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Archive for March, 2009


Microsoft Corp. is to exit its Encarta encyclopedia business later this year after losing ground over the years to freely available reference material on the Internet on web sites like Wikipedia Encylopedia.

“People today seek and consume information in considerably different ways than in years past,” the software maker said in a notice posted on its MSN website.

Microsoft reduced 5,000 jobs earlier this year to cut costs and warned profit and revenue would fall over the next two quarters, said it would stop selling Encarta software products by June 2009.

Encarta websites worldwide, except Encarta Japan, would be discontinued on October 31 and Encarta Japan will cease after December 31, the company said.

The disappearance of Encarta will not affect me at all.  I do a lot of researching on the Internet, and not once, have I used Encarta or any other encyclopedia besides Wikipedia.  The next encyclopedia on the chopping block is Britannica. It’s not if, but when it will be sacrificed in the name of profitability.

The Internet has no mercy for inefficiency and stagnation.  You tell that to the newspaper guys as well.  Good Day.

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The school plaque formerly found in the main hall of Balboa High School, Balboa, Panama City, Panama.  (Credit:  Wikipedia Encyclopedia)

The school plaque formerly found in the main hall of Balboa High School, Balboa, Panama City, Panama. (Credit: Wikipedia Encyclopedia)

The Balboa High School (BHS) was a public high school in the former Canal Zone under the administration of the U.S. Department of Defense. It was the Alma Mater for thousand of students who then populated the extinct Panama Canal Zone.  The history of the BHS  is intimately bound to the history of the Panama Canal  and the Canal Zone.

Aside from thousands of American dependents of the Panama Canal Company (later Panama Canal Commission), Canal Zone Government,  and U.S. armed forces, the Balboa High School was also the Alma Mater for many Panama’s business and political elite.  For example, Guillermo Ford, who later became Vice-President of Panama, studied and graduated at BHS.

Construction of the first permanent building to house a high school in Balboa was completed in 1917. What came to be Balboa High School was not started until 1942 and completed through additions in 1948, 1949, 1963 and 1969.  Prior to that, the high school was located in part of Building 710, known for most of its history as the Balboa Elementary School and in a temporary wooden building.

In January 1964, the Balboa High School was the scene of a controversial confrontation between high school students from Panama’s Instituto Nacional and groups of students and parents from the Balboa High School.  The confrontation got out of hand, and for four consecutive days, the Panama Canal Zone was an area of intense violence.

The ensuing bloodshed led the government of Panama to break off diplomatic relations with Washington.  “The pushing, the shoving, the tearing, the shooting and looting, and burning, these unfolded over the next few days.  By the end of it all,  27  souls had lost their lives and the Panamanian and American government weren’t speaking to one another.”

I can’t tell you exactly what happened at the premises of the BHS that unfortunate day of January 9, 1964.  I wasn’t there,  plus I’m not a historian to give you an unbiased opinion of what led to those violent incidents.  I found two sources that might clear the picture for you.  The first is an article dubbed, “As Befits the Occasion” written by Eric Jackson which is self explanatory and extracts of the book, “Yankee No:  Anti-Americanism in U.S. Latin-American Relations” authored by Alan McPherson.

The BHS campus is currently a training center for the Panama Canal Authority—Centro de Capacitación Ascanio Arosemena.   A new annex was created at the front entrance of the building to accomodate a pantheon for the  Panamanians who were killed during the 1964 riots. The architectural style of the addition is similar to that of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.

The BHS was closed in 1999 in anticipation for the handover of the Panama Canal to the Republic of Panama, the removal of  the last U.S. armed forces from the Isthmus, and the closure of the U.S. Southern Command in Panama.  It was the end of an era than lasted almost one hundred years.

I was at the BHS campus on Sunday, March 22, 2009 and took several pictures of this historic educational landmark in the former Panama Canal Zone.  This is what I saw that early morning.  Here we go.

Photograph of the former Balboa High School building located at Balboa, Panama City, Panama.  (Credit:  Omar Upegui R.)

Photograph of the former Balboa High School building located at Balboa, Panama City, Panama. (Credit: Omar Upegui R.)

Photograph of the former Balboa High School Building with the new addition which houses a pantheon for the Panamanians who were killed during the 1964 unfortunate events.  (Credit:  Omar Upegui R.)

Photograph of the former Balboa High School Building with the new addition which houses a pantheon for the Panamanians who were killed during the 1964 unfortunate events. (Credit: Omar Upegui R.)

Another landscape view of the former Balboa High School campus located at Balboa, Panama City, Panama.  In the distance you can see Sosa Hill.  (Credit:  Omar Upegui R.)

Another view of the former Balboa High School campus located at Balboa, Panama City, Panama. In the distance you can see Sosa Hill. (Credit: Omar Upegui R.)

A view of the former Balboa High School Building in a black and white version.  (Credit:  Omar Upegui R.)

A view of the former Balboa High School Building in a black and white version. (Credit: Omar Upegui R.)

For those of you who have a keen eye for photographs, the streetlight in the previous picture might seem out of place.  It’s not a proper thing to do according to the rules of photographic composition.  But there is an underlying message in this image.  The street lamp is there with an intentional purpose.

When I shot this picture I thought that the street lamp constitutes a symbol of  trust between the United States and Panama who have traveled together a journey of almost one hundred years.  There were problems during the trip, but who doesn’t have problems in a long relationship?

The pole itself represents the Panama Canal that is deeply beloved by both nations and by the whole world as well.  The light bulb on the left represents a flame of hope, optimism, and friendship of the American people in its new relationship with Panama.  The light bulb on the right represents the challenge, responsibility, and  gratitude of the Panamanian people towards the United States for building a waterway that united the globe like never before.

In a nutshell, the street lamp my dear readers, represents friendship in a new relationship between two nations after middday December 1999.  Friendship between two great allies at the beginning of a new Millennium.  Good Day.

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Colorful balcony of a restored residence at Casco Viejo, Panama City, Panama.  (Credit:  Omar Upegui R./Michael Moore)

Colorful balcony of a restored residence at Casco Viejo, Panama City, Panama. (Credit: Omar Upegui R./Michael Moore)

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About two week ago, I was very excited designing my own customized business cards.  The project came out fine and I penned a post about it here at Lingua Franca.

After I was done designing the cards, I went to Multimax (five minutes drive from my house) to buy the inkjet cardboard to print the business cards.  They had none that I liked, so I exited the place empty handed.  But I was in for a surprise.  On the way out towards my automobile, I saw the most beautiful mannequin beside a window of Floristería Emmanuel (Emmanuel Florist Shop).

Had I been a male mannequin, it would have been love at first sight, like Romeo and Juliet.  The mannequin was gracefully sitting down beside the window, dressed as a typical reveler of a Venice Carnival.  Her face was beautifully decorated with circular colored stars and other sophisticated facial makeup.  The costume was spectacular with a bright red feather protruding from her right ear.  I have never seen a mannequin that lovely before.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have my camera with me.  But her picture had already developed in my mind like a Kodak film.  Yesterday morning I returned to the flower store and took several pictures of the lovely lady from Venice.  Since the shots were taken through a glass window, several of the photographs showed an annoying reflection.  Fortunately, some came out just fine.

Below are the pictures of the Venice Carnival Reveler for your enjoyment.  I decided to include the first picture with the reflections problems, because I wanted you to see the entire mannequin wearing her brightly-colored costume.  Then I dissected the figure with close up pictures to highlight the exquisite details of  her costume.  This is what I saw.  Here we go.

Photograph of the mannequin at Floristería Emannuel.  I apologize for the reflections on the picture, but I couldnt get rid of them.  Please enjoy the picture as a whole overlooking the reflections problems.  (Credit:  Omar Upegui R.)

Photograph of the mannequin at Floristería Emannuel. I apologize for the reflections on the picture, but I couldn't get rid of them. Please enjoy the picture as a whole overlooking the reflections problems. (Credit: Omar Upegui R.)

A close up of the mannequin showing the decorations of the face.  She almost looks human.  (Credit:  Omar Upegui R.)

A close up of the mannequin showing the decorations of the face. She almost looks human. (Credit: Omar Upegui R.)

A close up view of the mannequins face that shows the details of her facial make up.  (Credit:  Omar Upegui R.)

A close up view of the mannequin's face that shows the details of her facial make up. (Credit: Omar Upegui R.)

This photograph depicts the explosion of colors following the style of the Venice Carnival.  (Credit:  Omar Upegui R.)

This photograph depicts the explosion of colors following the style of the Venice Carnival. (Credit: Omar Upegui R.)

This picture shows the details of her necklaces.  If you look closely, you will see me reflected on one of the beads of the necklace.  (Credit:  Omar Upegui R.)

This picture shows the details of her necklaces. If you look closely, you will see me reflected on two of the beads of the large necklace. (Credit: Omar Upegui R.)

This photograph requires some imagination.  Can you imagine the real alabaster hands and delicate fingers of an authentic Venetian reveler?  This is what I had in my mind when I took this picture.  (Credit:  Omar Upegui R.)

This photograph requires some imagination. Can you imagine the real alabaster hands and delicate fingers of an authentic Venetian reveler? This is what I had in mind when I took this picture. (Credit: Omar Upegui R.)

In the final analysis, I didn’t walk out empty handed from the computer shop.  I came out with one of the best pictures I have taken thus far during my brief photographic adventure.  Good Day.

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El Prado

“The Prado was a very special place to me…
Lined with two rows of Royal Palm trees,
quite a beautiful sight to see.

Once a year, the base of the trees were hand-painted white…
It made the trees look royal and bold,
and they grew to a very tall height.

Large, white-washed homes, were parallel to the trees,
And when day turned to night, chugging down the Prado streets, came the truck dispensing its thick fog of DDT.

In one direction of the Prado, was the Clubhouse,
a fine place to eat…
Or, swim at the pool, buy a comic,
or go to the movies for a treat.

The Administration Building, with its 113 stairs,
sat high on Ancon Hill at the “other” Prado end…
I remember spending many hours sliding down that steep hill,
on a piece of cardboard, with a very special friend.

Cooling off from the tropical heat, by taking off your shoes…
Wading and playing in Goethals Monument,
was always a fun thing to do.

Once in a while, the Prado was graced,
with special, “soapflake” snow…
The bubbles would fly high above the trees,
for as long and far as the wind would blow.

The grass on the Prado was always bright green and soft,
due to the rainy season of at least nine months…
The Prado, such a beautiful place, I miss it so very much.

When the streetlights came on,
the Prado was lit up very bright…
It marked the end of the day, and the peacefulness of night.

The Prado will always be a very special place to me…
It will remain unchanged “forever”, in my heart and memory.”

© Snow W. Frost
07-01-2000

The most outstanding project of the ex-Canal Zone was the new government center in Balboa, built in 1914-15 and designed by New York architect Austin W. Lord, at that time Dean of the Department of Architecture at Columbia University.  The masterpieces of that grand complex are the Administration Building and the boulevard in front of it, called El Prado in memory of the famous Havana boulevard of the same name.

The World Monuments Watch included the Panama Canal Area on its List of One Hundred Most Endangered Sites for 2004-06, and specific conservation laws have been proposed recently, although their aims and priorities are not yet entirely clear. A first step has been to propose the Administration Building and El Prado as monuments, although there is strong state opposition to this designation.

Within the different communities there has also flourished a will to preserve their established character as “garden cities”.

Mesmerized by the beauty of this boulevard, flanked by two rows of  Royal Palm trees, I took a picture of El Prado early in the morning of March 22, 2009.  This is what I saw through the lens of my Birthday camera.  Here we go.

Photograph of El Prado Boulevard located at Balboa, Panama City, Panama.  El Prado consists of two sections, each one exactly the size of a Panama Canal lock.  (Credit:  Omar Upegui R.)

Photograph of El Prado Boulevard located at Balboa, Panama City, Panama. El Prado Boulevard consists of two sections, each one exactly the size of a Panama Canal lock. (Credit: Omar Upegui R.)

As the Sun slows down its rapid pace across the blue sky and prepares to lie down and rest, and the Evening slowly emerges for a walk and a breath of fresh air, El Prado Boulevard puts on its magic black cloak that glows brightly in the dark.  Nothing beats a scene like this at Balboa.  Good Day.

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Green doors of a restored house at Casco Viejo, Panama City, Panama.  (Credit:  Omar Upegui R./Michael Moore)

Green doors of a restored house at Casco Viejo, Panama City, Panama. (Credit: Omar Upegui R./Michael Moore)

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Hell, back in 1990, the Government seized the Mustang Ranch brothel in Nevada for tax evasion and, as required by law, tried to run it. They failed and it closed.

Now we are trusting the economy of our country and our banking system to the same nit-wits who couldn’t make money running a whore house and selling whiskey!

Think about it.  Good Day.

Source:  Bits & Pieces

Blogged with the Flock Browser

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“In one direction of the Prado, was the Clubhouse,
a fine place to eat…
Or swim at the pool, buy a comic,
or go to the movies for a treat.”

Snow W. Frost
07-01-2000

In the immediate background of Steven’s Circle, sits the Balboa Clubhouse, long a landmark and gathering place for Panama Canal Zone inhabitants who lived in the large apartment complexes between it and the “Admin Building,” as locals sometimes referred to it.

Every town in the former Panama Canal Zone had a clubhouse. There was Balboa, Gamboa, Cocoli, Ancon, Pedro Miguel, Margarita, and Diablo.

While at Balboa High School, many students did lunch at the Balboa Clubhouse in the back, near the doors that led to the swimming pool. The Clubhouse was also the site for some heavy-duty studying or cramming for semester final exams.  In some clubhouses, like the one at Cocoli, the old folks played Bingo.

The Clubhouses served the Canal Zone inhabitants well.  They were community centers, study halls, home away from home, and a place where everybody knew each others names like the theme from Cheers.

The Clubhouse was part of the human fabric interwoven so closely that made the Panama Canal Zone the place to live for most Zonians.  It was the perfect water hole in the area. When you evoke the Balboa Clubhouse, your eyes get moist and it’s not because of a sudden gust of wind, mind you.  Absolutely no doubts about it, the Balboa Clubhouse was the place to be.

In an effort to capture the current situation of this historic Balboa landmark, I took a couple of pictures of it last Sunday, March 22, 2009.  This is what I saw.  Here we go.

Photograph of the Balboa Clubhouse the way it looked on March 22, 2009.  (Credit:  Omar Upegui R.)

Photograph of the Balboa Clubhouse the way it looked on March 22, 2009. (Credit: Omar Upegui R.)

Picture of the Balboa Clubhouse located at Balboa former Panama Canal Zone.  Notice that a roof has been added to the original structure.  (Credit:  Omar Upegui R.)

Picture of the Balboa Clubhouse located at Balboa former Panama Canal Zone. Notice that a roof has been added to the original structure. (Credit: Omar Upegui R.)

If you want to find out how the Balboa Clubhouse looked way back in the fifties, kindly click here for an aerial photo of the building taken on December 27, 1950.  Happy memories and Good Day.

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Picture taken at the Dallas Arboretum by Michael Moore, professional photographer.

Picture taken at the Dallas Arboretum by Michael Moore, professional photographer.

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It’s a well spread out myth, that the father of the construction of the Panama Canal is George Washington Goethals. That is incorrect.  The fact of the matter is that the Panama Canal has not one, but three fathers, (i.e., John Findley Wallace, John F. Stevens and George W. Goethals).

John F. Wallace was a prominent railroad engineer appointed in 1904 by President Theodore Roosevelt to build the Panama Canal.  Although he was mindful of U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt’s orders to “make the dirt fly”, Wallace was accustomed to working under civilized conditions.

Using equipment the French had left behind when they abandoned the project in 1889, Wallace did start digging the canal, but soon found Panama squalid and riddled with malaria and yellow fever, which he feared.  Additionally, the Panama Canal Commission had to approve even the smallest decisions through a lengthy process. After a year, beset by health concerns and bureaucratic woes, Wallace resigned.

He was succeeded a year later by John F. Stevens, the man who really got the massive but bogged-down job organized, equipped and finally on track. Goethals, his successor, had only to carry on.  Stevens was named Chief Engineer of the Panama Canal in 1905.  He was one of the most experienced railroad builders in the United States.  He was also one of the most heavy cigar smokers ever present in the Panama Canal.  For that characteristic, he was known as John F. “Big Smoke” Stevens.  When he wasn’t  chain-smoking cigars, he was chain-chewing them.

He already had spent his adult life building railroads on the U.S. Western frontier. No stranger to rough living, he had been chief engineer for the Great Northern Railroad during construction of its transcontinental line on the northern route. In his varied travels, he had been marooned in blizzards, attacked by Apaches and even treed by wolves.

A decisive and strong leader, Stevens took immediate control of all aspects of the work. He saw that disease was brought under control and was largely responsible for deciding to build a lock-type canal.

Stevens’ primary achievement in Panama was in building the infrastructure necessary to complete the canal. He rebuilt the Panama Railway and devised a system for disposing of soil from the excavations by rail. He also built proper housing for canal workers and oversaw extensive sanitation and mosquito-control programs that eliminated Yellow Fever and other diseases from the Isthmus. Stevens argued the case against a sea level canal like the French had tried to build. He successfully convinced Theodore Roosevelt of the necessity of a high-level canal built with dams and locks.

Stevens resigned suddenly from the Canal project in 1907 to Roosevelt’s great annoyance, as the focus of the work turned to construction of the canal itself.   As a railroad engineer, Stevens had little expertise in building locks and dams, and probably realized he was no longer the best person for the remainder of the job.

Stevens would also have been aware that the original great Cascade Tunnel, for which he was responsible, was in hindsight built in error too close to the ruling grade and was perhaps turning from a credit to a debit. The true reasons for his resignation have never been known.

George W. Goethals took over and finished the job in 1914.  Goethals was deeply impressed with John F. Steven. In a letter to his son, Goethals wrote,  “Mr. Stevens has perfected such an organization … that there is nothing left for us to do but just have the organization continue in the good work it was done and is doing … Mr. Stevens has done an amount of work for which he will never get any credit, or, if he gets any, will not get enough …

Credits he received. He was presented the John Fritz Gold Medal on March 23, 1925, for “great achievements as a civil engineer, particularly in planning and organizing for the construction of the Panama Canal; as a builder of railroads, and as administration of the Chinese Eastern and Siberian Railways.

The Panama Canal Commission also built a monument to honor John F. Steven’s  contribution in building the Panama Canal.   It’s known as Steven’s Circle Monument. Embedded in the white marble of the monument you can read the following words:  “John F. Stevens 1853-1943, Isthmus Canal Commission, President 1907, Chief Engineer 1906-1907, The Canal is his monument, Goethals.”

I was at this monument last Sunday and took the following photographs for your ready reference.  This is what I saw.  Here we go.

Photograph of Stevens Circle in at Balboa, former Canal Zone.  The building at your left is the ex-Chase Manhattan Bank, now the HSBC Bank and the building in the background is the former Balboa Club House.  (Credit:  Omar Upegui R.)

Photograph of Steven's Circle at Balboa, former Canal Zone. The building at your left is Citibank and the building in the background is the former Balboa Clubhouse. (Credit: Omar Upegui R.)

A close up view of the John Stevens monument at Balboa, former Canal Zone. (Credit: Omar Upegui R.)

A close up view of the John Steven's monument at Balboa, former Canal Zone. (Credit: Omar Upegui R.)

I wonder if there’s a direct relationship between smoking cigars and building canals.  Good Day.

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