Hug Fest

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By a margin of 6-0, the US defeated Costa Rica to secure third place at the 2016 Copa International Futbol Amputados, the teams highest ever tournament finish. There were a lot of hugs going around. Head Coach Lambert embraces Nico after his second of three goals in the match, a beautiful direct kick which he bent around the wall and placed in the upper corner. Nico kisses teammate, Foday, after he scores his first goal of the tournament.  I hoist the US team MVP with a total of 5 goals and 4 assists while he hoists the team’s third place trophy.

Professional television coverage of the game can be viewed at the following link.

USA vs. Costa Rica Television Coverage

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Tough Loss

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The US fell to Mexico 2-0 this afternoon in a disappointing semi-finals loss. Mexico went up 1-0 on an own goal (one of our defenders tried to head a corner kick out of the box but only managed to deflect it past our keeper).  When one of our top players was ejected early in the second  half on a call that was universally viewed as incorrect, the US, playing a man short, had little chance of holding back Mexico. With only 6 field players, losing one is a major disadvantage.

Nicolai played well, as did the entire squad. He finished the game entirely spent and with an injured ankle. His availability for tomorrow’s consolation finals remains in question.

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Team USA

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Although I arrived early for some photography, my main purpose for visiting Costa Rica was to watch Nicolai compete for the US National Amputee Soccer Team in a 6 team mini-Copa Americas Cup tournament.  The teams opening match was against Costa Rica.  Nico scored two goals and had one assist in the 3-0 US victory. The match was streamed live and Jeanine had a virtual viewing party with several relatives and friends.  Earlier in the day the team was treated to a tour of the brand new Stadium Nationale where I took this photo of him with Karuna. I have given the couple their celebrity nikname of Nicuna. Nicolai offered Karico as another option. We will have to see which one sticks. Without my good cameras, stolen earlier in the week, it was impossible to get decent photos of the evening game played under the lights. Tomorrow the team faces a very strong Mexican squad during the day and I hope to get some action shots with my back up camera.

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San Jose

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I got up very early this morning and returned to the same location where I photographed the Quetzal yesterday. Not only did he show up for me, he struck a very photogenic pose. At 5:45am I joined my birding partners from yesterday for an outstanding morning of photography including a second Quetzal. After breakfast I began driving to the Irazu Volcano hoping to match some of the fantastic shots I got at the Poas Volcano which were lost with my stolen cameras. When I stopped for lunch in Cartago I had a chance to do some online research about the volcano only to discover that the emerald green lake pictured in all the photos I have seen is no longer present. Learning this and seeing that the mountains were already under the clouds, I opted to head into downtown San Jose to visit the famed National Theater House.  Having managed, against considerable odds, to avoid damaging my rental car for which I had waived all insurance coverage, I decided not to press my luck driving around the city and returned it early. I met Nico and Karuna at the airport and we took a taxi to the very posh Windham Herradura where we met up with the US National Amputee Soccer contingent that is being hosted here by the Costa Rican team.

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San Geraldo de Dota

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News that my brother is making good progress on the road to recovery from his stroke lifted my spirits as did the opportunity to photograph another Resplendent Quetzal this morning. The quality of all  photos for the remainder of my trip will be short of what I could have done with my high end gear but I am trying to make the best of the situation. I met a wonderful birding guide who invited me to join his tour after learning of my misfortune and restoring much of my faith in the kindness of the Costa Rican people. He was guiding a lovely couple from Texas with whom I became friends and joined for dinner after spending several hours in a magnificent orchard/garden which offered amazing bird life and views of the mountains shrouded in clouds.

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Fucking Thieves

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Last night I received word from Jeanine that my younger brother, Mark, suffered a stroke.  Fortunately, he was treated with TPA soon after which cleared the clot and the initial news is that he suffered no physical impairments although he is having some issues with speech and memory. With little I can do from Costa Rica, I choose to believe he will make a complete recovery. I know his amazing wife and kids will do everything humanly possible to make that happen as will our entire extended family.

Perhaps my mind was preoccupied with concerns over my brother or maybe it was my high regard for the friendliness of the Costa Rican people but I let my guard down today and it cost me dearly. While continuing to make my way down the Pacific coast towards Quepos, where I thought I would make a brief visit to the Manuel Antonio National Park, I fell victim to a well honed criminal enterprise that liberated me of $10K worth of camera gear. Worst of all, I lost 90% of the photographs I had captured since arriving in the country which has left me more depressed than I can describe.

I was able to reverse engineer the crime based on all the evidence I discovered after the fact. The theft was perpetrated by a three man crew that targeted me at some point during my travels when they observed me taking photos with my high end gear. They followed me in their car until I stopped again. One of them then stabbed my driver’s side rear tire with a small Exacto blade (see photo above of the actual blade). They then continued to follow me until my tire eventually went flat. When it did, they drove a few hundred meters past me where the driver let the other two out. One of them came walking by nonchalantly and offered to help me change the tire. I was doing fine by myself but he was very insistent and I did not want to be rude. He spoke no English and we struggled to communicate. While I was jacking the car up, he was removing the spare tire from the back hatch of the 4×4 rental.  He was making a lot of noise and banging the car around a lot. He did this to distract me as the second guy snuck around and approached the passenger side front door where he quietly gathered two of my three cameras and walked away. Once he made it back to their car the guy that was helping me just walked away and down the road to join his buddies. I did not even notice the cameras were gone until I was ready to start driving again. The reason I know all this is because the whole thing was caught on a security video from a store across the street and the guy who repaired the damaged tire gave me the Exacto blade.

I spent the next several hours with the police before making my way back into the mountains to my next destination in the cloud forest of San Geraldo de Dota.   Fortunately my camera equipment is well insured and the thieves had no appetite for my low cost travel camera leaving me something to continue shooting with.

Local Color

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Rising early this morning I had the beach to myself and enjoyed a nice walk along its full extent. The last time I was in Costa Rica I had the good fortune to photograph a pair of Scarlet Macaws, albeit with a low resolution camera.  Today I decided to return to the same area, just north of the Manuel Antonio national park, in hopes of doing so again.  As I began the three hour drive, I passed through a small town and noticed several children wearing traditional costumes and being accompanied by their parents to school. I decided to stop and attend what turned out to be a colorful performance in celebration of the Anexion del Partido de Nicoya, a local holiday.

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When I reached the Tarcoles River, I paused to visit the crocodiles that can be found sunning themselves on the banks at midday.  Although I found many other great birds while searching up and down the coast, the macaws continue to elude me.  My best images of the crocodiles and all the birds I shot today were lost.

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Curi Changa

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Based on research I did last night, I have opted to go to Curi Changa in lieu of Monteverde today.  Located a few miles apart, Curi Changa is a better bet for spotting the very hard to find Resplendent Quetzal.  My bet paid off and I was able to capture images of both the male and female.  The guides in the park use radios to communicate sightings with each other greatly increasing the odds of locating rare birds.  Our guide located the female but had no luck with the male.  When the call came in for a male sighting we literally started running to the new location.  15 pounds of camera equipment and the high altitude did not make keeping up easy, but the reward was well worth the effort.  Regrettably, all my images from Curi Changa were lost with my cameras.

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Quite exhausted from the last several days I decided to head for Playa Carrillo for some relaxation on the beach to end the day. The water could not have been more soothing to my very tired muscles.

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I remained on the beach to watch the sun set. When it did, hundreds of Phantom Crabs began marching to the ocean from their daytime homes in low lying areas on the other side of the local access road. I estimate that 50 percent are killed under the tires of departing beach goers who are leaving at exactly the same time.  There are so many it is almost impossible not to hit one. I drove slowly and claimed no victims.

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Road Less Traveled

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On a map the distance between Puerto Viejo and Monte Verde looks to be about 50 miles. If not for the pesky mountains between the two, it would not have taken six hours of driving to make the journey. Had I opted to go by way of San Jose, it would have been faster, but I wanted to visit the Arenal volcano and lake along the way.  Two hours of normal driving, two hours of continuous winding roads and two hours of bumpy dirt roads through a torrential downpour made for an exhausting travel day.  Fortunately, my day started with an exceptionally productive nature walk at La Selva and a very enjoyable visit to the Costa Rican Nature Pavilion in La Virgen.

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La Selva

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La Selva Biological Station is a protected area encompassing 4000 acres of low-land tropical rain forest in northeastern Costa Rica. It is estimated that it contains over 500,000 species of mammals, birds, and insects. Owned and operated by the Organization for Tropical Studies, a consortium of universities and research institutions from the United States, Costa Rica, and Puerto Rico, it is recognized internationally as one of the most productive field stations in the world for tropical forest research and peer-reviewed publications, La Selva hosts approximately 300 scientists and 100 university courses every year. Guests are also welcomed and can mingle with researchers while staying at the facilities. 

Not surprisingly for the rain forest it rained for much of the day. Fortunately, not before I took a 3 hour walking tour with one of the resident nature guides early in the morning. He spotted wildlife I would have walked right past and provided great information about the ecosystem. Ninety percent of my photos for this day were lost with my cameras.

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Poas & La Pas

The last time I visited the Poas Volcano (family Christmas vacation several years ago) it was shrouded in clouds.  This morning I arrived at the park the moment it opened and was rewarded for the effort with clear skies and a magnificent view of the steaming crater. As you will learn in a subsequent post, two of my three cameras were stolen and with them many photos from my first two days including some magnificent wide angle shots of the volcano. Fortunately, I still have a few telephoto shots taken with my third camera.

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As the clouds started to roll over the mountains, I made a beeline for the La Pas Waterfall Garden successfully beating the tourist buses coming from San Jose.  In addition to the magnificent falls (all photos lost), I was overwhelmed with the wildlife to be found in sanctuaries throughout the park. Thankfully, I did not lose my frog photos which were among my favorites of the visit. The frogs are contained in a large sanctuary in which they are free to roam.  For a small tip the frog minder was happy to show me where each of the species could be found.

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The variety of bird species which can be found in Costa Rica is amazing.  Here is but a small sample from day one.

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I lost all of my butterfly photos (hundreds) except for these two.

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My destination for the evening was the La Selva BIological Research Station.  I drove like a full blooded Costa Rican, which is to say, insanely fast, so that I would arrive before the 5pm registration cutoff.  I stopped only to photograph a group of white nose coati that were foraging by the side of the road.

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I arrived at La Selva just in time and dined with visiting students and resident researchers before going out on a solo night walk in the rain forest.  Other than being very scary, I was assured by the experts that there were really only two dangers to be concerned about, poisonous snakes and bullet ants.  Staying on the path and keeping it illuminated with a flashlight solves for snakes and not touching anything or sitting down solves for ants. Had I chickened out, I would have missed these photos of a two-toed sloth and her baby taken by the illumination of my flashlight.

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Update From Maya

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I am traveling today and received the following note from Maya.

Papa,

I haven’t been taking many pictures with my camera, but here is a screen shot of my desktop as I work on making histograms. I have squeezed all of the applications that I usually have running (minus TBrowser) to make a histogram all onto one page. Usually I work across a couple of desktops much more spread out, but I thought this would make an interesting picture. The bottom left is just your average Linux terminal where I have asked the computer to open a file in the ROOT program. When I am actually working on and changing the histogram, I use this terminal all the time to resubmit my request which renders the updated version of the graph. The right side of the screen is an Aquamacs text editor window (a lot like Vim, but it uses color coding to keep things organized). I wrote all of the code in that window. It’s relatively simple, but when I arrived I didn’t even know how to declare a pointer, or even what a pointer was, or that my computer had a terminal on it… so I’ve come a long way. When I ask my terminal to open the histogram file, the aquamacs is what it reads for instruction. The top left visual is the product of all the hectic syntax everywhere else. It’s cool how the rather ugly C++ ends up making something so aesthetically pleasing.
Today, I will be adding more commands to my code so that 1) it will have title text 2) the like sign data (blue) will be fit with a 3rd order polynomial function and 3) the unlike sign data (red) will be fit with a gaussian function, hopefully. The last one will probably be the hardest, because I only just learned about Gaussian fits yesterday. Also, side note, the x axis of the graph is being measured in volts, not grams. Giga-electron Volts actually, GeV.
I’d say I understand about 70% of the project I am working on. Yesterday I spent a lot of time reading about the Muon Telescope Detector, which is the detector that collected this upsilon data. I’ll include pictures of its general construction. I’ve also been reading and asking about upsilon. Upsilon is a meson that is made up of a bottom quark and its antiparticle. Because the bottom quark and the bottom anti-quark have color charges that are compliments, they cancel each other out. This means that upsilon is “flavorless” or in a quarkonium state. I have yet to figure out what is significant about this state or why we are so interested in it, but I’m not done reading yet and I can ask more in tomorrow’s meeting.
Eric, the other intern in my lab, has also been looking at a flavorless meson emitted in the central collisions. It’s called J/psi (pronounced jape-sigh). It’s really similar to upsilon in that it is comprised of a quark and its antiparticle (compliment color charges that cancel each other out). I only mention this because Papa you will be psyched. Charm + anti-charm = J/psi meson. According to wikipedia “Mesons formed by a bound state of a charm quark and a charm anti-quark are generally known as ‘charmonium’”. I feel like charmonium is a Carl word.
So, long story short. The histogram I just made is comparing the number of like sign and unlike sign upsilon mesons that were emitted over the course of many RHIC collisions from their last batch. The unlike signs are slightly more common which is very important!! I don’t know why, but Rongrong says it is! Anyways, blog message received, you may post any or all of these pictures.

Lynn

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I spent part of the morning and afternoon at this house in Lynn helping our close friend Aliza with some simple furniture assembly and computer configuration.  Her son, Win, has taken up residency here after his recent graduation from the Perkins School for the Blind.

I leave for Costa Rica tomorrow where I will be traveling  for the remainder of the month before continuing on to Iceland through August 8.  I hope to return with a treasure trove of photos and ask for your patience until then.

Yes I Can

A new anthem for grit.  I only wish that Amputee Soccer was a sport sanctioned by the Paralympics.

Maya Minus Ten

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We caught up with Maya this weekend and learned about the first week of her internship at Brookhaven National Labs.  She has had to work very hard to familiarize herself with many of the concepts she will be dealing with and to teach herself C++ programming which she needs for her work project. Her task will be to take data gathered from the high-energy collider and generate histograms of the types of particles emitted during collisions.  She is reluctant to ask too many questions given how valuable the time of her mentors is but is finding help from some of the returning interns.  She has sent no pictures yet (hint), so I have gone to the archives for a photo of her taken exactly ten years ago.

Tiny Homes

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The Tiny Home movement advocates for living simply in small homes. One variation includes tiny homes on wheels (a more permanent alternative to the traditional travel trailer). While we will not downsize to this level, our next home is going to be substantially smaller than our current one, perhaps one fifth the size.  This afternoon Jeanine and I attended a Tiny Home show on the grounds of the Emerson Umbrella and listened to life style converts describe their experiences. Less is often more, a lesson we are slowly learning.

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Our home in Indianapolis (above-side view) was twice the size of our current home in Concord so we are already moving in the right direction.

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