Monthly Archives: April 2012

My Dual-Language Books at

I have combined my book about Christopher Columbus’s last voyage with the Spanish translation.

For English-speaking students studying Spanish there is this volume:

For Spanish-speaking students studying English there is this version:

To See ALL my books available at go here:


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My Dual-Language Books At


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Setting Up Housekeeping

It’s been a noisy morning here in Boquerón. My neighbor to the right’s 37 fighting cocks have been crowing since sunrise and the flock of hens, roosters and chicks that belong to my neighbor to the left have been clucking, peeping and crowing since they left the coop. But all that has just become nothing more than background noise since I’ve moved in here.

No, what I’m talking about is the pair of little finch-like birds that I wrote about back in February are back to start a new brood. A lot of birds only use a nest once and I was wondering what this pair might do. They’ve got a pretty good set up here. The nesting area is protected on all sides by the channel beam that was used to construct  the second floor balcony. It’s safe from prying eyes, except for mine because there’s only one way in.

They’re tiny birds, slightly smaller than a sparrow but they are LOUD and they’ve been singing all morning long as they fly in and out of their little sanctuary. I’ve tried to get a picture of mom and pop but they’re extremely wary and won’t come in if they see me near the kitchen door. Back when mom had to feed her brood she tolerated me sitting nearby since feeding her chicks was her main priority. They’ve been bringing fresh grasses to line the nest and carrying out some of the old stuff. I’m happy to see them back.

P.S. This is my 520th post.

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Reader Feedback Request

One of the big advantages for writers, especially independent authors, has been the digital revolution. No longer is an author’s work dependent on literary agents (Literary agents, in my opinion, are like lawyers, low-life bottom-feeders who can’t write themselves so they make a living skimming 15% off the top from people who can write. They simply didn’t have the grades in college that would get them admitted to law school so they could spend their lives chasing ambulances.) and the Big 6 publishing houses who are more interested in churning out re-hashed versions of the same, slightly modified stories by the likes of James Patterson, John Grishom, Clive Cussler and the like. Those with a vested interest in perpetuating the Big 6 domination of the literary world clamor that independent authors clutter the world with trashy writing…yeah? Look above and tell me about their value to the printed word.

Ever since Gutenberg figured out moveable type until just a couple of years ago once an author gave his work a title and a cover was affixed to it that was it. . forever. You were stuck with it. Now, though, with just a few clicks of the mouse (and a new ISBN number) an author whose work is in electronic form whether as an e-book or Print on Demand (POD) can change the title and/or the cover at will.

I’ve never been completely happy with either the title of my book about Christopher Columbus’s horrible fourth voyage. His fleet was denied entrance into Santo Domingo to ride out an approaching hurricane. It took them a month to sail the northern coast of what is now Honduras and when they turned the corner he named it “Cabo de Gracias a Dios” which is still on charts to this day, 510 years later. They constantly battled contrary winds and currents. Their attempt at establishing a colony in Panama was a disaster. The Indians didn’t take kindly to the thought of sharing their land with these interlopers and in a bloody battle literally drove the white men into the sea. With his ship’s hulls leaking like sieves because of shipworms he was forced to abandon two of the four in Panama. Trying to return to Santo Domingo the two remaining ships were so close to sinking that besides manning the pumps 24 hours a day the men were literally bailing with their cooking utensils to the point where they had to be run ashore on the bleak coast of Jamaica to save their lives. They remained there for over a year and Columbus faced starvation, a mutiny and a pitched battle between the mutineers and those loyal to their leader.

The original title of the book was “Despair!” and the cover was an old painting of the “Admiral of the Ocean Sea.” It was okay, I guess, but not really what I wanted. Now, with the book translated into Spanish and being worked on to be offered as a dual-language book, I’ve decided on a new title and cover art. I’d like to get some honest feedback from my readers as to what they think of the new title and cover.

Old cover and title:


What do you think about this?


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Panama Culture Under Seige

Just as Captain Jean-Luc Picard on Star Trek, The Next Generation, (Panamanian Culture) learned from the Borg (U.S. cultural hegemony)

Resistance is futile

You WILL be assimilated

I found those things this morning shopping at El Rey supermarket.

Peeps are sometimes jokingly described as “indestructible”. In 1999, scientists at Emory University  performed experiments on batches of Peeps to see how easily they could be dissolved, burned or otherwise disintegrated, using such agents as cigarette smoke, boiling water and liquid nitrogen. They claimed that the eyes of the confectionery “wouldn’t dissolve in anything”. Furthermore, Peeps are insoluble  in acetone, water, diluted sulfuric acid, and sodium hydroxide.Concentrated sulfuric acid seems to have effects similar to the expected effects of sulfuric acid on sugar.

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Follow Up Questions

Remember when I posted this picture and asked what was wrong with it?

My morning routine includes a wonderful mug of Finca Ruiz coffee which is grown just a few miles away from Boquerón, checking my emails and reading a few of my favorite blogs. One of them is This morning he had this picture by Rubens in his post…

And there’s this one by Lucas Cranach the Elder…

Same problem. If one takes the Bible literally, and believes that “God took some clay from the ground and made the shape of a man.Then He breathed gently into the shape.The man’s eye’s opened and he began to live. God called him Adam…” and that “God took a rib from Adam’s side and made a woman.” Why do these paintings show Adam and Eve with navels?

Which leads us to the inevitable questions of, if God created man in his own image, does God have a navel? If so, why?


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My Latest Project

As a lot of you know, my book, Despair! ( has been translated into Spanish by two young students at the Universidad Latina here in David, Stephany Peñaloza and Deyreth Garcia.

Stephany (L) Deyreth (R)

Stephany translated the first half of the book and Deyreth the other half. I had them send me their MSWord files of their translation and combined the two for a project I’ve had in mind. I spent several days going through the two files and formatting them so they’d work as an electronic book. Stephany had LOTS of extra spaces between words that had to be eliminated and she also used the “TAB” key a lot which throws off the formatting. And Deyreth’s version didn’t use quotation marks correctly so I had to painstakingly go through her version and insert them as needed. One thing I found in going through their versions was that I’d missed punctuation here and there in spite of having read it so many times I was sick of the story.

One of the requirements of their course was that they give me a bound copy of their work. I’d received Stephany’s several months ago and Deyreth wrote to me a couple of weeks ago saying her bound copy was ready and we needed to get together so she could give it to me. Another of the requirements of the course was that they could receive no financial remuneration for their work. My big brainstorm for a project needed their permission to publish their work side by side with mine and I needed to get them to sign away any rights they might have to their translation.

Yesterday I met the two of them at a fine Italian restaurant in David for dinner and explained what I had in mind and got them to sign my agreement to publish their translation. It could very well help them in the future, though, when they go looking for translation work. When asked if they can show any work they’ve done they can say, “Well, sure, here, I translated a BOOK!”

So, here’s what I’ve been working on. 1) I plan on offering the translation simply as a Spanish version of the book. 2) I am combining my original version of the book with their translation so English-speaking students who are studying Spanish can read the Spanish version followed immediately by the original. Like this:

No recuerdo cómo el viejo, Juan, vino a vivir con mi madre y conmigo. Parecía que siempre había estado allí. Él no tenía ningún parentesco con nosotros. No que yo supiera, de todos modos. Él simplemente estaba ‘allí. I don’t remember how the old man, Juan, came to live with my mother and me. It seemed he had always been there. He was no blood relation of ours. Not that I knew of, anyway. He was simply ‘there.’

De niño él me asustaba. No era nada por lo que él hiciese. Era sólo él. Corto de estatura, casi diminuto, su piel quemada por el sol estaba arrugada como una pieza de fruta seca. Siempre estaba encorvado. Aún de pie y apoyado en el viejo pedazo de rama de árbol que llevaba consigo a todas partes, él nunca estuvo erguido. Su espalda siempre estuvo doblada como si hubiera visto algo en el suelo y se había detenido por un segundo para obtener una mejor visión de ella. Cuando él había estado bebiendo no solamente se inclinaba ligeramente hacia adelante también se inclinaba de un lado al otro. Viendo sus brazos podrías decir, que alguna vez él había sido muy fuerte. Todavía se veían los músculos fornidos debajo de los diseños de tinta permanente en su piel. As a young child he scared me. It wasn’t anything he did. It was just him. Short of stature, tiny almost, his sun-weathered skin was wrinkled like a piece of dried up discarded fruit. He was forever hunched over. Even standing and leaning on the old piece of tree limb he carried with him everywhere he was never straight. His back was always bent as if he’d just spotted something on the ground and had stopped for a second to get a better look at it. When he’d been drinking he wasn’t just bent forward, he leaned to one side or the other, too.  You could tell, looking at his arms, that he had once been very strong. The muscles still rippled under the faded designs permanently inked into his skin.

Él nunca peinó su cabello. Era un blanco cegador y lo poco que quedaba de él creció en lugares aislados en la cabeza. Estaba como ligero y fino, cual la pelusa, como la flor de la planta del diente de león y que ni la más leve brisa lo haría agitarse. He never combed or brushed his hair.  It was blindingly white and what little there was of it grew in isolated spots on his head. It was as light and fine as dandelion fuzz and the slightest suggestion of a breeze would cause it to flutter nervously.

Sus ojos eran del azul más oscuro, como el color del mar, donde la línea recta del horizonte reúne el azul claro del cielo y que a menudo parecía que él estaba mirando fijamente a esa línea lejana donde todo lo que un marinero busca aparecerá en primer lugar. Y su nariz grande, como la de un halcón, hendida en el mar de su cara como la aleta de un tiburón surcando las tranquilas aguas dentro de un arrecife. His eyes were the darkest blue; like the color of the sea where the straight line of the horizon meets the lighter blue of the sky and it often seemed that he was staring intently at that distant line where whatever a seaman is looking for will first appear. And his large, hawk-like nose cleaved the sea of his face like a shark’s fin slicing through the calm waters inside a reef.

Él me dio miedo, el viejo Juan lo hizo, pero eso era cuando yo era joven. A medida que fui creciendo y poco a poco él reveló su historia, yo crecí con el amor del hombre y la maravilla de la aventura de su vida. He scared me, old Juan did, but that was when I was young. As I got older and he slowly revealed his story to me I grew to love the man and marveled at the adventure of his life.

For Spanish-speaking students the book will be presented in reverse with the English first followed by the Spanish translation. So far I’ve gotten the Spanish to English version finished and it wasn’t easy. It took me three complete working days to do it. I’ve got the first two chapters of the English to Spanish version done so far. When that’s done I’ll have to create a cover for the book that is different than the original so it won’t be confusing to people searching on line. I’ll let you all know when they are published.


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“If God’s Willing And The Creek Don’t Rise”

The followers of my series of barely spell checked first drafts know that I’ve mentioned that it seems as though summer is nearly over and the rainy season is starting to kick in. I’ve shown the state of the river recently…

There was nothing special about the afternoon. It was a bit overcast but the sky gave but a slim hope of rain though thunder continuously rolled down from the mountains to the north, west and east. It was around 5:30. I was sitting out on the front porch reading when I heard a strange noise coming from the area of the river some 30 yards or so to my right. I looked up and saw some cows moving across the dry, rocky bottom from one pasture to another. Two young Indian lads stood on the near bank.

The noise rose in volume and intensity and then a solid wall of water about four feet high came crashing and rolling around the bend. My neighbors from up the road came running down as I went inside to grab my camera. In the few seconds it took me to get the camera and return outside nearly everyone in the neighborhood had gathered to watch the muddy, debris-strewn water rise.

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It’s pitch dark now. Everyone has long gone home, but the sound of the river, so long silent is background music once more.



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Ponder On This

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Things ARE Different Here In Panama

It’s only natural for people to wonder what it is that makes me like Panama so much. Of course the natural beauty of the place is one, as long as you don’t look at the ground. It’s often said that Panama, at least in the countryside, is like it was in the States fifty years ago. And for you youngsters who might be reading this, fifty years ago people in the States thought nothing of throwing their trash out of the windows of their cars and littering the landscape. Unfortunately that’s how it seems to be in Panama. In that respect they’ve got a lot of catching up to do with the gringos, but remember, it took the United States a whole generation to get most of its citizens to stop trashing the place.

But it’s the people of Panama that makes the country special. Now, there are some very annoying differences between Panama and the States that may truly try a gringo’s patience. For instance, in many commercial dealings customer service is a completely foreign concept. That’s not to say it’s perfect in the States, it’s just that here, in a lot of instances, the customer is the enemy and is treated that way. But it’s not just gringos who are treated as the enemy, it’s Panamanians as well, so the pain is spread evenly.

In the last couple of weeks I’ve had trouble finding the blood pressure medicine I require. The large Arrocha Pharmacy didn’t have it at all and said it would be a month before they’d get another order. The El Rey supermarket pharmacy didn’t have any, either, nor did the small pharmacy where I buy my generic Plavix. The cute little pharmacy clerk there tried to order it for me but her supplier didn’t have any of it, either.

So, today I decided to go to the pharmacy at Hospital Chiriqui, a modern facility in David and one of the two private hospitals in the city on which most expats depend.

As you know, I don’t have a car. Like almost all of my neighbors I depend on the bus system which, in almost every instance, puts the public transportation services in the States to shame. And with only one or two exceptions, we don’t depend on “chicken” buses here, either. Almost the entire fleet in the provinces consist of 30-seat, air conditioned Toyota “Coasters.”

Here in Boquerón a bus passes the end of my street about every 20 minutes from very early in the morning until the last one departs the David terminal at 7:30 pm. The fare from here to the terminal downtown is 60¢ each way after the “jubilado” (old farts) discount. A bargain at twice the price because you certainly couldn’t drive into town on 60¢ of gas with the price hovering around $4.50/gallon.

I was a good 50 or 60 yards from the corner of where my street joins the main drag that goes down to the InterAmerican Highway and on into David when the city-bound bus flashed by. Oh, well, big deal. I’ve only got to wait about 20 minutes for the next one and I have my Kindle with me to read in the meantime. If I was really in a hurry, and since I’m retired and have nothing but time on my hands 20 minutes doesn’t matter, I could pay half a buck for a cab to take me the mile and a half or so down to El Cruce (the cross roads) where I could pick up any of the buses from seven or eight different routes that service communities farther to the west heading back into the city.

But then I heard a high-pitched sound and low and behold there was the bus that just passed backing up so that I could get on board. That, my friends, is what customer service is all about. And all for a 60¢ fare. I’d seen drivers do that on the Potrerillos buses when I was living up there but it’s the first time it’s ever happened for me. Things ARE different here in Panama. It’s one of the things I love about this country.

p.s. I usually try and buy a month’s supply of my medication but even at the hospital they only had a one-week supply for me. I opted to buy double the dosage pills and will just cut them in half.




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