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Travel Quote
of the Month

 

“I have traveled more than anyone else, and I have noticed that even the anglos speak English with
an accent.” 

Mark Twain

 

 

In This Issue:

  1. Broken News (GGC Five Year Anniversary, Another Plus for Chocolate, Arachnid Assassin)
  2. Rumble Talk (Happenings On Or About the Pacific Rim)
  3. Feature: Electronic Narcissism (Text Me NOW Amigo)
  4. Feature: Killer Fish (Lions and Zebras and Turkeys, Oh My!)
  5. Feature: Costa Rica History - A Primer, Part I (From Adam and Eve to Spanish Occupation - before 1500 AD)
  6. What's-in-a-Word (Narcissism);
  7. ROMEO Corner (El Wagon Pizzeria);
Quepos Weather

Wisdom of the Ages

 

 

 If God wanted me to touch my toes, he'd have put them on my knees.

 

 Broken News
(All the News That's Fit to Reprint)

GGC Five Year Anniversary

This edition, the 61st, marks the completion of five years of publication for the Golden Gringo Chronicles. What started as periodic reports in the form of emails to friends and family about living here and adjusting to a new culture, quickly grew into a monthly newsletter.

1

The Chronicles are now received by over 320 readers within Costa Rica, the United States and a half dozen other countries. most of which have visited here but also by some who've run across the site on the net and opted in. Internet spiders have discovered the website and If you Google "Golden Gringo Chronicles" it will lead you directly to the chronological Edition Archives.

As our editorial staff (guess who that is) gained more experience, features such as pictures, videos and a simplified format were added to make each edition more readable and interesting. As an example of how the Chronicles have changed, check out Edition 1 (October 2008) and Edition 30 (February 2011) versus the current edition.

GG would like to thank all the readers who have taken the time to send comments and encouragement over the past five years. I'm always interested in what readers have to say and pithy critique is always welcome so please email me any time at bob@bobnormand.com

GG hopes you continue to enjoy reading the Chronicles as much as I do writing them

¡Solo Bueno!.

Another Plus for Chocolate

Two of These plus
One of These plus
Four of These

GG has been taking a perverse pleasure in the last few years as conventional wisdom concerning the nutrition and health value of certain foodstuffs, the ones I happen to like and which were pooh-poohed for decades as unhealthy, to wit, coffee and chocolate, has reversed itself 180 degrees.

Now a report on a study at Harvard Medical School concludes that two cups of cocoa a day can help seniors stay sharp and that an unknown ingredient in cocoa/chocolate may serve to delay dementia (er, wadhesay Maude?). For more on the history and production of cocoa and chocolate in Central America, go here: Cocoaplata.

The Mayans produced a pasty drink from rough, stone-ground cocoa beans they called "Xocolati" (chaw-ko-lah-tee) and served it in decorated pods. The Aztec king Montezuma had three wives, many mistresses, lived into his seventies in the 14th century when the average life span was around 45 and ruled a large empire for nearly thirty years. He was reported to have drunk as many as 100 cups of Xocolati every day, strong evidence that chocolate may have been the original energy drink.

This latest study is on top of a study that says coffee can have a beneficial effect and maybe even prevent Type II diabetes (see Coffee versus Type II). Yet another study says that four cups of coffee per day plus one cup of green tea cuts the risk of stroke by a third (see Going Green with Coffee).

So let's see if I get the daily drinking regimen correctly:

  1. Cocoa - 2 cups
  2. Green Tea - 1 cup
  3. Coffee - 4 cups

That's not exactly Montezuma consumption levels, but it seems like a lot of liquid to me. No wonder old dudes like me are always running for the bathroom. (I wonder where Montezuma ran?).

¡Pura Vida!.

Arachnid Assassin

I was having a cup of dark, rich, Costa Rican coffee with a few friends recently when someone spotted something unusual.

Spider Having a
Gecko for Lunch

We were sitting in an outdoor cafe open to the atmosphere except for a tin roof. One of the sides of the hut had a pull down plastic mesh screen that is used to ward off rain when necessary. That morning it had been rolled up for the beautiful, sunny day we were having. There on the rolled up screen was a very large brownish spider holding a small gecko in a death grip. The gecko had been dead for some time.

Red-Thighed Wandering Spider

I learned a long time ago not to mess with brown spiders, especially ones that are more than two inches long as some brown spiders have a venom that can be deadly to humans. A friend identified the arachnid in question as a Red-Thighed Wandering Spider. It can give you a nasty bite if threatened (you probably don't want to pet it) but it's not life-threatening.

When we returned the next day, the shrunken gecko carcass had been dropped to the floor under where the spider had been feasting. Seems like spidey only wanted to consume the bodily fluids, including blood, from its prey but not consume it in toto (GG has known some women like that in a past life).

I felt a little sorry for the gecko as he reminded me of my good buddy Gerry, a gecko similar in size and coloring to the one the spider had for lunch. Gerry is my house pet and responsible for keeping my apartment clear of small bugs, including crickets and (small) spiders. In return he expects nothing from me except to continue to be of service, consume his fill and have a safe place to sleep. But Gerry, keep your eye open for anything with red thighs, amigo.

Now that's my kind of pet.

¡Pura Vida!.

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Rumble Talk
(Shaky Happenings On or About the Pacific Rim)

All's quiet on the western front; small rumbles occasionally, 4.5 Richter or under but nothing over 5.0 to report.The GGC seismograph is on duty waiting for the bigger shakers.

Check Out Recent Earthquakes Around the World Posted by the U.S. Geodetic Survey: Today's Quakes

 

Electronic Narcissism
(Text Me NOW Amigo)

Recently I was on a bus to Quepos coming back from San José, Everything was normal; a light, cooling breeze coming through the window. a comfortable ride on one of the new busses and, oh yes, literally every other person had their head down texting and emailing via their cell phones or ipads.

tyu
Waiting for a Bus
hyu
Starting Early in Life
drt
"Can You Hear Me Now?"

On another bus ride a few months ago I noticed the woman to the left of me and the woman to the right of me both spent the entire trip of three hours texting God knows what, to God knows who. Sorry amigos, but I think there just ain't that much worthwhile information to transmit. And I'm talking about people in a relatively poor, developing country. Modern life dominated by electronics is as prevalent in Costa Rica as it is anywhere.

In this day and age we have computers, cell phones, smart phones, iPads, Kindles and more. Of course these gadgets are very useful, when used in moderation. (in the past we used that phrase only when we were talking about alcohol, prescription drugs or food) These devices offer us, if we want, instant communications, worldwide, the ability to store virtually limitless information and, when combined with apps like Google, the ability to access all the information that exists on any subject; an extension of personal freedom and power never before seen in history. All this at a relatively low cost per month.

But the question of the times seems to be: "Are we trading unlimited information power and freedom for addiction and narcissism?".

About 20 years ago, after the cell phone had been around a few years, someone said to me: "First there was the stone age, then the bronze age, then the industrial age, then the age of communication and now the age of interruption". Little did we realize that in the short period of two decades we might now add that we've reached the age of electronic addiction.

hh

And it's not just the equipment that's alluring but also the myriad of applications that come with them. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and a half dozen other "social media" sites are routinely processing millions of postings/tweets every day, sometime every hour. Buying and gambling sites have caused havoc among many households (of course, it's not the sites, It's the people using them, sort of like the gun thing).

During a recent television interview, a well known psychiatrist revealed that "Facebook addiction is the fastest growing part of my practice". And video games that even permit international competition with strangers are taking huge amounts of kids time, not to speak of the major security issues related to the young. Kids are starting to use these devices at a younger and younger age and have a natural aptitude for running the devices. They allocate as much time as they can to operate them, even texting away into the middle of the night when parents are asleep..

Another psychiatrist says there are 10 warning signs of electronic addiction that parents should be aware of, to wit:

  1. Calluses on thumbs – Check your child’s thumbs for calluses. This is a clear sign that texting is getting out of hand. Your kid may also start complaining about pain or cramps in the thumbs.
  2. Runs into things – Kids who are addicted to texting pay more attention to their phones than where they’re going, and take little notice of any obstacles that may be in their way.
  3. Deformed neck – By looking down at a phone for extended periods of time, growing children can end up with a deformed neck.
  4. Speaks in acronyms – Are they commonly saying things like OMG and LOL? They're learning to live by a different language; the inability to speak in complete sentences using real words is a clear sign of texting addiction..
  5. Attached to phone – Has your child’s phone become a part of their anatomy? Are they continually within arm’s reach of their phone at all times? Are they constantly checking it for new messages?
  6. Unaware of surroundings – Are your kids unaware of spectacular sunsets or a giraffe in the back yard? Those addicted to texting become so focused on their phones they ignore everything else.
  7. Takes phone to bed – Some kids will spend all night texting with their friends while their parents are completely unaware. This can lead to serious sleep deprivation and teachers will find them nodding off at school. If you suspect this, you may need to confiscate the phone at bedtime.
  8. Panic attacks – If your son or daughter loses their phone, do they go into a panic attack? Kids who are addicted to texting become completely unhinged when separated from their phones.
  9. Unable to function otherwise – If you take the phone away from your child, is he or she completely unable to function without it? Kids with serious texting addictions can have trouble functioning without the constant connection to others that texting gives them.
  10. Combative behavior – Does your child become combative when you confront him with his texting problem? This behavior is another sign of addiction. If this happens, you may need to schedule an intervention.

It sure seems that parenting was a lot easier back in the mid to late 20th century. Our way of gaining freedom and/or rebelling, if you want to think of it that way, was to get a car and experiment with smoking, alcohol and sex. But I'm sure these activities are still popular, with the possible exception of smoking (that may have been replaced by even more drugs).

Let's Hope the Final Result is Better than Idiocy (Al Died in 1955 When Much of America
Still Had Telephones That Had Party Lines)

Three behavioral scientists at the University of Michigan recently reported on their study that showed that college students and middle aged people use social media differently. Included in the testing was "a personality assessment measuring different aspects of narcissism, including exhibitionism, exploitativeness, superiority, authority and self-sufficiency."

Results? College students favor Twitter and use it like a megaphone, overvaluing their opinions as  they seek to broaden their social circles and try to gain acceptance by their peers. Middle agers on the other hand favor Facebook and use it as a mirror. "It's about creating your own image, how you are seen, and also checking on how others respond to this image," (I guess the old dudes like GG are still struggling to understand what's going on)

More study is in the making because: "The researchers were unable to determine whether narcissism leads to increased use of social media, or whether social media use promotes narcissism..." More to be revealed later. In the meantime, the problem is producing new vocabulary that is being included in dictionaries, such as "digital detox", which is defined as "a period of time during which a person refrains from using electronic devices such as smartphones or computers; regarded as an opportunity to reduce stress or focus on social interaction in the physical world."   I can hear Einstein laughing.

Well that's enough on this topic for now; I've gotta go check my email and recharge my cell phone. And, oh yeah, I should check my Outlook calendar to see what bills I need to pay online this week. Wait, I forgot, it gives me a reminder when due, doesn't it?  ...aaaaaarrrrrrrgh!

¡Pura Vida!.

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Killer Fish
(Lions, Zebras and Turkeys, Oh My!)

They can be called Zebra Fish, Turkey Fish, Scorpion Fish or Fire Fish but they are best known as Lionfish. You might also want to call them Spiney Devil Fish for the way they act.

kio
Pretty But Bad - The Lionfish (Pterois Volitans)

Originally inhabiting only the Indian Ocean and the South Pacific, this species is now invading the Americas, particularly the Caribbean and even parts of the southern United States, anywhere the water is naturally warm. They are thought to have gotten a foothold here as a result of human carelessness in the disposal of tropical aquariums (similar to the boa epidemic plaguing the everglades). Lionfish are now being encountered throughout the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico.

In Costa Rica, the Lionfish is showing up on the caribbean side where reefs and seagrass beds abound, the favorite living and hunting grounds for this type of fish. But now reports are surfacing that the little devils are being spotted off the southwest central coast (that's Quepos amigo) and even off Tamarindo in the Nicoya peninsula.

Lionfish average about 12 inches in length and are notable for their extremely long and separated spines. They have thirteen dorsal, three anal (now that's really a pain in the butt), and two pelvic spines.They live about 15 years. The fish is deceptively pretty and has a generally striped appearance. They come in red, green, navy green, brown, orange, yellow, black, maroon, or white. Colorful dudes.

Those spines are where the problem lies. Lionfish spines contain a strong venom that discourages predators and permits the species to proliferate with almost no interference. The Lionfish themselves, on the other hand, are voracious predators and have an interesting feature; they can expand their stomachs as much as 30 times the empty volume to accommodate more and more of the crabs, shrimp and fish that they eat (years ago GG thought he could do that too but look where it got me).

Really Bad Dude #1: The Scorpion Fish
Really Bad Dude #2: The Stone Fish

A Lionfish sting can bring great localized pain to a human but no fatal case of a lionfish sting has ever been documented. I know what that kind of pain is having been stung twice over the years by sting-rays. Nevertheless, if you get stung by a Lionfish you should seek immediate medial attention. A Lionfish sting though is not as bad as the sting from one of its cousins, the Scorpion Fish and the Stone Fish. All three are the family Scorpaenidae but the latter two, particularly the Stone Fish, can kill you.

So while most efforts these days go into preventing the extinction of various species we are faced with one whose proliferation needs to be checked. One scientist has estimated that 27% of the adult population of Lionfish will have to be removed each year just to attain a zero growth rate. Since they have so few successful predators in the sea, it looks like humans will have to do the job.

drt
The Best Way to Meet a Lionfish
The good news is that Lionfish make good ceviche (see: ceviche recipes), having a taste somewhere between a snapper and a grouper. But first you have to catch them and, as explained above, they ain't trout. Reports are they do not catch well on hook and line but divers have noticed that they're easily approachable and caught by spear or net.

It's going to take a lot of divers and underwater nets if we don't perfect a net-from-the-boat method. And once caught, one needs still to be careful in removing the spines as venom transfer can still occur after the fish is dead. But once the spines are removed, the fish is edible.

I'd eat the Lionfish ceviche amigos but I not preparing it.

¡Solo Bueno!.

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History of Costa Rica - A Primer, Part I
(From Adam and Eve to Spanish Occupation, Before 1500 AD)

This is also known as the pre-Columbian period, i.e., before Columbus.

More likely the Costa Rican names in the beginning were something like Satú and Turi Uha rather than Adam and Eve. These were native names mentioned in records and touted in legends. (for example, see Legend of Zurqui)

Maya Human Sacrifice

Archaeologists tell us there is evidence of human presence in this area as far back as 10,000 years and that organized communities were likely here by 400-500 A.D. In that period, the mid-first millennium, the Mayas were in their ascendancy in Mexico and exerted some influence in culture throughout central america, perhaps as far south as Panama. The Mayas routinely made animal sacrifices at their ceremonies and occasionally performed human sacrifices. There is no evidence to suggest that the practice of human sacrifice occurred in what was to become Costa Rica nor is there evidence to suggest it did not. (Scalping the tourist does not count)

It is believed that at least some of the tribes that developed here were splinter groups from the Mayas (perhaps some of them got tired of having their head cut off or their heart ripped out at the Maya rituals). The Northwest (now Guanacaste) was the principle recipient of the tribes that migrated from Mexico and they became known as the Chorotegas. They were excellent farmers and organized themselves into communities some of which were as large as 20,000 persons. They practiced ceramic art extensively and had an organized military to defend themselves which was also employed to generate a source of slaves.

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How'd They Do That?

In the Southwest, three tribes are believed to have migrated northward from Columbia and dominated the scene. They were the Borucas, Chibchas and Diquis. They never exceeded over a few hundred thousand population and were decimated by the Spanish during their occupation. One of the offshoots of the Borucas was the Quepoas tribe, after which GG's current town of residence was named.

The Chibchas have a unique place in Costa Rican history as they are thought to be the producers of the mysterious stone spheres that are scattered throughout the southwest and the Cocos Islands. For more about the spheres see Balls of Stone. Most of the spheres are now preserved in the Costa Rican national museum. Theories about how the indians achieved such perfect roundness with stone are still being proffered.

On the Caribbean Coast most of the indigenous tribes were immigrants from the jungles of Brazil and Ecuador. Later they would be joined by significant numbers of black slaves from the Caribbean imported by the Spanish. That mixture would give rise to the unique culture found there today.

juk
Some Modern Borucas

Various estimates put the number of indigenous peoples remaining today in Costa Rica at between 60,000 and 70,000 or about one and one half percent of the current population. Even these are broken up into at least eight tribes some of which are located in remote mountain regions without electricity, sanitation or health care.

Like what happened in many other parts of the Americas, the European invasions of the mid-first millennium effectively eliminated all but traces of the indigenous cultures through wars, slavery and imported diseases for which there was no cure in the new world at that time.

In Costa Rica the honor of accomplishing the decimation was taken by the Spanish in the early 1500's. It all started in 1502 when Christopher Columbus dropped anchor off the Tico caribbean coast and was impressed enough to name the area the "Rich Coast" or Costa Rica.

Read how Columbus came to naming the area Costa Rica in next month's chronicle entitled : History of Costa Rica - A Primer, Part II (The Spanish Occupation, 1502 to 1721)

¡Pura Vida!.

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What's-in-a-Word

Narcissism

Defined in my handy-dandy online dictionary as : "inordinate fascination with oneself; excessive self- love; vanity.".

Narcissus Admiring Himself Dude, Get a Room

The origin of the word comes from Greek mythology: Narcissus supposedly was a hunter from the territory of Thespiae who was renowned for his beauty (GG had that problem too in his youth). He was the son of a river god named Cephissus and a nymph named Linope.

Narcissus was overly proud and spurned those who loved him. Another Greek figure, Nemesis saw this and attracted Narcissus to a pool where he saw his own reflection in the water and fell in love with it, not realizing it was merely an image. Unable to leave the beauty of his reflection, Narcissus died of starvation

The mythical story of Narcissus is also the origin of the word "echo". Echo was a nymph who was in love with Narcissus. Unfortunately, Hera had cursed her to only repeat what others said, so she could not tell Narcissus. When he died, she wasted away until only her voice was left.

It's not easy being a god or a nymph..

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ROMEO Corner

(Retired Old Men Eating Out)

El Wagon - Pizzeria

Location: On the road to Manuel Antonio beach, south of the airplane (El Avion) about 100 meters.
Hours: Monday thru Sunday 11 AM to 9 PM
Parking: Limited at the restaurant, no parking on the road in that location.
Contact: Tel.: 2777-0584; Email: N/A; Website: N/A

Reviewing ROMEOS: David H., John S. John P., Brian M., Bob N., Jonathan (guest from San Jose)

To Review Our Rating System and Procedure, go here: R.O.M.E.O. Rating System

This restaurant is part of the Costa Verde hotel complex that also includes Anaconda, El Avion and La Cantina.

Entrance to El Wagon

There are inside and outside (covered) dining areas, the inside actually being a renovated rail car. Both exhibit pleasant low lighting and ample use of Costa Rican woods in the tables and chairs (the rocking chairs are crafty but each weighs about 100 kilos). In the outside dining room you are virtually in the jungle. The side open to the road is screened by shrubbery reducing noise from the road and the room is several feet below the street level further reducing the potential for street noise.

We were treated to a singer/guitarist who's music was soft, gentle and directed towards an era (60's-70's) pleasing to an old goat like GG.

For atmosphere we give El Wagon four sloths.

You can eat anything you want in this restaurant as long as it's pizza.

When the format was changed a couple of years ago, management decided to focus on pizza only and installed a wood fired oven. Well done, and the product shows it. There is a selection of maybe a dozen pizzas with various toppings. They'll also customize a topping if the request is reasonable. All their pizzas are based on a thin crust version and were of a (guesstimated) 12-14" size - plenty for one person. Some ROMEOS took home leftovers.

I was surprised to see two items had been added to the bottom of the menu since our last visit: lasagna and a pork stuffed cannelloni dish but, unfortunately. when I ordered the cannelloni I was told "No Hay Hoy" - There is none today - bummer.

$ $ $ $
Value Index - 100

Service was friendly and prompt; delivery of the pizza was quite fast considering the six pizzas we ordered were mostly different types. For food quality and service we give  El Wagon four sloths.

The menu is prix fixe at 6,150 colones (about $12) per pizza regardless of toppings. With a soda my bill came to just under 7,000 colones putting the restaurant in the low four $ rating level. That puts the Value Index at 4/4x100 = 100, smack in the middle of the 40 or so of restaurants we have so far reviewed.

The ROMEOS can recommend El Wagon to readers for a quick and tasty pizza in a pleasant atmosphere.

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don Beto de Quepos,
El Gringo Dorado
Pura Vida!


To Contact GGC World Wide Headquarters (yuk, yuk) to request addition or deletion from the Golden Gringo Chronicles distribution, make comments, suggest topics or criticize my bad jokes, just send an email to:
bob@bobnormand.com.

Be pithy but kind. I'm sensitive.
                                        
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