Sunday, 31 July 2011

Quotes From "Under a Cruel Star"

A few of the books I read in May and June. The one mentioned here is the purple one.

In my Sitzbook project I recently read Under a Cruel Star by Heda Margolius Kov�ly. It was really good, and I actually had already read it about 5 or 10 years ago. It's a memoir written by a Czech woman who survived the concentration camps. Later in her life, she got married, only to have to suffer while her husband was wrongly accused and put on trial by the later Communist government. That's the two sentence synopsis that doesn't give too much away so if I'm not making it seem like a great book, that's completely my fault.

I've gotten a bit behind on Sitzbook reviews and commentaries, and I can't write a review for each weekly book, but I wanted to at least put up some quotes from this book. Maybe they'll entice you to check it out:

p. 52: �It was becoming evident to many that while evil grows all by itself, good can be achieved only through hard struggle and maintained only through tireless effort, that we had to set out clear, boldly-conceived goals for ourselves and join forces to attain them. The problem was that everyone envisioned these goals differently.�

p. 68: �In order to be able to live and work in peace, to raise children, to enjoy the small and great joys life can offer, you must not only find the right partner, choose the right occupation, respect the laws of your country and your own conscience but, most importantly, you must have a solid social foundation on which to build such a life. You have to live in a social system with whose fundamental principles you agree, under a government you can trust. You cannot build a happy private life in a corrupt society anymore than you can build a house in a muddy ditch. You have to lay a foundation first.�

p. 131: �She was young and pretty and she accepted life with all its trials cheerfully, like a bird in the sky. She was yet another proof to me that nothing limits a person more than what was then called �a clearly-defined world view.� The people who, in my experience, proved the most astute and dependable in a crisis were always those who professed the simplest ideology: love of life. Not only did they possess an instinctive ability to protect themselves from danger but they were often willing to help others as a matter of course, without ulterior motives or any heroic posturing.�

So, that's all for the moment. Angela and I are back in Costa Rica catching up on stuff, but I'm hoping to put up some Colorado pictures soon (there are some on flickr already, but it's a process, you know). And it seems that I've gotten almost two months behind on posting Pictures of the Day! How is that even possible?! Plus, I've got to do a few posts for Sitzman ABC and Sitztoast, so I'm keeping busy!

Thanks for reading; have a good one!

Stony Creek, 6 a.m.

Oystering on Long Island Sound is not always a large enterprise. Early Thursday morning, I arrived at the Stony Creek docks to meet Brendan Smith of the Thimble Island Oyster Company. This is an independent, one-man operation, with Brendan (or Bren) serving as captain, deckhand, marketing director, and part-time mechanic.

Finding a parking space along the narrow streets of Stony Creek can be a chore. The fact that I had a choice of several prime spots was a quick reminder of just how early in the morning it was. Bren was already there, and after some friendly small-talk, there were tasks which began to present themselves. We carried some gear and a large cooler full of ice to the end of the dock, to load into a small skiff which would carry us to his boat in the mooring field. But before we could do that, some rainwater in the skiff needed to be bailed.

Stony Creek is an attractive harbor with the Thimble Islands scattered just beyond its entrance. In the village however, most of them are obscured from view, as only two or three poke out from beyond the point. But as our loaded down skiff cleared the town dock, the full expanse of the granite island chain came into view.

I wasn't the only guest aboard for the day;  Helen Bennett and Peter Hvizdak of the New Haven Register were on hand as well. This was the first time I had met Peter, and prior to this, I had only "known" Helen and Bren through our communications on Twitter. I always have some apprehension meeting online acquaintances because they often are not the same person you thought they would be. Within minutes however, it was clear this would not be the case today. Both Bren and Helen are every bit as nice in the real world as they are in the virtual world. These characteristics are important aboard a small boat.

The four of us motored through the maze of moorings until the red hull of a 22-foot workboat appeared over my right shoulder. Gliding alongside her, I grabbed a bow-line and fastened it to a cleat at mid-ship. It was about this time that Bren said something very bizarre.

"I don't know how to swim!" He said.

He had to be joking, I thought............right?

(More to follow)

Soundbounder: Just Your Local Oysterman part two

Soundbounder: Hauling The Cage part three

Soundbounder: Starfish...And Other Threats part four

Thimble Island Oysters: website

Helen Bennett on Twitter: @NewsGirlCT

Peter Hvizdak on Twitter: @NHRphizdak

Brendan Smith on Twitter: @organicOysters

Sochi is in Russia

I have a day of nostalgy today. I think about my mother, about my country, about my happy young past days.

My mother lives in Sochi today. You could hear this name maybe. It's a costal city with subtropical climate in Russia. And my mother is there. She has 70 years this year. And I have seen her 3 years ago last time... I'm nostalgic and sad. There is not job here, in Italy, and I can't visit my mother because I have not job. So, I can only look at this photos.

noi 169.jpg

noi 207.jpg

noi 119.jpg

noi 258.jpg


The tiny village of Withypool is in the heart of Exmoor just the other side of the Devon border. I've driven through it a few times and always thought it pretty. Today we stopped there, with the dog and daughters no.2 and 3. The grassy area next to the bridge is popular place for picnics and general messing about in the river. There were lots of families there, some with inflatable boats and some with fishing nets.
We parked the car and went for a walk first. Just outside the village is a signpost marked 'Landacre - 2 miles' (see previous posting). We followed the path through fields, along lanes and across a stream until we reached Withypool Common, then took the short cut through a couple of farms until we reached the banks of the River Barle. After that it was easy to follow the river all the way back into Withypool. The walk was 2.5 miles long and was very nice. My husband and I took raincoats just in case and wished we hadn't bothered because although the sky was overcast it was still really quite warm and the rain held off.
Back in Withypool we all collapse by the river. The dog went in up to her knees for a drink but declined to go any further. Husband and daughter no.2 went to the shop across the bridge and bought us drinks. There is also a rather nice looking tearoom, but we didn't try it out this time. Perhaps we'll go back. It's a nice place to chill out and is even prettier when there are blue skies.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Thimble Island Oysters

This morning, I had the opportunity to spend a few hours aboard with Brendan Smith of the Thimble Island Oyster Company. The next several posts will discuss Brendan's work, along with the challenges he faces as a small, independent, local oysterman on Long Island Sound.

Thimble Island Oyster Company


Wednesday, 27 July 2011


If you've been following this blog--or me--then you know that Angela and I went to Colorado for a week or two to visit my family and some friends. So, I've been a bit behind on blog posts. I'm still catching up with things I need to do here in Costa Rica, but to tide you over until the next post, here's a cool retro video about Copenhagen, a city which everyone should see at least once:

It's a bit short on historical, geographical, and a variety of cultural information, but it sure talks a LOT about bikes!

Monday, 25 July 2011

Italian Feast "Sagra"

If you plan to visit Italy, you probably want to taste local foods and to partecipate on local feasts and life. So, you have to look for announcements that you can see normally on the walls, on the poles and in special places that tell about the "Sagra". You can have them all year round. When residents of this or that village need money for their projects, they organize Sagras.

We have a period of mushrooms now and different villages offer sagras where they offer home made food with mushrooms. I do not eat mushrooms normally, but once a year I like to taste them, so we visited one of the sagras this Sunday, and I took photos for you.

All the sagras I ever visited in the time I live in Italy have the same "plan": you receive the menu, choose what you want to eat, pay it

???????? ?????? Torchiati, Montoro Superiore

Than you take your dishes in the other stall

???????? ?????? Torchiati, Montoro Superiore

...and choose the place where you want to eat them.

???????? ?????? Torchiati, Montoro Superiore

It looks like this

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all the receipes were with porcinis this time

Residents of this village needed money for the pilgrimage to Lourdes.
What is good in these kind of feasts is that you can taste real local cuisine and pay 2-3 times less than you would pay in a restaurant in the same zone or village. We paid euro 10 for all what you see on the tray. And it was possible to buy a glass of local wine for 0,50 euro.

Dead Calm

When Long Island Sound is jokingly referred to as the Dead Sea, it is not because of its high salt content or lack of marine life. The Dead Sea remark pokes fun at the lack of wind here during the peak of summer. Hot, windless days with nearly a ripple on the water's surface.

Like all good jokes, there is an element of truth to this, but it sometimes become overstated. The winds most certainly die in late July and August, but on most days, the prevailing southwesterlies  pick up by mid-afternoon.

There are exceptions of course, and they can be lasting. The heatwave this past week brought a 24-hour hazy stillness to the Sound for several days. No afternoon breeze, no puff of wind in the jib, no sunset sails.

The Mystic Whaler , a 1967 reproduction of a 19th-century schooner, was rebuilt in Providence, Rhode Island in 1993. Based in New London during the summer months, she offers everything from sunset sails to 3-day cruises.

Keeping a busy schedule, Carina and I have crossed paths with her in Greenport, Stonington, and several other ports. She is a beautiful sight to see under-sail.

On this hazy evening however, she wasn't going anywhere fast. Just south of Morgan Point, I spotted her practicing that old 21st-century tradition of trimming the iron genoa.

Mystic Whaler Cruises

Cruising Guide To The New England Coast: General Conditions

Iron Genoa - a sailboat's engine

Saturday, 23 July 2011


Sorry folks - owing to illness, the Chateaulin walk scheduled for Tuesday 26th July will now be held on Tuesday, 23rd August.

The next walk is in the Monts d'Arr�e on Tuesday 9th August, meeting at the Col de Tredudon (on the D36 sliproad before the TV mast).

Apologies, but unavoidable.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Monday, 18 July 2011

Restless Farewell

Others will enter the gates of the ferry, and cross

         from shore to shore.......
The others that are to follow me, the ties between

me and them

Walt Whitman: Crossing Brooklyn Ferry 

As gentrification continues its scorched-earth, forward march,

I've often found reassurances in the rituals and structures 

around us which remain constant. No, not silly nostalgia for 

some make-believe past, but instead a tangible connection to 

those provincial traits which help define the towns and people 

of Long Island Sound.
There are the baymen of Oyster and Huntington Bays, who 

still work their shellfish beds manually. The wooden 

oysterboats of Norwalk, Stratford, and other shoreline towns. 

Then there are the lighthouses; the 18th and 19th century 

villages; and the farms of the North Fork and the

Connecticut River.

 These are not museum relics, but instead, working 

links to our past which carry on. Stripped of them, we 

inch closer to every other shoreline town which sold its 

soul to postwar Los Angelization long ago.

The Rocky Hill-Glastonbury Ferry is believed to be the oldest

continuously operated ferry in the U.S. Established in 1655, it 

became a state operation in 1915, surviving the Great Depression,

the Floods of 1936, and several ill-conceived highway overpasses

in the 1950's and '60's. 

Just a barge pushed by a tugboat, she is highly functional, but never  

glamorous. Sadly, she met her fate with the budget-cuts this week. 

About 25 miles south of here is the Chester-Hadlyme Ferry. She is 

considered to be the second oldest continuously operated ferry in 

the U.S.. Linking a prettier, more affluent stretch, with museums

and parks overlooking the river, this boat is the more popular of 

the two. Somewhat famous, she is an appealing September/October 

fall foliage excursion, and provides an important transportation 

link along this 16 mile bridge-less stretch between Saybrook and 

East Haddam.

But pedigrees, logistics, and big-pictures don't carry much 

weight in Hartford. The Chester-Hadlyme Ferry has been 

axed along with her older sister to the north. There has been 

a lot of talk about how neither of these boats make money, 

but that argument is selective, penny-wise, and pound foolish. 

No form of transportation makes money without public subsidies. 

Highways, airports, shipping terminals, etc, all lose money 

without government assistance. 

Both ferries are scheduled to close on August 25.
I've thought about taking one final boat ride, but 

what good would it do? Maybe, instead, I'll go find 

some franchise restaurant along the CT Turnpike 

or Long Island Expressway which serves generic 

jalapeno poppers, hot-pockets, fish-a-ma-jig 

sandwiches, and booze.

I'll sit in one of those formica cubicles, partitioned 

by the glazed glass ovals depicting lighthouses, 

oystermen, church steeples, ferry boats, and 

everything  else we chose to abandon.

Chester-Hadlyme Ferry


Check out this great video:

It focuses a lot on the caffeine aspect of coffee, but it's also got some good stuff about how coffee develops, and how it gets from the plant to your mug. If you want to see the process up-close, come on over and visit us.

If you just can't get enough, you can check out my extensive coffee picture collection on flickr. It's about the only show in town here in Berl�n de San Ram�n, so there are a lot of pictures. I've also made a page on detailing the whole coffee farming and production process in pictures and words, so check that out here.

Have a good one!

New Ebook site

The Brittany Expert site with great value Ebooks on Breton topics has now been completely revamped. Secure payment is made via Paypal (no account necessary)in � (2.50) or � (3). The latest addition on the Monts d'Arr�e area will be available shortly, and Brittany: Nature & Environment is in preparation. Have a look at what's on offer now!

Thursday, 14 July 2011

This Totally Eclipses The Other Eclipse Videos

After Angela saw my recent post about the eclipse from 20 years ago, she showed me this video, which must be one of the most bizarre music videos I've ever seen:

The acting is quite horrible, and even if you don't pay attention to the meaning of the lyrics (think Shakira), it's still very difficult not to get distracted by the cheesy, over-the-top, melodramatic acting. Especially around 1:30, when an eclipse starts.

And then, around 2:35, we get what we've all been waiting for: The ladies stop yell-singing at each other about the brunette's lost love, and they stop the entire dramatic narrative of the video to put on Ray Charles sunglasses, look at the eclipse, and continue singing about love.

I've said something similar to this phrase before, but if you don't watch this video, you're truly missing something. If you do watch this video, your life will be a little bit more complete. Check it out! In short, this about sums up my thoughts on this music video:

Thanks for reading, and have a good one!

Bright Sky, Big Erratics

I have a love-hate relationship with rocks. As they say on Facebook...."it's complicated"
Aboard Carina, I don't want to see them, yet I find myself thinking of them all the time. And when I don't see them, it only makes things worse: I know they are out there lurking just beneath the surface, ready to confront my keel when I least expect it.  Big rocks don't like me, and I don't like them. Even worse, if I were to run into them, I know I'll never win.
But once ashore, I can never stay angry for very long. I suppress the destructive, bad times and become seduced again by their polish and form. I take all sorts of pictures and send them to my friends......trying to convince everyone, including myself, things will be different from now on.

While glacial erratics are found throughout Long Island Sound, they are especially abundant along the eastern  portion of the Suffolk County shoreline. Walking the beaches of Wildwood, Wading River, and Horton Point  provides a crash-course in the geological history of North America. 
They are very pleasing to look at........  from shore.

Garvies Pt Museum: Geology of Long Island
Hofstra University: L.I. Geology
The Outer Lands: A Natural History Guide (Cape Cod to Long Island)

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

"Hey, I Can See My Ma From Up Here!"

A couple of years ago I worked outside of San Jose, just on the other side of Juan Santamaria International Airport. From my house in Berl�n de San Ram�n, it took me at least an hour and 10 minutes to get to work by car, and significantly longer if I tried any sort of scheme involving buses. As it turns out, I should have flown, since I would have gotten there in about three minutes instead.

Every time I've left Costa Rica by plane in the last 5 years, I've tried to find Berl�n when looking out the airplane windows. I know that from my house I often see a lot of planes flying low, close enough to even see the airline's logo. Plus, our town has a lot of really distinctive towers, since it's really high up and apparently a good place to transmit all sorts of things from, such as radio signals, microwave internet service, and anger at the inefficiency and corruption of the government. Still, even with all that equipment providing prime landmarks on the ground, I'd never seen the town from the air--until today! Surprisingly, it was really cool, in a nerdy way!

I think the trick was that I started looking immediately after takeoff. Before, I'd always waited about 10 or 15 minutes, and it seems that Berl�n would have been long gone by then. But after what was about two or three minutes, sure enough, I saw a cluster of antennas that looked like Berl�n's. I thought I must be seeing something much closer to San Jos�, and until I'd identified Palmares, San Ram�n, and the Pan-American Highway, about 30 seconds had passed. I then found La Berlinesa, a famous house in Berl�n (famous because it's big and no one knows who lives there or what goes on inside...basically the town's crown jewel). From there I quickly traced the road to our house's roof, got nerdily excited, and notified Angela. 

All that means that I didn't get a picture of much in the town except the one above. It was just a bit too late, but I was able to get a good picture of San Ram�n, which you can see below, with all the famous sights marked:

Anyhow, has anyone else seen their house from the air? Google Earth doesn't count, by the way, although it is cool, too. 
Thanks for reading, and have a great day!

Wet ...

The location was fantastic, but heavy rain prevented the scenic picnic (thank you Denise for a nice dry house to eat in!) and in the afternoon we opted for a visit to Taden manoir and then the port at Dinan, where the weather improved. The energetic strode up the cobbled streets to the famous town, whilst others visited the Maison de la Rance to get a well-presented overview of what we'd missed. We all enjoyed the apr�s-non-walk overlooking the river. Thanks to Lesley for our revised programme, and definitely whetting our appetites for the Rance nature walk at another time.

Challenge of the Tromboners

I've just told you about the medieval town of Cava dei Tirreni in province of Salerno not too far from Naples. The central and the most antique part of it, Borgo, has very interesting look, storically created by the mercants and their shops with the porticos.

Cava dei Tirreni

Cava dei Tirreni

The town organizes different medieval manifestations during the year and the most believed is the "Challenge of the Tromboners" that had just the 37 edition. Here is one of part of the feast that I liked more than others. Hope, they won the contest the day after I coud not visit.

Monday, 11 July 2011


Today while eating lunch, Angela's parents kept talking about how today was the 20th anniversary of some huge total solar eclipse. "Hmm," I thought, "I don't remember any solar eclipse in 1991, and if it was in July, then I would have been out of school, specifically looking for fun summer things to do, like damaging my eyes by watching solar eclipses."

So when I got back home I did a bit of research on the internet and it turns out that they were quite right, of course. You can check out this article if you want more info. Interestingly, most of the pictures in the article are from Guanacaste, a province here in Costa Rica. It seems that this was prime eclipse-viewing real estate, and that my dumb 11-year-old, dirt-bike-riding self may not have gotten that much of a show from Colorado.

You can also watch this video a guy took of the eclipse as viewed from Mexico. It's a bit long, but it's worth it in the parts where the eclipse fans go nuts... this was like the early 90s' version of the "Double Rainbow" video:

Of course, that's all well and good, but I'm saving up my enthusiasm for February 11, 2013, which will mark the 30th anniversary of Bonnie Tyler's "Total Eclipse of the Heart"!

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Monaco -My Love

The place I loved more than other among those I was fortunate to visit in my life was without any doubts Monaco/ Monte Carlo (Principality of Monaco). Surely, the reason why I remembered it nnow is the wedding of it's Prince. But I don't want to remember the new sad princess. It's because I was very impressed of this beautiful land.

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It seemed to occupy so little piece of soil! And it was the country everybody without taxes, where all the residents have so many freedoms.The houses grow high there. Over the houses, there are gardens and pools: on the roofs and terraces.  The shops do not expose prices there. They say, it's because the clients do not think about the prices there. They see something beautiful, enter and take it. The most impressive was the part where is situating the institute of Oceanography. At that time, the director was very famous in our country Jacques-Yves Cousteau

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The beautiful gardens and  squares, the beautiful women and the cars I've never seen from that time... Everything was interesting and worth the visit. So, I can advise everybody to visitr this little country.


I made this thing from old wood and the leftover PVC lattice thing from the Formerly Crappy Casita. I also used some little wood border-thingy pieces, nails, bolts, sawdust, primer, paint... I'm actually impressed I made it myself! I'd say it's the nicest thing I've ever built, but I think it's the ONLY nice thing I've ever built. It's both superlative and singular.

I'm just not sure what it is, though.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Walk on Tuesday 12th July, near Dinan

We have a walk on Tuesday at Taden (near Dinan), which is Lesley's home territory, and she will take us on a stroll along the Rance river. There are lots of lovely things to see in that part of the world, so it's well worth a day out. Meet for a picnic (bring your own) first at 12.30. Email with any questions. (Photo by our nature expert Lesley.)

Friday, 8 July 2011

Weekly Picture Project Wrap-Up: X, Y, Z

Well, my weekly picture project is officially over, but I've been a bit slow getting the pictures posted. This is mainly because I'm a bit embarrassed about the "Z" week, which made the project go out with more of a whimper than a bang. See for yourself:


For the X pictures, I just decided to find things that looked like the letter "X," since there are so few words that start with X.


"Y" fared a bit better. Here's "Yum!" I made these pecan pancakes for brunch one day.

This one is "Yellow tones." I was going to do just a bunch of pictures with yellow tones, hence the next one, but I was able to actually find a few more "Y" pictures, so it's not all yellow journalism today.

The other "Yellow tones" picture. This is Olman stacking bottle caps.

And finally, "Yuck!" This is what was in our gutters.


"Zacate," Spanish for grass. Stretching a bit, but OK.

Um... "Zoned out?"



Well, that's it for the weekly, letter-based picture project. I originally started it with my aunt and her friend Janey, but since I was the only one to actually finish it, I guess at least I've got that going for me. And I've still got my Pictures of the Day, right?