Monday, December 31, 2018

A Visit to Panama at Christmas

Feliz Navidad

For the final week of 2018, my family and I visited Boquete, a small town at the foot of a large volcano and a mountain range in the western part of Panama. 

We flew down to Panama City by way of Miami, landing a little late. Given an already tight connection to our local flight to western Panama, it was not really a surprise that we ended up missing our third flight. So, we got booked onto a flight for the following evening and stayed overnight at a nice hotel in Panama City. This gave us an unplanned chance to stop in at the Panama Canal museum and to get a quick look at the Panama Canal itself. Not a bad delay! 

We eventually got onto our final flight a day late and made it to David, Panama in the western part of the country. We were picked up there by John, who works as a guide for one of the local outdoor adventure companies. He took us on the last leg of the trip, a 45-minute drive from David to Boquete. John was friendly and full of local knowledge. He told us about the area and also about the outdoor activities he guides. We made a note and planned to ask for John for at least some of our planned adventures. We finally arrived by 7pm on the second day of the trip, in time to have a nice dinner at the resort.

Our boutique hotel was called Los Establos, and is located about a mile up some steep roads into the mountains. Los Establos means “the stables,” and the property has a history of serving as stables but today it is a small hotel of about 25-30 rooms on beautifully landscaped grounds that include a working coffee plantation. There are spectacular views of the nearby volcano and mountains.

After a great dinner and some wine, we looked into the available day-trips and half-day trips. There were about a dozen adventures available, some a few hours, some half day, and a few all day. We decided on and booked a group of adventures, some as a full family, others just involving those most interested. We booked ziplining, canyon river swimming, white water rafting, a hot spring visit, a coffee plantation and processing tour, a visit to an apiary (bees), and a 4 hour hike with birdwatching and a chance to see monkeys and sloths. Great stuff! We then turned in early, enjoying our beautiful rooms.

The location was incredible, and we had great meals at the hotel and in town. We enjoyed spectacular views of the mountains and the beautiful landscaped grounds. On the walk to breakfast every morning, there was a huge rainbow visible. Each day after our adventures, we played pool and enjoyed drinks at the hotel happy hour. On Christmas Eve, there was a special meal and at midnight the whole town of Boquete shoots fireworks to welcome Christmas day. Later on Christmas day, there was a parade in the town which some of us attended. Our week was absolutely amazing.

The rest of this post is a small collection of our many pictures.
Sign at the foot of the town

Sculpture in the town square

Los Establos, where we stayed

Los Establos

Los Establos

Los Establos, beautifully landscaped

Rainbow every morning on the walk to breakfast

Visiting a Coffee Plantation

Yellow coffee fruit is ready

Green coffee fruit is not ready

Red coffee fruit is ready

Natural drying, one of several processes

On the "Pipeline Hike", we saw the oldest tree in Panama

The sign says 1000 years, but we were told it is much older

Flowers on the hike

Flowers on the hike

Flowers on the hike

We saw lots of birds on the hike, but the highlight was seeing 15-20 howler monkeys

This mature male was protective of his group

At the canyon river swim

Good place for a jump, about 12-15 feet up

Mike takes the plunge

Richie jumped in, too. Later, Tacey and I jumped as well.

Ziplining! Way up in the mountains

Our family, ready to zipline





We got "certificates" at the end after zip lining 13 platforms up in the mountains

Another river swim in a great location

Tacey, Deke, Mike at Los Establos

Steve and Mike at the Christmas Parade

Steve and Deke get a beer in town

Our family with John, our guide

Thursday, November 29, 2018

The Next Thing To Disappear (A RapidGroove Revisit)

Back in July of 2012, I wrote about things that disappeared as progress replaced them or made them less desirable. You can find that post at:

We no longer have corded phones or landline phones, we have mobile phones instead (and we use them as Internet-access devices most of the time). We no longer have CRT televisions (we have flat screen LCD televisions).

My challenge is this. Look around you and consider the items in your life. Which of them will disappear in the next decade. Surely you admit that some of these things will fade away. Which?

I have a new list in my head, but I'm interested in your list. Please leave a comment and share your thoughts.

Thanks for reading! Blogs work best with active participation. If you enjoy this blog, please give it a +1 and leave a comment. Share it on your social media  More readers will drive more discussion.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Key West (Again)

Earlier this month, I extended a business trip in Florida to visit Key West for a long weekend. Key West has long been one of my go-to relaxation destinations. It’s well known that Hemingway loved Key West and lived there for a time, and visitors find lots of evidence of that fact including opportunities to visit Hemingway’s home and the places he frequented. I had a “Hemingway weekend,” filled with fishing, cigars and rum, as well as lots of live music, people-watching, and eating seafood at waterfront spots.

During this visit, I stayed at the historic Cypress House Hotel which dates back to the late 1800s. The location was perfect for my purposes. It’s just a few short blocks away from Duval Street, which meant I could go out for the evening on foot easily and get back home with no trouble. Additionally, the harbor area from which I would go fishing was just a few blocks walk in the opposite direction.

Among the things that I love about Key West are the sunset views from Mallory Square with sailing ships going by and the loud and colorful “cat guy” getting his trained cats to jump through fire rings. You can also see the big cruise ships come in and out of port. Key West has plenty of chances to eat a meal at an outdoor cafĂ© with roosters and hens walking around freely, and there are galleries and live music venues everywhere. As a bonus, the place is filled with old seafaring hippies like me.

My plan was to go fishing on Friday and then out to the bars Friday night. Unfortunately, high winds kept the fishing boats at the docks, so I spent the day walking around town and visiting the Southernmost Point and other tourist spots, then had a late lunch at Conch Republic, and then visited lots of shops and galleries. That night I wandered around Duval Street, stopping at all my favorite live music spots like Sloppy Joe’s, Hogs Breath, Irish Kevins, Willie T’s, Margaritaville, Mangoes and others. The music was great, the people were friendly, and the drinks were good. I stayed out far too late given the planned early morning fishing start but somehow I dragged myself out of bed on Saturday morning in time to make it to the docks for fishing that day.

When I travel, I usually fish on charter boats. They are more expensive but the experience is usually a better one. This time, I chose to fish aboard a lower-cost head boat called the Tortuga IV for a half day from 9am to 1pm, fishing the reefs for yellowtail snapper, mutton snapper, grouper, and whatever else would bite. There were only 10 fishermen aboard, and the captain and mate were easy going and helpful. Things went well and It was a fun day, and while we hooked up often, the fish we brought over the rail were often too short to keep. Still, there were plenty of keepers for all to take home for a fresh fish meal, so we all went away smiling. 

The mate cleaned our fish for tips and when I asked him where to take my fish filets to have them cooked for lunch, he pointed to Dante’s, a poolside bar and restaurant adjacent to the harbor. He said that Dante’s does a great job, so I took my fish a few short steps from the boat and sat down at a table with a view of both the harbor and the pool. When the waitress came over I ordered a rum drink and handed her my bag of fish filets asking for them to be cooked. She advised me on the options and I opted for ½ blackened and ½ fried. I was very happy with both!

After my late lunch, I cleaned up and changed clothes and then I walked down Duval Street for a visit to the Speakeasy Inn, a legit rum bar in Key West. I told the bartender what rums I like and asked her to teach me a new one. She did, pouring me a Ron Abuelo 12-year-old rum that reminded me of a few of my favorites. I’ll get that one again for sure.
I spent the rest of Saturday evening at the bars, meeting friendly people, hearing great live music, and even dancing some. As always, I came away thinking that Key West is a blast. Just ask the locals to tell you where they come from. More often than you might expect, their story is something like “I came down for vacation 8 years ago and never went home.” I have to say, that doesn’t sound entirely crazy.


Thanks for reading! A blog works best with active participation. If you enjoy this blog, please +1 it and leave a comment. Share it on your favorite social network. More readers will drive more discussion.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

What Do We Expect From a $1000+ Smartphone?

Back on September 12th, Apple announced new iPhones. Legions of the faithful, me included, shrugged off the $1000+ price tags and placed orders two days later, receiving them a week after that. As in recent years past, the new iPhone are the best ever produced. They have beautiful screens, faster processors, better cameras, and more storage than ever before. I’m very happy with my new phone, which is an iPhone Xs Max. Still, I recognize that just as in years past, the prices of new iPhones climbed to new heights.

High-end Android phones from Samsung and other phone-makers are similarly climbing in price every year, and its worth noting that a $1000+ smartphone is clearly not for everyone. There are plenty of people who cannot afford such a phone or who simply choose not to pay that price. There are great phones available at lower prices and there will always be a market for them.

For those who are willing to pay more than $1000 for a smartphone, is there a hard limit - a price so high we wouldn’t pay it? The high-end Samsung and Apple phones go up by a small amount every year and we get used to the ever higher prices, but will the price rise to a level at which sales fall off? And if so, would a company like Apple care? Apple makes and sells luxury products. If their margin increases by enough, maybe they would embrace a situation in which fewer units were sold but revenue doesn't suffer.

What about us as consumers? Is there something we want in return for higher prices?

I'm beginning to wonder whether expected lifetime is that something. What if as the price went up, the expected lifetime went up, too? What if today’s $1000 phone lasted longer than yesterday’s $700 phone, and continued to be reasonably fast with a battery that continued to hold a charge for nearly as long as it did when it was new? Would that be worth the ever-higher price? We should keep in mind that longer-lasting phones not only stretch our investment over a longer time, but also could help us to reduce the rates at which we deplete precious resources, since smartphones typically contain gold, silver, platinum, palladium and other metals. Longer lasting phones also mean reduced pressure on landfills, since we know that not all smartphones get recycled or reused.

If prices continue to go up in years to come, should we expect (should we demand) a longer lasting smartphone? What would be a reasonable price point for a phone that held up well for 3 or 4 years rather than 2 years, which is typical today? Would you pay $2500 for a smartphone that lasted for 4 or even 5 years? Some of us spend that kind of money on a high-end laptop computer and expect it to last about that long, and most of us depend upon our smartphones easily as much as our laptops.

What's your expectation of price and lifetime for smartphones as you think about the future? Please leave a comment and let us know what you are thinking.


Thanks for reading! A blog works best with active participation. If you enjoy this blog, please +1 it and leave a comment. Share it on your favorite social network. More readers will drive more discussion.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Summer Vacation With The Family

Enjoying time together on the beach and on our boats

Every August, my busy family tries to line up our schedules so that we can spend 5-7 days together at our beach house on eastern Long Island, NY where we are active in and around the water. The following photo blog chronicles our adventures in August 2018.

The beach
We love to swim in the ocean, to body surf, and to boogie board. It's invigorating!

Together at the beach
boogie boarding

playing paddle ball

Visiting marinas by boat
We have two power boats. One is my brand new 26' Edgewater center console fishing boat, and one is a 19' Boston Whaler used mostly by my sons. In addition to using these boats for fishing, tubing, and for rides with friends, we like to climb on board and visit nearby marinas by water to have lunch at an outdoor table overlooking the passing boats.
At the Canal Cafe', ready for lobster rolls

Oaklands Marina and Restaurant

The Boys at Oaklands

Tacey got the Sea Bass Salad

Never forget the oysters

Ready for the raw bar order!
A soft shell crab sandwich

There's tuna crudoe under all those chips

Fresh ahi tuna ponzu

While we don't sail often, we really do enjoy it. We have a small "Sunfish" sail boat and all of us can manage to sail her.

Mike and Steve ride the sailboat out.

Steve and Mike raise the sail.


Full sails!
Steve trades with Rich to give him a turn
On the way home, Steve secured the sailboat and Mike rides her in.

My family has been fishing the waters of the south shore for generations. My grandfather taught my father, my father taught me, and I taught my sons.
The boys...

... on board their Boston Whaler

Ready to fish, right near Oaklands.

Richie with a Fluke

Sea Robins. We used to throw them back. Lately we've started to eat a few of them.

Mike with a "dogfish" (a little shark). Good for the fryer!

Cooking and eating our fish
We love to go fishing, and we keep the fish we intend to eat, letting the rest go back for another day. Like most fisherman, we are conservation-oriented, and keep the water clean and respect the legal limits on fish. The fish we do keep, we try to eat when very fresh - usually the same day.

It takes several chefs to do it all. Here's one now.

Cleaned and prepped with dry rub

Sea Robin ready to cook

Fluke prepped for the fryer

Fish ready for the grill

Fried Fluke, Blowfish, and Sea Robin

Porgies and bluefish direct from the grill
Fluke sashimi
A seafood feast!
A healthy plate, with 7 kinds of seafood on board

Thanks for reading! A blog works best with active participation. 
If you enjoy this blog, please +1 it and leave a comment. 
Share it on your favorite social network. More readers will drive more discussion.