Saturday, May 11, 2013

A Sad, Sad Story About Why It is Essential to Learn Spanish in Central America

     I believe most people are terrified of  speaking a foreign language on the phone, at least at first.  I was. Now I am to the point that it frustrates me more than scares me, but I'm kicking myself for not studying harder.  Why?  Because after a certain Spanish speaking gentleman and I hung up moments ago in mutual frustration, I put together the bits I understood and light-bulbed that he was telling me … I actually WON THE CAR they were raffling off at the Los Santos Feria! 
     Too bad, so sad.  In fact, double "demonios," which is how they translate "bad words" from English to Spanish on TV.  A) My phone connection with this gentleman whose number was "Unknown" was horrible because I had bought a really cheap phone and I couldn't understand most of what he said (lesson #1).  B) My Spanish is still so uncertain I couldn't understand the rest of what he said either (lesson #2).  So we said "Ciao" and hung up.
     As the call drifted into history and I replayed it mentally, I recognized certain words and phrases, "tiene ganar" being one of them, and realized that I had just run over my own foot with a free Honda Yaris I would now not be getting.
     The moral of this story? Aprende bien el espaƱol.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Publishing Pickpocketry - Beware Penguins Offering Deals

     I had heard dire warnings about allowing Penguin-owned vanity press 'Author Solutions' anywhere near my checkbook.  Author Solutions has been accused of cackling off to the bank with the life savings of over 150,000 very unhappy authors who allege that dealing with Author Solutions was one of the worst decisions they ever made.
     The latest news is that Penguin, after buying Author Solutions about a year ago, has not only NOT cleaned house, they are taking their scam show on the global road.  If you plan to self-publish and want to be shocked and alarmed, read this post from Let's Get Digital:     The Author Exploitation Business 

Thursday, May 2, 2013

A Whole Lot of Bull

    Dateline Panama: The Los Santos Feria comes once a year.  A sort of county fair, it features thousands of exhibits, hundreds of food vendors, lots of merchandising, and plenty of handsome animals.  Participants come for the fun from all over the province, and from all over Panama.
    My friends and I wandered through displays of pretend cane fields, cornucopias of piled papayas and mangoes and guayabanas and other tropical deliciousness, past a complex agricultural display tucked behind a truly remarkable fence made from corn dried on the cob in the shapes of pinwheels, flowers and geometric shapes, and on to the rows upon rows of prize bulls neatly tethered at precise distances from each other beneath a very long cow-port.
    I was particularly charmed by the bulls.  Cattle here tend to be extremely lean. Skinny, even. Not to digress, but nearly any meat you can buy at the store is lean and stringy. It doesn't make a good burger. (TIP: I often have the butcher regrind the meat with some fat. When I do that the meat makes incredibly tasty burgers, and costs me half as much.)
    These bulls would not need to be re-ground with extra fat.  But who would be crazy enough to do that? These big boys are valuable for their flesh in a different venue - their sexual prowess. They are breeders, at around $10,000 per ton, give or take.
    A variety of Brahma cattle, they are usually a gorgeous cream-rich-in-butterfat color, and so large that were I to dare the act, we could stand shoulder to shoulder.  They have the Brahma hump, and beautiful big brown eyes. They are magnificent.
    But I will state categorically that those bulls had to have been drugged. There is otherwise no way that much testosterone could stand around in the same place, placidly tethered and chewing its cud.
I watched one mammoth beast salute the bull next to him. Possibly their drugs were wearing off a bit. They butted heads, gently slamming together the flat planes across the fronts of their skulls. A bit of desultory pushing that didn't involve either of them moving half an inch, then they mutually decided eating would be more fun, and so returned their individual attentions to the bin in front of them.