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The Oil and Water of the Victoria Commute

The Oil and Water of the Victoria Commute

I caught up to him, stared into his closed, tinted passenger window, and relayed a number of unflattering thoughts about his driving. In response, he repeatedly revved his engine. Had he been driving an actual truck I might have felt a bit of fear. As it was, the tinny whine of his Ford Ranger was more pathetic than threatening.

One in Ten Thousand

One in Ten Thousand

He then added something in Spanish that sounded a lot like, “I spent a month there one two weeks.” It did not make a lot of sense, and it did not appear that he was trying to make a joke about how long two weeks in Costa Rica felt as people sometimes do with Cleveland, or the entire state of Kentucky.

Little Sucker

Little Sucker

The closest thing to an insult I’ve personally experienced on a Canadian roadway came two blocks from our house. That particular street, already skinny, lacks the room for cars to pass each other when parked cars line each side (which they normally do). I was slowly, carefully, driving down that road when the driver of one of the cars that looked parked screamed, “You’re welcome!” at me before turning into the open road behind me and speeding away.

Census Book Two Available Tomorrow

Census Book Two Available Tomorrow

The farm (and its ants) was the inspiration for my first novel in the Census series. It’s been a few years since the first one was published. I’m glad to say that, courtesy of some downtime in oddly ant-free Portland, OR, I just finished the second installment in the series—CENSUS: What Lurks Beneath Book Two — Pacing

Pessimistic Optimism as a Mass Transit Solution

Pessimistic Optimism as a Mass Transit Solution

I have not reviewed the minutes from the city council meeting where this idea was approved, but it must have been one heck of a pitch to get officials to agree to allow inebriated bar patrons to hop on a small scooter and then weave through traffic—and sidewalks—sans a helmet, or any idea how to operate a scooter.

Rodney No!

Rodney No!

22-year-old-me knew nothing about farming, ranching, guns or tractors. I was a recent college graduate with a degree in …ahem… Radio/TV/Film. I had a dead-end, low-paying job in the financial industry. My apartment was 400 square feet of finery decorated with things like an orange, corduroy couch I had picked up second-hand to watch my thirteen-inch television propped up on cinder blocks.

What’s Up With the Matches?

What’s Up With the Matches?

I think it’s fair to say that the best way to light a fire using matches made in Costa Rica is to already have something on fire nearby that you can use when the matches fail. These are, to be sure, the ultimate in safety matches and likely the best thing that’s ever happened to the lighter industry.

River Tree

River Tree

River Tree takes a positive look at the circle of life through the prism of a river bottom pecan tree. This effort, an illustrated children’s storybook, is very different from my other novels. I wrote it several years ago in response to difficult questions from our boys regarding death, but it took me quite a while to find the right illustrator

The Promise of The Orb

The Promise of The Orb

Peter Davidson’s short life has been a series of challenges. The troubles began with the loss of his mother, something his father, Big Ed, has never overcome. His brother, Eli, wants only to escape their hand-to-mouth farming existence for life in the big city. Now fate has decided to dry-up the river that nourishes their farm.

Help comes from an unlikely source—a small, glowing Orb that Peter finds in the river bed. Orb claims that the world was once awash in peace and prosperity under his rule. He needs Peter’s help to regain his power and his throne. In return, Orb will cure all that ails Peter, his family, and the world.

Peter joins the quest to help Orb and discovers along the way that there are many different versions of the truth–and very few things in this, or any world, that are purely good.

¿Estás seguro? — en español

¿Estás seguro? — en español

Me dio una mirada que había recibido muchas veces antes. Una mirada que decía: “Si no hay una regla específica en contra, ¿por qué no debería hacerlo?” En este caso, eso significaba que estuvo bloqueando un lado de esta calle angosta pero con mucho tráfico durante un par de semanas mientras el contenido del remolque estuvo expuesto al calor, la lluvia y los insectos que llaman hogar a Houston.

Are You Sure?

Are You Sure?

Our boulders, however long they are with us, may keep a tourist from driving off into the abyss. Like the horse trailer, they have turned the road into a complicated, one-lane affair where participants, including the public bus and the huge milk trucks, freely debate who has the right of way. Erosion, however, is not a process healed by time. Pura Vida may dictate that everyone just get used to the notion of driving around tape-laden boulders for the foreseeable future, but gravity likely has other, more compelling ideas.

The Island Life

The Island Life

I leaned forward and asked the cab driver, in broken Spanish, “Why are the sewers on fire?”

Without missing a beat he said that the sewers held a lot of methane gas.

I squinted at the rubble all around us where a city used to be.

“What happened to … everything?”

He again replied matter of factly, “Well, there was the earthquake, the civil war and, of course, the hurricane…”

What Lurks Beneath — Now Available!

What Lurks Beneath — Now Available!

The tortures of the daily routine of big city life dwell on David Reynolds, likely driving him to an early grave. Only the sanctity of his ‘farm’ in central Texas gives him respite–but that changes when he witnesses a series of odd, evil events. Something is challenging his ranking as the top predator at his farm or, even worse, he is losing his mind.

‘Pura vida’ en una misión: Monteverde se recupera de la tormenta tropical Nate

‘Pura vida’ en una misión: Monteverde se recupera de la tormenta tropical Nate

Ahora, en tiempos de crisis, las personas quieren compartir información que han escuchado. Ellos quieren ser útiles. Desafortunadamente, la mayoría de las veces esta información solo es un chisme que escucharon de otra persona que ya se ha expandido varias veces antes de llegar a ellos.

La historia de la Tormenta Tropical Nate en una comunidad: derrumbes, miedo y resiliencia

La historia de la Tormenta Tropical Nate en una comunidad: derrumbes, miedo y resiliencia

“Eso no puede ser correcto”, pensé. “Nate se convertirá en un huracán en el Caribe. Estamos en lo alto de una montaña en el lado occidental de Costa Rica. ¿Por qué sufriríamos acá de lluvias torrenciales?”

Wild At Heart

Wild At Heart

I stopped, as did the pizote. Standing just a few feet apart, we each tried to figure out if the other was who we remembered them to be. This pizote was definitely a bigger, stronger version of those in the pack that had called our porch their home for a month. He did, however, have that same, pleading look in his eye. The look that said I should go back inside and scare up a banana, or perhaps three if possible.

Paseos en bicicleta con Paul Smith y otras actividades peligrosas

Paseos en bicicleta con Paul Smith y otras actividades peligrosas

Ahora estábamos a unas varias millas accidentadas y montañosas de mi casa y una vez más me preocupé por la condición de Paul. Parecía pálido y continuaba quejándose de su estómago. Cuando le pregunté con delicadeza cómo se sentía, él ignoró la pregunta y en su lugar condujo más arriba de la colina en los dientes de lo que resultó ser una tormenta de lluvia significativa.

Una cartilla de Monteverde: una guía esencial para una de las joyas turísticas de Costa Rica

Una cartilla de Monteverde: una guía esencial para una de las joyas turísticas de Costa Rica

Santa Elena es el “Monteverde” que saluda de primero a mochileros y viajeros de bajo presupuesto. Los boletos para todas las atracciones de la zona, incluyendo los muchos parques que ofrecen zip-lining, se pueden encontrar en un gran número de negocios. Indicación: aquellos que declaran que son la fuente “oficial” de los boletos lo hacen porque el 20% del precio de venta se remonta a ellos como el vendedor. La comisión del 20% es una gran fuente de ingresos para una variedad de operaciones y los turistas no reciben algún tipo de descuento si van directamente a la atracción para comprar sus boletos.

My Conversation With Jean-Claude Van Damme

My Conversation With Jean-Claude Van Damme

Mr. Van Damme had apparently been smitten with Mike’s girlfriend, so much so that he had written his personal, unlisted number on the back of her card and encouraged her to call him. Mike’s girlfriend showed him the card when he picked her up at the airport, and it had eaten a hole in his soul that went right past China and emerged on Mars.

Of Varas and Tree Houses

Of Varas and Tree Houses

I have spent most of my life unburdened by the tyranny of the metric system. However accidentally, I do know that a meter is a little longer than a yard. That meager base of knowledge, however, falls to pieces when the conversation takes place in Spanish and involves multiple systems of measurement (particularly when one of the systems dates back to the colonial period of Spain).

Bike Rides with Paul Smith and other Dangerous Pursuits

Bike Rides with Paul Smith and other Dangerous Pursuits

“Stop!” I cried out. Fortunately, he eventually did. When he rode back to me, scowling, I explained that I needed something warm to drink—and maybe something small to snack on. Paul shook his helmeted head no, sending water flying and for effect also shook his hand that he had extended my direction.

The Earth is Flat

The Earth is Flat

As a child my father and I shot rubber darts at the visage of Richard Nixon whenever he appeared on the television screen. I didn’t really understand the deep level of contempt being expressed for our president. I just enjoyed the opportunity—the encouragement—to shoot darts that stuck to the screen of the TV. NOTE: my nominal interest in politics (via the rubber darts) ended for eternity in 1974 when Mr. Nixon resigned and the dart guns were stowed).

An Experiment in Mobile Space Deprivation

An Experiment in Mobile Space Deprivation

I was in this smelly fix because we spent the first few days with our RV engaged in what is called “freedom” camping in the parks of New Zealand. The scenery was gorgeous, and it beat the heck out of listening to the sliding doors of fellow campers slam shut all night in formal RV parks (though we did plenty of that too). Freedom, however, had a price—and that price was the regular emptying of the small black water container.

La Danza del Transito — en español

La Danza del Transito — en español

A menudo pienso en esa noche cuando veo a la Policía de Tránsito operando en nuestra zona. Muchas de las motos y cuadras que son multadas por Tránsitos comparten rasgos con mi ciclomotor libre: rotos, ruidosos; las bestias que se deberían haber retirado ya hace mucho tiempo. Los conductores sin licencia, y sin seguro tienen muchas cosas en común con mi yo de 1989 también.

The Transito Dance

The Transito Dance

It is therefore easy for me to empathize with the plight of those ensnared by Transitos—until I appreciate just how quiet and peaceful the streets become when Transito is in town. Car traffic converts to pedestrians and bicyclists. The pirate taxis disappear back into whatever dark corner from whence they came, and the chirping of birds replaces a non-muffled engine as the song of the street.

The Day I Rode My Bicycle to See the President

The Day I Rode My Bicycle to See the President

For as tiny as it is in terms of land mass, the various regions of Costa Rica are wildly different from one another. The Caribbean coast, besides being a coast, has little in common with the the Pacific coast (close your eyes on the Caribbean side and you might well think you’re in Jamaica). The greater San Jose area, with its population density and commerce, is nothing at all the Monte Verde district, and the many more remote parts of the country are all distinct, different.

A Monteverde primer: an essential guide to one of Costa Rica’s tourism gems

A Monteverde primer: an essential guide to one of Costa Rica’s tourism gems

Cabs are generally available, but you’ll save yourself time, money and aggravation if you understand up front that Santa Elena is the gateway to the majority of the adventure parks; a hotel stay in Cerro Plano makes the majority of potential destinations in the district walkable; and Monteverde is known for natural beauty and the Quaker community, but has nothing to offer in terms of a post office, bank or pharmacy.

“¡Tres, dos, uno… pavimento!”

“¡Tres, dos, uno… pavimento!”

De manera titubeante señalé en un par de estas conversaciones que, desde este punto de vista, mi familia y yo, como nuevos residentes, éramos parte del problema. “Sí, pero ya estás acá, no hay nada que podamos hacer ya”. Un poco de honestidad en este caso fue más de la que necesitaba escuchar.

Parque Nacional Palo Verde: La pérdida de un rancho privado es la ganancia de todos y todas

mis conversaciones con Gustavo durante nuestro recorrido se limitaron a ideas entusiastas como, “es extraño que las iguanas no parecen asustarse por la gente”.

Gustavo sonrió y, con una mirada divertida en su cara, “es porque no comen aquí”.

Objetos en el mapa, como en un espejo, podrían estar más cerca o más lejos de lo que parecen.

Objetos en el mapa, como en un espejo, podrían estar más cerca o más lejos de lo que parecen.

Él tenía un buen punto, pero no estaba comprendiendo la situación. Pura vida, como la he llegado a conocer en los últimos dos años, significa que usted debería estar contento que la señal apunta a la dirección correcta. El hecho de que alguien pudiera haber confundido qué signo debería ir donde desde un punto de vista de distancia no era realmente importante.

Palo Verde National Park: A Private Ranch’s Loss is the World’s Gain

Palo Verde National Park: A Private Ranch’s Loss is the World’s Gain

We used my car for the free tour, which was good, as there was a lot of ground to cover. It was even better when the guide turned to me and asked if my car had four-wheel-drive and, if so, if I’d like to drive out onto the muddy path recently cleared by heavy equipment.

Big Wimpy Gringo Dies When His Oversized Head Hits the Floor of Doctor’s Office

Big Wimpy Gringo Dies When His Oversized Head Hits the Floor of Doctor’s Office

I knew I couldn’t throw-up as Thing #1 was justifiably freaked out enough on his own without me adding vomit to the equation. That said I couldn’t wrap my arms around the idea that things that were very much supposed to be hidden on the inside of his body were staring out at me.

How to Make Chocolate with Enthusiasm — and No Recipe

How to Make Chocolate with Enthusiasm — and No Recipe

This conversation took place at our kitchen counter, where two cacao pods sat waiting to be transformed into a culinary delight—or a hot mess. I’d grudgingly agreed to buy them after being lured into the small grocery store by #2, who told me that they would be free because the store had given up trying to sell them. They were not, as it turns out, free.

The Plan’s the Thing

The Plan’s the Thing

The Grandmaster showed a remarkable amount of patience with all of us over the next thirty minutes and even allowed me to escape without an official loss when we had to leave so #2 could get to his yoga class (yes, yoga and, no, there’s not time here to get into all of that). As we walked through the parking lot #1 looked particularly thoughtful and then observed, “It’s hard to have a plan.”

And the Award Goes to…

And the Award Goes to…

I left him where he lay and waded back in to the throng at the front desk. A few photocopies later, a new key in one hand and lifeless #2 in the other, we got in the small elevator and headed up to our room. #2 breathed hot air into my neck as I got to our door and tried the key which, of course, did not work. Neither cursing nor repeat efforts produced a different result, and #2 slowly slid out of my arms and created a puddle against the closed door.

Lock, Stock and One Lousy Accent

Lock, Stock and One Lousy Accent

Just last week I gave myself an “atta-boy” when a women I’d just met told me I had a Colorado accent. Truth-be-told there is no such thing as a Colorado accent but I was born there, and, more importantly, I hadn’t switched to New Jersey mode (where she was from) so I took it as a compliment.

Thanksgivings to Remember, and Forget

Thanksgivings to Remember, and Forget

In this era—the mid-90’s—deep frying was typically reserved for things like french fries and—if you went to the state fair—Snickers bars. Could I fry a turkey? Sure, I thought. Probably. A turkey though, was a large, thick hunk of meat. People had a hard enough time producing an edible turkey in an oven. An undercooked, but yet over-fried turkey was a very real outcome.

That Time We Almost Went Fishing At the River

That Time We Almost Went Fishing At the River

A few minutes later I took another deep breath as I tried to dive down about 10 feet into the murky water to free my cast net from whatever held it in a death grip below. Another few minutes passed before I emerged from the river clutching the shredded remains of my net in my cold, wet hands.

I Don’t Want It!

I Don’t Want It!

I’d once again drawn the short straw on the parenting front and was using my hands, and my girth, to pin #2’s hands to his sides whilst trying to avoid catching one of his flailing knees in my face. No one was having a good time here on the dentist’s chair, least of all the patient.

Talladega Day

Talladega Day

The second biggest cheer of the day came from the announcement that Brad Keselowski’s motor had blown from, you guessed it, debris. Mr. Keselowski, the leader for roughly half the event, was done for the day. In unison the entire crowd, comprised of people who have long-declared sole, undying loyalty to one of the 40 drivers (presumably even Brad Keselowski), jumped to its feet and applauded.

You Can’t Go Home Again, but You Can Pay a Pretty Penny to Drag its Contents With You

You Can’t Go Home Again, but You Can Pay a Pretty Penny to Drag its Contents With You

This process was supposed to be orderly and methodical, with me marking down each item on a master inventory and indicating something profound about it to satisfy the burning curiosity of the folks in Customs. For example, “Medium box, study, contains yearbooks that haven’t been opened since the first Bush presidency — H.W. not W.”

What’s the Worst that Can Happen?

What’s the Worst that Can Happen?

I’d had enough work done on cars here in Costa Rica to know that the odds of his car actually being fixed within 24 hours were really, really long. On the other hand, I’d already received permission to disappear for this trip. I thought to myself, “What’s the worst that could happen?” And I went for it.

Manopause and the 21 Hour Day – Every Day

Manopause and the 21 Hour Day – Every Day

A dark secret? Sure, that could do it. But you and I have no dark secrets worth fretting about, and most of the juicy bits took place over 30 years ago. Many of the people we’d be worrying about are likely dead. Does anyone really remember that I chose to be the one and only person to ever stage-dive at at 10,000 Maniacs concert? I doubt it and, more importantly, Natalie Merchant and I are both too old to care.

Thank You — France?

Thank You — France?

It’s definitely a small world in which we live. A small world full of independence day celebrations where relations with the prior empire are in many cases surprisingly good, and at least in a couple of cases, the prior contributions of the French are under-appreciated — unless stinky cheese is present.

Can I Borrow Your Broom, and a Spanish-to-English Dictionary?

Can I Borrow Your Broom, and a Spanish-to-English Dictionary?

Through it all I confused everyone who showed up at the shop. I didn’t have to understand the 150 kms per hour of Spanish that was being spoken to, about and around me (what’s up with the big gringo?) to know that I’d truly found a new low in self-confidence.

Spend More Time with the Family

Spend More Time with the Family

In my brief absence, apropos of nothing, #2 began asking questions about the finer points of the human body. My bride directed him to a large book specifically designed to answer those questions for kids. The book had been sitting undisturbed on our coffee table for some time and I viewed it as a large, expensive coaster.

Contents May Shift During Flight

Contents May Shift During Flight

His hot breath stinking of garbage that to my knowledge he hadn’t eaten, my dog pushed still closer from his awkward perch on the passenger seat and once-again dry-heaved. I flinched yet again, trying to push him back over to his side of the rental car whilst keeping one eye on the road — which I couldn’t see through the torrential downpour we’d driven through for the past three hours.

A Month to Reminisce — But Not Miss

A Month to Reminisce — But Not Miss

The CFO still talking in my ear, my landlord raised the bottle of mildew cleaner and gave a couple of perfunctory squirts before he turned, still ignoring me, and headed back towards the door. I cupped the phone and cried out to him. He at last acknowledged my presence by turning and stating, “That outta do it.”

A Romantic Gesture Involving 1,250 Miles and Gas Fumes

A Romantic Gesture Involving 1,250 Miles and Gas Fumes

The Bronco at a gas station is equivalent to a puppy at a park. The problem is that no one asks you how you made the puppy. I can handle the basics, but when the conversation turns to all of the various types of carburetors that Holley makes I’ve got to tap out. When asked if I’m responsible for all of the upgrades I go with the line, “I’m the guy that bought this from that guy.” Everyone’s still disappointed, but it goes a lot quicker.

Tale of the Tape: Galloper vs. Land Cruiser

Tale of the Tape: Galloper vs. Land Cruiser

I’m not saying that Hyundai didn’t try with the Galloper, which delivers the ride quality of an actual horse, but the budgetary constraints were apparently insurmountable. The end result is an SUV that smacks of the McDowells vs. McDonalds saga depicted in the movie Coming to America.

Leave Well Enough Alone

Leave Well Enough Alone

Upon returning home I discovered that our car had indeed been converted into the vehicle equivalent of that odd time in the late ’80’s when gold was almost out but brushed nickel hadn’t quite stuck the fashion landing. It wasn’t an ugly faucet with alternating bands of contrasting colors, but my present to my bride had that same inability to state it’s preference in terms of its color scheme.

Of Funerals and Corporal Punishment

Of Funerals and Corporal Punishment

I bring this up because quiet contemplation in the Quaker church also extends to funerals. My challenge was to keep our boys quiet during a 2+ hour service so large that much of the seating was outside (in view of the playground and lots of other things tremendously interesting to young boys).

The 14 Foot Artificial Reef

The 14 Foot Artificial Reef

I began to turn us about, carefully picking the exact time to turn without getting side-swiped by a wave while mindful of the following sea which could quickly pour over the transom. Were it not for all prior evidence to the contrary it actually seemed like I knew what I was doing.

Archest-Nemesis Meets Valentine’s Day

Archest-Nemesis Meets Valentine’s Day

In real time this meant that a girl in his class had rebuffed his world class charm for almost two years (that’s right — we’re going all the way back to Kindergarten with this feud). I had socks — many of them — with longer tenure, but then again #2 was only seven so this feud has gone on for nearly a third of his life.

Male Bonding and How It Triumphs Over Composting and Aged Periodicals

Male Bonding and How It Triumphs Over Composting and Aged Periodicals

The petri dish that was #1’s backpack was a ready supply of fuel for the large tupperware container that my bride had designated as the composting collection bin. I lifted the lid of the container to dump in the moldy morsels and was greeted by a large cloud of what I presumed to be fruit flies. We didn’t seem to be growing any dirt, or vegetables, around here, but we were definitely doing our part to increase the fly population.

The Judge That Left No Reasonable Doubt About Jury Duty

The Judge That Left No Reasonable Doubt About Jury Duty

All of the steam from the defense side of the equation then evaporated when the courtroom was enveloped with hard-core, gangsta rap music that someone in the room used for a ringtone. This is not Fresh Prince, happy rap. This was heavy, loud stuff. It was obviously coming from the direction of the defense team’s table, but the Co-Counsel and the Defendant directed their eyes to the ceiling and tried to bluff their way through it.

Ask Me No Questions and I’ll Give You No Misinformation

Ask Me No Questions and I’ll Give You No Misinformation

This is a slight stretching of the truth as I couldn’t really remember why I thought they were Chinese, but I did think someone had told me. Lest you judge or seek to infer some sort of racism, I please remind you that chubby, overworked white guys are often found wanting in this area. I do not think my ignorance is bliss. At times it’s downright uncomfortable.

Guns, Animal Shelters and Steel Jackets

Guns, Animal Shelters and Steel Jackets

Goofball is usually dressed in a sniper’s camouflage suit — the kind where the sniper sneaks up on his target slowly, in plain view, because he’s wearing a the equivalent of a burka grassy field. In the unlikely event that Goofball’s camouflage worked and you didn’t see him standing by the side of the road, he also sported an oversized, fake hand gun painted orange in a holster on his hip and twirled a sign touting the availability of a concealed hand gun licenses.

Ferry-go-Round

Ferry-go-Round

What you probably can’t reconcile is the bigger questions: 1) why did anyone make this movie, and 2) what kind of person would enjoy watching it? These were the questions posed to me by our 10-year-old as everyone in the crowded, heaving ferry that connected the island of Ometepe with mainland Nicaragua was forced to view this offering on the television strapped into the wall, directly above the bathrooms.

Reggie Miller and the Zombies

Reggie Miller and the Zombies

I awoke a little on edge, hungry. I’d eaten the normal dosage of food yesterday. I’d even managed to get down the better part of a cooked tomato, which I’d previously loathed but actually tasted pretty good here in Costa Rica. Moreover, I typically had coffee for breakfast and don’t eat until lunch so the hunger is a mystery.

Sunday Morning Wenus

Sunday Morning Wenus

The physical attribute known in most circles as the penis was called the “wenus’ in our home. I am to blame for this term, which dated back to the occupation held by the character named Chandler on the show Friends. On the show the term is used to convey an explanation of what it is that Chandler does for a living. I co-opted it as a way to be able to discuss the male sex organ with the boys in public without having to actually use the p-word. Besides Minecraft, their favorite topic was, and is, the wenus.

Community of Communion & the Chinese Food that Wasn’t

Community of Communion & the Chinese Food that Wasn’t

My oldest son, who had done quite a bit better than my youngest with waiting (he’s NOT the one on the floor making dirt angels) looked up at me — dismay in his eyes — and said “Daddy, he’s not going to read that whole book is he?”

You Mean I’ve Got People In Here?

You Mean I’ve Got People In Here?

The conversations regarding the nether region are not always centered around the people storage or ticks. The majority of the time it’s come up it’s because I’d taken yet another blow to the crotch. The boys are fascinated by how debilitating this is to me, while it has no impact on them — yet.

Paralysis Through a Complete Lack of Analysis

Paralysis Through a Complete Lack of Analysis

The door that both of our pets exited just minutes before remains wide open on the other side of the house (about 25 feet away). Our beasts have declined the opportunity to use that same, still very much open door and have instead decided to stage a sit-in at a closed door. This, and opposable thumbs, is why we’re still on top.

Costa Rican Gas Can

Costa Rican Gas Can

It occurred to me as I digested his answer that in the three-plus months I’d been in Costa Rica I’d yet to see an actual gas can. There were, however, a lot of guys holding weed eaters over one shoulder and a plastic jug in their free hand. The jugs, which looked like something that originally held an industrial amount of vegetable oil, often had a scrap of plastic secured by a rubber band as a lid.

Adventures in Roofing, and Gravity

Adventures in Roofing, and Gravity

Black clouds spitting lightning and growling thunder spilled out into the previously blue horizon. I saw all of this as I stood between the ribs of the rafters, and it occurred to me at just about the same time it occurred to the roofers that it was about to rain inside my house.

The Open Water Crossing to Little Corn Island

The Open Water Crossing to Little Corn Island

The elderly woman’s hand right hand clutched my wife’s left knee in a death grip. Her free hand was cupped beneath her mouth, catching most, but not all, of the vomit that was now coming out in regular intervals before tossing it over the gunwale and into the water just in time to make it back for another batch.

The Deal — the movie short that was far from quick

The Deal — the movie short that was far from quick

If the script calls for a boat, and, well, you don’t have a boat, there won’t be a boat in the movie. Similarly, if a poignant scene over a freshly dug grave backlit perfectly by a harvest moon is essentially ruined by problems with the digital camera that you don’t discover until post-production…. Well, you’ll see soon enough.

A Turtle With a Piano on it’s Back

A Turtle With a Piano on it’s Back

Stable value funds are soap box racers that now face constraints that will limit their top speed. Our money market funds will soon have the performance attributes of a pinewood derby car dressed up as a turtle, with a smallish piano on its back. I haven’t read the official pinewood derby rule book as of yet, but this does not sound like a winning configuration.

It is What it is But it isn’t What it Ain’t

It is What it is But it isn’t What it Ain’t

A number of money market funds already post their actual daily asset values. Floating NAV money market funds have been in place for several years in Europe. As this latest reform essentially only involves about a third of the money market universe (prime funds) and will be phased in over two years it is hard to predict what impact this will have – particularly with the dearth of available options for those looking for what they believe to be a risk-free rate of return.

You Can’t Always Get What You Want – But If You Make Other People Wait 24 Months You May Get What You Need

You Can’t Always Get What You Want – But If You Make Other People Wait 24 Months You May Get What You Need

The crux of the unhappiness of the wrap providers is, in their view, forcing a plan to wait a year to withdraw its funds intact from Stable Value Fund ABC isn’t equitable with the interest rate risk being taken by the fund (a 12-month put doesn’t match the potential of a 3% loss of principal).

Magic 8-Ball

Magic 8-Ball

That leaves us with the ambiguous, often conflicting set of answers to the questions within the realm of 401(k)s. The best path forward is likely one that involves many questions, as well as documentation of those questions and the answers that emerge. The ability to make a choice comes at a price – “Without a doubt.”

When Investing Meets Revenue Sharing: Part One

When Investing Meets Revenue Sharing: Part One

Where does the money generated by this fee go? To put it another way, who am I paying? The chart below shows a typical split of how this 1% annual operating expense is allocated. This is the basic framework of how investing meets revenue sharing.

Se Vende — the Costa Rican Used Car

Se Vende — the Costa Rican Used Car

Costa Ricans, or Ticos as they like to be called, are the first to volunteer the fact that their otherwise refreshing approach to life is not compatible with automobiles. “We drive like lunatics,” is a comment I’ve heard from more than one Tico. When the topic is the purchase of a used car in Costa Rica the narrative is, “Don’t believe what anyone tells you…”

Bathing in Risk – the 90 Day Equity Wash

Bathing in Risk – the 90 Day Equity Wash

The takeaway for investors is that the paranoia on the part of the stable value managers has resulted in real life limitations. Many employers will offer only a stable value or money market option – not both. If there is no competing option, then there is no need for an equity wash.

What is a Stable Value Fund?

What is a Stable Value Fund?

Stable value and money market funds have more differences than similarities. These differences do not necessarily make one better than the other but it is fair to say that the average stable value fund should credit a higher rate of interest than the average money market fund over the long haul.

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