Saturday, July 25, 2009

Turkey sampling

Here is a log of our travels in Turkey. It's sort of journal-y, but I'll try to make it fun.

(1) JFK --> Munich.
  • We were blessed with the presence of approximately 100 Jehovah's Witnesses on our flight -- as you presumably already knew, there was a gigantic JW convention in Munich. After briefly considering a conversion, we decided to board the Munich-->Istanbul flight.

  • JWs smile at strangers; I find this behavior very creepy.

(2) 4 days in Istanbul.
  • Much time was occupied by the canonical sights (churches, mosques, palaces, bazaars, Galata Tower, Bosphorus sea ferry), most of which are incredible. I was too tired to develop a novel perspective on them.

  • We also visited the (perhaps slightly less well-known) Basilica Cistern, which supplied water for the palace of Justinianus. Now it's a gigantic cool (temp-wise and other-wise!) underground room with a few feet of water at the bottom. At some point it was used to store corpses.

  • OK, it seems kind of wrong to include this, but it seems just as wrong to omit it. In the Grand Bazaar we observed a man with the following properties:
    • possibly blind;
    • probably retarded;
    • visibly crippled; and
    • a midget.

  • San Diego Republicans waiting in line for sea ferry: "Obama has spent more than all previous presidents combined." You won't believe this, but the husband works in computers, and the wife teaches dance.

  • Our hostel shower had zero shower curtains, so showering resulting in water all over the bathroom floor. By the third night, our bathroom required re-caulking, and we had to shower in a different bathroom while the caulk dried. I'm virtually certain we left bathroom #2 in need of a re-caulking.

  • Wouldn't it be easier to simply install a shower curtain?

  • Yes.

  • Isn't it strange that some bathrooms in the hostel had shower curtains?

  • Yes! I know!

  • We took an overnight bus (along the western coast) to Izmir. It's pretty nice that some guy comes around with lemon-scented rubbing alcohol, glasses of water and soda, snacks, and tea/coffee (though at midnight, really?), but the roads are so jostle-y! Also, the driver is maniacal and hopped up on Nescafe.

(3) 1 day in Izmir.
  • Izmir is a city and it is OK. We smoked nargile and played backgammon on the waterfront. We also slept a lot on account of (see above).

(4) 3 days in Selcuk (Efes).
  • We visited Efes soon after arriving. The total volume of ruins in Efes is maybe small compared to those in Rome, but in Efes there is a high concentration of very well-preserved Roman city in a smallish area. I especially enjoyed the marble roads. I don't even have marble in my apartment.

  • In Selcuk we lost our innocence: we bargained with a shopkeeper boy for water, and with a laundromat owner. We also learned that you are especially supposed to bargain for bus tickets.

  • There is a beautiful (and cheap!) cafe run by the municipality on a big lawn in town.

  • We discovered a nighttime flea market. This is a good institution for a place which is boiling by 10am. Also, it explains the fact that during the day, there is not much visible economic activity.

  • Met some squat toilets. Should you build a squat toilet? flowchart.

  • While swimming in the Ege Deniz, we noticed a wild pig approaching our lounge chairs. As I swam out to chase it away, it snatched up the bag of Turkish delight left by our neighbors. Minutes later our neighbors returned and wondered about their missing bag. I said "pig" and "oink oink" to no avail. Allison pretended to be a pig and they understood.

  • Please don't feed the wild pigs on the beach.

  • Minutes later, one of the porcine theft victims emerged from the sea with a substantial gash on her leg. Rough few minutes.

  • Soon after the swim, we hitched a ride (just a few miles) back to our bus stop. At first the car didn't stop for us because there were 6 people in 5 seats, but they shuffled around and we squeezed in.

  • Overall, Selcuk = my favorite.

(5) morning bus to Pamukkale (Hierapolis), day there, overnight bus (due east) to Cappadocia.
  • Without shower facilities for 24 hours (but with the usual heat), cleanliness required some creativity. Solution: bathing in calcium-rich pools in the Travertines.

  • More ruins.

  • (At night) two young girls with sunglasses and scarves covering their faces, walking with exaggerated limps, trying to collect money in large purses. Chased out of one convenience store. Very strange.

(6) 4 days in Cappadocia (specifically, Goreme).
  • Goreme (similar comments apply to nearby towns) is a town carved out of volcanic rock. For example, you can stay in a "cave hotel," which is literally a room carved out of a gigantic heap of volcanic rock. (We stayed in a noncave hotel; both options convex.) More interestingly, the Open-Air Museum consists of a bunch of churches (=carved rock painted with various dyes). Most interestingly, we visited an underground city (Derinkuyu) -- 8 levels of ant colony on human scale.

  • We broke our Turkish breakfast streak (Tb = cucumber, tomato, olives, fruit, cheese, hard-boiled egg, bread)!

  • There are three major types of rock formation:

    • conical;

    • boulder resting atop cone (boulder thrown there a long time ago by nature, followed by differential erosion); and

    • ridiculously phallic.

  • One day we hiked for about five hours alongside mountains and in valleys.

(7) 2 days in Istanbul.
  • By this point we are pros at Turkey and super-pros at Istanbul, except our maps don't have enough detail to get us to the Chora Church (Kariye Camii). Therefore we ask some people in the neighborhood. Therefore 5 Turkish boys (ages 10-12, they allege) offer to show us the way. Therefore we think we must be very close. We are wrong. They lead us for 15-20 minutes through small winding roads, the whole time shooting paper projectiles out of PVC blow-guns. Upon arrival we reward them with 2 liters of Coca-Cola (NB they wisely refuse our Turkish delight -- we were the strangers with candy!!). The sugar/caffeine drives them more or less insane, they promise to show us another church when we're done with Chora, but when we exit the church they are nowhere to be found.

  • This is mainly a relief.

  • A cab driver gave us a scenic tour of the seaside. Since this wasn't requested and increased the distance traveled by a factor of 3 or 4, we did not pay the amount shown on the meter. He yelled at us and we got out. Scored one for America!

  • Our plan to take public transportation (=PT) to the airport the night before our flight (which leaves at 6:40am, too early for PT) is foiled by PT's closing at 10pm. We stay out on Istiklal Caddesi and (among other things) look for stamps for our postcards. We fail to find stamps, but we succeed in finding a guy who promises to mail our postcards the next day and refuses to accept any money!

  • Seriously, metro closes at 10pm? Are we a city or not answer me now I need to know.

  • Do let me know if you receive a postcard.

Saturday, November 08, 2008


(1) circa 2002-03, New Haven CT

Student 1: What's your schedule like this year?
Student 2: I'm taking Classes A, B, C, and D.
S1: How's the workload?
S2: Well, it's fine right now, but in the span of three days I will have to turn in eighty pages of writing. Kind of unbelievable.
S1: Huh, well, Welcome to Yale!

(2) October 29, 2008, men's locker room attached to Columbia University pool (in the Dodge Fitness Center)

Background. In the pool there are 2 "slow" lanes, 2 "medium" lanes, and a few "fast" lanes. At peak times there are 4+ swimmers per lane. (This results in unintentional touching and I do not like it and maybe I'll discuss it later? but what is there to say except old man junk?)

General observation. Some of these regular recreational swimmers take themselves pretty seriously. At the beginning of the school year, many complained the pool was so crowded because everyone thinks "if Phelps can do it, they can," and surely this excitement will die down, and won't that be great when it's just us, the authentic recreational swimmers in the pool. (Of course this sort of posturing is often done with certain objects flopping all about. I would argue this adds an extra element of surreality.)

Particular event. Guy is complaining about how another swimmer in his "fast" lane wasn't fast enough, and how he kept having to flip over the slow swimmer at the wall, but it was OK, he knew the lifeguard on duty and therefore wouldn't get in trouble. (You know you've made it when: you can be sort of rude in a pool and get away with it. These corridors of power are sadly closed to me.) He concludes thusly:

"This is an Ivy league university, I think we can spell f-a-s-t."

Monday, August 25, 2008

What's a total jerk and wears a black dress shirt to work?

An unnamed colleague and your faithful correspondent approached a free food event near the math department.

Server Dude: Are you with the School of Social Work?
Unnamed Colleague: No, we're with the math department.
SD: Sorry, this event is for the School of Social Work. (smugly) Maybe the math department will have an event next week.

I love this consolation because it's completely made-up and also totally irrelevant: SD has no idea what any department has planned -- he is after all a server, and in any case I would like free food both now and in the future.

Me: Do you know when you're going to clean all this stuff up?
SD: (hesitates but does not reveal any information) (again, smugly) It's not that kind of event.

I see; it is the kind of event where you are a douchebag and throw away leftovers and feel extremely powerful in your slightly dressy uniform.

UC&Me: (grab cheeseburgers from unguarded tray while leaving)

Friday, January 04, 2008

Is that a Photoshopped moustache?

Our next battle:

Hitler and the Hyenas


A Sad Old Lady

(Hyenas refers to first-tier candidates; everyone else has his mouth open in an out-of-touch fashion, or is auditioning for the murderer lead in a Woody Allen film.)

Friday, July 06, 2007

Just in case He's not hiring, I suppose.

overheard on subway:

Man #1: (shuffles some objects; a guide to finding employment becomes visible to all)

Man #2: [pleasantry]

Man #1: (shuffles some more objects; Holy Bible now visible)

Man #2: Now that's the real job finder right there.

Man #1: [expresses agreement]

Man #2: You could also check out the internet.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

On the bright side... may make sense for Zimbabweans to wipe their Zimbooties (?) with $100 bills:
[Times correspondent] Michael [Wines], last year when Zimbabwe’s inflation was a comparatively enviable 900 percent, you wrote about how the local $500 bill was just enough to buy toilet paper — not a whole roll, mind you, but a single sheet. Now that inflation is five times what it was back then, how are people surviving at all?
Zimbenjis? Too soon?

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Of all of the dudes in the world, why this one?

I personally don't have anybody else in mind to lead the Consumer Product Safety Commission, but if I were making the decision, some of the qualities I would look for in an applicant would be:

  • wise
  • will not receive gigantic sum of money from people whose behavior (s)he will be regulating
  • looks good in bathing suit

  • I mean honestly what are the odds that this guy is the best person in the country for this job come on they can't be that good.