Monthly Archives: May 2011

The Texas Of Panama

Texas has always had an inflated opinion of itself. Growing up, of course, it prided itself as the “biggest” state in the Union and I was delighted when Alaska became a state and relegated Texas to second fiddle status. In the last year there has been talk about them seceding and becoming several additional states instead of just the one.

Here in Panama Chiriqui Province, where I’m living, the people have a similar opinion of themselves. Chiricanos have a distinct “pride of place.” They almost see themselves as a country in and of themselves, and would probably secede themselves if it was possible. The highest point in the country, Volcan Barú is located here. It is often considered the “bread basket of Panama.” In the highlands around Volcan and Cerro Punta you’ll find huge fincas growing a wide variety of vegetables. There are large cattle ranches in Chiriqui as well as some of the finest coffee plantations found anywhere in the world. On the dashboards of the majority of cars here you’ll see not only the Panamanian flag but that of Chiriqui Province as well. Men wear baseball caps embroidered with the name “Chiriqui” on them. The pueblo of Boquete here in Chiriqui is touted by such publications as Forbes and Money magazines as one of the top 10 places to retire abroad.

Whether this pride is deserved or not isn’t for me to say. I simply note it as a fact.

As I wrote in a previous post I am enjoying listening to “Tipica” music and when I go to bed at night I hit radio station WCHT which specializes in the music. Last night, though, I forgot to set the sleep timer and about two in the morning the following song woke me up…

But let’s not think Chiriqui is the only province with pride of self.  Herrera province, which is actually the only other place in Panama I thought of settling down in has its own anthem sung by Karen Peralta who sang the song above.

This form of tipica music is known as “Tamborito.” Wikipedia says, “Tamborito, literally translated to “the Little Drum”, is a genre of Panamanian folkloric music and dance dating back as early as the 17th century. The Tamborito is the national song and dance of Panama. The dance is a romantic, couple’s dance, often involving a small percussion ensemble, and in all versions; a female chorus. The Tamborito is performed in formal costumes in front of large, interactive crowds that form a large circle around the performers. The members of such crowds often participate in the percussion of the song as well as the actual dance itself[1]. The Tamborito is most commonly performed during Panamanian festivals, and in particular, the Panama Carnival.” For the whole post go here:

And the Tamborito dancing starts at an early age as I saw in the Mother’s Day celebration in Boqueron last November.

Panama opens itself to me anew every day.


Filed under Boqueron Panama, Living Abroad, panama, Retirement Abroad

Interesting Sales Info On My Books

As I was finishing my fictionalized account of Christopher Columbus’s ill-fated fourth voyage I knew I was going to publish it as an e-book and not try to have a “traditional” publisher. With 68 summers behind me, and hopefully a bunch more ahead, I knew I didn’t have the time to find an agent who would then try and market it to a publisher and then wait another year of more to actually get it printed and into bookstores. I wanted to get it up and out to the public as fast as possible. That meant going “electronic.”

I knew it was possible to “publish” your own book on Amazon’s Kindle site. But it seems every company that has a “reader” also sells e-books and each has a proprietary format. Besides the Kindle there’s the Barnes & Noble “Nook.”  Apple, of course has a store for it’s iPad, and there’s the Diesel ebook store.

I don’t remember how I stumbled upon the Smashwords site. Probably through a Google search or from reading a blog post about e-book publishing. Smashwords. The brilliance of Smashwords is that if you properly format your book when you submit it to them it converts it to all the different e-book formats and distributes your work to the different booksellers as you can see if you click any of the links above.

Today I checked my Smashwords “sales report” and found some interesting information. It seems I’ve made sales through the Smashwords site as well as Kindle, Barnes & Noble and the Apple Store. What really surprise me was where I’ve made sales. Naturally the U.S. is where most of the sales have come from but I’ve also sold my offerings in Canada, Great Britain and Australia.

By far my best seller is my short story “Sailing Alone To Isla.” It’s priced at 99¢ which is the magic number for “impulse” purchases. Of course at 99¢ the royalty isn’t huge, between 55¢ and 65¢ for each sale, but, believe it or not, that’s generally more than most “traditionally” published authors receive for a $14.99 book!

I’m certainly not getting rich off of these things, but I don’t care. I still think it’s cool that the books are out there and that some people are finding them and actually buying them, even on both sides of the two greatest oceans.

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Filed under digital books, digital publishing, e-publishing, ebook, indie writers, self publishing, writing

My Book To Be In Spanish

As my regular readers know, I have a book available on

I’m certainly no threat to break the number of sales posted by the likes of J.A. Konrath or Amanda Hocking. Not by a long shot. Those two are pulling down close to a million bucks a year off their digital books. Despair! currently logs in at #404,115 on the Amazon Bestseller’s List. It’s not the bottom of the barrel, because some people have actually bought the book whereas some people never sell a single book, and Amazon actually made a direct deposit of royalties earned to my bank account at the end of last month. So while not at the absolute bottom of the heap it’s certainly visible from where I sit. Sigh!

Despite the lowly ranking I’m not discouraged. In fact, I’m pretty sure my book has a distinction that those in the top 100 haven’t achieved. It’s being translated into another language!

This morning I had a meeting with Stephany Peñaloza and Deyreth Garcia, two students who are working towards their Master’s Degree at Latina University in David. Stephany will translate the first half of the book into Spanish and Deyreth the second half. Actually they could translate far fewer pages of the book than there are and still comply with their course requirements.

I’m not sure who it was that contacted me first, but it was a gringo who Stephany had contacted saying she was looking for a book about Panama to translate for her thesis. Since fully a third of the book, about Columbus’s ill-fated fourth voyage to the Americas takes place here in Panama she selected my book over others that were submitted to her. I’m honored.


They say it should be finished this fall. I don’t know about you, but I think it’s pretty cool.

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Musica Tipica de Panama

It occurred to me that I have been remiss in delving into the music of Panama in this blog. A shame because I love music so much.

When riding the local buses here there is always music playing, either on the radio or from the driver’s own collection. Much of it, most of it, in fact, is what we gringos would consider typical “Latin” rhythms. There are some drivers who actually play a lot of plain, old, rock and roll from the good old U. S. of A. There are certain musical styles outside the States that are easily identified by gringos. No one needs to tell us what mariachi music is, nor a lot of other typically “Mexican” music, either. We’re all familiar with sambas, rumbas, tangos, meringues, and, of course tangos.

But a genre we’re not familiar with is what is known here as “Musica Tipica.” It’s heavy on accordion and congas. There is almost always a female singer and her contribution reminds me, very much, of Spain’s Flamenco with its slightly nasal quality. I found “Tipica” while “station surfing and fell in love with it almost immediately. Most nights I go to bed with station 107.9 playing and always fall asleep before the timer shuts the music off for the night.

Some famous Panamanian artists in this genre are Ulpiano Vergara, Dorindo Cárdenas, Victorio Vergara, Roberto “Papi” Brandao, Nenito Vargas, Yin Carrizo, Nina Campines, Abdiel Núñez, Manuel de Jesús Abrego, and Samy Y Sandra Sandoval, a brother and sister combo, just to name a few.

Probably the most famous Panamanian singer is Grammy winner Ruben Blades who also served as the country’s Minister of Tourism. I’ve posted one of the many versions of his song “Patria” before. This is NOT a “Tipica” song. I just love it so you’ll have to bear with me. Many consider it to be Panama’s “Second National Anthem.”

Here Jonathan Chavez interprets the same song in “Tipica” mode.

Here’s why Samy y Sandra are so popular


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We Didn’t Build Bird Houses In Our Shop Classes

Back when I was in high school we were required to take what today would probably be termed “life skill” classes. The girls took “Home Ec.” classes where they learned cooking and sewing. Some of the girls also took secretarial classes where they learned typing and shorthand.

Boys never took those courses though they should have been required to take typing because there was a lot of that to be done when they went away to college. No, instead we took “shop” classes where we were supposed to learn how to use tools and how to build things.

I suppose in most schools young boys learned how to build bird houses.

And if they were really skilled and adventurous they might have tried to tackle something like this…

But we who went to Orleans High School, later to become Nauset Regional High School in my senior year, weren’t content to build bird houses. Instead, we built THIS

The Sea Explorer Ship Nauset, a 42-foot ketch.

The seed of the idea was germinated in 1954 when the Sea Scouts rowed two boats from Orleans to Nantucket.  It was documented by Life Magazine in their May 17th issue:

Supposedly when interviewed about their exploit one of the crew members said the next time they came to Nantucket they wanted to sail there.

Thanks to my brother Jeff for sending me to this story in an old issue of Boy’s Life Magazine from July 1961. The story starts on Page 15 and is continued on Page 46.
Not only did I help build the boat but I was, of course, at the launching and on the maiden voyage. But that wasn’t the last I saw of the valiant SES Nauset. In the fall of 1987 while taking the Christiana, a 47-foot Grebe motor yacht from Provincetown, on the tip of Cape Cod, down to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where I would wrap up the restoration job I’d undertaken on her, I was wending my way through the Waccamaw cypress swamp on the Intracoastal Waterway  north of Charleston, SC, when I came upon a sailboat headed in the same direction. Her masts were on deck and she was being pushed along by an outboard motor attached to its transom on a bracket. As I drew up astern I saw the name board that read, SES Nauset. I pulled up alongside and throttled back to keep pace with the old lady and said to the young man at the tiller, “You might not believe this, but I helped build your boat.”

She was long past her prime and you could practically smell the rot in her as cruised side by side in what I consider to be one of the most beautiful spots on the whole ICW for ten minutes or so. The young man had big plans of restoring her and going off on grand adventures. But he was simply another of the tens of thousands of dreamers who are living proof that nearly everyone has a dream that won’t pan out. I wished him well, nevertheless and continued on my way. That’s the last I ever saw or heard of the boat again.

The Sea Explorer group is still thriving and has been integrated with the girl’s group known as Mariners back when I was a kid, but you wouldn’t expect any less from kids whose town is only 4-1/2 miles of sand between the Atlantic Ocean and Cape Cod Bay.

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Filed under boats, Classic Boats, homemade boats, sailboats, sailing

Photo Proves Bin Laden Is Dead

President Obama, sensitive to continuing criticism about not revealing proof of Osama Bin Laden’s death, caved in, today, and released the following photo from formerly sealed files.

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Dog Artistry?

Several years ago I saw a story on t.v. about a dog who constantly arranged its toys in artistic patterns in the back yard.The dog had tons of stuffed toys and she would place them around the yard grouped by type, size, and assemble them in circles, squares and triangles on the lawn. The owner would gather the toys and pile them all up on the back and the dog would do it all over again.

After more than an hour on YouTube I was unable to find anything about this phenomenon. Perhaps it was from pre-YouTube days.

What made me think about this comes from the house’s resident mutt, Charlotte.

In a nearby wooded patch Charlotte found a treasure trove of huge bones which she faithfully brings back to the house to gnaw on at her leisure. This morning I noticed that she had arranged them on the lawn at the side of the house in this pattern.

I hadn’t noticed the arrangement of the bones before this morning. What is interesting is that every now and then  she will take one of the bones from the collection over to the blanket she lies on and chew on it for a while and then replace it when she’s finished.

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Man vs. Woman For Dummies

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