Monthly Archives: August 2012

Republicans Admit They’re Going To Lie During Campaign

Mitt Romney’s campaign said on Tuesday that its ads attacking President Obama’s waiver policy on welfare have been its most effective to date. And while the spots have been roundly criticized as lacking any factual basis, the campaign said it didn’t really care. “We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers,” Romney pollster Neil Newhouse said at a panel organized by ABC News. This is a different standard than the one Romney himself has held up for the election-season ad wars. Reacting to attacks by a pro-Obama super PAC, Romney recently told a radio station that “in the past, when people pointed out that something was inaccurate, why, campaigns pulled the ad.” The presumptive nominee’s top communications hand, Eric Ferhnstrom, was quick to make the case that the two instances were not comparable. (Source: Huffington Post)

At least they’re honest about being dishonest…

And for those of you who object to my putting political posts on MY blog then I advise you to come back after the election in November.

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Everyone Has A Dream

Mine is to have a mental illness named after me.

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Strict Interpretation of the Constitution

Most  21st century conservatives (including Supreme Court Justices Alito and Thomas) believe that all laws should rely on the strict interpretation of, and the original intent of, the framers of the Constitution that was written in 1787.

After careful consideration, and in light of the recent slaughter or innocents by automatic weaponry in the past few weeks, and the fact that there are over 30,000 (that’s right, folks, THIRTY THOUSAND!!!) homicides by firearms annually in the U.S., I believe those people are right and that a strict interpretation and the original intent of the Second Amendment to the Constitution should be made mandatory.

That’s what they had in mind, NOT this…

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Panamanians Bearing Gifts

There’s no need to beware of them.

It’s no secret that I love my neighbors here in Boquerón, and I feel their love in return. They’re always bringing me things to eat. I’ve had some fantastic homemade tamales that can’t be beat. During mango season I was deluged with the things, and there was a bumper crop this year. Nearly every day when the avocados were in season one or another of my neighbors would bring me some. I got guacamoled out. Recently I wrote about the pibá. Today I was given a large “pipa” (pea pah). That’s a young coconut filled with delicious, refreshing and healthy coconut water.

There’s a coconut palm in my back yard that has a lot of nuts growing but they’re not ready to be picked yet. Just on the other side of the front fence, in my neighbor’s yard is a huge palm…

It’s at least 60 feet tall. (I measured it by visualizing the 65′ Hatteras I used to run in New Orleans standing on end against the tree) From time to time while sitting out on the front porch puffing one of my stogies I hear a loud thump as one of the nuts falls to the ground.

Yesterday my neighbor brought me one. It was filled with enough water to fill a large glass. The water is not only refreshing, but it’s loaded with potassium and antioxidants. With the water transferred to the glass my neighbor cut the nut open reveling the soft, sweet “pudding” inside.

According to Wikipedia, unless the coconut has been damaged the water is sterile and it has been used as an intravenous hydration fluid in some developing countries where medical saline was unavailable.

While Boquete is touted by many publications as one of the best places outside of the U.S. in which to retire, I try to avoid what many of the locals call “Gringolandia” and which I refer to as the “Gringo Ghetto” preferring to live among the natives, like a native. Living as I do certainly has its advantages. I can’t imagine the gringos in Boquete receiving the treats I get from the locals, though I may be wrong in some instances.

I love it here.

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

My Kindle Died

A couple of weeks ago my Kindle died.

It wasn’t resting, like the parrot in the Monty Python skit. It was dead! Kaput! Finished!

This was really a tragedy for me since I read a LOT! It’s my entertainment since I don’t have a television here in Boquerón, and finding English-language books here in Panama is close to impossible. There were over 100 books on the Kindle. Now I had nothing.

I called the Kindle customer service people on Skype. While they tried to be helpful, nothing they suggested worked. They wanted me to send it to them but couldn’t grasp what a hassle that would be down here in Panama. So,I decided it was time to bite the bullet and buy myself a “tablet.” I spent several hours on line checking various tablet out. I wasn’t going to get an iPad since I have a PC and didn’t want something that wasn’t compatible with it. What I finally bought was this:

I chose it for several reasons, among which is that it has a USB slot that will accept the keyboard I’m writing this on and will also link the tablet to the computer.

So, here are my impressions of the tablet vs the Kindle.

The Kindle is smaller and lighter. I always slipped it in my backpack when I was going into David so I could read on the bus. The table is bigger (10″ screen) and heavier. Not as bus-friendly as the Kindle.

The tablet is back-lit like a computer screen where the Kindle is not. That means I can read more comfortably at night. But during the daytime, sitting outside, the tablet has glare and reflection. The Kindle did not.

It takes some time to get used to reading on a Kindle. It’s like you’re reading only the right-hand page of a book, but after a short time it just seems natural. Depending on how you hold the tablet you can get a single page on the screen like the Kindle when you hold it vertically…

But if you hold it horizontally you get two columns on the screen so it’s more like reading an actual book…


To really waste some time you can download games to the tablet which you can’t do with the Kindle…

I had a cover for the Kindle to protect it, especially the screen. Of course, I bought a cover for tablet. It’s reversible.

While the Kindle just lists the titles of the books in your “library,” the tablet shows you the covers of the books you’ve downloaded…

Tap on the book cover and the book appears on your screen.

If there’s one area where the tablet just can’t compete with the Kindle it’s battery life. I only needed to recharge the Kindle battery once a week or every 10 days. The tablet will run for about 8 hours before it needs to be juiced up.

Looking at the two side-by-side, the Kindle is more convenient for traveling than the tablet. The Kindle beats the tablet hands down on battery life. If I’m near a wifi hot spot I can get my emails or surf the web on the tablet, something you can’t do with a Kindle. The tablet is better for reading books at night, the Kindle is better in bright light.

All things considered, the tablet is a better, though more expensive, device allowing me to do much more than I could with the Kindle. I’m happy with it.


Filed under digital books, ebook, Living Abroad, Living in Panama

Why No Posts Lately?

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything here. Lots of bloggers post every day. I did when I first started this project several years ago. Others post every other day, and some, like my cyber-friend Linda at who writes finely-crafted posts and puts up one a week.

Me? Well, none of my posts are finely-crafted. They’re essentially first drafts, quickly written and carelessly checked for misspellings. I post them when I feel like it.

Recently I’ve been negligent about posting anything. There are several reasons. 1) Life gets in the way and other things that take precedence. 2) Nothing noteworthy has been going on and 3) Sometimes I just don’t feel like it. Number 3 has been my excuse lately.

It’s not like I’ve been comatose since the last post, so I’ll give you a few updates over the next couple of days.

As my regulars know, I bought myself a motorcycle for my 70th birthday.

I call it the “Orange Arrow.”

As luck would have it I threw out my back a week after I got the bike. I was in severe pain for the first week afterwards. In so much pain I was THIS close to going to see a doctor. But it’s getting better now and I only get a twinge every now and then.

But another problem came up. I found out that my Panamanian driver’s license isn’t good for motorcycles and if I get caught riding without an endorsement I’m going to get a ticket. What are the odds of getting caught? Excellent. There are traffic cops all over the place daily setting up road blocks everywhere and checking people’s licenses.

I went to the license bureau last week to see what I need to do to get the endorsement. It was pretty discouraging. It seems that I have to go to a driving school which will cost me a couple of hundred bucks. Then I have to take a written test (in Spanish) and pass a practical test. Then I have to go through the whole licensing rigamarole all over again…photo, eye test, hearing test, another $40 fee.

The worst part is that now that I’ve turned 70 I have to go to a gerontologist or an internist and get a letter saying that I’m physically and mentally fit to drive a motorcycle. I could probably pass the physical part okay, but isn’t there something suspect about a septuagenarian’s mental health if they have gone and bought a motorcycle?

Oh, well, we’ll see.


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Olympic Speeds

Okay, the 2012 Summer Games are over. I didn’t get to watch any of them since I don’t have a television here. Sure, I could sign up for a service that would bring 200 channels into the house and there’d still be nothing to watch.

Like everyone else I have a morning “to read” list of sites while I’m having my eye-opener mug of Finca Ruiz coffee. After checking my emails one of the first places I go is A fine place with lots of neat stuff about small, mostly home-made boats.

One of the regular contributors is a guy named Jim Michalak. He designs some pretty neat boats. In fact I bought a couple of his plans though I doubt they’ll ever get built by me. In his most recent newsletter he made some observations about the speeds attained by athletes in various sports. Did you know that a sprinter who runs the 100 meter dash in 9 seconds is hitting a speed of…well, go to his newsletter and find out for yourself.


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Unique Dual-Language/Bilingual Book Formatting

When I decided to publish my book on Christopher Columbus’s calamitous fourth voyage along with the Spanish translation as an e-book I faced formatting problems.

In the days when books were printed on dead trees the solution for presenting dual-language/bilingual books was to place the two texts on separate pages. Usually the original text was on the left-hand page and the translation was on the right. This method had its problems. First of all, the two different languages don’t always have an equal number of lines in a paragraph because of spelling and other differences so one page of text might be longer than the other which can be visually unappealing.

Another problem with the two-page method is that the reader is forced to switch pages in order to check their reading comprehension making it easy to lose one’s original place.

Using a split screen on a Kindle or other electronic reading device isn’t very practical or visually appealing. You can turn the text on a kindle so that the screen presentation is wider but now there are too few lines on what is now the vertical screen, and again the reader has to take their eyes of the main text to follow the translation.

My solution for eliminating that problem was to present the main text in BOLDFACE followed immediately by the translation in italics. Like this:


The Old Man


El viejo


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.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.’

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.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.

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.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.

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.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.

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. 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.

Juan would spend his afternoons at one or another of the taverns on the waterfront in the port of Cadiz below our house. I don’t know where he got the money to buy his wine but the old sailors, merchants and dock hands who worked along the waterfront always paid him some deference and bought him a cup every now and then. I had also seen him, once or twice, pouring the leftovers from someone else’s cup into his own when they left their tables to answer a call of nature. If he moved from one bar to another during an afternoon he was usually able to cage enough so he would be staggering as he climbed the small hill to our house in the evening. Juan podía pasar sus tardes en una u otra de las tabernas en el paseo marítimo en el puerto de Cádiz, más abajo de nuestra casa. No sé de dónde sacó el dinero para comprar su vino, pero los viejos marineros, comerciantes y los ensambladores de muelles, quienes trabajaron a lo largo de la costa, siempre le pagaban cierta deferencia y le compraban una copa de vez en cuando.Yo también lo había visto, una o dos veces, verter los restos de la copa de otra persona en su propia copa cuando dejaban sus mesas para responder a una llamada de la naturaleza. Si él fuera de bar en bar durante una tarde, usualmente podría guardar bastante, así que estaría tambaleante mientras subía la colina a nuestra casa por la noche

It was a rainy, early spring evening when my mother insisted I go down to the docks and fetch Juan back to the house for dinner. He and I stood in the doorway of the tavern looking out at the rain-soaked street and the caravels anchored in the river dreading the idea of having to leave the cozy warmth of the bar to journey into the cold night air when Juan mumbled, “It was just like this on the night I first met them.Era una tarde lluviosa a principios de la primavera temprana, cuando mi madre insistió en que fuese a los muelles a buscar a Juan para la cena. Él y yo estábamos en la puerta de la taberna mirando hacia la calle empapada por la lluvia y las carabelas ancladas en el río, temiendo a la idea de tener que abandonar el calor acogedor de la barra para viajar en el aire frío de la noche, cuando Juan murmuró, “Era como ésta, la noche en que los conocí.”

“Met who?” I asked.“¿Conociste a quién?” le pregunté.

“My friend Ferdinand and his father, the Admiral.”“A mi amigo Ferdinand y a su padre, el Almirante .”

We stepped out into the rain, our chins tucked deep into our soggy cloaks in a vain attempt at keeping out the cold, and trudged back to the house. Juan didn’t utter another word the rest of the evening.Caminamos bajo la lluvia, nuestras barbillas metidas profundamente en nuestros capotes empapados en un vano intento de alejarnos del frío y nos encaminamos a la casa. Juan no dijo ni una palabra más el resto de la noche.

As you can see it’s easy to follow the main text and if a reader wants to check if their comprehension is up to par the translation is right there without having to go to another page.

The book is available in two versions: English/Spanish (for Spanish-speakers learning English) and Spanish/English (for English-speaking readers studying Spanish) at the Kindle Store, Barnes & Noble, the Sony Store, Apple, Page and Baker-Taylor for $4.99.

 However, I’ve decided to give readers of this blog a discount. First you have to sign up for an account with I know some of you might be reluctant to do that but I can assure you they DON’T give away your e-mail address and they DON’T SPAM YOU.

At Smashwords the books can be downloaded in a number of different formats:

Kindle (.mobi for Kindle devices and Kindle apps), Epub (Apple iPad/iBooks, Nook, Sony Reader, Kobo, and most e-reading apps including Stanza, Aldiko, Adobe Digital Editions, others), PDF (good for reading on PC, or for home printing), RTF (readable on most word processors), Palm Doc (PDB) (for Palm reading devices), and Plain Text (download) (flexible, but lacks much formatting).

For those of you who don’t own a Kindle, and iPad or any other “tablet” you can read the books by downloading the free app Kindle for PC or Kindle for Mac which simulated those readers on your home computer.

If you want to buy the English/Spanish version,

“Buy” it and when you go to check out of the site insert the following code (VB92L) where it says “price” and you will pay only $2.99.

For the Spanish/English version

use the code (PE75U).

You can also buy the books in paperback for $9.99 at

English/Spanish version:

Spanish/English version:

Because of printing and shipping costs there is no discount available for the paperback versions.

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Panama Taste Treat

The ability to feed oneself, to be able to “live off the land” is a wonderful thing. I found that out in the hard summer of 1985 when I was living on my houseboat on Bayou Beinvenue outside of New Orleans. I’d been laid off from my job and only eligible for $55 a week in unemployment benefits supplemented by $85 a month in food stamps. I probably should have left the area then, but I didn’t even have enough money to buy gas to get me anywhere that would have been better. The thing that kept me going was the ability to feed myself well from the environment.

Surrounded by water as I was I did a lot of fishing. Once a month I’d buy a pound of heads-on, unsorted (various sized) shrimp for $5. Out of that pound there’d be enough large shrimp to get one good meal. The rest I used as bait, and since I didn’t have a job, and at the time there weren’t any jobs to be had, I spent many an afternoon fishing off my boat’s “back porch.”

I’d catch speckled sea trout, red fish and croakers. I’d fillet them up and freeze them. I also had five commercial crab traps and I’d bait them with the heads and remains of the filleted fish and string them out along the dock. The next day they’d be filled with dozens of delicious blue crabs and I’d spend the day boiling them up and picking out the meat. Though I was broke most of the time (dockage consumed two weekly unemployment benefits) I ate like a king.

When I pass through big cities where people live crammed cheek to jowl like sardines in a can the thought often occurs to me, “what will all these people do if things suddenly turn to crap? How will they ever feed themselves?” There are tons of dystopian novels, like Stephen King’s “The Stand,” where city dwellers flood out of the urban areas in search of food and shelter.

Here in Panama things are a bit different except for the half of the Republic’s citizens who live in Panama City. They’re in the same tough spot and it was brought out last year when the Ngöble Indians blocked the Interamerican Highway cutting the food supply from the country’s bread basket of Chiriquí province to the capital. No fresh vegetables. No milk. But in reverse, no gasoline and diesel fuel got through here, either.

But the people in the provinces are able to feed themselves from what’s around them. First of all, the whole country is filled with free-range chickens. Nearly every family has a flock, so there’s meat and eggs. And as I sit on my front porch here in Boquerón I see mango trees, avocado trees, grapefruit, plantains, yucca, papaya, ñame.

Ñame, which translates from Spanish as “yam” though it isn’t like the yams we know in the States, is, like yucca, is a root vegetable and is highly prized here in Panama. The plant is fast growing and huge

but isn’t harvested until late in the fall after the plant appears to have died. The edible part looks like this…

There was a bumper crop of mangos this year as well as tons of avocados. My neighbors kept bringing me more of them than I could eat. It was sort of like zucchini in the States. People plant a few seeds and then get so much that they can’t eat it themselves and give them away to everyone they know.

The most recent offerings I’ve been getting lately is a small, golf ball-sized thing called, pibá here in Panama.

It’s known by a host of other names as well. In English it’s the peach-palm.

In Trinadad and Tobago it’s called a pewa, peyibay(e), and pejivalle in Spain. and pejibaye in Costa Rica and Nicaragua. In Columbia and Ecuador it’s known as chontaduro or chantaduro, pijuayo in Peru, pijiguao in Venezuela, tembé to Bolivians, and in Portugal it’s pupunheira, while in Brazil it’s pupunha. The scientific Latin name is Bactris gasipaes.

It is commonly boiled; in fact, it is customary to boil the fruits for 3 hours in salted water, sometimes with fat pork added, before marketing. Boiling causes the flesh to separate easily from the seed and usually the skin as well, though in some varieties the skin adheres to the flesh even after cooking. It is only necessary to remove the skin from the cooked flesh which can then be eaten out-of-hand. The pre-boiled fruit is sometimes deep-fried or roasted and served as a snack garnished with mayonnaise or a cheese-dip. It is also mixed with cornmeal, eggs and milk and fried, and is often employed as stuffing for roasted fowl. Occasionally it is made into jam. Oven dried fruits have been kept for 6 months and then boiled for half an hour which causes them to regain their characteristic texture and flavor. Peeled, seeded, halved fruits, canned in brine, have been exported to the United States. Dried fruits can be ground into flour for use in various dishes. A strong alcoholic drink is made by allowing the raw, sugared flesh to stand for a few days until it ferments.

Since it needs to be boiled for so long it’s not something I want to do very often, burning off that much gas, but practically every household around here has an outdoors shelter where my neighbors cook over a wood fire.

It has a wonderful nut-like flavor that I couldn’t quite put my finger on the first time I ate one but I’ve finally settled on it being a bit like an artichoke heart. They’re yummy.



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There’s An Old Song…

That says you’re better off without a wife because “You never have to be wishing when you want to go out fishing, and you never have to ask for the keys.”

Well, from the web site Bits and Pieces I think you can add this one, too…

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