16 November 2006

Catching up

Well, things have been very busy.
I have a new job at Kaiser Permanete doing strategic planning for the marketing department. It is a lot like what I used to do for UC. Everything else is insanely busy. I did make it to Yosemite twice this fall, pictures eventually. But its really late, so more later.

Last weekend I helped bottle wine at a friends brand new winery for several hours and learned how to move big barrels of wine around and wash them out, and how bottles are filled and the merits of two different kinds of screw tops. Oh and we sampled some wine...

17 July 2006

Arrg! Avast! see Pirates!

A few of us went to see the new Pirate's move Friday night. I did not manage to see the first movie on Wed, but this probably improved my view of the current one since I did not have as recent an experience of the better original version. Not that the new version was bad, but it was not as clever, the dialog was not as good, it did not track the ride as well, but if you put your brain in neutral (and hey, this isn't meant to me Good Night and Good Luck) then it was a lot of fun anyway.

Saturday I'm not sure what I did, but it was relaxing. Went car shopping. Then went to a wonderful party where I met several interesting new people, got to talk to a bunch of people I see fairly infrequently. Was great fun. Got home almost at 4 AM.

Sunday I went to the Menlo Park street fair and had a lovely afternoon.

09 July 2006

A busy week

Well it was a fascinating week. Monday I was at work, but only about half of the staff was in (and if I had thought about it, I might have gone somewhere for the long weekend, but I didn't so it was the salt mines for me. The 4th I already covered. Wednesday I was pretty productive. The next to last AVP had a retirement party - this now means there are only 4 or 5 senior executives who are not some kind of temporary, and lots of just empty spots. Some of them will be back part time, but there's a whole lot of empty on the top floor.

Thursday I actually got work done, and then went to Palo Alto/Menlo Park to hear some Jazz and have dinner with a friend, who I had called on the 4th after a long absence.

Friday was entirely lost to a staff meeting, the good bye lunch for my boss, 30 minutes of email, the retirement party for one of the people (recently in my work group) who I worked with on a lot of UC Merced stuff. Then it was off to a "7's" party (7 themed drinks, food, decorations {movie posters} held by a friend who recently got promoted at Berkeley. Most of the people there were in development or Berkeley faculty, which was fun. Then it was off to the housewarming party for Corey and Chris. They have the cutest little black kitty. We all had fun trying to wear out the cat, probably unsuccessfully. I was pretty late at 11ish but there was a steady stream of interesting people in and out until 3.30ish.

That, of course made me late for David and Morgan's big move from Berkeley to Palo Alto. But we had a great brunch at a pie restaurant in Berkeley/Oakland. Then we drove down to their new cottage, met up with the South Bay crew and unloaded everything. After dinner I met up for drinks with my Menlo Park friend.

Sunday was HomeDespot day - bought some tools, deck improvement/maintenance supplies, and some more night lights. Poked around at the (closed) pre-owned car shop to see what they had. Worked on house, and getting pictures on line.

04 July 2006

4th of July

Saturday I went to the fractional birthday party/house cooling for Morgan and David. It was a lot of fun. got to know a few new dance people, see Ping, Andy, and Ruth spin fire! And there was much good food and great sangria and BBQ and sitting on the balcony enjoying the sun, and huge pillow fights.

Sunday I recovered from the party, spent the afternoon with Anna, and then saw Thank You For Smoking at the Parkway with Rachel, Brendan and Anita. Must go to the Parkway more often! It was good movie. Amazingly no one smoked during a movie about smoking.

Yesterday I succeeded in getting out of work semi early and getting my hair cut. I then managed to harvest most of the plum crop. Despite trying to go to be early, I failed and then slept in until past 1.

Today I went to some friends from college (actually their college, my grad school) - whom I have known nearly forever and sometimes get invited on family trips with - to their BBQ for the celebration of The Insurrection Against His Majesty's Lawful Government day. It was a lot of fun, lots of cute kids running around, good food, good sangria and I got to catch up a little from my friend from college (who just moved back) and her sisters, and plan further activities in the near future.

20 June 2006

A Wedding in Toronto

I went to Toronto to go to Nikita and Lenore's wedding (friends from Berkeley who now live in Illinios).

So I make the plane to DC, with at least a few minutes to spare, and time to get food (just) it was yummy but messy. I slept the rest of the flight. When we arrived in DC and I got up, the rest of the my friends from SF on the plane were only three rows up (and on the other side of the plane. So we all trooped over to the gate on the other side of the airport, and got on the plane to Buffalo. And we took off, and got drinks, and then the plane turned around and flew back. We seem to not have had flaps, or rather we had flaps, but they would not extend to "landing mode", and the long runway in Buffalo was closed. And after the usual, "we'll let you know in half an hour", "and half an hour" and "half an hour". The flight was canceled. So some quick work by Morgan and all five us were rebooked straight through to Toronto. A flurry of phone calls got the friends that we were to meet in Buffalo and drive to Toronto with, to get our cars in Buffalo, so we had a way back to Buffalo. As this was going on, the BBQ got moved up an hour, just to insure we were late. :-)

So now we sit in the terminal. I managed to spastically spill coffee on my towel and sweatshirt hood, which I suppose is not as bad as some places it might have dropped and I managed to get most of the coffee out of everything.

At last we got on the 3.30 plane for Toronto and arrived in Canada with no further incident and took the bus and the subway to Ryerson University where we were staying. On the way the first person in Tornonto we talked to turned out to have friends in common with some of us and had spotted us a geeks. "Why?", I asked, "just because there are five us, wearing black, and all carrying laptops - to a wedding, what ever made you think that?"

Just as we arrived we ran into our friend Andrea who had also recently arrived and we managed to meet up with Peter - who had a car, and thus a quick way to the party, now in progress. This turned out to be a bit of a boondogle, as we had directions to the reception rather than the BBQ, so we wandered around quite bit out of our way until we noticed we were in the wrong part of town. Peter at this point was frazzled (and lost) and we had to outsource the task of getting the other half of our party (which did not fit in the car) to the BBQ.

It was like old home week at Shar's house, lots of my San Franciscan Urban Tribe regulars, old friends who had moved away, and the collection of Toronto people who I have gotten to know over the years. There was tonnes of food, and drink, and a hot tub had been rented for the week, and was very, very crowded by the time I go there, so I caught up with a lot of people I had not seen in years. Eventually the hot tub emptied and a hot water bucket brigade carried water from the kitchen to refill it. And we let it heat up for a while whilest we sat on the porch or living room and told jokes, and continued to catch up. Some where around 2 most people had left, and we had cleaned up some, and had eaten a lot of really good cookies, and decided the hot tub was hot enough and had another go at it. Shar fell asleep,and I was dozing off pretty badly, and sometime about 3.30 Kragen and Beatrice drove us back to the dorms.

The dorms I stayed at were really dorms, just like college. Actually slightly better than my college dorm. This was a bit much for two and a half of our suite mates who needed the clean floors of the other option and had already moved, but a third person needed a spot so Andrea and I stayed.

Day II
Having gotten in at 4.00 I woke up just a few minutes before the alarum went off at 11.00 the next day, and by 11.40 we had wireless but there was little time to use it. We zoomed off pretty quickly to meet a group a the other hotel who were trying to organize breakfast. After some negotiation we ended up having it there in the cafe, and we picked up a pretty large group by the time food arrived. A second group had organized to go to a greek restaurant about 2.00 and a few of us went hunting after them while the rest of the group went out in search of a castle we had seen in a guide book. After driving around to drop off some bags we found the greek restaurant, and met up with at least some of the main group and had second breakfast, actually it was more like twoses, having had elevenses instead of first and second breakfast. We had another adventure with the subway, and I bought too many subway tokens by being confused about how many people I thought I was buying them for. But then it was off to the CN tower which was the agreed upon 4.00 meeting place.

After wandering around the tower, finding all the various groups that had been independently running around on the quest for food most of us bought tickets up to the tower, and we had fun taking pictures and looking at the city and goofing off on the 100 story plus glass floor looking down on the ant sized people below. The city was a lot greener since I was up in the tower during the winter (at Ian's wedding weekend) - this seems like a tradition... the iPod ads had changed, and lots of the city was hidden by trees, and it was a warm howling wind that buffeted us on the outside deck, not the freezing breeze.

After the tower, we set off in mass for the Friday party at a pub about 15 blocks from the hotel. We collectively were of course late, but there were so many of us, that the party didn't really start until we were there. More people showed up (those who hadn't come in for the Thursday party.) And we had drinks and food and talked until about midnight, when the generally jetlagged (if they had just gotten in) or exhausted (from staying up the night before) people started wandering home. A group of us went off to a Karaoke bar not too far from the hotel, but a pretty good hike from the main party (it was a fun walk, but possibly we should have taken the subway). Some of the walking crew went home, Kragen and I continued to the bar. Most of the group sang at least one song, and we all sang one big group number. I had wanted to stay until about 1, but there was always just one more song, so we closed it down about 2. And walked home. We passed at least three women of negotiable virtue on the way home, which added a bit of local colour.

Once again, it was about 11 before we got even thinking about going, and no one else seemed to be up, so Peter, Andrea, and our other suite-mate Floyd set out on our own and ended up at a Thai restaurant and had a nice Thai brunch bar and then wandered around the city (as it was past 2 and we needed to leave for the wedding about 4). We went past the Hudson Bay Company store, founded 1640 and still going strong.

After getting ready, we met Peter and piled in the car and retraced our steps of two days before. The hall where the wedding was slightly well hidden and it took a couple of tries to find it, but we found it and were the first people there (due to paranoia about being late). After a while the wedding party arrived, Nikita walked me thorough the sound system (I was given the small task of pressing the play button at the right time during the ceremony) and we had more old home week with Bab-5.

The ceremony was great -Morgan did a wonderful job on some of the costumes (especially Ping's) and Kate was very cute as the flower girl (but didn't quite have the scattering rose pedals thing down. The vows were very nice, and though they both had a little trouble fighting through the emotion to say them, it was very moving. Though we think that Lenore may have taken Nikita as her lawfully wedded wife. Lenore's dress was really impressively good on her, and appropriately orange (and was a costume in one of our favourte TV shows Firefly. Because I had the laptop with the music, I was accused of blogging the wedding, I was much too nervous to do that. The laptop went to sleep during the ceremony, and it took all of the signing ceremony to get reconnected to the speakers and they came back online just in the nick of time.

Afterwards there was a reception before dinner, I talked to Nikita's parents, played with Kate (who had apparently recognized me in the crowd) and caught up with some of the east cost people who had just arrived on Saturday. The dinner was very nice, the centerpieces all had themes from Lenore or Nikita's life. There were Settlers of Katan cards at one table, we had a VW bug with 1000MPH license plates. The favours were Japanese tea mugs with various kinds of tea.

There were a lot of speeches, all had moving things to say and almost all of them were funny, Ian and Molly started them off and Michael G. invited them to the union of married and engaged couples. I'm not going to list them all, but they were all moving, or funny, or both.

As this is getting long I'll try and sum up...

After dinner, and Cake! Then there was dancing, and more dancing, Music by Kevin. Who knew all of our friends were professional dancers. Even Kate was bouncing around the floor. Rasputin seems to be getting longer and longer as time goes on. It was like we were transported back 3-4 years to Kevin and Nikita's place, at one of their better parties.

I can't remember having more fun in a long time. All cares and worries fled away. At least half of the people I would like to have in one place were there. About 1.30 we closed down the place and went home, and at least I crashed hard, some people, I heard later, stayed up, but I knew nothing about this at the time.

Day IV
I woke up slightly later than I would have liked, and nearly missed the gang going to Tim Horton's for breakfast. MMMMM donuts. We then said goodbye to those staying a bit longer in Toronto and tried to escape, mostly by driving in circles until we hit escape velocity. Then it was off to Niagara Falls. We took pictures, of the Falls, of each other at the Falls, then took the tour behind the Falls, which I had never done, having only been there in depth of winter. It was very cool watching all that water fall (20% of the world's fresh water) from close up and behind.

We at last tore ourselves away, drove across the Border without being grilled about how we Lenore or Nikita or how long we were going to stay etc. We had a last dinner together (at least until the next Urban Tribe gathering) at the sports bar in the airport.

I have carefully arranged to arrive at 10.30 so I could take BART back even if the plane was a little late. It was 1.20 late, so I had to pay for the post midnight extortion rate to get back to the East Bay - I will write that complaint letter this time...

What a great weekend.

24 May 2006


Yesterday I went to the Cardinals vs Giants baseball game with the Washington Univ. alumni association. I got to talk to some '64 and '65 crusty alumni at dinner before the game. Things were a lot different back then....

The game was fun and exciting. Barry Bonds hit some base hits, fielded a ball (missed one too). There was a throwout between 3rd and Home, and a cliff hanger at the end, when after a pitcher change, he managed to walk four Giants, and it was one home run away from snatching Defeat from the jaws of Victory. But then five pitches and 2 strikes later and a fly ball, and it was all over.

The project at work continues its glacial pace.

10 May 2006

Sunny weekend - busy week

Now the sun is out, ski season is clearly over (with gas at $3.33 I'm not going up by myself for slush).

The last couple of weekends have featured a series of brunches with friends and they were all alot of fun. Work has been ok, many things not working so well, but even that seems to be clearing up today as I figured out a work around for a major bug.

I saw Mission Impossible III - as one review said "It was all peak - no rest or valley" and you got to see Felicity shoot a pistol at bad guys. If you want action - and a lot more plot than some of the shoot 'em ups - its a win.

Lots of end of term stuff going on, people graduating, Spring Concerts (Perfect Fifth, AiR) and I got to see the author of Piled Higher and Deeper - my favourite comic strip - at Berkeley.

Busy busy...

01 May 2006

Great Weekend!

I had a wonderful weekend. I had a relaxing late evening at the Co-op I help run, followed by helping two of my friends with a garage sale on Saturday, an a cappella concert by one of my friends. This was followed by an amazing housewarming party (that lasted until 3 AM). Got to see lots of old friends and meet some interesting new people.

Sunday I had brunch at La Note with more friends including one of my professor friends from UCSD. In the afternoon I went hiking with a friend at Windy Peak - where we often used to go on Bab-5 hikes.

Windy Hill from Space

24 April 2006

Turkey Day 12 - Constantonople/Istanbul

Mar. 30th, 2006 | 11:46 pm

The end of the trip started with a sillily early wake up call, and a 6 AM trip to the airport. A Lithuanian who we picked up after me managed to leave her suit case with the presents she had bought in her three months of teaching in Turkey behind at the hostel. (We stood in line for a long time at initial security - Turkish airports have light security going in to the airport, then another round before you get on the plane). I had gobs of time, as the plane was an hour delayed, (or actually on time but the itinerary failed to notice daylight savings time.

Then the long flight home. No interesting people to talk to, finished my books.

JFK has the worst signage of any airport in the world. There is no indication from the International Terminal how one might get to other terminals (if they, in fact exist).

The flight to SF was delayed by an hour or so, I picked up Wicked and read about half of it on the way home.

Turkey Day 11 - Blotting out the Sun

Mar. 29th, 2006 | 11:55 pm
mood: ecstatic music: Airport annoucements
We got up and finally had a hot shower! Small joys. Russell set off to see if he actually had a hotel reservation and to move his stuff over - we toddled off to breakfast. It was a wonderful sunny day, not a cloud in the sky. We enjoyed another beautiful, if rather bread centric breakfast overlooking the Mediterranean. The mountains across the Bay still had a brilliant coating of snow, which near as we could tell had fallen two days before when we were caught in the rain. Possibly it had been there before and we missed it on our first day, but we all think it fell whilst were were there.

We had scouted out a number of sights to watch the eclipse from, but the big square near the hostel seemed like the best deal, close by, several nearby alternatives if it got too busy, close by to caf├ęs if we suddenly needed tea... Since the weather was perfect, there seemed no need to have emergency get away plans.

So we camped out on the retaining wall, and watched the people very slowly gather. It turned out that the website had neglected to adjust for Daylight savings time, so we were an hour early, but this gave us more time to watch the people.
Other early arrivals included a German family of four, a older English couple from Ipswitch (he had the film that let you see the sun in white, rather than the sort of tan that our shade 14 welding glass showed - as well as a 1000x lens).

We watched the boats come and go, somebody swimming off the rocks, the palm tree trimmers working on the street leading away from the ocean, the poor guys trying to sell Polaroids in one of the most densely camera populated places in the city. Tour groups came and went, but eventually people came and stayed, but it never got terribly crowded. A bunch of people set up telescopes off to one side, and there was a TV camera crew set up, as well as a bunch of people with tripods. (Note to self, bring tripod next time - even a small one).

At long last the moon arrived and the dog started eating the sun. The eclipse happened very slowly and we took plenty of pictures as the occlusion progressed. The sky remained clear, though slowly high thin clouds started to gather around the mountains, which made us glad that we did not leave the coast as many people seem to have done. It might have been possible to get another 11 seconds of totality, but that would have meant hiring a car and driving and general hassle.

Gradually it started getting dimmer out and at about 25% we started putting jackets on, and by 50% it was starting to get cold. There was building excitement as it was clearly getting darker out, and by 75% there was a buzz in the crowd, the street lights started coming on, and the birds started getting more excited than they had been.

It was also clear by this time that the sky was going to hold clear and the last wispy cloud moved out the the danger zone. Excitement was mounting. We found we could take hundreds of pictures of the sun and because most of the field was black, they compressed to nothing. then the Sun fairly rapidly was reduced to an ever decreasing sliver of light, and as the moon gained it got darker and darker into an eery grey twilight, with the rosy hues of sunset 360 degrees around the horizon, except for the far mountains which were dimmer, but not dim, the nearer mountains turned pink on their snow covered slopes.

Then, at last the cheer went up, the last bit of sun was blotted out - the corrona shown a glimmering white circle around a coal black round hole in the sky, Venus and some of the brighter stars were visible and you could see the Sun's outer atmosphere shimmering and moving around the blackness of the moon. We struggled to divide our attention between the spectacle over head an attempt to get a couple of pictures of it, to see the eery vision of a darkened landscape about us, the funky horizon of pink, and in the far mountains the shining glimmer of snow beyond the shadow.

We had hoped, from our vantage point overlooking the ocean, to seen the shadow rushing over us but it came gradually, though we thought we might have seen the shadow leave.

Our mission done, we went the the Antalya Museum in the afternoon - since it was the thing that we had not done yet. Most of the "good" stuff from the ruined cities (statues etc.) is in the museum. It was a pretty good museum, and happily everything was in Turkish and English again.

Afterwards we met up with Russell's advisior who was also in town for the eclipse and had dinner in the same place we had had dinner the other night becasue they were near our hotel, open, and had veggie food. Then it was off to the airport, and the flight to Instanbul. Not especially eventfull, they did load the plane from both ends.

In Istanbul we discovered that the hotel did not, as advertised, have a shuttle from the airport, so after dodging a really expensive way of getting to the hotel (which we knew was bogus from previous taxi rides) we took the taxi. The nice hotel we had for the last night turned out to be down the street from where we had originally stayed. I still had a bit of energy left - so I took a last walk to the Blue Mosque and St. Sophia, and had a last beer at the bar accross the street from our original hostel, and chatted with some american guys who were just starting their trip.

Turkey Day 10 - Perde

Mar. 28th, 2006 | 07:41 am
mood: calm music: Birds chirping
After a good night's sleep - for me, not so much for Nikita and Lenore who were hacking away much of the night. Another surprise in the morning was the lack of hot water. Not just the water being cold, but actually nothing coming out of the hot tap at all. So we skipped showers in hope of hot water later.

We had our first day split up - Russell and I took off for Perde to see the ruins there, while Lenore and Nikita stayed behind to do laundry and see the flying Dervishes. More on that in a bit. So Russell and I hiked across the the city to find a roundabout where we were to pickup the bus. Despite the really bad map and kinda vague directions, we managed to find it, get the bus and half an hour later we were at the town next to Perde. A short 2 km hike and we were at the stadium. We crawled around the ruins for about three hours (there agan, are enough pictures to recreate the ruins in 3D). The city was huge - on the same scale as Ephesus and not quite as well restored, but clearly in about second place. Most of the ruins were Roman, but there were two large towers of Hellenistic origin.

After we finished photographing the city to death, we had lunch at a roadside cafe, next to a big market, before catching the bus back. There were a bunch of schools (at least 3 maybe 4) on the road to Perde, and our bus had a number of school kids who gradually got off as we headed back to the city. One of them had a periodic table, so I'm guessing she was studying Chemestry.

Back at the hostel, we found that Nikita and Lenore had spent much of the day resting, but had a nice lunch of soup. The flying dervishes were apparently nowhere to be found.

We spent the rest of the late afternoon sitting on the veranda either reading or writing in LJ. We watched the sunset, and the boats going by. There are a lot of birds flitting around. Tomorrow is the eclipse, and if the weather is as clear as it was today, we will go home happy.

Now a few more chapters of "Guns, Germs, and Steel" and then dinner....

Turkey Day 9 - Termelssos

Mar. 27th, 2006 | 08:54 am
mood: accomplished music: Turkish Radio
Today we got up kinda late, but made breakfast on the roof terrace overlooking the Mediterranean (many pictures). Then we set out for Termelssos which is a city high on the mountain that managed to hold off Alexander the Great way back when. We had to take a bus to the bus station, then another bus to the foot of the mountain, then a taxi up 9 km to the base of the Park, then climb 2 km up the mountain to the city gates, then a bit more to the main ruins, very well documented. We crawled around on the ruins for several hours, took enough pictures to recreate a 3D model back home, and then climbed some more to see the tombs. [the theater was well preserved, seats 4,500 and was in pretty good shape, unlike most of the other buildings].

Just as we saw the last ruin, it started to rain, and we hoofed it down the hill to meet our taxi (it was about time anyway). It was 30 YTL to go up and down, and the taxi driver offered to take us back to the bus station for another 30 YTL, which given it was raining, the bus cost 13 YTL and it was pretty full on the way out - we thought was a good deal.

The Lonely Planet guided us wrong again on buses back to the city, so we spent way too much time taking the express (not) bus rather than the bus we had taken in the morning. Bad Lonely Planet, no biscuit.

Then we spent several hours sitting in a cafe overlooking the Mediterranean, watching the ships come back into the harbour, and watching the sun set in the clouds, drinking tea and wine, and actually writing some postcards.

Afterwards we followed the lead of Lonely Planet and went to their first recommendation for dinner, not great atmosphere, but the food was really good (and having climbed a mountain and skipped lunch, we were pretty hungry. It was also pretty spicy. On the way back we saw Burger Queen Pizza. (many pictures to follow).

Then a stop at the internet cafe (see previous post) and braving the rain storm to get home. The forecast still looks good, but afternoon thunderstorms seem to be happening outside of the forecast and the Weatherunderground's idea of sunny is not ours.

Unknown plans for tomorrow - and now its midnight and it's Bedtime for Bonzo.

Turkey Day 8 - On the Road Again

Mar. 26th, 2006 | 12:13 pm
mood: bitchy music: Talking Heads - On the Road to Nowhere

I stayed up late drinking beer and a taste of the local liqcorish flavoured drink and talking to the couple from Orinda and the guy from Holland about American politics, health care, dentistry (the Dutch guy had a broken tooth), and drug policy.

Eventually I went down and did last night's email.

In the morning we woke up slightly late, went to breakfast in stages - I talked to a group of international educators on their spring break. We then set off to the bus station, got on our very nice Mercedes bus, and set off, more or less on time. There was some confusion with bus seat assignments, as they had sold at least one of our seats more than once. An attempt to fix this ultimately led to us being transfered to another bus company, which generated both a 45 minute layover, and a much less nice Mercedes bus. We will have words with the Anzac people who set this up.

The bus ride was otherwise uneventful, well documented, and we went up and down through the mountains, which were fairly impressive and had rather a lot of snow at the top of them. There were a number of shepherds with their flocks, a few people apparently living in tents by the side of the road (nomad semi-perm type) as we approached Antalya. There seemed to be lots of construction everywhere, and lots of open farmland, but still the same style houses. Sometimes the brick is double layered with a layer of foam in the middle.

On arriving in Antayla, we discovered our hotel was overbooked but they had a room for us next door, which seemed ok, and was apparently the last one. People it seems were not checking out on schedule.

We had a brief walk to see the ocean, then went to a nice little restaurant for dinner and had tea with little flower pots (see pictures later).

Sleepy now....

Turkey Day 7 - Ephesus

Mar. 25th, 2006 | 02:42 pm
mood: happy music: Long playlist
This is a short post, hopefully more to follow tomorrow.

It was a perfect day, we slept in just a little, then had a very nice breakfast, I had a rather nice omlet, Ali drove us to the south gate of Emphases and for the next 2.5 hours we consulted the guide book, the audio tour, and caught bits of other tours and wandered around the ruins. They were amazing, "so much better than the art history books." ¨ Afterwards we visited the museum (just down the hill from the hotel) and the Basilica and the Temple. And were home by 5.30. The hotel (the ANZAC most vigorously recommended) got us our bus for tomorrow, cooked us a good barbie, and we met a couple from up the road from me (at home) and a guy from the Netherlands who has been traveling for the last 12 years.

More on this tomorrow when I have more time to write!

Turkey - Day 6 - Travel

Turkey Day 6
Mar. 24th, 2006 | 10:56 pm
music: Road to Nowhere
Today was a travel day. We got up at 7.30, had breakfast, went out to the shuttle at 9.08, it was waiting for us to take us to the main bus station. The bus to Izmir was waiting for us there, we got on, and half an hour later as expected, we took off.

The country side was much like most rural countryside, except with more terraces, more twisty pine trees, more olive trees, and smaller farms. There were herds of sheep with clearly visible shepherds, lots of orchard pruning, and more construction than you would expect. Most of the buildings consisted of a concrete box with the wall made out of a red ceramic brick with 9 or 12 squarish holes in the middle. Buildings often have an extra story of rebar ready to go, but not apparently under current construction. This apparently works up to 4 floors an then the roof goes on.

Many building are painted in bright colours and there are a lot more 5-12 story buildings than you would think there would be. Even in fairly rural areas. A fair amount of the agricultural land is irrigated and there are some interesting aqueducts I tried to take a picture of, probably not entirely successfully.

We transfered buses at Izmir without difficulty, for a change, and the hour long short bus (very cramped, very crowded, and 5 lira) was uneventful. The ANZAC hostel was very close to the bus station and the hostel is very nice, bright clean rooms, nice bathroom, extremely friendly helpful staff, amazing views from the terrace. We found a pretty authentic place for dinner, found Nikita some pain killers and me some sunscreen, as he has my bug from yesterday and I have had my limit on sun, to say nothing of Lenore.

We spent a few minutes on the computers and then crashed. I'm sending this the next morning while I wait for them to shower.

Turkey - Day 5 - In search of Troy

Mar. 24th, 2006 | 10:56 pm
music: Thumping of the music next door, clock chimes
Today was a dual adventure, Troy in the morning, the battle fields of Galipolli in the afternoon.
Breakfast was much better than the previous day's with several kinds of cheese, two kinds of eggs (scrambled and hard boiled) and marble cake and cheese rolls, and some kind of small round pastry. We were to meet our tour at 9.30, but it was much closer to 10.30 by the time they came and got every thing sorted out.

Troy was about what I expected, lots of walls and foundations, and sort of midlevel excavations. More than some places as the walls were pretty high and the foundations were maybe 3-4 feet high. The altar at the main shrine was mostly intact and showed 1,000 years of improvement in stone masonry from the bottom to the top. As one of the first archeological sites it had more than its share of bad decisions in archeology. What I did not know was the that the Romans had used the site and it had been occupied a lot longer than I thought, with the Greek period being fairly early in its career as a site. It used to be a port, but like Bruges, the port silted in over the millennia, and its now something like 7km from the water. There are some nice pictures from the site of the temple of Athena which overlooks what would have been the port. In the pre-being able to sail upwind days, you would have to wait at Troy for the wind to turnaround so you could go up the Bosporus.

After a few hours of wandering around Troy, we went back, to discover that we had to take the noon ferry back to Europe to catch the Anzac tour. this required a light jog to get there in time, but much to our amazement, the tour bus was waiting for us on the other side, and they had lunch and a litre of water as promised, and we wetn off on time.

This tour was much longer, and we visited the landing sights, and dozens of meticulously kept grave yards. The Commonwealth commissioner for grave sites has been busy. There are dozens of them. (see lots of pictures) No doubt they look especially nice becasue ANZAC day is only a month a way, and they were busy building stands for the big annual event. Apparently about 20,000 New Zealanders and Australians come every year for Anzac day.

We also saw a lot of the trench work which is still visible. Some of it has been restored, but a lot is just left over as ditches. Fairly recently a lot of trees have been planted, and apparently there is enough rain, but fires run through too often for the area to remain forested without help. There is a significant attempt to reduce erosion with the reforestation project. I'm not going to try and account for the battles but the high ground is rather high ground and steep, and you can see how territory captured on the first day before both sides got dug in made all the difference.

We took the ferry back to Asia, had dinner at the Seaside Bistro Cafe which was a glass box slightly out on the street. We had passed it several times because it looked expensive, but it was about the same as other places and the food was better, if slightly too European standard. I had become less and less well as the day progressed, so this was fine with me. Then we went back to the hotel and Nikita set up his machine as the wireless hub and amazingly it worked two floors away.

05 April 2006


I'm back from Turkey - the eclipse was great, and I'll back fill the travel log as soon as I get a chance!

23 March 2006

Turkey Day 4 - The Palace

Today we got up earlyish as we had to check out and get to the Palace by 9.30. Once again, breakfast was bread, hard boiled egg, cheese, and coffee.

The palace was amazing. We think between the three of us we took enough pictures to recreate a 3-D picture of the whole palace. It reminds me of the Tower of London, as it contains the armory, the crown jewels, and any number of towers, apartments, and other things amongst its interior gardens.

We discovered the Harem tour did not go until 10.30, so we spent the time wandering around. The library was very cool, though it no longer has books. There is a fine collection of thrones, clothing, various medals and awards, and bowls, jeweled containers, diamond encrusted candle sticks, and other trophies of 1500 years of empire. The armory has one of the most complete collections from the 7th to the 20th century. There was the building that the Sultan's used to greet visitors and the rooms where he used to watch his ministers debate form an adjoining room.

The Harem, or private chambers were very interesting, lots of tile work, very ornate high ceilinged rooms. Lots and lots of pictures we took. There are 400 rooms in the Harem, and we saw maybe 30 or 40 of them.

We had lunch over looking the Bosporus from the top of the palace outer inner walls. I had stuffed chicken with lots of spices (4 self administered varieties all good.) The view was stupendous, the bill was almost just as stupendous, but worth it.

There were a lot of harem jokes, and jokes about the circumcision room we saw after lunch. After the palace we did a quick tour of the obolisques and then waited about half an hour for our shuttle to the biggest bus terminal any of us had ever seen. We also discovered that we were staying right next to the recommended hotel.

The bus trip was notable for the amount of construction and the brightly coloured houses along the way, including an amazing number of tall apartment buildings and a Pepto Bismol pink house. All of the buildings were tall and narrow, even if they were not in a crowded area, and many still had concrete and rebar sticking out of the roof, ready for the next story to be added. There was a huge amount of construction going on in the Istanbul suburbs, including a large area of what appeared to be large houses in an American style suburban setting.

One thing that struck me was the lack of trees. There were a few, but they were small and mostly around houses. The countryside seemed to be devoid of them. As it got dark, I switched to reading one of the big, heavy, books I brought, the Da Vinci Code. It was a very exciting read, I powered through 450 pages in about 3.5 hours. We arrived in Cannukke about 8.30 and took the ferry over to Asia and checked into the Anzac Hotel where we will spend the next two days. Tomorrow we take a tour the battle fields of Galippoli and in the afternoon Troy.

We had fish for dinner at the seaside.

Wishing for a tripod

Turkey, Day 3 (bad numbering corrected) Istanbul

We got out on schedule. First up was the Palace. Which was closed on Tuesdays. Ooops. Saint Sophia, however was open, along with the nice man who explained this to us, the Cistern and his carpet shoppe. So we went to Saint Sophia. Which was really big and was built in only five years. None of this centuries to build a cathedral, 7k sq metre building put right up. We have a bazillion pictures, but like Canada, its really big. And mostly empty, unlike cathedrals. There were some nice mosaics and they are doing restoration work on it. But on could see how 1500 years ago this was the most impressive thing going. To get the pictures we had to find places to hold the camera steady for about a third of a second. This was not easy.

Then we rearranged our bus for tomorrow to give us time to see the palace, and went to the spice market which was much more fun than the Grand Bazar. First we had lunch at a fairly fancy restaurant with the most amazing view of the straights and the water around the Horn. The lamb with pistachios was amazing and there was a good eggplant and yummy cheese.

First we went though the non-turist market, bought food for the bus, and looked a shops full of things you can't take on airplanes (knives, guns, pointy metal things) as well as pretty much anything else you would need or want.

Then we went though the fancy section, where there were both tourists and annoying shopkeepers who spoke English and charged
~ four times as much.

There was an episode of me trying to cash a traveler's check. But as I fell asleep typing that sentence, more tomorrow...

20 March 2006

Carpets R Us II

We awoke or at least Nikita awoke at 6.30 to the call to prayer, and then went back to sleep for a while. I work up about an hour later to him typing - see his blog. We eventually went down to breakfast, which was typical free youth hostel breakfast - mostly bread and coffee.

Then we were off to finish paying my carpet bill, and Nikita and Lenore were going to just have a look to see if they could find a carpet they liked for a price they liked. Several hours and several cups of tea, and one reference to "eating the soup while it was hot" (at which we laughed as the was a line the high pressure guy the night before had used, and one we told him was the opposite in Russia where we like our soup cold). By and by we got the price down below our Macy's machine made price and the deal was struck.

Then it was off to lunch and the Blue Mosque (many pictures to follow) which was in fact both blue and massive and very interesting. We then went to the Grand Bazaar - guided by our rug dealer on a whirlwind tour - including the Turkish Bazaar where the locals actually shop. We went back later for coffee and to actually look for stuff, but did not see anything we liked.

Then, discovering St. Sophia was closed, we toured the Cisterns for about an hour, and took a whole bunch of pictures. A quick trip back to the hostel to consult the guide book, an then it was off to dinner at the Rumeli Cafe which had really good food and a fireplace (its pretty cold at night). This was the first meal we've had here that we were actually really full from (and one that did not involve kebabs).

We then crossed the old city, and were surprised at how totally deserted it was (and dusty too, especially considering that it has rained fairly recently) until we got to the original shop where the Turkish Delight was made in 1777. The shop is still owned by the family. (picture to follow). Sadly, it, and the whole section of town, was very very closed. So we trooped back, bought two boxes of Turkish Delight to take home and had Baklava at the restaurant around the corner from our hostel. Turkish baklava has more nuts in it, probably pistachios, but maybe hazelnuts, than I am used to seeing.

After making the plans for tomorrow, we crashed, as it was a pretty long day.

Turkey Day 1 - Carpets R Us

We have arrived in Istanbul. I got in at 10.30, Nikita and Lenore reached the hostel at around 5.00, waiting for Russell to get here.

I spent the afternoon shopping for rugs, because, well, I'm in Turkey and that's what they do here, and seeing most of the other sights was something I was waiting for everyone else to get here. It was an interesting way to spend the afternoon, and I got what I think is a pretty good deal - carpets hand made (50 and 25 years ago) with really good wool and small knots for less than machine made at Macy's. They should arrive about 4-5 days after I do. I checked on line, and I certainly saved money over US prices, after some more attempts at bargaining, I possibly could have knocked him down in price by another $750. Oops.

On the way over I sat next to a grandmother on her annual church trip. She was fun to talk to and a pleasant seat companion. The food was pretty good and as I did not sleep the night before, I slept and work up on Turkish time more or less. I flew Song (aka Delta) to NYC where I waived out the window to Sarah and Johann but I had so little time in JFK that there was no time to call, sorry.

Russell had acquired a guide, who took us to a local place for dinner - it was full of policemen so clearly authentic. Prices were about the same as elsewhere, but the atmosphere was clearly traditional. It was, of course, operated by his cousin's friend. Afterwards we were taken to his cousin's fancy rug shop where we got the full treatment, and saw much more expensive rugs than I looked at. Not better, but much more expensive. On leaving we were offered the best deal, (the running out the door after us deal) which was similar to the deal I got on my, I think significantly better quality, carpet. And it did not include shipping.

Despite the 3 cups of tea that we had whilst looking, we were still hungry after our long negotiations, so we had a second dinner at a restaurant on our hostel's street. Less atmosphere, about the same food, about the same price. The local dark beer is good.

By 10.30, after 15 hours in the air we were all tired so we went to bed. We are staying at a youth hostel in a four person room (but with our own bath) but for about 11 dollars a night - the better to afford carpets.

15 March 2006

Turkey plans

The plans for Turkey are finally coming together. All but one city's lodging has been arranged, plane tickets have arrived, shade 14 welding glass has been ordered and I'll pick it up tommorrow. Now just to pack and pick up some Euro's tomorrow morning.

Slightly sad I'm missing 11 feet of snow in Tahoe (I didn't go last weekend becasue I couldn't find my passport and really needed to do some stuff around the house). Hopefuly spring skiing will be good.

Getting excited about the trip!!

Hopefully I'll be able to post updates here...

07 March 2006

Paper Reviews, Rewrite

The Oscar Party was fun, with enough people in the room, anything can be funny. Oh the montages, send us your clips!

Tonight I am rewriting my journal paper, taking longer than I expected. The original paper stank as a journal paper, but its feeling a little better now (after heavy editing...)

The rain has stopped for the moment....

06 March 2006


Over the past week almost 30 inches of snow fell in Tahoe, so I sent out the email call for people to go up and Becca and Rick decided to join me on Saturday. As I feared the snow was too heavy for tree skiing, but it put down a really solid base for all of the regular runs, and all three of us had a really good time.

I went to an unbirthday party afterwards which was also fun. Sunday has been pretty much doing housework and going to an Oscar Party.

06 February 2006

So I have not been exactly good at keeping this up to date.

Recent events:
- Park City for a week to feel the love of Sundance and do a lot of skiing (mostly the skiing).
- Long awaited hot tub arrived and installed and now heating up nicely.
- Paper sent off to editor for journal article, and two panel and one solo presentation approved for national conference. Much more work to do on all four projects, countdown in three months.
- House starting to look settled after months and months and months of construction.

More soon...