Monthly Archives: July 2010

Some Interesting Stats About My Blogs

As the regular readers of this blog probably know I also have another blog

(http://houseboatshantyboatbuilders.wordpress.com/)

While this blog is simply for whatever strikes my fancy at the moment, boats, music, my move to Panama, the other blog is specifically about houseboats, shanty boats and minimalist boating. I don’t let it branch off into other subjects. I started it a few months after this blog and at first I posted nearly every day. Then I tailed off abruptly because I pretty much ran out of things to post when I discovered I had become a “source.” That is, when I would Googled for new ideas I found my blog was dominating the results.

To date that blog has received 58,216 hits. This one has had 28,164.

WordPress keeps track of all that stuff in their “Dashboard” page for each blog and there is a “Stats” section that I find interesting. Yesterday 65 people came here to see what sort of drivel I might have added recently. I haven’t added a new post to my shanty boat blog for nearly two weeks but yesterday it got 511 hits! The busiest day ever. The busiest day this blog ever had was October 28, 2009 when 176 people checked in.

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Whacked By The Staff of Life

My neighbor and fellow blogger, Joyce, in a recent post in Living in Potrerillos, decried the lack of decent bread here in Panama…http://joycepa.wordpress.com/2010/05/12/the-staff-of-life/. I couldn’t agree more. What I have tried was simply inedible. Even my four-legged garbage disposal, Charlotte, wouldn’t touch the stuff and I’m hoping the remains won’t damage the compost heap. The only thing I like about bread in Panama is the name of the largest bakery – BIMBO Bread. (A big conglomerate, I guess, because I’ve seen Bimbo bread in Spain and Mexico as well.)

One of the things I truly miss about France is the bread. If happiness is a warm puppy then a crispy, fresh from the oven  French baguette is a mighty close second. It’s also a fact that no baguette ever makes it home from the boulangerie with the ends intact.

Recently I’ve made a couple of attempts at making bread myself. Previously I’ve only ventured into bread making a couple of times. One of my favorites, and enjoyed by everyone I know, has been cranberry bread. Actually this is more of a cake than a real bread and was something my mother made every Christmas time as I was growing up. The recipe is found on the back of every package of Ocean Spray whole cranberries. Around the holiday season bags are usually found in the produce section of the supermarket but the rest of the year you can often find them in the frozen food section.  Cranberry bread is easy to make and absolutely delicious but you’d never use it to construct a tuna salad sandwich with the stuff.

This is not a photo of MY cranberry bread but shamelessly ripped off from:

http://christines-cuisine.blogspot.com/2009/12/cranberry-orange-nut-bread.html

If you want something yummy, here’s the recipe from Ocean Spray:

CLASSIC CRANBERRY NUT BREAD

INGREDIENTS:
2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup orange juice
1 tablespoon grated orange peel
2 tablespoons shortening
1 egg, well beaten
1 1/2 cups Ocean Spray® Fresh or Frozen Cranberries, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup chopped nuts

DIRECTIONS:
Preheat oven to 350ºF. Grease a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan.

Mix together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda in a medium mixing bowl. Stir in orange juice, orange peel, shortening and egg. Mix until well blended. Stir in cranberries and nuts. Spread evenly in loaf pan.

Bake for 55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on a rack for 15 minutes. Remove from pan; cool completely. Wrap and store overnight. Makes 1 loaf (16 slices).

PER SERVING (1 slice): Cal. 211, Fat Cal. 54, Protein 3grams, Carb. 37grams, Fat 6grams, Chol. 18mg., Sodium 313mg.

Richard’s Rating: Ease of preparation A, Satisfaction A+

The only “real” kind of bread I ever made previously was a family recipe my maternal grandmother used to make for “Shredded Wheat” bread. A light, wonderfully nutty-tasting bread that doesn’t require kneading.

I’d love to make this again, but none of the four supermarkets in David stock shredded wheat cereal and I have no idea what could be used as a substitute.

Richard’s rating: Ease of preparation A, Satisfaction A+

The other day I decided I’d try my hand at producing some of the real stuff and went online and Googled “bread recipies.” The search engine came up with approximately 2,900,000 hits. Okay, narrow it down a bit and add the word “simple.” THAT came up with 3,250,000 hits! How is that possible?

Being basically a lazy, lay-about I next tried “no knead bread” and knocked it down to only 305,000 possibilities. Here’s a video I found:

Needless to say mine didn’t turn out like that in the video even though I followed the instructions to the letter. The New York Times recipe, (click to link to it) as well as others that are basically the same, all say “dough will be shaggy and sticky.” Mine was, for, oh, maybe three milliseconds and then it turned into something else. Not knowing what I could do to change the situation other than just starting all over again I decided to just let things develop and see what happened.

The next day this is what I got:

Looks pretty good, but it would have made a better discus than a loaf of bread. One problem, I think, was that the Dutch oven I used was probably too large so the dough spread out and gave me a loaf about 2-1/2″ high. On my next trip down the mountain to David I’ll buy one a little smaller. I need to build up my kitchen items over the next few months anyway for the time I’ll leave this house.

Richard’s rating: Ease of preparation B, Satisfaction D -.

Tuesday I had a go at what was supposed to be an easy recipe for generic white bread complete with kneading. I went through all the steps required and it turned out a lot better than my first attempt and I came up with this:

Again, it’s not something I’d use to make sandwiches with, but still warm with a little butter it was heads and shoulders above Bimbo bread but still lacked a little je ne sais quoi. It did make excellent toast the next morning.

Richard’s rating: Ease of preparation C+, Satisfaction C.

I’m not going to give up yet, though.

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Dog Dream Come True

That dogs dream is not a myth. We know that they chase things in their dreams when they bark while asleep. Some, I’m sure, dream about things they wish they had. Some, though, have their dreams come true. Charlotte, the resident dog here on the hill, has discovered a treasure trove of bones somewhere across the street most dogs can only dream about.

Eat your hearts out ordinary mutts.

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The Tranquility of Ignorance

It’s another tranquil morning up on the mountain in Potrerillos Arriba, Panama, like the countless billions of mornings that preceded it and the billions to come. Sitting out on the front steps with my morning cup of coffee the sky slowly lightens to my left as the sun starts to climb up the mountain range over there and you can make out the towering cloud formations. The sound of the rushing water in stream hidden behind the trees on the east side of the property plays counterpoint to the crowing of roosters in the neighborhood. A dog barks in the distance. The lights of David in the distance below are no longer visible as the day progresses and the Pacific coast comes into view.

It’s calm and comfortably cool here. Being linguistically challenged at the language of my newly adopted country means I don’t watch the local news on television or read the local press so I was completely unaware that there has been tumultuous rioting going on in two widely separated parts of the country.

A recently passed law has upset environmentalists and union members to the point that they have taken to the streets in the Capital in the east and Changuinola, in the western province of Bocas del Toro. Changuinola was once the hub of the nearly collapsed banana trade in Panama.

In Panama City protesters marched in the streets to deliver a letter to the President decrying the new law and were met by police in riot gear. I enjoyed watching the truncated live broadcast of the Tour de France on ESPN.

Things were much more violent in Changuinola.

There hundreds of people have been injured in clashes with the police and one death has been reported. As a result a curfew has been declared throughout the province and people have been ordered to stay in their homes. What this means to the tourists visiting Bocas del Toro town on Isla Colon is unknown.

But as far as I know it’s business as usual in the City of David and life up here on the mountain goes on as it always has. Though a resident of Panama I am, never the less, a guest in the country and am specifically forbidden to become involved in its political life. Sure, everyone can have their opinions on a subject but acting upon them as an outsider here is forbidden. Quite frankly in this instance I prefer the tranquility of ignorance. Besides, it’s my birthday today. Me and Tom Hanks. Oh, yes, O. J. Simpson, too, but I doubt he’s going to enjoy it a whole lot.

I’m going to have a second cup of coffee.

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British Canal and Narrow Boat Blog

Great Britain (well, a GOOD Britain, anyway) has an extensive system of canals and the narrow boats that were once used for hauling freight are now used as pleasure craft. This morning I received a comment on my other blog (http://houseboatshantyboatbuilders.wordpress.com/) from Andrew Denny who has this wonderful blog that is well worth your time perusing… http://www.grannybuttons.com/granny_buttons/

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Happy Fourth of July

This is the fifth time in my life that I have been outside of the United States on its birthday. Three of the Fourths were spent in France, one in the middle of the Yucatan Channel and now high on the hill in Potrerillos Arriba, Panama.

My family actually had a part in the creation of the legend of the Fourth of July. My maternal and paternal forebears came to America’s shores in the 1630s. It is legend in the family that one member actually took part in the original Boston Tea Party. I wonder what he’d think of today’s lunatics who have adopted the Tea Party name for their own warped ideas of what America should be. And where were they when George (putting the W into AWOL) Bush and the Republithugs were spending money like drunken sailors (my apologies to drunken sailors everywhere)? These slugs didn’t show up until a person of color moved into the White House. It is important for us to remember that it wasn’t conservatives who fought for America’s independence. Conservatives are, by the very definition of the word, opposed to change. The conservatives of the time of the American Revolution were known as Tories!

Today’s Tea Party Patriots scream that they “want our country back.” Did they actually lose it? And where would they take it back too? Back  to singing “God Save the Queen” instead of:

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A Few Years Too Late…

Going through Audible.com’s catalog I came across this little-known gem by Mark Twain entitled Buckshot Cheney’s Last Trainride. If only the late night talk show hosts had known about this back in February 2006.

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Preserve The Spirit of Panama’s Diablos Rojos

Yesterday my friend Omar who writes the blog Lingua Franca had a post about the demise of the colorful buses, Diablos Rojos, that rule and terrorize the streets of Panama City…http://epiac1216.wordpress.com/2010/06/30/bidding-goodbye-to-the-diablos-rojos-of-panama/.

I wrote the following comment:

I hear you, Omar, about the need to modernize and improve on the urban transportation system in Panama City, but the disappearance of the Diablos Rojos will be another step in the homogenization of the city into another bland, characterless place on a map. They give the city, and the country, a dash of color. A zestfulness that makes the city unique. Take that away and what have you got? A bunch of high rise buildings nearly indistinguishable from Miami, Casco Viejo which, to me, is reminiscent of the French Quarter in New Orleans or the Battery in Charleston, South Carolina.

As wonderful as a new fleet of buses will be, they certainly aren’t going to go any faster on Via Espana during rush hour.

New, modern, air conditioned buses are definitely needed, but I think they should be painted up just like the Diablos. It they aren’t then I think Panama has lost a little bit of its vibrant soul and the country and its people will be a little poorer for it.

He immediately agreed with me saying:

Your idea of painting the new buses like Diablos Rojos is a wonderful idea. Panama Tourist Bureau could organize a contest for this creative project, making Panama the only country in the world where buses are folk paintings in motion.

I think you just hit the nail right in the head. I would suggest writing to the Panama Tourist Bureau, since the Minister has a direct access to President Martinelli. He was the campaign manager of Martinelli.

He understands marketing very well, and the unique buses would be a major tourist attraction. How about writing a blog about this idea? I will start tomorrow spreading the word. You could do the same with your blog as well. Maybe we could get Don Ray’s cooperation. He’s a highly respected person in Panama.

I am sending the following letter:

I apologize for writing this in English but I don’t feel my Spanish is adequate enough to express what I wish to say.

There is little doubt that the public transportation system in Panama City needs to be modernized and it’s great that the outmoded Diablos Rojos are being taken off the street. However, the loss of color and vibrancy they lend to the streets of the city should not be taken lightly. They give Panama City a zest that contributes greatly to its vitality. What would the streets of London, England, be like without its red, double-decker buses? Paris without the Eiffel Tower? New York City without the Statue of Liberty?

Replacing the Diablos Rojos with modern generic buses will make Panama City nearly indistinguishable from Miami, Florida, as a hot and humid place with high rise buildings and everyone speaking Spanish in the streets. If you Google “Diablos Rojos” you find 491,000 hits for the term, and the images section shows 62,400 results though not all of them are for buses.

For years one of the iconic images of the city of New Orleans was the Saint Charles streetcar. While it was a major tourist attraction it was more than that. It was a mode of transportation for a sizable portion of the city’s population. When the city decided to install more routes for street cars they wisely chose to make the new trolley cars look like the old ones actually adding to the character of the city.

I think Panama City would be well served if the new, modern and much needed buses were to be painted up in the tradition of the current Diablos Rojos. Doing so would accomplish several things: it would preserve a cherished local tradition, it would continue to be something tourists delight in besides the Canal, and it would also provide employment to the wonderfully creative artists who decorate today’s fleet of buses.

Losing this colorful part of the fabric of Panama City is to cut away part of its vibrant soul and the city, the country and its people will be a little poorer for it.

Omar agrees and we are on a campaign to get the new buses painted like the old ones. If you agree with us, send your own letter to: Mr. Salonpon Shamah, Minister of the Autoridad de Turismo de Panamá (Panana Tourist Authority).  His e-mail address is:  gerencia@atp.gob.pa.  Phone number  (507) 526-7110.  Fax:  Fax: (507) 526-7111.

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You Can Observe A Lot Just By Watching – Yogi Bera

This morning as I was walking down our driveway here in Potrerillos Arriba, Panama, to unlock the gate I noticed some beautiful pink flowers growing among the weeds. I’ve always loved flowering things. Perhaps I’m genetically disposed that way through my paternal grandfather who used to grow what were referred to as “cut flowers for the trade.” Not only did he have large fields of gladiolus of which he produced several new varieties, but he also had greenhouses though they were in ruins when I was young.

These flowers are those of the Mimosa pudica (pudica=shy).

Wikipedia describes the plant as a creeping annual or perennial herb often grown for its curiosity value: the compound leaves fold inward and droop when touched or shaken, re-opening minutes later. The species is native to South  and Central America but is now a pantropical weed.

Mimosa pudica is well known for its rapid plant movement.

Like a number of other plant species, it undergoes changes in leaf orientation termed “sleep” or nyctinastic movement. The foliage closes during darkness and reopens in light.

The leaves also close under various other stimuli, such as touching, warming, blowing, or shaking. These types of movements have been termed seismonastic  movements. The movement occurs when specific regions of cells lose turgor pressure, which is the force that is applied onto the cell wall by water within the cell vacuoles and other cell contents. When the plant is disturbed, specific regions on the stems are stimulated to release chemicals which force water out of the cell vacuoles and the water diffuses out of the cells, producing a loss of cell pressure and cell collapse; this differential turgidity between different regions of cells results in the closing of the leaflets and the collapse of the leaf petiole.

The plant has serious medicinal qualities because of its alkaloid called mimosine which has been found to have potent antiproliferative (used or tending to inhibit cell growth <antiproliferative effects on tumor cells)  and apoptotic ( a genetically determined process of cell self-destruction that is marked by the fragmentation of nuclear DNA, is activated either by the presence of a stimulus or by the removal of a stimulus or suppressing agent, is a normal physiological process eliminating DNA-damaged, superfluous, or unwanted cells (as immune cells targeted against the self in the development of self-tolerance or larval cells in amphibians undergoing metamorphosis), and when halted (as by genetic mutation) may result in uncontrolled cell growth and tumor formation—called also programmed cell death) effects.

Its extract immobilizes the filariform larvae of Strongyloides stercoralis (threadworm) a nematode that can parasitize humans in less than one hour.

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