The Night They Saved Christmas Drinking Game makes Christmas a special time with family

•December 26, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Number one, if you haven’t seen the Night They Saved Christmas, it may make your whole year, or maybe your whole lifetime.  Jaclyn Smith, snowmobiles, elves, overly expressive children! The whole made for T.V, 1984 awesomeness is available on YouTube!

In fact, the only way to make this movie better is to make it a drinking game.

So, here are the rules

Drink anytime

1) They mention anything about explosives, dynamite, or blowing up Santa/the North Pole

2) They say “Mr. Murdock”

3) When C.B. can’t even.

4) When the most expressive person/new person in your group can’t even

5) 80’s moments

Chug When

6) When there is singing (including the grand finale)


7) everyone takes a shot if you can find the reference to Mr. T

Happy Christmas, and you’re welcome!


The world, it is a-changin’ (and I don’t like it)

•August 28, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Earlier this week I was discussing with a few friends how easy it is to become out of touch with what’s happening in the real world while living at La Selva.  Field work can be so all-encompassing, and generally our conversations are geared toward science, complaining about the food/station/parasites/failure of experiments/whatever, instead of recent events.  Anyway, I decided it was due time to check in on the real world.  Here’s what I found:

In global news: US prepared to attack Syria.  Somebody in Syria used chemical weapons against hundreds of people, and while Joe Biden is sure it was the Syrian regime, not everyone is so certain.  So the US is ready to step in, and deliver our mighty justice. Awesome.  Can’t wait to see how this will turn out.

In local/State news for my current home state (sort of), Wisconsin:  protestors peacefully signing protest songs in the public state capital building are being arrested, sometimes forcefully: Protestor tackled to ground in charged with felony after officer was injured during arrest (Watch the video).  Those included in the arrests, 3 grandmothers and a 14-year-old girl  Watch the video here.  A local politician.  And in my mind, the most heinous of all, a reporter who was interviewing and observing the arrests, he reports on his arrest here.  Let me just repeat this, they arrested A REPORTER!  Maybe I’m a bit naive, but really thought that the First Amendment was created to stop suppression of this type of information from the public? I honestly can’t contain how frustrating it is to know that this is happening in my home.

In even better news, the man responsible for this, Scott Walker, is almost certainly lining himself up as a candidate for President in 2016.  I cannot wait.

To cheer myself up, I looked to facebook.  Hoping for some videos of cats getting baths, or funny anecdotes about sloths or a beloved science fiction character.  Instead I found that the camp where I worked as a child, YMCA Camp Jorn, has fired the director of 23 years, Dennis Lipp, with no explanation, and no warning. At the 60th Anniversary a few days ago all was well.  My next post will be the letter I’ve written to the Board of Directors regarding this, but in short: This sucks.  Dennis is a good man, and has helped turn Camp Jorn into a successful, accredited Camp, where thousands of kids, including myself, learn and grow.  I’m trying hard to patiently wait for them to explain themselves, but my assumption is that this is all about the money. I’m guessing the new director will be younger (ie. paid less), and more likely to toe the line drawn by camp’s main benefactor, Liz Ulhlein, click the link to read about some of her creepy,  thoughts on the world.

So, in closing, I’m so glad I checked in on the world, and now know more than I want to about the state of current events.

Neotropical Spider Outreach

•April 8, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Happy Dancing

•December 12, 2012 • Leave a Comment

I’ve been back at La Selva for a little more than a week now, getting settled in, finding office space, etc.  And mostly I’ve figured out all that normal moving in stuff.

I’ve also wandered around a bit to look for webs, and discovered there aren’t many.  I’ve recorded how many sites that normally have spiders have no spiders now, and all sorts of details about the places with no spiders. And looked for other spiders in places with no spiders, and in general notices how there weren’t all that many spiders.   Which is kind of interesting, maybe.

But today I saw something super-duper cool.  I saw multiple klepto spiders on a web of their own.  Hanging out, no host to be seen, and on a web that is likely a web they built themselves.  Neato!  I can’t even tell you how excited I was to see this.  Of course, I actually can tell you, but really even with a ton of explanation and over enthusiasm on my part, its pretty unlikely that anyone else will be nearly as excited about this as I am.  I totally realize that in the grand scheme of things, this just isn’t exciting news.  I saw spiders on a web. Whoot (or the more obvious answer from the general population: Did you kill them?)!

The work I do is pretty cool.  Generally I don’t have much problem talking to people about it, and most people think its kind of awesome, even if they aren’t really into science or spiders or whatever.

So many jobs have these little moment of triumph that when they happen, it feels as though you should get up and do a happy dance.

However, these are also the times when NO ONE GETS IT! So, my dear (five) readers. . .  tell me about a time when you were reallllllly excited about something that you did/found/accomplished and I will be inappropriately excited for you.  I promise, you will be blown away by how ridiculously, stupidly excited I am for you and your stupid thing that no one cares about.

Until then, I’m going to keep dancing my own little happy dance on my own in the forest.

Hasta luego!

The danger of being bored

•September 6, 2012 • Leave a Comment

About a week ago, I started to feel the weird sort of suffocation I start to feel after  too much daily repetition.  La Selva is an amazing beautiful place, but sometimes it gets weirdly monotonous.  It isn’t because the rain forest becomes somehow less amazing, or because I dislike anything specific about the place, but two months in which I haven’t left the station for more than a few hours at a time is a little too long.

I started to feel a little bored.

So a couple of other researchers and I went to San Jose for the night.  I felt like I needed one night of eating food that I got to pick from a menu, rather than having to eat whatever the kitchen ladies decided to make, one day where I was actually cold while I slept, and that didn’t make me sweaty just walking a few hundred meters.

Sabine and I took the bus to San Jose, where Diego was giving a talk at UCR.  And despite the fact the we didn’t get the bus schedule right, and made it to the city an hour an a half after we planned, and despite eating dinner at nine and not really having a place to stay until the awesome Jenny suggested a nearby hostel, and despite a really low-key evening, I had the best time ever. It was exactly what I needed.  I ate sushi at Moby DIck’s.  I saw people who were not station people (though I really do love all the station people, I promise)!

I slept well despite the snoring and bed shaking and other weird sleeping-in-the-hostel-dorm things that one comes to expect when you don’t make reservations in advance.  I really liked the hostel, Bekou, in San Pedro. Its near the university, plenty of bars, etc, but still quiet, clean, and welcoming.

I woke up in my usual way: bolting upright, with a sharp deep intake of breath, sure that something has happened.  Otherwise-why would I be awake?   They have a sort of mini-breakfast at the hostel in the morning, but we ventured down the road a bit to Spoon, a chain restaurant with decent breakfast food and a nice porch.

But that was when things started to get a bit weird.

I drank my first cappuccino since I left the states (it was really a latte, but they called it a cappuccino, so I’m going with that) and it was lovely. The weather was gorgeous, clear and bright. It was the kind of morning that made the whole trip worth it.

As we sat there peacefully on the porch, I felt the wind pick up, swaying the building.  Except then I remembered we were on the ground floor, not crossing the swaying bridge to get to the station, and typically, when you’re sitting on the ground floor, that floor is stationary.  I don’t know that I would’ve realized what was happening, even then, if Diego hadn’t said, “that’s an earthquake,” to which my first response (possibly in my head, but I at least thought it was out loud) was “No Way!”

I’d never felt an earthquake before. I even was joking around with someone earlier in the summer about how it was on my bucket list, I wanted to know what it felt like to have to earth move under my feet.  Well, Costa Rica is fortunately located in an area known as “The Ring of Fire.”  This ring is an area of the Pacific Ocean where a large number of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions occur. Costa Rica has the honor of being located near the convergence of three tectonic plates: the Caribbean Plate (most of Central America is located on this one), the Nazca Plate, and the Cocos Plate all touch just to the west of the country.  When those three plates move, so does most of Costa Rica.  So I suppose, if I really wanted to feel an earthquake, I’m spending my time in the right place.

I know intellectually, that it can be different for each quake, there are upwelling(s) and crashes, shakey quakes and waves (plus far more scientific sounding names for all of those!) but I had no real idea of what it actually felt like to have the earth move beneath my feet.  I imagine this felt similar to how I’d feel if I was up high in a tall tree, and a giant was standing next to the tree and slowly, slowly, shaking it back and forth.  Not violently, but sure and certain. Like I could probably have held on for a while, but maybe not forever.

As I looked around us, I saw a few strange reactions in the people around us, though no one was panicking, just being odd.  One man, apparently remembering the doorways are supposed to be stronger foundation-speaking than other parts of the building, went to stand in the doorway from the porch to the restaurant.  Which might have seemed smart, except the entire wall and doorway was made of glass.  Not so awesome if it broke.  Most of the cars kept driving, but a few stopped randomly on the street.  After maybe 30 seconds, it stopped.  We shrugged, and ate the rest of our breakfast.  I later found out it was the strongest earthquakes to hit Costa Rica in twenty years. Luckily, few people were hurt, the epicenter was deep and not very close to an urban area, and while there were some buildings lost and a few landslides/bridges/roads collapsed, it could have been far worse than it was.  In fact, it was probably far less exciting here than was reported by the news outlets in the U.S.  So it was awe-inspiring more than scary and a major check box on my bucket list, though I’m not sure I ever want to do it again.

That about covers weird thing #1, moving on to weird thing #2

After the earthquake and a quick trip to the Automercado for necessities (they have pita chips!) we came back to the station, and it was so, so nice to be home.  Everyone was chatting about their earthquake experiences (thank goodness I was not by myself in the forest, no doubt I would’ve been freaked out by that) and generally being interesting people.

In the evening we went for dinner at La Selva Verde for Ping’s birthday and because it was Matt’s last night on the station. Everyone that’s still here went to dinner, about 16 of us, which was nice because the kitchen ladies got a night off.

The restaurant itself wasn’t so nice unfortunately.  I know other people have gone there an enjoyed the food and the ambiance, but it was such a strange mixture of trying-to-be-fine-dining and Costa Rican normal that it just felt a bit confusing.

For instance:  They gave us yummy salty focaccia bread and olive oil to dip it in.  But they didn’t give us bread plates, so you kind of had to shove the bread over and pour olive oil on the bigger plate.  Really, not a big deal, but doesn’t quite match with the fancy linen napkins and need for a reservation (there were lots of us, but we were the only people there).  After the salty focaccia, (long, long after) we got our drinks-mine was sadly lacking some of the more awesome umbrella and sword collaborations found on some of the other drinks, but it was good, and then salads and pizza (at the same time for each order, but nowhere near the same time for the whole table-see where I’m going with the weirdness?).  The food was good, but entirely lacking in salt.  For some reason, one of the orders came with a salt shaker and olive oil, but not the rest.  And halfway through their meal, the salt was taken away to be given to another table. They must’ve had only one shaker in the enormous place, but why?  If we’d all been using La Selva manners, there would’ve been no problem. I wouldn’t have even found any of this strange, let alone worth taking about, but there was candlelight, linen, and water goblets. The combination of bad table manners + candlelight felt off.

Then, not too long after dinner, four of us got sick.  Awesome.

The morning watching pretty uneventful, no earthquakes, no strange animals, nothing unusual, just really hot.

I went to my cabina before lunch, changed my shirt, checked my email, the usual. The I went to lunch, said goodbye to Matt and wished him happy travels, and went to grab a few things from my room . . .

and found it covered, top to bottom, with army ants.

Next time I start to get bored, I’m going to try to remember the past 24 hours.  Apparently, there are consequences for trying to mix things up a little.  If those consequences include a shaking earth, an upset stomach, and large pinching insects, I think I’d rather just get a new book on my kindle and wait for the boredom to pass.

Also, here is a video of a porcupine that I took last night:

Buenos dias!

•July 27, 2012 • 1 Comment

Howler monkey howlin’

Last night I fell asleep early. I woke this morning at a few minutes before six, to the pleasant ching, ching sound of a machete cutting off branches.  It’s not a sound I’d hear at home, and luckily here it doesn’t make me immediately think of murder.

The howler monkeys started to yell and shake their fists in protest of the morning and at a coming storm. A few minutes later it started to pour, again not like at home.  Instead it poured in the way that if you were to walk in it, you couldn’t see more than a few yards ahead of you. In a way that you should picture someone dumping out basins of water on your head rather than a sprinkler pleasantly spraying you. We have metal roofed cabinas, so it’s especially loud, and the perfect noise to drift back to sleep. I didn’t want to go to breakfast in the crazy rain anyway.

I woke up half an hour later to the same insane din and half and hour after that to the same thing. Breakfast is over at 7:30, so at that point I knew I couldn’t snooze any longer. I waded my way through the pouring rain to the comedor for a breakfast of pineapple and gallo pinto, where I heard that it actually hadn’t been pouring all morning, just in spurts that apparently had woken me up with their intensity.

It’s the rain forest alarm clock.

Good morning all.

Mr Rabbit

•July 20, 2012 • 2 Comments

The collecting jars I brought from home aren’t quite big enough for the largest Nephila spiders that I need to collect. While in theory you could fit a large spider into a 4 oz jar,

Imagein practice it tends not to be so easy. Shockingly, those spiders don’t actually want to go in the jar. And despite their reportedly scary appearance, their bodies are actually relatively delicate.  Since I am only collecting them to release them elsewhere, it is quite important that I don’t harm them, and I just don’t want to .

So, I needed to go shopping.  Which, in general, strikes far more fear into my heart than spiders ever will.

I’ve been around Puerto for long enough that I can relatively easily navigate the grocery store.  I know how to tell the cab driver where I need to go, and I can even ask for really basic things at the pharmacy.  But finding mid-sized mason jars is another thing altogether.  If you go to an American grocery store, everything comes neatly packaged in row after row of mason jars, of every possible shape, size, and color. My grocery store carries flats of them in different sizes. For less than ten dollars, I can buy multiple jars and be totally happy.

Its different in Costa Rica though.  Instead of jars, most items at the grocery store are packaged in bags.

ImageFrom spaghetti sauce to jelly, everything comes in a bag.  Probably this is fairly environmental sensitive, though I’m not at all sure how one keeps the bugs out of an open bag of jelly. There may be some other really good reason for it, though I don’t know what that might be. For me, what it meant is that Maykal (Michael) from reception didn’t even know the word “jar” and his English is better than mine in most cases.  This didn’t really bode well for me wandering randomly around town mumbling “frascos” under my breath and hoping someone would come to the rescue.

Luckily, this is where Mr. Rabbit comes in.

Mr Rabbit is an effervescent, charming cab driver from Puerto Viejo. I’ve ridden with him before but always with a group and never with a mission. Let me just say, I couldn’t have asked for a better white knight (or in this case, rabbit).  Maykal called him up and explained what I was looking for.  He then accompanied me to three different stores explaining what I needed in this exceedingly excited way, as though despite the obvious fact that he is well past childhood, he can’t seem to contain the need to jump up and down.

We didn’t find jars, but we did find plastic tupperware vaguely shaped like jars, and they should work ok for my purposes.  I paid almost $20 dollars for ten of them, which seemed like a lot until I thought of what I’d pay for the same containers at home.

The best part was hanging out with Mr Rabbit in the car.

We started with the standard ” What’s your name?” I tell him, and he responds “Ooh Meghan, I like it “Me llaman Conejo” (My name is Conejo). 

I must’ve looked puzzled, because then he shouts ” Mr Rabbit! Mr Rabbit! My name is rabbit, What happened?!” in english.

At which I laugh.  He must’ve liked the laughing, because he didn’t stop repeating it for some time.

I made sure to tell him about the quality film starring another “Mr Rabbit”  (also known as Roger Rabbit).  He told me he’d never seen it, but he’d try to find it (at least I think that’s what he said).  There were a lot of exclamations for such a small car.

I also got to see the party which is also known as a gas station in Costa Rica, a new experience for me. They have attendants that pump the gas, its all full service, but for some reason people still get out of their cars, shout in cheerful ways, play loud music and generally act as though its someplace way more exciting than a gas station.  Or maybe it was just because it was a Friday afternoon, which is frequently something to celebrate.

It may not have been a perfect shopping trip (I’m not sure there is such a thing), but I got some containers, learned the spanish words for rabbit, jars, and gas station, had my first ever personal shopper, and got the business card for a cabbie I’m sure to call every time I need to go to town.  All in all, a successful Friday night.  I think riding in cabs in foreign countries may well be my most favorite thing.