Coffee gifts

I bought some coffee and other treats for some of my friends in Austin. Yes, Gustaf, that espresso is for you. I am sure the guys in U.S. customs will think that I am using the coffee to smuggle in something more clandestine.

Customs Officer: “What are you bringing back from Costa Rica in that rustic thatchwork sack?”

Me: “Coffee.”

Customs Officer: “Bend over.”

Doka Estate Coffee Plantation

Gustaf recently turned me on to coffee, forcing me to pick up the habit, since he has to go to Starbucks three times a day to get a double espresso. I finally got tired of resisting his charms, so I tried some. For the sake of scientific experimentation, I decided to see if I could actually convert something I HATE into something I love. It didn’t quite work, as I am not to the “love” stage yet, but I do like it.

So I decided to go try some of the famous Costa Rican coffee here. I have local Costa Rican friends down here that say they can’t even drink coffee at Starbucks any more. Perhaps they are just being sensationalist, but I gave them the benefit of the doubt.

I went to the Doke Estate Coffee Plantation in the hills of southern Costa Rica to see how they do things. Here is a picture of part of the plantation. In the picture below, you can see the tall banana trees throughout the coffee crops to help break up the wind and protect against erosion.*

Below is a shot from the nursery area. The first two rows are coffee crops in their seedling stage, and in the distance, the plants have aged about six months. It takes five years until these crops begin to product coffee beans, but then they produce beans for the next 25 to 50 years.*

Here are some of the coffee beans. They are held inside small-grape like shells. The red ones are ripe, and they can be eaten straight off the vine. They actually have a sweet taste and act like a laxative; the locals often use them to calm upset stomachs as well. During the treatment and processing of the bean, all the sweetness is removed from the coffee bean.*

Below is a picture of my man Clifford (see Black People Like Me) wearing one of the coffee-bean picking baskets. Each full basket is worth USD $1. Clifford then ran his 62-year old body out into the lines and started picking beans, much to the embarassment of his son, who then quickly began hitting on our tour guide. The tour guide wasn’t bad, once you got past the fact that it was a 250 lb Costa Rican man.*

And last, here is a picture of the beans before and after they have been roasted. Before is on the left and after is on the right. The top right one is an espresso bean, which is roasted at 250 degrees for 20 minutes. Below it is the slightly lighter French Roast, which is roasted for 17 minutes. Below that is the regular blend, roasted at 15 minutes. The bottom one is a unique one called the “Peaberry,” which takes extra time to create because it comes from a special single seed.*

*(In a scandalous controversy, it was discovered that the pictures were not Fair Trade and were thus removed.)

Poas Volcano

Our tour also took us to the Poas Volcano, a semi-active site that was about two hours outside of San Jose. It alternated between total downpour and nice, so I was forced to buy a weird-looking clear parka for 3,000 Colones. I don’t know if that was a rip off or not, but the cashier did look at her manager and start laughing after I paid.

As you can see from this picture below, the parka looked even more ridiculous after it completely stopped raining, right after I bought it.

(Pictures left this post to star in a romantic comedy alongside Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan.)

La Paz Waterfall

Today I headed out of the city to have a bit of adventure. The only adventure I can find in downtown San Jose might result in me heading home with a souvenir t-shirt for my wife that says, “My husband went to Costa Rica and All He Brought Me Was This Stupid Disease.”

I signed up for a tour here at the hotel. I didn’t know what to expect, because I usually hate being a “tourist.” These tours can sometimes be stupid, and I didn’t want to be stuck in a huge bus with a bunch of octogenarians. I chose a fairly adventurous-sounding tour that involved a hike around an active volcano crater and a waterfall hike. It turned out to be one of the best tours of my life.

I visited the La Paz Waterfall (translated: “The The Paz Waterfall”), which was a series of three 100+ foot waterfalls that ran down a lush rainforest, which rested on the side of the Poas Volcano.

Below is the top of one of the waterfalls before it spilled over into a 140 foot drop.*

Here is a picture of me standing beside the first of three waterfalls. It’s out of focus because the master’s hand (mine) was not in charge.*

Below are a few more shots of the waterfalls. There was so much mist and waterfall-spray that my camera lens got plastered with dew, so these pictures don’t really show off how awesome these were!*

(Pictures disappeared in Costa Rica under suspicious circumstances.)

Cell Phones Covers or Grenades?

Since I have recently been worried about crazy Muslim bombers, I was a little leery when I saw this rather tan person approaching our car, draped in suspicious grenade-like objects. Upon closer inspection, they were just cell phone covers. I was so relieved, I bought four of them.

Steven Seagal’s drink is not yet in Costa Rica

Well this travel day is taking longer than I expected. Also, I don’t think my hotel down there is going to have internet or internet technology.

So I will take this travel update doldrum to discuss Steven Seagal’s new line of drinks called “Lightning Bolt.” Yes, this is a real product.

The “Asian Experience” flavor. I can only imagine what it tastes like. I imagine a mix of soy sauce and Avian Bird Flu. What I find particularly attractive about the packaging is Steven’s menacing stare, as he watches me drinking his mythical concoction, taunting me into some Aikido bout to the death.

Back to Costa Rica

Tomorrow I am headed back to Costa Rica for a while. Last time I was down there, the weather was a perfect 72 degrees the entire time, something I did not expect for a tropical rainforest on the equator. This time, I am going to shy away from the rainforest and go for the volcanoes. I understand there are nine active volcanoes in the country, so there is no excuse if I can’t find one of them.

Bad Rug

I am pretty sure this is just an American thing, but there are a lot of 50-year-old men here that wear toupees – and they are super-obvious. This guy came into Starbucks today and his toupee made him look a bit like a Spanish Monk. I managed to snap a picture of him in the parking lot, as he left at the same time as me. He’s the guy on the right in the sleeveless shirt.

(Picture blew away in a light wind.)

The weird thing is that he was in this really intense-looking lycra workout gear. It was all shiny and slick, and he even looked like he had oiled up for some reason. He was with this other 50 year old guy (also in the picture, on the left) that was wearing the EXACT SAME THING. It was totally weird… If I ever go work out with a guy, I won’t even wear the same color t-shirt.

$16,000 stolen in Eve Online

It’s looks like one of my old friends from the Eve days has pulled off the biggest scam in the history of online gaming. On one day, they had all their spies in every major corporation simultaneously rob corporate coffers, kill CEOs, and clean out hangars. Here is a snippit of the story.

This was published in September’s issue of PC Gamer UK, a popular video game article magazine. It is a detailed account of what has to be one of most beautifully executed in-game scams in a MMORPG ever pulled. It breaks all previous world records for ‘virtual crime’.

The game in question is Eve Online, an open ended sci-fi mmorpg with a heavy emphasis on roleplaying, where developers try to give their players as much freedom as possible, and where corporate espionage and political intrigue have become an integral part of the game.

The perpetrator of the heist was the Guiding Hand Social Club (GHSC) corporation (a corporation being similar to a clan in Eve); a freelance mercenary outfit that offers their services (which usually involves corp infiltration, theft and assassination) to the highest bidder. Over a year in planning, the GHSC infilitrated their target’s corp with their own members and gained their trust, as well as access to the corp hangers, with time. It all concluded in a perfectly timed climax, with a massive theft in multiple corp hangars synchronized with the in-game killing of the corporation’s CEO, the primary target of the contract.

What’s most interesting and impressive about this operation is that it was entirely ‘legal’ and within the game’s own rules, and the mastermind and his agents pulled it off together flawlessly, all the while staying in character. The estimated real-life value of the items stolen is, according to PC Gamer, $16,500 US. The in-game value of course is much, much higher as the things stolen would take years and years to aquire.

And now, the PC Gamer scans. I hope you’ll find it as entertaining a read as I have.

Starbucks Cardiologist

I spend a lot of time here in Austin in one of two Starbucks. One is right by UT and there is a cool college vibe there, and the other is near the Arboretum area, this sort of high-end area of Austin. At this second one, I always end up running into interesting people. This place is sort of an office-away-from-the-office. So I meet lots of entrepreneurs, retired people, readers, and people that are usually bored but interesting while getting coffee.

Today I ran into this retired cardiologist that has a ranch up in Round Rock. He was carrying a copy of Atlas Shrugged and he sat beside me. I set my business card on top of his book, without saying anything (my business card says “John Galt Games,” an open reference to the protagonist of the book he happened to be carrying.) He squinted at it and looked over and smiled at me, shaking the card in his hand. “Small world!” he said.

So that of course got us talking. He said his whole life people have been telling him to read Atlas Shrugged and he finally broke down to read it. He was amazed at the book and was excited to talk about it and all the parallels he saw in his life.

Then he looked out the window and quickly looked back at me and queried, “Have you read – ” and I cut him off and said, “The World is Flat? Yes, I have, of course.” He smiled again, shocked that I finished his sentence.

We then spent about an hour pouring over the overlaps between the two books, about India and China, about how to raise American kids, etc. He was lamenting about how lazy his kids are and how he knows they are way behind their peers in India and China. He knows they are gonna get killed by their peers in India and China, where it is seen as “cool” to be smart in school and to excel in business. In China and India, their heroes are Bill Gates from Microsoft and Geoff Yang from Yahoo. Here in the USA, the kids worship Britney Spears and Puff Daddy. He was very interested in all the time I have spent in Asia and was asking me for all sorts of child-raising advice. I told him I didn’t have any freakin’ idea… but it would certainly help to get out of the bubble of the USA.

Anyway, he was a cool guy to talk to for a few hours…

WIF

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