Cancún México.

The statement repeated all that had been said Wednesday except the part about the office. It said Google was anxious to digitize material in the nation's public libraries, to help youngsters with their computer needs and to create a platform whereby Costa Rican exporters could advertise their wares.

But there was no mention of an office. Google's Latin headquarters is based in México. Casa Presidencial started to back peddle as soon as Spanish-language reporters sought out Google's account of the Cancún conversation.

Search on for missing woman
who had to use wheelchair

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An 86-year-old Desamparados woman has vanished along with her wooden wheelchair, law enforcement officials said Thursday afternoon.

The woman, identified as Luisa Venegas Torres, lived alone in the Torremolinos section of the canton.

The woman appears to have left her home early Thursday. However, without the wheelchair she was unable to move about.

Judicial agents took the unusual step of issuing a bulletin seeking help. Usually they do not do so until someone has been missing several days.

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Flamingo marina operator to invest $91 million in project
By Helen Thompson
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Flamingo Marina's suspended operations may soon be back up and running, after the concession to rebuild and operate the marina was finally delivered Saturday.

The concession went to the highest bidder, a company called Desarrollos de Marinas Matapalo Demm S. A., which promised to come up with a massive $91 million to develop a marina with 420 berths.

It took 15 months for the Consejo de la Municipalidad de Santa Cruz to make its decision, although the marina has been closed for much longer.

Operations ceased in 2003 when the original owner, Jim Mckee, was evicted for allegedly contaminating the environment and failing to hold the correct environmental viability studies.  Eight companies joined the race for the concession when the municipality opened the process in 2006, but only four were left as the date came closer.
The final choice reportedly came down to two bids, that of Demm, and that of Willily Ocean View S.A., which proposed to invest $78.8 million in the project.

“We chose to deliver the concession to Demm on the recommendation of a commission employed to reviewed the bids,” said an employee of the Consejo.

Demm had also proposed to pay a higher fee to the government than any of the other businesses, amounting to an annual amount of around a half of a percent of the bid.

The marina should be finished in two years' time, and is designed to incorporate a hotel, a commercial center and an area to display local crafts.

The company has announced that it is working with a prestigious construction and design name, Bermello Ajamil & Partners, Inc. Bermello Ajamil has worked on maritime projects worldwide. Donald Brooks, a man who was involved in Flamingo's development in the late 1970's, is also involved in the Demm marina project.

Country to celebrate Native Costa Rican heritage Saturday
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rica's small Indian population will get some appreciation Saturday as Día de la Indigena Costarricense is celebrated all over the country, but especially in the canton of Buenos Aires.

Four of the country's eight native Costa Rican groups make the canton their home, and the Ministerio de Cultura, Deportes y Juventud has accordingly decided to hold the second Feria Indígena in the town's central park.

“We want people to associate the 19 of April with Buenos Aires, like they relate April 11 with Alajuela or July 25 with Guanacaste,” said organizer Giselle Mora, who is the regional promoter for the Zona Sur.

Mora added that the development of the region should be inextricably linked with its indigenous heritage. The developmet of a branch of tourism called "ethnotourism" is
encouraged, as the activities are defined by their location in an area with many Native Costa Rican communities, and the businesses are run by the Térraba, Boruca, Bribri and Cabécar tribes that are native to the area.

Artistic presentations and informative displays about this type of tourism will be a central focus of Saturday's fair.

Two talks will be given, one on the culture of the Ngöbe tribe, another group that exists in Costa Rica, given by Rafael Bejerano, and the other on Indian fairs, environmental fairs and crafts, given by Leyla Garro.
Alongside the talks, the day will include traditional games for children of the Escuela La Piñera, a local school with a high percentage of Indian students.

It is expected that President Oscar Arias Sánchez and María Elena Carballo, minister of culture, will be attending the event, which starts at 9 a.m. and continues until 3 p.m., in the central park of the town of Buenos Aires. 

The arts festival and everything else is a little clearer now
This past weekend the city was filled with people — especially on Sunday when the arts festival in Parque la Sabana was going full blast and there was a gallo pinto celebration on Paseo Colón, not far from the park.  I am talking thousands of people.

My neighbor Doug loves gallo pinto, so I invited him to
men on stilts
People on stilts
come along. I thought it would be fun to compare the different gallo pinto offerings since they were serving (I thought) samples free. There were people milling about everywhere, but mostly people standing in very long lines at the various booths until they could walk away with their plates full of gallo pinto.

 Every food-related company in the country seemed to be serving it.  Even Dos Pinos, whose products are mainly dairy, was giving it away — probably to show off their natilla or sour cream, which 
people put on their rice and beans.

There were people in costumes, and dancing people, people on stilts with huge heads, and even a person on a pedestal standing perfectly still holding a bottle of Lizano sauce, one of the favorite condiments to put on gallo pinto. 

We managed to make our way through the crowds (with no gallo pinto to fortify us) to Sabana Park where the arts and music festival was in full swing.  More people.  It was impossible to see much of what the booths had to offer because of the press of people.  We did manage to find the tent where my friend Alexis is displaying the jewelry she and her group of Costa Rican women make from pop tops, from cans and from colorful cloth remnants.  What is so special about this festival is that recycling is an important part of it — both in the art made from recycled materials and the decorations of the park. 

Since Monday was also a holiday, it was difficult again to see much, so it would have to wait until after Tuesday.  On Tuesday both Doug and I went to the clinic in Sabana Sur to have cataract operations and new lenses put in. The procedure is to do one eye and wait a week or so to do the other.

I had been eagerly looking forward to Tuesday for a month.  I was tired of always having to put on my reading glasses for any close up (within six feet) work and seeing the rest of the world less than distinctly.  I remember seeing what I thought was a mosquito on a friend’s kitchen wall (without my glasses) so I whacked it with the flat of my palm to discover it was not a mosquito, but a nail.  That’s right.

But when Tuesday morning came, I was nervous.  I was told to remove my clothing and don hospital pajamas, paper shoes and a paper hat.  I would have expected the paper hat.  I lay on the blue operating table while assistants applied a blood pressure monitor, said they were giving me oxygen so I could breathe normally and covered my face with large napkins — all except my right eye. Dr. Zorrilla came in and, as he continued to arrange the napkins, explained just what
Living in Costa Rica

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By Jo Stuart

crowd at arts festivalA.M. Costa Rica photos/Saray Ramírez Vindas
Crowd jams display area at arts festival

he was going to do.  Well, not in too much detail. He did say I would feel pressure but no pain, and that there was going to be a lot of water involved, so water would be running down my face but no further. 

He started, and all I could see was a bright light that looked like an egg surrounded by pink.  Dr. Zorrilla told me to look at the light and lie perfectly still.  No problem, I was in a sense, petrified. Not terrified, just petrified.  Occasionally he would say something in his comforting voice, somewhat explaining what he was doing, and telling me to keep looking at the light.

After a couple of minutes of trying to imagine what was happening, I realized that was not a good idea, so I put myself on a beach where this bright egg light surrounded by pink was shining down on me. When it was over Dr. Z. applied a plastic semi globe eye patch to protect my eye and told me to continue with the antibiotic drops and then apply the anti-inflammatory drops and take a Tylenol for pain.

All in all, I was in the operating room about 35 minutes.  I was wheelchaired to the door where I got up, got dressed and went into the reception area to wait for Doug to have his operation.

At home my eye felt as if I had a cinder in it for a while, and it kept watering.  I finally gave in and took a Tylex.  By 5 p.m. I felt good enough to invite James, Alexis and Doug to impromptu cocktails, and we laughed our way through the rest of the evening.

After a checkup on Wednesday, I went to the bank to transfer some dollars into colons.  I signed my name on the slip of paper the bank clerk gave me before I realized I was doing it without my glasses!  Already colors are brighter and I’ve only had one eye done.  I can hardly wait to return to the arts festival and really see it.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, April 18, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 77

Divided European Union considers its relations with Cuba
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

In June, European Union member states are expected to consider whether to normalize relations with Cuba. This follows a call by the union's commissioner of development to permanently lift diplomatic sanctions.

In 2003, a Cuban government crackdown on dissidents prompted Brussels to freeze relations with Havana.  All high level visits were halted and Cuba told the European Union it did not need its aid. The union temporarily suspended its actions in 2005, but now Europeans will debate a permanent thaw.

The European Union's top development official came away from a visit to Cuba last month, saying diplomatic sanctions against Havana should be dropped.   The commissioner, Louis Michel, met with the new Castro government and evoked objections from human rights organizations.

But spokesman John Clancy says the European Commission simply wants to explore a new political dialogue and now is the time. "This is important to create the atmosphere for dialogue and that atmosphere for dialogue, over time it's a work in progress," Clancy said.  "[It] can also lead to important changes, in the society with whom we are dealing.  It can help open up Cuba to the rest of the world, and that's important."

In a 2003 political crackdown, Cuba jailed 75 dissidents. Some 55 still are in jail, and several European human rights organizations have stated that the European Union would send the wrong message by lifting sanctions now.

Commenting on the visit, a U.S. State Department spokesman said Washington is not promoting engagement
and wants the release of political prisoners, along with free and fair elections in Cuba.

Within the European Union, the Czech Republic leads a group of former Communist states that oppose engagement with Cuba. "It is as if the people who are fighting the Cuban regime are their brothers in a political sense, the people who are fighting for the same causes that the Czechs or Polish or the Hungarians were fighting for 20 or 30 years ago," explained Piotr Kaczynski with the Centre for European Policy Studies.

After taking over from his brother in February, Raúl Castro has instituted several reforms.  They include ending a ban on the use of cellular phones, allowing Cuban citizens to stay in hotels reserved for foreigners, and announcing the launch of a 24-hour television channel which will include foreign-produced content.

Cuba's former colonial ruler, Spain, and a handful of other European Union countries are pushing Brussels for engagement with Cuba, but the British Conservative and member of the European Parliament, Edward Mcmillan-Scott, said Cuba has done nothing to merit any change in relations.

"I think that the European Commission is quite wrong to pretend that it's business as usual with Cuba; that somehow the departure of one Castro, and his replacement by another, has made some sort of difference.  It hasn't.  The regime is still as corrupt," Mcmillan-Scott said.

At a meeting in June, European Union member states will review their common position on Cuba. 

Analysts say a divided Euroepan Union is unlikely to change the status quo.

World Trade report predicts that slowdown will continue
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The World Trade Organization's annual report finds world-trade growth slowed to 5.5 percent in 2007 from 8.5 percent the year before.   The organization predicts global trade growth will continue to slow this year.  

The World Trade Organization says the global financial crisis is having a negative impact on world trade.  But, it says the results are uneven, with the wealthier countries generally doing worse than the poorer countries. The report notes the steam has gone out of the U.S. economy, which it says has lost its position as the engine of global growth. 

The report says the financial market turbulence has considerably reduced economic growth projections for some major developed markets and has clouded the prospects for world trade in 2008.   It says the U.S. sub-prime mortgage and banking crises are likely to further depress global trade growth.

It expects economic growth in the United States will be flat this year and will have repercussions elsewhere, especially in Europe later in the year.

The organization's senior economist, Michael Finger, said the strength of the oil and commodity prices is another worrying factor.

"The oil importing countries will have to adjust to the much higher cost of energy and this erodes the purchasing power
of consumers and increases the cost for business and this will have a further adverse affect," he said.  "To some extent this already is cooperated in our calculations and so we expect that world merchandise trade in real terms will expand only by 4.5 percent this year, which is the lowest growth since 2002."

The organization reports world trade will continue to slow markedly in 2008, but not all regions will suffer. 

It notes Mexico and Canada, which are closest to the United States, will feel the brunt of the slowdown.  But repercussions will be smaller among European countries that trade with each other.

The report says the European transitional economies, such as Russia, are showing strong growth, as are Central and South America, Africa, the Middle East and Asia.   It notes the most populous developing countries, China and India reported outstandingly high economic growth last year.

Finger says even Africa is doing better than the developed countries, with economic growth rates of about 5 percent.

"Africa, the region as a whole, is a huge net exporter of fuels," Finger added.  "So, quite a number of African counties have export revenues, which doubled over the last three years.   "But, of course, there are also countries in Africa which are net importers of energy, net importers of food and these countries are suffering from the high prices of energy and food."

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In the 'Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination' exhibit, Luke Skywalker's Landspeeder is on display for the first time.
Luke's speedster
Photos © 2006 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM Photo: Dom Miguel Photography

'Star Wars' props travel to inspire kids' scientific creativity
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

An exhibit developed by the Museum of Science, Boston, in collaboration with Lucasfilm, Ltd., explores the possibility

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 that some of the robots, vehicles and devices of the Star Wars films are closer to reality than one might think.

The exhibition — now at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, through May 4 — showcases landspeeders, R2D2 and other icons as engineering design challenges and highlights how researchers are currently pursuing similar technologies.

"We were surprised and delighted when we were developing the exhibit, to discover that many scientists working today were inspired by the fantasy technologies in the Star Wars movies," said Lawrence Bell, senior vice president at the Museum of Science and the lead investigator for the project. "We developed the exhibit with the goal of continuing that inspiration for the kids who will be the next set of future scientists."

Developed with the support of the National Science Foundation's Division of Research on Learning in Formal and Informal Settings, the "Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination" exhibition carries its messages with the help of film clips, props, models and costumes and invites visitor participation with hands-on exhibits and activities.

"By reaching more than 1.25 million visitors so far on its national tour, Star Wars is demonstrating the power of popular culture to engage both children and adults in activities that increase technological literacy," said David Ucko, deputy director the foundation's division, who oversaw the Museum of Science grant.

Following its stay in Philadelphia, the exhibit will next head to the Science Museum of Minnesota in St. Paul, Minnesota, June 13, 2008.

Millenium falcon
Visitors can jump to lightspeed in a full-size replica of the cockpit of Episode IV's Millennium Falcon.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, April 18, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 77

art festival shots
A Chinese acrobat juggles plates while the French group 'Retouramont' flies through the air.
Last chance to catch international art festival
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A film about Chinese bath houses, a comedy show conducted almost totally in mime and a prestigious flamenco show are among the closing acts of this year's Festival de las Artes, which ends Sunday.

The festival has been going strong for a week already, but art-lovers have one last chance to catch the most lively culture scene of the year in San José, Alajuela and Puntarenas this weekend.

Theaters and parks in all three cities will continue holding events until 8 p.m. on Sunday.

San José is yet to host the Spanish group Compañia de Flamenco Antonio El Pipa, which will put on its traditional show of the passionate and colourful Spanish dance at 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday in the Teatro Nacional.

Also from Spain comes the Barcelona-based comedy theater group Tricicle, who have been acting their unique brand of gesture theater since 1979. They will be putting on their show, which they insist is not mime, in the Teatro Popular Melico Salazar on Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 8 p.m.

A more normal brand of theater is brought to Teatro de la Aduana by Nueva Comedia, a Spanish group who will put on the play Agnes de Dios. A nun is found to be pregnant and no-one can quite work out how the monks did not realize before, and questions start to be asked about whether this really could have been a divine conception. The play will be performed from 8 p.m. on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Films will be shown in both Curridabat park and the Teatro Variedades. Chinese film La Ducha is about a son who returns to his family thinking his father is dead, but instead discovers the magical world he has created through his bath house, and the importance it has in the community.
This will be shown on Friday in Curridabat at 7 p.m. and Saturday in Teatro Variedades at 8 p.m.

Other highlights include a prize-winning contemporary dance group from Honuras called Danzabra Artescénica, Spanish theater group La Zaranda, and Costa Rican theater group Teatro Abya Yala putting on a series of Samuel Beckett's challenging plays.

Alajuela has plenty of activities such as circus shows, clowns and theater with dolls on Friday from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. Later in the evening, there will be Bolivian theater from Teatro de los Andes in Teatro Municipal at 7 p.m., and then live music in the Banco Nacional stage from 9 p.m. onwards.

Saturday continues with Capoeira shows, more childrens theater and story telling during the day, with a magic show in the Tarima de la Fuente at 5 p.m., and a Mariachi band in the same place at 6 p.m. Costa Rican theater group Teatro Archipiélago will be at the Teatro Municipal from 7 p.m, and Venezuelan singer Cecilia Todd will perform on the Banco Nacional stage from 9 p.m.

Sunday is also full of music and theater, ending with the Costa Rican group Cirko Vivo putting on their circus show in Teatro Municipal at 7 p.m.

Puntarenas has activities on Friday and Saturday. Acrobatics and music by a Chinese ensemble will be performed in the Casa de la Cultura at 6.30 p.m., and Cecilia Todd will be singing at 8 p.m.

Sunday's highlight will be a performance by the Argentinian group El Choque Urbano, who make music with rubbish, such as barrels and tin. They will be on stage at 8 p.m.

Activities also continue in Parque La Sabana, San José, with various themed stages such as the Russian and Chinese pavilions. For a full listing of events, visit

Be careful playing small pairs before the flop
I recently spent two weeks doing commentary for the new Asian Pacific Poker Tour.  The quality of play was surprisingly good, but I did notice that many players tended to misplay small pairs before the flop.

There are few steadfast rules in poker but general rules abound.  Here’s one general rule that applies to no limit hold’em tournaments:  Avoid playing coin flip situations for all of your chips.

An example of a coin flip situation is when one player has a pocket pair while the other has two overcards, like pocket sixes against 10-J, or the classic confrontation between pocket queens and A-K.  Even though the pair would typically be a small favorite in these races, it would be a mistake to overstate their value.  And while pocket sixes would be a favorite over the seemingly more powerful A-K, that same hand would be a huge underdog to any higher pair. 

You can never be certain whether your opponent has a hand like A-K or pocket jacks before the flop, so take the cautious route and avoid playing big pots with small pocket pairs.  It doesn’t make sense to risk all of your chips when the most likely best case scenario is a 50/50-ish coin flip against two overcards, and the worst case is competing as a 4-to-1 underdog. 

Despite the fact that pocket sixes are a heads-up favorite against Big Slick, I’d feel more comfortable playing big pots with the A-K.  That’s because in the best case, A-K would be a substantial favorite over an opponent who didn’t start with a pair.  In the absolute worst case, an opponent might have pocket aces or kings.  That, however, would be very unlikely since I already hold one of each card.  In all other situations, my A-K would only be a small underdog against other pairs.

So, you can play a bit more aggressively with a hand like A-K before the flop.  If another player comes in for a raise, consider reraising all-in.  It’s unlikely that you’ll be up against pocket aces or kings. You’ll be a big favorite against A-Q, and even if your opponent calls the reraise, there’s still a reasonable chance that you’ll be in a winnable race against a smaller pair.  That’s not all that bad.

Keep in mind, though, playing small pocket pairs can be dangerous.  Yes, you might occasionally decide to reraise all-in before the flop, especially if you sense that your opponent is bluffing.  Your overall prospects to win, however, just aren’t very good.  The only time to consider that play is when there’s a reasonable chance that your opponent would fold before the flop.  That probably won’t happen, though, if he’s already committed a large percentage of his chips.  Similarly, if your all-in reraise would only cost him a few extra chips, you can be pretty certain that he’ll make the call.

Here’s the bottom line:  Avoid confrontations when playing small pocket pairs.  Don’t call large bets or all-in bets.  The only time to consider calling an all-in bet with a small pocket pair is when your opponent is severely short-stacked and the call won’t do too much damage to your stack.  

Now, if you’re the one playing on a short stack and another player has raised the pot in front of you, it’s reasonable to fold your small pocket pair.  However, if you’re the first player to enter the pot, don’t hesitate to move all-in.  Be aggressive in this situation because you’ll have a chance to win the blinds and antes without having to see a flop.  Even if you do get called, you’ll often find yourself in a winnable race to the finish.

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


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.

Click here to read more

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

Film and Dramatic Arts ...
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.

Read more - click here
Festivals ...

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

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, April 18, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 77

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