Ageless Wisdom:

A 104 year-old woman was being interviewed by a reporter. "And what do you think is the best thing about being 104?" the reporter asked. Said she: "No peer pressure."



In This Issue:

  1. Broken News (In Memoriam, Coffee Vs Type II, Turbulence at Turrialba, Occupy Avenida Secunda);
  2. Feature: Tico Pussycats
  3. Feature: Cocoaplata;
  4. Feature: Giggle, Gaggle, Google;
  5. What's-in-a-Word (Plata, Solo Bueno);
  6. ROMEO Corner (Rich & Jan's - Quepos);
  7. Founder's Quotes (Jefferson on Pay as You Go)
Quepos Weather

Travel Quote of the Month


“The worst thing about being a tourist is having other tourists recognize you as a tourist.”

Russell Baker


 Broken News

In Memoriam

We are very sorry to report that one of our founding ROMEO members, Paul Parsonage, passed away in February in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina of a heart attack brought on by complications resulting from several recent surgeries. He was 74.

He had visited here for many years and lived permanently in Quepos for about two years before the necessity of another surgery on his troubled neck brought him back to the States in March of 2011. At the end he was under doctor's order not to travel far but he loved Costa Rica and this community and had purchased a plane ticket to return here in April of this year having assured himself that he would be better by then.

Paul Parsonage

Paul was a veteran, serving in the U.S. Navy in the 1950's. He retired as head of the Middletown, R.I. School District maintenance department. He also was a member of that district's School Committee and was very active in volunteer community services and in the Red Cross. He served on a number of Red Cross emergency teams assembled to help at major national disasters throughout the U.S.

Having worked hard physically all his life, he could be tough if the situation called for it. One of his first experiences living here occurred when he was walking through an alley one day using it as a shortcut. A couple of young hoodlums approached the old man with the cane thinking him vulnerable and demanded all his money. The first man got a cane whipping he didn't expect while the second backed off about 15 feet and just watched his friend get pummeled. When the first man ran off yelping, the second man suggested to Paul that he be rewarded for his "help" in chasing off the other. All Paul had to do was raise his cane and the second bad dude also ran off quickly.

Paul had a great sense of humor. When all three of the founding ROMEOS had suffered the hassle of being pick pocketed on the local buses during high season, Paul suggested we change the ROMEO acronym from Retired Old Men Eating Out to Retired Old Men Enriching Others!

Paul was a gentle soul and was always ready to help people no matter what their needs. He was a good friend to many of us and will be sorely missed.

Coffee Versus Type II

We've come a long way since the 70's and 80's when coffee was deemed the devil's brew. Some Chinese researchers are now saying that coffee helps prevent Type II diabetes.

Being a current Type II and a former coffeeholic and still an advocate of good Tico java, I took an interest in the headline by the news staff of the American Chemical Society in one of their journals. Also, being a chemical engineer by training, I know the ACS is a credible reporting source.

According to researchers Ling Zheng, Kun Huang and their colleagues, the study shows that coffee drinkers are at a lower risk for developing Type II diabetes, which accounts for 90 to 95 percent of diabetes cases in the world.

A Nice Cup 'o Costa Rican Joe in the Morning

The researchers claim that people who drink four or more cups of coffee daily have a 50% lower risk of Type II diabetes. And every additional cup of coffee brings another decrease in risk of almost 7 percent. (The way I drank coffee, my risk factor should have landed me in the negative column).

Why do heavy coffee drinkers have a lower risk of developing Type II diabetes? Scientists have "...implicated the misfolding of human islet amyloid polypeptide in causing Type II diabetes and they are seeking ways to block that process".

Whatever, technodudes. But the researchers did identify two categories of compounds in coffee that significantly inhibited the bad substance. “A beneficial effect may thus be expected for a regular coffee drinker,” the researchers conclude.

Now I could easily be a skeptic on this issue having consumed up to a pot of coffee each day through most of my career both in company offices and later in my home office and still getting a case of Type II. I'm sure it had nothing to do with the many years of mucho sugar and alcohol that I consumed. Chemically, alcohol may be considered a low molecular weight or short-chain sugar, at least they're both carbohydrates. Nyah, couldn't be from consuming too much of that.

I still love the black stuff but average less than the four cups per day threshold they talk about in the research. Too late anyway as I've already got the Type II bug.

¡Pura vida!

Turbulence at Turrialba

In mid-February the south pacific coast of Costa Rica, including Quepos/Manuel Antonio, were treated to another good shaker registering 5.9 or 6.0 on the Richter scale and epicentered in the ocean off Dominical. At 4:55 AM by my clock the bed shook and the walls got a little wavy.The episode lasted only about 10-15 seconds but of course it felt more like an hour. It is a bit unsettling to be woken up in this way.

Turrialba at Sunset One January Day this Year

In addition, the volcano at Turrialba (45 kilometers east of San José as the pelican flies) has been more active these days, spewing gases and steam at rates much higher than its regular performance. The "experts" say this is normal, but the level of science and accuracy involved in this topic historically has worked much better for a major event like a blow-out when the scientists are looking backward rather than forward.

The picture of the Turrialba volcano captured to the left shows where a jet of superheated gas spontaneously combusted as it hit the oxygen in the air thus forming a continuous jet of flame. You get the potato salad and I'll bring the perros calientes (hot dogs)... naw, I guess it would be better to have the picnic at the beach. (The gas and fumes are toxic)

It's Easy to Find a Mountainous Area Here. The Spine Was Originally Created by the North and South Tectonic Plates Colliding

We can never forget that the Pacific Rim and its numerous faults pass right through the heart of Costa Rica. Geologists tell us that some 20 million years ago the edges of the tectonic plates of North and South America collided at what is now Panama and gave rise to the isthmus that now includes both Costa Rica and Panama. Note the map to the right and how it confirms this hypothesis.

The entire central spine of Costa Rica is a mountainous ridge which makes for one of the most spectacular car rides through the country. Whether you go from Orotina through Puriscal to the central valley or from Dominical to San Isidro or even along the new autopista from Orotina to Escazu, the views are magnificent.

If you don't find a trip though the mountains here stunning and sometimes breathtaking, check your pulse and try more coffee. And don't worry about the shaking, it's not the coffee.

¡Solo Bueno!

Occupy Avenida Secunda

Gringoland has nothing on Ticoland when it comes to demonstrations.

Sit-In Demonstration On Avenida Secunda

La Presidenta recently decreed (decreed, mind you) that workers would receive an increase in wages of 5,000 colones ($10) per month. Que generoso. With the average salary in Costa Rica coming in at about $700 per month this represents and increase of a whole 1.4%.

In the meantime, Laura has proposals on the table to increase the national sales tax from 13% to 14% (that's up 7.7%) and the expanded tax will be levied on even more consumables than currently taxed. In addition she's introduced a New Corporate Tax increase of $350 per year. Feeling the pinch, amigos?

Of course, the president herself and the Assembly are exempt (shades of the U.S. Congress) from the decree and a proposal is in the works for the Assembly to receive 30 times that amount or $300 per month. What was that about governments creating a government priviledged class when left to their own devices?

When the unions realized what was happening, they called a general strike of all public employees which was held the day after Valentine's Day (to Laura from Labor with love). It didn't paralyze the capital but it sure did slow down some government operations like at Casa Presidential. This is the executive arm of the president and might be thought of as the equivalent of the Executive Office Building in Washington, D.C.

Reports were, that at the end of the day, the government hadn't budged on its position one iota, so more demonstrations and stoppages may be in the offing.

Tico Pussycats

I always presumed there were Nittany lions (go Penn State!), pumas or some kind of mountain cats here in Costa Rica with all those mountains to be explored. But I have never seen one and never understood how big some of these pussycats could get.

Historical Picture of Hunters (Probably Farmers) Who Bagged a Jaguar

Take a look at the picture to the left that was recently published in an electronic newsletter here. Although it's a picture of a cat from some years back, the darn thing looks more like a leopard to me than a mountain lion.. In reality, it's a Jaguar, the biggest of the wild cats in Central America. It can grow to over six feet in length as evidenced by the picture.

The other five wild kitties known to be in Costa Rica range from the second largest cat, the Puma, to the smallest of them all, the Tigrillo (my guess is that Ticos would pronounce this "tee-gree-joe") which is the size of a house cat. Pictures of all six feline types are given below in order of decreasing size (left to right, top to bottom)

In between the Puma and the Tigrillo we have the Ocelot, the Margay Cat and the Jaguarundi. The Jaguarundi (below) looks more like an otter to me but scientists insist it's in the cat family.

Jaguar (Panther Onca)
Puma (Mountain Lion)
Ocelot (Manigordo)
Margay Cat (Caucel)
Jaguarundi (León Breñero)
Tigrillo (Oncillo)

Scientists tell us that Costa Rica's cats migrated from Eurasia over the Bering straight as much as 1.8 million years ago. And since at least 300 B.C., the presence of the cats has been documented in the crafts and traditions of native peoples in clay, stone, gold and folklore.

Young Bribri Girl From Talamanca -
Que Linda Pussycat!
Map of Costa Rica Showing Caribbean Coast (in red) Which Includes the Talamanca Region

Among these natives are the Bribri, who mostly reside to this day in the Talamanca region on the Caribbean coast south of Limon. This indigenous culture is matrilineal, that is, is controlled by the mother's side of the family (is that really much different than gringoland?). In Bribri traditions, women are also responsible for preparing the sacred, ritualistic drink called Theobroma Cacoa (or "cocoa food of the gods). It's all about chocolate amigos and the cocoa tree grows right here in Talamanca. More on chocolate below.

The Bribri are agricultural; and live in ecological harmony with the mountain cats. In Bribri culture the jaguar is associated with high-ranking officials that have the power to protect the society. (Grrrrrrr)

If you see a wild cat in the jungle it will be a rare occurrence. They are mostly nocturnal and quite typically stealthy. They also avoid encounters with humans who they can smell from a great distance (I know some people like that, i,e,, both nocturnal and odorous)..

There are Costa Rican wild cats in captivity. You can see them at the Simon Bolivar Zoo in San José where they are kept in small concrete cages (where's PETA when you need them?).

A far better place to see the wild cats is Las Pumas in Guanacaste,  near Liberia, an animal rescue center whose primary goal is to release the animals into the wilderness after they have been rehabilitated and can survive on their own. In the public viewing zone you can see jaguars, pumas, ocelots, margay cats and jaguarundis plus other animals. The center is open to the public for a small admission fee ($10) and donations are welcome.

For more information on Las Pumas call 506-2669-6044.




As a parting gesture to a Tico friend recently I said: "Recuerda amigo, no accepte los colones de madera." which was my Spanglish attempt at saying "Remember friend, don't take any wooden colones".

I was trying to play off the american saying: "Don't take any wooded nickels", but because the origin of this expression is rooted in the american experience and culture, neither the words nor the concept translated well and my friend just looked at me nonplussed.

Depression Wooden Nickel
A Local Town's "Scrip" Was Printed on Wood and Became Known as "Tenino Dollars"

Wooden nickels have been used as tokens in hundreds of applications for many years in the U.S. and still are. But they were also used as real money particularly during bad economic times such as the panic of 1837, the civil war and the great depression when credit literally disappeared and where, in many places, money in circulation did also.. When small town banks in the western states failed during the depression and currency virtually disappeared or was scarce, some towns issued paper "scrips" as a type of currency to permit and promote local trade.

Various civilizations over the centuries have used different media for monetary exchange including beads (bought Manhattan didn't they?), shells (clam, cowrie, conch), precious metals such as silver and gold and precious and semi-precious stones.

And of course goods used as barter has been a practice since Adam and Eve traded their first apple crop for loin cloths. Virtually anything of value was bartered: cattle, horses, herbs and spices, grains, blankets, decorative adornments, salt, fish, even bat guano. Bat poop is very high in nitrogen and phosphorus which makes it a great fertilizer and plant nutrient and, they say, it doesn't smell as bad as other kinds of poop (I'll decline membership on the smell comparison panel, thank you).

From the Cacao Tree,,,
Comes the Pods and Beans...
That Become Chocolates (among other things)

Costa Rica, like most countries, has used a variety of currencies over the centuries and cocoa pods from the cacao tree were actively used here as "plata" or money to barter for goods and services. We might think of cocoa pods used in that way as "cocoaplata".

Historians place the first cultivation of the cacao tree, from which cocoa beans are harvested, at around 3,000 years ago by a tribe called the Olmecs who lived near the equator, probably in Ecuador or Columbia. It's interesting to note that the Cacao tree will not grow above 20º latitude (Quepos is 9º and Miami is 25º - even Honolulu is still as much as 21º). Can't grow cacao trees in the U.S. anywhere, amigos.

By the first millennia, when the Mayans were flourishing in southern Mexico, representations of the tree began to appear on their pottery. The Mayans went on to produce 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 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.

In 1517, Spanish Conquistador Hernán Cortés was treated to some Xocolati by Montezuma. He then brought back some pods to Spain where they were made into a drink and, at first, rejected as bitter. Then someone got the idea of adding sugar and spices such as cinnamon to the drink and the worldwide explosion of love for chocolate began.

Today, the majority of cocoa beans are produced in Africa, much of it in the Cote d'Voire or Ivory Coast and also in Indonesia. Costa Rica still produces cocoa beans on farms on the caribbean coast but export volumes here do not rate the country being in the top ten exporters. Nevertheless, it is definitely produced in Costa Rica and the ROMEOS had the pleasure of sampling some fine local chocolate in the caribbean town of Puerto Viejo about two years ago at a restaurant called Bread and Chocolate.

Here's the basic modern process for making cocoa to make chocolate:

1. The pods on any given tree ripen at different times and so the ripe ones are harvested by hand and by machete when the time is right.

2. The pods are split, the seeds and pulp scraped from the pods and the combination allowed to ferment for two to eight days to reduce the bitterness of the beans and instill a fruitiness to the pulp (which can be made into a pleasant drink with a slight chocolate flavor).

3. The beans are separated from the pulp and spread in a single layer in the sun to dry.After drying, the beans are packaged and shipped to chocolate manufacturers around the world.

4. The chocolate manufacturer roasts the beans to bring out a more intense chocolate flavor and then runs them through a machine that separates the shells from the cores or "nibs".

5. The nibs are ground into a thick paste called the chocolate "liquor" but which contains no alcohol. The paste is then pressed to separate cocoa butter from the "presscake". The cocoa butter is used to make white chocolate. The separated presscake can be ground into cocoa powder.

Love That Godiva Dark

6. The cocoa powder can then be processed through a short or long kneeding process and, in a number of finishing steps, to add further ingredients and produce a variety of chocolate products.

Now we're being told once more that chocolate is good for us, probably as perfect a food as can be. Right on! After living two and a half years in Belgium I could never bring myself to think it was bad.

The Belgians produce some of the finest chocolate products in the world. I can't forget the periodic competition between Godiva and Neuhaus in their flagship stores in Brussels with chocolate concoctions at Christmas or Easter, like a two foot long egg on the half shell stuffed with a multitude of different shapes and colors of chocolates.

We've come a long way from Xocolati, amigos.

Coffee good, chocolate good, Chief GG happy dude.


Giggle, Gaggle, Google

The origin and use of words has always been of interest to our hero, etymologically speaking.

Take the word giggle for example (meaning: "to laugh with repeated short catches of the breath"). Most references say that the word's first use was in the 1500-1510 period and its origin is "imitative". My guess is that the term imitative is an easy way for etymologists to say that we don't know the real origin; it was just passed down by word of mouth. References for giggle are also refer to similar Dutch ("gigelen") and German ("gickeln") words.

Giggle Family Coat of Arms Are the Antelopes Laughing?

There are quite a few words that can be traced back to the early 1500's. It may have had something to do with the advent of the printing press only 50 years earlier when the Gutenberg bible was published in the 1450's. With the new press, words began to circulate more easily and more widely and lasting records were left in print (less need to be "imitative", eh what?).

One source for giggle was particularly interesting in that it referred to the family name or surname "Giggle". ("I'd like you to meet Mr. and Mrs. Giggle - and here are the three little Giggles; Gerry, Gordon and Gabriel" - sorry, I couldn't resist). This source states: "The ancient Anglo-Saxon name Giggle came from the baptismal name Jukel or Gikel. The surname Giggle referred to the son of Jukel." (Son of a gun, ya don't say.)

Now, everybody should know what a gaggle is, like in a gaggle of geese. But did you know (I didn't) that the geese must be on the ground to be called a gaggle, otherwise if they're in flight they're called a skein, like a skein of yarn or thread. The word gaggle comes from the middle english gagyll, or from gagelen which means to cackle.The first known use of the modern form also dates from the late 15th or early 16th centuries. A secondary meaning for gaggle is: "an assortment of related things", like GGC articles.

And then there's Google.

Now here's a word that doesn't have a15th century root. Google is a corruption of a word coined in 1938 by the son of a prominent mathemetician to describe the number represented by 1 followed by 100 zeros. The creator called this number a "googol".

One Googol of Anything equals...
... of Them

The modern word google came onto the scene when the company Google was incorporated in 1998 by founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin while they were Ph.D. students at Stanford University in California. From the original capitalization of $100,000, Google has grown to annual sales of more than $36 billion and a market capitalization over $200 billion. This was done in 14 years! Even the Microsoft story pales in comparison to the Google explosion.

The mission statement at Google Corp. is direct and simple: "To organize the world's information and make it universally acceptable and useful". I submit to readers that, except for the town librarian, anyone just making this statement as recently as the year the "googol" was defined, i.e. 1938, would have earned the person making it a one way trip to the digital funny farm.

Not long ago I heard an interesting comment about mankind's progress. It was said that we had gone from the stone age to the bronze age to the industrial age to the age of communication to what we are now in, the age of interruption.

“I'm done learning new things until someone proves to me that Google won't be here forever.” - Patrick Ryan

They were making reference of course to the current virtual (virtual in the pragmatic sense, not the computer simulated sense) and nearly instant communication that can interrupt our day via emails, cell phone calls. texting, Facebook,Twitter etc.

So be it says GG, this is the price we pay for the incredible convenience of being able to communicate instantly to almost anyone, anywhere on earth. Of course it has its negative side, every human endeavor has had its negative side since Adam and Eve opened their first taco stand and got a lot of heat for not serving salsa.

"My greatest fear is sitting in front of thousands of people while my Google search history is being read aloud."
Jenny Johnson

But what I find even more incredible than the fantastic advances in gadget technology of the last 30 years is the ability of anyone, anywhere to access nearly an endless amount of information on any subject. Wanna know about something? "Google it!"

Just for the hell of it, while writing this article, I googled "sex life of a bed bug". Only 0.27 seconds later I got back 2,220,000 "hits" including a YouTube video reference that actually showed bed bugs doing it, rather violently I might add (I guess you might call it insect porno).

I haven't used a library in many years but my guess is libraries are becoming quiet places where you can sit and google anything you want to know or just sit quietly and read from your Kindle..

Our modern age requires us to have at least a passing familiarity with numerical terms that were previously unknown, except perhaps to engineers and scientists. These terms reach for extremes both small and large. For example:

Term One of Them Looks Like This: Example

1 x 10e100 (see above)

none - yet

Computers operate at nanosecond speeds on terabytes of information. It boggles the mind amigos and resurrects from my clogged cranium an experience GG had back in the mid 1980's.

At that time the PC was only a few years old and the standard disk drive was 20 megabytes with 100 MG drives being offered as upgrades. I attended a seminar in Philadelphia run by IBM in which their rep stated: "get ready folks, in a few years you'll see a 1 gigabyte hard drive". The room was stunned and went silent. Finally one gent raised his hand and said: "Interesting sir, but who's going to fill all that space and with what?" "That's your problem sir; ours at IBM is to keep ahead of your need".


None of us in the room at that time could envision what graphics, videos, social networking and the like would due to explode the need for storage and computing capacity. Now people are talking terabyte storage drives and the damn things are about the size of the saucer under your coffee cup in order for them to fit into a laptop.

Now I am able to sit at a small computer table in a rural town in Costa Rica and have fun writing about things local and worldwide using accurate information that I could never have dreamed of stuffing into my brain in a school. I don't want to think what it would be like not having Google to write this column. I use Google to provide back-up data, differing perspectives on an issue, pictures, cartoons and photos to enhance the writing, not to speak of it leading me to information for my bad jokes..

Today, the term ‘google’ is so widely used and recognized that it has worked its way into modern dictionaries. The online dictionary,, defines ‘google’ as a verb, meaning ‘to search for information on the Internet’.

Sometimes, though, I get a little giddy and giggly just gathering gaggles of great google information.

(Again, I couldn't resist).





Strictly speaking this is the word for silver but, as used in the article above called "Cocoaplata", it can also mean money. Plata is more commonly used in Central America whereas "dinero" is the more formal word for money and predominates elsewhere. Sometimes I will poll the vendors at the beach commenting on the large crowds and get this response: "Si, amigo, mucho gente pero no plata" or "Yes, friend, lots of people but no money".

Plata can be used in other ways also: a) "hablar de plata" = to speak bluntly, b) "plata de ley" = sterling silver (interesting as ley is also the word for law) and c) "plata maciza" = solid silver.

Solo Bueno

After "Pura Vida" this is probably the most common phrase used by Ticos and literally translated (always a danger between Spanish and English) means "Only Good". It can be used as both a response by someone asking how you're doing and also as an imperative to wish someone well.

"¿Como le va, amigo?" (How's if going, friend). ¡Solo Bueno!



ROMEO Corner

(Retired Old Men Eating Out)


Rich & Jan's Wings & Things  (CLOSED July 2012)

Location: At Wacky Wanda's Bar, Downtown Quepos on Main Street (Identified as Avenida
                    Central on the QUEPOS MAP). Take-Out and Delivery Service Available
Hours: 11 AM to 11 PM Every Day (no Take-Out/Delivery after 10 PM)
Parking: Limited to Street Parking but Usually Not a Problem
Contact: Tel: 2777-7317

Reviewing ROMEOS: Bob N.

Casados and other Tico food are good eating but every now and then a norteamericano needs to renew the ties to home food. For U.S./Canadian ex-pats this usually conjures up thoughts of basic home cooking like spaghetti and meatballs, a good ham & cheese sandwich, wings dripping with barbecue sauce and even meatloaf.

Rich and Jan's Wings & Things, located in the well known Quepos institution called Wacky Wanda's Bar, provides these staples and more to comfort the displaced or visiting gringo.

Hold it right there GG, you're talking about a bar not a restaurant and you're not an aficionado of such places. Tis true but we're talking about the food side of this place only - others will have to evaluate the bar side.

The atmosphere here is predominantly bar-like, in other words a bit noisy. There is a long drinking bar and several tables against the wall. The tables are higher than average as are the tico-style hard wood chairs ... not the best for a GG with a bad back, but tolerable for a one hour lunch visit.


The menu has a number of items including pulled pork and pulled chicken sandwiches, a basic hamburger or cheeseburger, wings in mild or spicey barbecue sauce and real home-cooked meatloaf on Mondays (if the meatloaf does not sell out on Mondays. meatloaf sandwiches are available on Tuesdays). One specialty I like is the "Sliders", a trio of miniature cheeseburgers reminiscent of the original White Castle burger served with crisp french fries. Sliders are also available in pulled pork and chicken versions.

Service is prompt, gringo style. The cost of a lunch with a soda accompaniment is modest, running 3,500 to 5,000 colones or $7-10. We give Rich and Jan's Wings & Things three and a half sloths for atmosphere, service and food quality and three dollars for cost, making the place a good value in our book.

So, if your palette needs some renewal of home cooking flavor, try Rich & Jan's.


Founder's Quotes

Tom Jefferson on national debt:

"But with respect to future debt; would it not be wise and just for that nation to declare in the constitution they are forming that neither the legislature, nor the nation itself can validly contract more debt, than they may pay within their own age, or within the term of 19 years." --Thomas Jefferson, letter to James Madison, 1789

Why yes, it would be wise. Tommy, too bad you guys didn't follow through on that legislatively.

What was that about our founders being out of touch?

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:

Be pithy but kind. I'm sensitive.
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